Monday March 30th, 2015, 8:17 pm (EDT)


April 2000 (Volume 51, Number 11)

April 2000 (Volume 51, Number 11)

This space has, from its earliest years, been devoted to MR affairs, viewing the readers as part of a larger family. Recently, we began to use the space for commentary on political and economic developments also. The occasion of Paul’s 90th on April 10, however, calls for something very different. If you guess that this will be a love letter, you are not mistaken. I have long wanted to express publicly my feelings about Paul. A review of his contributions to knowledge and theoretical analysis about capitalism and socialism would require a long essay. I prefer to say a few words about him as my friend and comrade … | more |

Monopoly Capital at the Turn of the Millennium

Economic analysts, as everyone knows, have widely differing views on the way the economy works. The single most important division lies between right and left—a division that has its roots in class. But even among those on the left there are areas of sharp disagreement. One of these is over the centrality of the Keynesian revolution to the development of economics. Did the revolution in economic thought, associated with thinkers such as Keynes and Kalecki, teach things that Marxist political economists should view as essential? Another disagreement is over the role of monopoly and competition. How central is the concentration and centralization of capital to our understanding of the workings of capitalism today—a full century after Marxists and other radicals first raised the question of monopoly capitalism? Whatever one’s abstract theory is—and all theories by definition rely on a degree of abstraction—its usefulness lies in its capacity to make sense of everyday reality, while providing the strategic analysis necessary for practical revolutionary solutions … | more |

Happy Birthday, Paul!

In honor of Paul’s 90th birthday, we asked a number of people from different walks of life—trade unionists, radical activists, academics, and longtime friends—to write short tributes to Paul … | more |

The Road Not Taken

Paul Buhle, Taking Care of Business: Samuel Gompers, George Meany, Lane Kirkland, and the Tragedy of American Labor (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1999), $18, 315 pp.; Mike Parker & Martha Gruelle, Democracy is Power: Rebuilding Unions from the Bottom Up (Detroit: Labor Notes, 1999), $17, 255 pp.

In a very well-known passage, Marx said, “Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past.” Elsewhere, he said, “The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living.” These words of wisdom provide us with a good entry point into a review of these two exceptional books … | more |

Labor and the Imperialism of Finance

Organized labor has always privileged collective struggle at the point of production, judging it to be capital’s most vulnerable point. Denying employers the labor power needed for the production of surplus value strikes at the reproduction and expansion of capital, the accumulation process which is the core of the system … | more |

The Politics of Capitalism

Our choice of political strategies clearly depends in large part on what we think is possible and impossible in any given conditions. And what we think is possible or impossible under capitalism obviously depends on what we think capitalism is. So let me, first, make some general observations about the nature of capitalism … | more |

Remarks on Paul Sweezy on the Occasion of His Receipt of the Veblen-Commons Award

I would like to quote at length from Paul Samuelson, who wrote a piece exactly thirty years ago for Newsweek magazine about a time thirty years before that “when giants walked the earth and Harvard Yard”: … | more |

Capitalism in Asia at the End of the Millennium

Two propositions dominated the Marxist perspective in most Asian countries during the period immediately following the Second World War. First, capitalism had entered the period of its “general crisis.” While not reducible to narrowly economic terms, this implied that economic progress would henceforth be stymied. Second, the kind of diffusion of industrial capitalism that had occurred from Britain to Europe, and then in the United States and other temperate regions of white settlement in the period leading up to the First World War, could not be expected to occur in the third world as well. It followed from these two propositions that the development of the Asian countries required their transition, through stages of democratic revolution, to socialism, and that the course of this transition would be made smoother when their proletarian comrades from the advanced countries marched to socialism as well, as they eventually would … | more |

Is Overcompetition the Problem?

Robert Brenner, The Economics of Global Turbulence: A Special Report on the World Economy, 1950-98 (Special issue of New Left Review, no. 229, May/June 1998), 262 pp.

It is tempting perhaps to attribute all the problems of capitalism to excessive competition. After all, capitalism is generally presented within contemporary ideology as a system which is nothing more than a set of competitive relations governed by the market. Is it not possible then that the economic contradictions of capitalism, and indeed the present world crisis, can be explained in terms of the globalization of competition which now knows no bounds, and is undermining all fixed positions, resulting in a kind of free fall? This seems to be the view of the distinguished Marxist historian and social theorist Robert Brenner in his ambitious attempt to account for the present global economic turbulence … | more |

An Interview with Harry Magdoff

The twentieth anniversary issue of Monthly Review in May 1969 carried the announcement that Harry Magdoff—the independent economist-had officially joined Paul Sweezy as co-editor, replacing Leo Huberman, who had died in 1968 … | more |

Braverman and the Class Struggle

Since Paul Sweezy gently rejected my first submission to Monthly Review in 1972, he and Harry Magdoff and all of the MR writers and staffpersons, living and deceased, have been my mentors, helping me to see things more clearly and to act more effectively. And Harry Braverman’s book ranks near the top of MR’s books which have deeply influenced my thinking. I remember mentioning it in my PhD defense in 1976. I told the committee that one of the weaknesses of my thesis, which was about public school teachers’ unions, was that it had not incorporated the pioneering work of Harry Braverman in Labor and Monopoly Capital. I had a suspicion that the work of teachers was not immune to the forces described so well by Braverman: detailed division of labor, mechanization, Taylorization. Today, as the fine scholar David Noble will tell us, these forces are bearing down upon the professoriate, with potentially devastating results … | more |

A Note on the Communist Manifesto

Probably the passage in the Communist Manifesto most frequently cited these days is a portrayal of the global spread of capitalism:

All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the productions of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands. We have universal inter-dependence of nations…. All nations, on pain of extinction, [are compelled] to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In a word, it creates a world after its own image.
March 1998 (Volume 49, Number 10)

March 1998 (Volume 49, Number 10)

A striking feature of the mountain of talk about the Asian crisis is that its root cause is all too often ignored The focus of the media and the pundits is on weak banks, bad management, corrupt officials, heavy indebtedness, excess speculation, and the fragility of the financial markets. Typically, the disaster is viewed as a regional affair. A rare exception is the statement of Eisuke Sakakibara, Japan’s vice-minister for international finance: “This isn’t an Asian crisis. It is a crisis of global capitalism.” (Business Week, January 26, 1998) But he too was apparently thinking of financial markets, concerned with effects, not causes … | more |

A Letter to a Contributor

The Same Old State

As mentioned over the phone, we like your article very much. It needs to be shortened, and we will be suggesting some editorial changes. Meanwhile, I would like to get your thinking about my disagreement with this statement in your conclusion: “Today’s neo-liberal state is a different kind of capitalist class than the social-democratic, Keynesian interventionist state of the previous period.” I can’t see any significant difference in either the state or its relation to the ruling class, even though clearly there is a considerable difference between the functioning of the capitalist economy during the so-called golden age and the subsequent long stretch of stagnation. I do not mean the absence of any change at all in the capitalist class. Thus, the growing influence of the financial sector (not necessarily a separate sector) is noteworthy. But that is hardly a measure of a major change in the state … | more |

A Critique of Tabb on Globalization

Not only do we reject [so-called “weak” and “strong” versions of “globalization”], we reject the arguments used to support them, namely, that globalization has little basis in economic fact, is no more advanced than it was during the pre-1914 years, and has no significant political consequences. Our version, both “strong” and “nuanced,” would be that since the early 1970s changes in technology and politics have greatly increased the ability of capital to do what it has always wanted to do—turn the world into one “free market” for finance, production, and wage labor. Ideologically strengthened by the collapse of communism, corporate capital has used its initiatory power in the realms of investment, employment, pricing, industrial location, and selective implementation of new technologies to leapfrog ahead of the ability of progressive forces to mobilize and fight back—which takes time, organization, and, if history teaches us anything, decades of struggle. This is not exactly the first time workers, and the entire left, have faced this situation; nor is it the first time that capital has been able to use the nation-state to accomplish its ends easier and faster, this time in significant measure through the creation of supranational institutions promoting the needs of transnational finance and production (NAFTA, EU, WTO, MAI, and multilateral trade agreements, including the latest “Uruguay Round”)… | more |

October 1997 (Volume 49, Number 5)

October 1997 (Volume 49, Number 5)

We are writing at the end of August. The two main events of the summer have been (1) the apparent ending of the long stock-market boom of the last few years, and (2) the successful strike of the teamsters against UPS. Neither can be said to have been anticipated and together they point to the emergence of new trends in the period ahead.… | more |

More (or Less) on Globalization

Much has been written about “globalization” in the last few years. It is not my intention to add to this literature but only to put the topic into the context of my own understanding of the history of capitalism.…Globalization is not a condition or a phenomenon: it is a process that has been going on for a long time, in fact ever since capitalism came into the world as a viable form of society four or five centuries ago; (dating the birth of capitalism is an interesting problem but not relevant for present purposes). What is relevant and important, is to understand that capitalism is in its innermost essence an expanding system both internally and externally. Once rooted, it both grows and spreads. The classic analysis of this double movement is of course Marx’s Capital.… | more |

July-August 1997 (Volume 49, Number 3)

July-August 1997 (Volume 49, Number 3)

As of early summer the economic outlook for the rest of 1997, as portrayed in the major media, could hardly be brighter. “Strong growth with little unemployment and low inflation doesn’t have to peter out….Could it possibly get any better than this?” exults Business Week (January).…Up to a point this is clearly a case of déjà vu all over again. A “new era” was widely and enthusiastically proclaimed by professors, pundits, and plain people as the stock market boom of the 1920s neared its peak. A few months later the market collapsed, and the greatest depression in U.S. history began. The big question now is whether the rest of the scenario of the 1920s and the 1930s is likely to repeat itself. The answer of the media and Wall Street and probably of plenty of plain people too is a resounding NO.… | more |

November 1996 (Volume 48, Number 6)

November 1996 (Volume 48, Number 6)

The September 30th issue of the New Yorker carried profiles of two long-time contributors to Monthly Review—lyricist E. Y. Harburg and lawyer Michael Tigar—evoking considerable pride among MR staffers. “Yip” Harburg, who died in 1986, wrote more than one hundred songs including “Over The Rainbow,” and “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime.” Writer John Lahr notes that throughout his long career on Broadway and in Hollywood all of his work evinced powerful social concerns and themes of freedom. Yip, of course, was a socialist of the MR variety. He valued the analysis and insight of this publication, as the verse printed on page 63.… | more |