Saturday April 19th, 2014, 12:24 am (EDT)

History

History

Is There Anything More to Say About the Rosenberg Case?

For more than forty years, defenders of the Rosenbergs have offered an argument unchanged in its essentials. The prosecution obtained the ultimate punishment…[—and that] punishment…was disproportionate and barbaric. However, the Rosenbergs’ defenders now concede that “Julius Rosenberg, code-named ‘Antenna’ and later ‘Liberal,’ had worked as a spy for the Soviet Union.”… The reason for this turnaround is that in 1995 the federal government made public a series of cables, referred to as the “Venona” messages, which were exchanged between the Soviet government and its operatives in the United States during and after the Second World War.… At the end of the play [Waiting for Lefty] a man runs up the center aisle carrying important information that the title character has been killed. These days, I want to shout out to the audience, as did that man, but with a different message. My imagined dramatic scene goes as follows. “Wait, wait!… Listen to me. Please listen.… You’ve heard the Thesis of the defense. You’ve heard the Antithesis of the prosecution. Don’t you want to hear the Synthesis?”… | more |

U.S. Terrorism in Vietnam

Bernd Greiner, War Without Fronts: The USA in Vietnam, translated by Anne Wyburd and Victoria Fenn (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 518 pages, $35.00, hardcover.

In late 1970, prompted by the debate over the exposure of U.S. atrocities in the village of Mỹ Lai, an anonymous GI wrote a letter to Army Chief of Staff William Westmoreland, claiming to have witnessed hundreds of acts of terrorism by U.S. soldiers during Operation Speedy Express. The campaign, intended to reclaim portions of the Mekong Delta, purportedly killed over ten thousand enemy but seized only seven hundred weapons.… | more |

The World Food Crisis in Historical Perspective

The “world food crisis” of 2007–08 was the tip of an iceberg. Hunger and food crises are endemic to the modern world, and the eruption of a rapid increase in food prices provided a fresh window on this cultural fact. Much like Susan George’s well-known observation that famines represent the final stage in an extended process of deepening vulnerability and fracturing of social reproduction mechanisms, this food “crisis” represents the magnification of a long-term crisis of social reproduction stemming from colonialism, and was triggered by neoliberal capitalist development.… | more |

The Reichstag Fire Trial, 1933–2008: The Production of Law and History

In the opening decade of the twentieth century the German national state united the great majority of the German speaking population of Europe, excluding only those in Switzerland and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and was among the leading states of the world. It boasted technologically advanced industry, among the highest per capita GDP, and the second largest army and third largest navy in the world. Germany was at peace, save for minor military operations against disobedient natives in Southwest Africa. It was a state that was among world leaders in providing basic social insurance, yet held sacred private property and the rule of law, except only in strictly prescribed areas of national security. In the opening decade of the twenty-first century the German national state unites the great majority of the German speaking population of Europe, excepting only those in Switzerland and Austria, its industry is technologically advanced and its per capita GDP high. Its military budget is the sixth largest in the world, and it is at peace, save for minor military operations against disobedient natives in Afghanistan. Despite cutbacks, few states in the world have better provision of basic social insurance, and Germany today prides itself on holding private property to be sacred and on its adherence to the rule of law, except for a few strictly prescribed areas of national security. In the fourth and fifth decades of the twentieth century the German national state committed crimes universally agreed to be the most horrendous in human history.… | more |

The Rise and Fall of the Third World

Vijay Prashad, The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (New York: New Press, 2008), 384 pages, paper, $19.95.

Vijay Prashad’s The Darker Nations opens with the assertion that the third world was not so much a place as a project. His goal is to provide an account of the anticolonial and nonaligned movement rather than a full history of the under-developed world in the last half of the twentieth century. However, in this remarkable book, he does both. Born in the wake of the upheavals of the Second World War, the third world movement that took form at the Bandung Conference in 1955 was championed by the likes of Nehru, Nasser, Tito, Sukarno, and Nkrumah. Its leaders collectively called for national independence, economic development, and Cold War nonalignment while basing themselves on the support of millions of followers in the under-developed nations.… | more |

America Right or Wrong: Anglo-American Relations Since 1945

British subordination to the United States, the so-called special relationship as it is optimistically known in London, is so taken for granted that it is seldom subjected to critical scrutiny. Why is it that the British ruling class and its agents have since 1945 come to embrace a junior partnership in the U.S. empire so wholeheartedly? Most recently, the “special relationship” has seen the New Labor government actively support and take part in the invasion and occupation of Iraq in the face of a hostile public opinion. Indeed, the largest demonstration in British history, on February 15, 2003, was against British participation in this unprovoked war of imperialist aggression. The lying, dishonest pretext for the invasion together with… | more |

Ecological Crises and the Agrarian Question in World-Historical Perspective

We are here to talk about the Agrarian Question, or rather, Agrarian Questions. The plural is important. We live in a modern world-system of unprecedented unevenness and complexity. This much, we all know. At the same time, it is no less important, I should add, to see this diversity from what Lukács once called the “point of view of totality.”1 The Agrarian Questions are not exclusive but rather mutually constitutive. However, they are not constitutive of each other in the fashion that has gained such widespread circulation these days within critical social science—that the local shapes the global no less than the other way around. Yes, local-regional transformations have always generated powerful contradictions that shaped in decisive ways the geography and timing of world accumulation and world power. The parts shape the whole. The whole shapes the parts. But never equally so… | more |

Remembering Andre Gunder Frank While Thinking About the Future

Andre Gunder Frank’s very long itinerary as a critical social sci­entist was marked by one unbudgeable constant. He was always com­mitted to a left political agenda, and he was always analyzing the evolving current world situation as a left scholar-activist. I be­lieve that the best tribute I can offer him is to do the same. Gunder’s father, Leonhard Frank, a distinguished novelist and man of letters, wrote toward the end of his life a novel based on his own life. Its title was Links, wo das Herz ist (“My Heart Is on the Left”). This would have been the most appropriate title for Gunder’s own never-written autobiography.… | more |

Aimé Fernand Césaire (1913–2008): The Clarity of Struggle

The poet, dramatist, and politician, Aimé Césaire, who died on April 17, aged ninety-four, saw this work, indeed all his work, as a weapon, perhaps best exemplified in Une Tempète. In his introduction to it, Robin G. D. Kelley, wrote “the weapon of poetry may be Césaire’s greatest gift to a world still searching for freedom.”… | more |

Never Forget the Class—or the Racial—Struggle

Peter Cole, Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2007), 256 pages, hardcover, $40.00.

Peter Cole has offered an excellent historical examination of a poorly explored moment in labor history. His book, Wobblies on the Waterfront, explores the period (1913–22) when Local 8 of the National Industrial Union of Marine Transport Workers (of the Industrial Workers of the World [IWW]) was the preeminent force on the Philadelphia waterfronts.… | more |

Who Really Won the Space Race?

Last October’s anniversary of the launch of the Sputnik artificial satellite has led to much discussion as to who won the space race. Usually it is argued that the United States unproblematically “won.” But this is a very simplistic picture and one that should be challenged. Above all, the focus on nations “winning” or “losing” needs to be rejected. It is the rich and powerful who are doing the winning. And they can come from any country.… | more |

The War for Control of the Periphery

Steven Hiatt, ed., with introduction by John Perkins, A Game as Old as Empire: The Secret World of Economic Hit Men and the Web of Global Corruption (San Francisco: BK Currents, 2007), 310 pages, paper $24.95.

Just before John Perkins, author of the bestselling Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, decided it was no longer possible to remain silent about his intimate involvement in the economic warfare waged against the Global South, he sat despondently before the ruins of Ground Zero, totally incapable of visualizing the tragedy: all he could see was a U.S. contractor delivering millions of dollars of weapons to the mujahadeen in Afghanistan. Perkins understood himself—a former economic advisor for a multinational utilities contractor, similar to Bechtel—and others like him, to be products of a “system that promotes the most subtle and effective form of imperialism the world has ever witnessed.” Mainstream commentators addressing Perkins’s book ignored the vivid recounting of his own personal involvement as an economic hit man. This is undoubtedly because Perkins used this experience to emphasize the substantial connections between U.S. intelligence agencies, multinational corporations, and political elites of the Global South, laying bare the true motives of “development.” As an “economic hit man,” Perkins fabricated nearly every economic forecast he was asked to produce—as his bosses clearly expected him to do. This led him to repeatedly attack U.S. economic dogma in Confessions… | more |

The Death and Life of Che

By the time Ernesto Che Guevara (1928–67) was executed on October 8, 1967, in La Higuera, Bolivia by soldiers under the direction of an agent of the Central Intelligence Agency, he had become a kind of ideological “fetish” for his Washington adversaries. For them Guevara was not simply some “terrorist” or “insurgent”—words used to describe him and his Cuban revolutionary comrades then, just as they are used to describe those who resist Western imperial designs today. He was something new in the context of the post-Second World War Cold War. The United States and its clients claimed they were engaged in a struggle to staunch “Soviet aggression” Moscow saw itself as engaged in a contest of competing systems: capitalism versus socialism. But from the outset of his political life, Che’s perspective was burnished in and energized by the immiseration and oppression he confronted in the “Third World.” … | more |

Magic Death for a Magic Life

I believe in the armed struggle as the only solution for peoples who fight to free themselves, and I am consistent with my beliefs. Many will call me an adventurer, and that I am; but of a different kind—of those who risk their skins to test their truths. It may be that this will be the end. I don’t seek it, but it is within the logical calculus of probabilities. If it should be so, I send you a last embrace. I have loved you much, but I have not known how to express my affection; I am extremely rigid in my actions, and I think that sometimes you did not understand me. Besides, it wasn’t easy to understand me, but just believe me today. Now, a will that I have polished with an artist’s loving care will sustain weak legs and tired lungs. I will do it….Give a thought once in awhile to this little soldier of fortune of the 20th century

The Hidden History of the Americas

Charles C. Mann, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), 480 pages, hardcover $30.00.

Countless, almost perfectly round, forested islands dot the remote, watery plain of the Beni in eastern Bolivia. A millennium ago the islands were linked by causeways, parts of an intricate landscape management system tended by thousands of highly organized workers. These mounds do not have their origins in geo-morphological forces, but originate instead in human logic, in anthro-morphology. For even simple excavation reveals that they are built from broken pottery. Each pile, and there are hundreds, is larger than Monte Testaccio, a hill of broken pots southeast of classical Rome, serving as a garbage dump for the imperial city. Simply extending from the volume of ceramics piled on the Beni suggests that the plain was home to a highly structured society. Beginning three thousand years ago, an Arawak-speaking people created a civilization that, at its height, was populated by a million people walking the causeways wearing “long cotton tunics, [with] heavy ornaments dangling from their waists and necks” (12). The Beni was one of humankind’s greatest works of landscape artistry. Yet it was unknown until recently even by its contemporary inhabitants, the Siriono. For the builders of the mounds and the caretakers of the dikes disappeared just before the Spanish invaders arrived. Its discovery awaited Bill Deneven, a geography graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, who flew over the area in 1961 and was astonished to see great regularities in the landscape that could only be human in origin… | more |

Albert Einstein, Radical: A Political Profile

2005 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Albert Einstein and the centennial of the publication of five of his major scientific papers that transformed the study of physics. Einstein’s insights were so revolutionary that they challenged not only established doctrine in the natural sciences, but even altered the way ordinary people saw their world. By the 1920s he had achieved international popular renown on a scale that would not become usual until the rise of the contemporary celebrity saturated tabloids and cable news channels. His recondite scientific papers as well as interviews with the popular press were front page news and fodder for the newsreels. Usually absent, however, was any sober discussion of his participation in the political life of his times as an outspoken radical-especially in profiles and biographies after his death… | more |

William Hinton on the Cultural Revolution

Ever since the major reversals of socialism in the twentieth century, first in the Soviet Union and then in China, leftists internationally have been faced with a serious question: After the initial victory of the people’s revolutionary forces, what can be done to keep on the “socialist road”? What measures can be taken to restrict the class differences inherited from the old society, fend off imperialist hostility and intervention, and prevent a new capitalist class from developing within socialist society itself? … | more |

India, a Great Power?

With a population of over a billion, approaching that of China, and an economic growth rate above the world average, India is now frequently identified as one of the prospective great powers of the twenty-first century. The purpose of this article is to question this prognosis, as the conditions necessary for India to become a great modern power seem to me far from assured.… | more |

The Achievement of Malcolm X

The life of Malcolm X, who was murdered forty years ago this month, spanned a trajectory from oppression and victimization to inchoate rebellion and revolutionary autonomy. His was a voyage from resistance to an informed radicalism. It was a journey from which he ultimately gathered political and historical insight which, combined with his tools of persuasion and skills at leadership, made him at the time of his death arguably the most dangerous figure in this country’s history to confront its ruling class. For us, forty years later, Malcolm’s life is also informative: both about the destructive encounters that Africans, Asians, Latins, and indigenous peoples have had with this country, its culture and its history, and how deeply domestic resistance to that oppression is embedded in the global anti-imperialist struggle… | more |

What is Social Medicine?

The past two decades have seen a rapid expansion of the corporate agenda in the field of health and health care. Rather than moving toward a system of universal access to medical care in the United States, the access to and quality of clinical services is being turned over increasingly to the insurance industry. Patients are now “clients” and clinical services are “product lines.” More clinical research is now funded by the pharmaceutical industry than the National Institutes of Health; pharmaceutical dollars pay the salaries of top academics and set the national research agenda. Clinicians and patients alike are wooed by sophisticated advertising campaigns (often disguised as education) that promote expensive drugs of dubious efficacy. The insertion of “market rationality” into health care has not brought the hoped for curbing of health care costs. The United States, despite spending more per capita on medical care than any other country in the world, continues to perform poorly on many health indicators, with a life expectancy at birth that ranks twenty-seventh in the world… | more |