Marge Piercy’s most recent novel is The Third Child (William Morrow/Harper Collins, 2003), and Colors Passing Through Us (Alfred A. Knopf, 2003) is her most recent book of poetry. Her CD, Louder, We Can’t Hear You (Yet!): The Political Poems of Marge Piercy, is available online from Leapfrog Press, www.leapfrogpress.com.
We depart this year from our usual practice for MR’s JulyAugust double issue. Instead of a collection of articles on a common theme, we are devoting the issue to a single manuscript—a study of China and economic development theory by Martin Hart-Landsberg and Paul Burkett that will be published in book form by Monthly Review Press early next year. Although there are numerous books on China, this one is especially worthy. It is a careful, clear, well-grounded Marxist study of how a major post-revolutionary society turned away from socialism. In addition, the current transformation in China throws light on why capitalism, by its very nature, creates poverty, inequality, and ecological destruction in the process of economic growth.
China and socialism…during the three decades following the 1949 establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), it seemed as if these words would forever be joined in an inspiring unity. China had been forced to suffer the humiliation of defeat in the 1840-42 Opium War with Great Britain and the ever-expanding treaty port system that followed it. The Chinese people suffered under not only despotic rule by their emperor and then a series of warlords, but also under the crushing weight of imperialism, which divided the country into foreign-controlled spheres of influence. Gradually, beginning in the 1920s, the Chinese Communist Party led by Mao Zedong organized growing popular resistance to the foreign domination and exploitation of the country and the dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek. The triumph of the revolution under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party finally came in 1949, when the party proclaimed it would bring not only an end to the suffering of the people but a new democratic future based on the construction of socialism
In 2000 I agreed to become coeditor of Monthly Review along with my dear friend John Bellamy Foster. I had been reading MR since 1972 when I was a teenager and had been educated, enlightened, and inspired by it, and the work of editors Paul Sweezy and Harry Magdoff. I had introduced John to the magazine soon after I discovered it. By the 1990s I had become a regular contributor to MR. When John and Harry asked me to join them as a coeditor I initially balked. I already had a very full schedule and there was no sign it would abate. Plus, I was a media historian and critic; not an economist. But John, in particular, insisted that my involvement was necessary to bring MR through a difficult transition editorially and financially. He promised me that he would do most of the work. I agreed with an understanding that I would have to revisit the situation in due time
An indication of just how bad things have become for the U.S. invaders and occupiers of Iraq is that comparisons with the Vietnam War are now commonplace in the U.S. media. In a desperate attempt to put a stop to this, President Bush intimated on April 13, in one of his rare press conferences, that the mere mention of the Vietnam analogy in relation to the present war was unpatriotic and constituted a betrayal of the troops. Yet the question remains and seems to haunt the U.S. occupation of Iraq: To what extent has Iraq become another “Vietnam” for American imperialism?
The situation in Iraq is going badly for the occupying U.S. forces. Despite a staged-for-television proclamation of victory aboard an aircraft carrier in the Pacific Ocean last year, President Bush has recently found his policies, from spurious reasons for waging war against Iraq, to the badly bungled early occupation, to politically-inspired deadlines for handing over “authority” to an as yet nonexistent Iraqi government, criticized more and more frequently
I want to address a very simple question: What keeps capitalism going? or, in the somewhat more technical language of Marxists, How does capitalism as a system reproduce itself?
The growing inequalities we are witnessing in the world today are having a very negative impact on the health and quality of life of its populations. It is true, as many conservatives and neoliberal authors continue to stress, that health indicators are improving in many parts of the world, including in many underdeveloped countries. But what these authors are not saying is that the rate of improvements in these indicators have slowed down in most countries that have experienced a growth of inequalities, and in many of them, including the United States, these indicators have even reversed. According to the last report of the National Center for Health and Vital Statistics, infant mortality in the United Staes has increased, reversing the decline that had occurred since 1953.1 The growth of inequalities is thus bad for people’s health. But why?
Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s Empire, published by Harvard University Press in 2000, took the intellectual world by storm. After the declared demise of “grand narratives” and projects of human emancipation, here came a book that told the grandest of all stories, the totalization of capital, and anticipated the most magnificent of all revolutionary outcomes, communism. Postmodern taboos were shattered, or so it seemed. The prophets of the multitude, Hardt and Negri, were duly acknowledged and celebrated in the liberal press. In the United Kingdom, the New Statesman ran an interview with Negri entitled “The left should love globalization.” Globalization, Negri stated, leads to real democratic “global citizenship.” In the United States, New York Times reviewer Emily Eakin hailed Empire as the “next big idea,” announcing the arrival of a badly-needed “master theory” to overcome the “deep pessimism,” “banality” (Stanley Aronowitz’s term), “crisis,” and “void” that have characterized the humanities in the last decade. Empire (both book and concept) was good news for everyone, ushering in a period that, while difficult to define, is, in Hardt’s words, “actually an enormous historical improvement over the international system and imperialism.”
“Puerto Rican Obituary” was first read in 1969 at a rally in support of the Young Lords Party, an anti-imperialist Latino youth group in New York. Like the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords were community activists, supporting demands for fair and affordable housing and decent health care, and they ran free breakfast programs for children. They linked their neighborhood militancy to a program that called for the end of U.S. imperial adventurism in Vietnam and elsewhere, third world liberation, an end to the oppression of the poor and people of color, and the building of a socialist society. The Young Lords were destroyed by U.S. government provocations in the mid 1970s, but Pedro Pietri continued on as a radical activist and poet—he saw no distinction between these roles. Most notably he helped to found and sustain the Nuyorican Poets Café, an acclaimed center for oppositional arts and literature
Although private corporations under capitalism have always been heavily involved in promoting war, the direct role played by the private sector in the prosecution of war has traditionally been quite limited, falling well short of the supply of combat troops. There are signs that this may now be changing. The decade and a half since the end of the Cold War has seen the rapid proliferation of private military firms, hundreds of which are now engaged in combat and combat-support operations in Iraq and throughout the globe. Some of these firms are subsidiaries of much larger multinational corporations. The private soldiers employed in this industry are mercenaries, but not of the traditional kind. They are employees of corporations that have boards of directors, are publicly traded, participate in the open market, carry out mergers, hire and fire in accordance with market criteria—and above all are not directly responsible to any public authority. In other words, these corporations and their employees are fully integrated with capitalist enterprise as a whole. This phenomenon has recently been dubbed “the corporatization of the military” by Peter Singer, a Brookings Institution analyst and author of Corporate Warriors (2003)
Abrupt climate change has been a growing topic of concern for about a decade for climate scientists, who fear that global warming could shut down the ocean conveyer that warms the North Atlantic, plunging Europe and parts of North America into Siberian-like conditions within a few decades or even years. But it was only with the recent appearance of a Pentagon report on the possible social effects-in terms of instability and war-of abrupt climate change that it riveted public attention. As the Observer (February 22) put it, “Climate change over the next 20 years could result in global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters.”
Economic theory is not neutral, and the results when it is applied owe much to the implicit and explicit assumptions embedded in a particular theory. That such assumptions reflect specific ideologies is most obvious in the case of the neoclassical economics that underlies neoliberal economic policies
People without a voice are not people in any meaningful sense of the word. Silenced people cannot express their ideas; they can neither consent nor protest. They are reduced to being pawns in the schemes of the powerful, mendicants who must accept whatever is imposed upon them. In order to keep people in a state of subjugation, silencing their voices is essential. Nowhere is this clearer than in U.S. prisons