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The Editors

February 2002 (Volume 53, Number 9)

February 2002 (Volume 53, Number 9)

The meltdown of Enron, the giant energy trading firm, which recently ranked as the seventh largest U.S. corporation—now its largest ever bankruptcy—is one of the most startling events in U.S. financial history. Only a few months ago Enron was the toast of Wall Street. It was the symbol of the New Economy and of the deregulation of both finance and energy markets. Its former CEO, Jeffrey K. Skilling, promoted the idea that assets were not what made a company valuable. Instead what counted was a corporation’s intellectual capital. He sold the idea of Enron as a nimble, highly-leveraged, “asset-light” company engaged in aggressive internet-based trading. The point is that this huge and highly regarded corporation did not make anything. Nor did it perform a service like distributing energy. It was in essence a purely speculative enterprise, making money through trading made possible by the deregulation of a basic consumer need (electricity). And U.S. business bought it! For six years in a row, the editors of Fortune magazine selected Enron as the “most innovative” among the magazine’s “most admired” corporations. Enron was a principal fundraising source for President George W. Bush’s electoral campaign. It was a big winner in California’s electrical deregulation crisis, which generated skyrocketing electricity prices and huge profits for big energy traders. Enron’s corporate empire was underwritten by some of the biggest U.S. banks, including J. P. Morgan Chase and Citigroup… | more |

January 2002 (Volume 53, Number 8)

January 2002 (Volume 53, Number 8)

The U.S. news media coverage of the current war has again drawn attention to the severe limitations of our journalism, and our media system, for a viable democratic and humane society. The coverage has effectively been stenography to those in power, and since the Democrats have offered dismal resistance to or even interrogation of the war policies, uncomfortable facts that undermine enthusiasm for the war, and the broader wave of militarism it is part of, appear only briefly on the margins. Dissident opinions, as they do not come from elite quarters, are all but nonexistent in the premier media outlets. The most striking admission of the propaganda basis of U.S. journalism came from CNN, when it insisted that its domestic coverage of the war be sugarcoated so as not to undermine popular enthusiasm for the war, while its international coverage would regard the United States in a more critical manner; i.e. exactly as credible journalists should regard it… | more |

December 2001 (Volume 53, Number 7)

December 2001 (Volume 53, Number 7)

For a long time radicals have characterized the electoral systems in capitalist societies as “bourgeois democracies.” At times, this term has been used in a strictly pejorative sense, to dismiss any electoral work as inconsequential or merely a device for legitimating capitalism in the eyes of the poor and working class. Our view of left electoral work is less doctrinaire; we think there is an important place for such activity as a part of a broader socialist organizing agenda, though the degree of importance in any particular instance varies depending upon many factors. We also think that such a categorical dismissal of electoral politics misses the critical significance of the term “bourgeois democracy.” It means an electoral system in which the rule of capital—i.e. bourgeois social relations—is taken as a given, and the range of electoral debate is strictly limited, never challenging the class basis of society… | more |

November 2001 (Volume 53, Number 6)

November 2001 (Volume 53, Number 6)

MR is not a news magazine. As a monthly magazine with limited resources we are not able to keep up with headline events as they happen. Nor do we believe that this should be our role. Rather our job is to provide thoroughgoing critical analysis, which normally takes time. In the face of the events of September 11, however, we have put together this issue devoted to the terrorist attack and the war crisis in a state of great urgency; a task made more difficult by the fact that our New York location has meant that all of those who work at MR were personally affected somehow by the attack on the World Trade Center. The result of these efforts is before you. The purpose of this issue, we should add, is not so much to address the events of September 11 themselves, as to look at how the heavy hand of the U.S. imperial system is coming down in retaliation (U.S. military strikes in Afghanistan have just begun as we go to press), the need to prevent a global slaughter, and the long–term consequences… | more |

After the Attack…The War on Terrorism

There is little we can say directly about the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.—except that these were acts of utter, inhuman violence, indefensible in every sense, taking a deep and lasting human toll. Such terrorism has to be rid from the face of the earth. The difficulty lies in how to rid the world of it. Terrorism generates counterterrorism and the United States has long been a party to this deadly game, as perpetrator more often than victim.… | more |

October 2001 (Volume 53, Number 5)

October 2001 (Volume 53, Number 5)

The fact that the vested interests in the United States are able to rely on a well-oiled propaganda system, in which the media dutifully play their appointed role, is perhaps nowhere clearer today than in the case of Social Security privatization. From the standpoint of the establishment the truth simply will not do. If the truth were presented on Social Security, that is, if there were a responsible and independent press hammering away at the truth, against the obscene manipulation of the facts by the establishment, there would be no Social Security “crisis” and no substantial public support for even partial privatization. The idea of the failure of Social Security is a classic case of propaganda by the elite aimed at manipulating the minds of the people. … | more |

September 2001 (Volume 53, Number 4)

September 2001 (Volume 53, Number 4)

The Economist (June 23, 2001) contained an item that we thought would interest and amuse MR readers. Under the title “More Tomatoes, Please,” it humorously observed: It’s tough being a world leader these days. Once upon a time, you could meet a couple of your counterparts in some pleasant seaside town, forge a union or divide a continent over dinner, and then issue a grateful public with a photograph and a communiqué….… | more |

 July-August 2001 (Volume 53, Number 3)

July-August 2001 (Volume 53, Number 3)

As many of you know, we sent out an emergency appeal two months ago to raise $100,000 to make up for a cash deficit. We found ourselves in the paradoxical position of having experienced the largest increase in magazine circulation last year in more than a decade, while looking at a bank account that was pointing toward empty. MR’s very existence was threatened. The problem arose in part because we were without an editor for MR Press for over a year. As a result, book schedules were delayed and new projects put on hold… | more |

Prisons and Executions—the U.S. Model

A Historical Introduction

The prison is so prominent an institution in present-day society that it is difficult to remember that the prison as a place of punishment is only a little more than two hundred years old. It emerged first in the United States and soon after in Europe, and its early phase of development was that of 1789-1848, conforming to what historian Eric Hobsbawm has termed The Age of Revolution. It was thus a product of the dual revolution that formed the basis for modern capitalism: the industrial revolution centered in Britain and the political revolution that took place in the United States and France… | more |

June 2001 (Volume 53, Number 2)

June 2001 (Volume 53, Number 2)

In response to the massive popular protests against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) in Quebec City on April 20-21, the mainstream media has adopted as one of its favorite lines that the protesters, while frequently well meaning, are ignorant of basic economics. What this means is that the protesters are refusing to bow down before the alleged virtues of unregulated free trade. In his column on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times (April 24, 2001), Thomas Friedman quoted Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs as saying, “There is not a single example in modern history of a country successfully developing without trading and integrating with the global economy.” … | more |

A Prizefighter for Capitalism

A few weeks ago, the New York Times columnist on economics devoted his space to scolding the demonstrators at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, (April 22, 2001, Op-Ed page). The writer, Paul Krugman an MIT professor, is considered by many to be a leading light of the profession, and a likely candidate for the economics Nobel Prize… | more |

May 2001 (Volume 53, Number 1)

May 2001 (Volume 53, Number 1)

In September 1969 Monthly Review published Margaret Benston’s article, “The Political Economy of Women’s Liberation”–one of the most important early intellectual contributions to the current wave of feminist struggle in the United States. In the more than three decades since we have continued to publish articles by socialist feminists (along with a steady flow of important feminist texts through Monthly Review Press’ New Feminist Library) … | more |

April 2001 (Volume 52, Number 11)

April 2001 (Volume 52, Number 11)

It was just over a year ago that we asked John Bellamy Foster and Robert W. McChesney to serve as acting co-editors of Monthly Review, with a view to having four co-editors. Although Foster and McChesney were naturals for undertaking this responsibility—they are longtime MR contributors and MR Press authors—the type of collegiality necessary to make a publication like MR tick is delicate and difficult to predict. We therefore thought it desirable that they be “acting” co-editors, to provide for a trial period. In the past year we have worked together in a truly collective way, published some of our best issues, and circulation has grown at a rapid pace. In addition to political economy and socialist education, John and Bob have opened MR up to new areas where we are now on the cutting edge. John is among the three or four leading environmental sociologists, and Bob holds similar distinction as a media and communications scholar. Moreover, both John and Bob have been active in radical movements for much of the past two decades. There is a lot of ballyhoo nowadays about public intellectuals. In John and Bob we have two of the very best of the breed. To top it off, they are genuinely warm and loving individuals with whom everyone enjoys working. MR’s morale has not been this high in a very long time. We are thus happy to announce that these two younger friends and colleagues are joining us as permanent—no longer “acting”—co-editors of Monthly Review… | more |

The New Economy

Myth and Reality

In the last few years the idea of a “New Economy” has gained wide currency, almost rivaling “globalization” as a neologism that characterizes our era. Thus The Economic Report of the President, 2001, begins: “Over the last 8 years the American economy has transformed itself so radically that many believe we have witnessed the creation of a New Economy.” This New Economy is seen, first and foremost, as consisting of those firms and economic sectors most closely associated with the revolution in digital technology and the growth of the Internet. The rapid convergence of information technologies—including computers, software, satellites, fiber optics, and the Internet—has, it is believed, fundamentally altered the economic landscape. Since the mid-1990s, these revolutionary technological developments have, it is argued, spilled over into the wider economy, generating higher productivity growth, a sustained acceleration of economic growth, lower unemployment, lower inflation, and an attenuation of the business cycle… | more |

March 2001 (Volume 52, Number 10)

March 2001 (Volume 52, Number 10)

Two decades after the Carter and Reagan administrations launched their attacks on the U.S. regulatory system the world is littered with the wreckage of neoliberal deregulation. Seldom have these failures loomed so prominently, however, as in the rolling blackouts that swept much of California in January of this year. These rolling blackouts were implemented by California power authorities in a desperate attempt to deal with a burgeoning crisis in the availability of electrical power resulting from the deregulation of California’s electrical power companies beginning in 1996. The deregulation legislation, passed unanimously by the California state legislature, promised a 20 percent drop in electricity rates by 2002. Rates for final consumers were to be frozen at around 50 percent above the national average for up to four years (1998-2002), during which time the ratepayers were required to contribute to paying off the “stranded assets” of the major private utility companies, consisting of billions of dollars in bad investments in nuclear power facilities. So far, California ratepayers have paid out seventeen billion dollars to the private electrical utilities under these provisions. Deregulation also required the utilities to sell off their power generation facilities (with the exception of some hydropower and nuclear facilities).… | more |

February 2001 (Volume 52, Number 9)

February 2001 (Volume 52, Number 9)

The attention given to the Florida elections in the US presidential race has highlighted the horrendous fact that in Florida and throughout the South thirty-five years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act there are numerous ways in which African Americans are prevented from voting. Thus Florida is one of fourteen states that bar ex-criminal offenders from voting even after they have completed their sentences. In Florida alone more than 400,000 ex-criminal offenders who at one time received felony convictions but who have now completed their sentences and are no longer in prison, on probation, or on parole have been barred from voting in this way. This includes almost one-third of black men in that state and more than 200,000 potential African-American voters, 90 percent or more of whom could have been expected to vote Democrat if they had voted. This situation in Florida and other states is documented in a 1998 report entitled Losing the Vote, issued by Human Rights Watch and the Sentencing Project, available on-line at http://www.hrw.org/reports98/vote/. Given the fact that under the present criminal injustice system African Americans are far more likely to be arrested and given felony convictions than their white counterparts this becomes an effective means of political control.… | more |

The Nader Campaign and the Future of U.S. Left Electoral Politics

The unlikely postelection contest between Al Gore and George W. Bush, which ultimately led to the anointing of Bush as president by the Republican majority on the US Supreme Court (despite the fact that Bush received fewer popular votes than Gore both in the United States as a whole and most likely in Florida as well—the state that gave Bush his electoral college win), has tended to erase all other developments associated with the election. But all of this should not cause us to forget that the Ralph Nader Green Party campaign for the presidency was arguably the most extraordinary phenomenon in US left politics in many years… | more |

January 2001 (Volume 52, Number 8)

January 2001 (Volume 52, Number 8)

A striking example of the one-sided nature of the US media, at least where issues of capital and imperial power are concerned, is the way recent events in the Middle East are being reported. One would never know from the press, radio, and television that Palestinians are fighting for freedom from military occupation and the years-long deterioration of social and economic conditions. Theirs is in essence an anticolonial struggle. In a recent article in the Egyptian Al-Ahram Weekly, Edward Said pointed out: not a single map has been published or shown on television to remind American viewers and readers—notoriously ignorant of both geography and history—that Israeli encampments, settlements, roads and barricades crisscross Palestinian land in Gaza and the West Bank.… | more |

Fifty Years Ago in Monthly Review

A widely-held belief in the United States is that Americans lead the world in social, humanitarian, and even egalitarian thinking. More specifically, Mrs. Roosevelt and other United States representatives at the UN are thought to have extended the frontiers of human rights on the international plane. The opposite is true…In December, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” which was to be a beacon light to the world—a guide to wider freedoms and a better life….The original idea was to draw up an International Bill of Rights which every country would sign just as it signs any other international convention….At this stage, the Americans displayed a rare example of long term planning on a UN matter… | more |

December 2000 (Volume 52, Number 7)

December 2000 (Volume 52, Number 7)

Praise for Karl Marx—albeit of a somewhat mocking kind—comes from the strangest places nowadays. In their new book Future Perfect: The Challenge and Hidden Promise of Globalization, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, bestselling business authors and correspondents for the adamantly procapitalist Economist magazine, declare that, “as a prophet of socialism Marx may be kaput; but as a prophet of ‘the universal interdependence of nations,’ as he called globalization, he can still seem startlingly relevant. His description of globalization remains as sharp today as it was 150 years ago” (pp. 332-333). The same thing has been noticed in a quite different way in colleges and universities, as demand for courses on Marx, Marxism, and political economy appear once again to be on the rise.… | more |

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