Letter from Marty Glaberman to Zerowork
Year Published: 1977
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX19001
Martin Glaberman explains some of his criticism of the Zerowork journal.
I have a number of problems with Zerowork (apart from details, some of which are bad and some of which are good). The first is a rather superficial attitude toward theory which has several aspects. A number of people associated with Zerowork were either in or familiar with the James-Johnson- Correspondence-Facing Reality tendency. It is a tendency, which, while small, had a certain significance, particularly in some of the areas with which Zerowork is/concerned. Yet I find a total absence of any knowledge of the tendency or the work it did over a period of 30 years. Some of the things that relate to this is what seems a considerable ambivalence to "Marxism" (which always seems to be in quotes). Marxism seems always to be identified with the worst states and movements in the world and yet there seems to be an unwillingness to come to grips with the subject. Is Zerowork Marxist, anti-Marxist, non-Marxist, unconcerned with the question???
There is a lot of revolutionary language about the working class. But much of it boils down to rhetoric, rather than substance, because there is no sense of a revolutionary working class struggle for power, to destroy this society and to create a new one. That derives from several factors. 1. The inability to distinguish between work under capitalism and work in any other society. 2. The strange insistence that the struggle is over money (the struggle for the wage, whatever that means). It would help if someone read State Capitalism and World Revolution where we demonstrated that it is the labor bureaucracy which seeks to substitute the struggle for money and fringe benefits for the struggle over the workplace. In any case, if the significance of working class struggle is more money and, hopefully, an end to work, how does the working class establish its control over society and the means of production? That is, what does the revolution consist of? And 3. The above lack of precision on the question of class.
The differences that stem from very different theoretical perceptions are so extensive that to prepare a critique of the two issues of Zerowork would involve producing a work several times the size of the journal. There is no point to that. That famous line in the first issue that people seemed to want to apologize for ('Our analysis of the crisis implies a rejection of the basic proposal of the Left: socialism.") no longer seems like an accident. If you accept the CPs view of themselves as valid and if you have no view of the revolutionary process and the creation of a new society then that line begins to make a certain kind of sense. The alternative which Zerowork offers seems somewhat less than a clarion call: more money for less work.
What I see as the theoretical confusion of Zerowork is helped by two additional things. One is the tendency to create a jargon that is acceptable to the initiated and serves to distort the view of reality the creation of special terms to replace perfectly reasonable terms that have long been in use. The second is the need to call everything a crisis without any empirical justification.