If it is the best of times for the bankers, it is the worst of times for workers. The titans of Wall Street came calling in Washington, D.C. just a few months ago, and were given the keys to the Treasury’s vault. So successful has been the government’s multi-trillion-dollar bailout that even those giant financial institutions in the worst shape are paying back what they owe, mainly to get out from under what they consider to be onerous public interference in their extraordinarily lucrative business activities.…Where bankers once sat quietly while the people’s presumed tribunes in Congress scolded them for their errant ways, now they are dictating the terms of financial “reform” and feeling bold enough to phone in their regrets when fog delayed their plane and they couldn’t make a White House meeting with President Obama, who is begging them day and night to start making loans.
Volume 61, Issue 09 (February)
Three years ago, in December 2006, I wrote an article for Monthly Review entitled “Monopoly-Finance Capital.” The occasion was the anniversary of Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy’s Monopoly Capital, published four decades earlier in 1966.…The article…[discussed] “the dual reality” of stagnant growth (or stagnation) and financialization, characterizing the advanced economies in this phase of capitalism. I concluded that this pointed to two possibilities: (1) a major financial and economic crisis in the form of “global debt meltdown and debt-deflation,” and (2) a prolongation of the symbiotic stagnation-financialization relationship of monopoly-finance capital. In fact, what we have experienced in the last two years, I would argue, is each of these sequentially: the worst financial-economic crisis since the 1930s, and then the system endeavoring to right itself by returning to financialization as its normal means of countering stagnation. It is thus doubly clear today that we are in a new phase of capitalism. In what follows, I shall attempt to outline the logic of this argument, as it evolved out of the work of Baran, Sweezy, and Harry Magdoff in particular, and how it relates to our present economic and social predicament.
The U.S. economy is in bad shape and people are understandably seeking solutions. Many, encouraged by mainstream media and politicians, believe that China’s trade policies bear primary responsibility for the structural decay of our economy and that recovery will require, above all, pressuring the Chinese government to implement “market-freeing” policy changes that will bring the U.S.-China trade relationship into balance.…Despite its popularity, this nation-state approach to understanding the dynamics of the U.S.-China relationship is seriously flawed.
A disdain for the natural environment has characterized capitalism from the beginning. As Marx noted, capital abuses the soil as much as it exploits the worker. The makings of ecological breakdown are thus inherent in capitalism. No serious observer now denies the severity of the environmental crisis, but it is still not widely recognized as a capitalist crisis, that is, as a crisis arising from and perpetuated by the rule of capital, and hence incapable of resolution within the capitalist framework.
If I were asked to sum up the significance of István Mészáros for our time, I would have to follow President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela in referring to him as the “Pathfinder of Socialism.” His work…provides a strategic vision of the building of socialism, the absence of which, for many decades, constituted one of the principal weaknesses of the anti-capitalist movement, worldwide.
I was nineteen when I joined the Black Panther Party and was introduced to the realities of life in inner-city Black America.…From the security of the college campus and the cocoon of the great American Dream Machine, I was suddenly stripped of my rose-colored glasses by a foray into Harlem and indecent housing, police brutality, hungry children needing to be fed, elderly people eating out of garbage cans, and hopelessness and despair everywhere. If I hadn’t seen it for myself, I would never have believed that this was America. It looked and sounded like one of those undeveloped Third World countries.
“When Chávez speaks, we listen. But we don’t listen to those around him.” This comment by a community activist interviewed by Iain Bruce, and integrated into his wonderful exploration of the Bolivarian Revolution from below, points to an essential characteristic — the unique link at present (“por ahora”) between Hugo Chávez and the exploited and excluded of Venezuela.