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The Worldwide Strike Wave and The Political Crisis of Global Governance: Challenging Orthodoxies on Both Sides Steven Colatrella Orthodoxies Mainstream and Critical Orthodox approaches tend to see global governance as an aspect of neoliberalism. Mainstream approaches to globalization and neoliberalism in turn argue that in practice no one is in charge – most well-known in Thomas Friedman’s electronic herd. In the liberal version of this formulation, global governance organizations are needed to provide regulation or to address social problems caused by market failure or by the limits of the market, as in the recent writings of ex-WTO head Mike Moore and of economist Jeffrey Sachs. But critics of globalization and global governance have also often seen global governance as a secondary phenomenon with respect to neoliberalism. In this view, global governance serves either as a mopping up operation of problems created by neoliberalism itself, or as a contradiction in which state power of all kinds, and governance itself, are seen as part of the internal contradictions of neoliberalism as ideology, as in the work of David Harvey. One body of theory that does see global governance as central, that of Negri and Hardt, argues gives, as Giovanni Arrighi stated in his critique of their book Empire “a radical twist” on the thesis that territorial states had given way to a de-centered network of power. This thesis whether of the mainstream Friedman version or the radical Negri and Hardt version, has been attacked by critics both mainstream (Kenneth Waltz1) and oppositional (Hirst and Thompson)2 for mistakenly assuming that globalization and global governance mean the end, or at least the qualitative weakening of the nation-state Further, many radical opponents of globalization and neoliberalism have argued that the opposition to neoliberalism is best understand as taking a multitude of forms and as consisting of an extremely heterogeneous set of actors. Nearly all of the above mentioned authors see neoliberalism and globalization as discontinuities with any previous secular linear historical tendencies of capitalist development or see now such tendencies in capitalist history in the first place. In this essay, I argue that global governance is best understood through two distinct processes – the secular growth of hegemonic powers treated in the literature on hegemony best exemplified by the work of Arrighi, and as a process of class formation. Further, I identify the current planetary strike wave by workers as a dialectically-related process of self-making by the working class globally and suggest that a new global composition of the working class that is both a cause and effect of the strike wave around the world indicates that the heterogeneous actors of the previous period of anti-capitalist struggle is giving way to a more cohesive set of actors and forms of action indicating a changed power relation that is provoking a global political crisis unprecedented in world history. Introduction – actors and theory Critics and supporters of global capitalism have in recent years focused on the diminished role of the state – deregulation, privatization, the global diffusion of production3 – and seen a highly plural set of actors – a “movement of movements” as the forces to be looked to for an 1 Kenneth Waltz, “Globalization and Governance” Political Science and Politics, 32, no. 4, December 1999, pp.693-700. 2 Hirst P. and Thompson G. (1999) "Globalization in question" 2nd. ed. Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 3 See, among a huge literature, Claus Offe and John Keane, Disorganized Capitalism: Contemporary Transformation of Work and Politics MIT Cambridge 1985; Scott Lash and John Urry, The End of Organized Capitalism University of Wisconsin Madison 1987; David Harvey, A Short History of Neoliberalism Oxford Univ Press Oxford and New York2005; Naomi Klein, Shock Doctrine Penguin London and New York 2007; Bob Jessop, Liberalism, Neoliberalism and Urban Governance: A State-Theoretical Perspective Antipode Oxford 2002; “alterglobalization4.” This essay argues that in light of recent events, greater attention should be paid instead to the class nature of global governance organizations, the transformation of nationstates in the service of a global capitalist class, and working class activity primarily in the form of a gigantic worldwide strike wave. This class struggle, now on a world scale increasingly takes the form of austerity, expropriation and exploitation guided by or initiated by organizations of global governance in collaboration with national states, and a strike wave by workers unprecedented in its worldwide scope since around 2007. Further, I suggest here that the understanding of the historical tendencies of capitalism under pressure of class struggle as articulated and described by Marx and Marxists that has seemed confounded by trends in neoliberal globalization instead is best understood as confirmed by the recent trajectory of both global governance and global strike action by workers. While avoiding talk of “stages” that overstates historical determinacy and understates contingency resulting from the unpredictable outcome of class struggles in the real world, we can restore confidence in the possibility of understanding in a coherent way the general direction that events and social structures in capitalist society necessarily take, all other things being equal. This is possible if we can anticipate with some clarity and probability the likely impact of class struggles in reshaping and reconfiguring the structures and institutions of global capitalism. In other words, we may restore the role of theory, not as deconstruction of discourses alone, but as a guide to understanding the likely direction of future development and as a guide therefore to radical action. Nor should this project be dismissed by a facile critique of “teleology” – for I merely intend to remind us, for example, that the world that the Communist Manifesto described, of a world market, worldwide commodity exchange and the radical simplification of classes into owners of capital and workers for wages, hardly described the world of 1848, but rather anticipated key aspects of the world of global capitalism today. Likewise, Marx’s insight in chapter 32 of Volume One of Capital, that the historical 4 Toni Negri and Michael Hardt, Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire Penguin New York 2004; Samir Amin, The World We Wish to See: Revolutionary Objectives in the 21st Century Monthly Review New York 2008. tendency of capitalism would be concentration of wealth and power, and centralization of production, with a small elite in control of the resources of a society of expropriated producers, anticipated developments fundamental to capitalism that had not yet happened at the time of his writing. I analyze relevant insights of Marx, Engels and Hegel here to aid us in understanding the meaning of global governance and of the growing strike wave. Global Governance – the state form of global capitalism Global Governance is arguably the name for what might pass these days for “a committee for the management of the affairs of the bourgeoisie as a whole” – though we should recall that the much repeated phrase by Marx and Engels stated that “the executive of the modern state” filled this role, not, for instance, the legislature or other state institutions. If not quite state forms, Global Governance institutions, such as the G20, the WTO, World Bank, IMF, UN Security Council and at an intermediate level the European Commission, as well as at least the key national central banks certainly constitute some significant change in the way states work in a global context. In acting often as Hegel’s “universal authority”, something between an executive committee and a bureaucracy that sets the agenda for and coordinates state policies throughout much of the world, Global Governance institutions are where the real power seems to be politically in the capitalist world today. These institutions embody Arundhati Roy’s crucial insight that globalization means not that national sovereignty is at risk, but rather that democracy is5 – especially if by democracy we mean a democratic content and agency, and not merely a procedure.; second, Global Governance institutions, as Marx made clear regarding state bureaucracies in his critique of Hegel’s theory of the state, are not universal, neutral institutions, rather they occupy a universal space, as public power, but they represent particularistic, indeed class interests. Representing capitalist 5 Arundhati Roy, “Confronting Empire: Speech Given at the World Social Forum”, January 27, 2003 Porto Alegre, Brazil interests, and particularly finance capital, global governance organizations use the present crisis to call on states to enact as public policy austerity, budget-cutting for social services, just as in an earlier cycle they called on states to privatize, deregulate and liberalize. These policy requirements, coming as they do from beyond the level of national governments, are not in themselves a negation of national state power, but rather a transformation of it in class terms. National states, complex creations that express the complicated class relations and outcome of class struggles historically in each national territory, are, through the imposition and mediation of Global Governance, liberated from the local class struggles that have heretofore shaped them, expanded and/or limited their policy options and structures. They are instead increasingly interrelated globally as instruments of an ever-more coherent global capitalist ruling class, by outlook and by unity in action, that is by consistent purposeful action in the interests of their own class globally and nationally. Opposing this renewed wave of austerity and neoliberal globalization is a host of movements, organizations and protests, at times uniting in action a diversity of class actors. But increasingly, in the past two years since the financial crisis broke and turned into a global recession, the opposition has been spearheaded by the working class in country after country. Since Spring 2010 increasingly purposeful strike waves have directly opposed the austerity imposed by national governments, and the austerity called for by Global Governance institutions. Put differently, the past few months as I write have seen the rise of a new concrete universal in the form of mass strikes against the abstract universal of Global Governance. These strike waves, from China and India to South Africa and Egypt, from France and Britain to Jamaica and Cambodia, from Vietnam to Greece, from Bangladesh to Spain, have also challenged austerity as class rule. This planetary strike wave by a world working class, is so far the most direct, and impressive obstacle to realizing the austerity program of global capital in the face of a crisis itself resulting from the limited options for profitable investment around the world. It is the meaning of the trajectory, and interaction, of these two main class forces, as understood and anticipated by Hegel and Marx, that I will explore in this article. Global Governance and Hegemony A major weakness of the realist school of international relations theory is that it confuses instruments with actors. National state governments, which are complexes of institutions shaped by actors, primarily classes in struggle both domestically and internationally, are treated as actors in their own right, with a presumed “national interest” as a guiding motivation. Giovanni Arrighi’s work on successive hegemonies in historical capitalism by contrast, treats classes as actors, through primarily ruling capitalist classes who, through political exchange with state rulers, enabling them to acquire political and military protection for their capitalist interests, gain the organizational capacity and the resources to organize global capitalism as a whole, exercising hegemonic leadership as well as domination over other national capitalists and workers as a whole. Each hegemonic power has reorganized capitalism’s form and content globally, transforming the system and expanding its geographic reach in accordance with the need of capital’s ever-growing need for surplus value, profit and accumulation. Each hegemonic power – Venice, Genoa, The Dutch, Britain, and the United States - has thus had three crucial characteristics distinguishing it from the one that had come before it. First, each was larger in geographic scale as a “container” of power and profit; second, each rested on a wider social base, accommodating or incorporating the social struggles that burst forth during and as both cause and effect of the crisis of the previous hegemony, and finally, and though Arrighi never states this as a reason arguably as a result of the need to meet the second of these criteria, each hegemonic power was a paler imitation of the purer form of capitalist logic, of embodying an “executive committee of the bourgeoisie” exemplified by the first hegemonic power, Venice. For Arrighi, the problem is that the current, fading hegemonic power, the United States, is too powerful militarily to be overcome by a new power, and no power embodies a qualitatively larger scale – China, for instance being the same continental size as the US but no larger – so that the renewal system of capitalism may be blocked, the US’ political power blocking the ability of mobile capital to transfer its allegiance to a new political ally. A world-market oriented ruling class, instead, perhaps such as that theorized by globalization theory, would lack the state protection needed by capital, leading to a world market society that was non-capitalist. It is, instead, my contention that the dominant factions of global capital, finance capital in particular, have found, in global governance organizations and their actors, a new class alliance of political exchange that does not sacrifice the political control, nor the military power it historically found in territorial states. That alliance is with the bureaucratic rulers of global governance organizations and the organizations at the national level of each state with which these organizations have privileged relationships, and whose transformation into local units of global governance on behalf of finance capital they have facilitated, especially central banks and treasury ministries. Further, this strategy enables capital to overcome the growing tendency for less logically capitalist hegemonic powers by allowing a considerable and increasing overlap and merger between the two classes of global financial bourgeoisie and global governance bureaucracy, through the process of “elite socialization” and interpenetration of personnel between the two, leading to the formation of a more homogeneous global ruling class. To better understand this process, we need a brief excursion into Hegel’s theoretical understanding of bureaucracy and governance. While Arrighi is more generous in acknowledging somewhat a Hegelian influence in his work than say Negri and Hardt, he does not specifically treat his themes in a Hegelian language. But it is through a discussion of Hegel on bureaucracy, and Marx’s critique of Hegel’s theory, that we can also re-establish some sense of the historical tendency of capitalist political development. The Universal Class – and Not Hegel traced the development of modern society and came to a similar conclusion to that of Max Weber: modern society would be governed by bureaucracy. However, for Weber bureaucracy is the end result of a long process of instrumental rationalization of society that is a product of capitalism but not fully reducible to it. For Hegel instead, bureaucracy is an organic part of modern society based around the need for law to regulate the competition and fragmentation of civil society. Hegel sees the bureaucracy as a form of “rule”, of political power in itself, that encompasses the executive and judicial powers6. This is possible, and according to Carl K.Y. Shaw is compatible with liberal doctrine despite Hegel’s opposition to formal separation of powers, because both the executive and the judiciary have the same basic task: to concretize the abstract universal of a society embodied in its code of laws and norms, into particular judgments and practices in concrete, real world situations involving civil society. Without such judgments, and such concretization, society and the state would become detached from one another, as the particular interests (in Marxist terms the class interests) of civil society would atomize society, pulverizing it, and in the process destroy any possible universality, that is, any possible connection of human members of society with each other and therefore any larger purpose or common interest as well7. Thus the bureaucracy, and the executive and juridical power it wields, provides for the possibility of modern bourgeois civil society with its market economy and capitalist relations: The particular common interests which fall within civil society, and which lie outside the universal interest of the state…are administered by the corporations (i.e., bodies representing industrial interests – SC)…the business of the these administrators is to look after the private property and interests of these particular spheres…On the other hand, these circles must be subordinated to the higher interests of the state…The task of upholding, within these particular rights, legality and universal interests of the state, and that of bringing 6 GWF Hegel, Philosophy of Right §287 from The Hegel Reader ed. By Stephen Houlgate London: Blackwell Publishers 1998, p. 387. 7 See Karl Polanyi’s description of the effects of a self-regulating free market on society in The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Times Boston: Beacon Press, 2001, p. 76; this problem is arguably the main theme of Emile Durkheim’s The Division of Labor in Society New York: Free Press, 1997, as well. these rights back to the universal need to be performed by delegates of the executive power, i.e., the executive civil servants and the higher consultative bodies8. Nor is this all. For the state itself, as an individual state, is merely the representation of a particular interest or set of interests within a larger international, that is, universal community (Hegel, Philosophy of Right §340). Marx responds in his Critique of Hegel’s Doctrine of the State, The bureaucracy is the ‘state formalism’ of civil society…The bureaucracy must therefore protect the imaginary universality of particular interests…in order to protect the imaginary particularity of the universal interest... …The corporation represents the attempt by civil society to become the state; but the bureaucracy is the state which has really made itself into civil society.9 The existence of the constitutional liberal order, and of the liberal interstate system depends upon the authority wielded by the modern state executive and in particular of the bureaucracy and its ability, based on knowledge to make judgments. Writes Carl K.Y.Shaw, Bureaucracy in the sense specified by Hegel is compatible with liberal constitutionalism. The task of modern bureaucracy – to realize the political norms in concrete situations and to subsume the latter under the universal norms – is a type of “ruling”, not mere management. Moreover, for Hegel, bureaucracy is indispensable for the modern constitutional state.10 This is a ruling class that rules - the bureaucracy of Hegel is a ruling authority11. But it is directly linked, by individual biographies and by “elite socialization12” to the capitalist class as a whole or at 8 Hegel, Philosophy of Right §288 and 289 from The Hegel Reader, pp. 387-8 9 Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Doctrine of the State, in Karl Marx, Early Writings (London: Penguin) , p.107. 10 Carl K.Y.Shaw, “Hegel’s Theory of Modern Bureaucracy” in American Political Science Review, Vol. 86, No.2, (June 1992), pp.381-389, p. 387. 11 Here my analysis, like Hegel and Marx’s differs from that of Negri and Hardt and their conception of Empire as a circuit of power networks, a view that, ironically coincides with the pro-globalization view that “no one is in charge”. 12 This phrase was originally applied optimistically by Ernst Haas to the integration of Europe, though I use it here almost ironically, but not inconsistently with the original concept. least to its dominant global and financial sectors13. Ralph Miliband14 noted the direct ways in which capitalists ruled over workers and over political life, including their direct use of “class action” through control of investment, a power feebly theorized by observers of globalization like Thomas Friedman as the “electronic herd15” that punishes governments by disinvesting from their countries, their currencies and their government bonds when policies cut against their interests. Hal Draper, in his monumental study of Marx and Engels’ politics noted that on a number of occasions they made clear that the state bureaucracy could be a class and indeed could, under certain circumstances, even be the ruling class16, an intervention into the debate about the class character of the Soviet state not entirely irrelevant to today’s issues regarding global governance 17. But the point here is that the policy makers of global governance organizations are one in practice, elite socialization, career trajectory and outlook with the global capitalist class, especially its global and financial sectors. Marx makes clear that the entire house of Hegelian cards falls on a single point, the crucial one for us here: the bureaucracy, including the executive and judiciary of the modern state are not universal in scope nor neutral in interest. Their interest is a particular interest as opposed to a common one. Their power derives not from knowledge per se, but from their relation to a set of class interests present in the civil society, namely the power of capital and the class of capitalists. So, the bureaucracy of global governance rules and it rules on behalf of a certain set of class interests. As 13 As shown in Richard Peet, Unholy Trinity: The IMF, World Bank and WTO London:Zed 2009 p. 17-18 with its biographical sketches of several key players in the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations whose careers also include time on Wall St. and at global governance organizations, and as can be seen in greater detail from the study of James Wolfensen’s terms as President of the World Bank: Sebastian Mallaby, The World’s Banker London: Penguin 2004 14 Ralph Miliband, Marxism and Politics Oxford, 1977, p.55. 15 Thomas Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree New York : Bantam 2000, p.112 16 Hal Draper, Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution, Vol.1, State and Bureaucracy New York and London: Monthly Review 1971, p.83. 17 Draper’s argument is contested. Andre Liebich, “On the Origins of a Marxist Theory of Bureaucracy in the ‘Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right’” Political Theory Vol. 10, no. 1 (Feb. 1982), pp.77-93, p.80, argues that both Hegel and Marx referred to the bureaucracy as a stand or estate, not as a class . Draper shows in his monumental study of Marx’s politics, the modern capitalist class is historically unique in its inability to rule directly in its own name, requiring a separate class of politicians, a view strangely enough confirmed recently by the Economist.18 Yet this solution involves the need to maintain control over such a governing (as opposed to ruling) class, and global governance, with its merging of careers in politics and business/finance, and in national and global politics, is meant to resolve this problem. Andre Liebich argued in 1982 that Hegel and Marx were both describing the Prussian state bureaucracy of their respective times, and that Marx’s critique regards the status of the bureaucracy that was, by young Marx’s time, declining sharply as many young university graduates (including Marx himself) flooded the job market seeking civil service jobs.19 Liebich’s argument does not hold up. For the main question for Marx and Hegel was not in itself whether the bureaucracy was a class or some other more precise definition, but rather whether it represented all of society generally or universally. If the sad portrait of the Prussian bureaucracy painted by Liebich is accurate, it is hard to see this class as the one that will universally represent society. But in fact the civil society, as Hegel describes it, is on the brink of fragmenting from the extreme division of labor, the class antagonisms and the particular interests that blind classes to the greater or common good. This is a portrait of capitalist society, and Hegel at times seems to merely draw logical conclusions from Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations on division of labor and the effects of its extension within the organization of work on the laborer.20 The effect of work on the workers means that, as CLR James summarized Hegel’s views: “Universality for the mass of men was 18 Hal Draper, Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution: Vol. I: State and Bureaucracy New York and London: Monthly Review 1977, p.326; “Beware the Lure of the Businessman-Politician” Economist Oct. 2, 2010; Marx’s view on this issue is noted in Hal Draper, Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution: Vol. II The Politics of Social Classes New York and London:Monthly Review 1978, p. 227 and p. 241. 19 Andre Liebich, “On the Origins of a Marxist Theory of Bureaucracy in the ‘Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right’” Political Theory Vol. 10, no. 1 (Feb. 1982), pp.77-93, p.82-3. 20 My former professor, the late, Giovanni Arrighi has of course argued that Adam Smith was an opponent of a market-based capitalism. See G.Arrighi, Adam Smith in Beijing London and New York: Verso 2007. impossible. Only the state, said Hegel, could embody universality for the community. But, in particular, was a defense against the revolutionary masses.”21 At the same time, individual capitalists are blinded by their own self-interests. So only the state bureaucracy can achieve universality, and only bureaucratic control of the economy, and bureaucratic organization of production, can provide a universal to such a fragmented society.. For Hegel, by being a real, existing force in the world, untouched by the particular interests of civil society, the bureaucracy makes universality concrete. Marx is having none of this. As Hal Draper puts it, In short, the trouble is that the bureaucracy, which is put forward by Hegel as the universal class, is not really universal in its particular interests at all; this is an illusion. It is really just another class with particular interests like the others, peculiar only in that its particular interest base is the state.22 The critical thing to notice is the placement of the discussion of the state civil service and executive in the organization of the “Philosophy of Right.” For sections 196 to 229 of the Philosophy of Right are dedicated first to a discussion of work, and then to one of private property and ownership of resources. First, the division of labor and simplification of and mechanization of work leads to class inequalities argues Hegel in Section 201. This extraordinary passage brings us right up to the edge of Marx, as Hegel sees the modern division of labor giving rise to classes. But what follows next is decisive: a discussion on the origin of states in property relations. This leads, in section 204, to universal exchange of commodities and money, leading to the following in section 205:“The universal estate has the universal interests of society as its business.” (§205). Afterward, tellingly, comes a discussion of the police which states, “The differing interests of producers and consumers may come into collision with each other, and…needs to be consciously regulated by an agency which stands above both sides”. (§236) After 21 CLR James, “Dialectical Materialism and the Fate of Humanity” in CLR James, Spheres of Existence: Selected Writings (vol.2) London and Westport, CT Allison and Busby 1980 p. 93. 22 H.Draper, op.cit. vol. 1, p. 83. this comes a delineation of the role of the corporations, organized interest groups for particular capitalist interests to be directly represented in the legislature, followed by the section on the State itself. In other words, Hegel’s discussion of the bureaucracy is defined by the relation of the latter to modern production, the fragmentation of daily life and the life of the worker to and by the division of labor, as well as the fact that states themselves constitute only particular capitalist interests in a world market. Hegel, in short, was reading into the near future the fate of humanity under capitalism. Carl Shaw is at pains to point out that “for Hegel, bureaucracy is not a teleological organization.” 23 This is theory, with its capacity to anticipate trends, not teleology. Hegel, Marx and Engels and arguably Weber saw the same overall tendency. Engels, in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific makes clear that the tendency of capitalist organization responding to the impact of the class struggle, is toward state control of production: In trusts, freedom of competition changes into its very opposite – into monopoly; and the production without any definite plan of capitalist society capitulates to the production upon a definite plan of the invading socialist society. Certainly this is so far still to the benefit and advantage of the capitalists. But in this case the exploitation is so palpable that it must break down. No nation will put up with production conducted by trusts, with so barefaced an exploitation of the community by a small band of dividend-mongers. In any case, with trusts or without, the official representative of capitalist society – the state – will ultimately have to undertake the direction of production. This necessity for conversion into state property is first felt in the great institutions for intercourse and communication – the post office, the telegraphs, the railways… But the transformation, either into joint-stock companies and trusts, or into state ownership, does not do away with the capitalist nature of the productive forces. In the joint-stock companies and trusts, this is obvious… The modern state, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine, the state of the capitalists, the ideal personification of the total national capital. The more it proceeds to the taking over of productive forces, the more does it actually become the national capitalist, the more citizens does it exploit. The workers remain wage-workers – proletarians. The capitalist relation is not done away with. It is rather brought to a head.24 23 Carl K.Y. Shaw, Hegel’s Theory of Modern Bureaucracy, p.386. 24 Frederich Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific in Tucker, ed., The Marx-Engels Reader pp.711-712. For many on the non-Stalinist left, the analysis of state capitalism as an inevitable stage of capitalist development, and a logical extreme, and therefore plausibly a final stage of capitalism, not only informed the independence of many from Stalinist versions of Marxism and from apologies for Stalinist states and parties around the world, but also allowed for a Marxist definition of social progress that did not define progress as things always getting better, but rather as a further deepening and development of the class struggle in fostering the conditions necessary for liberation25. The neoliberal turn seemed to shatter such ideas. The fragmentation of a traditional working class, the privatization of many industries and services, and the far-flung market forces of globalization seemed to laugh in the face of any “highest” or “last” stage of capitalism. But imperialism, Lenin’s final stage, and state capitalism, identified as such by state capitalist theorists, have merged in recent years. For while the neoliberal aspect of global capitalism has been most apparent, we are more recently once again reminded that it is not the market that runs capitalism but capital that runs the market, as well as dominating the state. Global governance can be defined as the coming together of two related processes: One is the formation of a global capitalist class. This class has gained fuller control of state functions and policies, and more fully subordinated the political actors in every country, by using global institutions to serve the needs of capital. This involves closer merging of their own class personnel with those of state institutions including global ones. The other is determination of the major policy directions in every nation-state, by global governance institutions dominated by the capitalist class and capitalist interests. The state is therefore best seen not as a national institution, but rather as that which Marx and Engels defined it as, namely an instrument of class rule. 25 See, among other works by members of the Johnson-Forest Tendency, Correspondence and Marxist Humanists, the pioneering essay, “The Invading Socialist Society” by correspondence, recently republished in Noel Ignatiev, editor, CLR James, A New Notion: Two Works by CLR James Oakland PM Press 2010; and Raya Dunayevskaya, Marxism and Freedom New Jersey: Humanities Press 1982. As a number of thinkers have recently theorized, from Giovanni Arrighi to Martin Shaw, the national state is not typical of capitalism, as is usually, and superficially thought. Arrighi makes clear that “none of the agencies that have promoted the formation and expansion of world capitalism correspond to the mythical national state of political and social theory”. Martin Shaw points out that the Cold War was characterized by “bloc-states” on both sides. 26 With the Cold War over, Davos and the G20 directly connect the global ruling class. Yet such a globalization of class and state relations is a response by capital to the class struggles directly preceding globalization, namely the revolts of the 1960s and 70s worldwide, as well as those of 1989 in the Soviet bloc, which together made the previous global state relationship and capitalist organization of work worldwide impossible to maintain27. What we see, therefore is the capitalist version of worldwide solidarity, the global village created by the proletarian revolts of previous cycles of struggle. For a class society cannot survive without an ideological project that presents the present system as one that everyone has a stake in. It is because it is a class society that that project can only be, must be, ideological. As Crawford writes in his wonderful essay on the effects of increasingly abstracted forms of office cubicle work on education and the larger culture, “Some notion of the common good has to be actively posited, a higher principle that can give people a sense of purpose in their work life.”28 There is a “risk”, as he points out, “of being deceived into thinking there is a common good where there is not one.” 29 This aspect of globalization as an ideology, and of global governance, has been under theorized it seems to me, as opposed to concerns with identity, deterritoriality, biopolitics and other postmodernist themes 26 G.Arrighi, Adam Smith in Beijing London and New York: Verso 2007, p. 235; Martin Shaw, Theory of the Global State: Globality as an Unifinished Revolution CambridgeUniversity Press Cambridge 2000, p. 125. 27 As I hope to demonstrate in my forthcoming work, The Working Class and the Making of the Global Crisis. 28 Matthew Crawford, The Case for Working with Your Hands, or Why Office Work is Bad for Us London Viking Penguin 2009, p. 153. 29 Ibid., p.152. that have instead dominated the academic discussions of global capitalism. Globalization claims to bring us all together, that is, it presents itself as the ultimate universalist project, as the grand narrative. Global governance presents itself as universal law. Even heads of state can be called before the bar. In practice, of course, the only international law, the only universal set of rules and regulations that emerge are those that are compatible with capitalism. But this does not negate the fact that, like the state itself, global governance addresses a real need in society, “the state’s beginning,” wrote Hal Draper in explicating Marx and Engels’ theory of the state, “its prototypical source, lies in indispensible functions of society.”30 Global governance, then, arises to fulfill a series of actual needs, some of society as a whole, some of the class that rules global capitalism. It serves to regulate the activities of world economic life, provide law and organization to what would otherwise quickly come to resemble the chaos suggested by Hegel without the universal class of the bureaucracy, or the atomized social breakdown so strikingly painted by Polanyi. Only in a classless society, a self-governed association of producers31, would these functions return to the members of the society as a whole, and no longer that of a single class. To understand this requires grasping that the seeming separation of politics and economics, of the state and civil society is an appearance, is form but not content. “The family and civil society are real parts of the state…they make themselves into the state.”32 As Marx makes clear in his critique of Hegel, this arrangement, seen by Hegel as resolving the tensions between 30 Hal Draper, Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution, Vol. 1 State and Bureaucracy, New York and London: Monthly Review, 1977, p.245. 31 Most recently theorized by Joel Kovel in The Enemy of Nature: The end of capitalism or the end of the world? New York and Winnipeg: Zed, 2007. 32 Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Doctrine of the State in Karl Marx, Early Writings London: Penguin, 1975, p. 62-3. particularity and universality and restoring the unity of economics and politics,33 in no way alters the relationship between civil society, that is class society, and the state. The corporations are the materialism of the bureaucracy, and the bureaucracy is the spiritualism of the corporations. The corporation is the bureaucracy of civil society…The ‘bureaucracy’ is the ‘state formalism’ of civil society. It is the ‘state consciousness,’ the ‘state will’, the ‘state power’ in the form of a corporation, i.e. of a particular, self-contained society within the state.34 Nor does this relationship change fundamentally when state power and corporations become global in scope. As Kirstin Martens writes, “Civil society is an undisputed part of the structures of global governance today,”35 it is impossible therefore, for global civil society as a whole to be represented in global governance, but only particular interests.36 It is apparent how serious this problem is. Global governance must be able to plausibly represent something universal, yet its institutions have precisely been created to diminish popular control over political decision-making and administration, as Adam Webb makes clear when he writes, most global institutions, like the WTO, are deliberately set up to be unresponsive…they will not listen to global social movements, now or in the future, because they were born deaf. By and large they were founded to insulate economic policy and the rule of law from popular majorities within nation-states.37 33 See Draper’s excellent account, in H.Draper, Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution, Vol. 1; see also the equally insightful argument as to the particularity of capitalism as being based precisely on this separation in two important works of Ellen Mieksin Wood, Democracy Against Capitalism, and Citizens into Lords New York and London: Verso 2009. 34 Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Doctrine of the State, pp.106.7. 35 Kirstin Martens, “Is Incorporating Civil Society Further into the Structures of Global Governance Really the Way Forward ? Commentary on Jan Aarte Scholte’s Article, “Civil Society and the Legitimation of Global Governance.” In Journal of Civil Society, Vol. 4, No.1, 73-75, June 2008, p.73. 36 37 Ibid., p.75. Adam Webb, “The Calm Before the Storm? Revolutionary Pressures and Global Governance” in International Political Science Review, Vol. 27, No.1 (Jan.2006), pp.73-92, p.83. But if global governance demonstrates the inadequacy of identifying global capitalism with neoliberalism qua fragmentation and privatization, if that is, it is a form of “universal class,” and an instrument of global capital, then we must ask, is Engels’ hypothesis that such governance must govern production itself still relevant, given the clear diffusion of production and privatization that seem to belie the Marxist analysis of capitalism’s tendencies to centralization and concentration? But much organization of production is in fact only seemingly diffused. The “delocalization” of production may merely mean that production is increasingly global in scope, and at the global level nothing is delocalized, but means instead that we must expand our sense of the geographic “container” in which capitalist production takes place38. Control is often managed by central offices of multinationals with far-flung subsidiaries and sub-contractors, but the struggles against sweatshop work, and over the conditions of janitors in office buildings and hotels in the US, for instance, have made clear that the formal decentralization of work does not imply a reduction in centralized control and profit-making. This in fact arguably merely, in terms that Hegel or Engels would understand, increases the need for governance of an increasingly fragmented division of labor, but also of class inequalities with the command system of work. C.George Caffentzis has explicated the role of physics and physicists in capitalist society as a field of thought experiments – and practical experiments in the organization of work.39 In the case of global governance, the crucial theoretical underpinnings have been developed within chaos theory. “Chaos” writes James Crutchfield40 “provides a mechanism that allows for free will within a world governed by deterministic laws.” It is no accident that the first international conference on chaos 38 See Prem Shakar Jha, The Twilight of the Nation-State ; see also the discussion of successive capitalist hegemonies in G. Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century London and New York: Verso 1994 . 39 In particular in Midnight Notes, The Work-Energy Crisis and the Apocalypse 1980 Jamaica Plains, MA. The interpretation of chaos theory, based on the approach pioneered by Prof. Caffentzis is my own and he is not responsible for either the analysis, nor for any errors on my part in understanding of the science involved. 40 Cited from John Jefferson Davis, “Theological Perspectives on Chaos Theory” in Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 49,( June1997): 75-84. theory was held in Italy in 1977. That year saw a widespread revolt of a new kind in that country by proletarians experimenting with the limits of capitalist organization of work and time, a high point in the insurgency of class struggle between 1965 and 1979 that gave way to the capitalist counterattack of neoliberalism with Thatcher and Reagan.41 That same year Ilya Prigogine was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work on non-equilibrium thermodynamics42. By setting up or controlling initial conditions, it is not necessary to control in a deterministic way the outcome of every individual event in a system. “Planning” in short, no longer take the form of a bean-counter deciding on the quantity of widgets produced by every factory, but rather the setting up of conditions, such interest rates by Central Banks, and access to finance (in part through the privatized global governance institutions known as ratings agencies), are sufficient to move the overall economic activity over huge areas of the world in the direction generally desired. But chaos theory points out that even slight changes in initial conditions can lead to big changes in outcome. Thus the range of acceptable behavior must be especially narrow and rigid, as in the imposition of neoliberal policies with little tolerance for variation. Global governance is needed to set up the rules, and to do so in a way that the behavior of actors will be generally as predictable as another capitalist intellectual asset – game theory – suggests. It is this narrow range of acceptable behavior, established by such initial conditions – interest rates, the limits on public spending established by the IMF or European Commission, the ratings of governments and business activity by agencies, finance itself, which Schumpeter called “The General Headquarters of the Capitalist System”, that workers around the world are now challenging in one of the world’s great strike waves. 41 About that turning point, see Sheila Cohen, Ramparts of Resistance London: Pluto Press 2006; and also David Harvey on the rise of neoliberalism at that time, in A Short History of Neoliberalism Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press 2005. On the relationship between capitalist economic crisis and working class insurgency in the past few decades generally, see my forthcoming, The Working Class and the Making of the Global Crisis. 42 On some of the implications within the global economy of Prigogine’s work, see chapter 4 of my book, Steven Colatrella, Workers of the World: African and Asian Migrants in Italy Trenton and Asmara: Africa World Press 2001, entitled “Migrant Communities, Dissipative Systems and the Other Worldwide Web”. The Worldwide Strike Wave, Austerity and the Political Crisis of Global Governance If the workers took a notion they could stop all speeding trains Every ship upon the ocean, they could tie with mighty chains. Every wheel in the creation, every mine and every mill Fleets and armies of the nations would, at their command, stand still. Joe Hill In the single two-day period of October 21 and 22, 2010, while France was still largely paralyzed by massive strikes opposing President Sarkozy’s attempt to change the retirement age 43, and the Acropolis and the Piraeus port in Athens remained closed by workers blockading them44, Spanish air traffic controllers faced a threat of being fired (shades of Reagan) by their government for striking45. While firefighters in Ireland were ready to strike46, their counterparts in London voted to strike, as did other groups of British workers, including Lancaster taxi drivers, and Sellafield nuclear power plant workers who blocked traffic during a march47. Elsewhere in the UK Swindon Leisure Center workers struck protesting cuts by the local council, while the National Union of Journalists members voted to strike Newsquest in Hampshire over a 2 year wage freeze48. In Northern Ireland, a court order demanded an end to a strike at a meat factory. Dutch postal workers were planning a strike49. British unions promised large scale public sector strikes after the 43 “French Protesters Block Marseilles Airport” Associated Press Oct. 21, 2010; “French Leader Vows to Punish Violent Protesters” New York Times Oct. 22, 2010; 44 “Acropolis Closed, Riot Police Protecting Entrance” Associated Press Oct. 19, 2010; 45 “AENA is Ready to Fire Those Air Controllers Who Strike Tomorrow” Avio News Oct. 21, 2010 46 “Firefighters Vote for Strike Action” Tullamore Tribune Oct. 14, 201. 47 “UK Workplace News Roundup” from www.libcom.org Oct 21, 2010. 48 Workers at Newsquest Hampshire Vote Overwhelmingly for Action” National Union of Journalists http://www.nuj.org.uk/innerPagenuj.html?docid=1779. 49 “Court Injunction Halts Tyrone Meat Plant Strike” BBC Oct. 21, 2010 government’s announcement of its economic program involving massive service cuts and elimination of 500,000 civil service jobs50. Over a thousand Romanian Dock workers protested IMF and EU sponsored austerity plans and demanded higher wages. 51 In Croatia, unions threatened a general strike after the Constitutional Court rejected a referendum to reform labor laws52. Outside Europe that same day, Tobago public servants marched in solidarity with their striking colleagues in Trinidad, and the University of the West Indies offered concessions to its striking staff53; University staff were on strike also in Nigeria54; Ghanaian teachers and professors were on strike and In Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, high school teachers were on strike to start the school year, while In Italy, the university semester’s start was blocked by a months-long strike by ricercatori, the entry-level professors protesting massive cuts and changes in Italian Universities 55; National Water Commission workers, members of Jamaica’s National Workers Union struck in the face of a court order, demanding a 7% pay increase, in the wake of an earlier demand by Jamaican unions to reject IMF policy demands56. A general strike in that country had only a month earlier been narrowly averted by government concessions that made the IMF demands a dead letter57. 50 “Public Sector Cuts Make Strikes Inevitable, Warn Unions” The Guardian Oct. 21, 2010 51 “1,000 dock yards workers march in protest in Romania requesting higher wages” The Associated Press (CP) – 23 October 2010 52 “Unions Threaten with General Strike” Croatian Times Oct. 22, 2010 53 “PSA Planning Massive Protest” Trinidad and Tobago’s Newsday Sept. 21, 2010; “Lecturers in Pay Protest at UWI” Trinidad Express Oct. 16, 2010; “Workers Also March in Tobago” Guardian (Trinidad and Tobago) Oct. 20, 2010; “UWI Increases Wage Offer to Staff” The Guardian (Trinidad and Tobago) Oct. 21, 2010. 54 “NIEPA Workers Protest Non-Payment of New Wage” NEXT (Nigeria) Oct. 21, 2010. 55 “Strike Jump Starts Year End Revision” Hawkes Bay Today (New Zealand) Oct. 21, 2010; “PNC in Solidarity with POTAG” The Accra Mail Oct. 21, 2010; “Italy: Strikes Delay Start of Academic Year” University World News Oct. 17, 2010. 56 “NWC Customers Warned to Brace for Problems from Threatened Strike” Jamaica Observer Oct. 20, 2010; “Unions to Government: Renegotiate IMF Agreement” Sunday Jamaica Observer Sept. 12, 2010. 57 “Government Happy General Strike Called Off” Jamaica Observer Sept. 17, 2010. Strikes were spreading throughout many countries in Africa, in addition to the education sector strikes: In Kenya, 80,000 workers struck tea companies to protest the introduction of tea-picking machines58; in Swaziland, the logistics and transport company Unitrans fired 43 striking workers and got a court order requiring workers to cease adhering to their own self-set hours of 7 am to 4 pm59; diamond production workers were on strike in Botswana60; in Zambia, striking miners were fired on by their bosses at a Chinese company61; and in Zimbabwe airline workers struck while public service workers demanded that diamond revenues be used to increase their pay62. In Benin, unions organized protests that same week against the government’s ban on organized demonstrations.63 Only a few weeks earlier, city workers in Uganda had occupied government offices.64 In Nigeria, oil workers had postponed a strike the previous Spring after a10% pay raise conceded by the government.65 But in the Fall, they struck over a proposed law on oil lobbied heavily for by oil multinationals, and over actions by Exxon locally66. Doctors in Lagos were on strike, university staff and lecturers stepped up ongoing strikes, electrical workers threatened an 58 “Kenya: Union Warns Tea Firms Not to Replace Striking Workers” Business Daily (Nairobi) Oct. 20, 2010; “Tea Plantation Workers Set to Strike” The Standard (Nairobi) Oct. 20, 2010; “80,000 Workers Strike Over New Technology” Reuters Oct. 18, 2010; “More Than Just a Gathering Storm in Kenya’s Tea Cup” The Standard (Nairobi) Oct. 18, 2010. 59 “Stay 200 Meters Away From Unitrans Premises” Times of Swaziland Oct. 21, 2010. 60 “Striking Union Workers: DTCB Compromising Diamond Security” The Israeli Diamond Industry Diamond News Oct. 20, 2010. 61 “Chinese Bosses Fire on Angry Zambian Miners” Daily Telegraph (Canada) Oct. 19, 2010. 62 “Civil Servants in Protest March to Demand Higher Pay” SW Radio Africa News Sept. 17, 2010. 63 “Benin Trade Unions Slam Government Over Ban on Protests” Africa News Oct. 13, 2010. 64 “KCC Employees On Strike” Daily Monitor (Kampala) Sept. 21, 2010. 65 “Labour Shelves Pay Raise Strike” Vanguard (Lagos) May 4, 2010; 66 “Nigerian Oil Union Calls Strike at Exxon’s Local Unit” Bloomberg Oct. 12, 2010. indefinite strike and government workers in that country threatened a strike over a minimum wage.67 Bangladesh, which has seen enormous strikes and clashes with police by workers, especially from the garment industry, was that same day witnessing a massive dock strike that faced military repression, a strike by jute workers and one by garment workers in various parts of the country, all threatening the country’s exports with devastation68. Pilots in that country defied government warnings and began a strike on the 23rd.69 Elsewhere, sugar workers in Guyana had just ended a strike when faced with government repression70, 500 workers at Foxcomm in India had been arrested for labor activity71, DHL, the global logistics company faced worldwide labor conflict over its policies72, Turkish UPS workers, sustained by considerable international solidarity, were involved a struggle over fired colleagues73, 80,000 public workers were on strike in Chile as miners at that country’s massive Collahuasi copper mine prepared to vote to strike 74, and hospital construction workers prepared to do likewise75. Bank workers in Brazil had just ended a strike after 67 “Union Intensifies Strike” Nigerian Observer Oct. 22, 2010; “Electricity Workers Threaten Indefinite Strike” AllAfrica.com Oct. 4, 2010; “Nigerian Oil Unions Threaten Strike over PIB Implementation” www.icem.org Oct. 4, 2010; “New Minimum Wage: Workers Threaten to Go On Strike Oct. 1” Nigerian Tribune Sept. 23, 2010. 68 “CTG Dock Workers Attack Private Berth Operators, 15 Hurt” The Daily Star (Dhaka) Oct. 13, 2010; “Bangladesh Deploys Army As Port Strike Hits Garment Exports” AFP Oct. 15, 2010; “Jute Export Hampered as Bailing Workers Continue Strike” The Daily Star (Dhaka) Oct. 21, 2010. 69 “Pilots Defy Warning, Begin Protest against Service Benefit Slash” Daily Star (Dhaka) Oct. 23, 2010 70 “Sugar Workers Strike for Pay Hike” Stabroek News (Georgetown, Guyana) Oct. 19, 2010. 71 “Foxconn’s Global Empire Reflects a New Breed of Sweatshop” In These Times Oct. 19, 2010; “Protesting Workers at Foxconn Arrested” Express News Service Sept. 25, 2010. 72 “DHL Faces Worldwide Unrest” Transport and Logistics News Oct. 14, 2010; 73 “World Action Day Tomorrow Backs Fired Turkish UPS Workers” International Transport Workers www.itf.global.org Aug. 21, 2010; 74 “Chilean Public Employees on Strike” Latin American Herald Tribune (Caracas) Oct. 22, 2010; “Chile Collahuasi Union Set to Strike as Vote Near” Reuters Oct. 21, 2010. 75 “ACT NOW! Solidarity Campaign – Labour Conflict in Chile” Building and Wood Workers International bwint.org Oct. 20, 2010. winning the largest pay raise in years76, and auto workers had only weeks before won their highest pay raises ever through striking77. The conflict over a pay increase and housing allowance that had sparked a massive general strike of public sector workers in South Africa the month before was only finally settled that same week78, while in Argentina a city wide general strike in Buenos Aires was threatened over the death of a railway worker, as sanitation workers in the city were just returning to work after a 3-day strike79. Around 2,000 Vietnamese workers were on strike at a shoe factory80. In South Korea the country’s largest union federation was planning for demonstrations against the G20 meeting in that country a few weeks later81. The relative quiet in Egypt compared with the ongoing strike waves that had lasted most of the past few years ended the same day and workers protested nationwide, just days after having protested government repression of workers’ political activism in Cairo82. Palestinian workers struck a Green Line Israeli factory over nonpayment of wages, as their co-nationals went on strike against the UN agency handling health 76 “Brazil Bank Workers Keep Strike After 6.5% Raise Offer. They Want 11%” Brazzil Magazine Oct. 20, 2010; “Bank Workers End 15-Day Strike” Wall Street Journal Oct. 14, 2010. 77 “Unions Secure Record Wage Increases in Brazilian Auto Sector” International Metalworkers Federation www.imfmetal.org Sept. 22, 201. 78 “COSATU: Strike Over But Still No Deal” Mail and Guardian (Pretoria) Oct. 13, 2010; 79 “Argentina Protest Over Labour Activist Killing” BBC News Oct. 21, 2010; “Tension Mounts as Demonstrators March to Protest Death in Earlier Clashes, CTA Umbrella Union Calls for General Strike Today” Buenos Aires Herald Oct. 21, 2010; “Garbage Collection Returns to Normal After 3-Day Conflict” Buenos Aires Herald Oct. 20, 2010. 80 “Workers at Vietnam Footwear Factory on Strike” http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/business/news/article_1593271.php/Workers-at-Vietnam-footwearfactory-on-strike Oct. 22, 2010 81 82 “Police Alert Over Anti-G20 Rallies” Korean Herald Oct. 15, 2010. “Labourers Stage Protests Nationwide to Demand Better Salaries” Al Masry Al Youm Oct. 20, 2010; “Workers Protests Put Forcibly Down” Al Masry Al Youm Oct. 19, 2010. services in the refugee camps83. Staff at the Palestinian colleges and universities held a sit-in at the Education Ministry of the Palestinian Authority84. In the Czech republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria and elsewhere, unions warned, threatened or prepared for new actions over austerity programs, while strikes in Croatia and Serbia had only recently died down over some of the EU’s demands on those countries for austerity as preconditions for membership85. Ukrainian workers had just won a five-month long strike at a sausage factory, winning a big pay increase.86 In Kazakhstan, Oil workers struck to protest the arrest of a union activist.87 The list could go on, and I have focused on the labor news from one day. As the Summer and Fall of 2010 went, it was not an atypical day. If the French revolts made it seem exceptional, they themselves might be considered relatively less impressive than other worker actions of the same year, such as the strike wave in China, or the 100 million strong general strike in India in September. Vietnam continued to witness extraordinary worker militancy across nearly every industry, while one estimate was that Russia had seen 93 large, unauthorized strikes in 201088. A 83 “Palestinian Authority Workers Still on Wages Strike at Sol-Or Factory” Jerusalem Post Oct. 21, 2010; “Public Health Risk as UNRWA Goes On Strike” Ma’an News Agency Oct. 21, 2010. 84 “Workers in Governmental Universities and Colleges hold a sit-in in front of the Council of Ministers asking the PA to meet their demands” Democracy and Workers Rights Center Palestine www.dwrc.org Oct. 22, 2010 85 “Demonstration in Belgrade Rejects European Austerity Plans” Building and Wood Workers International bwint.org Oct. 1, 2010; “Bulgarian Police Officers Start Protests” FOCUS News Agency Oct. 17, 2010; “Czech Unions May Go On Strike if Further Talks with Government Fail” Prague Monitor Sept. 17, 2010; “Protest Over Pay Cuts” Prague Post Sept. 22, 2010; “Meeting Between PM and Union Shows No Progress on Wage Issue” Prague Daily Monitor Oct. 1, 2010; “Romanian Finance Ministry Workers Protest Pay Cut” Reuters Oct. 14, 2010; “Romanian Teachers Strike Over IMF-Driven Pay Cuts” www.laboureducator.org April 24, 2010; “Poland: Trade Unions to Protest Wage Freeze” The News.PL Sept. 22, 2010; “Croatian Workers Protest Against Shipyard Sale Decided by Government as Part of Effort to Join EU” Canadian Press Sept. 22, 2010; “Vegrad Workers On Strike” Slovenian Press Agency Sept. 20, 2010; 86 “Long Struggle Ends in Victory for Ukraine Belkozin Workers” International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco, and Allied Workers Associations www.iuf.org Oct. 15, 201. 87 “Kazakh Oil Workers Strike over Activist Arrest” Radio Free Europe Oct. 23, 2010 88 BBC Monitoring Former Soviet Union – Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring new labor federation founded there was a sign of the growing militancy89. The estimates for strike activity for China were shaky, but already a couple of years before one researcher found 87,000 labor protests involving millions of workers and no one doubted that 2010 had seen an increase in strike activity, the number of workplaces and workers involved and the intensity of strikes and confidence of strikers compared with previously90. That same day saw construction workers blocking streets in Dubai, where militancy had been common in recent months 91, while Bahrain92 had also experienced strike activity on a vast scale recently as well. Meanwhile in Iraq, unions continued to block privatization of oil resources and faced government union busting as a result93. This strike activity is arguably only the high point (so far) of a global strike wave dating to 2007 and building in globality, intensity, militancy and geographic presence. It is extraordinary for the simultaneity of large scale strikes in country after country, and its near universal spread – only in the United States is there no strike wave to speak of at all, and the Philippines seemed extraordinary in having less labor militancy than in recent years. In South Korea the decline in large strikes was explainable by strong arm legislation and other anti-union moves by the government to counter the power of workers expressed militantly only a few years before. Meanwhile in Mexico, again, only June 13, 2009 Saturday “Expert analyses tendency of strikes, labour disputes in Russia” 89 “New Trade Union Association Created in Russia” Itar-Tass Sept. 20, 2010. 90 Ching Kwan Lee, Against the Law: Labor Protests in China’s Rustbelt Univ. of California Press 2007, p.5 91 “Building Workers Block Traffic in Protest Over Wages” The National (Dubai) Oct. 22, 2010; “Capital’s Taxi Drivers Refuse to Sign New Contracts” The National (Dubai) May 13, 2010; “1,474 Labourers in Mass Salary Delay Protest” ArabianBusiness.com January 5, 2010. 92 “Al Hamad Workers Strike in Bahrain” Constructionweekonline.com Nov. 16, 2009; “Hundreds of Oil Workers Protest in Bahrain” Business.Maktoob.com Feb. 12, 2010; “Bahrain Port Workers Call Off Protest” Business.Maktoob.com Nov. 9, 2009; “Strike Plan by Bahrain Company Workers” Trade Arabia.com Jan. 21, 2010; “DHL Trade Union in Bahrain Strike Talks” ArabianBusiness.com July 12, 2010; 93 Sherwood Ross, “Union Busting in Iraq” Counterpunch.org Oct.19, 2010. massive repression, including the firing of 40,000 power company workers by the country’s president, kept labor activity there under control. Similarly, in Thailand, only the massacre of the Red Shirts movement of farmers and workers demanding democracy earlier in the year prevented people from engaging in protest. Aside from these few exceptions, many of which prove the rule by being so only as a result of severe State repression of workers struggles, much of the world has witnessed the use by workers of their traditional weapon of withdrawing their labor in recent months, and over the past three years it is difficult to find a part of the world that has not seen significant worker protest or large scale strikes. To understand this strike wave we need to understand it in its context, which is largely unprecedented, and we also need to see it in relation to its precedents, other worldwide strike waves historically. Doing so will enable us to see how well the categorizations of strikes and the attempts to analyze strike movements apply to today’s worldwide strike wave and possibly to help us judge its potential, understand its meaning, and theorize how it may play a role in shaping the global economy and society. Just as importantly, we need to grasp what role this strike wave has already played in the current economic crisis that began in 2008, and what its relation is to the attempts to address or use the crisis by capital and governments as well as its relationship to global governance organizations. Major Themes in the Strike Wave The recent and ongoing strike wave features particular, if widespread, groups of workers. We can get a better idea of who is striking and why from a closer and more precise look at these participants and their characteristics. Several themes present themselves as we examine strikes in recent years and months. One is the highly widespread geographic scope of the strikes – many are in emerging economies where industry on a large scale is a recent development: Brazil, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Vietnam, South Korea, South Africa, India, and above all China, to name a few. That the strike wave has encompassed the Ukraine, Ethiopia, Swaziland, Kenya, Egypt, Bahrain and Kazakhstan, indicates just how global globalization has become, and along with it the revolt of workers. Thus, Brazilian auto works, Ethiopian steel workers, Kenyan tea pickers, Swaziland diamond workers, Egyptian workers in nearly every category imaginable, Ukrainian sausage factory workers, Bangladeshi garment, jute and dock workers, Cambodian garment and textile workers, Vietnamese shoe and garment workers, and Chinese auto workers, textile workers and many others have been on strike on a large scale in recent years, along with nationwide strikes in South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, and several in India, including one that certainly stands as the largest single day general strike in history with 100 million workers participating. Second, logistics, crucial to the global economy based on commerce94 – the moving of goods and services, and when relevant persons – are a key site of struggle, with workers expressing their often newfound power in strikes at docks, on railway lines, truck routes, shipboards, at customs and border crossings, at post offices, delivery services and on airlines. Dock workers from New Jersey to Romania, and from the Piraeus to Bangladesh, have been on strike in the current strike wave. Railways have been on strike in nearly every country in Europe, but crucially, many of the global logistics companies, DHL, UPS have faced high levels of international worker militancy. A third major aspect of the strike wave has been strikes by production workers or other workers involved in the production or supply of basic commodities used as raw materials – agricultural products, extractive industries, industrial metal mining, gas and electricity supply, oil in particular. These workers have seen prices spike to historic heights in recent years, especially during the 20072008 rise in prices widely attributed (if problematically) to increased demand especially from growing economies in Asia, and they have increasingly struck to demand a greater share of the 94 As brilliantly demonstrated in the pioneering study, Edna Bonacich and Jake B. Wilson, Getting the Goods: Ports, Labor and the Logistics Revolution Ithaca: Cornell University Press 2008. greater wealth that their work has created. Strikes in this sector, in particular, were initially responding to the price spikes that were likely a combination of increased demand along with another factor – the massive speculation in futures markets for all such commodities. This search for a safe haven to invest in by capital, searching, in the wake of the housing market and derivatives collapse in the US that sparked the financial crisis, for profitable investment free from worker militancy, and the strikes that followed this capital flow, led, in my view, to turning the financial crisis into a global recession. Capital that had fled mobilized workers in the first place into financial refuges now fled from the formerly safe haven of commodities futures as workers in these industries demonstrated their determination to gain something from the historic increase in wealth flowing to their industries and employers.95 Chilean copper miners, Bolivian tin miners, Namibian diamond miners, jute workers in Bangladesh, sugar workers in Guyana, Mozambique cocoa workers, Nigerian oil workers, Kazakh oil workers, Kenyan tea pickers and many others have struck on a large scale across a large swath of the world economy for the past three years, demanding higher wages. Fourth, state workers and other groups directly affected by state austerity policies have been major actors in the global strike wave, from France to Benin, from Nigeria to India, from Brazil and Argentina to Egypt, from Greek state workers to British students, from Italian high school students and staff to university ricercatori, from Buenos Aires sanitation workers to Hungarian railway workers, from Kenyan electric power workers to Czech doctors, militancy has been increasingly common among state workers and those immediately involved in state services. These workers and 95 An argument I develop more fully in my forthcoming book, The Working Class and the Making of the Global Crisis. The last straw that broke the camel’s back, however, was not the strike wave of urban workers, but the failure of the global elite’s last gasp at avoiding the need to turn to a crisis to overcome worker resistance – namely the attempt to finish the Doha round of WTO talks on world trade, which instead capsized on resistance by emerging economies like China and India who in turn were reacting to the gigantic wave of revolt each has seen across the countryside of their national territories. In facing such revolt, agreeing to lift tariffs and subsidies and expose their largely subsistence farmers to the competition of global agribusiness would have been like pouring gasoline on a very large fire already barely kept under control. allied groups are on the front lines of the struggle against austerity that is today every bit as global as world trade. If austerity is today fully globalized, it is because the same policies are increasingly implemented by governments across the world as part of the formation of an increasingly coherent ruling class, formed and intellectually trained through Davos’ annual World Economic Forum, and the process that Ernst Haas called “elite socialization96” resulting from participation in organizations such as the EU, G20, WTO, IMF and informal gatherings like Davos97. The strike wave, inasmuch as a principle challenge to austerity programs98, is not only increasingly the most impressive obstacle worldwide to the implementation of these programs, but to the degree that austerity results from initiative taken by or through global governance organizations – the EU, IMF and G20 – the strike wave is oriented against global governance organizations themselves. In this sense these are to a considerable degree political strikes, but with a new angle – that the strikes are directed not only against policies of austerity of national governments but also against global governance, best defined as the partial or full transformation of national states through global organization with the objective and practice of insulating governments from their national populations and making them more effective as instruments for imposing global capitalist interests on the rest of society. Ireland, as I write, is preparing for a governmental crisis, mass protest and 96 Haas originally referred to the increasingly European outlook and cooperation beyond the immediate issues at hand resulting from working with one’s government counterparts in the European Economic Community, Ernst Haas, The Uniting of Europe: Political, Social, and Economic Forces 1950-57 Stanford: Stanford University Press 1968. I have extended the meaning here to suggest a process of international, arguably global class formation. 97 To give an idea how central to our times is this process, and how formative or transformative participation in such organizations and events, including Davos, can be be, consider the following passage from Nelson Mandela’s published diary extracts: “The decisive moment..was when I attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where I …met the major industrial leaders of the world…who made it a point to express their views very candidly on the question of nationalization, and I realized…that if we want investments we will have to review nationalization…we had to remove the fear of business that…their assets will be nationalized.” Nelson Mandela, Conversations with Myself London: MacMillan 2010 p. 381. 98 See my (as yet unpublished) essay, “Worldwide Strikes against Global Governance”. strikes, to respond to an EU-IMF-sponsored austerity program. Already, aside from the strikes and protests, including 40,000 union member participants against the G20 summit in Seoul in November 2010, a number of strikes have specifically targeted global governance organizations and not just their own national states. Irish public workers99, Jamaican labor unions100 and others have specifically challenged their governments’ agreements with the IMF, while Croatian unions have opposed austerity mandated as required in order to join the EU101. Thousands of Romanian Finance Ministry workers walked off the job to protest IMF demands,102 Pakistani state workers protested an IMF demand for privatization of electrical power plants103, and European labor unions united for a one-day protest in Brussels on September 29, 2010 to oppose continent-wide austerity programs.104 In an especially ironic struggle, the staff at the International Labor Organization, tasked with proposing and monitoring the implementation of better labor standards worldwide, held a sit-down strike to prevent a governing board meeting to protest their precarious, short term contracts and their working conditions.105 The presence of global governance in the midst of the austerity policies, and the link of these global organizations and their apparent class bias and policies106 at the center of the globalization process, along with the structural links between workers internationally stemming from the physical connections of logistics and the diffusion of working class experience geographically, mean that 99 “Public servants face pay cuts as IMF moves in” The Independent (Ireland) Nov.19, 2010 100 “Unions to Gov’t: Renegotiate IMF Agreement” Jamaica Observer Sept.12, 2010 101 “Croatia’s United Unions Threaten General Strike Dec. 10” Bloomberg Nov. 17, 2010 102 “Romanian Finance Ministry Workers Protest Pay Cuts” Reuters Oct. 14, 2010 103 “Privatization of Power Sector in Pakistan: Appeal for Solidarity with WAPDA Workers” (statement by Divisional from website www.marxist.com Oct. 28, 2010 Chairman & Zonal Secretary WAPDA Hydro Union) 104 “Unions Rally to Fight European Austerity Measures” tribunemagazine.co.uk Sept. 17, 2010 105 “ILO Staff Protest Halts Board Meeting” Swiss Info www.swissinfo.ch. Nov. 10, 2010 106 See for instance the call by the IMF for Ireland to reduce its minimum wage, which has no relation to budget cutting or debt whatever, as a part of the austerity program needed to obtain an EU-IMF loan: “EU Urges Feuding Ireland not to Delay Budget” Reuters November. 23, 2010. international solidarity, at least in sentiment, increasingly in solidarity activity, and even, as the European day of protest indicates, in united action, has become more common recently107. As we shall see, the strike wave itself, and the class struggle as a whole, are themselves constitutive of the possibilities that these same struggles then confront as challenge and opportunity. There is another significance of the centrality of global governance organizations in the imposition of austerity, of huge implications: austerity is the sign that global governance as an ally in political exchange with finance capital overcomes the increasing proportional reduction of the capitalist logic that has characterized each successive hegemony historically, indeed austerity globally clearly seeks to overcome the limitations on capitalist dominance of political processes worldwide imposed by democracy and previous cycles of class struggle embodied in national institutions and policies. But it also erodes and risks completely erasing the ideological power of globalization as a universal, that is the hegemony as opposed to dominance aspect of global governance, its potential to seem to represent some of the hopes of humanity worldwide. Instead, it is increasingly apparent that hopes placed in one global governance organization after another – the EU once seen as embodying a different logic than the neoliberal US, the UN peacekeeping and aid operations under attack for in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo for their treatment of locals, the G20 which has signally failed either to address Climate Change in any plausible way, or to see in the economic crisis anything other than a budget-busting danger requiring austerity as a cure – are doomed to be unrealized as the capitalist dominance of these organizations overrides whatever larger social or political content they may have been thought to hold. This raises two crucial problems for capital: first, increasingly the bourgeoisie, finance capital in particular, is trying to rule directly, in the form of personnel, class merger with the global governance bureaucracy and elite socialization. Second, the social base on which this ruling class of global capitalists must govern is ice-thin, lacking either 107 For instance the widespread acts of solidarity with the UPS workers’ struggle in Turkey, the recognition of the struggles of Greek workers as a predecessor to their own fight against austerity on the part of French unions, the aforementioned protest in Brussels by united European unions, the support of international unions for the strikes by Chittagong, Bangladesh dock workers, and the protests against the G20, among others that could be cited. the social base of a national state formed through class struggles and compromises over long periods of historical time, or the potential for universality contained in form and potentially in content in global governance organizations themselves. Thus, the problem is not that the national state, which as we have seen was always overrated as a norm under capitalism anyway, being superseded by supranational organization or processes – indeed capitalism has always been supranational as a process. Nor is it that capital abandons the military power of a hegemonic territorial state. The US, its allies and NATO are after all still available to do the heavy lifting in the foreseeable future. But today, virtually any state whose rulers are integrated into the global elite socialization process and tied down with debt and participation in austerity can fill the role when needed especially with respect to revolt by its own national population (the Tiananmen Square massacre – a precondition for the rise of China as a destination of so much global direct investment, and the recent coups in Thailand and Honduras are only a few examples). Rather, while capital, by allying with the global governance bureaucracy as a political exchange, and then seeking merge fully with it to form a global ruling class, gains a near universal political mobility to match its mobility qua capital as money and investment, it loses any political legitimacy and social support for this political project. Democracy, as Arundhati Roy argues, not the nation-state, is what is in danger from such a project, and along with it any reason for the vast majority of the population of any country to support any longer the rulers of society, the organizations doing that ruling, the direction in which they are leading the world, or their national governments which through the global governance and austerity processes are converted largely into instruments of capitalist dominance. In short, dominance, rather than hegemony, comes to the fore and the social base of capitalist rule rests on a narrower base than it has for 500 years. This approach contrasts sharply with that of Tilly, for whom legitimacy rests primarily on rulers being recognized as legitimate by other rulers, rather than by the people they rule. But today, the latter form of legitimacy is nearcomplete, as Davos, the G20 and elite socialization provide for, and insure compliance with, the criteria for membership and boundaries of action for the global ruling class. That very legitimacy of rulers in the eyes of their fellow elite erodes and risks erasing the legitimacy of national rulers in the eyes of their populations in revolt, which, along with a new working class composition that has access to newfound power globally brings with it the making of a worldwide political crisis. Approaches to Analyzing Strikes Perhaps the most common distinction made between different types of strikes is a traditional one between political and economic strikes. This distinction largely came from the experience, analysis and practice of the Socialist parties of the Second International – the distinction is, for reasons we shall examine further along, absent in the works of Marx and Engels themselves. This distinction reflected the organizational division of labor in the second international between unions and parties, where the former were presumably organizations to deal with the economic needs of workers and the latter for addressing the political aspirations. A second way to categorize workers’ struggles is employed by Beverly Silver in her groundbreaking work that demonstrated the existence historically of global strike waves 108. Silver distinguishes between Polanyi’s and Marx’s analyses of workers’ struggles. For Polanyi, the struggle is against the commodification of labor and against a self-regulating market’s tendency to strip workers of all social protections, though, as Silver points out, Polanyi’s analysis lacks any discussion of power and such defense could feasibly, even inevitably occur, from the top down without active worker participation. For Marx, the struggle involves one against exploitation, is centered on workers’ presence in the labor process and at the workplace, and is over maximizing the gains to be made from and beyond a system that has the features described by Polanyi. Thus, for Silver, 108 Beverly Silver, Forces of Labor: Workers Movements and Globalization Since 1870 Cambridge and New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2003. By Polanyi-type labor unrest, we mean the backlash resistance to the spread of a global selfregulating market, particularly by working classes that are being unmade by global economic transformations as well as by those workers who had benefitted from established social compacts that are being abandoned from above. And by Marx-type labor unrest, we mean the struggles of newly emerging working classes that are successively made and strengthened as an unintended outcome of the development of historical capitalism, even as old working classes are being unmade. 109 We may broadly, with some caution, suggest that the Polanyi-type struggles are particularly prominent in the efforts to defend previous welfare-state gains especially in Europe, while the Marx-type struggles to gain a greater share of a growing amount of wealth is more typical of countries like Brazil, South Korea, South Africa and especially India and China, though some of the struggles in Latin America and Africa especially in extractive industries, raw materials and agricultural sectors likewise feature struggles to increase wages and benefits, improve conditions and gain a greater share of wealth and control in the workplace. Steven Sherman, in his review of Silver’s book, suggested a third category, the “Luxemburgian” form of worker unrest, based on Rosa Luxemburg’s theory of the mass strike, in which “workers take control of a set of industries and replace capitalists as the organizers of the social division of labor.”110 While so far the strike wave has not seen a return to the twentieth-century experience of workers councils, prominent from at least the first Russian Revolution of 1905 to the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and Polish Solidarity of 1980, some of the strikes recently have suggested the possibility of such struggles. This (amended) typology appears fruitful for us then. And so long as we are careful and not doctrinaire in our use of it, it seems to help us think about the fact that strikes have been especially prominent in countries like India, Bangladesh, Vietnam and China as well as Brazil, areas that capital has flown to – what Silver calls “the spatial fix” – and that it is precisely the presence of these workers in a worldwide strike wave in large numbers, intensity of their militancy and the large number of 109 110 Silver, Forces of Labor, p. 20. Steven Sherman, “Workers and Globalization: A Review of Beverly Silver’s ‘Forces of Labor’” Counterpunch.org Sept. 20, 2003. strikes they have engaged in that gives this particular strike wave its particular and striking character. While Silver’s research would caution away from describing this as the first global strike wave, it is certainly the first one in which the global South’s workers appear not as secondary, or minor players, but as the largest set of forces in the field, and that in industries central to the world economy and in struggles largely urban in location. In short, much as Silver foresaw in her work of 2003, the balance for forces globally has not necessarily shifted only in capital’s favor, but also toward these workers who, as Lenin’s last published work pointed out, constituted the vast majority of humanity. Likewise, the struggles over the pension reform in France, the budget cuts of the Cameron government in Britain, against the IMF-EU austerity program imposed on Greece, even the defense by workers of Eastern European countries of rights remaining from the Soviet era in some aspects, but in any case guarantees under threat by neoliberal demands of the EU, IMF or global investment forces has this Polanyi-like sense to them. Workers are struggling to defend not just this or that particular right or guarantee, but an entire sense of themselves as citizens won as a result of hard struggles in the past that define their status in their countries and in Europe in general against the neoliberal abstraction of the market111. As for the Luxemburg-type struggle, again, while these have not occurred as such (yet?), the struggles in France and Greece appeared at times to pull back just from the brink given that at this point the stakes become everything, and workers may have shrewd understandings of the forces arrayed against them in a global capitalist system with global governance organizations concentrating power on one side. In a sense, this might be the 21st century version of the Polish workers’ famous decision in 1980 not to pursue direct control of industry and the state but to demand a free union in Solidarity instead given the risk of Soviet intervention. An interesting aspect 111 For an excellent discussion of this wider dimension of the strikes and protests in Europe, see Mark Weisbrot, “Why the Protesters in France have it right” counterpunch, Oct. 22, 2010. of this might be the cooperatives, factory and land occupations and experiments in direct democracy in countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Argentina where workers utilize the shield of friendly government to extend control over one area of social life at a time rather than seek head-on collision with all the forces of capital, national and global, all at once. But the threat of such Luxemburg style workers councils remain latent in the strikes and solidarity actions in Bangladesh, Vietnam, China and elsewhere and awareness of that threat influences government and business decisions to use repression or concessions depending on which seems more likely to avert the possibility of such a transformative struggle emerging. That the strike wave is so worldwide not only needs to be understood in a globalized context and, as I have argued elsewhere in a statetransformed context (global governance)112, but also understood as changing that context. After all, one advantage of ruling classes and capital historically was geopolitical – a mass strike was likely to occur in one place at a time and knowledge by workers elsewhere of its occurrence, until around the 1960s, was not likely to happen in “real time ” Today that is less true, as both the strike wave and the awareness of events in other countries are far more global than ever before. This means that what could be up for grabs worldwide is power everywhere, whether Marx-style bargaining power or Luxemburg-type social power over the division of labor. But at this point we must await future events to extend this analysis. Instead, what seems most helpful is to go deeper into the specific conditions and arenas of struggle characterized within the strike wave so far to understand better both the Polanyi and Marx-type struggles and conditions facilitating these and being changed by them. In general we can identify a few key themes: public sector workers, revolt against the policies demanded by global governance institutions; demands by workers in raw materials, extractive and agricultural industries to gain a larger share of the wealth at a time when the prices and profits of the products of these workers’ labor are high; struggles by oil workers, which is a subset of the previous one mentioned of 112 See my article, “worldwide strikes against global governance”. extractive industries but with two particular aspects – the key role of their industry in the world economy and therefore the potential level of structural power of oil workers and the struggle against various attempts to re-privatize oil in various countries under control of multinational energy companies; and logistics, especially docks, trucking, and transport. These sectors have been especially active worldwide and suggest that this strike wave, and not only in the countries more highly characterized by rising investments due to the spatial fix and by Marx-type struggles (hence my repeated suggestion to use Silver-Sherman typology with some caution to avoid simplification), but also in France, Greece and elsewhere in Europe and the US.113 Silver, following Eric Olin Wright, distinguishes between workers structural power and their associational power.114 The former involves holding strategic positions in the division of labor, whereby workers can apply that power for gains either for themselves or for their class as a whole, or to block or protest unpopular moves by governments. The recent strikes have involved a considerable representation by workers holding structural power positions and using it to oppose policies of national governments and global governance organizations. Associational power instead involves workers ability to organize – formally or informally – to enhance their strength and influence. The latter has been somewhat more typical of late of the strikes in newly industrializing countries – China, Vietnam, South Africa and Brazil. But each of these forms of power, we should note involves aspects of the other, since without organization the strategically placed location in the division of labor of certain groups of workers would not register the influence that it objectively indicates potentially. Likewise, associational power can lead to ability to block, paralyze or even guide policy processes and content, as the larger class as a whole, organized as such, becomes a kind of macro-structural power, holding the division of labor in its entirety as their strategic 113 For instance the dock workers shut down of East Coast docks in New Jersey in October 2010, or the dramatic shutdown of all West Coast docks in 2003, nearly triggering a crisis in the whole global economy, not to mention the significant strike by Seattle dockers during the anti-WTO demonstrations in 1999. 114 Beverly Silver, Forces of Labor, p. 13. stronghold. The largest scale version of associational power of course, would be global in scope, involving a degree of solidarity that transcended national borders in common action, or coordinated action, or at least a unity in action even if acting independently. Silver’s work strongly backs the idea that while individual countries all have their collective action and political cultures, that transnational strike waves lead us to an analysis that transcends specific cultural causes. Similarly, while cultural diffusion among countries similarly situated or with common histories can lead to the spread of working class movements across national borders, such connections, along with the even more direct connections of person-to-person diffusion through migration or organizational contacts are not strictly necessary. But the existence of such contacts, as Silver points out, allows us to go beyond the national level as a unit of analysis or investigation and to properly investigate global strike waves as sui generis. Silver’s analysis, though, rests largely upon opportunity – the creation of large industrial working classes in urban settings and the placement of, and diffusion of strategic structural positions in the division of labor by capitalist globalization itself makes large scale strikes possible. This is consistent in many respects with Marx’s own analysis of working class potential, and like Marx and Silver I will also avoid discussion of specific cases of working class consciousness. I take this approach both because this requires a larger, and longer-term research project (on every continent!) and because whatever the consciousness and its expressions, of workers in struggle in the present period, the strike wave on a global scale is a social fact of great importance and clearly one not reducible to any individual national cultural development of working class activity, since the cultural conditions are so vastly different in the many countries mentioned above even in a threeday period of strikes worldwide. Further, the global strike wave is not reducible to, and is instead resistant to any analysis based upon the historical-comparative approach pioneered by Katznelson and Zolberg, emphasizing national differences in working class history, organization and activity.115 115 In Ira Katznelson and Aristide Zolberg, Working Class Formation: Nineteenth Century Patterns in Western Europe and the United States Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986. For a critique of this approach to international Whatever the national differences between working class people and their history and movements in France, Greece, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Egypt, Nigeria, China, India, Cambodia, South Africa, and the Czech Republic, two facts remain: that workers in all of these countries engaged in largescale strike movements in 2010, and that, allowing for the difference between demanding higher wages in low wage countries and fighting to defend decent wage levels and social programs that provide income to working people in higher wage countries, all of these strikes were directed against austerity programs and more often than not against policies implemented with the encouragement, even often the initiative of global governance organizations such as the G20, IMF or EU. But before we look more closely at specific national level strikes and create a useful typology of them using Silver’s conceptual framework, which provides most of what we need to understand the present movement of global workers struggles, there is one other set of concepts for understanding strikes and workers movements that we need to look both for how not to understand the strike wave and for one crucial insight that will allow us to deepen the analysis we largely take from Silver with help from Polanyi and Marx. The late Charles Tilly attempted an even broader analysis of working class movements and protest than even that attempted (with somewhat more success in my view) by Silver. Collective action in general, protest in general, strikes, riots, collective violence, Tilly’s work sometimes fruitfully, sometimes not, seemed to seek the right, and most general category for understanding the activity of people in protest. His unmatched gathering of centuries of data on nearly every imaginable protest, revolution, strike, riot and act of collective action is a contribution in itself to social science’s attempt to grasp these phenomena which he rightly places at the center of the modernization process, likewise a contribution in thinking about the modern world. But the very comprehensive nature of his data often led to schematic thinking and a failure to see the relation between supposedly discreet forms of collective action in his analytical approach. Thus, working class activity, see Chapter 7 of my own book, Steven Colatrella, Workers of the World: African and Asian Migrants in Italy in the 1990s Trenton and Asmara: Africa World Press 2001. simplifying somewhat, Tilly’s analysis famously saw food riots as rural or premodern and strikes and the organization of unions as urban and modern.116 This schema fails to explain more modern food and price riots such as those that have accompanied the anti-IMF riots over the past thirty years around the world, or the food price riots in several countries during the price spikes of 2007-8. These movements can hardly be considered to have happened in a “premodern” world or society, despite the participation of either rural or indigenous people in some of the revolts. As Walton and Seddon demonstrate, modern food and commodity price riots can be traced to the 1970s and the implementation across the Third World of IMF Structural Adjustment Programs by governments117. Indeed, some authors have sought to argue that a rural indigenous movement in remote southern Mexico such as the Zapatistas can be defined as “postmodern”. The anti-IMF riots were very much a series of protests against the most modern, up-to-date form of global capitalist rule, of global governance, IMF structural adjustment programs, of a modern capitalist social relation – the so-called debt crisis, and of mobilizations in urban and well as rural settings. The 2007-8 food price riots were even more clearly a result of globalization in its most recent aspects118. However, Edward Shorter and Tilly have more usefully made a point about the political character of strike waves that we should not neglect in analyzing today’s worldwide strikes. Tilly and Shorter argue that there is a “complex” relationship between strikes and political crises whereby “the timing of strike waves depends largely on the timing of political crises” but not in a directly causal way. Rather “politics constitutes an important kind of precondition for the eruption of large-scale worker movements” and organization on the part of workers is equally a precondition. They do not distinguish between formal and informal organization, though they lean toward stressing the 116 Charles Tilly, From Mobilization to Revolution, pp.116-117. 117 John Walton and David Seddon, Free Markets and Food Riots Cambridge, Massachusetts and Oxford, UK: Blackwell 1994, pp. 38-9. 118 John Walton and David Seddon, Free Markets and Food Riots write that these revolts respond to changes that “result from a closer integration of the global economy with the international state system coordinating the reorganization through agencies like the IMF.” P. 50. importance of the former. Nevertheless, the larger point is a good one: workers movements are political, strike waves political actions. Further, workers organization and collective actions are a part of political crises, and though the authors do not use the word dialectical to describe the relationship between working class political and organizational collective action and political crises, we may. Eschewing both narrowly economic or rational choice approaches to explaining strike waves and myths of spontaneity, Shorter and Tilly argue that political crises act “as a prime factor in bringing a large number of men together for collective action. When men act together, we think it is usually for political reasons.” Moreover, the most thoroughgoing, rigorous and methodologically innovative (if highly eclectic) full-length study of strike waves yet, Franzosi’s “The Puzzle of Strikes” similarly found it clear that historical processes do not unfold in an additive, linear fashion, that causation does not go in one direction only, that we cannot simply look at industrial conflict as the “dependent” variable and at economic, organizational, institutional, and political factors as the “independent” variables, that industrial conflict itself (particularly such momentous outbursts of working class protest as strike waves) produces effects in the economic, organizational, institutional, and political spheres, subverting established relationships and setting up new ones. More generally, the class struggle shapes the very process of class formation: the structural composition of classes, and of the working class in particular, and the organizational forms and agencies for the articulation of its interests. Strikes, strike waves in particular, provide the melting pot for classes.119 In other words, strike waves are constitutive of both a political or economic crisis and the organizational framework in which they take place, and of the actors themselves in the class struggle. My argument here, synthesizing the findings of Franzosi with those of Tilly and Shorter, is that the structural and associational power of the global working class and the strike wave that has grown in size, geographic scope and intensity since 2007 is both formative of the global economic crisis and political crisis of global governance, and a response to that crisis on the part of new actors, themselves formed by these same struggles that have given rise to the crisis and the actors in it. 119 Roberto Franzosi, The Puzzle of Strikes: Class and State Strategies in Postwar Italy Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press 1995, p. 349. The Making of a Global Political Crisis The crisis of legitimacy of global governance, of neoliberal policies of national governments in collaboration with global governance, and of globalization in general as lacking the support of the majority of people in most countries and especially of the working class, has come to constitute a political crisis whose first manifestations were the anti-IMF revolts across the global South, followed by the anti-globalization movement whose first large-scale action took place at the WTO meetings in Seattle in 1999. The austerity programs implemented nearly everywhere, with the initiative, support, pressure and even coercion at times of global governance organizations has led to a political crisis across most countries in the world. The strike wave is a manifestation of this crisis and a cause of its further deepening. By September 2001, the most powerful people in the world were unable to meet publicly without being confronted by hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, such as at Genoa for the G8 summit in August of that year. It was no accident that the WTO meetings scheduled for November were to be held in Doha, Qatar, a place immune to public demonstrations which are not permitted, nor that the G8 scheduled their subsequent meeting on the top of a Canadian Rockies peak. Short of going to the moon, the world’s elite were meeting in the most inaccessible venues imaginable, itself a symptom and result of, and worsening of the legitimacy crisis facing global governance. But it was with the use of the crisis by capital, especially finance capital and state banks, to impose austerity on the general population nearly everywhere outside of China (where austerity is a permanent state of things despite wage increases, inasmuch as wages’ share of national income fell from about half to about a third over the 1990s to today), that the crisis of legitimacy of global governance and of the national governments implementing austerity policies became the focus of not just widespread revolts in the Global South, but of a worldwide strike movement almost everywhere. At the same time, the newfound power of Global South populations, and of some key sectors of workers in the global North is part of the conditions of globalization itself, as Silver crucially demonstrates. This too is part of the political crisis, inasmuch as strategic power in the hands of groups that are unrepresented politically, or whose interests are opposed to present policy means a political crisis, at times of epic proportions120. Already the predominantly urban anti-IMF riot identified and analyzed by Walton and Seddon, with its epicenter in the national capital, marks the political nature of the riots – a far cry from the local, clientelist, and community moral economy based food price riots studied by Tilly, Eric Hobsbawm and EP Thompson. But the global scope of revolts against Structural Adjustment, as Walton and Seddon argue, constitutes both a quantitative difference in the scale on which protest is acted out and a qualitative difference in the organization of protest…The difference in scale, of course, is connected with the distinct and international conditions that precipitate austerity protests…Where classical food riots petition local magistrates for redress, austerity protests appeal to the national government. 121 But these appeals to national government are not merely larger scale or more modern versions of an appeal to a trusted local notable: “Authorities are still important targets”, noted Walton and Seddon, “but now as perpetrators of hunger rather than as protectors of the people too slow to act in their expected capacity.”122 The diffusion of production globally, the increased importance of logistics, 120 Interestingly, of two important works that foresee a global revolutionary political crisis, Adam Webb, “The Calm Before the Storm? Revolutionary Pressures and Global Governance” in International Political Science Review, Vol. 27, No.1 (Jan.2006), pp.73-92, p.83, and Martin Shaw, Theory of the Global State: Globality as an Unifinished Revolution CambridgeUniversity Press Cambridge 2000, the more fully developed analysis, that of Shaw which develops an entire, plausible and intelligent alternative political framework for understanding globalization, does not tie his concept of global revolution to the struggles against Structural Adjustment or neoliberalism, let alone austerity and global governance, but rather to an extension of liberal globalist values. Webb, in noting that the majority of the world’s people do not believe that globalization has addressed their needs or improved their conditions, is closer to the mark here, but fails to see any structural power in the hands of the disaffected that might make the global revolution more than a utopian possibility. Webb thus relies on Iraq-like inter-state conflict and the spread of Political Islam to identify agents capable of carrying out the global revolt he presciently senses on the horizon. 121 Walton and Seddon, p. 51. 122 Walton and Seddon, p.51. the extension of anti-austerity protests of the Global South to Europe and other developed countries as well, and the increased associational and structural power shown by workers in the recent strike wave, mean that the political crisis can be defined best as the confluence of a new level of workers’ power globally, notwithstanding important differences in their defensive or offensive stances varying by country, and an unprecedented crisis of political legitimacy resulting from the implementation of austerity contrary to the class interests of the majority in every country, and the origin of these policies in the alliance of ruling classes through the initiative of global governance organizations and implementation by national governments. In other words, a more powerful working class more disaffected from those in power and in rebellion on a quantitatively and qualitatively larger scale globally means a political crisis without precedent in world history. Conclusions: Revisiting the major themes of the strikes and the elements of political crisis Several themes clarify the meanings we can attribute to the strike wave of the past few months and years. These involve generally two major trends: the transformation of state power brought about by the global alliance of previously national ruling classes through the interpenetration of global governance institutions and national states, their personnel, policies, and outlooks that more effectively subordinates government everywhere to the interests of certain dominant sectors of global capital; and the changing class composition of the working class internationally through the diffusion of industry globally, the growing importance of logistics to the global economy, rendering aspects of it more vulnerable to strike action by key groups of workers, the diffusion of experience by migration and the common experience of attack on working class needs and livelihoods through austerity with a common source in global governance implemented through national governments. More precisely, we can identify the following as major themes in recent strikes: strikes by workers involved in the production or supply of important raw materials for industry and agricultural and extractive commodities, whose prices have been historically high for most of the period since 2007; Oil, while one commodity among these, is also so strategic that strike action by workers involved in its production and supply deserves treatment on its own; opposition to austerity policies by those most directly affected – state workers of all kinds and other groups – students, teachers, doctors and nurses, bus drivers, railway workers, etc. directly impacted by government austerity; protests directed openly against global governance organizations; strikes by transport and other logistics workers (docks, railways, truckers, seamen and others) whose structural power has grown as a direct result of the greater integration of the world economy through the growth of trade and globalization; strikes by workers in key national export industries, again, a newfound structural power, enhanced by growing associational power, resulting directly from growing global economic integration, trade and globalization. To recap then: using the useful frameworks of Silver, Tilly, and Walton and Seddon, we can approach the strikes around the world as an as yet distinct but already interacting and simultaneous movement of both Polanyian and Marxian workers movements, made possible by the structural power diffused to more groups of workers in more parts of the world by globalization itself, by increasing, and increasingly global associational power developed by workers’ own organizational efforts facilitated by the globalized means of communications, transportation, and logistics of the world economy, and the global political crisis that results from this strategic power, when combined with the narrowing to a small elite those benefitting from policies of austerity that clash directly with interests of the global working class as a whole and specifically certain key groups within it in most countries. This confluence could lead to a greater associational power through the spreading of the struggle to further sectors of workers within each country, and through greater international solidarity as common interests, struggles and methods are identified. In that case, the global political crisis would grow sharper, and the clash between workers everywhere representing the general interests of society and that of global governance and those governments that continue to follow its lead on behalf of capital would grow sharper. Under such conditions, Luxemburg-type struggles, in which workers seek, as they did in various ways and places during the 20th century to reorganize the division of labor itself and govern would not be out of the question. At that point, the global political crisis caused by growing workers’ power and a worsening legitimacy crisis, could open a new, planetary era of revolution.