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Class Struggle and Social Change in the United States in Historical Perspective: The Case of the Industrial Workers of the World in the Twentieth Century
AuthorKing, Jason A.
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Abstract In this thesis project, I trace the historical rise and development of capitalism from its origin in Europe to its contemporary form in the United States through the historical method utilizing class analysis. I explain that the social relations of production under capitalism is an exploitative relationship in which the capitalists exploit wage-labor. I follow this up with a discussion of the functions of the capitalist state from a classical Marxist perspective. During the early years of the United States, the capitalist state facilitated the expansion of capitalism throughout the national territory and subsequently to the rest of the world. This included the state's protection of capitalist interests that facilitated the exploitation of labor. However, labor rose up to oppose capital for long hours, low wages, and poor working conditions by organizing into labor unions. Many long and bloody battles have been fought by labor and won on the picket line and on the shop floor for the advancement of working class interests. I include in this thesis an historical case study of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) as the ideal model of a successful labor union. I trace the postwar rise of the United States as the premiere global capitalist superpower in its pursuit of super profits, surplus value, and greater control of the world through its military presence. However, this proved to be detrimental to millions of working people in the United States once the U.S. economy entered into an irreversible decline and stagnation beginning in the early 1970s. This culminated in the decline of real wages, increase in inflation, and the erosion of the standard of living of millions of working people in the United States. Due to these internal contradictions of capitalism, the United States has experienced periodical economics crises. In the wake of the Great Recession of 2008, millions of working people lost their jobs, income, and 40-hour workweeks that resulted in greater levels of unemployment, underemployment and poverty. Finally, I argue that the only alternative out of this economic crisis is for labor to organized under the IWW by declaring a nationwide general strike, take state power, smash capitalism, eliminate counterrevolutionaries, and take control of the means of production. In this way, working people can truly advance their class interests and live in harmony in an egalitarian society that promotes equity, prosperity, and justice for all.