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December 2006 (Volume 58, Number 7)

December 2006 (Volume 58, Number 7)

In a survey of the Iraqi population, the results of which were released last June, 76 percent of those surveyed gave as their first choice “to control Iraqi oil” when asked to choose three reasons that the United States invaded Iraq. The next most common answers were “to build military bases” and “to help Israel.” Less than 2 percent picked “to bring democracy to Iraq” as their first choice (University of Michigan News Service, June 14, 2006 [http://www.nsumich.edu], U.S. News & World Report, August 17, 2006). In the United States the “blood for oil” explanation for the war is regularly scorned by the powers that be, including the corporate media. However, there is no way of getting around the fact that nearly all questions regarding Iraq return in one way or another to oil… | more |

Monopoly-Finance Capital

The year now ending marks the fortieth anniversary of Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy’s classic work, Monopoly Capital: An Essay on the American Economic and Social Order (Monthly Review Press, 1966). Compared to mainstream economic works of the early to mid-1960s (the most popular and influential of which were John Kenneth Galbraith’s New Industrial State and Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom), Monopoly Capital stood out not simply in its radicalism but also in its historical specificity. What Baran and Sweezy sought to explain was not capitalism as such, the fundamental account of which was to be found in Marx’s Capital, but rather a particular stage of capitalist development. Their stated goal was nothing less than to provide a brief “essay-sketch” of the monopoly stage of capitalism by examining the interaction of its basic economic tendencies, narrowly conceived, with the historical, political, and social forces that helped to shape and support them… | more |

The Myths of ‘Democracy Assistance’: U.S. Political Intervention in Post-Soviet Eastern Europe

One of the notable shifts in post-Soviet world politics is the almost unimpeded involvement of Western agents, consultants, and public and private institutions in the management of national election processes around the world—including those in the former Soviet allied states. As communist party apparatuses in those countries began to collapse by the late 1980s and in almost bloodless fashion gave way to emerging political forces, the West, especially the United States, was quick to intercede in their political and economic affairs. The methods of manipulating foreign elections have been modified since the heyday of CIA cloak and dagger operations, but the general objectives of imperial rule are unchanged. Today, the U.S. government relies less on the CIA in most cases and more on the relatively transparent initiatives undertaken by such public and private organizations as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Freedom House, George Soros’s Open Society, and a network of other well-financed globetrotting public and private professional political organizations, primarily American, operating in the service of the state’s parallel neoliberal economic and political objectives. Allen Weinstein, who helped establish NED, noted: “A lot of what we [NED] do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”… | more |

Beyond Liberal Globalization: A Better or Worse World?

The CIA (together with its associated intelligence organizations) gathers an unparalleled mass of information of all kinds on all the world’s countries. However, its analysis of this material is banal in the extreme. This is undoubtedly because its leaders cannot see beyond their imperialist prejudices or their Anglo-Saxon worldview and lack critical interest and imagination… | more |

Socialism and the Knowledge Economy: Cuban Biotechnology

As authoritatively stated in an editorial in Nature, vol. 436, issue 7049 (July 2005), “Cuba has developed a considerable [scientific] research capability—perhaps more so than any other developing country outside of Southeast Asia.” Cuba has been especially successful in establishing a biotechnology industry that has effectively introduced drugs and vaccines of its own, along with a nascent pharmaceutical industry that has achieved considerable success in exports. Its agriculture and health sectors have been strong beneficiaries of its scientific research. As Nature observed: “It is worth asking how Cuba did it, and what lessons other countries might draw from it.” Indeed, the Cuban case is all the more surprising since it is not only a poor country, but one that has been confronted for decades by a ruthless embargo imposed by the United States, which has been extended to scientific knowledge. Moreover, much of Cuba’s scientific progress has occurred in the decade and a half since the fall of the Soviet Union, which previously had aided it economically and technologically… | more |

Pushing the Clock Hands Back

Important bloated men squat on the facts
thinking they can hide them with their weight:
men who think their power like King Canute
ordering the sea to behave, can abolish
the eons slow inexorable rise of mountains,
the branching and dying of species, wind
and water that will grind the Himalayas to dust… | more |

Can’t You See It Coming?

Fires crackle in the brittle trees
bled dry by drought, the grass,
bleached straw on the dusty hills
where rain no longer falls
in what used to be its season… | more |

November 2006 (Volume 58, Number 6)

November 2006 (Volume 58, Number 6)

Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez’s extraordinary speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations in September drew worldwide media attention not simply because he referred to the current occupant of the White House as “the devil” for his nefarious actions as the leader of world imperialism, but also because of his scarcely less heretical praise of MR and MR Press author Noam Chomsky for his book Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance. As the foremost dissident intellectual in the United States, Chomsky is generally ostracized by the dominant U.S. media system, treated as a ghost-like or even non-existent figure. The establishment was thus caught off guard when Chávez’s comments suddenly catapulted Hegemony or Survival into the bestseller list, along with another recent Chomsky book, Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda. The speed with which orders for Chomsky’s books piled up in bookstores and Internet distributors across the nation demonstrated beyond any doubt that people are hungry for serious radical critiques of U.S. imperialism but seldom know where to look—since all such dissident views are deemed off limits by the ruling media-propaganda system… | more |

The Explosion of Debt and Speculation

In a series of articles in Monthly Review and in Monthly Review Press books during the 1970s and 1980s, Harry Magdoff and Paul Sweezy proposed that the general economic tendency of mature capitalism is toward stagnation. A shortage of profitable investment opportunities is the primary cause of this tendency. Less investment in the productive economy (the “real economy”) means lower future growth. Marx wrote about the possibility of this very phenomenon… | more |

The Twilight of Personal Liberty: Introduction to ‘A Permanent State of Emergency’

“The law is a mask that the state puts on when it wants to commit some indecency upon the oppressed.” I put these words into the mouth of a character in my play “Haymarket: Whose Name the Few Still Say with Tears.” Jean-Claude Paye has once again done us a service by showing how those words can come true. In theory, the bourgeois democratic state, as defined in the American constitution, was to operate under two basic principles. The first of these was separation of powers. Legislative and executive action would be held to a standard of legality by the action of unelected and therefore presumably independent judges. The second principle, elaborated more fully in the Bill of Rights, is that certain invasions of individual personal liberty are forbidden, and that the judges will provide a remedy against those who commit such invasions… | more |

A Permanent State of Emergency

The function of criminal law has been altered within the context of the anti-terrorist struggle. Normally, criminal law treats prosecuted persons as individuals. The criminalization of terrorist organizations and the criminalization of participation in or support for such organizations create offenses of collective responsibility. The object is to attack actual or potential organizations. It is no longer just the act of committing a crime or even the intention of doing so that is prosecuted. Merely belonging to a group that is considered terrorist by the government is sufficient for punishment… | more |

No Corporation Left Behind: How a Century of Illegitimate Testing Has Been Used to Justify Internal Colonialism

“I feel like a bad person.”… | more |

“I feel like a snail without a shell whose heart has been stepped on.”… | more |

These feelings were jotted down in Spanish by my second graders during the four weeks of standardized tests required by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The educational policy was instituted on the heels of the September 11 attacks by President George Bush, backed by both Democrats and Republicans. My students are required to take tests in Standard English, though half have yet to make the transition from Spanish to a second language in my immersion classroom… | more |

No Child Ahead

Margot Pepper And Her 2005 Second Grade Class At Rosa Parks Elementary School In Berkeley, California… | more |

Cuban Doctors in Pakistan: Why Cuba Still Inspires

The signs point to the fact that the symbol of the Cuban revolution is reaching the end of his road. Even if it does not formally mark the definitive end of almost fifty years of undisputed leadership at the helm of the island republic, Fidel Castro’s handing over of power to brother Raul in late July is surely a precursor to what will happen sooner rather than later… | more |

Who Is Threatening Our Dinner Table? The Power of Transnational Agribusiness

In December 2005, anti-liberalization and antiglobalization protest groups around the globe gathered in Hong Kong where the Sixth World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference was being held. Farmers’ groups that were part of the Hong Kong gathering took the position that agricultural trade rules should be impartial to all World Trade Organization (WTO) member countries and not determined by a handful of agriculture-exporting countries. What suddenly prompted these farmers to come together in this way over the issues of food sovereignty and the expansion of farmers’ rights?… | more |

October 2006 (Volume 58, Number 5)

October 2006 (Volume 58, Number 5)

Fidel Castro’s illness in August has nurtured the hopes of Miami-based Cuban émigrés and the U.S. ruling class that a “transition in Cuba” will soon be possible. It is often implied that this is a question of a transition to “democracy” and “free elections.” However, what is actually being planned in Washington, as part of a decades-long strategy, is an immediate transition back to capitalism in Cuba—at whatever the cost to the Cuban people… | more |

A Son’s Reflections

Harry died in the early hours of January 1, 2006, at our house in Burlington, Vermont, where he had lived for three and a half years. As he died, I laid on the big double bed facing him and held his arms, with my wife, his caregiver, and his good friends Gladys and Percy Brazil there too. Talking with them after he died I reflected on how it had been an honor to have Harry live with Amy and me since my mother Beadie had died and to help him get the most out of his final years. It was also fun and intellectually stimulating, although sometimes a challenge because of my health problems and our work schedules… | more |

The Optimism of the Heart

The following intellectual biography of Harry Magdoff is a slightly revised and expanded version of a piece that was posted on MRzine a few days after Harry’s death on January 1, 2006. It evolved out of an earlier biography I wrote for the Biographical Dictionary of Dissenting Economists in 2000. Since the aim of this biography was to present the basic facts of Harry’s intellectual career, personal feelings and observations were largely excluded. A brief word on Harry’s character and the warm emotions he engendered within those who knew him therefore seems essential here… | more |

The Necessity of Planning: In Honor of Harry Magdoff

I wrote some time ago that “Harry Magdoff is a great teacher and an indomitable combatant. His contributions to socialist theory-on imperialism and monopolistic developments, as well as on the vital role of planning for any viable society of the future—are of a truly lasting importance.”… | more |

‘Let the Dialectic Continue!’

Harry Magdoff died on New Year’s Day 2006 at the age of ninety-two. He will be remembered in the hearts of those who knew him, those who were profoundly influenced when they heard him speak, and those who have read Monthly Review and his great books on imperialism, which helped mature the thinking of the generation of leftists who came of age during the Vietnam War. It is the warmth of his person, the clarity and incisiveness of his thinking, and his profound vision of the absolute necessity of socialism that characterize his historic contributions and set him apart as one of a handful of great Marxist thinkers of the last century. The breadth of Harry’s knowledge—his grasp of world history, Marxist literature, and broader literatures—was extraordinary. He was as content, for example, to discuss the nature of calculus with a college student as Shakespeare with a Shakespeare scholar, all with that wonderful enthusiasm and energy he always brought to conversations… | more |

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