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June 2000 (Volume 52, Number 2)

» Notes from the Editors
June 2000 (Volume 52, Number 2)
On keeping the MR flag flying: Between us there are 177 years of life. The issue of continuity has plagued us for some time and we have from time to time explored and experimented with ways of maintaining the unique tradition of MR as an independent, nonsectarian advocate for and educator on socialism and Marxism. With that in mind, we have asked John B. Foster and Robert W. McChesney to assume the responsibility of being Acting Editors. We are pleased that they have agreed. In addition to their direct editorial responsibilities, John and Bob will participate in the development of a more permanent editorial board as well as a battery of contributing editors, not only academics but also labor and social movement activists. We expect to continue to guide the magazine as long as possible.

Longtime MR readers are surely aware that Foster and McChesney were not picked from a hat. They are younger academics who grew up with the magazine and with MR Press books. Over the years they became intimately involved with our work. John has been a Director of the Monthly Review Foundation for many years and Bob has recently joined the Board.

John Bellamy Foster has written important and innovative articles and books in political economy that are squarely in the tradition established by Baran and Sweezy, most notably in Monopoly Capital, and has established a reputation as a major environmental sociologist. His publications include The Vulnerable Planet: A Short Economic History of the Environment; The Faltering Economy: The Problem of Accumulation Under Monopoly Capitalism; The Theory of Monopoly Capitalism: An Elaboration of Marxian Political Economy; as well as the just-published Marx’s Ecology: Materialism and Nature.

Robert W. McChesney has been a frequent contributor to MR and was the lead editor of a special issue of MR (later expanded into the book, Capitalism and the Information Age). He is the author of Telecommunications, Mass Media, and Democracy: The Battle for the Control of U.S. Broadcasting, 1928-1935; Corporate Media and the Threat to Democracy; Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times; and co-author of The Global Media: The New Missionaries of Corporate Capitalism and It’s the Media, Stupid! An internationally recognized authority on the media, he brings a political sensibility consistent with MR’s ongoing analysis of imperialism and monopoly capitalism and expands our horizons into new areas that will play an important role in the struggle for revolutionary social change in the new millennium.

We welcome them with pleasure and look forward to our ongoing association.

Paul M. Sweezy and Harry Magdoff

During the last few years, student movements opposed to licensing agreements with companies that rely on sweatshop labor to produce shoes and clothing (such as Nike, Reebok, the Gap, and Disney) have emerged on university and college campuses throughout the United States. These student protestors have united during the past year and become an organized nationwide movement, United Students Against Sweatshops, which is demanding that university and college campuses join the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), based in New York. The WRC was set up by the student movement to monitor the conditions under which university-licensed goods are produced. Such monitoring will make it possible for schools to enforce licensee compliance with Codes of Conduct that many universities and colleges have already established in response to student pressure.

The movement, however, has faced strong opposition from university administrations. In the opening months of this year, campuses erupted as students increased the magnitude of their protests. We have personal experience with events in Madison, Wisconsin and Eugene, Oregon that stand as concrete examples of this nationwide struggle.

The antisweatshop movement at the University of Wisconsin at Madison emerged a few years ago, partly in protest against a licensing agreement between Reebok and the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents. In February 1999, UW-Madison students occupied the central administration building for ninety-six hours, resulting in the chancellor’s agreement to comply with student protestors’ demands for disclosure of factory locations, protection of women’s rights, and the guarantee of living wages for workers. This agreement was to be binding on any licensee with the university. The administration, however, subsequently went back on these promises and arranged for UW-Madison to join the Fair Labor Association, a corporate-dominated “monitoring” agency that provides ideological cover for sweatshops. Outraged by these actions, students occupied the chancellor’s office again. On February 20 of this year, scores of riot police wearing gas masks descended on these peaceful protestors (having pepper-sprayed student demonstrators earlier that week). Fifty-four students were arrested, making this the largest mass-arrest in Madison in over a century. What emerged, however, was a victory for the students, since UW has now joined the WRC.

Student protestors at the University of Oregon in Eugene have been struggling for some time against Nike’s domination of the university. Not only does the corporation have an overwhelming share of sports-licensing agreements at UO, but Phil Knight, Nike’s CEO, is the principal private donor to the school, having personally given fifty million dollars. Both the library and the law school carry his surname.

Protests at UO have centered on Nike’s sweatshops in Asia and Central America. Students occupied the central administration building on April 4, resulting in the arrest of fourteen students over three days, and erected a tent city in front of the administration building, where students were determined to camp out until their demands were met. On April 10, a contingent of rank-and-file steelworkers from United States Steelworkers of America District 11 in Washington State (currently engaged in a lockout battle with Kaiser Aluminum) came down to offer their support to the students at a rally. On April 12, the university president signed an agreement, making the University of Oregon a member of the WRC. A week and a half later, Phil Knight retaliated—vowing to cut off all future personal donations to the University of Oregon, including, reportedly, thirty million dollars earmarked for expansion of the football stadium. A few days earlier, Knight had expressed his “shock” that the University of Oregon had “inserted itself into the new global economy” and “on the wrong side” by aligning itself with the WRC (Eugene Register-Guard, April 26, 2000).

There can be no doubt about the historical significance of this new student movement—a movement dedicated to internationalism and workers’ rights. In future issues of MR, we plan to carry articles related to this new wave of activism.

The cover story of the March 31, 2000 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education was devoted to “David Noble’s Battle to Defend the ‘Sacred Space’ of the Classroom,” and dealt with his criticism of online education, which began with his article “Digital Diploma Mills.” We consider Noble’s analysis in this area to be crucial to the understanding of the crisis currently confronting higher education in this country, as a result of the ongoing commodification of universities. We are pleased to be able to state that “Digital Diploma Mills” was published in the February 1998 issue of Monthly Review.

In April, our longtime friend Annette T. Rubinstein turned ninety. Annette has been a strong supporter of MR from the beginning, and a frequent contributor to the magazine since 1968. At the same time, she has played a crucial role on the editorial board of Science & Society. She is also the author/editor of two important books published by Monthly Review Press: Schools Against Children: The Case for Community Control and The Great Tradition in English Literature from Shakespeare to Shaw, about which W.E.B. DuBois said, “…I read every word of it, and as I lay it down I want my friends to know why they would better follow my example.” MRP also distributes Annette’s American Literature: Root and Flower. Happy Birthday, Annette!

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