After 1968: the halfsolution
One characteristic of the 1960-80 subversive wave is that, in spite of uprisings that caused thousands of deaths in countries as varied as Mexico, Argentina and China, in the capitalist heartland, in North America, in Europe and Japan, the proletarian assault, unlike 1917-21, restrained itself, and the bourgeoisie reacted accordingly. The last insurrection that shook Europe took place in Hungary, 1956, and massive workers' involvement did not prevent it from being democratic and national. The meaning of an historical event can't be assessed by the number of barricades. But there was such a gap between the scope of the 1960-80 surge and its relatively low level of violence (and armed violence) that we've got to take that gap into account to understand that period as well as the present situation. The self-limitation of the social conflagration of the 1970s, on the proletarian as on the bourgeois side, is one of the causes of the crisis of Fordism and of the incapacity of both classes to overcome that crisis: the existing class compromise was not questioned deep enough for a new one to emerge, and the ensuing bourgeois offensive has destroyed more than rebuilt.
In the days of formal domination, in order to restore its profit rates, capital could content itself with attacking jobs and wages, because that attack hardly undermined social cohesion. Exploitation did not go much outside the factory gates, the "dangerous classes" remained a minority, still connected to old ways of life, often related to the countryside, and popular consumption was marginal. So it made sense to solve the social question by a combination of repression and concessions.
The (never fully achieved) generalisation of wage labour and an also generalised consumption have brought about a new system. Capital requires the wage earner to be more than the consumer H. Ford wanted him to be: it expects him to act as partner.
As a consequence, a head-on confrontation with the working class, i.e. de-industrialisation, the dismantling of the socialising function of the big factory, leads to social disintegration, until alternative forms of socialisation come to life.
Subcontracting the manufacturing process overseas may well do for a hundred or a thousand companies, but can't function on a world scale. Though only applied to a minority of firms, Fordism had such an impetus that it was relevant as a global solution. Capital's now favourite way cannot be generalised. Up to the 1980s, "modern" capitalism reserved plundering to dominated overseas countries. True, Nazism treated the East of Europe as a colonial area doomed to overexploitation and mass murder: but the Nazis were eventually defeated. It's now within capitalist metropolises that plundering becomes a habit: labour is plundered by capital, firms by other firms, industry by finance.
This altogether transforms reformism. The present class struggle lacks the energy to take on social relations as a whole. Leftwing parties swing to the right, unions vainly try to defend declining working conditions and wages, and the far-left fails to come forward as a credible alternative: nowhere has the "anti-liberalism" and anti-globalisation camp been able to find a following comparable to socialdemocrats or Stalinists in their early days. From the French December 1995 strikes to the popular support behind Chavez, political forces tend to build up a new regulation that they are incapable of imposing. No reform party now has the strength to give itself a grip on history.