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April 1998 (Volume 49, Number 11)

April 1998 (Volume 49, Number 11)

Readers may remember that in last year’s summer issue on labor we talked about a roundtable organized by MR for activists in the labor movement and held in our office in New York last March. The idea was to provide a forum for labor activists to establish connections among themselves and to discuss issues of common interest at a particularly important historical moment, at a time when the labor movement in various parts of the world, including the United States, is beginning to show signs of renewal. We also hoped to revive the long dormant connection between the socialist left and the labor movement, and we were very pleased to discover that people within the movement were anxious to work with us too … | more |

Teamster Reform Movement Survives Carey’s Debacle

What’s remarkable about the aftermath of Ron Carey’s removal as a candidate for Teamsters president is the staying power of the reform movement. Most predicted the union would quickly fall back into the hands of the mobbed-up Old Guard, personified by James Hoffa, Jr. But in recent local elections rank and file members have chosen to carry on with the business of reform, without the man who once symbolized those changes in the Teamsters … | more |

The Scale of Our Ecological Crisis

One of the problems that has most troubled analysts of global ecological crisis is the question of scale. How momentous is the ecological crisis? Is the survival of the human species in question? What about life in general? Are the basic biogeochemical cycles of the planet vulnerable? Although few now deny that there is such a thing as an environmental crisis, or that it is in some sense global in character, some rational scientists insist that it is wrong to say that life itself, much less the planet, is seriously threatened. Even the mass extinction of species, it is pointed out, has previously occurred in evolutionary history. Critics of environmentalism (often themselves claiming to be environmentalists) have frequently used these rational reservations on the part of scientists to brand the environmental movement as “apocalyptic.” … | more |

March 1998 (Volume 49, Number 10)

March 1998 (Volume 49, Number 10)

A striking feature of the mountain of talk about the Asian crisis is that its root cause is all too often ignored The focus of the media and the pundits is on weak banks, bad management, corrupt officials, heavy indebtedness, excess speculation, and the fragility of the financial markets. Typically, the disaster is viewed as a regional affair. A rare exception is the statement of Eisuke Sakakibara, Japan’s vice-minister for international finance: “This isn’t an Asian crisis. It is a crisis of global capitalism.” (Business Week, January 26, 1998) But he too was apparently thinking of financial markets, concerned with effects, not causes … | more |

Human Rights Imperialism

Human rights were embodied in international law for the first time half a century ago. According to the United Nations Charter, one of the goals of the organization is international cooperation “to advance and strengthen the respect of human rights and basic freedoms for all people, regardless of race, sex, language and religion.” The thirty articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 set out in detail the UN Charter’s goal of international cooperation for the advancement of human rights and basic freedoms. The Convention on Prevention and Prosecution of Genocide of the same year is a great advance and landmark in the body of international law, binding on the states that have ratified it. These two achievements, which came at the very moment of the inception of the cold war, were due to the continuing democratic-antifascist impetus of the struggle and victory of the Anti-Hitler coalition in the Second World War. In the verdicts at Nuremberg the Nazi leaders were not only convicted of war crimes but also of crimes against humankind… | 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 |

Marxism, Metaphors, and Ecological Politics

It has, unfortunately, taken far too long for Marxists to take environmental issues seriously. There are some good reasons for this, including the undoubtedly “bourgeois” flavor of many of the issues politicized under that heading (such as “quality of life” for the relatively affluent, romanticism of nature, and sentimentality about animals) and the middle class domination of environmental movements. Against this, it must also be recognised that communist/socialist government have often ignored environmental issues to their own detriment (the pollution of Lake Baikal, the destruction of the Aral Sea, deforestation in China, being environmental disasters commensurate with many of those attributable to capitalism). Environmental issues must be taken seriously. The only interesting question is how to do it … | more |

February 1998 (Volume 49, Number 9)

February 1998 (Volume 49, Number 9)

Monthly Review was chosen for a 1997 Frederick Douglas Award, an award given annually by the North Star Fund. We were of course pleased to be so honored and thought that MR readers would be interested to learn more about it. In fact, considering that so many of you, as supporters and friends, are members of the MR family, the award properly belongs to you as well as the staff … | more |

Confronting the Time Bind

Work, Family, and Capitalism

Socialists have long contended that capitalism produces distinctive and undesirable structures of time. Marx argued that capitalism created an ineluctable downward pressure on wages, forcing workers to work long hours in order to earn enough to sustain themselves. By the same token, lengthening the working day was one of the ways by which employers could increase the production of surplus-value. Marx’s son-in-law, Paul Lafargue, added that capitalism disciplined workers by creating a kind of ideology of work, a moral compulsion to labor; although, in Lafargue’s view, this was in part responsible for capitalism’s periodic crises of overproduction, it was one of the ways by which employers were able to enforce work discipline… | 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 |

January 1998 (Volume 49, Number 8)

January 1998 (Volume 49, Number 8)

MR has always been known for its style as well as its substance. We’ve always aimed for depth of analysis without sacrificing clarity and accessibility. We’ve also tried to keep our articles relatively short, not just to maintain the small and affordable size of the magazine but also because we’re writing for an audience of socialists who lead busy lives—for people who work long and hard hours, in factories, offices, educational institutions, and at home, and for activists no less than for intellectuals … | more |

A Letter to a Contributor

The Same Old State

As mentioned over the phone, we like your article very much. It needs to be shortened, and we will be suggesting some editorial changes. Meanwhile, I would like to get your thinking about my disagreement with this statement in your conclusion: “Today’s neo-liberal state is a different kind of capitalist class than the social-democratic, Keynesian interventionist state of the previous period.” I can’t see any significant difference in either the state or its relation to the ruling class, even though clearly there is a considerable difference between the functioning of the capitalist economy during the so-called golden age and the subsequent long stretch of stagnation. I do not mean the absence of any change at all in the capitalist class. Thus, the growing influence of the financial sector (not necessarily a separate sector) is noteworthy. But that is hardly a measure of a major change in the state … | more |

Eras of Power

During the past few years a strong challenge has been mounted in the pages of Monthly Review to the argument—prevalent on the left as well as the right—that globalization and technological change have combined to bring us into a new era. Ellen Meiksins Wood captured the gist of the emerging MR position in an essay entitled “Modernity, Postmodernity, or Capitalism” in which she asserts that there has been no historic rupture, no epochal shift, to usher in globalization or postfordism or postmodernism … | more |

December 1997 (Volume 49, Number 7)

December 1997 (Volume 49, Number 7)

Notes from the Editor

The New Yorker dated October 20-27 carries, along with a generous menu of futurology, a sensational article on the past and present. It is entitled “The Return of Karl Marx,” by John Cassidy, who is self-identified as an Oxford-educated friend of “a highly intelligent and levelheaded Englishman whose career has taken him…to a big Wall Street investment bank.” Visiting with his friend at the latter’s Long Island summer home during the early summer, the two discussed the economy and speculated on how long the current financial boom would last … | more |

The Women Who Organized Harvard

A Feminist Model of Labor Organization?

Balloons transformed Harvard Yard on May 17, 1988, the day the “servants of the university,” as workers were originally called, voted on whether to join the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW), an affiliate of AFSCME. “Ballooning” lightened the tension, but Kristine Rondeau, lead union organizer, had a grim warning for her staff: “You did a wonderful job. But we don’t have it … It’s very likely we didn’t win.”1 In fact, by a slim margin, they did have it. One of the most influential universities in the world had been outsmarted by some of its unknown employees, mostly women… | more |

Imperialism and NGOs in Latin America

By the early 1980s the more perceptive sectors of the neoliberal ruling classes realized that their policies were polarizing the society and provoking large-scale social discontent. Neoliberal politicians began to finance and promote a parallel strategy “from below,” the promotion of “grassroots” organization with an “anti-statist” ideology to intervene among potentially conflictory classes, to create a “social cushion.” These organizations were financially dependent on neoliberal sources and were directly involved in competing with socio-political movements for the allegiance of local leaders and activist communities. By the 1990s these organizations, described as “nongovernmental,” numbered in the thousands and were receiving close to four billion dollars world-wide … | more |

November 1997 (Volume 49, Number 6)

November 1997 (Volume 49, Number 6)

Notes from the Editor

Ecology, a.k.a. environmental studies, is a relatively new area of scientific interest, mostly a product of the second half of the twentieth century and rapidly growing as the century draws to a close. It combines in one way or another most of the physical and social sciences, defies any attempt to force it into a neat definition of its own, and increasingly raises and attempts to cope with daunting problems such as the future of the human species and other forms of life on earth. No wonder it is an area not only of scientific interest, but also of excitement, confusion, brilliant insights, and stubborn adherence to self-serving dogmas.… | more |

Why Marxism?

Just before I left Paris I got a book from Michael Löwy with a new preface and a quotation I want to share with you. It said "Marx is definitely dead for humankind." Come on Daniel, you will object, did you have to travel all the way to give us that tripe we can get here for a penny a dozen! But it’s not your tripe. It comes from Italy. It is by Benedetto Croce from 1907 and it’s exactly ninety years old. I have quoted it to remind you that grave-diggers of Marx—the new philosophers, the Fukuyamas—have plenty of ancestors and will have plenty of successors and it’s not worth while spending much time refuting their paid or unpaid funeral orations. The one point I want to mention is the coincidence between the recent revival of such requiems and the fall of the Soviet Union.… | more |

A Critique of Tabb on Globalization

Not only do we reject [so-called "weak" and "strong" versions of "globalization"], we reject the arguments used to support them, namely, that globalization has little basis in economic fact, is no more advanced than it was during the pre-1914 years, and has no significant political consequences. Our version, both “strong” and “nuanced,” would be that since the early 1970s changes in technology and politics have greatly increased the ability of capital to do what it has always wanted to do—turn the world into one “free market” for finance, production, and wage labor. Ideologically strengthened by the collapse of communism, corporate capital has used its initiatory power in the realms of investment, employment, pricing, industrial location, and selective implementation of new technologies to leapfrog ahead of the ability of progressive forces to mobilize and fight back—which takes time, organization, and, if history teaches us anything, decades of struggle. This is not exactly the first time workers, and the entire left, have faced this situation; nor is it the first time that capital has been able to use the nation-state to accomplish its ends easier and faster, this time in significant measure through the creation of supranational institutions promoting the needs of transnational finance and production (NAFTA, EU, WTO, MAI, and multilateral trade agreements, including the latest “Uruguay Round”)… | more |

Contextualizing Globalization

Comments on Du Boff and Herman

In the June 1997 issue of MR, I wrote an essay, “Globalization is an Issue, the Power of Capital is the Issue.” Richard Du Boff and Edward Herman, two economists whose work I respect and whose books I have used in my classes, now polemicize against “Tabb’s unwillingness to acknowledge that globalization…has anything to do with the victories of capital over labor….” I wrote no such thing, as readers can verify for themselves by going back to that June issue. Such a view (which I do not hold) is indeed unreasonable and wrongheaded. They in fact attribute a number views to me which I do not hold. They propose “alternatives” and I agree with a number of these … | more |

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