“Back in the 1860s the first international association of unions was committed to the idea that working people could change the society, and get out from under the oppressive power of the owners and their institutions. They said “the emancipation of the working class must be the work of the workers themselves.” The working class is nowadays a majority of the population — a highly diverse population with groups subject to various conditions such as specific forms of discrimination for various sub-groups. How could the working class actually come together, build solidarity among the various sub-groups of the oppressed majority, and organize itself to oust the owning and managing classes from their power over us?
This is where strategy comes into play. My main focus in this book is on the strategies and tactics that various people on the radical left in recent decades have proposed for shifting us away from capitalism — achieving liberation from this ecocidal and oppressive system.
An inspiration for me in this effort was Bertrand Russell’s little book, Roads to Freedom, written in 1918. Russell had a chapter devoted to each of the main radical tendencies of that era in Britain — Marxism, syndicalism, Kropotkin’s anarchist-communism, and guild socialism. He tried to objectively examine the pros and cons of each approach. In Overcoming Capitalism I try to do something like this for a variety of radical left strategies — cooperativism, “democratic socialism” with its emphasis on electoral politics, syndicalism, and Leninism or “communism” as Americans call it.
I am particularly concerned to explain and defend syndicalism. Syndicalism is a grassroots self-organization strategy that favors the building of worker-controlled, self-managed unions based on the idea that there is a flat incompatibility of interests between workers and the owning and managing classes. Syndicalism is based around three ideas — (1) direct participation in struggles by workers, in their workplaces and outside the workplace also, (2) militant and disruptive struggles (such as strikes and occupations) that build working class social power, and (3) building a widening solidarity so that greater mutual support is built over time among the various groups who are drawn into action and are part of the oppressed and exploited majority, not only struggles with employers but struggles along the other fault lines of the system too. The idea is that a counter-hegemonic bloc could come together with the numbers, mutual support and aspirations for a fundamental challenge to the dominating classes.”