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2004

February 2004 (Volume 55, Number 9)

Notes from the Editors

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Ralph Miliband, who was one of the leading Marxist political theorists of the second half of the 20th century. His works, Parliamentary Socialism (1961), The State in Capitalist Society (1969), and Marxism and Politics (1977) are classics of socialist political analysis. This year is also the 40th anniversary of The Socialist Register, an annual journal that Miliband cofounded and coedited for 30 years | more…

A Precarious Existence: The Fate of Billions?

The number of people living a precarious existence has been increasing in many countries of the world, with hunger all too widespread. There are approximately 6 billion people in the world, with about half living in cities and half in rural areas. Between the poor living in cities and those in rural areas, a vast number of the world’s people live under very harsh conditions. It is estimated that that about half of the world’s population lives on less than two dollars per day, with most of those either chronically malnourished or continually concerned with where their next meal will come from. Many have no access to clean water (1 billion), electricity (2 billion), or sanitation (2.5 billion) | more…

Rice Imperialism: The Agribusiness Threat to Third World Rice Production

Food is an essential human need. All cultures involved in settled agriculture have produced food and food production is basic to all culture. The seed used in agricultural cultivation is the product of thousands of years of cultural development. Most of this development of food crops over the millennia has occurred in regions that are now in the periphery of the capitalist world economy. In recent years, however, agribusiness corporations located in the rich nations of the core have attempted to patent various forms of food crops, such as basic grains, and then to monopolize these patented grain varieties, creating dependence on seeds of the agribusiness corporations. When such practices involve, as in recent years, a crop such as rice on which much of the world’s population depends for subsistence, the implications are enormous and potentially disastrous for the world’s poor | more…

Poverty and Inequality in the Global Economy

Capitalism is hundreds of years old and today dominates nearly every part of the globe. Its champions claim that it is the greatest engine of production growth the world has ever seen. They also argue that it is unique in its ability to raise the standard of living of every person on earth. Because of capitalism, we are all “slouching toward utopia,”—the phrase coined by University of California at Berkeley economist J. Bradford DeLong—slowly but surely heading toward a world in which everyone will have achieved a U.S.-style middle-class life | more…

The U.S. Prison State

Tara Herivel and Paul Wright, editors Prison Nation: The Warehousing of America’s Poor (New York: Routledge, 2003), 256 pages, cloth $80.00, paper $19.95.

I sit in the day room/lobby waiting to be released for lunch. I read a novel in which one character, a Pole, comments to another that the Germans consider Poles to be untermenschen, subhuman. I look at the women around me: Latinas arguing among themselves in Spanish; a black woman making signals to someone I don’t see; two white women—one of whom is stringing beads—are murmuring together. Two of these women are here because they are undocumented workers; three are incarcerated for economic offenses; the other is falsely convicted; all of us are caught inside the nightmare of an oppressive state and an expanding empire. Instead of storm trooper boots and brown shirts, those who command wear Tony Lamas cowboy boots, expensive suits, and ties—men who see in the U.S. prison establishment ways to both intensify control of the population and squeeze more profits out of late-stage capitalism | more…

Manufacturing the Love of Possession

Michael Dawson, The Consumer Trap: Big Business Marketing in American Life (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2003), 203 pages, cloth $26.95.

In 1877, speaking at the Powder River Conference, Chief Sitting Bull of the Lakota nation said of the European invaders who were destroying his people and their way of life, “[T]he love of possession is a disease with them.” Disease is an apt term, because it does not necessarily imply that the love of possession was inherent in the nature of the invaders, but rather that the affliction may have been acquired. Thus, any scholar wishing to locate the origin of the affliction should, like an epidemiologist, search out its sources and possible transmission vectors | more…

January 2004 (Volume 55, Number 8)

Notes from the Editors

Historical materialists are not prophets; they do not predict the future course of history. They are concerned rather with the present as history. This fundamental principle of Marxist thought is called to mind by our reencounter recently with a common misinterpretation of Lenin’s Imperialism. In his new book, The New Imperialism, David Harvey writes (p. 127): “I therefore think Arendt is…correct to interpret the imperialism that emerged at the end of the nineteenth century as the ‘first stage in political rule of the bourgeoisie rather than the last stage of capitalism’ as Lenin depicted it.” (See also Harvey’s piece “The ‘New’ Imperialism” in the Socialist Register, 2004, p. 69.) | more…

Cuba: The Next Forty-Five Years?

This year Cuba will be celebrating the forty-fifth anniversary of its victorious revolution: a great historic achievement. And when we bear in mind that the Cuban revolution—the long sustained action of a nation of just eleven million people—survived for forty-five years against all odds, successfully confronting the declared enmity, the U.S.-dictated international political encirclement and economic blockade, as well as the ever renewed attempts to subvert and overthrow the post-revolutionary order by the world’s most preponderant economic and military power, even this simple fact puts forcefully into relief the magnitude and the lasting significance of the ongoing Cuban intervention in the historical process of our time. We are all contemporaries to an achievement whose reverberations reach well beyond the confines of the tendentiously propagandized “American Hemisphere,” offering its hopeful message to the rest of the world | more…

Food Security in Cuba

In 1996, Via Campesina, the recently formed international umbrella organization of grassroots peasant groups, introduced the term “food sovereignty”: the right of peoples and states to democratically decide their own food and agricultural policies and to produce needed foods in their own territories in a manner reinforcing the cultural values of the people while protecting the environment | more…

After Neoliberalism. Empire, Social Democracy, or Socialism

Since the early 1980s, the leading capitalist states in North America and Western Europe have pursued neoliberal policies and institutional changes. The peripheral and semiperipheral states in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe, under the pressure of the leading capitalist states (primarily the United States) and international monetary institutions (IMF and the World Bank), have adopted “structural adjustments,” “shock therapies,” or “economic reforms,” to restructure their economies in accordance with the requirements of neoliberal economics | more…