Monday April 21st, 2014, 12:38 am (EDT)

US Politics/Economy

Political Economy of the US

February 2001, Volume 52, Number 9

February 2001, Volume 52, Number 9

» Notes from the Editors

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 |

About the Workers and For the Workers

Eleanor Marx and Edward Aveling, The Working Class Movement in America, edited by Paul Le Blanc (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 2000), $55, 231 pp.; Paul Le Blanc, A Short History of the US Working Class (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 1999), $30 (cloth), $20 (paper), 205 pp.

1886 was a momentous year in United States labor history. The great eight-hours movement had swept across the nation, and the Knights of Labor were in full flower. Working class politicial parties were forming, and the American Federation of Labor had been founded. In that year, Karl Marx’s daughter, Eleanor, and her partner, Edward Aveling, toured the United States, giving lectures and meeting comrades as guests of the Socialist Labor Party. They then returned to England and wrote about their trip. The first book under review is a timely reprint of the original. In addition to the reprint, it includes a useful introduction by Paul Le Blanc (including a fine annotated labor history bibliography) and interesting essays by historian Lisa Frank on Eleanor Marx and by writer and labor activist Kim Moody on aspects of working class life the two visitors failed to see… | more |

January 2001, Volume 52, Number 8

January 2001, Volume 52, Number 8

» Notes from the Editors

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: … | 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 |

Freedom Schooling

At the June meeting of the Black Radical Congress in Detroit, conference delegates decided to launch a campaign for “Education, not Incarceration ”… | more |

“Saving” Social Security

A Neoliberal Recapitulation of Primitive Accumulation

Dean Baker and Mark Weisbrot, Social Security: The Phony Crisis (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), 175 pp., $22.

The pronounced insecurity that inevitably attends capitalism’s historic tendency to commodify, and hence privatize, everything that can be commodified and privatized has been met with two major forms of resistance. The first is revolutionary communism, which emerged in the latter half of the nineteenth century and the second is social democracy, which developed in its strongest form in Europe after the Second World War. A defining feature of our present situation is that neither of these forms of resistance to capitalist hegemony is currently a major historical force … | more |

Capital Crimes

The Political Economy of Crime in America

American politicians have been declaring victory in the war against crime at least since Richard Nixon said in 1972 that “[c]rime…[is] finally beginning to go back down…[because] we have a remarkable record on the law-and-order issues, with crime legislation…and narcotics bills.” In other words, crime declines because the government passes laws and spends money; larger prisons, more police, fewer civil liberties, and tougher punishments are winning the war on crime … | more |

The Levittown Legacy

Rosalyn Baxandall and Elizabeth Ewen, Picture Windows: How the Suburbs Happened (New York: Basic Books, 2000), 352 pp., $27.50, cloth. (Due out in paperback in January 2001.)… | more |

Judging by the number of column inches now devoted to the subject in the national press, suburban sprawl has at last come of age. The sudden popularity of the topic may reflect the fact that suburbanites now constitute a majority of Americans. The impact of 132 million Americans on the landscape is hard to ignore. If, as environmentalists claim, more than four thousand acres of farmland are being devoured by suburban sprawl every day, then the prospect of a countryside bereft of open space can no longer be dismissed as alarmist. Sprawl is so pervasive and its predations so disturbing that its dynamics appear as almost a force of nature, inevitable and uncontrollable. So it is good to be reminded, as we are in the pages of Picture Windows, that the origins of large-scale suburbs were, in fact, anything but accidental and that the prime mover behind their massive postwar expansion was the federal government itself … | more |

October 2000, Volume 52, Number 5

October 2000, Volume 52, Number 5

» Notes from the Editors

In an article on the role of third parties in U.S. presidential elections in the August 21, 2000, issue of In These Times, founding editor and publisher James Weinstein observed: … | more |

Social Security, the Stock Market, and the Elections

Social Security was the crowning achievement of Roosevelt’s New Deal. It has been the most successful and still remains the most popular of all U.S. government programs. More than a pension program, Social Security provides for workers and their families in the case of early death and disability, in addition to retirement. In 1997, it provided about twelve trillion dollars worth of life insurance alone, more than that of the entire private life-insurance industry. Furthermore, it does all of this in the form of social insurance, in which the distribution and the amount of benefits provided are determined by family relation- ships and basic economic rights-factors that private insurance and pension plans ignore. Nearly one-fifth of the elderly in the United States rely on Social Security as virtually their sole source of income, while two-thirds of all recipients depend on it for at least half of their income… | more |

A Question of Place

On February 29, 2000, a first grader in the Buell Elementary School in Flint took a semi-automatic rifle to school and fatally shot his classmate, six-year-old Kayla Rolland. Since then, there have been countless stories about the tragedy in the media. Those I have read or heard have focused on the chaos in the boy’s family and/or guns in the home and community. All have avoided saying that Buell School is in Flint. Instead they have located it in “Mt. Morris Township, somewhere near Flint ”… | more |

More Form than Substance

Press Coverage of the WTO Protests in Seattle

The mainstream U.S. news media have been shifting rightward for at least two decades, as their corporate owners enforce tighter ideological conformity. Oliver North and Pat Buchanan, for example, are now regular commentators on television talk shows. And all of the media now refer to people as “consumers,” cogs in a capitalist machine. But still, news is less than half as profitable as entertainment, and media firms are intensifying pressures on their “news properties” for higher profits, which means the pursuit of upscale demographics. … | more |

Remembering Murray Levin

I suspect that many on the U.S. left do not know the name of Murray Levin—political scientist, writer, teacher—who died at the age of seventy-two in late 1999. It would be hard to characterize his politics in simple terms; “socialist,” “radical,” “progressive?” In the thirty-five years I knew him, including twenty-four years as his close friend and colleague at Boston University, there was never any occasion to describe him in any of those ways … | more |

Prison Sentences

Doing Time: 25 Years of Prison Writing (New York: Arcade, 1999), 349 pp., $27.95, cloth.

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s old adage, about measuring a civilization by reviewing its prisons, if followed in the U.S. context, is a condemnation of this nation’s own version of the gulag archipelago. A cross-section of prisoner’s writings submitted to the PEN writing contest for the past quarter-century reveals the cold, dark underside of the American dream. Men and women, denizens of both state and federal prisons, write brilliantly about trying to stay human in the midst of places of marked inhumanity, and indeed, places that only succeed if they dehumanize … | more |

March 1999, Volume 50, Number 10

March 1999, Volume 50, Number 10

» Notes from the Editors

If the United States has ever had a “welfare state,” Social Security must surely be the heart of it. In the world’s most predatory capitalism, this is the closest thing to a humane and equitable institution. An International Monetary Fund (IMF) study has even suggested (but who trusts the IMF?) that the U.S. state pension system is more redistributive than the one in social democratic Sweden. What, then, should we make of Clinton’s proposal for “rescuing” the system? … | more |

The New Theology of the First Amendment

The First Amendment stands as the crown jewel of the U.S. Constitution. Although it often has been ignored and violated throughout U.S. history, the First Amendment is the republic’s shining commitment to individual freedom of expression and to the protection of this institutional requirements for an informed electorate and a participatory democracy. Yet what exactly the First Amendment signifies and does has been the subject of considerable debate over the years. Currently or in the near future, any number of cases are and will be working their way through the court system that would seek to prohibit any government regulation of political campaign spending, broadcasting, and commercial speech (e.g. advertising or food labeling) on the grounds that such regulation would violate citizens’ and corporations’ First Amendment rights to free speech or free press … | more |

Digital Diploma Mills

The Automation of Higher Education

Recent events at two large North American universities signal dramatically that we have entered a new era in higher education, one which is rapidly drawing the halls of academe into the age of automation. In mid-summer the UCLA administration launched its historic “Instructional Enhancement Initiative” requiring computer web sites for all of its arts and sciences courses by the start of the fall term, the first time that a major university has made mandatory the use of computer telecommunications technology in the delivery of higher education. In partnership with several private corporations (including the Times Mirror Company, parent of the Los Angeles Times), moreover, UCLA has spawned its own for-profit company, headed by a former UCLA vice chancellor, to peddle online education (the Home Education Network) … | more |

A Note on Du Boff and Herman

I’m taking the liberty of appending this note because, though Du Boff and Herman’s article is directed mainly at Bill Tabb, it refers to some of the things I’ve written about globalization.…Recently, I got a letter from Bill Doyle, who wrote, “After reading Ed Herman’s comments in Z (magazine), I re-read your article and couldn’t see why Ed was so exercised. I’d be interested to know if you see a substantial difference between the two of you, and, if so, what it is.” Here, with some minor changes and additions, is what I wrote back.… | more |

Honest, Able, and Fearless

Victor Rabinowitz, Unrepentant Leftist: A Lawyer’s Memoir (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1996), 352 pp., $29.95, cloth.

Among the questions that divide my friends is whether it is possible that widespread revolutionary organization may someday occur even in the United States, the Belly of the Beast as goes a phrase all my fellow 68ers will recall. If you think the question deserves to be asked, then the history of the repression of the U.S. Left after the Second World War (and of what survived the storm) is worth your attention. After all, if this history is forgotten then the question is indeed not worth asking. How the ruling class of the United States manages its domestic repression is, in any event, of general relevance in many other places as well. Victor Rabinowitz at age eighty five offers a sharp, fascinating, and superbly written report on this question from inside that structured but flexible Great Intestine of the United States, its legal system.… | more |