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Volume 54, Issue 10 (March)

March 2003 (Volume 54, Number 10)

In the 1920s Andrew Mellon, who served as secretary of the treasury under Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover (it was sometimes said that they served under him), introduced a series of gargantuan tax cuts culminating in what was known as the Mellon Plan. This consisted of a huge cut in the income tax rates of the rich along with reductions in other taxes paid by the wealthy. High income tax rates, Mellon claimed, “tend to destroy individual initiative and enterprise and seriously impede the development of productive enterprise.” When Mellon’s foes, such as the great Progressive Senator Robert La Follette, declared that Mellon was trying to “let wealth escape” its fair share of taxation, he sought to turn the tables on them by charging that they were engaging in class warfare. “The man who seeks to perpetuate prejudice and class hatred,” the treasury secretary stated, “is doing America an ill service. In attempting to promote or defeat legislation by arraying one class of taxpayers against another, he shows a complete misconception of the principles of equality on which the country was founded”

The Commercial Tidal Wave

For a long time now it has been widely understood within economics that under the capitalism of giant firms, corporations no longer compete primarily through price competition. They engage instead in what economists call “monopolistic competition.” This consists chiefly of attempts to create monopoly positions for a particular brand, making it possible for corporations to charge more for the branded product while also expanding their market share. Competition is most intense in what Thorstein Veblen called the “production of salable appearances,” involving advertising, frequent model changes, branding of products, and the like. Once this logic takes over in twentieth and now twenty-first century capitalism it is seemingly unstoppable. All human needs, relationships and fears, the deepest recesses of the human psyche, become mere means for the expansion of the commodity universe under the force of modem marketing. With the rise to prominence of modem marketing, commercialism—the translation of human relations into commodity relations—although a phenomenon intrinsic to capitalism, has expanded exponentially.

Beyond the Drumbeat: Iraq, Preventive War, ‘Old Europe’

The letter of support, signed by the leaders of eight European countries last January, for the Bush administration’s inexorable push for war with Iraq was both singularly ideological and shortsighted. The list of values that the signatories claim to share with the United States is altogether unexceptionable: “democracy, individual freedom, human rights, and the rule of law.” But there is a crying omission: free-market capitalism. This omission is all the more striking since there is no fathoming the infamous terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 without bearing in mind that its main target was the World Trade Center, a prominent symbol and hub of globalizing capitalism

The Tendency to Privatize

A key feature of neoliberal economic policies in both poor and rich nations is the mania for the privatization of socially-owned assets and services. The shift from publicly to privately-produced goods and services is designed to phase out public programs and to repudiate governmental responsibility for social welfare. Socially-owned land, infrastructure, and enterprises are to be sold to private investors. Or, in a less direct approach, advocated commonly in the United States, there is partial privatization. Instead of directly producing public services (such as highway construction and education), the state finances their provision either by purchasing the services from private vendors (contracting out), or else by providing vouchers to individuals, agencies, or corporations to purchase the services. Although the two forms of privatization are not the same, privatizers of all stripes have always made it clear that their ultimate goal is to eliminate the base of political support for government spending for social purposes

The Socialist Feminist Project

Some would say socialist feminism is an artifact of the 1970s. It flowered with the women’s liberation movement, as a theoretical response to what many in the movement saw as the inadequacies of Marxism, liberalism, and radical feminism, but since then it has been defunct, both theoretically and politically. I think this view is mistaken

Students and Workers in the Transition to Socialism: The Singer Model

Daniel Singer’s first book was Prelude to Revolution: France in May 1968, published in 1970. There he posed the question: “Could it be that a socialist revolution is beginning, that Marxism is returning to its home ground, the advanced countries for which it was designed?” And he answered his own question, Yes. The main message of the May crisis was that a “revolutionary situation can occur in an advanced capitalist country”