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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.

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Chapter 10. ‘Socialist Pluralism’ and the Conception of the ‘Social Union’


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‘Socialist Pluralism’ and the Conception of the ‘Social Union’

Without confronting the destructive consequences of the rule of global capital-in-crisis prior to the dissolution of the national state and global powers of capital, there can be no emergence of an ‘organizational framework’ for revolution. Such a ‘framework’ will only arise in the struggle against the destructive manifestations of capital-in-crisis. This ‘pluralistic’ process of confrontation has, in the form of various campaigns and movements, already begun and will inevitably intensify. The overriding consideration here is how this ‘pluralism’ of the movements of millions against the effects of capital’s crisis on humanity and nature can be articulated – that is, posited in its negativity – into a coherent form of organization which can constitute itself determinately as the social and political basis for revolution.

Without the origination and development of endogenous, organically integrated and ‘overarching’, unifying and positive structural determinations (an exponential force expressing the movement of the totality) arising within the relations between these ‘pluralities’ – which co-ordinates and constitutes the ‘pluralities’ into a fighting socialist unity of revolution through participation – what will result is not successful revolution but ‘disarray and defeat’.

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