A Republican Critique of Wage-Slavery?

program date: 
Mon, 03/11/2013

Today words like "republican" or "independence" or "liberty" are likely to conjure ideas about the freedom of business, right to work laws, and the aggrandizement of owner-entrepreneurs. Joe Clement interviews Alex Gourevitch's about his recent article for Jacobin Magazine on "Wave Slavery and Republican Liberty", which argues against this grain. 

Gourevitch encourages readers (especially working-class organizers) to revisit early American arguments about liberty, in particular some of their radical orientations toward equality and independence. He argues we can find an interesting tradition of revolutionary agitation around liberty in the 18th and 19th centuries, which he says at the time was as much about freedom from economic dependence as freedom from immediate interference. To this end, it was appropriated to great effect by Workingmen's Party organizers in the 1820s and '30s to condemn economic inequality and the wage-slavery it generates, going so far as demands to radically equalize property. But then, Gourevitch shows, later generations of who he calls worker-republicans, like the Knights of Labor and even the Industrial Workers of the World, build on these ideals.

Joe and Alex consider that history and its implications for 20th and 21st Century class-struggle. The first 15 minutes is what was heard on air, and focuses on the earliest history of the worker-republicans. The second part was recorded before and after the on-air portion, where they talk about later worker-republican agitation, the shifting ideology of liberty, as well as race and gender as potentially unmet challenges for worker-republicans.

Alex Gourevitch teaches political science at MacMaster and is a post-doctoral researcher at Brown University. He also co-writes a blog called The Current Moment.


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