The capitalist playbook is of infinite length; wherever it finds itself, capitalism does whatever is necessary to make it big. Thus it has changed form to adapt to local conditions, donning many masks and learning to speak in countless vernaculars. If it needs to, capitalism is happy to incorporate beliefs in the divine, the supernatural, or the immaterial. It has no built-in requirement to refashion every place it conquers into a copy of London or Amsterdam, or transform every wage laborer into a secular citizen.
Walter Rodney lived his life as a friend of the people and an enemy of the state. Upon his return to Jamaica in 1968, he rapidly immersed himself in social movements among the urban poor, focusing his efforts on segments of the youth who had already been radicalized by Rastafarianism. His charisma and ability to articulate the concerns of working people made him a valuable member of the Black Power movement, and unlike other intellectuals he developed close relationships with the grass-roots. To the still young Jamaican government, Rodney appeared as a very real threat.
When W.E.B. Du Bois speaks of a ‘general strike,’ he means that our mass refusal to work within a violent, corrosive social system can also demonstrate the possibility of a better world. In Black Reconstruction, Du Bois treats Black workers’ mass exodus from southern plantations during the civil war as an exemplary, triumphant general strike. He argues that the Black workers’ movement “was not merely the desire to stop work. It was a strike on a wide basis against the conditions of work.”1 Du Bois goes on to elaborate that the general strike not only ended slavery but also posited an entirely different economic and social order.