Class, Party and the Challenge of State Transformation

Panitch, Leo; Gindin, Sam

Publisher:  Canadian Dimension
Date Written:  31/01/2017
Year Published:  2017  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20300

An essay examining the challenges of changing the state and status quo following major crises of capitalism, and how the current neoliberal status quo has persisted through the various crises it has presented.




We are now in a new conjuncture. It is a very different conjuncture than the one which led to the perception that neoliberalism, at the height of its embrace by Third Way social democracy, was 'the most successful ideology in world history'. While neoliberal economic practices have been reproduced – as has the American empire's centrality in global capitalism - neoliberalism's legitimacy has been undermined. As the aftershocks of the US financial crash reverberated across the eurozone and the BRICS, this deepened the multiple economic, ecological, and migratory crises that characterize this new conjuncture. At the same time, neoliberalism's ideological delegitimation has enveloped many political institutions that have sustained its practices, from the European Union to political parties at the national level. What makes the current conjuncture so dangerous is the space this has opened for the far right, with its ultra-nationalist, racist, sexist and homophobic overtones, to capture popular frustrations with liberal democratic politics in the neoliberal era.


There are indeed multitudes of workers' struggles taking place today in the face of an increasingly exploitative and chaotic capitalism. Yet there is no denying that prospects for working-class revolutionary agency seem dim. It was factors internal to working-class institutions, their contradictions and weaknesses, which allowed, in the developing as well as the developed countries, for the passage of free trade, the liberalization of finance, the persistence of austerity, the further commodification of labour power, the restructuring of all dimensions of economic and social life in today’s global capitalism. The inability of the working class to renew itself and discover new organizational forms in light of the dynamism of capital and capacities of the state to contain worker resistance has allowed the far right today to articulate and contextualize a set of common sentiments linked to the crisis - frustrations with insecurity and inequality, and anger with parties that once claimed to represent workers' interests. Escaping this crisis of the working class is not primarily a matter of better policies or better tactics. It is primarily an organizational challenge to facilitate new processes of class formation rooted in the multiple dimensions of workers' lives that encompass so many identities and communities.

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