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Negroes and the Crisis of Capitalism in the U.S.

How “free” was the black freedman in 1863? He had no clothes, no home, tools, or land. Thaddeus Stevens begged the government to give him a bit of the land which his blood had fertilized for 244 years. The nation refused. Frederick Douglass and Charles Sumner asked for the Negro the right to vote. The nation yielded because only Negro votes could force the white South to conform to the demands of Big Business in tariff legislation and debt control. This accomplished, the nation took away the Negro’s vote, and the vote of most poor whites went with it… | more |

‘Unacknowledged Legislators’: Poets Protest the War (Introduction)

Earlier this year, Sam Hamill, poet and co-founder of the prestigious literary publisher, Copper Canyon Press, was invited to a White House literary symposium. Incensed by President Bush’s war plans, Hamill wrote in an open letter to his colleagues “I believe the only legitimate response to such a morally bankrupt and unconscionable idea is to reconstitute a Poets Against the War movement like the one organized to speak out against the war in Vietnam.” He asked “every poet to speak up for the conscience of our country and lend his or her name to our petition against this war.” The response was extraordinary. By March 1, when, the web site Hamill and friends set up to receive poems, stopped accepting submissions, more than 12,000 poems had been posted. On March 5, a day of global anti-war poetry readings, the poems were presented to Congress by Pulitzer prize winner and Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets W. S. Merwin, Pulitzer prize winner Jorie Graham, and author and poet Terry Tempest Williams, as well as Hamill… | more |

March 2003 (Volume 54, Number 10)

March 2003 (Volume 54, Number 10)

In the 1920s Andrew Mellon, who served as secretary of the treasury under Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover (it was sometimes said that they served under him), introduced a series of gargantuan tax cuts culminating in what was known as the Mellon Plan. This consisted of a huge cut in the income tax rates of the rich along with reductions in other taxes paid by the wealthy. High income tax rates, Mellon claimed, “tend to destroy individual initiative and enterprise and seriously impede the development of productive enterprise.” When Mellon’s foes, such as the great Progressive Senator Robert La Follette, declared that Mellon was trying to “let wealth escape” its fair share of taxation, he sought to turn the tables on them by charging that they were engaging in class warfare. “The man who seeks to perpetuate prejudice and class hatred,” the treasury secretary stated, “is doing America an ill service. In attempting to promote or defeat legislation by arraying one class of taxpayers against another, he shows a complete misconception of the principles of equality on which the country was founded” … | more |

The Commercial Tidal Wave

For a long time now it has been widely understood within economics that under the capitalism of giant firms, corporations no longer compete primarily through price competition. They engage instead in what economists call “monopolistic competition.” This consists chiefly of attempts to create monopoly positions for a particular brand, making it possible for corporations to charge more for the branded product while also expanding their market share. Competition is most intense in what Thorstein Veblen called the “production of salable appearances,” involving advertising, frequent model changes, branding of products, and the like. Once this logic takes over in twentieth and now twenty-first century capitalism it is seemingly unstoppable. All human needs, relationships and fears, the deepest recesses of the human psyche, become mere means for the expansion of the commodity universe under the force of modem marketing. With the rise to prominence of modem marketing, commercialism—the translation of human relations into commodity relations—although a phenomenon intrinsic to capitalism, has expanded exponentially.… | more |

Beyond the Drumbeat: Iraq, Preventive War, ‘Old Europe’

The letter of support, signed by the leaders of eight European countries last January, for the Bush administration’s inexorable push for war with Iraq was both singularly ideological and shortsighted. The list of values that the signatories claim to share with the United States is altogether unexceptionable: “democracy, individual freedom, human rights, and the rule of law.” But there is a crying omission: free-market capitalism. This omission is all the more striking since there is no fathoming the infamous terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 without bearing in mind that its main target was the World Trade Center, a prominent symbol and hub of globalizing capitalism… | more |

The Tendency to Privatize

A key feature of neoliberal economic policies in both poor and rich nations is the mania for the privatization of socially-owned assets and services. The shift from publicly to privately-produced goods and services is designed to phase out public programs and to repudiate governmental responsibility for social welfare. Socially-owned land, infrastructure, and enterprises are to be sold to private investors. Or, in a less direct approach, advocated commonly in the United States, there is partial privatization. Instead of directly producing public services (such as highway construction and education), the state finances their provision either by purchasing the services from private vendors (contracting out), or else by providing vouchers to individuals, agencies, or corporations to purchase the services. Although the two forms of privatization are not the same, privatizers of all stripes have always made it clear that their ultimate goal is to eliminate the base of political support for government spending for social purposes… | more |

The Socialist Feminist Project

Some would say socialist feminism is an artifact of the 1970s. It flowered with the women’s liberation movement, as a theoretical response to what many in the movement saw as the inadequacies of Marxism, liberalism, and radical feminism, but since then it has been defunct, both theoretically and politically. I think this view is mistaken… | more |

Students and Workers in the Transition to Socialism: The Singer Model

Daniel Singer’s first book was Prelude to Revolution: France in May 1968, published in 1970. There he posed the question: “Could it be that a socialist revolution is beginning, that Marxism is returning to its home ground, the advanced countries for which it was designed?” And he answered his own question, Yes. The main message of the May crisis was that a “revolutionary situation can occur in an advanced capitalist country”… | more |

February 2003 (Volume 54, Number 9)

February 2003 (Volume 54, Number 9)

Notes from the Editors

On December 19, 2002 U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell declared that the 12,000 page document that Iraq delivered to the United Nations on December 7, listing its secret weapons programs together with any dual use agents that could be used in proscribed weapons systems, contained significant omissions. It thus constituted, in the view of the Bush administration, a further “material breach” in Iraq’s obligations under current U.N. resolutions. All of this was meant to add to Washington’s case for waging a war on Iraq, ostensibly in order to “disarm” it… | more |

The People of Vieques, Puerto Rico vs. the United States Navy

On April 19, 1999, two F-18 jets mistook the navy’s red-and-white checked observation post on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico for a target, and dropped 500 pound bombs on it. Vieques resident David Sanes was working at the observation post as a security guard for the navy. He was killed almost instantly. Three other men from Vieques were seriously injured. Sanes’ death sparked a wave of protest—civil disobedience, marches, petitions, resolutions, and lobbying—which resulted in the promise, made by then U.S. President Clinton and reiterated by his successor, that the navy will leave Vieques by May 2003. The navy says these plans will not be affected by war on Iraq. As veterans of earlier navy promises, the Viequenses, and the people of Puerto Rico, are wary… | more |

Land and Identity in Mexico: Peasants Stop an Airport

In a three-week period in the summer of 2002, national and international attention was drawn to a fast and furious clash between forces unleashed by the globalized world economy and peasants in a small village within the larger Mexico City urban area. The Mexican federal government attempted to expropriate the peasants’ land to make way for a sorely needed new international airport. The existing airport, with only two runways, was clearly inadequate. A new airport with six runways would bring the country’s air transport infrastructure up to modern standards, a necessity for any country seeking to be competitive in the global economy. The peasants balked at selling their land and in the end they prevailed, seemingly against all odds… | more |

Lula Won!

Many friends have written to me since the victory of “Lula” da Silva, elected as Brazil’s president. I thank you all. We need your good wishes, and especially we need your continuing vital opposition to the U.S. government’s aggression… | more |

January 2003 (Volume 54, Number 8)

January 2003 (Volume 54, Number 8)

Notes from the Editors

“The American health care system is confronting a crisis.” This was the not very surprising conclusion of a study by a National Academy of Science panel on the U.S. health care system, carried out at the request of the administration and released in November 2002 The report, entitled Fostering Rapid Advances in Health Care, describes conditions that are little short of horrendous. Health care costs are increasing at an annual rate in excess of 12 percent. The insured are receiving far fewer benefits while paying much more in out-of-pocket expenses. States in fiscal trouble are cutting benefits for Medicaid and other health programs. The number of uninsured has climbed to 41.2 million or 14.5 percent of the U.S. population. This means that one in seven individuals in the United States lacks any health care coverage whatsoever, and many more have inadequate coverage. A quarter of U.S. children aged to nineteen to thirty-five months are deficient in immunizations. Tens of thousands of individuals die every year from medical errors and many more than that from injuries caused by the health system… | more |

A Planetary Defeat: The Failure of Global Environmental Reform

The first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992 generated hopes that the world would at long last address its global ecological problems and introduce a process of sustainable development. Now, with a second summit being held ten years later in Johannesburg, that dream has to a large extent faded. Even the principal supporters of this process have made it clear that they do not expect much to be achieved as a result of the Johannesburg summit, which is likely to go down in history as an absolute failure. We need to ask ourselves why.… | more |

Neoliberalism and Resistance in South Africa

An aspect of the transition from apartheid to democracy in South Africa was inadvertently captured at the opening of the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting held at the International Convention Centre in Durban, in June 2002, as the police arrived with a massive show of force and drove protesters away from the building with batons and charging horses. One of the organizers of the WEF was approached by an incred- ulous member of the foreign media and asked about the right to protest in the “new South Africa.” The organizer pulled out the program and, with a wry smile, pointed to an upcoming session entitled “Taking NEPAD to the People.” He said he could not understand the protests because the “people” have been accommodated.… | more |