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An Important Time Recalled

Robert Bone and Richard Courage, The Muse in Bronzeville: African American Creative Expression in Chicago, 1932–1950 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2011), 336 pages, $29.95, paperback.

The late Robert Bone had a socialist background which impelled him to study African-American history and literature long before those subjects became fashionable. From the 1950s on his pioneering work in this field included The Negro Novel in America (1959) and Down Home: Origins of the Afro-American Short Story (1975). He had planned, and partially researched and written, a study of the Chicago African-American Renaissance of the 1930s and later. When his health began to fail, he gave his notes to Richard A. Courage, author of many articles on African-American narrative and visual arts. Courage completed Bone’s research, and the result is a compelling book which will be a standard in its field for many years to come.

Monthly Review, May 2012

May 2012 (Volume 64, Number 1)

» Notes from the Editors

University of Nevada, Las Vegas physicist John W. Farley’s very important review essay on James Lawrence Powell’s new book, The Inquisition of Climate Science, in this month’s issue of MR raises critical questions with respect to science, corporate propaganda, and the future of humanity.… To understand the serious propaganda challenge that has confronted capitalist interests intent on denying climate change and the devious means used to get around this, one needs to recognize that the scientific consensus on climate change is an extremely strong one. Science, which generally encourages controversy, is in this case speaking with one voice. Naomi Oreskes, a professor of history and science studies at the University of California, San Diego…published an article in Science in 2005 studying global climate change articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003. She found a total of 928 peer-reviewed scientific articles on global climate change. Of these 928 pointed to human-caused climate change, while on the “other side” there were exactly zero denying this.

The Endless Crisis

The Great Financial Crisis and the Great Recession began in the United States in 2007 and quickly spread across the globe, marking what appears to be a turning point in world history. Although this was followed within two years by a recovery phase, the world economy five years after the onset of the crisis is still in the doldrums…. The one bright spot in the world economy, from a growth standpoint, has been the seemingly unstoppable expansion of a handful of emerging economies, particularly China. Yet, the continuing stability of China is now also in question. Hence, the general consensus among informed economic observers is that the world capitalist economy is facing the threat of long-run economic stagnation (complicated by the prospect of further financial deleveraging)…. It is this issue of the stagnation of the capitalist economy, even more than that of financial crisis or recession that has now emerged as the big question worldwide.

Marx’s Ecology and the Understanding of Land Cover Change

The spread of humans worldwide, especially in the last two hundred years, has been associated with the growing human domination of the earth…. Such domination of the environment is expressed by… (1) the change in the flux of elements and substances on Earth…; (2) the growing threat of species extinction; and (3) the huge land cover change (LCC)—the substitution of natural habitats such as forests, swamps, and grasslands by cropland, pasture, roads, and urban areas. Modern natural sciences have made enormous inroads in understanding both ecological problems and the social drivers of LCC. However, they have been unable to generate a systematic understanding of how the regime of capital has governed LCC. Karl Marx developed more than 150 years ago, in the context of a social-science critique, an unparalleled theoretical approach to environmental crisis based on two concepts: differential land rent and the metabolic rift. Here, these concepts will be applied to the understanding of LCC.

Petroleum and Propaganda

The Anatomy of the Global Warming Denial Industry

James Powell was inspired to write this important new book because of a remarkable paradox: among climate scientists, there is a near-unanimous consensus that global warming is occurring now, is largely manmade, and will cause very severe environmental problems if humanity continues business as usual. However, among the lay public the picture is much more mixed: only about half of the U.S. public agrees with the climate scientists. Why the enormous discrepancy?… The Inquisition of Climate Science explains in detail how the global-warming-denialist ideas that serve the interests of the oil companies (and fossil-fuels industry) become sincerely held beliefs for a significant fraction of society.

Who Killed Che?

How the CIA Got Away With Murder

Ratner and Smith have done it again! Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder is their second bombshell book dealing with Che Guevara and the U.S. government’s frequent use of illegal and criminal political assassinations and routine whopper lies in its foreign policy, all in the name of “defending freedom”…. In their new Che book these two prominent civil liberties lawyers present forty-four previously classified documents released under the Freedom of Information Act to show—quite meticulously and colorfully, as if in a courtroom drama—how the CIA, in concert with the White House, masterminded the murder of Che and then tried to cover it up.… For some readers this may seem like an old story, since the U.S. government now openly proclaims the legitimacy of assassinating foreign leaders and even U.S. citizens during its hypocritical “war on terrorism.”… But as Che himself once said in words that Libya’s murdered leader Muammar Qaddafi might have done well to heed, “You cannot trust imperialism, not even a little bit, not in anything.” And there, indeed, is the rub.

A Red Robin?

In his estimable Robin Hood: People’s Outlaw and Forest Hero, it is Paul Buhle’s contention that in the almost eight centuries of his legendary existence, Robin has had his time come periodically but seldom more than now. With barbarians, foreign and domestic, at the gates whenever they are not in the palaces, the need for heroes to rise from the ranks of the masses is at least as urgent as it was in Robin Hood’s day.… Buhle argues that the world needs Robin Hood now more than ever. “We need Robin because rebellion against deteriorating conditions is inevitable….”

Monthly Review Volume 63, Number 11 (April 2012)

April 2012 (Volume 63, Number 11)

» Notes from the Editors

For decades we have been arguing in Monthly Review that stagnation is the normal state of the mature monopoly-capitalist economies. Today the reality of stagnation is increasingly gaining the attention of the corporate media itself.… For those accustomed to thinking of the capitalist economy as either growing rapidly or occasionally falling into a severe crisis (from which it quickly bounces back), long-run stagnation is a difficult to understand phenomenon. [A stagnating economy] neither collapses into a full (or “classic”) crisis, which would allow it to clear out (or devalue) its overaccumulated capital, nor is it able to achieve a full recovery. Instead, it remains caught in a stagnation trap, limping along at a low rate of growth, with high unemployment and excess capacity. Under the circumstances—and without the help of some external stimulus like a major war, a financial bubble, or an epoch-making innovation—the capital accumulation process is unable to move off dead center.

The Bull Market

Political Advertising

The United States is in the midst of its quadrennial presidential election, a process that now extends so long as to be all but permanent. The campaign is also drenched in more money given by a small handful of billionaires than has been the case in the past. Since the 1970s the amount spent on political campaigns has increased dramatically in almost every election cycle. It has led to the formation of what we term the “money-and-media election complex,” which has a revenue base in the many billions of campaign dollars donated annually, and has effectively become the foundation of electoral politics in the United States. Moreover, the rate of increase in campaign spending from 2008 to 2010, and especially from 2008 to 2012, is now at an all-time high.


The Role of the Federal Reserve System in Keeping Wages Low

Economist Edwin Dickens has written a series of significant articles analyzing the minutes of the meetings, dating back to the 1950s, of the Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve Board. (The Committee is the main policy-making body of the Board.) Dickens’s research shows convincingly that the Federal Reserve’s partisan behavior is designed to tilt the economy in the direction of the wealthy by making workers more compliant.… A recent study formalized Dickens’s work by attempting to distinguish whether the policy actions of the Federal Reserve were responses to inflation or to low unemployment. The study concluded that “a baseless fear of full employment,” rather than the prevention of inflation, was the guiding principal of the Federal Reserve. The conclusion of this study should come as little surprise to people familiar with the Federal Reserve’s obsession with the danger of high wages.

Faux Internationalism and Really Existing Imperialism

If truth is the first casualty of war, military intervention in the name of humanitarian ideals should likewise be the subject of skepticism. Such an approach is called for as the discourse of the Responsibility to Protect civilian populations is becoming a doctrinal principle in the West’s foreign policy toolbox. The notion that these big powers have the right to intervene in other (weak) countries’ internal affairs threatens to transform the foundation, if not the praxis, of international law.… Simultaneously, the ideology of “humanitarian interventionism,” which stands almost uncontested, can be interpreted as legitimizing a hidden political agenda. It has the potential of blurring existing ideological and political differences between neoconservatives, liberal internationalists in the United States and Europe, and a large section of left-wing forces around the world. All these currents have found common grounds in vindicating NATO’s military violations of the principle of national sovereignty.

Red State Irony

The last four or five decades have seen extraordinary economic and population growth in the southern states of the United States, continuing historic developments that started during the Second World War and were later stimulated by the end of legal racial segregation. One national effect of those changes has been a continual shift in the center of economic growth for the whole country to the southern and western states, away from the Northeast and the Midwest “rust belt.” The character of the exploitation of labor in the South has changed as investment patterns have displaced large populations from manufacturing and extractive employment.… This new “New South” has been widely celebrated, even as regional wage rates still trail other sections of the country (and while the South shares the national upward redistribution of wealth). What is different now from the pattern in the 1950s is that realizing a return on investment by the sweating-it-out of workers is nothing like the obvious low-cost option it was then.

Fredric Jameson on the Reserve Army

In the opening pages of The Limits to Capital, published in 1984, David Harvey jokes that everyone who reads Marx’s Capital seems bound to write a book about it. In 2012, we might well ask: Just one? Last year, many of the long-standing academic Marxists unleashed new introductory works, including Terry Eagleton, David Harvey, Eric Hobsbawm, and, unsurprisingly, Fredric Jameson. In Representing Capital, Jameson has written the best of the bunch: a surprising, energetic, and concise representation of the “totality” of capital.

Monthly Review Volume 63, Number 10 (March 2012)

March 2012 (Volume 63, Number 10)

» Notes from the Editors

As we write this, in late January 2012, international representatives of the ruling class and its power elite—wealthy investors, corporate executives, politicians, state bureaucrats, economists, pundits, and sundry celebrities—are gathered at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to discuss the state of the world. Today there is no disguising the fact that some five years since the Great Financial Crisis began, the United States, Europe, and Japan all remain caught in an economic slump that will not go away.… From MR‘s standpoint, the current stagnation is not at all unexpected but represents the normal tendency of global monopoly-finance capital, especially in the mature economies. This tendency was disguised in part during the last three decades or more by a series of financial bubbles (and before that by Cold War military spending). Now with financialization on the rocks capitalism is once again face-to-face with the specter of stagnation, with no visible way out.