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April 1998 (Volume 49, Number 11)

Readers may remember that in last year’s summer issue on labor we talked about a roundtable organized by MR for activists in the labor movement and held in our office in New York last March. The idea was to provide a forum for labor activists to establish connections among themselves and to discuss issues of common interest at a particularly important historical moment, at a time when the labor movement in various parts of the world, including the United States, is beginning to show signs of renewal. We also hoped to revive the long dormant connection between the socialist left and the labor movement, and we were very pleased to discover that people within the movement were anxious to work with us too … | more…

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Teamster Reform Movement Survives Carey’s Debacle

What’s remarkable about the aftermath of Ron Carey’s removal as a candidate for Teamsters president is the staying power of the reform movement. Most predicted the union would quickly fall back into the hands of the mobbed-up Old Guard, personified by James Hoffa, Jr. But in recent local elections rank and file members have chosen to carry on with the business of reform, without the man who once symbolized those changes in the Teamsters … | more…

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The Scale of Our Ecological Crisis

One of the problems that has most troubled analysts of global ecological crisis is the question of scale. How momentous is the ecological crisis? Is the survival of the human species in question? What about life in general? Are the basic biogeochemical cycles of the planet vulnerable? Although few now deny that there is such a thing as an environmental crisis, or that it is in some sense global in character, some rational scientists insist that it is wrong to say that life itself, much less the planet, is seriously threatened. Even the mass extinction of species, it is pointed out, has previously occurred in evolutionary history. Critics of environmentalism (often themselves claiming to be environmentalists) have frequently used these rational reservations on the part of scientists to brand the environmental movement as “apocalyptic.”… | more…

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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…

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Human Rights Imperialism

Human rights were embodied in international law for the first time half a century ago. According to the United Nations Charter, one of the goals of the organization is international cooperation “to advance and strengthen the respect of human rights and basic freedoms for all people, regardless of race, sex, language and religion.” The thirty articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 set out in detail the UN Charter’s goal of international cooperation for the advancement of human rights and basic freedoms. The Convention on Prevention and Prosecution of Genocide of the same year is a great advance and landmark in the body of international law, binding on the states that have ratified it. These two achievements, which came at the very moment of the inception of the cold war, were due to the continuing democratic-antifascist impetus of the struggle and victory of the Anti-Hitler coalition in the Second World War. In the verdicts at Nuremberg the Nazi leaders were not only convicted of war crimes but also of crimes against humankind… | more…

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The New Theology of the First Amendment

The First Amendment stands as the crown jewel of the U.S. Constitution. Although it often has been ignored and violated throughout U.S. history, the First Amendment is the republic’s shining commitment to individual freedom of expression and to the protection of this institutional requirements for an informed electorate and a participatory democracy. Yet what exactly the First Amendment signifies and does has been the subject of considerable debate over the years. Currently or in the near future, any number of cases are and will be working their way through the court system that would seek to prohibit any government regulation of political campaign spending, broadcasting, and commercial speech (e.g. advertising or food labeling) on the grounds that such regulation would violate citizens’ and corporations’ First Amendment rights to free speech or free press … | more…

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Marxism, Metaphors, and Ecological Politics

It has, unfortunately, taken far too long for Marxists to take environmental issues seriously. There are some good reasons for this, including the undoubtedly “bourgeois” flavor of many of the issues politicized under that heading (such as “quality of life” for the relatively affluent, romanticism of nature, and sentimentality about animals) and the middle class domination of environmental movements. Against this, it must also be recognised that communist/socialist government have often ignored environmental issues to their own detriment (the pollution of Lake Baikal, the destruction of the Aral Sea, deforestation in China, being environmental disasters commensurate with many of those attributable to capitalism). Environmental issues must be taken seriously. The only interesting question is how to do it … | more…

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February 1998 (Volume 49, Number 9)

Monthly Review was chosen for a 1997 Frederick Douglas Award, an award given annually by the North Star Fund. We were of course pleased to be so honored and thought that MR readers would be interested to learn more about it. In fact, considering that so many of you, as supporters and friends, are members of the MR family, the award properly belongs to you as well as the staff … | more…

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Confronting the Time Bind

Socialists have long contended that capitalism produces distinctive and undesirable structures of time. Marx argued that capitalism created an ineluctable downward pressure on wages, forcing workers to work long hours in order to earn enough to sustain themselves. By the same token, lengthening the working day was one of the ways by which employers could increase the production of surplus-value. Marx’s son-in-law, Paul Lafargue, added that capitalism disciplined workers by creating a kind of ideology of work, a moral compulsion to labor; although, in Lafargue’s view, this was in part responsible for capitalism’s periodic crises of overproduction, it was one of the ways by which employers were able to enforce work discipline… | more…

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Digital Diploma Mills

Recent events at two large North American universities signal dramatically that we have entered a new era in higher education, one which is rapidly drawing the halls of academe into the age of automation. In mid-summer the UCLA administration launched its historic “Instructional Enhancement Initiative” requiring computer web sites for all of its arts and sciences courses by the start of the fall term, the first time that a major university has made mandatory the use of computer telecommunications technology in the delivery of higher education. In partnership with several private corporations (including the Times Mirror Company, parent of the Los Angeles Times), moreover, UCLA has spawned its own for-profit company, headed by a former UCLA vice chancellor, to peddle online education (the Home Education Network) … | more…

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January 1998 (Volume 49, Number 8)

MR has always been known for its style as well as its substance. We’ve always aimed for depth of analysis without sacrificing clarity and accessibility. We’ve also tried to keep our articles relatively short, not just to maintain the small and affordable size of the magazine but also because we’re writing for an audience of socialists who lead busy lives—for people who work long and hard hours, in factories, offices, educational institutions, and at home, and for activists no less than for intellectuals … | more…

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