Robert Brenner is an economist and historian at the University of California Los Angeles, and author of the highly influential book The Economics of Global Turbulence (2006), which sought to explain the decline in the profitability of the global capitalist system that began in the 1970s and continues to this day. At the Jacobin website, Bhaskar Sunkara talks to Brenner about the rise and fall of the US labor movement, and the increasing inadequacy of electoral politics today. Here's an excerpt:
That social-democratic parties of Western Europe, as well as the Democratic Party, have not hesitated to throw in their lot with the financial sector seems superficially paradoxical. But it follows logically from their unwillingness to question capitalist property relations and their acceptance, like every other player in the capitalist political game, of the primacy of profits for the dynamism of the economy and thus working-class living standards. Acknowledging that the ascent of finance today is part and parcel of the descent of workers’ incomes is simply to accept the unavoidability of what is seen as collateral damage.
Still, the fact remains that the willingness of official social democracy and labor to ally with financial capital has enormous implications for politics going forward, as it is creating real openings for resistance. Support for capitalist profitability has always been justified by the apparent requirement of rising surpluses for rising investment and rising living standards. But today, with the expansion of the financial sector, the link between profits, growth, and worker compensation has been broken to a significant degree.
Reformist forces have thus become engines of predation overseeing the massive transfer of income from the pockets of millions of workers to the purses of a handful of financiers. This is ever more obvious to ever larger sections of the population. These background conditions could help us see a break to the left of a traditional reformism that has all but given up the fight for reforms ...
Today we face a bit of a lull, but it is not indicative of defeat. It seems clear to me that alienation from and opposition to the system is growing rapidly. What needs to be pondered is where the new movements are going to come from and what the form of organization is going to be that can sustain the level of militancy and political innovation needed to challenge capitalism.
Image of Robert Brenner via NYUnews.com.