Using Marx’s Capital as an Organizing Tool

Ingo Schmidt

Marx’s Capital: three volumes, 2,500 pages. A tome as an organizing tool?For leftists who really can’t do without Marx, there are a lot of his
texts that are shorter and address questions of organizing directly. The
Communist Manifesto (1848) comes to mind, but also the materials he wrote
for the International Working Men’s Association. Whether these texts are
still relevant today is debatable but there’s no doubt that generations
of socialists read them as guides to working class struggles.

Capital (1867), on the other hand, points at recurrent crises that surely
are a nuisance for capitalists but also offer them ways to reinvent and
actually expand the rule of capital. Workers gaining higher wages and
shorter hours through their struggles? The next crises will surely roll
back those gains, the following boom will be driven by the introduction of
labour-saving machines that leave workers in a rat-race for any kind of
job. All the while, the power of increasingly concentrated capital over
society grows. How workers could stand a chance to win the final battle, to
which Marx calls them at the end of volume one of Capital, remains totally
unclear. Not surprisingly, Capital has found more readers among
intellectuals who need an excuse for their absence from protests and
picket-lines than among front-line activists. How could it possibly serve
as an organizing tool?

The short answer is that Capital isn’t a book of theoretical solutions
waiting to be applied in practice but a starting point to make connections
between different aspects of capitalist realities, the discontents they
produce and the resistance movements rallying around them.

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