Saturday October 25th, 2014, 12:04 pm (EDT)

Capitalism and Crisis

Creating a Jailhouse Nation

Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in The Age of Crisis by Christian Parenti.

By the time I was captured in 1981, the prologue to a life sentence, I had twenty years of movement experience—both above and underground—under my belt. So I thought I had a good understanding of the race and class basis of prisons. But once actually inside that reality, I was stunned by just how thoroughly racist the criminal justice system is and also by the incessant petty hassles of humiliation and degradation. As political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal aptly noted in Live From Death Row, there is a “profound horror…in the day-to-day banal occurrences…[the] second-by-second assault on the soul.” The 1980s became the intense midpoint of an unprecedented explosion of imprisonment. Since 1972, the number of inmates in this country, on any given day, has multiplied six-fold to the two million human beings behind bars today. Another four million are being supervised on parole or probation. The U.S. is the world leader in both death sentences and incarcerations. With just 5 percent of the world’s population, we hold 25 percent of the prisoners.… | more |

The Myth of the Middle-Class Society

Michael Zweig, The Working Class Majority: America’s Best Kept Secret (Cornell University Press, 2000), 192 pages, $25 cloth, $14.95 paper.

The claim that the U.S. is a “middle-class country”—which goes back at least to the eighteenth century—has set apart (white) yeoman farmers from the rural or urban poor, and notably from nonwhites. Thomas Jefferson envisioned his ideal nation as the land of, and for, hard-working property holders, free of the turmoil and corruption inevitable in Europe’s aristocratic fixed-class system… | more |

Refuting the Big Lie

Hugh Stretton, Economics: A New Introduction (Pluto Press, 1999), 864 pages, $90 hardcover, 35 paper.

Capitalism was first firmly established in Britain in the eighteenth century and it was then and there that economics was born, in Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776). Economists have served capitalism ever since, but only in the past quarter-century has capitalism needed—and gotten—so much from them… | more |

February 2001 (Volume 52, Number 9)

February 2001 (Volume 52, Number 9)

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 |

Race and Class in the Work of Oliver Cromwell Cox

Oliver Cromwell Cox’s Caste, Class, and Race was first published in 1948 by Doubleday, which, in line with the anti-leftist imperatives of the time, almost immediately let the book go out of print. Fortunately, it was reissued in 1959 by Monthly Review Press, which has enabled subsequent generations to read Cox’s extraordinary text. Indeed, I discovered Cox through Monthly Review’s Modern Reader paperback edition in 1970; coincidentally, that was also the year of the only occasion on which I heard him speak, at the annual meeting of the Association of Social and Behavioral Scientists, the black social scientists’ group… | more |

Remembering Daniel Singer

My friend Daniel Singer, in a piece he wrote for The Nation six years ago, said that he often felt like a deserter from the army of the dead because he escaped the Nazi roundup of Jews in Paris by walking across France to Switzerland… | 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)

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: not a single map has been published or shown on television to remind American viewers and readers—notoriously ignorant of both geography and history—that Israeli encampments, settlements, roads and barricades crisscross Palestinian land in Gaza and the West Bank.… | more |

Human Rights and the Ideology of Capitalist Globalization

A View from Slovenia

Ideologies are a constant of human societies, though they have become more explicit in modern society. Since the eighteenth century, they have been increasingly distinguished from religious doctrines and popular religion. Ideologies make a claim to knowledge about society. This knowledge is, of course, biased and distorted in accordance with the interests of certain groups in society, with historical conditions and circumstances. Ideologies claim to be complete accounts of reality, but they are not. They can be critiqued. They rise and pass away, and are perpetuated with certain interests in mind. The “truth” of ideology is political. Therefore, in Marx’s words, ideology is a “false consciousness”… | more |

Does Ecology Need Marx?

Does ecology need Marx? I wonder, at this point, what ecology is, for it seems to be an umbrella term, like sexism or racism, which covers a variety of macrolevel and microlevel phenomena produced by different causes and lends itself to the development of a wide variety of conflicting ideologies and theoretical frameworks. I would prefer to change the question to the following: Are Marx and Marxism contingent or essential in the struggles against environmental degradation and all forms of exploitation and oppression? … | 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 |

December 2000 (Volume 52, Number 7)

December 2000 (Volume 52, Number 7)

Praise for Karl Marx—albeit of a somewhat mocking kind—comes from the strangest places nowadays. In their new book Future Perfect: The Challenge and Hidden Promise of Globalization, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, bestselling business authors and correspondents for the adamantly procapitalist Economist magazine, declare that, “as a prophet of socialism Marx may be kaput; but as a prophet of ‘the universal interdependence of nations,’ as he called globalization, he can still seem startlingly relevant. His description of globalization remains as sharp today as it was 150 years ago” (pp. 332-333). The same thing has been noticed in a quite different way in colleges and universities, as demand for courses on Marx, Marxism, and political economy appear once again to be on the rise.… | more |

Capitalism’s Environmental Crisis—Is Technology the Answer?

The standard solution offered to the environmental problem in advanced capitalist economies is to shift technology in a more benign direction: more energy-efficient production, cars that get better mileage, replacement of fossil fuels with solar power, and recycling of resources. Other environmental reforms, such as reductions in population growth and even cuts in consumption, are often advocated as well. The magic bullet of technology, however, is by far the favorite, seeming to hold out the possibility of environmental improvement with the least effect on the smooth working of the capitalist machine. The 1997 International Kyoto Protocol on global warming, designed to limit the greenhouse-gas emissions of nations, has only reinforced this attitude, encouraging many environmental advocates in the United States (including Al Gore in his presidential campaign) to advocate technological improvement in energy efficiency as the main escape from the environmental mess … | more |

Iraq Under Siege

Ten Years On

It has been ten years since the United Nations imposed comprehensive sanctions on Iraq. The sanctions were adopted on August 6, 1990, forty-five years to the day after the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, killing an estimated one hundred thousand people and leaving a toxic legacy that still affects the population of the area. The bombing was soon followed by an attack on Nagasaki. The coincidence is a telling one. For all the US government’s rhetoric about halting the use of weapons of mass destruction, the United States stands in a league of its own in using and proliferating them. As horrific as the use of nuclear weapons against Japan was, perhaps five to ten times as many people have died in Iraq as a consequence of the war led by the United States and Britain, under United Nations (UN) auspices, during the last decade … | 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 |

November 2000 (Volume 52, Number 6)

November 2000 (Volume 52, Number 6)

Dissatisfaction with what has happened to the study of economics is producing a rapidly growing revolt among economics students in France, Britain, the United States, and elsewhere. Within a matter of months, this new movement has made considerable inroads in exposing the meaninglessness of orthodox economics in contemporary capitalist societies. Students are eagerly looking for answers about the issues of the day, such as expanding globalization, growing dominance of international finance, increasing polarization between the rich and poor nations and between the rich and poor of each nation. But orthodox economics has no meaningful answers to any of these questions—a fact that has fed the widening rebellion among economics students in numerous countries. Before reporting on this new discontent, we need to provide some background on how economics has been transformed, since its classical period, into a study that is becoming more and more irrelevant.… | more |

Journalism, Democracy, … and Class Struggle

Socialists since the time of Marx have been proponents of democracy, but they have argued that democracy in capitalist societies is fundamentally flawed. In capitalist societies, the wealthy have tremendous social and economic advantages over the working class that undermine political equality, a presupposition for viable democracy. In addition, under capitalism the most important economic issues—investment and control over production—are not the province of democratic politics but, rather, the domain of a small number of wealthy firms and individuals seeking to maximize their profit in competition with each other. This means that political affairs can only indirectly influence economics, and that any party or individual in power has to be careful not to antagonize wealthy investors so as to instigate an investment strike and an economic collapse that would generally mean political disaster … | more |

A “Red” Government in the Soul of Brazil

For ten years, the Brazilian Workers Party (PT) has run city hall in Porto Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul state (on the border with Uruguay) and one of the main cities in the country. The PT is quite an original party, founded in 1980 by unionists, leftist Christians, and Marxist militants, all convinced that the emancipation of the workers will be the task of the workers themselves and stirred by the desire to invent a different, radical, democratic, libertarian socialism that breaks with the old models of Stalinism and social democracy. The current mayor, Raul Pont, a former director of the teachers’ union, belongs to the PT’s most radical current, the Socialist Democracy tendency, which bases itself on the Fourth International … | more |

FacebookRedditTwitterEmailPrintFriendly