Monday, 13 April 2009

Why the Labour Movement Counts

In the discussion over at Though Cowards Flinch, Paul fished out this quote from Ralph Miliband, the famous Marxist and father to the very New Labour Miliband brothers, David and Ed. They may have forgotten why there's all that socialist stuff hanging around the labour movement, but some of us haven't. Their dad puts it most succinctly:
The primacy of organised labour in struggle arises from the fact that no other group, movement or force in capitalist society is remotely capably of mounting an effective and formidable challenge to the existing structures of power and privilege as it is in the power of organised labour to mount. In no way is this to say that movements of women’s, blacks, peace activists, ecologists gays, and others are not important, or cannot have effect, or that they ought to surrender their separate identity. Not at all. It is only to say that the principal (not the only) ‘grave-digger’of capitalism remains the organised working class. Here is the necessary, indispensable ‘agency of historical change’. And if, as one is constantly told is the case, the organised working class will refuse to do the job, then the job will not be done; and capitalist society will continue, generation after generation, as a conflict-ridden, growingly authoritarian and brutalised social system, poisoned by its inability to make humane and rational use of the immmense resources capitalism itself has brought into being - unless of course the world is pushed into nuclear war.

New Left Review, 1985
The final sentence dates the quote a bit but replace that with environmental and ecological catastrophe and it retains full force. These are words well worth keeping in mind.


tim f said...

Good quote, simple sentiment.

Derek Wall said...

Visteon picket tomorrow at 6AM, tuesday 14th...please spread the we like to say 'workers for the world unite'.

Dave Semple said...

I have something forthcoming from one of Miliband's co-editors of NLR, in the same'll be tied to a review of Therborn's Marxism to Post-Marxism. Stay tuned!

Phil BC said...

You've just reminded me, I was supposed to write two bloody reviews of that thing this weekend!

(PS Seems everyone's read that book).

Paul said...

Actually I picked up the Miliband quote not direct from NLR but from Ronald Aronson's After Marxism (a bit dated now, haven't got to Therborn yet)