The most important promises used to justify capitalism are that your children will have a better life than you do, and in President Kennedy’s famous words, “a rising tide lifts all boats,” meaning everyone benefits from the accumulation of capital. These promises ring hollow in a period in which the relative position of the working people of the United States is declining and its ruling class is able to appropriate an increasing share of the national income. This pattern of accumulation and appropriation has become evident to many Americans and this awareness is beginning to affect political consciousness
The South has already repaid its external debt to the North. Since the onset of the global debt crisis, precipitated in 1979 by a sharp increase in the Federal Reserve’s interest rates by Paul Volcker, the developing/ emerging market economies as a whole have paid in current dollars a cumulative $7.673 trillion in external debt service.1 However, during the same period their debt has increased from $618 billion in 1980 to $3.150 trillion in 2006, according to figures published by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The external debt of this group of countries, comprising 145 member states, will continue to grow throughout 2007, according to the IMF, to more than $3.350 trillion. The debt of the Asian developing countries alone could rise to $955 billion. Although they have already repaid, in interest and capital, far more than the original amount due in 1980, these countries are now carrying a burden of debt much larger than they faced at the beginning of the period
Hans Koning died April 13 in his Connecticut home at the age of eighty-five. Monthly Review Press had the distinction of publishing three of his books. One of them, still a classic in many high schools, was Columbus: His Enterprise — Exploding the Myth, the first trade book to challenge the U.S. origin myth. That myth says that this nation was founded by brave white men fleeing oppression — not by genocide, enslaved labor, and imperialist expansion. Originally published in 1976, the U.S. Bicentennial year, it was reprinted in 1992, the five-hundredth anniversary of Columbus’s voyage, when it sold 30,000 copies. MR Press also published The Conquest of America: How the Indian Nations Lost Their Continent (1993)
In mid-summer of 2006 a Harris Opinion poll revealed that roughly 50 percent of the U.S. public believed that weapons of mass destruction (WMD) had been found in Iraq by U.S. forces and nearly two-thirds of those polled thought that the Iraqi regime had been collaborating with al-Qaeda forces prior to the Washington invasion in the spring of 2003. All this, of course, stood in stark contrast to the facts as they were then known and grudgingly acknowledged by U.S. policymakers. At the same time, a large majority of the population believed that the invasion had been a mistake and favored significant troop withdrawals in the near future
When he saw the pictures from Abu Ghraib, medical ethicist and practicing physician Steven Miles immediately wondered: Where were the doctors, nurses, and medics while these abuses were happening?
Recent attempts, however tentative, by Congressional Democrats to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq should be looked upon as a victory for the antiwar movement. Not only is the Democratic Party clearly aware that its current congressional majority was the result of popular dissatisfaction with the war, but nationwide antiwar rallies have recently driven the point home. Under these circumstances, the Democrats had no choice but to challenge administration policy on the war. However, it would be a grave mistake to conclude from this that the political establishment in the United States is severely split on the question of imperialism, or that the Democratic Party is shifting towards a general anti-imperialist stance. Recent attempts, however tentative, by Congressional Democrats to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq should be looked upon as a victory for the antiwar movement. Not only is the Democratic Party clearly aware that its current congressional majority was the result of popular dissatisfaction with the war, but nationwide antiwar rallies have recently driven the point home. Under these circumstances, the Democrats had no choice but to challenge administration policy on the war. However, it would be a grave mistake to conclude from this that the political establishment in the United States is severely split on the question of imperialism, or that the Democratic Party is shifting towards a general anti-imperialist stance
The concept of the imperialist world system in today predominant sense of the extreme economic exploitation of periphery by center, creating a widening gap between rich and poor countries, was largely absent from the classical Marxist critique of capitalism. Rather this view had its genesis in the 1950s, especially with the publication fifty years ago of Paul Baran’s Political Economy of Growth. Baran’s work helped inspire Marxist dependency and world system theories. But it was the new way of looking at imperialism that was the core of Baran’s contribution. A half-century later it is important to ask: What was this new approach and how did it differ from then prevailing notions? What further changes in our understanding of imperialism are now necessary in response to changed historical conditions since the mid-twentieth century?
Most economists continue to celebrate China as one of the most successful developing countries in modern times. We, however, are highly critical of the Chinese growth experience. China’s growth has been driven by the intensified exploitation of the country’s farmers and workers, who have been systematically dispossessed through the break-up of the communes, the resultant collapse of health and education services, and massive state-enterprise layoffs, to name just the most important “reforms.” With resources increasingly being restructured in and by transnational corporations largely for the purpose of satisfying external market demands, China’s foreign-driven, export-led growth strategy has undermined the state’s capacity to plan and direct economic activity. Moreover, in a world of competitive struggle among countries for both foreign direct investment and export markets, China’s gains have been organically linked to development setbacks in other countries. Finally, China’s growth has become increasingly dependent not only on foreign capital but also on the unsustainable trade deficits of the United States. In short, the accumulation dynamics underlying China’s growth are generating serious national and international imbalances that are bound to require correction at considerable social cost for working people in China and the rest of the world.
As John Bellamy Foster explained in “The Ecology of Destruction” (Monthly Review, February 2007), Marx explored the ecological contradictions of capitalist society as they were revealed in the nineteenth century with the help of the two concepts of metabolic rift and metabolic restoration. The metabolic rift describes how the logic of accumulation severs basic processes of natural reproduction leading to the deterioration of ecological sustainability. Moreover, “by destroying the circumstances surrounding that metabolism,” Marx went on to argue, “it [capitalist production] compels its systematic restoration as a regulating law of social reproduction”—a restoration, however, that can only be fully achieved outside of capitalist relations of production
The Christian-Democratic Union (CDU) is experiencing right now what the Social-Democratic Party (SPD) had to learn after the accession to power of a Red-Green Coalition in 1998: People’s parties are elected because they promise to reconcile the interests of businesses, working people, and the receivers of any sort of social assistance. They lose approval if they pursue policies that one-sidedly benefit the corporate sector. Although cabinet ministers occasionally bemoan the exorbitant salaries received by top managers and the unpatriotic behavior of a company that decides to relocate, most voters do not fail to notice that such company policies are encouraged by a politically driven redistribution of income in favor of profits. People who expected more socially oriented policies from the CDU are turning away from that party, but only some are turning toward the SPD. The latter gained somewhat in recent polls and was able to win state elections in Berlin and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, but it still is nowhere near its former approval rates. Moreover, the relative distribution of votes hides the absolute decline in voter turnout
This short work consists of two parts: analytical and programmatic. The analytical emphasis is upon the most important crime of capitalism: namely–its dependence upon alienation/dehumanization
The U.S. economy in early March 2007 appears to be rapidly decelerating. Orders for durable goods in manufacturing dropped 8 percent in January and the manufacturing sector as a whole shrank during two of the last three months for which data is currently available (November–January), representing what is being called a “recession” in manufacturing, and raising the possibility of a more general economic downturn (New York Times, February 28, 2007)
Changes in capitalism over the last three decades have been commonly characterized using a trio of terms: neoliberalism, globalization, and financialization. Although a lot has been written on the first two of these, much less attention has been given to the third. Yet, financialization is now increasingly seen as the dominant force in this triad. The financialization of capitalism-the shift in gravity of economic activity from production (and even from much of the growing service sector) to finance—is thus one of the key issues of our time. More than any other phenomenon it raises the question: has capitalism entered a new stage?
Once upon a time the capitalist mode of production represented a great advance over all of the preceding ones, however problematical and indeed destructive this historical advance in the end turned out-and had to turn out-to be. By breaking the long prevailing but constraining direct link between human use and production, and replacing it with the commodity relation, capital opened up the dynamically unfolding possibilities of apparently irresistible expansion to which — from the standpoint of the capital system and of its willing personifications — there could be no conceivable limits. For the paradoxical and ultimately quite untenable inner determination of capital’s productive system is that its commodified products “are non-use-values for their owners and use-values for their non-owners. Consequently they must all change hands. . . . Hence commodities must be realised as values before they can be realised as use-values.”
Seventeen years ago, in 1990, I began an essay with a poem of Bertolt Brecht. It was a poem about a man in Europe in the Middle Ages who put on “things that looked like wings,” climbed to the roof of a church, and tried to fly. He crashed, and the bishop who passed by said, “No one will ever fly.”