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 |
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 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 |
2000 marks the fortieth anniversary of the southern sit-in movement, the emergence of the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, and the founding of its most dynamic component, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). We believe it is important to look back at the achievements of those courageous men and women, both to celebrate their struggle and to learn from their experience. The following article is adapted from a talk originally given last summer at a seminar far college and university teachers, on the history of the civil rights movement at Harvard’s W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Studies.—Eds.… | more |
Khalil Hassan’s contribution to your July/August 2000 issue (“The Future of the Labor Left”) attempts to categorize leftwing union activists based on their past or present relationship to “the labor bureaucracy ”… | more |
Which Go Deepest?
“Oh no, not another great, thick, fat book on Marx!” thought Richard Lewontin when he saw this new book by John Bellamy Foster. I have to confess (despite the fact that I, too, have written a big book on Marxism) to a similar reaction. However, as he goes on to say in the book’s blurb, “as soon as I started to read, I found it hard to put down.” With this, too, I concur … | more |
Hugh Deane has written a concise, political, and engaging history of the Korean war. One reason this book is special is that Deane was in southern Korea during the late 1940s as a reporter, and his experiences there enable him to provide a more immediate and personal perspective on events than one normally finds in histories of the Korean war … | more |
In 1963, when The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Overture and the San Domingo Revolution returned to print in an inexpensively priced paperback, early new left readers discovered (or rediscovered) for themselves a revolutionary classic and a beautifully written account of the first successful slave uprising since Spartacus. The idea that Haitians had not only freed themselves but played a role in the contemporary European class struggles was potent stuff for the emerging Black Power movement… | more |
In the United States, the creation of wealth is often presented as a process that benefits everyone within the society. A common shibboleth, made famous during the Kennedy administration, is that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” In June 2000, the Conference Board, an organization devoted to the promotion of global business and one of the leading private centers for the analysis of economic statistics, released a report actually entitled Does a Rising Tide Lift All Boats? The report concludes: “Unfortunately, the answer to date is ‘no ’”… | more |
A Time to Retreat?
Some wags claim that it is the conservatives who fear socialism, while the radicals believe that capitalism will last forever. Conservatives, they say, fear widespread popular discontent, while radicals abandon hope of a revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. An exaggeration? Of course. Even so, this witticism is not inappropriate. Many on the left have indeed retreated from class and a vision of a democratic, egalitarian socialism. The important social issues of our day—race, gender, and the environment—more often than not are divorced from the role of class structure. The rule of the capitalist class and the class struggle are shoved to the back burner. Whether consciously or not, the implicit assumption underlying the retreat from class is that capitalism will somehow or other go on and on as it creates miraculous new technology. Best then to stick to making those adjustments in social conditions that the system will presumably allow … | more |
If there is a single charge that has served to unify all criticism of Marx in recent decades, it is the charge of “Prometheanism.” Although Marx’s admiration for Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound and his attraction to Prometheus as a revolutionary figure of Greek mythology has long been known, the accusation that Marx’s work contained at its heart a “Promethean motif,” and that this constituted the principal weakness of his entire analysis, seems to have derived its contemporary influence mainly from Leszek Kolakowski’s Main Currents of Marxism. The first volume of this work was drafted in Polish in 1968 and appeared in English in 1978. For Kolakowski: … | more |
The View from Alger’s Window is a fascinating book. Even if the father and son who share the stage in this memoir were completely anonymous, it would still be an absorbing story. Probably for most readers, however, and surely for almost all Monthly Review subscribers, the father’s name will reverberate with what Jack Gelber’s Nation review describes as a Nixon-manipulated “story of well-timed leaks, stage-managed press conferences, masterful misleading language.” But as the author himself says, a major objective of his work is to “transform Alger Hiss from a case to a person.” This he has certainly done … | more |
At the outset of this closely argued history of Mexican capitalism, James Cockcroft asks, “How long will the majority of Mexicans put up with being exploited on both sides of the Mexican-U.S. border? ”… | more |
We would like to thank Ellen Meiksins Wood and Michael Yates for their help at different stages in the development of this special issue. Ellen proposed the idea of having such an issue this summer, initiated it, and started the ball rolling by sending invitations defining the issue to the bulk of the contributors included here. Michael worked mightly, editing manuscripts and helping bring the project to fruition. We owe a debt of gratitude to them both… | more |
History, as if to warn us continuously against any tendency toward complacency, is full of ironies. As recently as a few months ago, the close of the twentieth century had come to be associated, in the prevailing view of the vested interests, with “endism”: the end of class struggle, the end of revolution, the end of imperialism, the end of dissent—even the end of history. The new century and new millennium were supposed to symbolize that all of this had been left behind and that we could look forward to a new era of infinite progress based on the New Economy of the information age, which would usher in a gentler, kinder, virtual capitalism. The main worry was a technical glitch known as Y2K. Would computers across the world malfunction on January 1, 2000? … | more |
It is not uncommon within social science today to acknowledge that Karl Marx was one of the first analysts of globalization. But what is usually forgotten, even by those who make this acknowledgment, is that Marx was also one of the first strategists of working-class internationalism, designed to respond to capitalist globalization. The two major elements governing such internationalism, in his analysis, were the critique of international exploitation and the development of a working-class movement that was both national and international in its organization. A scrutiny of Marx’s views at the time of the First International offers useful insights into the struggle to forge a new internationalism in our own day … | more |
The language of globalization deserves some explicit attention. To begin with, the word globalization itself is a nonconcept in most uses: a simple catalogue of everything that seems differ- ent since, say, 1970, whether advances in information technology, widespread use of air freight, speculation in currencies, in- creased capital flows across borders, Disneyfication of culture, mass marketing, global warming, genetic engineering, multinational corporate power, new international division of labor, international mobility of labor, reduced power of nation-states, postmodernism, or post-Fordism… | more |
Will This Include the U.s. Labor Movement?
Capitalism is a system of production and distribution driven by the ceaseless efforts by capitalists to accumulate capital, that is, to maximize both profits and the growth of capital. Accumulation, in turn, is made possible by the exploitation of wage laborers, persons without any direct access to society’s productive property. Workers are forced to sell their ability to work but when they do, they are owed nothing by their employers except a wage. That is, the employers have no social obligation to the workers; their relationship to them is impersonal in the extreme. It follows that, in the abstract, employers do not care anything about the workers’ “characteristics.” To them, black workers are interchangeable with whites, men with women, one nation’s workers with those of any other. Employers are, in a word, equal-opportunity exploiters. They will replace one worker with another, move their capital to take advantage of cheaper labor (whatever its characteristics), and pit one group of employees against another, whenever such actions will, in their view, make it easier for them to accumulate capital … | more |
On keeping the MR flag flying: Between us there are 177 years of life. The issue of continuity has plagued us for some time and we have from time to time explored and experimented with ways of maintaining the unique tradition of MR as an independent, nonsectarian advocate for and educator on socialism and Marxism. With that in mind, we have asked John B. Foster and Robert W. McChesney to assume the responsibility of being Acting Editors. We are pleased that they have agreed. In addition to their direct editorial responsibilities, John and Bob will participate in the development of a more permanent editorial board as well as a battery of contributing editors, not only academics but also labor and social movement activists. We expect to continue to guide the magazine as long as possible … | more |
The twentieth century came to a close in an atmosphere astonishingly reminiscent of that which had presided over its birth—the “belle époque” (and it was beautiful, at least for capital). The bourgeois choir of the European powers, the United States, and Japan (which I will call here “the triad” and which, by 1910, constituted a distinct group) were singing hymns to the glory of their definitive triumph. The working classes of the center were no longer the “dangerous classes” they had been during the nineteenth century and the other peoples of the world were called upon to accept the “civilizing mission” of the West… | more |