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Notes from the Editors, December 2003

Notes from the Editors, December 2003

» Notes from the Editors

On October 27, 2003, the New York Times ran a guest column on its Op-Ed page by David L. Kirp entitled “How Much for That Professor?” The piece, which was about universities spending big bucks to get professors with star power, focused in its opening and closing paragraphs on the case of Niall Ferguson, described as “the most widely discussed and controversial British historian of his generation.” Last winter, New York University successfully recruited Ferguson away from Oxford University with promises of big money and reduced teaching responsibilities. Barely six months later Harvard lured Ferguson away from New York University with an offer of even bigger rewards… | more |

U.S. Hegemony: Continuing Decline, Enduring Danger

“Global hegemony” might be defined as a situation in which one nation-state plays a predominant role in organizing, regulating, and stabilizing the world political economy. The use of armed force has always been an inseparable part of hegemony, but military power depends upon the economic resources at the disposal of the state. It cannot be deployed to answer every threat to geopolitical and economic interests, and it raises the danger of imperial overreach, as was the case for Britain in South Africa (1899–1902) and the United States in Vietnam (1962–1975)… | more |

The Demand for Order and the Birth of Modern Policing

Why were the modern police created?…It is generally assumed, among people who think about it at all, that the police were created to deal with rising levels of crime caused by urbanization and increasing numbers of immigrants.…Despite its initial plausibility, the idea that the police were invented in response to an epidemic of crime is, to be blunt, exactly wrong. Furthermore, it is not much of an explanation. It assumes that “when crime reaches a certain level, the ‘natural’ social response is to create a uniformed police force. This, of course, is not an explanation but an assertion of a natural law for which there is little evidence.”… | more |

Sneak and Peek

Marge Piercy’s sixteenth novel The Third Child was published by Harper Collins last year. Her sixteenth book of poetry, Colors Passing Through Us, was published by Knopf in the spring. Leapfrog Books is putting out a CD of her political poems, Louder, I Can’t Hear You Yet, that should be available by the first of the year… | more |

The Tragedy of Rwanda

Mahmood Mamdani, When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda (Princeton University Press, 2001), 384 pages, paperback $16.95.
Linda Melvern, A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide (London and New York: Zed Books, 2000), 288 pages, hardcover $69.95, paperback $19.95.

In Rwanda, in four months of 1994, as many as a million people were massacred in a well prepared and organized orgy of killing amounting to genocide. Seldom in recorded history has there been such a concentrated frenzy of mass murder of innocent people. How could such a thing have happened? Who was responsible? Could it have been prevented and why wasn’t it? These questions are the subject of the two books under review… | more |

Notes from the Editors, November 2003

Notes from the Editors, November 2003

» Notes from the Editors

In this number we are celebrating the hundredth anniversary of W. E. B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk by devoting a special issue to race and imperialism. MR is proud to have had a connection with Du Bois. Fifty years ago he wrote his famous article “Negroes and the Crisis of Capitalism in the United States” for MR (April 1953; reprinted in the magazine last April). In addition, Monthly Review Press is the publisher of Du Bois’ Education of Black People: Ten Critiques, 1906–1960, edited by Herbert Aptheker. This was a book that Du Bois had planned, based originally on seven critiques of education that he had delivered as speeches over the years. But his attempts in the 1940s to get it published proved futile. One publisher after another turned down the work—no doubt scared off by the very same ruthless critique that made his work so valuable. Yet, Du Bois never gave up hope of bringing out this book and it was found among his papers after his death in 1963. The published version, which was announced in the MR Press catalog in 1973 and has remained in print ever since (a new edition with a new foreword by Aptheker was brought out in 2001), included the original seven critiques and the short introductions that Du Bois had written for each of them for the book. It also contained three critiques of education that he had written in subsequent years. Everyone interested in the effects of race and class exploitation on higher learning in the United States would gain from a careful study of this profoundly humanistic, often lyrical, and fundamentally subversive work. In his 1908 lecture, “Galileo Galilei,” included in The Education of Black People, Du Bois wrote: “The greatest gift that a scholar can bring to Learning is Reverence of Truth, a Hatred of Hypocrisy and Sham, and an absolute sincerity of purpose.” There is no doubt that Du Bois exemplified this principle throughout his entire life… | more |

Kipling, the 'White Man's Burden,' and U.s. Imperialism

Kipling, the ‘White Man’s Burden,’ and U.s. Imperialism

We are living in a period in which the rhetoric of empire knows few bounds. In a special report on “America and Empire” in August, the London-based Economist magazine asked whether the United States would, in the event of “regime changes…effected peacefully” in Iran and Syria, “really be prepared to shoulder the white man’s burden across the Middle East?” The answer it gave was that this was “unlikely”—the U.S. commitment to empire did not go so far. What is significant, however, is that the question was asked at all… | more |

Africa: Imperialism Goes Naked

The profound hypocrisy and inherent barbarism of bourgeois civilization lies unveiled before our eyes, moving from its home, where it assumes respectable form, to the colonies, where it goes naked (Karl Marx, “The Future Results of British Rule in India,” New York Daily Tribune, January 22, 1853).… | more |

Marx’s statement is telling and relevant. Capitalism has always acted as a global system, working across or between nation states. The ever-present imperative to produce profit has pushed capital from its historic heartlands in northern Europe to all societies. But as Marx implies, the process of expansion has not been a homogenizing one: the bourgeoisie has double standards, or perhaps multiple standards, as it negotiates its presence in a wide variety of locations. The standards that most would define as minimally acceptable (social democracy) have been a product of specific historical and material conditions: a result of the emergence of institutionally robust and interventionist states and the political demands of working classes. But, these historical conditions are part of the same conditions that produced very different states and economies in sub-Saharan Africa: the colonial states arising from the scramble for colonies of the late 1880s are themselves part of the same capitalism which produced the bourgeois civilization that Marx ironically attributes to late Victorian England. The hypocrisy is that civilization in Europe, plus plunder, primitive accumulation, and famine in the colonial world were part of the same overarching liberal ideals… | more |

Du Bois vs. Neoliberalism

What is today viewed as globalization is not in fact a new phenomenon as the writing of W. E. B. Du Bois attests. Dr. Du Bois understood the impacts of what today we call neoliberalism, its damages, its causes, the interests it serves, and the way it divides the working class and undercuts the progressive movements with horrible consequences at home and abroad. These remain our themes today, though we would add “and women” in brackets where Dr. Du Bois wrote only “men,” and we would include ethnicity and religion as part of the discussion of the color line… | more |

Preface to the Jubilee Edition of The Black Souls of Black Folk (1953)

The Blue Heron Press Jubilee edition of The Souls of Black Folk appeared in 1953. In 1949 Du Bois had purchased the plates to the book, which was then out of print. At that time, during the anticommunist hysteria, it was extremely difficult to keep in print or to publish works that raised fundamental questions about U.S. society. In 1952, best-selling novelist Howard Fast had his latest novel Spartacus turned down by his usual publisher and by every other he turned to-presumably, because of his association with the Communist Party as well as the incendiary nature of his novel, which was about a revolt against slavery, albeit in antiquity. Fast’s only choice was to publish the book himself. Devising his own imprint, Blue Heron Press, he solicited orders by direct mail and finally had enough so that he could print 50,000 copies. This self-published book became a best-seller, and with the proceeds Fast reissued a number of his earlier historical novels… | more |

October 2003 (Volume 55, Number 5)

October 2003 (Volume 55, Number 5)

Samir Amin’s “World Poverty, Pauperization, and Capital Accumulation,” the Review of the Month in this issue of MR, addresses the growing phenomena of landlessness and pauperization among rural populations in the periphery. He reminds us that half of the people in the world are peasants, a group largely unseen by liberals and radicals. The dispossession of the peasantry throughout the third world represents one of the central problems of our time—for reasons of straightforward humanity. Amin points out that the worsening position of the peasantry, their forced migration to cities, and the growth of hunger among the poor cannot be adequately dealt with by treating these problems as mere aberrations of the system. Mounting occasional “anti-poverty” programs or “humanitarian” assistance or even projects to enhance farm productivity offer no real long-term solutions. In fact, the inherent contradictions in the third world are such that even increases in the productivity of peasants so that more food is producedin the absence of employment opportunities for rural labor that is no longer needed in agriculture—can seriously worsen the problem of displacement and hunger! The enormous humanitarian problem that Amin describes is rather a result of the way capitalism works on a world scale. The clear lesson to be drawn from his article is that the anti-globalization struggle needs to be aimed at the real problem—the capitalist system… | more |

World Poverty, Pauperization and Capital Accumulation

A discourse on poverty and the necessity of reducing its magnitude, if not eradicating it, has become fashionable today. It is a discourse of charity, in the nineteenth-century-style, which is does not seek to understand the economic and social mechanisms that generate poverty, although the scientific and technological means to eradicate it are now available… | more |

The State of Welfare: United States 2003

The United States has the most regressive system of welfare for poor people among developed nations in the twenty-first century, and in recent years it has become even more punitive. The world’s self-professed leading democracy lacks a national health care policy, a universal right to health care, and a comprehensive family policy. Welfare applicants are subjected to personal intrusions, arcane regulations, and constant surveillance, all designed to humiliate recipients and deter potential applicants. In recent years there has been a significant decrease in cash grants to the unemployed and underemployed who do not qualify for unemployment insurance. The reorganization of the welfare state began under the Clinton administration with the devolution of federal policies to the states and massive cutting of welfare rolls. The Bush administration, while distracted by September 11 and imperial ambitions, has deepened the cuts and introduced important new policies facilitating access of private organizations to federal grants. The quickly changing economic and geopolitical climate has also generated a profound crisis in the ability of state and local agencies to provide adequate human services to the unemployed and growing ranks of impoverished citizens and immigrants… | more |

Leo Huberman: Radical Agitator, Socialist Teacher

This month marks the centennial of the birth of Leo Huberman, who, with Paul M. Sweezy, was founding coeditor of Monthly Review. Arguably without Huberman’s editorial and publishing skills, his radical imagination, and his indefatigable commitment to the idea of an independent, clear-sighted socialist clarion, MR might well have been stillborn. Instead, the magazine—and Monthly Review Press—became a leading voice of independent Marxian socialism both in the United States and worldwide. Much of this was due to the unique collaboration and friendship between Leo and Paul and to the larger MR “family” that included, initially, Gertrude Huberman (Leo’s wife, who died in 1965) and Sybil H. May, MR’s office manager until her death in October 1978. MR’s first office was in Leo and Gert’s Barrow Street apartment. It was there that the two editors would meet to plot the course of the magazine, shaping its worldview, enlisting its contributors, and deciding each issue’s contents. And it was there that Leo, especially, molded MR as an enterprise, a particularly risky task in those early years of the Cold War and witch-hunts… | more |

Latin America and Underdevelopment

On NBC Television News, last Friday night, pictures were shown of American refugees who had fled from Panama following the rioting there. One woman, relating the frightening experience of her husband, said: “His car was overturned, rocks were thrown at him, and he barely made it into the Canal Zone.”… | more |

Background Notes to Fanshen

On April 3, 1999, a one-day conference, “Understanding China’s Revolution: a Celebration of William Hinton’s Lifework” was held at Columbia University to celebrate his eightieth birthday. At the conclusion of the conference, organized by China Study Group and cosponsored by Monthly Review and Columbia’s East Asian Institute, Hinton gave an impromptu talk on the background to the writing of Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in A Chinese Village. The talk was transcribed and we publish its text here, as revised by Hinton in October 2002… | more |

September 2003, Volume 55, Number 4

September 2003, Volume 55, Number 4

» Notes from the Editors

It took only a few months following the official ending of the Iraq War for U.S. imperial designs to unravel almost completely. The Bush administration is now under fire from the intelligence community, the media, and the political elites for having lied its way into the war with its claims regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. More damaging still to administration plans, occupying troops and their Iraqi collaborators are being killed on an almost daily basis in what is now taking on the appearance of a classic guerrilla war. This would be impossible without the support offered to the insurgents by substantial sections of the Iraqi population. Consequently, the United States is being compelled to maintain larger numbers of forces than anticipated in Iraq (often by extending the duration in which military units remain in the country) and the projected term of U.S. military occupation is being drawn out… | more |

Capitalism as a World Economy: An Interview with Harry Magdoff

Harry Magdoff sat down to talk in front of a video camera in April 2003, three weeks before the conference “Imperialism Today” sponsored by Monthly Review in honor of his ninetieth birthday. An edited version of his remarks would be shown on a large screen at the start of the conference. But Harry has much to say that will be left on the cutting room floor, not because it lacks relevance, but because the time for the video is short, and a good portion of it will be devoted to how he became a socialist. Here, then, are Harry’s thoughts on capitalism, imperialism, the United States—and Iraq. (Note: the transcript of the interview was edited in July 2003 under Harry’s supervision to fill in a number of details.)… | more |

Capitalism and Incarceration Revisited

“Capitalism and Incarceration,” written by the author and published in Monthly Review twenty years ago (March 1983), analyzed the relationship between the capitalist economy and the prison system in America and came to an indisputable conclusion: “The overall trends and year-by-year correspondence between economic conditions and imprisonment establish quite clearly the relationship between capitalism and incarceration—prisons under capitalism are, as Marx pointed out long ago, dumping grounds of the industrial reserve army.”… | more |

The Inhuman State of U.S. Health Care

The health sector of the United States is in profound disarray. Even though the United States spends more on health care (14 percent of its GNP) than any other country, we still have problems that no other developed capitalist country faces. Let me list some of them. The first and most overwhelming problem is that no less than forty-four million of our people have no form of health benefits coverage whatsoever. The majority of them are working people, and their children, who cannot afford to pay the health insurance premium that would enable them to get care in time of need. Many of them work for small companies that cannot or will not pay their part of the health insurance premium. Because these individuals cannot pay for insurance, they do not get needed care, and many die as a consequence. The most credible estimate of the number of people in the United States who have died because of lack of medical care was provided by a study carried out by Professors David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler (New England Journal of Medicine 336, no. 11 [1997]). They concluded that almost 100,000 people died in the United States each year because of lack of needed care—three times the number of people who died of AIDs. It is important to note here that while the media express concern about AIDs, they remain almost silent on the topic of deaths due to lack of medical care. Any decent person should be outraged by this situation. How can we call the United States a civilized nation when it denies the basic human right of access to medical care in time of need? No other major capitalist country faces such a horrendous situation… | more |

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