Sunday November 23rd, 2014, 1:49 pm (EST)

History

Neoliberalism, Imperialism, and the Militarization of Urban Spaces

In the epilogue of Planet of Slums, Mike Davis gives us a glimpse into the militarization of urban spaces and what the military elite are doing about the world’s cities. Davis cites an article published in the US Army War College journal: “The future of warfare lies in the streets, sewers, high-rise buildings, industrial parks, and the sprawl of houses, shacks, and shelters that form the broken cities of our world. Our recent military history is punctuated with city names—Tuzla, Mogadishu, Los Angeles, Beirut, Panama City, Hue, Saigon, Santo Domingo—but these encounters have been but a prologue, with the real drama still to come.”… [T]he militarization of cities around the world, in both the core and the periphery, is the main focus of Stephen Graham’s fascinating and accessible book, Cities Under Siege. For Graham…this book represents the culmination and synthesis of much previous research… The end result is a theoretically and empirically rich study of how violence, control, and surveillance have come to “colonize the city landscape and the spaces of everyday life in both the ‘homelands’ and domestic cities of the West as well as the world’s neo-colonial frontiers”.… | more |

Trampling Out the Sanctimony

Frank Bardacke, Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers (London: Verso, 2011), 848 pages, $54.95, hardback.

This big book is great U.S. history. A solid, comprehensive, richly detailed, brilliantly composed study of a major post-1960 movement in U.S. labor, it is also a dramatic narrative vivid with critical analysis of the movement’s developing strengths and faults, and thick with lessons for the struggles of today’s left.… | more |

"An authoritative account of how the Polish transformation betrayed the Polish working class and its aspirations."
—Jan Toporowski, SOAS, University of London

From Solidarity to Sellout

The Restoration of Capitalism in Poland

In the 1980s and 90s, renowned Polish economist Tadeusz Kowalik played a leading role in the Solidarity movement, struggling alongside workers for an alternative to “really-existing socialism” that was cooperative and controlled by the workers themselves. In the ensuing two decades, “really-existing” socialism has collapsed, capitalism has been restored, and Poland is now among the most unequal countries in the world. Kowalik asks, how could this happen in a country that once had the largest and most militant labor movement in Europe?… | more |

Two Pauls

In 1957, when I was young and thought I knew everything, I was just about to go to graduate school in economics. Then I read Paul Baran’s The Political Economy of Growth. I immediately sent him an eight-page, single-spaced review of his book. I said that I liked it very much, but had some questions about it. Paul wrote back asking me to become his research assistant and study at Stanford. Unfortunately he could pay so little that it covered only half the tuition. I could not afford it.… [But] I did visit Paul about once every two weeks. He welcomed me because his colleagues had isolated him due to their fears of the witch hunt. The reason he had offered me so little was that Stanford would not give him more money for any purpose. Paul had tenure, but the alumni were angry that he was not fired for his outspoken opposition to U.S. imperialist aggression against Cuba.… | more |

The Universe and its Expansion

I respect all religions even though I do not profess them. Human beings, from the most ignorant to the wisest, are looking for an explanation for their own existence. Science is continuously trying to explain the laws that govern the universe. At this moment you can see it is expanding, a process that began approximately […]… | more |

Conduct Hard to Forget

Erich Honecker was the most revolutionary German I had ever known. Every man lives his own time. These are infinitely changing times if they are compared to any former time. I had the privilege of observing his conduct when he was bitterly paying the debt contracted by the one who had sold his soul to the devil for a few swigs of Vodka.… | more |

An Honest Clarification

Some days ago, on May 28, the violent battle waged at El Uvero was commemorated with well deserved references. An elemental duty forces me to clarify the facts. During those weeks, Manuel Piñeiro, “Red Beard”, as the leopard, who never changes its spots, as the saying goes, managed to send to Santiago de Cuba a […]… | more |

An Important Time Recalled

Robert Bone and Richard Courage, The Muse in Bronzeville: African American Creative Expression in Chicago, 1932–1950 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2011), 336 pages, $29.95, paperback.

The late Robert Bone had a socialist background which impelled him to study African-American history and literature long before those subjects became fashionable. From the 1950s on his pioneering work in this field included The Negro Novel in America (1959) and Down Home: Origins of the Afro-American Short Story (1975). He had planned, and partially researched and written, a study of the Chicago African-American Renaissance of the 1930s and later. When his health began to fail, he gave his notes to Richard A. Courage, author of many articles on African-American narrative and visual arts. Courage completed Bone’s research, and the result is a compelling book which will be a standard in its field for many years to come.… | more |

"A wonderful book about a courageous and extraordinary woman who was highly principled, yet endowed by nature with all the clandestine skills."
—John le Carré

The Unlikely Secret Agent

Winner of South Africa’s top literary prize, the Alan Paton Award, The Unlikely Secret Agent tells the thrilling true story of one woman’s struggle against the apartheid system. It is 1963. South Africa is in crisis and the white state is under siege. On August 19th, the dreaded Security Police descend on Griggs bookstore in downtown Durban and arrest Eleanor, the white daughter of the manager. They threaten to “break her or hang her” if she does not lead them to her lover, “Red” Ronnie Kasrils, who is wanted on suspicion of involvement in recent acts of sabotage, including the toppling of electricity pylons and explosions at a Security Police office in Durban. But Eleanor has her own secret to conceal.… | more |

A Red Robin?

In his estimable Robin Hood: People’s Outlaw and Forest Hero, it is Paul Buhle’s contention that in the almost eight centuries of his legendary existence, Robin has had his time come periodically but seldom more than now. With barbarians, foreign and domestic, at the gates whenever they are not in the palaces, the need for heroes to rise from the ranks of the masses is at least as urgent as it was in Robin Hood’s day.… Buhle argues that the world needs Robin Hood now more than ever. “We need Robin because rebellion against deteriorating conditions is inevitable.”… | more |

The Roads Leading To Disaster

This Reflection could be written today, tomorrow or any other day without the risk of being mistaken. Our species faces new problems. When 20 years ago I stated at the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro that a species was in danger of extinction, I had fewer reasons than […]… | more |

First, They Came for the Sex Offenders

Roger N. Lancaster, Sex Panic and the Punitive State (University of California Press, 2011), 328 pages, $24.95, paperback.… | more |

The Genius of Chávez

President Chávez presented his annual report on activities carried out in 2011 and his program for 2012 to the Venezuelan Parliament. After thoroughly carrying out the formalities required by this important activity, he addressed the official state authorities, members of parliament from all parties, and supporters and opposition members who had come to the Assembly […]… | more |

World Peace Hanging by a Thread

Yesterday I had the satisfaction of having a pleasant conversation with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I had not seen him since 2006, more than five years ago, when he visited our country to participate in the 14th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement of Countries in Havana. During the summit, Cuba was elected for the second time as […]… | more |

The March Towards the Abyss

It is not a matter of being optimistic or pessimistic, knowing or not knowing elementary things, of being responsible or not for events. Those who would like to be thought of as politicians should be thrown onto the trash heap of history when, as the norm goes, they have no idea about everything or almost […]… | more |

Food as a Commodity

Food is one of the most basic of human needs. Routine access to a balanced diet is essential for both growth and development of the young, as well as for general health throughout one’s life. Although food is mostly plentiful, malnutrition is still common. The contradiction between plentiful global food supplies and widespread malnutrition and hunger arises primarily from food being considered a commodity, just like any other.… | more |

Do the United States and Mexico Really Want the Drug War To Succeed?

Until late in the twentieth century heroin and cocaine addiction in Mexico was not considered a major problem…. [But today] both the governments of Mexico and the United States have demonstrated a need to justify military actions and to portray the “War on Drugs” as a battle between good and evil with no gray areas in between. To make the rhetoric effective it has been necessary to villainize the perpetrators of the “evil” and to ignore the dominant reasons that the evil exists: unabated drug consumption in the United States…. As long as the assassinations, beheadings, cateos, and the majority of the corruption of government official remain south of the border the United States can maintain its pro-military stance, send money and arms to Mexico’s conservative government, and focus on more demanding issues. Mexico, in contrast, rejecting any form of legalization, remains bound to its U.S.-appeasing commitment to continue a bloody confrontation that seems to have no end.… | more |

The Center Will Not Hold

The Rise and Decline of Liberalism

Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World System IV: Centrist Liberalism Triumphant, 1789–1914 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), 396 pages, $26.95, paperback.

Revenge of the Surplus

Gregory Sholette, Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture (London: Pluto Press, 2011), 240 pages, $30.00, paperback.

Samir Amin at 80: An Introduction and Tribute

Samir Amin was born in Cairo in 1931, and studied within the French educational system in Egypt.… He is currently president of the World Forum for Alternatives.… Amin’s wide-ranging work can be most succinctly described in terms of the dual designation of The Law of Value and Historical Materialism—the title of one of his books, now in a new edition as The Law of Worldwide Value. Marx’s intellectual corpus, he notes, appears to be divided into writings on economics and writings on politics.… For Amin, this basic division of Marxist theory is not to be denied. Nevertheless, he insists that the economic laws of capitalism, summed up by the law of value, “are subordinate to the laws of historical materialism.” Economic science, while indispensable, cannot explain at the highest level of abstraction, as in mathematical equations, the full reality of capitalism and imperialism—since it cannot account either for the historical origins of the system itself, or for the nature of the class struggle.… | more |

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