Fred Block responds to the Notes from the Editors, June 2014, which drew attention to Block’s recently published article, “Varieties of What?: Should We Still Be Using the Concept of Capitalism?” The editors reply.
I would like to expand on a couple of areas from Staughton Lynd’s thought-provoking essay (“Is There Anything More to Say About the Rosenberg Case?” MR, March 2011) on the case of my parents, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. Though Staughton is too modest to “have a go” at the validity of the analysis presented in Walter Schneir’s Final Verdict, I think it is important to note that unlike the authors of Venona, whose work is quoted in the article, Schneir is the first writer to take the most recently released materials from the former Soviet Union and subject them to a close analysis in comparison to what we had always “believed” we knew about the case.
Aside from Keynes, no economist seems to have benefitted so much from the financial crisis of 2007-08 as the late Hyman Minsky. The collapse of the sub-prime market in August 2007 has been widely labeled a “Minsky moment,” and many view the subsequent implosion of the financial system and deep recession as confirming Minsky’s “financial instability hypothesis” regarding economic crisis in capitalist economies.…Recognition of Minsky’s intellectual contribution is welcome and deserved. Minsky was a deeply insightful theorist about the proclivity of capitalist economies to experience financially driven booms and busts, and the crisis has confirmed many of his insights. That said, the current article argues that his theory only provides a partial and incomplete account of the current crisis.
In an article entitled “Listen, Keynesians!,” published in January 1983 in Monthly Review, Harry Magdoff and Paul Sweezy argued that the radical break that John Maynard Keynes’s General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936) represented for orthodox economics lay in the fact that “For the first time the possibility was frankly faced, indeed placed at the very center of the analysis, that breakdowns of the accumulation process, the heart and soul of economic growth, might be built into the system and non-self correcting.”… In November 1982, only two months before the publication of “Listen, Keynesians!,” Magdoff and Sweezy had pointed out in “Financial Instability: Where Will it All End?” that the question as to whether a major financial crisis (on the scale of 1929) could propel the economy into a deep downturn, approaching the scale of the Great Depression of the 1930s, was still an open one. They were responding here to Hyman Minsky, a proud Keynesian (albeit with socialist leanings), “whose views,” they claimed, were “especially worthy of attention precisely because over the years he has been the American economist who has done more than any other to focus on the crucially important destabilizing role of the financial system in advanced capitalist countries.”
The Review of the Month entitled “The U.S. Imperial Triangle and Military Spending” by John Bellamy Foster, Hannah Holleman, and Robert W. McChesney (Monthly Review 60, no. 5 [October 2008]) carries on a valuable MR tradition. Monthly Review is one of the few voices on the left that has emphasized the necessity, from the point of view of capitalism, of this kind of military Keynesianism. Chalmers Johnson and Seymour Melman, who have written extensively on this issue, have tended to argue that other forms of government spending, a renewed New Deal, is possible.
In “The Imperative of an International Guaranteed Income” (Monthly Review, April 2007) Stephen Fortunato Jr. presents a pretty good outline of guaranteed annual income (GAI) issues and how they might apply on an international scale. As a Marxist, I take the view that a GAI won’t work
Too often, the Bolivarian Revolution currently underway in Venezuela is dismissed by its critics—on the right and left—as a fundamentally statist enterprise. We are told it is, at best, a continuation of the corrupt, bureaucratic status quo or, at worst, a personalistic consolidation of state power in the hands of a single individual at the expense of those “checks and balances” traditionally associated with western liberal democracies. These perspectives are erroneous, since they cannot account for what have emerged as the central planks of the revolutionary process. I will focus on the most significant of these planks: the explosion of communal power
The Bush administration’s denial of imperial ambitions clashes not only with what most of the world sees as this nation’s unprovoked aggression in Iraq and drive for global domination. It also departs from U.S. tradition established in the early years of the republic and the colonial era that preceded it
Many friends have written to me since the victory of “Lula” da Silva, elected as Brazil’s president. I thank you all. We need your good wishes, and especially we need your continuing vital opposition to the U.S. government’s aggression
John Saul has had an extensive and committed involvement with Southern Africa. His analyses are taken seriously in left circles in South Africa. Sadly, perhaps understandably, his most recent extended visit to this country has left him feeling deeply disappointed (Cry for the Beloved Country: The Post-Apartheid Denouement, Monthly Review 52, no. 8, January 2001, pp. 151). This sense of disappointment is rooted, I would guess, partly in the intellectual, organizational and even emotional energies that Saul, like many others, invested in the solidarity struggle against apartheid, and in legitimate expectations for a post-apartheid South Africa. There is also, and I want to underline my own empathy with his irritation on this score, a hint of personal hurt: The most startling thing I personally discovered about the New South Africa is just how easy it has become to find oneself considered an ultraleftist! (p. 1) This sense of disappointment, even of betrayal, is also present in many progressive circles within South Africa, and indeed among many cadres of our movement. Despite all of this there is, I believe, something seriously off-beam in Saul’s analysis