Sunday April 20th, 2014, 4:59 pm (EDT)

A Note from the Associate Editor

Michael D. Yates is associate editor of Monthly Review. He is the author of Why Unions Matter and co-editor of Rising from the Ashes?: Labor in the Age of “Global” Capitalism.

It is with great pleasure and a sense of humility that I begin work as Associate Editor of Monthly Review. The pleasure comes from living in New York City and knowing that I am working at the best-known and most important radical journal in the world. The humility comes from knowing I am working with a group of outstanding intellectuals and activists. Paul Sweezy and Harry Magdoff have been mentors for many years, and in the small ways I have been able, I have tried to pattern my life and work after that of MR founder, Leo Huberman, a great popular writer and labor educator. Now John Foster and Bob McChesney, two scholars of the highest rank, have come on board as editors. It is an honor to be on the masthead with such people.

So much has changed since the attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. The heart of the beast was pierced, but not by a revolutionary uprising intent upon the self-liberation of the common people. Instead reactionary terrorists killed thousands of men and women for ends not completely clear but having nothing to do with the liberation of anyone. In fact, as we are now witnessing, brutality reigns and the police powers of governments around the globe are expanding exponentially. The U.S. military drops bombs on the benighted poor of Afghanistan; the U.S. Congress radically assaults civil liberties as it prepares an economic stimulus package skewed remarkably toward the wealthy; and the media, from mainstream newspapers to crackpot talk show hosts, encourage us to applaud these things and demand more of the same.

These opening salvos in the “war against terrorism” do not bode well for the worldµs workers. In the months and years to come, we can expect to see an ugly scenario develop. “Terrorism” is a word subject to may meanings. The U.S. government and its allies will define it as broadly as possible, to include for certain rebel forces in Colombia and elsewhere in Latin America and very likely to include as well the Cuban government. Individuals and organizations opposed to their governmentµs actions will be tarred with the terrorist brush and subjected to close surveillance and other more subtle (and not so subtle) forms of harassment. Already some professors and journalists have been fired for criticizing government anti-terrorism actions. We can expect more of this. We will also see more brazen assaults on the anti-globalization and environmental movements. Both will be portrayed as unpatriotic and antagonistic to the economic well-being of the majority of people in the rich nations. The “war on terrorism” will prove to be excellent cover for the building of oil pipelines and other destroyers of the earthµs ecosystems. “Free trade” will be opposed to the “primitive” economic and cultural views of the “terrorists,” and those opposed to it will thereby be linked to the “forces of evil,” to use one of President Bush’s favorite expressions. The economic and environmental fallout from all of this will be represented as unfortunate but necessary sacrifices we will all have to make to preserve our way of life (There is considerable irony here. Sacrifices will have to be made, but at the same time, we will have to continue to spend money to keep the economic machine rolling. True patriots will go to the mall, even with their unemployment checks.) It is not farfetched to imagine that strikes and other forms of labor unrest will be smeared as unpatriotic and ultimately supportive of the terrorists. All of these probable consequences of the new war will be magnified many fold in the poor countries. In them, the war will mean both fast and slow death, as bombs and repression breed violence which will breed more bombs and repression, without end. Not to mention death squads, land mines, contaminated water and food, and so on, ad nauseam.

While it is understandable to think apocalyptically about September 11 and its aftermath, it is necessary to remember that while everything has changed, nothing has changed. September 11 only deepened the multiple contradictions which already existed. These include, in no particular order, billions of persons living in absolute misery, an ever-widening gap between the worldµs rich and poor, the continuous destruction of indigenous peoples, global warming and other environmental tragedies, the elimination of all manner of public enterprises and social services, vicious assaults on all labor and poor peopleµs movements, and deepening stagnation in Japan, Europe, and the United States.

In the face of all of this, it is difficult to be optimistic. Yet whether one is optimistic or pessimistic, it is imperative for each of us to continue the struggle against what is so obviously an irrational and destructive capitalist system. We must take what the objective situation offers us and build for a better future. In these efforts, Monthly Review can and will play an important role, providing the coherent radical analyses needed by all of those who seek the truth and fight to change the world. And, as Associate Editor, I will do all that I can to continue and deepen the MR tradition of independent socialism.

Essays in this series…