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Review of the Month

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…

The Women Who Organized Harvard

A Feminist Model of Labor Organization?

Balloons transformed Harvard Yard on May 17, 1988, the day the “servants of the university,” as workers were originally called, voted on whether to join the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW), an affiliate of AFSCME. “Ballooning” lightened the tension, but Kristine Rondeau, lead union organizer, had a grim warning for her staff: “You did a wonderful job. But we don’t have it … It’s very likely we didn’t win.”1 In fact, by a slim margin, they did have it. One of the most influential universities in the world had been outsmarted by some of its unknown employees, mostly women | more…

Why Marxism?

Just before I left Paris I got a book from Michael Löwy with a new preface and a quotation I want to share with you. It said "Marx is definitely dead for humankind." Come on Daniel, you will object, did you have to travel all the way to give us that tripe we can get here for a penny a dozen! But it’s not your tripe. It comes from Italy. It is by Benedetto Croce from 1907 and it’s exactly ninety years old. I have quoted it to remind you that grave-diggers of Marx—the new philosophers, the Fukuyamas—have plenty of ancestors and will have plenty of successors and it’s not worth while spending much time refuting their paid or unpaid funeral orations. The one point I want to mention is the coincidence between the recent revival of such requiems and the fall of the Soviet Union. | more…

Che’s Revolutionary Humanism

Global neoliberalism parades victoriously through our era, monopolizing its discourse and ideology. To confront the inherent perversity of the capitalist system’s universal domination we need, more than ever, alternative modes of thinking and acting that are universal, global, planetary. We need ideas and models that, in a thoroughly radical fashion, confront the worship of the market and of money which has become the dominant credo of the moment. As is the case with very few other leftist leaders of the twentieth century, the legacy of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara—universal spirit, internationalist and consistent revolutionary—continues to mount such a challenge. | 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…

Labor, the State, and Class Struggle

After a long period of sustained attack by governments of various stripes, a steady deterioration of working and living standards, and declines in membership and militancy, there are encouraging signs that organized labor is moving again. This may come as a surprise to many, not least on the left, who have long since written off the labor movement as an oppositional force; and it may begin to challenge some of the most widespread assumptions about the nature and direction of contemporary capitalism, assumptions often shared by activists and intellectuals on the left as well as the right.…Although it is, of course, too early to make big claims about this trend, it does seem to be a good moment to take a close look not only at these new signs of activism but also at the nature of labor today and at the environment in which the labor movement now has to navigate. | more…

Back to Marx

Let me start with a provocative claim, which is contrary to all the conventional wisdom. The claim I want to make is that this historical moment, the one we’re living in now, is the best not the worst, the most not the least appropriate moment to bring back Marx. I’ll even claim that this is the moment when Marx should and can come fully into his own for the first time—not excluding the historical moment when he actually lived. | more…

Requiem for Social Democracy?

The fall of the Soviet empire was greeted not only as the funeral of socialism. It was also described as marking the final dead end for all revolutionary roads. The practitioners of revolution—Robespierre and Cromwell—as well as its theoreticians—Luxemburg and Marx—were lumped together in retrospective condemnation. Logically, such an offensive against the very idea of radical transformation should have been coupled with praise for gradualism, for Fabian tactics, for progressive change. To use two cliches at once, the “col- lapse of communism” could have been combined with the “triumph of social democracy.” Actually, nothing of the kind happened. On the contrary, the disintegration of the neo-stalinist system has been followed by a major crisis of social-democracy, taken here in its very narrow current definition-the reformist management of capitalist society. | more…

The Triumph of Financial Capital

The announced subject of this conference is “New Trends in Turkey and the World.” I shall not try to say anything about new trends in Turkey, partly because of my ignorance but more importantly because Turkey is very much part of the world, and in this period the mother of all new trends is global in nature. To understand what is happening in any part of the world, one must start from what is happening in the whole world. Never has Hegel’s dictum “The Truth is in the Whole” been as true and relevant as it is today. | more…

The Financial Explosion

Credit where credit is due. For a long time now we have been harping in this space on the theme of a monetary system out of control; of the wild proliferation of new financial institutions, instruments, and markets; of the unchecked spread of a speculative fever certainly more pervasive and perhaps even more virulent than any recorded in the long history of capitalism’s get-rich-quick obsessions. With few exceptions, accredited economists, as is their wont, have ignored these bizarre goings-on: they are not part of the way the economy is supposed to operate and are hence unworthy of “scientific” attention.  | more…

Social Security: The Phony Crisis

In a recent speech, the head of the main government workers union in the United States accused the Reagan administration of “bleeding” the nation in order to finance defense spending and tax breaks for the rich. It is now clear that one cherished national social institution which is scheduled by the Reagan crowd for a major blood-letting is the Social Security System. | more…