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Lessons for Leftists Old and New

Pablo Neruda wrote in elegant verse what Harry Magdoff analyzed in prose:… | more |

But we have to see behind all them, there is something… | more |

behind the traitors and the gnawing rats,… | more |

an empire which sets the table… | more |

and serves up the nourishment and the bullets….… | more |

Harry saw behind them all, behind the traitors and the gnawing rats, and he identified, analyzed, and rejected the empire which sets the table. The table settings changed over decades, even the size and shape of the table were altered. The careful economic proof of U.S. empire in the sixties became the contemporary global imperialism in this post-9/11 millennium. Harry Magdoff named, tracked, and opposed the bloody dehumanizing course of U.S. imperialism over six decades… | more |

The Meaning of Work: A Marxist Perspective

Marxists may be expected to have few disagreements about the meaning of work in the past and present. The same cannot be said, however, about work in the future. Since I will be talking about work under socialism and communism as well as in history, what I am presenting here is a Marxist perspective, not the Marxist perspective… | more |

Four Letters on Capitalism and Socialism

Even when Harry Magdoff was writing articles less often in his final years, he continued to compose letters that displayed his keen interest in world developments, the evolution of his thinking, and his deep personal commitments. Reprinted here are four letters he wrote in the opening years of the new millennium. The first was written while he still lived in New York. The last three were written in Vermont where Harry had moved in June 2002 to live with his son Fred and his daughter-in-law Amy Demarest. The fragilities of old age had largely confined him by then to home. But his thinking still knew no bounds… | more |

September 2006 (Volume 58, Number 4)

September 2006 (Volume 58, Number 4)

After eighteen years on West 27th St., the MR offices will move this month to a new address: 146 West 29th St., Suite 6W, New York, NY 10001. Fortunately, our phone and fax numbers, not to mention our e-mail addresses, will remain the same. We will continue to offer current and back issues of the magazine and MR Press books for sale at the office. Call 212-691-2555 for hours… | more |

Empire of Oil: Capitalist Dispossession and the Scramble for Africa

put into words what all previous presidents could not bring themselves to utter in public: addiction. The United States, he conceded, is “addicted” to oil—which is to say addicted to the car—and as a consequence unhealthily dependent upon Middle Eastern suppliers. What he neglected to mention was that the post-Second World War U.S. global oil acquisition strategy—a central plank of U.S. foreign policy since President Roosevelt met King Saud of Saudi Arabia and cobbled together their “special relationship” aboard the USS Quincy in February 1945—is in a total shambles. The pillars of that policy—Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf oil states, and Venezuela—are hardly supplicant sheep within the U.S. imperial fold… | more |

The Worldwide Class Struggle

A trademark of our times is the dominance of neoliberalism in the major economic, political, and social forums of the developed capitalist countries and in the international agencies they influence-including the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO, and the technical agencies of the United Nations such as the World Health Organization, Food and Agricultural Organization, and UNICEF. Starting in the United States during the Carter administration, neoliberalism expanded its influence through the Reagan administration and, in the United Kingdom, the Thatcher administration, to become an international ideology. Neoliberalism holds to a theory (though not necessarily a practice) that posits the following… | more |

The Structural Crisis of Politics

would like to begin with a brief survey of the very disquieting—indeed, I should say, of worldwide threatening—developments in the field of politics and the law. In this respect I wish to underline that it was no less than twenty-three years ago that I became personally acquainted in Paraiba, Brazil with the painful circumstances of explosive food riots. Twenty years later, at the time of President Lula’s electoral campaign, I read that he had announced that the most important part of his future strategy was his determination to put an end in the country to the grave social evil of famine. The two intervening decades from the time of those dramatic food riots in Paraiba were obviously not sufficient to solve this chronic problem. And even today, I am told, the improvements are still very modest in Brazil. Moreover, the somber statistics of the United Nations constantly underline that the same problem persists, with devastating consequences, in many parts of the world. This is so despite the fact that the productive powers at the disposal of humankind today could relegate forever to the past the now totally unforgivable social failure of famine and malnutrition… | more |

Photo Postcards: Island Woman; Wish You Were Here; All Is Well

Denise Bergman (dhbergman [at] comcast.net) is the author of Seeing Annie Sullivan, poems based on the early life of Helen Keller’s teacher (Cedar Hill Books, 2005), and editor of City River of Voices, an anthology of urban poetry (West End Press, 1992). Her poems have been published widely… | more |

Why Hipsters Aren’t All That Hip

Richard Lloyd, Neo-Bohemia: Art and Commerce in the Postindustrial City (New York: Routledge, 2006), 295 pages, paper $19.95.

Over the past decade, I have gone from being politically unconscious to leaning left. During that period of transition, I was cool. Put differently, I was something of a hipster. Not quintessentially so, but I certainly did, and to some extent still do, have some hipster credentials (I’d flash them here, but the list—mostly of bands I listen to and widely-unknown indie-rock musicians I can count among my friends and acquaintances—would make little sense to the uninitiated). I am now thirty, the age around which most hipsters begin the process of becoming formerly known as hip. From my current perspective, as someone increasingly critical of capitalist social arrangements, I cannot help but wonder: How cool was it to be cool? I’ll try to explain what I mean by that question and then present the answer I take to emerge from Richard Lloyd’s Neo-Bohemia: Art and Commerce in the Postindustrial City… | more |

July-August 2006 (Volume 58, Number 3)

July-August 2006 (Volume 58, Number 3)

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 |

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