When Anne Braden, who died last March 6, aged 81, began covering criminal justice for her hometown paper, the Louisville (Kentucky) Courier-Journal, in 1947, it did not take her long to conclude that the real story was not the trials she saw but the class- and race-based injustices perpetrated by the legal system itself. Very quickly she and her husband, Carl Braden, a labor reporter for the same paper, understood that the system of white supremacy underpinning the segregation and violent intimidation and repression of African Americans was at the heart of a system of social control that supported the rapacious capitalism of the post-Second World War South. White supremacy created the climate in which the steel, automobile, and textile industries exploited a low-wage work force in a union-free environment. Segregation kept sharecropping farm labor in much the same condition as it had been since the end of the Civil War
Despite its many detractors and small numbers, the Weather-man/Weather Underground Organization has emerged in the past ten years as a major topic in the growing history of the 1960s. Many of those who knew the group during its existence—personally or in name only—often wonder why this is so. After all, goes this train of thought, Weatherman/Weather Underground represented all that was wrong with the movement against the war in Vietnam and against racism. The group encouraged violence and represented the epitome of arrogance. What about the rest of us?
When MRzine was launched on Bastille Day, July 14, 2005, Eduardo Galeano greeted it with the words: “Monthly Review in conquest of the air? Wasn’t it a private kingdom of weapons, toxics, and lies? Great news for all of us, humble terrestrians.”
It is an inescapable truth of the capitalist economy that the uneven, class-based distribution of income is a determining factor of consumption and investment. How much is spent on consumption goods depends on the income of the working class. Workers necessarily spend all or almost all of their income on consumption. Thus for households in the bottom 60 percent of the income distribution in the United States, average personal consumption expenditures equaled or exceeded average pre-tax income in 2003; while the fifth of the population just above them used up five-sixths of their pre-tax income (most of the rest no doubt taken up by taxes) on consumption.1 In contrast, those high up on the income pyramid-the capitalist class and their relatively well-to-do hangers-on-spend a much smaller percentage of their income on personal consumption. The overwhelming proportion of the income of capitalists (which at this level has to be extended to include unrealized capital gains) is devoted to investment.
An esteemed colleague read three paragraphs of news clip on employer pensions before he realized it was from the satirical newspaper The Onion. The tip off was the interview with an eighty-seven-year-old machine shop worker struggling with widowhood, high stress, and early stage Alzheimer’s at General Electric. Early stage Alzheimer’s was the first clue, not the eighty-seven-years of age. Satire writers must have a holy grail of seconds before the earnest reader starts chuckling; my colleague’s delay might be a record. It takes three seconds to know “Cindy Sheehan loses second son in Katrina” is a lampoon. The reason it took so long to laugh at a news story that GE was adopting a new policy of “lifetime” jobs and a new forty-five-year vesting period for their pensions is that it is credible; the signs of the end of retirement are all around
The questions regarding U.S. macroeconomic policy these days come down to whether the country can keep borrowing. Can consumers keep spending by increasing their debt level? Can the federal government keep running a large budget deficit without serious problems developing? Can the U.S. current account deficit keep growing? Will foreigners keep buying government bonds to cover this growing debt? If the answer is no to such questions, we can expect serious trouble and not just for the United States but for the rest of the world, which has grown used to the United States as the consumer of last resort. The United States buys 50 percent more than it sells overseas, enough to sink any other economy. In another economy, such a deficit would lead to a severe devaluation of the currency, sharply inflating the price of imports and forcing the monetary authorities to push interest rates up considerably
velopment economics, as a branch of economics that attempts to show how the world’s poor economies can develop, had its origins in the 1940s and 1950s. One of its earliest ideas was that the economies of the less developed countries were mired in a cycle of poverty and needed a “big push” to develop. This push was seen as a large boost in investment, helped by the state’s infrastructural and social spending, as well as by private foreign capital spending and aid from the governments of the developed nations
Howard Karger, Shortchanged: Life and Debt in the Fringe Economy (Berrett~Koehler Publishing, 2005), 252 pages, cloth $24.95.
The widening and deepening of capitalism, which many economists misname globalization, has had traumatic impacts on workers. Sped up by what has been called neoliberalism (basically, the political program of modern global capital), the growing penetration of capitalist production and consumption relationships around the globe has literally pitched workers from pillar to post. For example, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has forced hundreds of thousands of Mexican peasants and wage workers to abandon their home country and migrate to the United States. Similarly, government austerity and “free market” programs—curbing food and health subsidies to the poor, closing and selling state enterprises, suppression of worker and peasant protests, and the like—in countries like India and China have deprived many workers of what security they had attained and pushed peasants from their land into cities
As we write this in late February, threats of a U.S. military intervention in Iran are intensifying in response to Washington’s claims that Iran is attempting to develop nuclear weapons capabilities. The International Atomic Energy Agency has voted to take the issue of what it views as Iran’s noncompliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Safeguards Agreement to the United Nations Security Council in early March. Meanwhile, the Bush administration has repeatedly stated that a military strike against Iran by the United States is now on the table. Washington’s waving of its big stick coupled with its feeding of misinformation to a U.S. media system that has not hesitated to pass these distortions on to the general public have already had their effect. A Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll taken in January indicated that 57% of Americans favor military intervention if Iran’s Islamic government pursues a program that could enable it to build nuclear arms (Los Angeles Times, January 27, 2006). A few days later President Bush declared in his State of the Union address that the Iranian government is defying the world with its nuclear ambitions, and the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons. America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats.
Agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) have enhanced transnational capitalist power and profits at the cost of growing economic instability and deteriorating working and living conditions. Despite this reality, neoliberal claims that liberalization, deregulation, and privatization produce unrivaled benefits have been repeated so often that many working people accept them as unchallengeable truths. Thus, business and political leaders in the United States and other developed capitalist countries routinely defend their efforts to expand the WTO and secure new agreements like the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) as necessary to ensure a brighter future for the world’s people, especially those living in poverty
Countless, almost perfectly round, forested islands dot the remote, watery plain of the Beni in eastern Bolivia. A millennium ago the islands were linked by causeways, parts of an intricate landscape management system tended by thousands of highly organized workers. These mounds do not have their origins in geo-morphological forces, but originate instead in human logic, in anthro-morphology. For even simple excavation reveals that they are built from broken pottery. Each pile, and there are hundreds, is larger than Monte Testaccio, a hill of broken pots southeast of classical Rome, serving as a garbage dump for the imperial city. Simply extending from the volume of ceramics piled on the Beni suggests that the plain was home to a highly structured society. Beginning three thousand years ago, an Arawak-speaking people created a civilization that, at its height, was populated by a million people walking the causeways wearing “long cotton tunics, [with] heavy ornaments dangling from their waists and necks” (12). The Beni was one of humankind’s greatest works of landscape artistry. Yet it was unknown until recently even by its contemporary inhabitants, the Siriono. For the builders of the mounds and the caretakers of the dikes disappeared just before the Spanish invaders arrived. Its discovery awaited Bill Deneven, a geography graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, who flew over the area in 1961 and was astonished to see great regularities in the landscape that could only be human in origin
One frequently comes across handwringing articles in the mainstream media decrying the supposed apathy of my generation. Too often these are written by older liberals, nostalgic for their own bygone days of protest (and forgetful of the years of small-scale organizing that led to the social upheaval of those days). Sometimes they are written by young people, who believe themselves alone in their dissent. Ironically, these lamentations never seem to recognize what those of us who are involved in social movements today can see quite clearly: that there is a growing sense among many young people that something is deeply wrong with the society we live in—and more and more, that such knowledge comes with the desire to take a stand
On January 19–23 the African session of the Polycentric World Social Forum— held separately in 2006 in Africa, Asia, and the Americas—took place in Bamako, Mali. On January 18–19 on the eve of the World Social Forum in Mali a group of around eighty antiglobalization political activists and intellectuals, including Marxist economists and organizers, met to conduct sessions independent of the World Social Forum itself, under the auspices of the Third World Forum, the World Forum for Alternatives, and the Forum for Another Mali. Samir Amin, director of the Third World Forum and author of the Review of the Month in this issue of MR was the leading organizer of the pre-WSF gathering, which he referred to as a “Peoples’ Bandung Conference” in honor of the recent fiftieth anniversary of the conference of nonaligned nations in Bandung, Indonesia in 1955
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted by acclamation in September 2000 by a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly called “United Nations Millennium Declaration.” This procedural innovation, called “consensus,” stands in stark contrast to UN tradition, which always required that texts of this sort be carefully prepared and discussed at great length in committees. This simply reflects a change in the international balance of power. The United States and its European and Japanese allies are now able to exert hegemony over a domesticated UN. In fact, Ted Gordon, well-known consultant for the CIA, drafted the millennium goals!
In March 2005, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced Washington’s decision to “make India a global power.” No doubt U.S. arms manufacturers can now look forward to large contracts from India; but this course is dictated by broader strategic considerations