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October 2006 (Volume 58, Number 6)

October 2006 (Volume 58, Number 5)

Notes from the Editors

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

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

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

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.”

‘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

Lessons for Leftists Old and New

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

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

behind the traitors and the gnawing rats,

an empire which sets the table

and serves up the nourishment and the bullets….

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

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

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

September 2006 (Volume 58, Number 4)September 2006 (Volume 58, Number 4)

September 2006 (Volume 58, Number 4)

Notes from the Editors

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

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

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

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

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

July-August 2006 (Volume 58, Number 3)

July-August 2006 (Volume 58, Number 3)

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