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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 13. Lenin and the Question of Revolutionary Agency

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CHAPTER 13

Lenin and the Question of Revolutionary Agency

Lenin’s Ahistorical ‘Appeal to the Model Character of the Russian Revolution’

What are the lessons of the Russian Revolution – and the subsequent path it took – for us today in regard to the question of revolutionary agency? This chapter attempts to address this most fundamental of questions. Can we actually draw out lessons from this period in order to inform us in our work on agency today? How and why must the form of agency today differ from that which animated the Russian Revolution at the start of the last century?

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