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The Socialist Imperative

The Socialist Imperative

From Gotha to Now

Michael A. Lebowitz explores the obvious but almost universally ignored fact that as human beings work together to produce society’s goods and services, we also “produce” something else: namely, ourselves. Human beings are shaped by circumstances, and any vision of socialism that ignores this fact is bound to fail, or, at best, reproduce the alienation of labor that is endemic to capitalism. But how can people transform their circumstances in a way that allows them to re-organize production and, at the same time, fulfill their human potential? These essays repay careful reading and reflection, and prove Lebowitz to be one of the foremost Marxist thinkers of this era.… | more |

July-August 2015 (Volume 67, Number 3)

July-August 2015 (Volume 67, Number 3)

May’s Review of the Month, “Honor the Vietnamese, Not Those Who Killed Them” by MR Associate Editor Michael D. Yates, has elicited many responses. One writer said that Yates had written the best, but perhaps the first, Marxist analysis of the war. Another praised Monthly Review for having the courage to publish this article. Still a third predicted that in the more distant future, humanity would embrace the essay’s judgment and honor the Vietnamese people for their heroic struggle against the overwhelming might of the U.S. military.… In light of these comments, as well as the subject matter of this double issue of Monthly Review on imperialism, we thought it might be worthwhile to say something more about what the Vietnamese themselves naturally enough call the American War, with an eye toward drawing important lessons useful for contemporary radicals.… | more |

The New Imperialism of Globalized Monopoly-Finance Capital

An Introduction

It is now a universal belief on the left that the world has entered a new imperialist phase.… The challenge for Marxian theories of the imperialist world system in our times is to capture the full depth and breadth of the classical accounts, while also addressing the historical specificity of the current global economy. It will be argued in this introduction (in line with the present issue as a whole) that what is widely referred to as neoliberal globalization in the twenty-first century is in fact a historical product of the shift to global monopoly-finance capital or what Samir Amin calls the imperialism of “generalized-monopoly capitalism.”… | more |

Contemporary Imperialism

Lenin, Bukharin, Stalin, and Trotsky in Russia, as well as Mao, Zhou Enlai, and Den Xiaoping in China, shaped the history of the two great revolutions of the twentieth century. As leaders of revolutionary communist parties and then later as leaders of revolutionary states, they were confronted with the problems faced by a triumphant revolution in countries of peripheral capitalism and forced to “revise”…the theses inherited from the historical Marxism of the Second International.… With the benefit of hindsight, I will indicate here the limitations of their analyses. Lenin and Bukharin considered imperialism to be a new stage (“the highest”) of capitalism associated with the development of monopolies. I question this thesis and contend that historical capitalism has always been imperialist, in the sense that it has led to a polarization between centers and peripheries since its origin (the sixteenth century), which has only increased over the course of its later globalized development.… | more |

Behind the Veil of Globalization

Globalization is not a novel development in the history of capitalism. In his final Monthly Review article, Paul Sweezy argued that globalization is a process, and that it has been occurring for a long time.… The accumulation of capital…has always meant expansion. Furthermore, this very process of growing and spreading is global in scope and, most importantly, imperialistic in its characteristics. Marxist scholars have long argued that imperialism has always accompanied capitalism…. Nevertheless, even if we start with the idea that globalization—or global capitalist expansion—is not novel, this does not trample the argument that the development of such expansion is marked by new characteristics in certain periods. Examining these historically specific characteristics can highlight the imperialistic “nature” of capitalism throughout history, including the development of our current global economy, which will be the focus of this essay.… | more |

Imperialism and the Transformation of Values into Prices

In this article, we aim to demonstrate that the low prices of goods produced in the global South and the attendant modest contribution of its exports to the Gross Domestic Product of the North conceals the real dependence of the latter’s economies on low-waged Southern labor. We argue that the relocation of industry to the global South in the past three decades has resulted in a massive increase of transferred value to the North. The principal mechanisms for this transfer are the repatriation of surplus value by means of foreign direct investment, the unequal exchange of products embodying different quantities of value, and extortion through debt servicing.… | more |

Imperialism in the Era of Globalization

Capitalism is preeminently a money-using system where a large part of wealth is held either in the form of money or as money-denominated assets, namely financial assets. For the system to work, it is essential that the value of money should not keep declining against commodities; otherwise people would move away from holding money, and it would cease to be not just a form of wealth, but even a medium of circulation.… Hence, capitalism seeks to ensure the stability of the value of money in a number of ways. One is the maintenance of a vast reserve army of labor, not just within the metropolis but also in the third world.… | more |

New this week!

Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century

The globalization of production and its shift to low-wage countries is the most significant and dynamic transformation of the neoliberal era. Its fundamental driving force is what some economists call “global labor arbitrage”: the efforts by firms in Europe, North America, and Japan to cut costs and boost profits by replacing higher-waged domestic labor with cheaper foreign labor, achieved either through emigration of production (“outsourcing,” as used here) or through immigration of workers. Reduction in tariffs and removal of barriers to capital flows have spurred the migration of production to low-wage countries, but militarization of borders and rising xenophobia have had the opposite effect on the migration of workers from these countries—not stopping it altogether, but inhibiting its flow and reinforcing migrants’ vulnerable, second-class status.… | more |

Imperialism’s Health Component

Medicine and public health have played important roles in imperialism. With the emergence of the United States as an imperial power in the early twentieth century, interlinkages between imperialism, public health, and health institutions were forged through several key mediating institutions. Philanthropic organizations sought to use public health initiatives to address several challenges faced by expanding capitalist enterprises: labor productivity, safety for investors and managers, and the costs of care. From modest origins, international financial institutions and trade agreements eventually morphed into a massive structure of trade rules that have exerted profound effects on public health and health services worldwide. International health organizations have collaborated with corporate interests to protect commerce and trade. In this article we clarify the connections among these mediating institutions and imperialism.… | more |

Resisting the Imperial Order and Building an Alternative Future in Medicine and Public Health

Although medicine and public health have played important roles in the growth and maintenance of the capitalist system, conditions during the twenty-first century have changed to such an extent that a vision of a world without an imperial order has become part of an imaginable future. Throughout the world, diverse struggles against the logic of capital and privatization illustrate the challenges of popular mobilization. In addition to these struggles, groups in several countries have moved to create alternative models of public health and health services. These efforts—especially in Latin America—have moved beyond the historical patterns fostered by capitalism and imperialism…. All the struggles that we describe remain in a process of dialectic change and have continued to transform toward more favorable or less favorable conditions. However, the accounts show a common resistance to the logic of capital and a common goal of public health systems grounded in solidarity, not profitability.… | more |

The New Stage of Globalization

By the end of 1990, foreign direct investment—that is, investment in manufacturing, real estate, raw materials, extraction, financial institutions, etc., made by capitalists of all lands outside their national borders—reached over $1.5 trillion…. [W]hat is significant about this number is not only its size but the unprecedented speed with which it has grown in the last two decades: the amount directly invested in foreign lands nearly tripled in the 1980s alone…. This upsurge and diversification of globalization has been introducing new economic and political features in the countries of both the periphery and the core. In the periphery, foreign capital has penetrated more widely and deeply than ever before. In the core, this change of direction has helped produce in the world’s key money markets an extraordinary spiraling of credit creation, international flows of money capital, and speculation.… | more |

The Creation of the Next Imperialism

The Institutional Architecture

Insofar as imperialism is about the struggle over and capture of economic territory (which must be broadly defined to include not just geographical territory such as land and natural resources, but also the creation of new markets, sources of labor, and forms of surplus transfer such as are reflected in intellectual property), these changes [in imperialism since the early 20th century] have created distant demands upon imperialist structures and processes…. [So] how can capital (which is increasingly global in orientation) generate the superstructures through which the transfers of value are ensured and the investment risks are moderated and contained? It will be argued that there has been an endeavor to resolve this by refashioning the global institutional architecture in ways that operate to increase the conditions of “stability” for large capital while increasing its bargaining power vis-à-vis working people and citizens, as well as nation-states and even smaller capitalist enterprises.… | more |

The Hidden Structure of Violence

The Hidden Structure of Violence

Who Benefits from Global Violence and War

The Hidden Structure of Violence marshals vast amounts of evidence to examine the costs of direct violence, including military preparedness and the social reverberations of war, alongside the costs of structural violence, expressed as poverty and chronic illness. It also documents the relatively small number of people and corporations responsible for facilitating the violent status quo, whether by setting the range of permissible discussion or benefiting directly as financiers and manufacturers. The result is a stunning indictment of our violent world and a powerful critique of the ways through which violence is reproduced on a daily basis, whether at the highest levels of the state or in the deepest recesses of the mind. … | more |

Socialist Register 2016: The Politics of the Right

Socialist Register 2016: The Politics of the Right

This fifty-second edition of the Socialist Register explores right-wing political forces and parties around the globe, bringing to bear the Register’s reputation for detailed scholarship and passionate engagement on some of the most troubling developments in world politics today. Contributors examine mobilizations of the right in a variety of countries by analyzing their social bases, their relationships with state institutions, and the reach of their influence on mainstream parties and opinion. This volume also addresses the historical transition from right-wing nationalism to ethnicism, the question of resurgent fascism, and how left parties should respond to challenges from the far right. … | more |

June 2015 (Volume 67, Number 2)

June 2015 (Volume 67, Number 2)

In two Monthly Review special issues, “Education Under Fire: The U.S. Corporate Attack on Students, Teachers, and Schools” (July-August 2011) and “Public School Teachers Fighting Back” (June 2013), we sounded an alarm regarding the rapid restructuring and privatization of U.S. K–12 public schools. In terms of the scale of nationwide restructuring, the corporate takeover of education is unprecedented in modern U.S. history. The closest comparison we can come up with is the destruction of the street car systems across the United States and the building of the interstate highway system—in which freeways went right through cities for the first time, often in the face of neighborhood and community resistance. With respect to K–12 education, unimaginable amounts of private funds have gone into pressuring and corrupting government at every level, while the control mechanisms of the new educational system are increasingly left in private, not public, hands. The Common Core Standards and related high-stakes tests are at the center of this new system, and are the product of private corporate groups outside the direct reach of government.… | more |

Chávez and the Communal State

On the Transition to Socialism in Venezuela

On October 20, 2012, less than two weeks after being reelected to his fourth term as Venezuelan president and only months before his death, Hugo Chávez delivered his crucial El Golpe de Timón (“Strike at the Helm”) speech to the first meeting of his ministers in the new revolutionary cycle. Chávez surprised even some of his strongest supporters by his insistence on the need for changes at the top in order to promote an immediate leap forward in the creation of what is referred to as “the communal state.” This was to accelerate the shift of power to the population that had begun with the formation of the communal councils (groupings of families involved in self-governance projects—in densely populated urban areas, 200–400 families; in rural areas, 50–100 families). The main aim in the new revolutionary cycle, he insisted, was to speed up the registration of communes, the key structure of the communal state.… | more |

If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?

“Marx was before all else a revolutionary. His real mission in life,” noted Frederick Engels at Marx’s graveside, “was to contribute in one way or another to the overthrow of capitalist society and of the forms of government which it had brought into being, to contribute to the liberation of the present-day proletariat.” Could the same be said about Marxist economists? That they are revolutionaries whose real mission is to contribute to the overthrow of capitalism?… | more |

On the Legacy of the International Working Men’s Association after 150 Years

Interview with Marcello Musto

The International Working Men’s Association (IWMA), nowadays better known as the First International, was founded in London in September 1864. Despite the importance of the event, there has not been much attention to its 150th anniversary. To an extent, this reflects the situation of the present day, with the hegemony of neoliberal politics and, conversely, the weakness of the left, that does not seem to be interested in its own history and the lessons that might be extracted from past experiences.… Luckily, there are exceptions. Marcello Musto, an assistant professor of sociology at York University in Toronto, has contributed to two important presentations of the experience of the First International… The International after 150 Years: Labour Versus Capital, Then and Now …[and] the first English-language anthology on the IWMA, Workers Unite! The International 150 Years Later.… | more |

A Rational Agriculture Is Incompatible with Capitalism

From humanitarian and ecological viewpoints, many aspects of the capitalist economic system are irrational; although they are certainly rational from the more limited standpoint of the individual business or capitalist seeking to make profits.… With regard to the environment there are scores of examples of irrational behavior by capitalist businesses that have the ultimate goal of making profits. Many practices and side effects of the way the system functions degrade the ecosystem and its processes on which we depend and may also directly harm humans. For example, it is not rational to introduce chemicals into the environment, including into products we use daily, that are either toxic or cause illnesses of various types. Yet there are over 80,000 chemicals used in the United States; few of them are tested for their effects on people or other species, and many commonly used ones are suspected to be carcinogens or have other detrimental effects.… | more |

GMOs: Capitalism’s Distortion of Biological Processes

Last summer, astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson was asked to comment on the furor surrounding genetically modified organisms (GMOs). He responded with the assertion that humans have been genetically modifying organisms for millennia, giving us food crops such as seedless watermelons or corn. This process, he stated, is little different from genetic engineering.… Tyson’s first mistake lies in his equation of artificial selection and genetic modification, reflecting common misunderstandings of both the sources of genetic variation and the distinction between the latter and mechanisms of evolutionary change. Tyson’s second mistake is his failure to see the bigger picture. The dynamic of capital accumulation is fundamentally at odds with ecosystem dynamics. And technology, in our society, is the handmaiden of capital accumulation. This article will elaborate on these distinctions and discuss some of the basic biological processes underlying GMOs and their potential risks, especially risks of dispersal. It will then examine how capitalism molds the technology and accentuates the risks.… | more |

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