Capitalist Development and Class Capacities: Marxist Theory and Union Organization

By Jerry Lembcke | Go to book overview

While a retheorizing of union organizations must have as its first objective the establishment of definitions and relationships that correspond logically and empirically to the world they purport to describe, it must be done with the recognition that the relationship between class and organizational form is not one of simple, unidirectional determinism. Union organizational form at any given moment represents a balance of class struggle; class, in other words, is a determinant in a structural rather than instrumental sense. Capital's ability to influence union leadership and organizational forms through economic, ideological, and legal means is an integral factor in the overall logic that shapes union organizations. Ultimately, the test of the theory has to be whether or not those who act on it in practice are able to produce the desired results. These are to represent the interests of union members within the parameters of capitalism and to increase the capacities of the working class to transform the class relations that define the capitalist order.

The next chapter begins an attempt to formulate a theory of organizational forms that advances beyond the pluralist theory critiqued above. What is needed is a theory that relates the internal logic of organizational forms to the social forces external to the organization. We need a structural understanding that enables us to see how class, understood in a relational and dialectical sense, is played out through the struggle over organizational forms. That struggle can only be observed and studied as an historical phenomenon, and the analytical framework provided by the Marxist theory of uneven development is the best tool we have for that task. Chapter 2 reviews the theory of uneven development and provides an interpretation of U.S. labor history consistent with that framework.


NOTES
1.
Ellen Meiksins Wood in The Retreat From Class ( 1986) presents an interesting critique of these same aspects of New Left theory but she locates the source of the problem in the structuralist tradition rather than in the pluralist tradition as I have.
2.
The lineage of the term "association" deserves more attention than given here. Sewell ( 1986) traces it to the resistance of French artisans to capitalism. "The idea of association," he says, "was for workers to establish 'associative' workshops in which they would be joint owners of the means of production. These workshops were to be capitalized initially by regular weekly contributions from the associates and would eventually expand to include the whole industry,

-23-

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Capitalist Development and Class Capacities: Marxist Theory and Union Organization
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Labor Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1 - From Organizational Democracy to Organizational Efficacy: Toward a Class Analysis of Union Organization 1
  • Notes 23
  • 2 - Historical Problems and Theoretical Advances in the Study of U.S. Working-Class Capacities 25
  • Introduction 62
  • Introduction 65
  • Conclusion 108
  • Note 109
  • 4 - Class Capacities and Labor Internationalism: The Case of the Cio-Ccl Unions 111
  • Introduction 111
  • 5 - There Was a Difference: Communist and Noncommunist Leadership in Cio Unions 133
  • Introduction 133
  • SUMMARY 153
  • 6 - Uneven Development, Class Formation, and Organization Theory: New Departures for Understanding Current Struggles 155
  • Introduction 155
  • SUMMARY 174
  • Notes 176
  • Appendix 177
  • References 185
  • Index 195
  • About the Author 205
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