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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.

Contents: Introduction: «Practical Critical Activity» and the Conception of Revolutionary Agency – Globalizing Capital-in-Crisis – The Altered Character of Capital’s Crisis – A Century of Lenin’s Imperialism – On Changes in the Proletariat with Capitalist Globalization and the Need for a Critique of Marx’s Conception of the Proletariat – The Impact of Capital-in-Crisis on Nature – The Trajectory of Trade Unionism Under Capital’s Unfolding Structural Crisis – Capital’s Offensive against Social Provision – Impasse and Outmodedness: The Twilight of the Trade Unions – The Organization of the Proletariat under Cyclical and Structural Forms of Capital’s Crisis – Labour’s Growing Crisis of Organization – Breaking Out of the «Bottleneck» of Historically Limited, Self-Subsistent Trade Union Organization – «Socialist Pluralism» and the Conception of the «Social Union» – From Trade Unions Towards the Formation of «Social Unions»? – The Social Union as Revolutionary Agency against the Capital Order – The Question of Revolutionary Agency in the Twentieth Century – Lenin and the Question of Revolutionary Agency – Trotsky’s Transitional Programme, the «Bolshevist-Leninist» Approach to Trade Unionism and the Demise of the Sectarian Politics of the «Revolutionary Left» – A Critique of «Vanguardism» and the «Party-Form» – Marx’s Realms: Capital, Natural Necessity, True Realm of Freedom – The Broadcasting and Print Media: In the Ideological Service of Capital and its State Power – Whatever Happened to the «National Liberation Struggle»?