Once seen as the vanguard of a new social order, the contemporary labor movement has been written off by many progressive activists and scholars as a relic of the past. They should not be so hasty.
This is a promising development. For far too long workers have been weaponized (economically) by their nation states. With progressive leadership maybe they can be used to foil the exploiters and make significant gains in the quality of life for international and intra-national workers with whom they can collaborate. It certainly will be tricky as the exploiters are experienced with and motivated to preserve their venerated status quo.
A rare optimistic article of the potential of the working class to adapt to new conditions.
Recall how it reformulated its resistance in the 30s by forming the CIO and engaging in sit-in strikes.
From the article:
“Ultimately, though, only transnationally organized labor can be a counterweight to transnationally organized capital.”
That’s what I’ve been saying—to anyone who would listen—since Grandpa Caligula Reagan’s first term. “Transnationally organized capital” appears to us in the shape of the modern multinational limited-liability corporation, and its principal weapon is national borders; while capital finds them no barrier to its ebb and flow, labor is, for now, constrained by them. This must change, and the movements the author describes can be the engine that drives that process, which social media have already accelerated.
With that said, I find it disturbing that the author seems to accept capitalism itself as a given with which labor must deal as is. My reading of history suggests that the ultimate goal of organizing labor was always to displace capital as the basis of all social relations. Let it never be forgotten that the Industrial Workers of the World, more than a century ago, had as its slogan “One Big Union.” Maybe that’s an idea whose time has come.