Please take a moment to read this important letter from John Bellamy Foster that was recently mailed to subscribers. Associate Members receive a subscription to Monthly Review and a 50 percent discount on all MR Press books and eBooks. Click here for more details on subscription options.
Recently we were talking to a young millennial friend of ours, who commented on the depressing nature of much of what we post on our blog, MR Online. We had just put up a piece on the burning of the Arctic. But our friend’s criticism went way beyond this, referring to posts on topics ranging from the planetary ecological emergency to imperialism to racial capitalism to misogyny to a renewed nuclear arms race—manifestations of what Curtis White aptly called Capitalism’s Barbaric Heart. To be sure, the site also features more positive pieces advocating for socialism, but these, we were told, are often drowned out by the grim chronicling of capitalism’s progress toward catastrophe.
We should note that our friend’s remarks contained no trace of denialism with respect to any of these problems. Instead, the question was: How was a person to deal with all this without succumbing to either uncontrollable anger or absolute despair? Wasn’t it rational under such circumstances to dismiss individual action altogether? Why not take refuge, like so many of that person’s generation, in the fantasy world of video games? How could one cope with this level of existential crisis, knowing it would likely dominate one’s entire lifetime?
These, of course, were good, even necessary, questions. The severity of the earth crisis brought on by late capitalism affects us all. The closest thing in the mid-to-late twentieth century (and still ominously present today) was the threat of nuclear Armageddon. Yet today’s reality, with the planetary ecological emergency, is both more dangerous and more intractable. It is this realization that is bearing down on the three post-Boomer generations: Gen X (born from the early ’60s through the ’70s), millennials or Gen Y (born in the ’80s to early ’90s), and Gen Z (born in the mid-’90s to early 2000s). For those who can expect to live to midcentury or beyond, the prospects for a world in which the Arctic is burning seem exceedingly bleak.
Nor is this only about climate change: today’s global monopoly-finance capital is growing more economically dysfunctional, even from the limited standpoint of capitalism’s traditional logic of accumulation. The system’s defenders no longer even claim any “trickle down” of wealth or assert that a new golden age of prosperity is around the corner. Rather, they glory in absolute greed: the Forbes 400, we are told, now have almost as much wealth as two-thirds of the U.S. population. The planet as a place of human habitation is being destroyed for the immediate enrichment of a very few, who rely more and more on the absolute expropriation of the population, beyond the mere exploitation of labor. It is this brutal, systemic irrationality that is driving the capitalist state in more authoritarian, indeed neofascist, directions.
What does Monthly Review have to offer in response to all this? Monthly Review was born more than seventy years ago, at the height of the McCarthy Era. Ever since, we have responded to, and resisted, the harshness of the capitalist environment by telling the truth as frankly as we can, and offering what is the only way out. We reject today’s dominant “no exit” philosophy, which insists that we live in a capitalist prison from which there is no escape, no matter what the consequences. Rather, it is in the dire conditions of the present that we can expect an inspired worldwide popular response, going against the logic of the present system and on a scale never seen before.
Our optimism of the will is not based in technological solutions and geoengineering, but in the ability of ordinary people to brave drastic and fundamental social change when the necessity is clear.
In all of this, Monthly Review’s message—a combination of realism and revolution—remains crucial. Working humanity will need to build a new future almost overnight, out of the remnants of the present decaying society. What we need, in the words of Greta Thunberg, a climate activist and perhaps the greatest spokesperson of Gen Z, is a new “cathedral thinking. We must lay the foundation while we may not know exactly how to build the ceiling.”
If the global movement for radical equality and sustainability is to succeed, it will need critical, clear-sighted analysis, capable of facing the world as it is while charting a better way forward. For seventy years, Monthly Review has done just that. Our voice survives in large part through the support of our Associates, who have been the bedrock of the magazine since its earliest years. Basic magazine subscriptions cover little more than the costs of printing and mailing, and electronic subscriptions, while growing, make only a modest impact on our bottom line. We have no foundation support, no endowment, no deep pockets.
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