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Notes from the Editors, July 2006

Notes from the Editors, July 2006

» Notes from the Editors

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s famous remark, cited by Karl Marx, among others, was surely a part of the sensibility that motivated Harry Magdoff’s life and work. Harry’s writing and scholarship were important achievements and distinguished contributions to the socialist project, but they were grounded in a profound understanding of life, history, and the human condition. The centrality of both theory and life were much in evidence on a clear brisk weekend in early May, when many of the MR extended family—readers, writers, staff, and, of course, the Magdoff family—gathered in New York, on Saturday for a roundtable on Harry’s contributions and the future of MR, and on Sunday for a meeting celebrating, as it turned out, the lives of both Harry and his beloved wife Beadie… | more |

Aspects of Class in the United States: An Introduction

If class war is continual in capitalist society, there is no doubt that in recent decades in the United States it has taken a much more virulent form. In a speech delivered at New York University in 2004 Bill Moyers pointed out that… | more |

The Power of the Rich

Two trends dominate today’s world political economy. The first is growing inequality. The second is slower economic growth. Both trends have important consequences, which flow from the increased power of capital in a globalized world. The hegemony of the capitalist class is not new, but in any specific conjuncture, how its power is exercised depends on how technological possibilities are deployed, the degree of ideological clarity of the working class (broadly conceptualized), and the political activity of factions of the ruling class itself. In looking at the power of the rich in the United States, I will discuss not so much structural power but contingent developments of George W. Bush’s presidency… | more |

Some Economics of Class

How much more will be required before the U.S. public awakes from its political slumber? Tepid action in the workplace, the voting booth, and the streets have allowed the right wing to steamroll revolutionary changes that have remade the entire sociopolitical structure of the United States. Since the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, every Democratic administration with the exception of Lyndon Johnson’s has been more conservative-often far more conservative-than the previous Democratic administration. Similarly, every elected Republican administration, with the single exception of George Herbert Walker Bush’s, has been more conservative than the previous Republican administration. The deterioration in the distribution of income is a symptom of a far larger problem. Perhaps formulating the situation in the United States might help people understand their class interests as well as reveal who has benefited from the right-wing revolution… | more |

Harder Times: Undocumented Workers and the U.S. Informal Economy

Many of the informal economies operating in the world today are the offspring of globalization and need to be understood as such. The economic and social prospects for people engaged in informal employment-sometimes referred to as “precarious” and “off-the-books employment”-as well as their families and communities, are substantially inferior to those associated with formal employment, and the current boom of informal economic activity bodes ill for all working people… | more |

The Retreat from Race and Class

As the twentieth century started, indeed at almost exactly the same moment that W. E. B. Du Bois predicted that the “color line” would be its great divide, Eugene Victor Debs announced that the socialist movement that he led in the United States could and should offer “nothing special” to African Americans. “The class struggle,” Debs added, “is colorless.” As the century unfolded, the white Marxist left, schooled by struggles for colonial freedom and by the self-activity of people of color in the centers of empire, increasingly saw the wisdom of Du Bois’s insight and tried hard to consider how knowledge of the color line could illuminate, energize, and express class struggles. We would increasingly turn to other passages from Debs, including one expressing a historical insight that he could already articulate in the early twentieth century but that his colorblindness kept him from acting upon: “That the white heel is still on the black neck is simply proof that the world is not yet civilized. The history of the Negro in the United States is a history of crime without a parallel.”… | more |

Hurricane Katrina: The Race and Class Debate

Following Hurricane Katrina, many people sought to answer the question of whether its social effects and the government response to the country’s biggest natural disaster had more to do with race or with class. Media images broadcast from the Big Easy showed nearly all those left behind to suffer and die were black Americans—it looked like race. However, those families most able to afford homes in safer flood-protected areas and that had resources to evacuate easily suffered much less than poorer families, which seemed to make it more a class issue. There was no denying that those left behind were mostly poor and black. As public debate escalated amidst increasing allegations of lawlessness among the evacuees, white and conservative Americans vehemently fought the idea that racism had caused the extreme levels of black impoverishment and slowed the government response… | more |

Women and Class: What Has Happened in Forty Years?

Forty years ago this summer, a group of women and men came together to form the National Organization for Women (NOW). NOW’s mission was to fight for gender equality through education and litigation. While not the only group fighting for women’s rights, it quickly became one of the best known and largest. Today, NOW has over a half million members and over 500 chapters throughout the country. NOW was founded at a time when women were entering the paid labor force in increasing numbers. NOW had its critics: many said it ignored race and class, others said it was too focused on liberal feminist legal strategies like passing the Equal Rights Amendment. Numerous other organizations representing working-class women and women of color developed, including the Coalition of Labor Union Women, 9to5, the National Organization of Working Women, and the Combahee River Collective. Together with a myriad of other groups these organizations helped build the women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s… | more |

The Pedagogy of Oppression: A Brief Look at ‘No Child Left Behind’

The origins of the current standards-based movement in public education can be traced back to the early twentieth century when curriculum theorists like Ellwood Cubberley and others attempted to align school curricula to the needs and demands of the U.S. economy by developing a scientific approach to designing and planning them.1 From the 1950s to the 1970s, with the Cold War in full swing, the “back to basics” movement gained momentum in teacher education programs and graduate schools of education. Supporters of the movement were determined to ensure that school curricula reflected not only the ideologies and political views of the dominant social classes in the United States, but that they also prepared students for employment in the growing military industrial complex to defend the country against the so-called communist threat… | more |

Class: A Personal Story

I was born in 1946 in a small mining village in western Pennsylvania, about forty miles north of Pittsburgh, along a big bend in the Allegheny River. The house in which I lived during my first year of life had neither hot water nor indoor plumbing. It was a company house, and my grandmother had purchased it for $1,000 from the mining company after the town had ceased to be a company town, thanks to the United Mine Workers. A small coal stove in the living room heated the entire house… | more |

Six Points on Class

1. We need to change the understanding of class in the United States, going from the division of “rich and poor” to the division of “worker and capitalist.”… | more |

Remembering John Kenneth Galbraith

When my father, Paul Sweezy, died at the end of February 2004, John Kenneth Galbraith, or Ken, as he preferred to be called, in- vited my mother to gather her children and come talk. He told us that the New York Times and other newspapers had called to in- terview him for Paul ‘s obituary but he had declined. He felt bad about doing so, but he said, their questions focused on political differences and that is not what he wanted to say about Paul… | more |