‘War of Position’, Anti-Capitalist Attrition as a Revolutionary Strategy for Non-Revolutionary Times

Linked with Mandisi Majavu – South Africa.

Published on Znet, by S.J.Darcy, November 13, 2007.

An excerpt of the end: … Finally, we need to identify some basic methods for pursuing the third strategic objective of the attrition strategy: constructing an anti-corporate alliance, capable of posing a real threat to capitalism. The first thing to do is to specify the appropriate “constituency” of such a political project. The forces of anti-capitalism are now few in number, but we need to gain influence among a constituency much broader than ourselves. Here we need not innovate: the Left has traditionally identified as its audience a broad sector of the populace, consisting of the membership of working-class organizations, classically including unions and co-operatives, and their “natural allies” in those democratic and egalitarian community organizations working within civil society to achieve social and environmental justice, and political and economic democracy. This constituency has the two advantages of being both potentially receptive to anti-capitalist (or at least anti-corporate) politics, and potentially powerful in the threat that it can pose to the status quo. So, what we need to do is mobilize this constituency to build a powerful anti-corporate alliance of labour and community organizations. But, no less important, we need also to ensure that radicals, of varying political stripes, are able to operate within these labour and community organizations, and to have a certain influence within them, which will naturally tend to be greater in times of significant social upheaval, and weaker in other periods.

The value of such a labour/community alliance for the anti-capitalist project is clear. But what, tactically speaking, can we do to build it? Here’s two crucial elements of the answer to that question.

Social Movement Unionism: First, within the labour movement, we need to challenge the “economistic” narrowness of “business unionism,” by organizing at the grassroots level within unions for a “solidarity” or “social movement” unionism, which focuses not only on bargaining for wages and benefits, but also on a broader political agenda for democratizing the economy, and for promoting social movements against racism, sexism, poverty and environmental destruction.
Class-struggle Social Movements: Second, within the wider civil society social movements (feminism, environmentalism, etc.), we need to promote a consistently anti-corporate, pro-worker consciousness, as an indispensable aspect of Left politics. Thus, for example, we need to make the case for a class-struggle feminism, a class-struggle anti-racism, and a class-struggle environmentalism, and so on. Doing so will both enhance the effectiveness of these movements on their own terms and sharpen the antagonism that divides these movements from the economic and political elites of capitalism.


A strategy of the kind proposed here – which is suitable for a period of protracted, asymmetric conflict against a powerful ruling class – cannot overthrow capitalism. That requires a specific strategy for defeating the employer class and the capitalist state in a decisive struggle to resolve a profound social crisis in favour of the anti-capitalist Left. But the strategy of anti-capitalist attrition can serve as a long-range strategic orientation for radicals in the contemporary period: a framework for setting goals, choosing tactics, and assessing gains and losses. (full long text). (Send feedback to S.J. DArcy).

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