On May 3 MR will be hosting its “Imperialism Today” conference in Burlington, Vermont in honor of Harry Magdoff’s ninetieth birthday. Harry officially became an editor of Monthly Review thirty-four years ago this month in May 1969, when he joined Paul Sweezy as co-editor following the death of Leo Huberman in 1968. In the period since then he has edited 408 monthly issues of the magazine (counting the summer issues as double issues). MR would not be what it is today without Harry’s imprint on each and every one of these issues. During the last thirty-six of these we have shared this role with Harry. What this has driven home to us is Harry’s exceptional warmth as a human being, his brilliance as a political-economic analyst, his unlimited patience as a teacher and writer determined to communicate in plain terms, his openness to new radical vistas, and above all his personal integrity and courage, which, as with Marx, allows him to elude the traps of ideology and dispense with all fashions, acting according to the motto: “Go on your way, and let the people talk” (a variation on a line from Dante used by Marx at the end of the preface to the first edition of Capital).
Asked in 1999 why he remains a radical and committed to the cause of socialism after all these years, Harry answered: “It is the way I am. I can’t be any other way. I have to believe there can be another world.”
Happy birthday Harry!
The present invasion of Iraq by the military forces of the United States and Britain is taking place in the face of the opposition of a majority of the population in nearly every country in the world. As Newsweek observed in an article entitled “The Arrogant Empire,” written just before the commencement of the invasion (March 24, 2003), “while the United States has the backing of a dozen or so governments, it has the support of a majority of the people in only one country of the world, Israel. If that is not isolation, then the word has no meaning.”
Washington was unable to obtain support for its war on Iraq within the UN Security Council (and withdrew its resolution so as to not lose the vote). Not only a majority of countries currently on the Security Council, but also three of the five permanent members, France, Russia, and China, refused to support the U.S. call for war. France declared outright that it would exercise its veto on the U.S. war resolution if it were put to a vote. The French threat of a veto was greeted with outrage in the Bush administration and throughout the conservative establishment in the United States. Both the United Nations and the veto power were showered with scorn.
Yet it is worth recalling that it was the United States during the Second World War that originally proposed a Great Power veto in the design for the United Nations—with the veto power eventually being agreed upon by the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union at the Dumbarton Oaks and Yalta conferences in 1944-1945. As U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull put it in 1944: “The United States Government would not remain one day in the United Nations without retaining the veto power” (Carlos P. Romulo, Forty Years, p. 189).
To be sure, there was some question in the Dumbarton Oaks and Yalta deliberations about how absolute the veto would be. The United States, which was then allied with three of the other four Security Council members, Britain, France, and China, was willing to toy with some restrictions on the use of the veto in issues in which a permanent member of the Security Council was directly involved, if this would give the United States an added advantage over the Soviet Union. But eventually something like an absolute veto power (as originally proposed by the Roosevelt administration) was agreed upon by all of the Great Powers, including the United States. The argument of Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson was probably decisive where the United States itself was concerned. He told Roosevelt that in the case of “our having a row with Mexico” the United States might need such absolute veto power. The meaning of this was clear: the United States could not count on its allies in all cases to support what it considered to be the legitimate interests of U.S. imperialism. An absolute veto power was therefore required. Hull told the Senate that “We should not forget that this veto power is chiefly for the benefit of the United States” (Gabriel Kolko, The Politics of War, pp. 269, 278).
Despite all of its outrage at the French threat to use its veto power in the current dispute over Iraq, the United States has used its veto power more than any of the other permanent Security Council members except the Soviet Union/Russia. Since 1966 a great majority of all UN vetoes (105 out of 138) have been exercised by the United States and Britain. To date the United States has employed its veto seventy-six times—four of these under the present Bush administration. Three of these four Bush administration vetoes were in support of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and one was employed in the attempt to guarantee the immunity of the U.S. leadership and military forces from prosecution by the International Criminal Court. With the United States now bent on extending its imperial domain, against the will of a majority of the population in nearly every country in the world, the U.S. use of the veto is likely to expand as well—as a necessary tool of global empire (Global Policy Forum, www.globalpolicy.org).
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