Among the major countries of the world, the United States has the highest per capita income, and it is often assumed therefore that the ordinary American is materially better off than his or her counterpart anywhere else in the world. In fact, this proposition is practically taken for granted within U.S. national culture, since it is constantly being drummed into our ears by the media and educational institutions. Yet, as a logical proposition it is simply false. This was recently pointed out by Paul Krugman, a leading mainstream economist and columnist for the New York Times, in an article (For Richer, New York Times Magazine, October 20, 2002) dedicated to explaining exactly why this national myth is mistaken. Life expectancy in the U.S., Krugman observes, is well below that in Canada, Japan and every major nation in Western Europe. On the average, we can expect lives a bit shorter than those of Greeks, a bit longer than those of Portuguese. Male life expectancy is lower in the U.S. than it is in Costa Rica
Officially Washington’s current policy toward Iraq is to bring about a regime change—either through a military coup, or by means of a U.S. invasion, justified as a preemptive attack against a rogue state bent on developing and deploying weapons of mass destruction.* But a U.S. invasion, should it take place, would not confine its objectives to mere regime change in Baghdad. The larger goal would be nothing less than the global projection of U.S. power through assertion of American dominance over the entire Middle East. What the world is now facing therefore is the prospect of a major new development in the history of imperialism
Representatives of the established order were unprepared for the mas- sive 1999 demonstrations in Seattle against the World Trade Organziation (WTO) and remain on the defensive in the face of the inter- nationally coordinated actions against neoliberal globalization that have followed. On an ideological level, they have responded by seeking to undermine the legitimacy of antiglobalization activists, especially those in the developed capitalist world, by claiming that these activists oppose the very policies and institutions that are in the best interest of the poor in the third world. One example: the former head of the WTO, Mike Moore, declared that “The people that stand outside and say they work in the interests of the poorest people …they make me want to vomit. Because the poorest people on our planet, they are ones that need us the most.”
John Saul has had an extensive and committed involvement with Southern Africa. His analyses are taken seriously in left circles in South Africa. Sadly, perhaps understandably, his most recent extended visit to this country has left him feeling deeply disappointed (Cry for the Beloved Country: The Post-Apartheid Denouement, Monthly Review 52, no. 8, January 2001, pp. 151). This sense of disappointment is rooted, I would guess, partly in the intellectual, organizational and even emotional energies that Saul, like many others, invested in the solidarity struggle against apartheid, and in legitimate expectations for a post-apartheid South Africa. There is also, and I want to underline my own empathy with his irritation on this score, a hint of personal hurt: The most startling thing I personally discovered about the New South Africa is just how easy it has become to find oneself considered an ultraleftist! (p. 1) This sense of disappointment, even of betrayal, is also present in many progressive circles within South Africa, and indeed among many cadres of our movement. Despite all of this there is, I believe, something seriously off-beam in Saul’s analysis
It is interesting that, on one of the two main fronts of inquiry opened up in my original essay, Jeremy Cronin professes—despite the wounded tone he adopts throughout and for all his talk about my frozen penultimates, sneers, and derision—to be in considerable agreement with me. This concerns my reading of the overall trajectory of socioeconomic policy that the African National Congress (ANC) government has adopted since 1994. As he puts the point, Saul goes on to argue that the ANC liberation front has erred seriously on two critical fronts—the choice of economic policies, and the relative demobilization of our mass constituency (except during electoral campaigns). I agree with Saul on both counts. Indeed, he adds, I agree substantially with the broad analysis of the last twelve years or so in South Africa that Saul makes in his pessimism of the intellect mode, including, it would appear, my criticisms of the government’s macroeconomic policy (the Growth Employment and Redistribution framework—GEAR), privatization policies, excessive liberalization measures, the failure to mobilize our mass base, or concerns about the growing bureaucratization and the influence of an emerging black bourgeois stratum on policy
Where were you during the Battle of Seattle in late November 1999? Due to my teaching schedule, I wasn’t able to be there, but like many other activists young and old around the world who weren’t there, I was thrilled, jumping with joy in front of my television watching CSPAN while listening to KPFA-Pacifica reporters on the ground, running to my computer to look up the latest IndyMedia news. I knew for sure that nothing would ever be the same. Not even the events of September 11, and their fascistic fallout have shaken that certainty. However, since September 11, I have felt the need for some evidence and encouragement, and I found it in From ACT UP to the WTO: Urban Protest and Community Building in the Era of Globalization, a collection of compulsively readable analyses, first person stories, and interviews of forty-one activists brilliantly edited and introduced by Benjamin Shepard and Ronald Hayduk.
On September 10, of this year, an interview entitled, Nelson Mandela: The U.S.A. is a Threat to World Peace, appeared as a Newsweek web exclusive, http://www.msnbc.com/news/806174.asp. In this interview, Mandela reviewed some of the history of U.S. interventions in the Middle East—including U.S. support of the Shah of Iran, which led to the Islamic revolution in 1979, and U.S. arming and financing of the mujahedin in Afghanistan, which led to the rise of the Taliban. He went on to say, If you look at those matters, you will come to the conclusion that the attitude of the United States of America is a threat to world peace. Because what [America] is saying is that if you are afraid of a veto in the Security Council, you can go outside and take action and violate the sovereignty of other countries. That is the message they are sending the world. That must be condemned in the strongest terms. Later, on September 16, when Washington condemned as mere duplicity Iraq’s offer to allow unconditional inspection of its weapons facilities by U.N. inspectors, and again threatened war, Mandela asked: What right has Bush to say that Iraq’s offer is not genuine? We must condemn that very strongly. No country, however strong, is entitled to comment adversely in the way the U.S. has done. They think they’re the only power in the world. They’re not and they’re following a dangerous policy. One country wants to bully the world (Guardian, September 19, 2002)
The concept of “imperialism” was considered outside the acceptable range of political discourse within the ruling circles of the capitalist world for most of the twentieth century. Reference to “imperialism” during the Vietnam War, no matter how realistic, was almost always a sign that the writer was on the left side of the political spectrum. In a 1971 foreword to the U.S. edition of Pierre Jalée’s Imperialism in the Seventies Harry Magdoff noted, “As a rule, polite academic scholars prefer not to use the term ‘imperialism.’ They find it distasteful and unscientific.”
Early this year, Stephen Gould developed lung cancer, which spread so quickly that there was no hope of survival. He died on May 20, 2002, at the age of sixty. Twenty years ago, he had escaped death from mesothelioma, induced, we all supposed, by some exposure to asbestos. Although his cure was complete, he never lost the consciousness of his mortality and gave the impression, at least to his friends, of an almost cheerful acceptance of the inevitable. Having survived one cancer that was probably the consequence of an environmental poison, he succumbed to another
On June 14, 2000, radical attorney Lynne Stewart broke a signed agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. She released a press statement to the Reuters news service in Cairo on behalf of her imprisoned client, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, convicted of instigating the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The statement said, in part, that the Sheikh, spiritual advisor to the fundamentalist Islamic Group [IG], wished to call off a cease-fire then observed in Egypt by the IG. Following this press release, the Clinton Justice Department admonished Stewart for violating the Special Administrative Measures [SAMs], which prohibited the Sheikh from communicating in any way with the outside world. Stewart admitted she had erred and signed the SAMs agreement again, assuming her work would proceed as usual
In late August and early September a number of MR and Socialist Register authors (including Patrick Bond, John Bellamy Foster, Gerard Greenfield, Naomi Klein, and John Saul) participated in forums in Johannesburg related to the World Summit on Sustainable Development. On August 24, they joined in a march led by antiprivatization activists from the black townships (in particular by Trevor Ngwane and Virginia Setshedi—whose role in the struggle in South Africa is discussed in Ashwin Desai’s new MR Press book, We Are the Poors). The march was organized to protest the arrest and jailing of political activists. The marchers lit candles and proceeded peacefully but were met within minutes by the South African police who exploded percussion grenades, injuring three of the protestors. The harsh and unprovoked actions of the police on this occasion pointed to the increasingly antipopular character of the South African state, which is imposing neoliberal economic policy on the society. It also underscored the repressive measures now commonly utilized at world summits in general. We will address the Johannesburg summit and the economic and environmental problems of southern Africa in an upcoming issue of MR
In early July 2002, I asked Harry Magdoff if he would be interviewed for the Statesman, a Kolkata, India newspaper for which I write political commentary. Our first interview was so satisfying that we continued for several sessions. What follows is a discussion of something Harry has considered, what we can learn from the experience of the Soviet Union. It is, characteristically, concerned with learning from history. Harry is methodologically committed to the actual world from which all theory springs, to which it must speak, and to meet whose specific particularities it must continually be reshaped.
Aside from the obvious physical discomforts, being ill for a long period of time fills the spirit with a terrible feeling of helplessness, but also with periods of analytic lucidity, which, of course, must be treasured. For the past three months, now I have been in and out of the hospital, with days marked by lengthy and painful treatments, blood transfusions, endless tests, hours and hours of unproductive time spent staring at the ceiling, draining fatigue and infection, inability to do normal work, and thinking, thinking, thinking. But there are also the intermittent passages of lucidity and reflection that sometimes give the mind a perspective on daily life that allows it to see things (without being able to do much about them) from a different perspective. Reading the news from Palestine and seeing the frightful images of death and destruction on television, it has been my experience to be utterly amazed and aghast at what I have deduced from those details about Israeli government policy, more particularly about what has been going on in the mind of Ariel Sharon. And when, after the recent Gaza bombing by one of his F-16s in which nine children were massacred, he was quoted as congratulating the pilot and boasting of a great Israeli success, I was able to form a much clearer idea than before of what a pathologically deranged mind is capable of, not only in terms of what it plans and orders but, worse, how it manages to persuade other minds to think in the same delusional and criminal way. Getting inside the official Israeli mind is a worthwhile, if lurid, experience
The current Palestinian Intifada and Israel’s brutal response has been the subject of countless articles over the last two years. There is however a disappointing vacuum within left analysis, with much of this writing attempting to explain the character of Israeli policy through the right-wing views of Ariel Sharon. Within this framework, Israeli strategy is presented as a racist extension of colonialist designs on the Occupied Territories sometimes including the expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip (hereafter referred to as WB/GS)
Evrensel Kultur: Postmodernism’s advice to us was to have doubts towards all kinds of information acquired. The “security syndrome” following September 11 has spread these doubts to daily life. In other words, the twenty-first century has begun as an age of doubts/suspicions. How does the suspiciousness of the new century differ from that of past centuries? If we take “suspicion” as a metaphor, what kind of real relations/connections can be described or hidden with this metaphor?