Competition as class struggle

optical-illusion.jpgYou try to go at a Marxist conference and say that “class struggle” is the centre of our preoccupation, that we need to bring in subjectivity and struggles, desires and class composition, strategies and counterstrategies, problematic of political recomposition vis-a’-vis capital in our way to apprehend the world. You will be answered with a rift sang by all types of variations and idiosyncratic types of Marxism: the historical approach, the value form approach, the disequilibrium approach, the equilibrium approach, the overproduction approach, the under-consumption approach, the logic of capital approach, even the “of-course-class-struggle-is-important” approach. In all their diversity, they share one common song, they sing to you to shut up your insistence on subjectivity and struggle, and this is it: “there is not only class struggle, there is also competition among capitals” . . .or, to put it in a more elegant (maybe) way, here they go: “there is not only the vertical struggle between capital and labour, there is also the horizontal competitive struggle among capitals”.

Ok, let us take a time machine and travel back 102 years, to 1905, the date in which a small document was written and its principles agreed upon in the following years of organising. It is the IWW preamble, which states:

The rapid gathering of wealth and the centering of the management of industries into fewer and fewer hands make the trade unions unable to cope with the ever-growing power of the employing class, because the trade unions foster a state of things which allows one set of workers to be pitted against another set of workers in the same industry, thereby helping defeat one another in wage wars. The trade unions aid the employing class to mislead the workers into the belief that the working class have interests in common with their employers.

Isn’t it quite amazing, that a bunch of migrant workers with patches on their trousers could in the following years organise on the basis of a quite clear understanding of the very simple idea that competition among capitals is a form of class struggle, namely a weapon used by capital to pit livelihoods against one another, workers against one another, communities against one another. Isn’t it incredible that Marxist economists with PhDs and a string of important publications to their credit could not get this very simple idea, and instead they repeat the fairy tail that “on one hand there is class struggle, on the other hand there is competition”. As if they were staring at the drawing of that optical illusion, and where saying “on one hand there is an old lady, one the other hand there is a young lady” without however being able to recognise that they were staring at just one sheet of paper, and thus miss all the wander and mistery of how the same thing can appear in different forms.

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