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Subverting the Master(’s) Syllabus

Teachers who use “transformative teaching” in urban schools understand that…a generation of dispossessed youth in “urban” communities [are scathingly critical of U.S. miseducation], and that they must create curricula that are responsive to the articulated needs of young folk struggling to navigate the oppressive conditions of their everyday life. Education policies like “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top” assume that what is being offered in schools is worth taking seriously, worth racing toward and not away from. However, policies like these, much like those of colonialists, aim at dispossession and dislocation; they seek the social control of young people through a form of cultural terrorism of the mind.… | more |

Cuba: Education and Revolution

In 1795, Father José Agustín Caballero presented the first project for the creation of a system of public education for all the inhabitants of the island of Cuba. It was a visionary idea, but impossible to carry out at that time. The island was a colonial possession of the Spanish Crown, and most of the population was subjected to slavery or made up of Mestizos and freed blacks, the victims of segregation and racial discrimination. Education, within the reach of a very small minority, was confined within the strict canons of scholastic philosophy.… Father Caballero was profoundly critical of that philosophy and of the pedagogy springing from it. This would be the birth of an intellectual movement having decisive importance for the history of Cuba, a movement that would reach its pinnacle with another Catholic priest, Félix Varela, who was Caballero’s disciple and the first Cuban intellectual who fought for national independence and the abolition of slavery.… | more |

The Story of Khalil Gibran International Academy

Racism and a Campaign of Resistance

This article appears in two parts. “The Story of Khalil Gibran International Academy” is Debbie Almontaser’s account of the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hysteria that was whipped up when she helped found the first Arabic Dual Language public school in New York City. Instead of backing her against the attacks, the Department of Education turned on Almontaser and forced her to resign. However, she fought in the courts, who in the end ruled in her favor. Donna Nevel’s “The Campaign of Resistance” describes the organizing campaign that emerged in support of Almontaser, which was a coalition of Arab, Muslim, Jewish, immigrant, labor, and peace groups. They engaged in extensive outreach and mounted a media-intensive counterattack in defense of the school and its principal. … | more |

June 2011, Volume 63, Number 2

June 2011, Volume 63, Number 2

» Notes from the Editors

Manning Marable, who died last April 1, aged sixty, was the quintessential radical academic/activist. A friend of Monthly Review for many years, he wrote numerous articles for the magazine and chapters for Monthly Review Press books. Manning was a committed Marxist and socialist. He unflinchingly engaged with issues of race and class, most recently working with younger artists of color organizing for social change as a founder of the Hip Hop Summit Action Network.… In MR‘s July-August 1995 issue Marable posed this challenge: “Americans continue to perceive social reality in a manner which grossly underestimates the role of social class, and legitimates the categories of race as central to the ways in which privilege and authority are organized. We must provide the basis for a progressive alternative to an interpretation of race relations, moving the political culture of black United States from a racialized discourse and analysis to a critique of inequality which has the capacity and potential to speak to the majority of American people. This leap for theory and social analysis must be made if black United States is to have any hope for transcending its current impasse of powerlessness and systemic inequality.”… | more |

The Internationalization of Monopoly Capital

In a 1997 article entitled “More (or Less) on Globalization,” Paul Sweezy referred to “the three most important underlying trends in the recent history of capitalism, the period beginning with the recession of 1974-75: (1) the slowing down of the overall rate of growth; (2) the worldwide proliferation of monopolistic (or oligopolistic) multinational corporations; and (3) what may be called the financialization of the capital accumulation process.”… The first and third of these three trends—economic stagnation in the rich economies and the financialization of accumulation—have been the subjects of widespread discussion since the onset of severe financial crisis in 2007-09. Yet the second underlying trend, which might be called the “internationalization of monopoly capital,” has received much less attention.… the dominant, neoliberal discourse—one that has also penetrated the left—assumes that the tendency toward monopoly has been vanquished… [In contrast,] we suggest that renewed international competition evident since the 1970s was much more limited in range than often supposed… In short, we are confronted by a system of international oligopoly.… | more |

The Jobs Disaster in the United States

The Great Recession in the United States, which lasted eighteen months, the longest downturn since the 1930s Depression, was declared over and done as of July 2009. The economy has been growing, albeit slowly, since then, and the output of goods and services (Gross Domestic Product or GDP) has returned to pre-recession levels. U.S. corporate profits have soared, and most of the big banks, after being bailed out, have been making piles of money. However, rising production and profits have not been accompanied by the return to work of millions of unemployed people, many of whom have been out of work for numerous months and have little prospect of future employment.… This essay will focus on the jobs disaster in the United States, although the problem is global. The United States is where the crisis began, and it is still the world’s richest and most powerful nation. What happens here has serious repercussions for everyone in the world. In addition, the disconnect between economic reality and the propaganda of recovery is greatest in the United States. So a close examination of what is happening in this country is instructive, not just for those of us who live here, but for those in the rest of the world as well.… | more |

The Rise of the Working Class and the Future of the Chinese Revolution

In July 2009, workers at the state-owned Tonghua Steel Company in Jilin, China organized a massive anti-privatization protest. Then, in the summer of 2010, a wave of strikes swept through China’s coastal provinces. These events may prove to be a historic turning point. After decades of defeat, retreat, and silence, the Chinese working class is now re-emerging as a new social and political force.… How will the rise of the Chinese working class shape the future of China and the world? Will the Chinese capitalist class manage to accommodate the working-class challenge while maintaining the capitalist system? Or will the rise of the Chinese working class lead to a new Chinese socialist revolution that could, in turn, pave the way for a global socialist revolution? The answers to these questions will, to a large extent, determine the course of world history in the twenty-first century.… | more |

Three Poems by Marilyn Buck

Marilyn Buck (1947-2010) spent over twenty-five years in prison for politically motivated actions against U.S. government policies and in support of the Black Panthers and the Black Liberation Army. She wrote these poems behind bars, as a way to comprehend the reality of prison and continue her fight as a white woman against injustice, particularly U.S.-generated white supremacy. Paroled in July 2010, she died of cancer twenty days after her release.… | more |

The Emperor Has No Clothes But Still He Rules

Moshe Adler, Economics for the Rest of Us: Debunking the Science that Makes Life Dismal (New York: The New Press, 2009), 224 pages, $24.95, hardcover; David Orrell, Economyths: Ten Ways That Economics Get It Wrong (Mississauga, Ontario: John Wiley & Sons Canada, Ltd., 2010), 288 pages, $27.95, hardcover; Yanis Varoufakis, Joseph Halevi, and Nicholas J. Theocaratis, Modern Political Economics: Making Sense of the Post-2008 World (New York: Routledge, 2011, forthcoming), 536 pages, $165.00, hardcover, $65.00, paperback.

Science is often thought to proceed from a theory to experiments that test its predictions. If new data are discovered that cannot be explained by the theory, eventually a new theory arises to replace it. If the new theory can explain everything the old one did plus the new phenomena, sooner or later every scientist will adhere to the new paradigm.… Neoclassical economics is taught in every college classroom in the United States and in almost every country in the world. Graduate students learn no other approach to economics. They are taught that neoclassical economics is a science, on a par with physics and the other natural sciences. There is even a joke that when good neoclassical economists die, they are reincarnated as physicists, but bad ones come back as sociologists.… | more |

May 2011, Volume 63, Number 1

May 2011, Volume 63, Number 1

» Notes from the Editors

On March 15, 2011, we received the following letter from Robert W. McChesney, former coeditor of MR and Gutgsell Endowed Professor of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana. Bob lives in Madison, Wisconsin, which in February and March, was the site of an intense class conflict over public-sector workers’ rights to organize. We are reprinting his letter in full here, as we think it will be of interest to all MR readers.… | more |

On the Laws of Capitalism

In February 2011, while I was drafting what was to become “Monopoly and Competition in Twenty-First Century Capitalism,” written with Robert W. McChesney and R. Jamil Jonna (Monthly Review, April 2011), I decided to take a look at Paul Sweezy’s copy of the original 1942 edition of Joseph Schumpeter’s Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, which I had in my possession. In doing so, I came across a folded, two-page document, “The Laws of Capitalism,” tucked into the pages. It was written in ink in Sweezy’s very compact handwriting. In the upper-right-hand corner, Sweezy had jotted (clearly much later) in pencil: “(A debate with J.A.S. before the Harvard Graduate Students’ Economics Club, Littauer Center, probably 1946 or 1947.)” The document consisted of a detailed outline, in full sentences, of a contribution to a debate. I immediately realized that this was Sweezy’s opening talk in the now legendary Sweezy-Schumpeter debate. Until that moment, I, along with everybody else, assumed that no detailed records of the actual talks had survived… | more |

The Dialectic of Structure and History: An Introduction

The investigation of the dialectical relationship between structure and history is essential for a proper understanding of the nature and the defining characteristics of any social formation in which sustainable solutions are being sought to the encountered problems. This is particularly important in the case of capital’s social formation, with its inexorable tendency toward an all-embracing, structurally embedded determination of all aspects of societal reproduction and the—feasible for the first time ever—global domination implicit in that form of development. It is therefore by no means accidental that, in the interest of the required structural change, Marx had to focus critical attention on the concept of social structure, in the historical period of crises and revolutionary explosions of the 1840s when he articulated his own—radically new—conception of history.… | more |

Labor’s Love Lost: War Among the Unions

Steve Early, Labor’s Civil Wars (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2011), 440 pages, $17.00, paperback.

Leadership driven union density or membership driven mobilization? Labor activist and writer Steve Early chronicles the divisions that opened up in a labor movement desperate to curb decline during the first decade of the 21st century. Divisions that led to a split in the AFL-CIO and in the largest US union, SEIU. Early’s detailed knowledge of the issues and players makes for a fascinating trip through labor politics, largely ignored in the mainstream media.… | more |

Labor Revolts in the 1970s

Aaron Brenner, Robert Brenner, and Cal Winslow, editors, Rebel Rank and File: Labor Militancy and the Revolt from Below During the Long Seventies (New York: Verso, 2010), 472 pages, $29.95, paperback.

Rebel Rank and File is a collection of articles that surveys the building, heydey, and decline of rank and file workers’ movement in the fields, mines, auto plants, schools, trucking and phone companies in the late 1960s through the 1970s. What makes this book so valuable is that the first half is devoted to detailing the context of these struggles—the political economy in which they were set. It begs the reader to look deeper into the basis of the book—bureaucratized unions, with leaders hell bent on maintaining power no matter the cost, who serve as buck privates in the Democratic Party army, and who need a compliant base every bit as much as the employers. The authors develop a number of interconnected themes: the single minded union strategy based on endless capitalist growth, parochialism, the private welfare state, pragmatism, anti-communism, influence of anti-war, black power and women’s movements—all of which then help the reader to see similarities of the different rank and file experiences, no matter the work or union.… | more |

The Jack O’Dell Story

Nikhil Pal Singh, editor, Climbin’ Jacob’s Ladder: The Freedom Movement Writings of Jack O’Dell (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010), 298 pages, $34.95, hardcover.

The story Jack O’Dell is one of the least understood but most important stories in the last half-century of the American Left; important because O’Dell, in his organizing and his writing for Freedomways magazine, contributed in crucial ways to the struggle against racism. But also little understood because the taboo on American Communism and Communists has prevented individual stories from the surrounding milieux to be appreciated and understood. This review-essay brings O’Dell back to light.… | more |

Woody Guthrie: Redder than Remembered

Woody Guthrie: Redder than Remembered

Will Kaufman, Woody Guthrie, American Radical (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2011) 264 pages, $29.95, hardcover.

Will Kaufman’s new book, Woody Guthrie, American Radical, describes how Guthrie’s life-long radicalism shaped his music and evolved over time—from the Great Depression to the Second World War, from the Popular Front to the McCarthyite witch hunts, and into the folk music revival of the 1960s. Kaufman argues that Guthrie’s work must be understood in the context of its time, but also in light of Guthrie’s commitment to socialist politics and his unrelenting opposition to capitalism and fascism.… | more |

April 2011 (Volume 62, Number 11)

April 2011 (Volume 62, Number 11)

» Notes from the Editors

This year marks the forty-fifth anniversary of the publication of Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy’s classic work, Monopoly Capital: An Essay on the American Economic Order (Monthly Review Press, 1966). Three years before the publication of their book, in the July 1963 issue of Monthly Review, Baran and Sweezy published two chapters of Monopoly Capital in MR, together with an introduction. (The publication of the actual book was delayed by Baran’s death in 1964.) Today MR editor John Bellamy Foster and Robert W. McChesney are currently completing a book, entitled Monopoly-Finance Capital: Politics in an Era of Economic Stagnation and Social Decline, to be published by Monthly Review Press early next year. The purpose of this new work is to bring the analysis of Monopoly Capital up to date, addressing the changes that have occurred in the capitalist system in the last half-century. We have therefore decided to follow the example of Baran and Sweezy and publish a number of the core chapters of this book, in early form in the magazine, in advance of the book itself. The March 2011 Review of the Month, “The Internet’s Unholy Marriage to Capitalism,” was one such chapter. This issue’s Review of the Month, “Monopoly and Competition in Twenty-First Century Capitalism”…is another.… | more |

Monopoly and Competition in Twenty-First Century Capitalism

A striking paradox animates political economy in our times. On the one hand, mainstream economics and much of left economics discuss our era as one of intense and increased competition among businesses, now on a global scale. It is a matter so self-evident as no longer to require empirical verification or scholarly examination. On the other hand, wherever one looks, it seems that nearly every industry is concentrated into fewer and fewer hands. Formerly competitive sectors like retail are now the province of enormous monopolistic chains, massive economic fortunes are being assembled into the hands of a few mega-billionaires sitting atop vast empires, and the new firms and industries spawned by the digital revolution have quickly gravitated to monopoly status. In short, monopoly power is ascendant as never before.… | more |

Cluster Munitions and State Terrorism

For decades, major global and regional powers have waged war against those they accuse of fighting immorally—that is, those who use terrorism to harm civilians at home and abroad. Paradoxically, these righteous “wars on terror” are being fought in an era in which the distinction between war waged only against soldiers, and war against soldiers as well as civilians has virtually collapsed. The technological development, stemming from the Industrial Revolution, of aerial bombardment and weapons of mass destruction has made it more difficult to separate citizen from soldier.… [but] it is imperative that this distinction hold. In waging wars on terror, [upholding the soldier/citizen distinction] permits globally powerful nations to rally public opinion under the assertion that what separates us (self) from them (other) is that civilian life is paramount for us and not for “the terrorists.”… | more |

A hundred years since the Triangle Fire

On March 25, 1911, a fire spread through the seventh, eighth, and ninth floors of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The mostly immigrant workers, young Italian, Jewish, and German women who sewed shirtwaists, or women’s blouses, were trapped behind locked doors. The death toll was 146, and many women, their clothing and hair burning, threw themselves from the windows to their deaths on the pavement far below, while spectators watched and could not help. Shortly thereafter, twenty thousand women struck for improved working conditions and wages. The factory building is now part of New York University. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire remains the fourth largest industrial disaster in U.S. history.… | more |

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