France is shut down by a general strike.
Women have become 50% of the workforce and radicalized leaders in labor.
People are uniting against a large-scale assault on the working class.
China’s contradictions circle below the surface.
Richard Wolff sees the writing on the wall of these global events. Will any, or all, of these struggles create the most profound challenge to capitalism?
Watch ‘Challenging Capitalism’ or listen to it as a podcast today. Keep reading below for a summary of the lecture with quotes from Prof Wolff.
“What may well be happening in the world today is the most profound challenge to capitalism slowly emerging out of these four different kinds of challenge of capitalism and that challenge is: employer-employee organization of the workplace is the problem. It's the problem that lies behind…”
If the lecture speaks about the challenges to capitalism, Wolff starts with the opposite: the politics of German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. Despite representing the Green Party in Germany, she does not challenge capitalism, and despite championing her “feminist” foreign policy, she’s helping send tanks to Ukraine to fight Russia. She is just one example of the modern contradictions in this economic system: a Green Party leader who fights for abortion access can also increase the firepower of a deadly war and never challenge capitalism. In spite of her, there are four modern trends that are truly shaking this economic system.
First is the general strike in France. Over a million people in France have walked out on the job in the past week to protest Macron’s move to raise the required age to receive a pension from 62 to 64 years old. “You're going to people who are already exhausted at the end of a life of working like that, and you're going to take away two of the few years they have in retirement? No, you're not.” Federations of unions across the country know that simple arguments against capitalists don’t work: you need people in the streets. Anti-capitalism is the glue of all of these struggles. “These people know that capitalism is a big part of their problem. They don’t all agree. It's not that, but those who are explicitly anti-capitalists are a recognized welcomed part of the larger community that's focused on saying you don't take away our pensions.”
“Since 2019, women have become half the labor force in this country.” Despite ongoing discrimination in types of work women can take, women are a uniquely radicalizing group because of their increase in unionization efforts (60% of new unions are women-led, and women earn 30% more in unions) and their progressive politics. While men might become stressed by inequality and run to Trump-like, fascist politics, women are in general more progressive.
“Women were forced by the pandemic and the crash and the failure of the government to step in and offset those things- a terrible failure of American capitalism. Women have become more militant. They've understood badly and painfully the failure of this society to support its working class. They are discovering through the dense fog of ideology that they need unions and that they need change. And that's why they're becoming leaders.”
Wolff next explains the assault on the working class of the United States. With real wages shrinking, citizens took on debt. The country has been deindustrialized. We’ve had multiple economic crashes, a catastrophic pandemic and instead of recovery, we’ve received inflation. The psychological and political consequences are severe: blaming China or immigrants as scapegoats, everyday white supremacy and racism make themselves felt, rising shootings, conspiracy theories to cope with the way mass media pretends there is an economic recovery. The fact that “those who are criticizing capitalism are getting an audience the likes of which they have not seen for nearly a century should surprise no one. Capitalism has not solved its problems. It's bringing them back to us big time.”
“The critics of capitalism, who've always been there, and the victims of capitalism… are coming together again and that is a powerful threat to capitalism.”
Finally, China’s contradictions. Wolff summarizes here:
“What China has done is raise a fundamental challenge. Why? Because this hybrid, this combination of a private capitalism and a state capitalism controlled by a Communist Party, has taken China in half a century from one of the poorest countries on the face of the Earth to the most serious competitor to the United States in the history of the United States or of the world. An unbelievable accomplishment… But the issue remains: is the Chinese a solution or is the Chinese the last phase of a capitalism that can't work? If it's all state capitalism (that was Russia) or if it's overwhelmingly private capitalism (that was the United States and still is), is that hybrid the last way you can hold on to a capitalism? Are the difficulties, intentions and contradictions inside China, and there are plenty of them, are they the first signs of the final recognition: we've tried everything?”
The employer/employee system is being challenged in ways, either from its critics/victims or from its own dysfunction. Where will the world go next? Watch or listen to Global Capitalism here, and sign up for our email list to receive updates on all future global capitalism lectures from Richard Wolff.
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