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The Editors

Notes from the Editors, April 2004

Notes from the Editors, April 2004

» Notes from the Editors

This is the fourth in a continuing series of special issues on the economy to which we have devoted the magazine each April since 2001. In the first of these, written shortly before the 2001 recession began, we took on the then prevalent myth of the “New Economy,” arguing that it was more myth than reality, and dispelling the notion that high tech and rising productivity gains had somehow tamed the business cycle. In April 2002 we dedicated the Review of the Month to examining the core economic contradictions of the system in terms of “Slow Growth, Excess Capital, and a Mountain of Debt.” Last April we asked the question, “What Recovery?” and focused on the fact that the recovery had failed to spread to employment, and on the whole problem of labor underutilization—inquiring into how the economy managed to keep going at all under these circumstances… | more |

The Stagnation of Employment

Except in times of war, capitalist economies almost never reach full employment. The mere absence of jobs for those desiring paid employment, however, is not necessarily a problem for the ruling economic interests. Unemployment and the underutilization of labor more generally—the existence of what Marx called the industrial reserve army of labor—is a necessary part of a capitalist economy, since it keeps wages low as workers are forced to compete with each other for jobs. This becomes a serious problem for the system or for the political structure when the shortfall in employment coincides with a deeper structural crisis; when aggregate demand and thus investment opportunities are hindered by low employment and low wages; and when a shortage of jobs creates a political problem, sometimes even igniting popular opposition at the grassroots of society. All three of these contradictions are apparent in 2004, setting the stage for a national debate on the question of jobs, which more than three years since the beginning of the 2001 recession is now suddenly a front page story… | more |

Notes from the Editors, March 2004

Notes from the Editors, March 2004

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We were enormously pleased to publish in the November 2002 issue of MR Richard Lewontin and Richard Levins’s “Stephen Jay Gould: What Does it Mean to Be a Radical?” commemorating the life of their great Harvard colleague who had died earlier that year. Gould, as Lewontin and Levins explained, was, in addition to being one of the foremost evolutionary biologists and paleontologists of his time, “by far, the most widely known and influential expositor of science who has ever written for a lay public.” Their article has recently been reprinted as the concluding essay in Oliver Sacks, ed., The Best American Science Writing, 2003. This important series, with Jesse Cohen as the series editor, is published each year by HarperCollins, each time under the editorship of a different guest editor—in this instance Sacks, author of The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat and many other works. In preparing this year’s volume Sacks chose to dedicate the book to Stephen Jay Gould, who he sees as the exemplary figure in modern science writing… | more |

Notes from the Editors, February 2004

Notes from the Editors, February 2004

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This year marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Ralph Miliband, who was one of the leading Marxist political theorists of the second half of the 20th century. His works, Parliamentary Socialism (1961), The State in Capitalist Society (1969), and Marxism and Politics (1977) are classics of socialist political analysis. This year is also the 40th anniversary of The Socialist Register, an annual journal that Miliband cofounded and coedited for 30 years… | more |

Notes from the Editors, January 2004

Notes from the Editors, January 2004

» Notes from the Editors

Historical materialists are not prophets; they do not predict the future course of history. They are concerned rather with the present as history. This fundamental principle of Marxist thought is called to mind by our reencounter recently with a common misinterpretation of Lenin’s Imperialism. In his new book, The New Imperialism, David Harvey writes (p. 127): “I therefore think Arendt is…correct to interpret the imperialism that emerged at the end of the nineteenth century as the ‘first stage in political rule of the bourgeoisie rather than the last stage of capitalism’ as Lenin depicted it.” (See also Harvey’s piece “The ‘New’ Imperialism” in the Socialist Register, 2004, p. 69.)… | more |

Notes from the Editors, December 2003

Notes from the Editors, December 2003

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On October 27, 2003, the New York Times ran a guest column on its Op-Ed page by David L. Kirp entitled “How Much for That Professor?” The piece, which was about universities spending big bucks to get professors with star power, focused in its opening and closing paragraphs on the case of Niall Ferguson, described as “the most widely discussed and controversial British historian of his generation.” Last winter, New York University successfully recruited Ferguson away from Oxford University with promises of big money and reduced teaching responsibilities. Barely six months later Harvard lured Ferguson away from New York University with an offer of even bigger rewards… | more |

Notes from the Editors, November 2003

Notes from the Editors, November 2003

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In this number we are celebrating the hundredth anniversary of W. E. B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk by devoting a special issue to race and imperialism. MR is proud to have had a connection with Du Bois. Fifty years ago he wrote his famous article “Negroes and the Crisis of Capitalism in the United States” for MR (April 1953; reprinted in the magazine last April). In addition, Monthly Review Press is the publisher of Du Bois’ Education of Black People: Ten Critiques, 1906–1960, edited by Herbert Aptheker. This was a book that Du Bois had planned, based originally on seven critiques of education that he had delivered as speeches over the years. But his attempts in the 1940s to get it published proved futile. One publisher after another turned down the work—no doubt scared off by the very same ruthless critique that made his work so valuable. Yet, Du Bois never gave up hope of bringing out this book and it was found among his papers after his death in 1963. The published version, which was announced in the MR Press catalog in 1973 and has remained in print ever since (a new edition with a new foreword by Aptheker was brought out in 2001), included the original seven critiques and the short introductions that Du Bois had written for each of them for the book. It also contained three critiques of education that he had written in subsequent years. Everyone interested in the effects of race and class exploitation on higher learning in the United States would gain from a careful study of this profoundly humanistic, often lyrical, and fundamentally subversive work. In his 1908 lecture, “Galileo Galilei,” included in The Education of Black People, Du Bois wrote: “The greatest gift that a scholar can bring to Learning is Reverence of Truth, a Hatred of Hypocrisy and Sham, and an absolute sincerity of purpose.” There is no doubt that Du Bois exemplified this principle throughout his entire life… | more |

Notes from the Editors, October 2003

Notes from the Editors, October 2003

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Samir Amin’s “World Poverty, Pauperization, and Capital Accumulation,” the Review of the Month in this issue of MR, addresses the growing phenomena of landlessness and pauperization among rural populations in the periphery. He reminds us that half of the people in the world are peasants, a group largely unseen by liberals and radicals. The dispossession of the peasantry throughout the third world represents one of the central problems of our time—for reasons of straightforward humanity. Amin points out that the worsening position of the peasantry, their forced migration to cities, and the growth of hunger among the poor cannot be adequately dealt with by treating these problems as mere aberrations of the system. Mounting occasional “anti-poverty” programs or “humanitarian” assistance or even projects to enhance farm productivity offer no real long-term solutions. In fact, the inherent contradictions in the third world are such that even increases in the productivity of peasants so that more food is producedin the absence of employment opportunities for rural labor that is no longer needed in agriculture—can seriously worsen the problem of displacement and hunger! The enormous humanitarian problem that Amin describes is rather a result of the way capitalism works on a world scale. The clear lesson to be drawn from his article is that the anti-globalization struggle needs to be aimed at the real problem—the capitalist system… | more |

September 2003, Volume 55, Number 4

September 2003, Volume 55, Number 4

» Notes from the Editors

It took only a few months following the official ending of the Iraq War for U.S. imperial designs to unravel almost completely. The Bush administration is now under fire from the intelligence community, the media, and the political elites for having lied its way into the war with its claims regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. More damaging still to administration plans, occupying troops and their Iraqi collaborators are being killed on an almost daily basis in what is now taking on the appearance of a classic guerrilla war. This would be impossible without the support offered to the insurgents by substantial sections of the Iraqi population. Consequently, the United States is being compelled to maintain larger numbers of forces than anticipated in Iraq (often by extending the duration in which military units remain in the country) and the projected term of U.S. military occupation is being drawn out… | more |

Notes from the Editors, July 2003

Notes from the Editors, July 2003

» Notes from the Editors

The articles on imperialism in this special issue were all written in honor of Harry Magdoff’s ninetieth birthday. Most of them grew out of papers presented at the “Imperialism Today” conference organized to celebrate Harry’s life and work, held in Burlington, Vermont on May 3, 2003. The conference was from our perspective an enormous success. Penetrating analyses of the current imperial moment were presented, challenging questions came from the floor, and there were good discussions and good cheer all around—despite the grim turn of world events that needed to be confronted. In the reception at the end of the day U.S. Representative Bernie Sanders (Independent-Vermont), spoke of Harry’s achievement. As the conference participants gathered around he declared that… | more |

Notes from the Editors, June 2003

Notes from the Editors, June 2003

» Notes from the Editors

The chief, indeed the only, justification that Washington offered for its invasion of Iraq during its build-up for war between September 2002 and March 2003,was the need to “disarm” an Iraqi regime that Washington contended had broken UN resolutions banning weapons of mass destruction in that country. The problem, though, was that there was no hard evidence that Iraq, which had effectively destroyed its weapons of mass destruction in the 1990s under UN supervision, had any such weapons—or if it did that they were functional and constituted a significant threat. Nevertheless, the Bush administration continued to insist (based on speculation, hearsay, and what turned out to be fabricated evidence) that Iraq had such banned weapons in significant quantities and was actually deploying them. In an extraordinary propaganda campaign in which the whole mainstream media took part, the U.S. population was led to believe that they were in imminent danger of attack from these phantom weapons and had no choice but to support a pre-emptive invasion of that country… | more |

Notes from the Editors, May 2003

Notes from the Editors, May 2003

» Notes from the Editors

On May 3 MR will be hosting its “Imperialism Today” conference in Burlington, Vermont in honor of Harry Magdoff’s ninetieth birthday. Harry officially became an editor of Monthly Review thirty-four years ago this month in May 1969, when he joined Paul Sweezy as co-editor following the death of Leo Huberman in 1968. In the period since then he has edited 408 monthly issues of the magazine (counting the summer issues as double issues). MR would not be what it is today without Harry’s imprint on each and every one of these issues. During the last thirty-six of these we have shared this role with Harry. What this has driven home to us is Harry’s exceptional warmth as a human being, his brilliance as a political-economic analyst, his unlimited patience as a teacher and writer determined to communicate in plain terms, his openness to new radical vistas, and above all his personal integrity and courage, which, as with Marx, allows him to elude the traps of ideology and dispense with all fashions, acting according to the motto: “Go on your way, and let the people talk” (a variation on a line from Dante used by Marx at the end of the preface to the first edition of Capital)… | more |

Notes from the Editors, April 2003

Notes from the Editors, April 2003

» Notes from the Editors

Truth and conscience, and with them art, are the first casualties of any war. The impending U.S. invasion of Iraq has already provided us with two major examples of this. The first of these was the cancellation by First Lady Laura Bush of a White House Symposium on “Poetry and the American Voice” scheduled for early February 2003, once it was discovered that some of the invited poets were voicing opposition to Bush administration plans for an invasion of Iraq and might use the occasion to address the conscience of the country on the war. (Upon receiving the White House invitation, as explained in this issue, Sam Hamill, founding editor and co-founder of Copper Canyon Press, issued a call for the establishment of Poets Against the War. His call was answered by thousands of poets, including many of the country’s leading literary figures, who offered their antiwar poems. Some of this poetry protesting the impending war is printed for the first time in this issue of MR.)… | more |

Notes from the Editors, March 2003

Notes from the Editors, March 2003

» Notes from the Editors

In the 1920s Andrew Mellon, who served as secretary of the treasury under Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover (it was sometimes said that they served under him), introduced a series of gargantuan tax cuts culminating in what was known as the Mellon Plan. This consisted of a huge cut in the income tax rates of the rich along with reductions in other taxes paid by the wealthy. High income tax rates, Mellon claimed, “tend to destroy individual initiative and enterprise and seriously impede the development of productive enterprise.” When Mellon’s foes, such as the great Progressive Senator Robert La Follette, declared that Mellon was trying to “let wealth escape” its fair share of taxation, he sought to turn the tables on them by charging that they were engaging in class warfare. “The man who seeks to perpetuate prejudice and class hatred,” the treasury secretary stated, “is doing America an ill service. In attempting to promote or defeat legislation by arraying one class of taxpayers against another, he shows a complete misconception of the principles of equality on which the country was founded” … | more |

Notes from the Editors, February 2003

Notes from the Editors, February 2003

» Notes from the Editors

On December 19, 2002 U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell declared that the 12,000 page document that Iraq delivered to the United Nations on December 7, listing its secret weapons programs together with any dual use agents that could be used in proscribed weapons systems, contained significant omissions. It thus constituted, in the view of the Bush administration, a further “material breach” in Iraq’s obligations under current U.N. resolutions. All of this was meant to add to Washington’s case for waging a war on Iraq, ostensibly in order to “disarm” it… | more |

Notes from the Editors, January 2003

Notes from the Editors, January 2003

» Notes from the Editors

“The American health care system is confronting a crisis.” This was the not very surprising conclusion of a study by a National Academy of Science panel on the U.S. health care system, carried out at the request of the administration and released in November 2002 www.nap.edu/books/0309087074/html. The report, entitled Fostering Rapid Advances in Health Care, describes conditions that are little short of horrendous. Health care costs are increasing at an annual rate in excess of 12 percent. The insured are receiving far fewer benefits while paying much more in out-of-pocket expenses. States in fiscal trouble are cutting benefits for Medicaid and other health programs. The number of uninsured has climbed to 41.2 million or 14.5 percent of the U.S. population. This means that one in seven individuals in the United States lacks any health care coverage whatsoever, and many more have inadequate coverage. A quarter of U.S. children aged to nineteen to thirty-five months are deficient in immunizations. Tens of thousands of individuals die every year from medical errors and many more than that from injuries caused by the health system… | more |

Notes from the Editors, December 2002

Notes from the Editors, December 2002

» Notes from the Editors

Among the major countries of the world, the United States has the highest per capita income, and it is often assumed therefore that the ordinary American is materially better off than his or her counterpart anywhere else in the world. In fact, this proposition is practically taken for granted within U.S. national culture, since it is constantly being drummed into our ears by the media and educational institutions. Yet, as a logical proposition it is simply false. This was recently pointed out by Paul Krugman, a leading mainstream economist and columnist for the New York Times, in an article (“For Richer,” New York Times Magazine, October 20, 2002) dedicated to explaining exactly why this national myth is mistaken. “Life expectancy in the U.S.,” Krugman observes, “is well below that in Canada, Japan and every major nation in Western Europe. On the average, we can expect lives a bit shorter than those of Greeks, a bit longer than those of Portuguese. Male life expectancy is lower in the U.S. than it is in Costa Rica”… | more |

U.S. Imperial Ambitions and Iraq

Officially Washington’s current policy toward Iraq is to bring about a “regime change”—either through a military coup, or by means of a U.S. invasion, justified as a “preemptive attack” against a rogue state bent on developing and deploying weapons of mass destruction.* But a U.S. invasion, should it take place, would not confine its objectives to mere regime change in Baghdad. The larger goal would be nothing less than the global projection of U.S. power through assertion of American dominance over the entire Middle East. What the world is now facing therefore is the prospect of a major new development in the history of imperialism… | more |

Notes from the Editors, November 2002

Notes from the Editors, November 2002

» Notes from the Editors

On September 10, of this year, an interview entitled, “Nelson Mandela: The U.S.A. is a Threat to World Peace,” appeared as a Newsweek web exclusive, http://www.msnbc.com/news/806174.asp. In this interview, Mandela reviewed some of the history of U.S. interventions in the Middle East—including U.S. support of the Shah of Iran, which led to the Islamic revolution in 1979, and U.S. arming and financing of the mujahedin in Afghanistan, which led to the rise of the Taliban. He went on to say, “If you look at those matters, you will come to the conclusion that the attitude of the United States of America is a threat to world peace. Because what [America] is saying is that if you are afraid of a veto in the Security Council, you can go outside and take action and violate the sovereignty of other countries. That is the message they are sending the world. That must be condemned in the strongest terms.” Later, on September 16, when Washington condemned as mere duplicity Iraq’s offer to allow unconditional inspection of its weapons facilities by U.N. inspectors, and again threatened war, Mandela asked: “What right has Bush to say that Iraq’s offer is not genuine? We must condemn that very strongly. No country, however strong, is entitled to comment adversely in the way the U.S. has done. They think they’re the only power in the world. They’re not and they’re following a dangerous policy. One country wants to bully the world” (Guardian, September 19, 2002)… | more |

Notes from the Editors, October 2002

Notes from the Editors, October 2002

» Notes from the Editors

In late August and early September a number of MR and Socialist Register authors (including Patrick Bond, John Bellamy Foster, Gerard Greenfield, Naomi Klein, and John Saul) participated in forums in Johannesburg related to the World Summit on Sustainable Development. On August 24, they joined in a march led by antiprivatization activists from the black townships (in particular by Trevor Ngwane and Virginia Setshedi—whose role in the struggle in South Africa is discussed in Ashwin Desai’s new MR Press book, We Are the Poors). The march was organized to protest the arrest and jailing of political activists. The marchers lit candles and proceeded peacefully but were met within minutes by the South African police who exploded percussion grenades, injuring three of the protestors. The harsh and unprovoked actions of the police on this occasion pointed to the increasingly antipopular character of the South African state, which is imposing neoliberal economic policy on the society. It also underscored the repressive measures now commonly utilized at world summits in general. We will address the Johannesburg summit and the economic and environmental problems of southern Africa in an upcoming issue of MR… | more |