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Vietnamese woman with a gun to her head, Vietnam War, 1969 (Keystone / Hulton Images / Getty)

Vietnam and the Sixties

A Personal History

This article will be made available online on December 12th.

In early 1970, Vice President Spiro Agnew had this to say about the so-called ’60s Generation: “As for these deserters, malcontents, radicals, incendiaries, the civil and the uncivil disobedients among our youth, SDS, PLP, Weathermen I and Weathermen II, the revolutionary action movement, the Black United Front, Yippies, Hippies, Yahoos, Black Panthers, Lions, and Tigers alike—I would swap the whole damn zoo for a single platoon of the kind of young Americans I saw in Vietnam.” This is a fascinating statement for multiple reasons and on multiple levels. To begin with, a single platoon of the kind of young Americans he saw in Vietnam went into a village we remember as My Lai and murdered 407 unarmed men, women, and children. On the same day, in the nearby village of My Khe, another unit of the same division murdered an estimated 97 additional Vietnamese civilians. While I personally did not participate in or witness killing on that scale, I and my fellow Marines routinely killed, maimed, and abused Vietnamese on a near-daily basis, destroying homes, fields, crops, and livestock with every weapon available to us, from rifles and grenades to heavy artillery and napalm.… It is no wonder, it turns out, that Agnew should be so fond of “the kind of young Americans” he saw in Vietnam, since he himself turned out to be a criminal who was forced to resign from his office in public disgrace.… | more…

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The American War in Vietnam: Crime or Commemoration?

Lessons from the Vietnam War

This article will be made available online on December 12th.

The Vietnam War was an example of imperial aggression.… Imperialism ultimately enriches the home country’s dominant class. The process involves “unspeakable repression and state terror,” and must rely repeatedly “upon armed coercion and repression.” The ultimate aim of modern U.S. imperialism is “to make the world safe” for multinational corporations.… U.S. imperial actions in Vietnam and elsewhere are often described as reflecting “national interests,” “national security,” or “national defense.” Endless U.S. wars and regime changes, however, actually represent the class interests of the powerful who own and govern the country. Noam Chomsky argues that if one wishes to understand imperial wars, therefore, “it is a good idea to begin by investigating the domestic social structure. Who sets foreign policy? What interest do these people represent? What is the domestic source of their power?”… | more…

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Haydée Santamaría

Her Revolution, Her Life

This article will be made available online on December 26th.

Margaret Randall, Haydée Santamaría, Cuban Revolutionary: She Led by Transgression (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015), 248 pages, $23.95, paperback.

In the early 1950s, Haydée Santamaría Cuadrado moved from a rural Cuban sugar plantation to Havana, to live with her younger brother Abel. Together, they would help to establish a revolutionary movement that would change the history of their country. Haydée, as she is known throughout Cuba—Yeyé to her friends—was one of only two women among 160 men who took part in attacks on Batista’s army barracks at Moncada and Bayamo on July 26, 1953, which sparked the Cuban Revolution.… In her recent book, poet and scholar Margaret Randall, who lived in Cuba in the 1970s and became friends with Haydée, has captured the essence of this exemplary woman.… | more…

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The Battle of Jarama Memorial

Revolutionary Biology

The Dialectical Science of Christopher Caudwell

Next year will mark the eightieth anniversary of the Battle of Jarama.… In February 1937, eleven thousand Republicans…fought and died defending Madrid against Francisco Franco’s fascist incursion. At this point in Spain’s Civil War, the country was split evenly between west and east by rebel Nationalist and Republican forces. An earlier direct assault on Madrid had been repulsed. Republican troops subsequently consolidated their defenses along the Manzanares River. An assault through Madrid’s southern barrios would have cost Franco’s forces dearly. General Emilio Mora’s men north of the city in the meantime were held in check by Popular Front forces in the Sierra de Guadarrama.… The Nationalists turned to cutting off Madrid from the Republic’s provisional capital. They planned to march south before swinging north and capturing the road to Valencia. In early February, Franco ordered 40,000 of his battle-hardened Moroccan troops and an Italian unit provided by Mussolini to attack. The forces crossed the Jarama River on February 11. Republican General José Miaja countered the thrust with three battalions of the XV International Brigade, including the Dimitrov Battalion and the British Battalion.… | more…

Marxism and the Dialectics of Ecology

The recovery of the ecological-materialist foundations of Karl Marx’s thought, as embodied in his theory of metabolic rift, is redefining both Marxism and ecology in our time, reintegrating the critique of capital with critical natural science. This may seem astonishing to those who were reared on the view that Marx’s ideas were simply a synthesis of German idealism, French utopian socialism, and British political economy.… The rediscovery of Marx’s metabolism and ecological value-form theories, and of their role in the analysis of ecological crises, has generated sharply discordant trends. Despite their importance in the development of both Marxism and ecology, neither idea is without its critics. One manifestation of the divergence on the left in this respect has been an attempt to appropriate aspects of Marx’s social-metabolism analysis in order to promote a crude social “monist” view based on such notions as the social “production of nature” and capitalism’s “singular metabolism.” Such perspectives, though influenced by Marxism, rely on idealist, postmodernist, and hyper-social-constructivist conceptions, which go against any meaningful historical-materialist ecology and tend to downplay (or to dismiss as apocalyptic or catastrophist) all ecological crises—insofar as they are not reducible to the narrow law of value of the system.… | more…

The Kurdish Question Then and Now

The political chaos that has recently dominated the scene in the Middle East is expressed, among other ways, by the violent resurgence of the Kurdish question. How can we analyze, in these new conditions, the scope of the claims of the Kurds—autonomy, independence, unity? And can we deduce from analysis that this claim must be supported by all democratic and progressive forces, in the region and in the world?… Debates on the subject produce great confusion. This is because most contemporary actors and observers rally around a non-historical vision of this and related issues.… I will offer a counterpoint to this transhistorical vision of social issues and “rights,” through which the social movements of the past and present express their demands. In particular, I will attribute paramount importance to the divide that separates the thriving of the modern capitalist world from past worlds.… | more…

Against Trophy Hunting

A Marxian-Leopoldian Critique

Contemporary North Americans hunt wildlife for a variety of reasons, whether to attain game meat, spend time with family and friends, or take part in a form of outdoor recreation. My focus here will be on…trophy hunting…[—]killing wildlife to enhance one’s status by appropriating the body parts of dead animals for display as trophies, ostensible evidence of hunting skills.… In the United States, trophy hunting organizations, such as Safari Club International and Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, claim to promote and defend two allegedly deeply rooted Western traditions: The popular practice of “common people” hunting, and the role that hunters and hunting organizations have played in protecting wilderness and wildlife.… These claims perpetuate a mythologized version of the history of Euro-American hunting. Contrary to their image as “true conservationists,” many trophy hunting organizations have promoted policies and activities with adverse social consequences, contributing to the environmental degradation they claim to oppose.… | more…

From Primitive to Substantive Equality—via Slavery

Unlike materially grounded and strictly determined primitive equality, the realization of universally shared substantive equality is feasible only at a highly developed level of social/economic advancement that must be combined with the consciously pursued non-hierarchical (and thereby non-antagonistic) regulation of a historically sustainable social reproductive metabolism. That would be a radically different social metabolism, in contrast to all phases of historical development hitherto—including of course the spontaneous primitive equality of the distant past rooted in the grave material constraints of directly imposed natural necessity and struggle for survival.… “Materiality” of that kind, despite its unquestionable substantiveness, as linked to the corresponding hemmed-in “spontaneity,” is obviously not enough in order to achieve historical sustainability.… The requirement of materiality, in the case of the human being whose fundamental existential substratum is objectively determined nature, is essential. The seminal condition of materiality with regard to equality can be swept aside or wished out of existence—as a rule in a revealingly discriminatory and class-bound self-serving way—only by some idealist philosophical conception; one that predicates the commendability of some kind of equality (e.g., “in the eyes of God” or “before the Law”) and at the same time denies the realizability of materially embodied substantive equality, in its defense of a most iniquitous social order.… | more…

Imperialism and Class in the Arab World

Ali Kadri, Arab Development Denied (London: Anthem, 2014), 250 pages, $40, paperback.

Perhaps nowhere does violence collapse the horizon as it does in the Arab world. Imperial wars have demolished the Libyan state and turned Syria into a charnel house. Yemen, the region’s poorest country, was a U.S. drone shooting gallery before Saudi Arabia…attacked it, sending it spiraling into famine. Iraq shudders under ISIS’s car bombs after decades of wars and sanctions. And Palestine continues to bleed and resist under the weight of Israeli settler-colonialism.… Why so much violence? The academic mercenaries of counterinsurgency studies fixate on terrorism as a response to material grievance, and Western war as the response. Others ascribe the region’s underdevelopment to a mix of institutional inadequacy and democratic deficits, remediable by the application of U.S. power.… Against this tableau, Ali Kadri in Arab Development Denied offers a coruscatingly intelligent account of how the United States has denied Arab development. Through wars, colonialism, and sanctions, it has sought for decades to prevent working-class sovereignty in the region.… | more…

The American War in Vietnam: Crime or Commemoration?

The American War in Vietnam: Crime or Commemoration?

A devastating follow-up to William L. Griffen and Marciano’s 1979 classic Teaching the Vietnam War, The American War in Vietnam seeks not to commemorate the Vietnam War, but to stop the ongoing U.S. war on actual history. Marciano reveals the grandiose flag-waving that stems from the “Noble Cause principle,” the notion that America is “chosen by God” to bring democracy to the world. The result is critical writing and teaching at its best. This book will find a home in classrooms where teachers seek to do more than repeat the trite glorifications of U.S. Empire. It will provide students everywhere with insights that can prepare them to change the world.… | more…

Studs Terkel: Politics, Culture, But Mostly Conversation

Studs Terkel: Politics, Culture, but Mostly Conversation

Studs Terkel was an American icon who had no use for America’s cult of celebrity. He was a leftist who valued human beings over political dogma. In scores of books and thousands of radio and television broadcasts, Studs paid attention—and respect—to “ordinary” human beings of all classes and colors, as they talked about their lives as workers, dreamers, survivors. Alan Wieder’s Studs Terkel: Politics, Culture, but Mostly Conversation is the first comprehensive book about this man.… | more…

Russia and the Long Transition from Capitalism to Socialism

Russia and the Long Transition from Capitalism to Socialism

Out of early twentieth-century Russia came the world’s first significant effort to build a modern revolutionary society. According to Marxist economist Samir Amin, the great upheaval that once produced the Soviet Union also produced a movement away from capitalism—a long transition that continues today. In seven concise, provocative chapters, Amin deftly examines the trajectory of Russian capitalism, the Bolshevik Revolution, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the possible future of Russia—and, by extension, the future of socialism itself.… | more…

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