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.”
Volume 63, Issue 04 (September)
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.
Adrienne Rich is the author of more than sixteen volumes of poetry and five nonfiction prose books, including A Human Eye: Essays on Art in Society (Norton). Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Poems 2007-2010 was published in 2011.
The solitary and isolated figure of Robinson Crusoe is often taken as a starting point by economists, especially in their analysis of international trade. He is pictured as a rugged individual—diligent, intelligent, and above all frugal—who masters nature through reason. But the actual story of Robinson Crusoe, as told by Defoe, is also one of conquest, slavery, robbery, murder, and force. The contrast between the economists’ Robinson Crusoe and the genuine one mirrors the contrast between the mythical description of international trade found in economics textbooks and the actual facts of what happens in the international economy.… But international trade…is often based on a division between superior and subordinate rather than a division between equals; and it is anything but peaceful. It is trade between the center and the hinterland, the colonizers and the colonized, the masters and the servants…Because it is unequal in structure and reward it has to be established and maintained by force, whether it be the structural violence of poverty, the symbolic violence of socialization, or the physical violence of war and pacification.
Cuba has found oil in its part of the Gulf of Mexico and is about to start drilling. Even if the results are moderate, Cuba will become energy independent and eventually a net exporter. This will have an incalculable impact on its economy, and will send the U.S. sanctions policy into the dustbin of imperial miscalculations. This has brought out Miami’s congressional assault team led by the fanatical Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who essentially wants to criminalize drilling in Cuba’s section of the Gulf. But caught between a commitment to maintaining the embargo and an understanding of the necessity of Cuba cooperation lest there be another BP-style disaster, the Obama administration has remained largely passive. Will Cuban oil help change the balance of power in the Americas in the near future?
This article appears in two parts. “The Story of Khalil Gibran International Academy” is Debbie Almontaser’s account of the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hysteria that was whipped up when she helped found the first Arabic Dual Language public school in New York City. Instead of backing her against the attacks, the Department of Education turned on Almontaser and forced her to resign. However, she fought in the courts, who in the end ruled in her favor. Donna Nevel’s “The Campaign of Resistance” describes the organizing campaign that emerged in support of Almontaser, which was a coalition of Arab, Muslim, Jewish, immigrant, labor, and peace groups. They engaged in extensive outreach and mounted a media-intensive counterattack in defense of the school and its principal.
It starts with a knock on the door. FBI agents threaten to put journalist Will Potter’s name on a terrorist watch-list for leafleting. They want him to inform on his friends in the environmental justice community. They threaten to show up at his work, to ruin his career, his education, and make other threats. Potter refuses to collaborate, and never hears from the agents again, but the incident leaves him changed. “I do not know it right now, but this experience will mark the beginning of both a personal and a political journey. After the initial fear subsides, I will become obsessed with finding out why I would be targeted as a terrorist for doing nothing more than leafleting”…. Potter chronicles his journey, attempting to unravel why the non-violent animal rights and environmental movement is the federal government’s number one domestic terrorism priority. From the front lines of an activist campaign in New Jersey to the halls of Congress and beyond, Potter documents how this movement is persecuted by law enforcement and legislative action for its political and moral beliefs in defense of animals and the environment.