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2011

2011 issues

December 2011, Volume 63, Number 7

December 2011, Volume 63, Number 7

» Notes from the Editors

The last month (late September to late October 2011) was to all appearances a historical turning point. The Arab Spring gave way to the New York/World Fall as protesters occupied Wall Street (basing themselves in Zuccotti Park), and the movement of the 99% spread across the entire globe.… MR authors and friends have participated in the Occupy movement from the start, sometimes playing prominent roles. We have heard from friends directly involved in Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Boston, Occupy Chicago, Occupy Eugene, Occupy Oakland, and from people associated with Occupy movements throughout the world.… | more |

Capitalism and the Accumulation of Catastrophe

Over the next few decades we are facing the possibility, indeed the probability, of global catastrophe on a level unprecedented in human history. The message of science is clear. As James Hansen, the foremost climate scientist in the United States, has warned, this may be “our last chance to save humanity.” In order to understand the full nature of this threat and how it needs to be addressed, it is essential to get a historical perspective on how we got where we are, and how this is related to the current socioeconomic system, namely capitalism.… | more |

Contradictions of Finance Capitalism

Over the last thirty years, capital has abstracted upwards, from production to finance; its sphere of operations has expanded outwards, to every nook and cranny of the globe; the speed of its movement has increased, to milliseconds; and its control has extended to include “everything.” We now live in the era of global finance capitalism.… Financialization has involved increasingly exotic forms of financial instruments and the growth of a shadow-banking system, off the balance sheets of the banks. The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 symbolized the almost complete deregulation of a financial sector that has become complex, opaque, and ungovernable.… Although these are useful ideas, they only begin a full analysis of finance capitalism. Where did finance capitalism come from? Did neoliberal policy create finance capitalism? Does finance capital exploit differently from industrial capital? And, most importantly, what are the central contradictions that generate crises in finance capitalism?… | more |

Alfred Hitchcock Presents Class Struggle

Class struggle is the last thing most people would associate with Alfred Hitchcock, probably the most famous director of them all. But there is a connection, nevertheless. No one would call Hitchcock a socialist; he emphasized that all he wanted was to entertain people—not instruct them. He was proud of his commercial success (and so were the studios that employed him).… For many, it will sound absurd to claim that Hitchcock has anything to do with class struggle. It is an interesting reaction, because issues that are a function of class struggle are plainly on view in Hitchcock, even if they are ignored—or blocked out. Many of his movies are built around class-struggle issues: without them, there would be no movie. … | more |

Hans Fallada’s Anti-Fascist Fiction

In The Diary of a Young Girl—one of the most touching books ever written about life under fascism—Dutch teenager Anne Frank observed, “Extraordinary things happen to people who go into hiding.” Published in 1947 with an introduction by Eleanor Roosevelt, Frank’s diary awakened the world to the daily lives of Jews hoping to escape concentration camps and gas ovens. Frank’s story was sentimentalized on stage and in the Hollywood movie, but the book itself resonated—it still does—with gritty realism and the kinds of details that just will not die.… That same year, 1947, saw the publication of Every Man Dies Alone, the last novel to be written by Hans Fallada, the lost man of twentieth-century Germany literature. Like Frank’s Diary, Fallada’s Every Man alerted readers around the world to the corrosive force of fascism and the extraordinary things that happen to people in hiding. The main characters are not Jews; they are neither religious, nor do they spout Marx, Engels, or Rosa Luxemburg. Every Man presents a series of interwoven narratives about fascism that do not echo the dominant stories that have been told and retold since the end of the Second World War.… | more |

The Machinery of Whiteness

Steve Martinot, The Machinery of Whiteness: Studies in the Structure of Racialization (Philadelphia: Temple University Press), 223 pages, $25.95, paperback.
Jordan Flaherty, Floodlines: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six (Chicago: Haymarket Books), 303 pages, $16, paperback.
November 2011, Volume 63, Number 6

November 2011, Volume 63, Number 6

» Notes from the Editors

It is a sign of the seriousness of the current economic malaise that more and more establishment commentators today are turning to Marx for answers. Thus a September 14, 2011, article in Bloomberg Businessweek, entitled “Marx to Market,” acknowledged: “The Bearded One has rarely looked better. The current global financial crisis has given rise to a new contingent of unlikely admirers. In 2009 the Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published an article praising Marx’s diagnosis of income inequality. In Shanghai, the turbo-capitalist hub of Communist-in-name-alone China, audiences flocked to a 2010 musical based on Capital, Marx’s most famous work. In Japan, Capital is now out in a manga version. Consider the particulars.… Marx predicted that companies would need fewer workers as they improved productivity, creating an “industrial reserve army” of the unemployed whose existence would keep downward pressure on wages for the employed. It’s hard to argue with that these days. The condition of blue collar workers in the U.S. is still a far cry from the subsistence wage and ‘accumulation of misery’ that Marx conjured. But it’s not morning in America, either.” Bloomberg Businessweek seems unaware that Marx viewed the reserve army of labor as applicable not just to developed countries like the United States, but also to labor throughout the globe.… | more |

The Global Reserve Army of Labor and the New Imperialism

In the last few decades there has been an enormous shift in the capitalist economy in the direction of the globalization of production. Much of the increase in manufacturing and even services production that would have formerly taken place in the global North—as well as a portion of the North’s preexisting production—is now being offshored to the global South, where it is feeding the rapid industrialization of a handful of emerging economies. It is customary to see this shift as arising from the economic crisis of 1974–75 and the rise of neoliberalism—or as erupting in the 1980s and after, with the huge increase in the global capitalist labor force resulting from the integration of Eastern Europe and China into the world economy. Yet, the foundations of production on a global scale, we will argue, were laid in the 1950s and 1960s, and were already depicted in the work of Stephen Hymer, the foremost theorist of the multinational corporation, who died in 1974.… | more |

The Political Economy of the Egyptian Uprising

Not long after Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman announced that Hosni Mubarak would resign his post as President, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew to Egypt to congratulate the Egyptian people on a job well done. The revolutionaries had accomplished their goal, she said. Everyone could go home and feel proud of their historic achievement and leave the cleaning up to the responsible adults—the United States and the closely allied Egyptian military, which has ruled Egypt since 1952. To prove that there were no hard feelings against the Egyptians for overthrowing one of the closest and most important U.S. allies in the Arab world, the IMF, World Bank, the G8, and the United States itself—the very entities responsible for supporting Mubarak’s thirty-year rule and imposing draconian neoliberal programs on Egypt—have extended as much as $15 billion in aid and credit to Egypt and Tunisia to assist in their transitions to democracy. This generosity begs the question: why are Western governments, and the international financial institutions (IFIs) that are closely linked to them, falling over one another to show their generosity to the revolutionaries and to display their support for progress in the Middle East?… | more |

The Unifying Element in All Struggles Against Capital Is the Right of Everyone to Full Human Development

[In my] examination of struggle…from the side of workers.… I constantly came back to the Marxist concept of revolutionary practice, that simultaneous changing of circumstance and human activity or self-change—how people transform themselves through their struggles. But not only through struggles; they produce themselves through their daily activity. People are formed by what they do. So, for example, a person who is a wage laborer under capitalism is produced and produces himself in a certain way, as a person who is alienated, as a person who simply wants to consume because of the emptiness of capitalist production. We always have to ask the question, “what kinds of people are produced under particular relations of production?” What kinds of people are produced in an exchange relationship, which is “I will do this for you, if you do that for me” as opposed to functioning in a communal society in which people act in solidarity? You produce certain kinds of people under those conditions.… | more |

South Africa—The Left Must Launch a Counteroffensive

Hein Marais, South Africa Pushed to the Limit: The Political Economy of Change (London / New York: Zed Books, 2011), 566 pages, $45, paperback.

The Evolution of Dialectical Humanism

James Boggs, edited by Stephen M. Ward, afterword by Grace Lee Boggs, Pages From a Black Radical’s Notebook: A James Boggs Reader (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2011), 424 pages, $27.95, paperback.
October 2011, Volume 63, Number 5

October 2011, Volume 63, Number 5

» Notes from the Editors

Two years after the recovery phase of the business cycle began, officially ending the Great Recession in the United States in June 2009, the capitalist economy continues to stagnate with the U.S. growth rate at 1 percent in the second quarter, following 0.4 percent in the first quarter, and with both the European Union and Japan in a similar or worse condition. Indeed, the United States, the European Union, and Japan, as the New York Times declared on August 10, 2011 (“Where Will Growth Come From?”), are all currently headed down a path “that will prolong their economic stagnation and perhaps tip them into another recession.”… Under these circumstances [some] mainstream economic commentators are finally…. beginning to zero-in on the fundamental cause of the Great Stagnation: the overaccumulation of capital.… | more |

Samir Amin at 80: An Introduction and Tribute

Samir Amin was born in Cairo in 1931, and studied within the French educational system in Egypt.… He is currently president of the World Forum for Alternatives.… Amin’s wide-ranging work can be most succinctly described in terms of the dual designation of The Law of Value and Historical Materialism—the title of one of his books, now in a new edition as The Law of Worldwide Value. Marx’s intellectual corpus, he notes, appears to be divided into writings on economics and writings on politics.… For Amin, this basic division of Marxist theory is not to be denied. Nevertheless, he insists that the economic laws of capitalism, summed up by the law of value, “are subordinate to the laws of historical materialism.” Economic science, while indispensable, cannot explain at the highest level of abstraction, as in mathematical equations, the full reality of capitalism and imperialism—since it cannot account either for the historical origins of the system itself, or for the nature of the class struggle.… | more |

An Arab Springtime?

The year 2011 began with a series of shattering, wrathful explosions from the Arab peoples. Is this springtime the inception of a second “awakening of the Arab world?” Or will these revolts bog down and finally prove abortive—as was the case with the first episode of that awakening, which was evoked in my book L’éveil du Sud (The Awakening of the South)? If the first hypothesis is confirmed, the forward movement of the Arab world will necessarily become part of the movement to go beyond imperialist capitalism on the world scale. Failure would keep the Arab world in its current status as a submissive periphery, prohibiting its elevation to the rank of an active participant in shaping the world.… | more |

The Democratic Fraud and the Universalist Alternative

The propositions put forward here—and many other possible ones—have no place in the dominant discourse about “civil society.” Rather, they run counter to that discourse which—rather like “postmodernist” ravings à la Negri—is the direct heir of the U.S. “consensus” ideological tradition. A discourse promoted, uncritically repeated, by tens of thousands of NGOs and by their requisite representatives at all the Social Forums. We’re dealing with an ideology that accepts the existing regime (i.e. monopoly capitalism) in all its essentials. It thus has a useful role to play on behalf of capitalist power. It keeps its gears provided with oil. It pretends to “change the world” while promoting a sort of “opposition” with no power to change anything.… | more |

Quid Pro Quo?

The Question of India’s Subordination to the ‘American Narrative’

In April 2011, the Wall Street Journal’s South Asia columnist Sadanand Dhume published a piece entitled “It’s Time to Re-Align India.” Meeting in Hainan, China, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) called for a multipolar world (i.e. one no longer dominated by the Atlantic powers, led by the United States) and for a less militaristic approach to common problems—with special reference to the imbroglio in Libya, fast becoming the twenty-first century’s Yugoslavia. Focusing on India, Dhume wrote in response: “Like a monster in a B-grade horror film, India’s love affair with non-alignment refuses to die. The end of the Cold War should have ended this approach to foreign policy. Unfortunately, it hasn’t.”… | more |

Black/White Radical Alliances in the 1960s

In The Shadows of Youth, Andrew Lewis demarcates the work of various activists, white and black, during the Civil Rights struggle of the 1960s. It is part of Lewis’s thesis that the efforts of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and other groups were too often overshadowed by those of Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and that the individual sacrifices made by a number of workers…. the extent…[of the] alliances…[between] black and white radicals were crucial in a number of settings outside the Deep South and…, in various locales, these alliances made a critical difference in the kinds of results that were obtained. The focus of the alliances…was often on activity that was driven less by nationalist concerns (from a black point of view), and more by concerns best thought of as generally leftist, and specifically Marxist, in origin. Thus the Black Panthers, for one, started off with a statement of purpose that spelled out their desire to work with a number of oppressed peoples, and that featured extensive reference to other persons of color groups as well as to the white working class.… | more |

September 2011, Volume 63, Number 4

September 2011, Volume 63, Number 4

» Notes from the Editors

In this issue of MR we are reprinting Stephen Hymer’s classic essay, “Robinson Crusoe and the Secret of Primitive Accumulation,” which first appeared forty years ago in the September 1971 issue of MR. It represents, in our view, one of the most important articles produced by a whole generation of radical political economists associated with the revolt against mainstream economics in the 1960s, and the creation of the Union for Radical Political Economics in 1968.… [Hymer's] final article, “International Politics and International Economics: A Radical Approach,” published posthumously in MR in March 1978, started off with the words: “To be a radical, or to be a scientist, is the same thing; it is a question of trying to go to the root of the matter.”… | more |

The Ecology of Marxian Political Economy

It is no secret today that we are facing a planetary environmental emergency, endangering most species on the planet, including our own, and that this impending catastrophe has its roots in the capitalist economic system. Nevertheless, the extreme dangers that capitalism inherently poses to the environment are often inadequately understood, giving rise to the belief that it is possible to create a new “natural capitalism” or “climate capitalism” in which the system is turned from being the enemy of the environment into its savior. The chief problem with all such views is that they underestimate the cumulative threat to humanity and the earth arising from the existing relations of production. Indeed, the full enormity of the planetary ecological crisis, I shall contend, can only be understood from a standpoint informed by the Marxian critique of capitalism.… | more |

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