Meetings hear Marxist analysis of ‘Low-Wage Capitalism’
Published Nov 4, 2009 9:43 PM
Fred Goldstein, author of “Low-Wage Capitalism,” was the featured
speaker at two recent New York events: a Brecht Forum meeting and a conference
of the Union of Radical Political Economists (URPE) in Brooklyn. He was also
interviewed on radio station WBAI-FM in New York and KFAI-FM in Minneapolis.
These activities were part of the launching of the new book, a process that
began formally in September.
Another radio interview is slated for Nov. 16 on WHCR-FM in New York with
Nellie Bailey, chair of the Harlem Tenants Council. And on Nov. 22 Goldstein
will be hosted at the Hue-Man Bookstore and Cafe in Harlem.
Goldstein’s talk at the radical Brecht Forum in Greenwich Village
coincided with an official announcement that the U.S. economy had finally
registered some growth in the third quarter of 2009, after two years of
decline. Goldstein seized the moment to point out that official unemployment
figures also grew in the same period, and are poised to top 10 percent. The
so-called “jobless recovery,” he observed, is a recent phenomenon,
reflecting the growing crisis of capitalism overproduction brought on by the
overall rise in the productivity of labor.
Goldstein highlighted two key causes of the decline of workers’ wages in
the imperialist countries over the past three decades.
The first was the collapse of the Soviet Union and the concomitant opening of
China and India to external capitalist penetration, resulting in a doubling to
three billion of the number of workers available for exploitation by
The second was the scientific and technological revolution—computers, the
Internet, supertankers, satellites and software—which have made it
possible for large corporations to create global webs of production, which he
characterized as “global chains of superexploitation.” He
illustrated this by describing how a Dell computer is made in a web of
factories around the globe, each with a cluster of suppliers that are forced to
compete with each other. These combined factors have allowed the large
corporations to push wages down drastically—and they are not yet
In his comments on the prospects for a fightback, Goldstein noted that two
unions whose traditions are still rooted in the struggles of the 1930s have set
examples for the future: the United Electrical Workers and the International
Longshore and Warehouse Union on the West Coast. It is no accident, he
observed, that these two unions have defied traditional “business
UE Local 1110 carried out the seizure and occupation of Republic Doors and
Windows in Chicago last fall, while the ILWU staged a one-day shutdown of West
Coast ports on May Day, 2008, to protest the war in Iraq. It is notable that in
the plant occupation at Republic Doors and Windows, immigrant and women workers
took the lead. And in the port shutdown, a large percentage of the workers were
African-American. These developments reflect a significant change in the makeup
of the working class.
Goldstein also highlighted the importance of labor-community alliances, not
only to confront the bosses and the government but also to loosen the grip of
union officials who are caught in the old patterns of “labor peace”
and class collaboration.
Both of Goldstein’s presentations were captured digitally by
People’s Video Network and will be available soon both at www.workers.org
and on YouTube. The same is true for the radio interviews.
Other aspects of the ongoing launch of “Low-Wage Capitalism”
include its presentation at a forum of progressive intellectuals in Europe by
Workers World managing editor John Catalinotto and anticipated reviews in a
number of progressive publications. Goldstein’s plans include visits to
conferences and bookstores across the country during the coming year.
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