Report from the blogosphere: Internationalism Public Meeting on the NYC Transit Strike

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 The following report on Internationalism’s March 10 public meeting is extracted from a lengthier posting on the Commie Curmudgeon blog (http://nomorebigwheels.blogspot.com )

March 13. This past Friday night, I was faced with a somewhat difficult choice – go help the people of the New SPACE with their/our table at the Left Forum, or go to an open ICC Meeting in Brooklyn instead. A couple of weeks ago…I said that I would not be able to do the latter. But as it turns out, after giving it some thought…I went to the ICC meeting after all. And I am glad that I made that choice – I think the ICC meeting provided a lot more good information, and was overall a far more interesting (and intellectually intense) experience, than I would have been likely to get attending those sessions of academic-leftist schmoozing, networking, and/or star-gazing that comprise the Left Forum…   
…The specific subject of this meeting was the Meaning of the New York City transit strike. This extended into some lively discussion about unions in general, the increase of workers’ solidarity (especially separate from, or one might say in spite of, the official dealings of the trade unions), and the possiblities for workers to further build “consciousness” at a time when the true nature of capitalism is becoming more blatant and brutal as capital tries to defend itself against increasing crises (which the ICC maintains are actually part of capitalism’s decline)...

At a later point, we discussed the issue of what kinds of workers’ groups might best contribute to future radical or revolutionary struggle, and I was pleased to hear my ICC comrades say that real revolutionary groups or organizations would probably have to be temporary entities specifically springing up to meet a high moment of struggle or revolutionary challenge. They would not be permanently established worker’s groups, such as “anarchist unions,” which almost always end up falling into the same role as trade unions, especially during times when the struggle has subsided, functioning in ways that at best compromise (if not work directly against) their supposed revolutionary purpose. (This, by the way, is not a quote, but my own summary of the dialogue. Maybe the ICC can say this better/more forcefully.) I might add that this is the sort of viewpoint that I have been leaning toward more myself, after trying for some time to work with the idea of traditional revolutionary syndicalism - especially anarchosyndicalism - which I have found less and less convincing in recent years.  These syndicalist unions are certainly preferable, at least in principle, to trade unions, but I’ve arrived at the opinion that neither form of established workers’ union will ever provide a good means by itself to radically challenge the system, especially not in the present age.

Toward the close of the meeting, I asked a little about the idea of capitalist decadence. This is the idea that capitalism is not simply going through one crisis in a never-ending series of crises but is actually in long-term decline as a result of certain built-in contradictions in the system that were discussed by Marx, Engels, Luxemburg, etc. This idea was raised in the ICC’s formal presentation during the meeting, because it is a significant part of their critique, along with their idea of a newer phase of capitalist decomposition, which is a later and even more critical stage in capitalism’s decline.

I wondered whether the ICC sees the decomposition of capitalism as following a sort of timeline, and whether they shared the idea with some proponents of decadence theory that there will be a specific moment of final collapse which revolutionaries should be preparing for. (I believe that Loren Goldner subscribes to this idea to some extent, focusing especially on the impending crises from the unprecedented explosion in dependence on fictitious capital and world debt.) And, as I’d correctly surmised, the ICC isn’t about to specify a deadline or moment of ultimate collapse but does see the danger of a sort of timeline running out, due to the present condition of capitalist decomposition, if there is no genuine socialist revolution – the danger being that, as mentioned by Rosa Luxemburg (which was based on something said earlier by Engels), without achieving socialism, we will enter a state of total barbarism.As I told the ICC, I find the notion of capitalist decadence, as well as decomposition, to be very intriguing, but I can’t say that I’m 100 percent behind it yet. Certainly, I see signs of deterioration and regression everywhere as well as impending crises…. There is a passage in Chapter 15 of Marx’s Grundrisse which the ICC cites as a major source for this theory of decadence…. However, I have spoken to other people, who are far more versed in Marxian theory than I am, who say that they wouldn’t interpret that passage in the same way at all. Personally, the idea of capitalist decadence and decomposition is something that I am very enticed to believe, but I also know that an idea like this can be dangerously comforting to those of us who are yearning to see some sort of end to the awful story that capitalism has been creating over the past several centuries. So, though this might seem a bit too wishy-washing/wavering, I’m not going to close myself off to the other side of the debate completely right now.

I do look forward to going to more ICC meetings, where I can participate in more fascinating discussions, learning and sharing revolutionary ideas. // posted by RS

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