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The Editors

February 2009, Volume 60, Number 9

February 2009, Volume 60, Number 9

» Notes from the Editors

In 1987, in the introduction to their Stagnation and Financial Explosion, Monthly Review editors Harry Magdoff and Paul Sweezy wrote: “We both reached adulthood during the 1930s, and it was then that we received our initiation into the realities of capitalist economics and politics. For us economic stagnation in its most agonizing and pervasive form, including its far-reaching ramifications in every aspect of social life, was an overwhelming personal experience. We know what it is and what it can mean; we do not need elaborate definitions or explanations. But we have gradually learned, not altogether to our surprise of course, that younger people who grew up in the 1940s or later not only do not share but also do not understand these perceptions. The economic environment of the war and postwar periods that played such an important part in shaping their experiences was very different. For them stagnation tends to be a rather vague term, equivalent perhaps to a longer-than-usual recession but with no implication of possible grave political and international repercussions. Under these circumstances, they find it hard to relate to what they are likely to regard as our obsession with the problem of stagnation. They are not quite sure what we are talking about or what all the fuss is over.… | more |

January 2009, Volume 60, Number 8

January 2009, Volume 60, Number 8

» Notes from the Editors

This year marks the eightieth anniversary of the 1929 Stock Market Crash and the beginning of the Great Depression, the worst economic crisis in the history of capitalism. However, while the Great Depression has been very much in the news of late, this is not due so much to this anniversary as to the fact that for the first time since the 1930s an economic crisis has arisen on a scale and of a nature that invites direct comparison with that earlier deep downturn, which threatened the entire system and ended in the Second World War.… | more |

December 2008, Volume 60, Number 7

December 2008, Volume 60, Number 7

» Notes from the Editors

The historic testimony by former Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan before the House Committee of Government Oversight and Reform on October 23, 2008, represented such a startling turnaround for an individual previously given such nicknames as “Maestro” and “Oracle,” that it might well have been entitled “The Education of Alan Greenspan.” Taken to task for the enormous and still growing economic disaster, Greenspan acknowledged that he was “shocked and dismayed” by the emergence of what he called a “once-in-a-century credit tsunami.” In his effort to account for the complete failure of foresight at the Fed, Greenspan explained that the supposedly sophisticated asset pricing models that he and others in the financial community had relied on had been based almost exclusively on the experience of the last two decades during a period of rapid financial expansion, and had failed to incorporate the negative shocks visible from a longer-term historical perspective. As Greenspan himself put it… | more |

November 2008, Volume 60, Number 6

November 2008, Volume 60, Number 6

» Notes from the Editors

In the Notes from the Editors for the September issue of Monthly Review (written in late July) we asked why, with the United States bailing out the financial sector of the economy to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, there was no public outrage. As we observed at that time, “In the end there seems to be no satisfactory explanation for lack of popular protest over a series of ad hoc grants showering hundreds of billions of dollars of public money on the masters of finance, collectively the richest group of capitalists on the planet. And that raises the question: Is this outrage present nonetheless, growing underground, unheard and unseen? Will it suddenly burst forth, like some old mole, unforeseen and in ways unimagined?” The collapse of Lehman Brothers on September 15, the resulting freezing up of credit markets, U.S. Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson’s emergency plan for a $700 billion bailout of financial firms, offering “cash for trash,” i.e., proposing to buy up the toxic waste of virtually worthless mortgage-backed securities at taxpayer expense—quickly answered our question. When the U.S. Treasury got into the act with its bailout proposal, requiring Congressional authorization (previously the Federal Reserve had led the way in bailouts, to the point that treasury securities had sunk to just over half of the Fed’s assets, as we explained in September), all hell finally broke loose. Suddenly, the public outrage that had been growing beneath the surface burst forth. The U.S. capitalist class was abruptly confronted with a major political as well as economic crisis… | more |

October 2008, Volume 60, Number 5

October 2008, Volume 60, Number 5

» Notes from the Editors

The United States in the opening decade of the twenty-first century is dominated by a new imperial project that is affecting all aspects of its society. The most obvious manifestation of this (see this month’s Review of the Month) is the expansion of the military-industrial complex. However, another, in some ways even more insidious, manifestation, as Rich Gibson and E. Wayne Ross pointed out in a February 2, 2007, Counterpunch article entitled, “No Child Left Behind and the Imperial Project”, is the current assault on the nation’s public schools through the No Child Left Behind law enacted by the Bush administration with broad bipartisan support. As Gibson and Ross explained, “Any nation promising perpetual war on the world is likely to make peculiar demands on its schools…and its teachers and youth….NCLB [No Child Left Behind] is the result of three decades of elites’ struggles to recapture control over education in the U.S., lost during the Vietnam era when campuses and high-schools broke into open-rebellion and, as a collateral result, critical pedagogy, whole language reading programs, inter-active, investigatory teaching gained a foothold.”… | more |

September 2008, Volume 60, Number 4

September 2008, Volume 60, Number 4

» Notes from the Editors

Just over a year since the beginning of the worst U.S. financial crisis since the Great Depression, and only six months after the federal bailout of Bear Stearns, the seizing up of credit markets continues. The failure of eight U.S. banks this year, including IndyMac, and the recent instability that struck the two government-sponsored mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, requiring a special government rescue operation, has had the entire financial world on edge. Mortgage-related losses by themselves “could cause a trillion dollars in credit to vaporize,” according to a special July 28, 2008,Business Week report. The downside effects of financial leveraging (the magnification of results associated with borrowed money) mean that each dollar lost by financial institutions could lead to reductions in lending of fifteen dollars or more, creating a shockwave so massive that it could reveal structural weaknesses throughout the economy. Already the economy is reeling, with faltering growth, a deep slump in housing, massive job losses, rapidly rising oil and consumer goods prices, and a falling dollar… | more |

July-August 2008, Volume 60, Number 3

July-August 2008, Volume 60, Number 3

» Notes from the Editors

This number of Monthly Review is a special issue on “Ecology: The Moment of Truth,” edited by Brett Clark, John Bellamy Foster, and Richard York. In the present issue we concentrate on the planetary environmental emergency. In a later special issue, to appear this fall, the magazine will address the social and economic regime change that is necessary to save the earth as we know it… | more |

June 2008, Volume 60, Number 2

June 2008, Volume 60, Number 2

» Notes from the Editors

The first third of 2008 should have been a wake-up call to those who, in the short-lived days of capitalist triumphalism, were inclined to lose sight of the immediacy of the internal contradictions of capitalism and of the resistance that the system continuously regenerates. The enormous extent of today’s combined world food-and-economic crisis is now patently obvious. Anti-imperialist and anticapitalist initiatives are once again mushrooming around the globe.… | more |

May 2008, Volume 60, Number 1

May 2008, Volume 60, Number 1

» Notes from the Editors

The subprime mortgage crisis that emerged late last summer in the United States led to a massive seizure in the world financial system that has had capital staggering ever since. This has now carried over to the “real economy” of jobs and income. As reported in the Wall Street Journal on April 4, “The National Bureau of Economic Research probably won’t say this for months. But why wait? The U.S. economy fell into recession sometime in January” (“Job Market Hints Recession Has Started”). World economic growth as a whole is expected to decline sharply this year…… | more |

April 2008, Volume 59, Number 11

April 2008, Volume 59, Number 11

» Notes from the Editors

The United States and the world economy are now experiencing a major economic setback that began in the financial sector with the bursting of the housing bubble, but which can ultimately be traced back to the basic problems of capitalism arising from class-based accumulation (see the Review of the Month in this issue).…Things are clearly much worse, with respect to the general public understanding of these problems, here in the United States, the citadel of capitalism, than elsewhere in the world. We were therefore bemused by an article entitled “Europe’s Philosophy of Failure” by Stefan Theil, Newsweek’s European economics editor, appearing in the January–February 2008 Foreign Policy. Theil writes of the “prejudice and disinformation” incorporated in French and German secondary school textbooks dealing with economics. Such textbooks he complains “ingrain a serious aversion to capitalism.”… | more |

March 2008, Volume 59, Number 10

March 2008, Volume 59, Number 10

» Notes from the Editors

This month marks the fifth year of the U.S. war and occupation in Iraq, which commenced on March 19, 2003. Despite setbacks for the U.S. empire, including unexpected losses in lives and money as a result of the continuing resistance of the Iraqi population, this war has succeeded in the U.S. imperial objective of eliminating Iraq, once a powerful force in the Middle East, as a nation to be reckoned with. Much of its population is dead, displaced, and divided. Its infrastructure is in tatters. The country is occupied on a seemingly permanent basis by U.S. military forces, allowing Washington to project its power more fully in the region, and making it easier to threaten Iraq’s neighbor Iran. Iraqi oil, designated as a vital strategic asset by Washington, is now largely in the grip of the U.S. empire.… | more |

February 2008, Volume 59, Number 9

February 2008, Volume 59, Number 9

» Notes from the Editors

Twenty years ago climatologist James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, widely considered to be the world’s leading authority on global warming, first brought the issue into the public spotlight in testimony before the U.S. Congress. Recently, Hansen published an article entitled “Climate Catastrophe” in the New Scientist (July 28, 2007), http://www.newscientist.com. There he presented evidence suggesting that under “business as usual,” in which greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase unchecked, a rise in sea level by several meters during the present century due to the melting of polar ice sheets is a “near certainty.” … | more |

January 2008, Volume 56, Number 8

January 2008, Volume 56, Number 8

» Notes from the Editors

The victory of the No vote in the Venezuelan constitutional reform referendum in December is being treated by Washington as a major defeat for Chávez’s efforts to promote a socialism for the twenty-first century in Venezuela. But the opposition to the Bolivarian Revolution was so aware of its own weaknesses that it adopted as its final slogan “Chávez, Yes; Reform, No.” The defeat of the constitutional reform was guaranteed by the fact that 44 percent of the population, many of whom had supported Chávez previously, chose not to vote. This may simply be due to the fact that the proposed constitutional reforms were enormously complex with changes in 69 articles. But it is also true that a propaganda campaign authored and choreographed by Washington and the CIA, and implemented by the Venezuelan elites who control the private media, had a considerable effect in blocking the reform effort.… | more |

December 2007, Volume 59, Number 7

December 2007, Volume 59, Number 7

» Notes from the Editors

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Thorstein Veblen, the greatest critic of U.S. capitalism in the early twentieth century and one of the foremost social theorists of all times. Veblen was the subject of a special issue of Monthly Review fifty years ago last July in celebration of the centennial of his birth. He remains important today from our perspective for at least three reasons: (1) he was the first to develop a theory of monopoly capitalism, including a recognition not only of the implications of the rise of a big-business dominated economy, but also the new role assumed in this era by finance, advertising, the penetration of the sales effort into the production process, excess productive capacity, etc.; (2) Veblen provided a strong critique of the ecological destruction of U.S. capitalism (particularly the devastation of forests); and (3) Veblen’s unbridled wit and sardonic language coupled with his keen analysis cut to the heart of capitalist ideology. Thus, for instance, he wrote of the ahistorical character given by orthodox economics to such categories as capital and wage labor… | more |

November 2007, Volume 59, Number 6

November 2007, Volume 59, Number 6

» Notes from the Editors

Former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan’s new book The Age of Turbulence (Penguin 2007)set off a firestorm in mid-September with its dramatic statement on the Iraq War: “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: that the Iraq war is largely about oil” (p. 463). The fact that someone of Greenspan’s stature in the establishment—one of the figures at the very apex of monopoly-finance capital—should issue such a twenty word statement, going against the official truths on the war, and openly voicing what “everyone knows,” was remarkable enough. Yet, his actual argument was far more significant, and since this has been almost completely ignored it deserves extended treatment here. … | more |

October 2007, Volume 59, Number 5

October 2007, Volume 59, Number 5

» Notes from the Editors

It is almost unheard of for a whole issue of MR (other than occasionally one of our special July-August issues) to be devoted to a single contribution. The typical MR issue consists of a lot of short articles. We have no intention of changing that. Nevertheless, we are making a rare exception in the case of Edward S. Herman and David Peterson’s “The Dismantling of Yugoslavia,” which we regard as the definitive critique at this stage both of the U.S./NATO role in the exploitation and exacerbation of the Yugoslavian tragedy and of the “Western Liberal-Left Intellectual and Moral Collapse” that made this possible. So effective has been the media propaganda system at presenting the imperialist wars in Yugoslavia in the 1990s as “humanitarian interventions” that this not only bolstered support for the invasions and occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq (in defiance of international law), but is now being offered as a justification for further possible “humanitarian interventions” elsewhere, such as Iran, the Sudan (Darfur), Nigeria, and even Venezuela… | more |

September 2007, Volume 59, Number 4

September 2007, Volume 59, Number 4

» Notes from the Editors

We have been arguing in these pagesfor more than three decades that the dominant economic reality of advanced capitalism is a tendency toward stagnation of production accompanied by financial explosion. In an article on “The Centrality of Finance,” in the August 2007 issue of the Journal of World-System Research, MR and MR Press author William K. Tabb writes:

Real global growth averaged 4.9 percent a year during the Golden Age of national Keynesianism (1950–1973). It was 3.4 percent between 1974 and 1979; 3.3 percent in the 1980s; and only 2.3 percent in the 1990s, the decade with the slowest growth since World War II. The slowing of the real economy led investors to seek higher returns in financial speculation…. [I]increased liquidity and lower costs of borrowing encouraged in turn further expansion of finance. The coincident trends of growing inequality and insecurity…and the spreading power of rapid financialization do not suggest a smooth continued expansion path for a society based on increased debt and growing leverage.… | more |

July-August 2007, Volume 59, Number 3

July-August 2007, Volume 59, Number 3

» Notes from the Editors

At the end of May the Bush administration announced that the United States is planning on maintaining permanent military bases in Iraq on a model like that of South Korea, where U.S. troops have been deployed in massive numbers for more than fifty years. Despite the failures associated with the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Washington is openly proclaiming to the world that it intends to do everything it can to maintain a lasting military presence in that country. By doing so it hopes to retain the main spoils won in the war and to declare it a partial victory. The strategic objectives are obvious: to control Iraq and Iraqi oil, threaten Iran, and dominate the geopolitically vital Middle East. Thus Secretary of Defense Robert Gates declared on May 31 that he did not expect the United States to withdraw from Iraq as from Vietnam “lock, stock and barrel” and invoked the example of South Korea. Earlier that week White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, conveying the views of President Bush, said U.S. troops would remain but would be in an “over-the-horizon support” role to maintain security in Iraq—with permanent bases on the South Korean model. Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, in charge of daily military operations in Iraq, stated on May 31 that he supported the creation of a South Korean type U.S. military presence in Iraq. The message could not be clearer and can be summed up as: Naked Imperialism: The U.S. Pursuit of Global Dominance (see John Bellamy Foster’s book with this title for an analysis of the larger forces at work).… | more |

June 2007, Volume 59, Number 2

June 2007, Volume 59, Number 2

» Notes from the Editors

In January 2007 the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre of the UK Ministry of Defence published a ninety-page report, entitled Global Strategic Trends, 2007–2036, highlighting a wide array of potential dangers to the prevailing order over the next thirty years. The report is organized around three “Ring Road Issues”: (1) climate change, (2) globalization, and (3) global inequality (p. xiii). Global warming and the possibility of abrupt climate change, together with the end of “the golden age of cheap energy,” are seen as placing increasing strains on populations throughout the planet (p. 31). The globalization of the world economy, embodying “particularly ruthless laws of supply and demand,” is viewed as creating new interdependencies, contradictions, and conflicts. Expanding global inequality, the UK Ministry of Defence insists, could lead to “a resurgence of not only anti-capitalist ideologies . . . but also to populism and the revival of Marxism” (p. 3)… | more |

May 2007, Volume 59, Number 1

May 2007, Volume 59, Number 1

» Notes from the Editors

Recent attempts, however tentative, by Congressional Democrats to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq should be looked upon as a victory for the antiwar movement. Not only is the Democratic Party clearly aware that its current congressional majority was the result of popular dissatisfaction with the war, but nationwide antiwar rallies have recently driven the point home. Under these circumstances, the Democrats had no choice but to challenge administration policy on the war. However, it would be a grave mistake to conclude from this that the political establishment in the United States is severely split on the question of imperialism, or that the Democratic Party is shifting towards a general anti-imperialist stance. Recent attempts, however tentative, by Congressional Democrats to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq should be looked upon as a victory for the antiwar movement. Not only is the Democratic Party clearly aware that its current congressional majority was the result of popular dissatisfaction with the war, but nationwide antiwar rallies have recently driven the point home. Under these circumstances, the Democrats had no choice but to challenge administration policy on the war. However, it would be a grave mistake to conclude from this that the political establishment in the United States is severely split on the question of imperialism, or that the Democratic Party is shifting towards a general anti-imperialist stance… | more |