Murray Bookchin -- Anarchism without the Working Class
Date Written: 03/12/2015
Year Published: 2015
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX21081
Murray Bookchin was an influential and prolific writer and thinker on anarchism. While he made significant contributions, Wayne Price agrues that he made a major error in rejecting the working class as important for an anarchist revolution. This article reviews why he believed this and why, on the contrary, the working class must be a major force for a successful anarchist revolution.
Unfortunately, he did not understand that to speak of capitalism's drive to accumulate is to speak of its need to exploit its workers. In essence capitalism is nothing but the capital/labor relationship--while it treats nature as of no value. The accumulation of commodities and money comes from human labor, and from the workers being paid less than they produce. In the commodity-economy of capitalism, the workers' ability to work (their "labor power") is also a commodity, to be bought by the capitalist for less than it can produce.
This does not necessarily mean the workers get poorer (the supposed theory of "immiseration"). As goods are produced ever more cheaply, the workers can get more of them while still getting less of the total they produce. It is this extra value (the profit) which the workers produce but do not receive which is accumulated. The surplus value permits the endless cycle of growth. Whatever Bookchin thought, the working class remained essential and central to capitalism. Therefore it must be essential and central to any overturn of capitalism.
When the extra declines (due to monopoly, overproduction, the tendency of the profit rate to fall, the increased costs of accessing natural resources, etc.) then the firms will fight for more profits. They will attack the workers and seek to lower their share of production. So it went when the factors which permitted the 30 years of the post-World War II prosperity ran out of steam--about 1970. Bookchin (and most of the fifties and sixties Left theoreticians) did not expect an end to the post-war prosperity, any more than did liberals and conservatives. Bookchin even wrote, " World capitalism emerged from World War II stronger than it had been in any time in its history .[There was] an absence of a 'general crisis' of capitalism .".