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Black Radical Enigma

Amiri Baraka, The Essence of Reparations (Philipsburg, St. Martin: House of Nehesi Publishers, 2003), 44 pages, paper $15.00.
Amiri Baraka, Somebody Blew Up America and Other Poems (Philipsburg, St. Martin: House of Nehesi Publishers, 2003), 57 pages, paper $15.00.
Jerry Gafio Watts, Amiri Baraka: The Politics and Art of a Black Intellectual (New York: New York University, 2001), 604 pages, cloth $50.00.
Harry T. Elam, Taking It to the Streets: The Social Protest Theater of Luis Valdez and Amiri Baraka (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2001), 208 pages, cloth $55.00, paper $20.95.
Komozi Woodard, A Nation within a Nation: Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and Black Power Politics (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1999), 352 pages, $49.95 cloth, $19.95 paper.

At seventy years of age, Amiri Baraka is no stranger to controversy. From his pioneering stage plays to his legendary journalistic assaults on mainstream black politicians and former allies alike, Baraka has often inhabited the space between trenchant critique, radical honesty, and venomous rhetoric. His 2002 appointment as poet laureate of New Jersey and the subsequent demands for his resignation by everyone from then-Governor James McGreevy to Elie Wiesel again placed Baraka in the limelight. This latest firestorm stemmed from his poem “Somebody Blew Up America,” which reminds us of America’s history of domestic anti-black terrorism but also alludes to the cyberspace conspiracy theory alleging Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon possessed prior knowledge of the September 11 terrorist attacks and forewarned Jewish employees at the World Trade Center… | more |

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Washed Up on Long Island: Urban Renewal at the Beach

Lawrence Kaplan and Carol P. Kaplan, Between Ocean and City: The Transformation of Rockaway, New York (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), 237 pages, paper $37.50.

The postwar fate of Rockaway, Queens, may well have been sealed when it was swept into the great consolidation of towns and boroughs that became New York City in 1898. An eleven-mile-long pencil-thin peninsula, Rockaway faces Jamaica Bay along one flank and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. Blessed by its natural resources and fairly isolated from the stresses of city life, it enjoyed a very long run as “New York City’s favorite beach resort” with day-trippers pouring into Jacob Riis Park by the tens of thousands. But by the end of the 1940s, its glory days were fading, and it was on the way to becoming an exclusively year-round community… | more |

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Scarcity of What and for Whom?

Michael Perelman, The Perverse Economy: The Impact of Markets on People and the Environment (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 224 pages, hardcover $55.00.

There is no shortage of opinion within the circles of policy and punditry that the free market is, or ought to become, the new Atlas. The dominant discourse holds that the weight of the world, and its scourges from poverty to pollution, can only be borne and transcended through utter reliance on the market. Michael Perelman’s latest book confronts this position head on, arguing that far from providing a basis for sustainability and health, markets provide and respond to incentives which impoverish, dehumanize, mutilate, and kill workers, and which are leading us further into ecological ruin. Perelman scrutinizes a number of pillars of conventional economic theory, assessing them under the light of their implications for people and the environment, and emerges with an argument that economic theory justifies an unjustifiable system. This requires two separate points. First, the market produces disastrous results for workers and for nature. Second, economics as a profession has consistently functioned to obscure and apologize for those results… | more |

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Notes from the Editors, November 2004

» Notes from the Editors

What was the principal motive for the U.S. invasion of Iraq? Few informed observers now believe that it was to eliminate Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Months before the war in December 2002 we wrote in these pages: “Iraq today probably does not possess functional chemical and biological war capabilities since these were effectively destroyed during the UN inspection process in 1991–1998.” In early October 2004 Charles Duelfer, the CIA’s top weapons inspector, officially confirmed in a 918-page report delivered to two Congressional committees that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction at the time of the U.S. invasion. All such “capabilities,” his report indicated, had been destroyed or had simply “decayed” as a result of the 1991 Gulf War and the subsequent UN weapons inspection process. Of course even if it had been shown that Iraq had such weapons prior to the war this would not have justified the U.S. invasion, since numerous countries in the Middle East and elsewhere have weapons of mass destruction with the United States as the world leader in the possession (and use) of such weapons.… | more |

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Ecology, Capitalism, and the Socialization of Nature: An Interview with John Bellamy Foster

DENNIS SORON: Many environmentalists came away from the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 with a great deal of optimism, believing that the cause of global environmental reform had finally been seriously placed on the political agenda. Today, with environmental conditions continuing to worsen and governments refusing to take effective action, it seems that little of this optimism remains. Why did the hopes spawned at Rio turn out to be so misplaced?… | more |

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U.S. Imperialism, Europe, and the Middle East

The analysis proposed here regarding the role of Europe and the Middle East in the global imperialist strategy of the United States is set in a general historical vision of capitalist expansion that I have developed elsewhere. In this view capitalism has always been, since its inception, by nature, a polarizing system, that is, imperialist. This polarization-the concurrent construction of dominant centers and dominated peripheries, and their reproduction deepening in each stage-is inherent in the process of accumulation of capital operating on a global scale… | more |

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After the Referendum: Venezuela Faces New Challenges

With President Hugo Chávez’s victory in the August 15 referendum, the Venezuelan opposition suffered the third great defeat in its struggle to end his government. The unprecedented recall referendum ratified Chávez’s presidency by a margin of two million votes and was declared valid unanimously by the hundreds of international observers who scrutinized it… | more |

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The Greening of Venezuela

With all the hullabaloo about Chávez’s alleged authoritarianism, opposition strikes and demonstrations, and a possible recall referendum, you could be forgiven for thinking that nothing constructive is being done in Venezuela and that the nation’s energies are entirely absorbed by political mud-slinging. Indeed, that’s just what the corporate media would like you to think… | more |

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The Disciplinary Apparatus of Welfare Reform

In 1996 President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), to end “welfare as we know it.” PRWORA, euphemistically referred to as “welfare to work” or simply “welfare reform,” has fundamentally changed the status of women within U.S. capitalism. Historically, women’s roles in the sexual division of labor have been to reproduce the laborer (cook and keep house) and reproduce the labor force (have children). If women had to work in the formal labor force, then society demanded that they hold jobs appropriate to their gender. There has always been a gender-based social discipline of women whether they were wage earners or homemakers. It is interesting to note that still today beauty contests, sexual harassment, and compulsory use of birth control pills are all forms of discipline enforced on women in many third world factories. Of course, sexual harassment is common in the workplaces of the rich capitalist countries as well… | more |

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Five O’clock, January 2003

Tonight as cargoes of my young
fellow countrymen and women are being hauled
into positions aimed at death, positions
they who did not will it suddenly
have to assume
I am thinking of Ed Azevedo
half-awake in recovery
if he has his arm whole
and how much pain he must bear
under the drugs… | more |

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October 2004 (Volume 56, Number 5)

October 2004 (Volume 56, Number 5)

For more than a decade now the major corporate media and the U.S. government have been celebrating the growing “democratization” of Latin America. Rather than reflecting a genuine concern with democracy, however, this was meant to symbolize the defeat of various revolutionary movements, particularly in Central America in the 1980s and early ’90s. To the extent that formal, limited democracy actually made gains in the region this was viewed by the ruling powers in the United States as a means of institutionalizing and legitimizing structures of extreme inequality in line with the ends of the American empire… | more |

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Farewell, Comrade Paul

If I belong anywhere today, it is with you. But to my great regret, I cannot be physically present. No doubt other speakers will deal with Paul as a major theoretician, a worldwide influential thinker and struggler for the sake of humanity. And there is much to say about Paul the human being. Not to monopolize the stage, I have selected two areas to dwell on: Paul as a friend and Paul as a coworker… | more |

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The Commitment of an Intellectual: Paul M. Sweezy (1910-2004)

The following brief intellectual biography of Paul Sweezy was drafted in September 2003 shortly before I saw Paul for the last time. It conveys many of the basic facts of his life. But as with all biographies of leading intellectuals it fails to capture the brilliance of his work, which must be experienced directly through his own writings. Nor is the warmth of Paul’s character adequately conveyed here. A short personal note is therefore needed. What was so surprising about Paul was his seemingly endless generosity and humanity. Paul gave freely of himself to all of those seeking his political and intellectual guidance. But a few, such as myself, were particularly blessed in that they experienced this on a deeper, more intense level. For decades Paul was concerned that Monthly Review not perish as had so many socialist institutions and publications in the past. He recognized early on that the continuance of the magazine and the tradition that it represented required the deliberate cultivation of new generations of socialist intellectuals. I was fortunate to be singled out while still quite young as one of those. For decades Paul wrote me letter after letter—no letter that I wrote to him ever went unanswered—sharing his knowledge, intellectual brilliance, and personal warmth. It was an immense, indescribable gift… | more |

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Paul M. Sweezy

Described by the Wall Street Journal as “the ‘dean’ of radical economics,” Paul Sweezy has more than any other single person kept Marxist economics alive in North America.* One work would be sufficient to have achieved this—The Theory of Capitalist Development (first published in 1942). During the period of the 1950s and 1960s, this was the book to which one turned to learn about Marxist economics… | more |

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Why Stagnation?

The question “Why Stagnation?” has a rather special significance for me. I started my graduate work in economics exactly fifty years ago this year. The cyclical downturn which began in 1929 was nearing the bottom. Unemployment in that year, according to government figures, was 23.6 percent of the labor force, and it reached its high point in 1933 at 24.9 percent. It remained in the double-digit range throughout the decade. Still, a recovery began in 1933, and it turned out to be the longest on record up to that time. Even at the top in 1937, however, the unemployment rate was still 14.3 percent, and it jumped up by the end of the year. That also happens to be the year I got my Ph.D. Can you imagine a set of circumstances better calculated to impress upon a young economist the idea that the fundamental economic problem was not cyclical ups and downs but secular stagnation? … | more |

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