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October 2003 (Volume 55, Number 5)

Notes from the Editors

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…

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…

Monthly Review Volume 55, Number 4 (August 2003)

September 2003, Volume 55, Number 4

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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