Capitalist society is torn apart in two ways. One offers despair; the other may offer a way out. One way leads to a seemingly endless series of wars. ‘Seemingly ‘, because, with all the high-tech-weaponry around, sooner or later humanity might get utterly exterminated through military violence, in which case the series of wars does come to an end. The other way puts class against class, those down below against those at the top. This may lead to revolution, the end of capitalism, liberation from wage slavery, from exploitation, the end of capital and the state.
The two tendencies play themselves out all around the globe. Competition drives segments of the ruling class into rivalry, spilling over into wars. That is the root cause of the first tendency. But competition also leads capitalists to put pressure upon workers, to exploit them even more in order to remain, uh, competitive 🙂 This pushes workers towards self-defence, towards resistance. This is the root cause of the second tendency.
We are in a race between these two tendencies. Will wars – and other destructive tendencies rooted in competitive exploitation – dominate? or will workers find and use their collective strength in time to themselves and thereby liberate humanity? To be free, or not to be at all? That – with due respect to Shakespeare – is the question.
These two tendencies are both at work all over the world. In countries like Greece, the tendency of hope, of workers against capitalists and state – dominates. That does nog mean that revolution is at the point of succeeding. But it does mean that the battle lines are those indicating revolution as possibility. We see insurgent workers and other downtrodden layers of the population, striking, demonstrating, rioting against the government, the banks, the police. Class against class, the tendency of hope. But the other tendency is there as well: the Greek government who translates the crisis as a national one: international financial institutions ant EU governments on one side, the whole of the Greek population on the other. A shallow anti-imperialism, not without influence amongst left-wing parties which have influence among the working class as well.
Other parts of the world are, sadly, dominated by the other, dangerous, destructive, tendency. A case in point is the Middle East region. Here, we see rivalries between segments of the ruling classes, mobilising peasants, workers, the poor against other peasants, workers and the poor, by means of religious, nationalist, ethnic and/ or regionalist themes. We have seen Iraqi society torn apart in that way. First, an American-British invasion and occupation. Then through classic divide-and-rule policies, Shiite elites, often under cover of the occupation, encouraging oppressive policies against Sunni population, Sunni leaders encouraging a resistance against both the occupation and against the Shia community. Western occupation opened the door to communal slaughter. The violence has abated in recent years. In recent months, however, we see a new wave of bombings and bloodshed.
Other countries see the same dynamics. There is, for example, Yemen. A very poor country, formerly two countries that became one through a unification process in 1990. Regional rivalry remains, however. People in the south complain that most power is reserved for people in the North. There is an armed resistance in operation, based on this kind of feelings. Again, poor people kill and die for the ambitions of the powerful. Again, the destructive war-tendency in full bloom.
But even in countries full of despair, like Iraq, like Yemen, the other tendency now and then raises its head. There is a workers’ movement in Iraq, for instance with collective action in the oil industry – sometimes, as in April 2009, successfully. In Yemen, there is workers’ struggle as well. The GLU trade union federation, in which 520.000 empluyees are organised, is holding strike action, in the form of escalating general strikes: one hour yesterday and today, two hours the next to days, three hours the day after that… until the strike is complete on May 24. Emergency services in, for instance, water supply and health, are exempt from the strike.
The union federation demands higher wages. “Following the sharp rise in prices and cost of living that has been afflicting Yemeni citizens in the last two years, GLU demands a rise in wages and salaries and the establishment of a minimum wage of at least 300 dollars as well as recognition of employees’ rights for workers in the cleaning sector.” This is the kind of news that cheers me up, as it hopefully cheers you up as well.