This issue of Monthly Review marks the sixtieth anniversary of the magazine. We are reprinting here Albert Einstein’s classic article “Why Socialism?,” written for volume 1, no. 1, of Monthly Review (May 1949). On Thursday, September 17, we will meet together at the Ethical Culture Society in Manhattan to celebrate and to promote a global socialism for the twenty-first century. We invite all our subscribers and friends.
Volume 61, Issue 01 (May)
In a recent essay, “Economics Needs a Scientific Revolution,” in one of the leading scientific journals, Nature, physicist Jean-Philippe Bouchaud, a researcher for an investment management company, asked rhetorically, “What is the flagship achievement of economics?” Bouchaud’s answer: “Only its recurrent inability to predict and avert crises.” Although his discussion is focused on the current worldwide financial crisis, his comment applies equally well to mainstream economic approaches to the environment—where, for example, ancient forests are seen as non-performing assets to be liquidated, and clean air and water are luxury goods for the affluent to purchase at their discretion. The field of economics in the United States has long been dominated by thinkers who unquestioningly accept the capitalist status quo and, accordingly, value the natural world only in terms of how much short-term profit can be generated by its exploitation. As a result, the inability of received economics to cope with or even perceive the global ecological crisis is alarming in its scope and implications.
The previous century now seems to be drawing away from us at an increasing speed, especially in the global society’s existing superabundance of communications. Readers of Monthly Review know that the basics have remained the same in the all too physical world of capitalism and neocolonialism, as much as they might have changed in terms of resistance and apparent alternatives. Still, as the graying of the 1960s generation continues, and the New Deal era draws ever further into a kind of archeology, a summing up of some points is useful and may even be fun.
Is it advisable for one who is not an expert on economic and social issues to express views on the subject of socialism? I believe for a number of reasons that it is.
The celebrations on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel brought forth mixed feelings for those of us who survived the Holocaust. The reason for this ambivalence is that, while the survivors of the Nazi genocide celebrated the creation of a Jewish state in 1948, few were aware at the time of the human costs and injustices that had been, were being, and would be perpetrated against Palestinian Arabs in our name. The slogan “Never Again,” which was the dominating thought in the Jewish psyche in those years, was mostly concerned with the fate of European Jews.
What are we to think of Chairman Mao? A man of immense contradictions — a nationalist, communist, revolutionary, warrior, as well as the author of The Little Red Book, and the leader for decades of the Peoples’ Republic of China — he was also one of twentieth-century China’s best poets. A new translation of his work provides an opportunity to evaluate him as a writer and as an artist. A reviewer in The Washington Post called Mao’s poems “political documents,” but added, “it is as literature that they should be considered.” Separating the political from the literary, however, isn’t possible. “We woke a million workers and peasants,” Mao wrote in the First Siege, and though all his lines aren’t as explicit about the Chinese Revolution as it is, a great many of them are.
Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire (based on Indian diplomat Vikas Swaroop’s novel Q & A) takes the extremely potent idea of a Bombay slum boy tapping into his street knowledge to win a twenty-million-dollar reality quiz show, and turns it into a universal tale of love and human destiny. In the quiz, Jamal is unable to answer questions that test his nationalist knowledge but is surprisingly comfortable with those that mark his familiarity with international trivia. For instance, while he knows that Benjamin Franklin adorns the hundred dollar bill, he has no clue about who adorns the thousand rupee note. This is obviously meant to suggest the irrelevance of the nation to its most marginalized member, but less obviously, also indicates its redundancy under globalized neoliberalism.
Marge Piercy is the author of Pesach for the Rest of Us: Making the Passover Seder Your Own (Schocken, 2007). Her most recent novel is Sex Wars: A Novel of the Turbulent Post-Civil War Period (New York: William Morrow, 2005) and her newest book of poetry is The Crooked Inheritance (Knopf, 2006).
The Review of the Month entitled “The U.S. Imperial Triangle and Military Spending” by John Bellamy Foster, Hannah Holleman, and Robert W. McChesney (Monthly Review 60, no. 5 [October 2008]) carries on a valuable MR tradition. Monthly Review is one of the few voices on the left that has emphasized the necessity, from the point of view of capitalism, of this kind of military Keynesianism. Chalmers Johnson and Seymour Melman, who have written extensively on this issue, have tended to argue that other forms of government spending, a renewed New Deal, is possible.