It is encouraging to find that in the face of constantly changing trends within academia, there was such a strong turnout for the 1997 Socialist Scholars Conference—on a rainy Easter weekend (March 28-30) over 1,700 people came out in full force. There was a feeling of excitement in the halls and class rooms of the Borough of Manhattan Community College that may just signify both a return to Marxist politics and a revitalization of the U.S. labor movement. The opening plenary speeches were full of hope and enthusiasm: from Daniel Singer who pointed out that “the ideological swing to the right has probably come to an end…cracks are beginning to appear in the ruling ideology and popular resistance is growing” to Bob Wages, president of the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers Union, who emphasized the importance of class politics that challenges, rather than accepts the Democratic party. “There is something going on in this country and the people down at the bottom are ready to react…what they need is leadership, and a coalescing of all the issues, around which to drive their political debate, their political future, their political issues. These are not being addressed by the AFL-CIO, and they are not being addressed, I assure you, by the Democratic party or the Republican party.” As an alternative he emphasized the need for an independent political movement, built up from the rank and file. “It is time the working people in this country took their country back, its their country.”
Monthly Review organized and held 6 panels on topics ranging from the issues about science and reality raised by Alan Sokal, to globalization, postmodernism, universalism, and nationalism. These panels were very well attended. A lively discussion took place at each session. We have in this issue two papers given at the Conference. The first is Ellen Meiksins Wood’s “Back to Marx” (the Review of the Month), and the second is William Tabb’s “Globalization is an Issue, The Power of Capital is the Issue.” At the conference there was more interest than we have seen in many years in the state of the U.S. labor movement. The 1997 double summer issue will be devoted to the problems (and potential) of the labor movement here and abroad.
Plans are already being made for next year’s Socialist Scholars Conference, and MR intends to maintain (and expand) its presence. We hope to see you there.
We are also pleased to announce the publication of Doug Dowds new book Blues for America: A Critique, a Lament, and some memories. On May 7 the Monthly Review office was the site of a book party to celebrate both book and author. This was only one of several such parties that have been held from coast to coast, and will continue to be in the following months.
In Blues for America, Dowd has written a narrative that part autobiography, part economic history, and part critique of the “American Century.” He has intertwined the stories of his life with the history of his time. Dowd was chair of the Economics Department at Cornell University in the 1960s, as well as a national figure in the movement to end the Vietnam War. In a recent radio interview (with Studs Terkel in Chicago) Dowd said: “I wrote this book in an attempt to make history understandable and readable….One of the two main focusses of the book is a critique of the cold war which I think has been an enormous continuing fraud, and the other is a critique of capitalism, which is like the bad kid on the block, except that this bad kid owns the block, and owns the cops, and owns everything. It doesn’t matter what you do with capitalism its just got this bad blood and its gonna come out and poison.”