Monday July 28th, 2014, 4:17 am (EDT)

Review of the Month

Review of the Month

The Rediscovery of Imperialism

The concept of “imperialism” was considered outside the acceptable range of political discourse within the ruling circles of the capitalist world for most of the twentieth century. Reference to “imperialism” during the Vietnam War, no matter how realistic, was almost always a sign that the writer was on the left side of the political spectrum. In a 1971 foreword to the U.S. edition of Pierre Jalée’s Imperialism in the Seventies Harry Magdoff noted, “As a rule, polite academic scholars prefer not to use the term ‘imperialism.’ They find it distasteful and unscientific” … | more |

Creating a Just Society: Lessons from Planning in the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.: An Interview with Harry Magdoff

Lessons from Planning in the U.S.S.R. & the U.S.

In early July 2002, I asked Harry Magdoff if he would be interviewed for the Statesman, a Kolkata, India newspaper for which I write political commentary. Our first interview was so satisfying that we continued for several sessions. What follows is a discussion of something Harry has considered, what we can learn from the experience of the Soviet Union. It is, characteristically, concerned with learning from history. Harry is methodologically committed to the actual world from which all theory springs, to which it must speak, and to meet whose specific particularities it must continually be reshaped.… | more |

I. Capitalism’s Twin Crises: Economic and Environmental

Economic & Environmental

History has provided us with numerous examples of economic stagnation and breakdown, as well as environmental degradation caused by human activity, even before capitalism existed. But capitalism’s central characteristic—the incessant drive to invest and accumulate wealth—gives birth to never-ending economic and environmental crises… | more |

II. Capitalism and Ecology: The Nature of the Contradiction

The Nature of the Contradiction

The social relation of capital, as we all know, is a contradictory one. These contradictions, though stemming from capitalism’s internal laws of motion, extend out to phenomena that are usually conceived as external to the system, threatening the integrity of the entire biosphere and everything within it as a result of capital’s relentless expansion. How to understand capitalism’s ecological contradictions has therefore become a subject of heated debate among socialists. Two crucial issues in this debate are: (1) must ecological crisis lead to economic crisis under capitalism?, and (2) to what extent is there an ecological contradiction at the heart of capitalist society? … | more |

The Cultures of Socialism in the United States

The little-understood roots of the left offer us the chance to demonstrate a vital continuity. A bridge just now being rediscovered exists between the nineteenth century Euro-American traditions upon which the modern Marxist movements were founded, and the cultures (i.e., the collective, including artistic, expression) of minority populations old and new to the United States… | more |

Social Justice and Globalization: Are they Compatible?

In a speech in 1999, Henry Kissinger, secretary of state under Presidents Nixon and Ford, candidly remarked that “globalization” is another term for U.S. domination.1 Such clarity tends, in itself, to negatively answer the question posed in the title of this talk. How can anyone argue that U.S. domination—or using the less polite term, “U.S. imperialism”—is compatible with social justice? … | more |

Upton Sinclair and the Contradictions of Capitalist Journalism

Beginning in the 1980s, there was a significant increase in awareness of the deep flaws of mainstream journalism among those on the U.S. left. Writers such as Todd Gitlin, Herbert Schiller, Gaye Tuchman, Ben Bagdikian, and Michael Parenti, each in his or her own way, drew attention to the incompatibility between a corporate run news media and an ostensibly democratic society. The work of Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, in particular, introduced an entire generation of progressives to a critical position regarding mainstream journalism. As the title of their masterful Manufacturing Consent indicated, the capitalist news media are far more about generating support for elite policies than they are about empowering people to make informed political decisions… | more |

The New Face of Capitalism: Slow Growth, Excess Capital, and a Mountain of Debt

For a long time now, the U.S. economy and the economies of the advanced capitalist world as a whole have been experiencing a slowdown in economic growth relative to the quarter-century following the Second World War. It is true that there have been cyclical upswings and long expansions that have been touted as full-fledged “economic booms” in this period, but the slowdown in the rate of growth of the economy has continued over the decades. Grasping this fact is crucial if one is to understand the continual economic restructuring over the last three decades, the rapidly worsening conditions in much of the underdeveloped world to which the crisis has been exported, and the larger significance of the present cyclical downturn of world capitalism… | more |

U.S. Military Bases and Empire

Empires throughout human history have relied on foreign military bases to enforce their rule, and in this respect at least, Pax Americana is no different than Pax Romana or Pax Britannica. “The principal method by which Rome established her political supremacy in her world,” wrote historian Arnold Toynbee in his America and the World Revolution (1962)… | more |

Anti-Capitalism and the Terrain of Social Justice

Until recently, a pervasive sense of there-is-no-alternative left us with a
debilitating pessimism. Seattle was, arguably, the long-awaited antidote. Where social democracy had seen the power of capital and was cowed by it, the Seattle protesters recognized that building a decent world meant actively resisting it. In this defiant understanding that resistance creates the space for hope, the chain of protests initiated by Seattle fell in with a tradition that saw realism in historic terms, rather than in a fetishism of the present… | more |

Monopoly Capital and the New Globalization

We live at a time when capitalism has become more extreme, and is more than ever presenting itself as a force of nature, which demands such extremes. Globalization-the spread of the self-regulating market to every niche and cranny of the globe-is portrayed by its mainly establishment proponents as a process that is unfolding from every- where at once with no center and no discernible power structure. As the New York Times claimed in its July 7,2001 issue, repeating now fash- ionable notions, today’s global reality is one of “a fluid, infinitely expanding and highly organized system that encompasses the world’s entire population,” but which lacks any privileged positions or “place ofpower.” … | more |

After the Attack…The War on Terrorism

There is little we can say directly about the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.—except that these were acts of utter, inhuman violence, indefensible in every sense, taking a deep and lasting human toll. Such terrorism has to be rid from the face of the earth. The difficulty lies in how to rid the world of it. Terrorism generates counterterrorism and the United States has long been a party to this deadly game, as perpetrator more often than victim.… | more |

Ecology Against Capitalism

In a 1963 talk on “The Pollution of Our Environment” Rachel Carson drew a close comparison between the reluctance of society in the late twentieth century to embrace the full implications of ecological theory and the resistance in the Victorian era to Darwin’s theory of evolution:… | more |

Anarchism and the Anti-Globalization Movement

Many among today’s young radical activists, especially those at the center of the anti-globalization and anti-corporate movements, call themselves anarchists. But the intellectual/philosophical perspective that holds sway in these circles might be better described as an anarchist sensibility than as anarchism per se. Unlike the Marxist radicals of the sixties, who devoured the writings of Lenin and Mao, today’s anarchist activists are unlikely to pore over the works of Bakunin. For contemporary young radical activists, anarchism means a decentralized organizational structure, based on affinity groups that work together on an ad hoc basis, and decision-making by consensus. It also means egalitarianism; opposition to all hierarchies; suspicion of authority, especially that of the state; and commitment to living according to one’s values. Young radical activists, who regard themselves as anarchists, are likely to be hostile not only to corporations but to capitalism… | more |

Prisons and Executions—the U.S. Model: A Historical Introduction

A Historical Introduction

The prison is so prominent an institution in present-day society that it is difficult to remember that the prison as a place of punishment is only a little more than two hundred years old. It emerged first in the United States and soon after in Europe, and its early phase of development was that of 1789-1848, conforming to what historian Eric Hobsbawm has termed The Age of Revolution. It was thus a product of the dual revolution that formed the basis for modern capitalism: the industrial revolution centered in Britain and the political revolution that took place in the United States and France… | more |

A Prizefighter for Capitalism: Paul Krugman vs. the Quebec Protesters

A few weeks ago, the New York Times columnist on economics devoted his space to scolding the demonstrators at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, (April 22, 2001, Op-Ed page). The writer, Paul Krugman an MIT professor, is considered by many to be a leading light of the profession, and a likely candidate for the economics Nobel Prize… | more |

What Happened to the Women’s Movement?

From the late 1960s into the 1980s there was a vibrant women’s movement in the United States. Culturally influential and politically powerful, on its liberal side this movement included national organizations and campaigns for reproductive rights, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), and other reforms. On its radical side it included women’s liberation and consciousness raising groups, as well as cultural and grassroots projects. The women’s movement was also made up of innumerable caucuses and organizing projects in the professions, unions, government bureaucracies, and other institutions. The movement brought about major changes in the lives of many women, and also in everyday life in the United States. It opened to women professions and blue-collar jobs that previously had been reserved for men. It transformed the portrayal of women by the media. It introduced the demand for women’s equality into politics, organized religion, sports, and innumerable other arenas and institutions, and as a result the gender balance of participation and leadership began to change. By framing inequality and oppression in family and personal relations as a political question, the women’s movement opened up public discussion of issues previously seen as private, and therefore beyond public scrutiny. The women’s movement changed the way we talk, and the way we think. As a result, arguably most young women now believe that their options are or at least should be as open as men’s… | more |

The New Economy: Myth and Reality

Myth and Reality

In the last few years the idea of a “New Economy” has gained wide currency, almost rivaling “globalization” as a neologism that characterizes our era. Thus The Economic Report of the President, 2001, begins: “Over the last 8 years the American economy has transformed itself so radically that many believe we have witnessed the creation of a New Economy.” This New Economy is seen, first and foremost, as consisting of those firms and economic sectors most closely associated with the revolution in digital technology and the growth of the Internet. The rapid convergence of information technologies—including computers, software, satellites, fiber optics, and the Internet—has, it is believed, fundamentally altered the economic landscape. Since the mid-1990s, these revolutionary technological developments have, it is argued, spilled over into the wider economy, generating higher productivity growth, a sustained acceleration of economic growth, lower unemployment, lower inflation, and an attenuation of the business cycle… | more |

Global Media, Neoliberalism, and Imperialism

In conventional parlance, the current era in history is generally characterized as one of globalization, technological revolution, and democratization. In all three of these areas media and communication play a central, perhaps even a defining, role. Economic and cultural globalization arguably would be impossible without a global commercial media system to promote global markets and to encourage consumer values. The very essence of the technological revolution is the radical development in digital communication and computing. The argument that the bad old days of police states and authoritarian regimes are unlikely to return is premised on the claims that new communication technologies along with global markets undermine, even eliminate, the capacity for “maximum leaders” to rule with impunity… | 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 |