Wednesday April 16th, 2014, 12:04 pm (EDT)

Richard Levins

Continuing Sources of Marxism

Looking for the Movement as a Whole

In 1913 Lenin identified three intellectual sources of Marxism: German philosophy, English political economy, and French utopian socialism—each in turn created in the social conditions of their societies. But the process did not end there. Marxism continues to grow and to learn from the most advanced, liberating ideas of each period. (It is also influenced in negative ways, narrowing its horizons and getting dragged along by fashion in times of defeat). Here, I want to identify four contemporary sources of enrichment of Marxism: ecology, feminism, national/racial struggles, and pacifism. It is important to recognize them as sources of ideas, not only as allies in political struggles. Their interaction with Marxism is, of course, different from the pre-Marxist sources. They come to Marxism from the outside, but from an outside already influenced in part by Marxism, and they are both welcomed and resisted.… | more |

How to Visit a Socialist Country

Travelers from the United States to Cuba cross more than ninety miles of sea: they cross decades of history. They may be limited to one suitcase, but they carry trunks full of ideological baggage, including biases about Cuba, beliefs about communists, commitments as to what a good society should be like, and a collection of conventional poli-sci formulas about power, government, and human behavior…Members of delegations usually have planned itineraries, visiting various institutions and cultural events. They will learn about health care, education, cultural and sport resources, commitment to an ecological pathway of development, urban agriculture, equitable distribution through the rationing system, full employment, formal aspects of the political and judicial systems, achievements in gender and racial equality. These are all real, and demonstrate how far a poor country can go with so little. But it is obviously not the full story. There is nothing sinister in this. These are the things in which Cuba has pioneered, and of which Cuba is most proud and eager to show the world…My own experience has been that the more committed revolutionaries have the most serious, complex, and thoughtful criticisms, while counterrevolutionaries mostly complain about particular hardships or unpleasant incidents.… | more |

Why Programs Fail

Several generations of development programs have left the gap between rich and poor countries wider than ever. Decades of aid and foreign investment have extracted many times more wealth than they bring in. Seventeen years after the Earth Summit at Rio, carbon dioxide continues to increase. The non-proliferation treaty has left us with more nukes, more countries possessing nukes, more sophisticated nuclear weapons, more willingness to use them. The fanfare of the Green Revolution has died down, and farmers are still being displaced to cities that can’t accommodate them. The first homes of the Green Revolution are now importers of food. Agricultural yields have increased, but so has hunger. Millennial development goals will not be reached.…It is not that no programs work. There have been dramatic successes such as the eradication of smallpox, the near eradication of polio, the containment of plague.…There is a pattern of a sort: narrowly focused technical solutions reshuffle crises.… | more |

Living the 11th Thesis

When I was a boy I always assumed that I would grow up to be both a scientist and a Red. Rather than face a problem of combining activism and scholarship, I would have had a very difficult time trying to separate them.… | more |

Stephen Jay Gould

What Does it Mean to Be a Radical?

Early this year, Stephen Gould developed lung cancer, which spread so quickly that there was no hope of survival. He died on May 20, 2002, at the age of sixty. Twenty years ago, he had escaped death from mesothelioma, induced, we all supposed, by some exposure to asbestos. Although his cure was complete, he never lost the consciousness of his mortality and gave the impression, at least to his friends, of an almost cheerful acceptance of the inevitable. Having survived one cancer that was probably the consequence of an environmental poison, he succumbed to another… | more |