Show Less
Restricted access

Capital-in-Crisis, Trade Unionism and the Question of Revolutionary Agency

Shaun May

The entry of the capital relation into its epoch of structural crisis forms the basis for the development of the author’s conception of revolutionary agency. Drawing on the work and achievements of both Marx and Hungarian socialist thinker István Mészáros, May relates the emergence and deepening of the structural crisis to the decline of trade unionism as the traditional and universal form of organization deployed economistically by workers against capital. In the relationship between the «defensively-structured», universal, trade union form and the growing contradictions of the global capitalist system, May seeks to unearth the possibility of a higher form of agency which is more adequately adapted to address the immediate and long-term objectives facing millions of people today worldwide in the age of capital’s «destructive self-reproduction». Looking back in order to look forward, he also subjects the form of agency within the Russian Revolution to a critique which relates it directly to the conditions prevailing in Russia at the time. In so doing, he questions its supposed validity as a form of revolutionary agency for the struggle to put an end to the global capitalist system today.

Show Summary Details
Restricted access

Chapter 5. The Impact of Capital-in-Crisis on Nature


← 66 | 67 →


The Impact of Capital-in-Crisis on Nature

Capital’s structural crisis is a crisis of the reproduction of its structure. This crisis expresses the truth that capital as a social relationship of production has come to the end of its long historical road, implying the untenability and negation of the capital relation itself. That the productive activity of humanity has arrived at a stage of technical development which is increasingly incompatible with the existence of the capital relation. This posits, directly, the historic necessity for the ‘destructive reproduction’ of capital, arising out of the ‘activation of capital’s absolute limits’. At the same time, it posits the driving necessity for humanity to go beyond the capital relation.

Capitalism, in previous times, was seen as a historically progressive social system. It served to dissolve the remnants of feudalism, to break down parochial modes of life and to create the necessary conditions for a more advanced way of life for humanity, despite its destructive effects on humanity and nature in the course of its historic ascendancy, development and hegemony. The rapidity and scale of capital’s advance – and its destructive effects – were seen as the ‘price which had to be paid for social progress’. The onset and unfolding of capital’s structural crisis now brings in an epoch of ‘destructive reproduction’ in which the ‘destructive’ element ‘becomes more and more disproportionate and ultimately quite prohibitive’. Any vestiges of ‘social progress’ have been eclipsed by the...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.