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Volume 57, Issue 01 (May)

May 2005 (Volume 57, Number 1)

Notes from the Editors

With the failure of its three previous attempts since 2002 to topple the Bolivarian Revolution of President Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Washington has recently announced a new “containment” strategy for crippling the democratically elected and socialist-oriented government of Latin America’s leading oil power

Albert Einstein, Radical: A Political Profile

2005 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Albert Einstein and the centennial of the publication of five of his major scientific papers that transformed the study of physics. Einstein’s insights were so revolutionary that they challenged not only established doctrine in the natural sciences, but even altered the way ordinary people saw their world. By the 1920s he had achieved international popular renown on a scale that would not become usual until the rise of the contemporary celebrity saturated tabloids and cable news channels. His recondite scientific papers as well as interviews with the popular press were front page news and fodder for the newsreels. Usually absent, however, was any sober discussion of his participation in the political life of his times as an outspoken radical-especially in profiles and biographies after his death

Dialectical Nature

Reflections in Honor of the Twentieth Anniversary of Levins and Lewontin’s The Dialectical Biologist

Richard Levins wrote in these pages (July-August 1986) that an appreciation of history and science is necessary to understand the world, challenge bourgeois ideological monopoly, and transcend religious obscurantism. Knowledge of science and history is needed in order not only to comprehend how the world came to be, but also to understand how the world can be changed. Marx and Engels remained committed students of the natural sciences throughout their lives, filling notebooks with detailed comments, quotes, and analyses of the scientific work of their time. Marx, through his studies of Greek natural philosophy-in particular Epicurus-and the development of the natural sciences, arrived at a materialist conception of nature to which his materialist conception of history was organically and inextricably linked. Marx and Engels, however, rejected mechanical materialism and reductionism, insisting on the necessity of a dialectical analysis of the world. Engels’s Dialectics of Nature serves as an early, unfinished attempt to push this project forward. A materialist dialectic recognizes that humans and nature exist in a coevolutionary relationship. Human beings are conditioned by their historical, structural environment; yet they are also able to affect that environment and their own relationship to it through conscious human intervention

Labor Imperialism Redux? The AFL-CIO’s Foreign Policy Since 1995

Throughout much of its history, the AFL-CIO has carried out a reactionary labor program around the world. It has been unequivocally established that the AFL-CIO has worked to overthrow democratically-elected governments, collaborated with dictators against progressive labor movements, and supported reactionary labor movements against progressive governments.1 In short, the AFL-CIO has practiced what we can accurately call “labor imperialism.” The appellation “AFL-CIA” has accurately represented reality and has not been left-wing paranoia.

Dressing the Wound: Organizing Informal Sector Workers

Neoliberal capitalism, which has dominated the world’s economies for the past thirty years, has been disastrous for the exploited and oppressed masses. Not only have workers been increasingly oppressed, but the nature of the work they do has changed dramatically. While organized workers try to remain on their feet, production moves to the unorganized sectors. The production process is dispersed to small-sized enterprises. Outsourcing has spread so much that millions of workers bring their work home to continue production for their factories. Employment without insurance no longer constitutes an exception, but has become the norm. A worker with insurance is considered to be lucky. The number of unorganized women and child workers has increased rapidly. Working hours and labor laws have become more “flexible.” Order-based production has destroyed job security. Full-time, regular employment has been gradually replaced by part-time, temporary, and precarious work. Thus, the informal sector (which encompasses child labor, migrant workers, temporary workers, contract workers, domestic workers, homeworkers, and workers in small production units and subcontractor firms) has become more and more prevalent around the world

Guantánamo and the New Legal Order

The “war against terrorism” has provided all executive branches of the leading Western governments with a perfect opportunity to make some deep adjustments to society. These changes are so far-reaching that they approach a shedding of the old political regime. We in the West are witnessing a reversal of the role of criminal procedure right across the board. Its usual function-to guarantee fundamental freedoms and cap the powers of police and government-is morphing into the opposite, a suspension of constitutional order. By extending exceptional proceedings to all stages of the criminal process-from inquiry to trial-private life is being invaded and the expression of public freedoms chilled. The antiterrorist legislation is explicitly political, and the subjectivity of its approach leaves significant room for interpretation. The arbitrary nature of the antiterrorist measures comes out particularly clearly in the lists of individuals and organizations officially labeled as “terrorists.” Being listed means that one can legally be subjected to measures such as close-up surveillance, violation of the privacy of all means of communication from mail to electronic, and having bank accounts frozen

Empire—American as Apple Pie

The Bush administration’s denial of imperial ambitions clashes not only with what most of the world sees as this nation’s unprovoked aggression in Iraq and drive for global domination. It also departs from U.S. tradition established in the early years of the republic and the colonial era that preceded it

Report from Venezuela: Aluminum Workers Choose Their Managers and Increase Production

Alcasa, a state-owned aluminum processing plant in the southeastern state of Bolívar, has long been an important employer in a region where the lion’s share of Venezuela’s mining and processing plants are located. Yet since the mid-1990s it has been plagued by inefficiency and corruption. According to Trino Silva, secretary general of the union, Alcasa’s production has been in “the red” for the past sixteen years. Though the aluminum they produce is in high demand and despite considerable production increases over the past few years, the company has been unable to turn a profit. Silva blames a corrupt factory management that used Alcasa as its piggy bank throughout the 1990s, all the while holding the threat of privatization over workers’ heads. It was no idle threat. A few miles down the road, SIDOR, one of Latin America’s largest steel plants and long the pride of the state Venezuelan Corporation of Guyana (CVG), was privatized in 1997. From a workforce approaching 20,000 full-time direct employees (with several thousand more contract and temporary workers) in the late 1980s, SIDOR has downsized to only 4,000 direct employees and approximately 6,000 contract workers