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Samir Amin

The Communist Manifesto, 170 Years Later

In the last piece he wrote before his passing, Samir Amin revisits, for our age, the most important revolutionary document of all time, the Communist Manifesto. In a fitting conclusion to the work of a great revolutionary intellectual, Amin seeks nothing less than to explain the changing world trajectory from 1848 to 2018. Against the persistent vision of the globalized development of capitalism, he puts forward a vision for the transformation of the world through revolutionary processes—breaking with the submission to the deadly vicissitudes of the decadence of civilization.
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Panoramic view at Shanghai Pudong from the Eton Hotel

On the Nature of the Chinese Economic System

There is considerable debate within China about the nature of the economy, including recognition of tendencies toward state capitalism. Consequently, most writers focus theorization of the many possible paths the economy could take—whether toward or away from capitalism. The present article takes a step further, arguing that the Chinese system today still contains some key components of socialism and is compatible with a market, or market-based, socialism that is clearly distinct from capitalism. | more…

Hardboiled Activist cover

The Radicalization of Dashiell Hammett

This article will be released in full online October 29, 2018.

In his review of Hardboiled Activist: The Work and Politics of Dashiell Hammett by Ken Fuller, Albert Ruben debunks popular arguments about Hammett’s consistent radicalism. Instead, he highlights Fuller’s research to point to Hammett’s process of radicalization—from nihilism to communism—and the events that shaped his life and work. | more…

From Commune to Capitalism: How China's Peasants Lost Collective Farming and Gained Urban Poverty

From Commune to Capitalism: How China’s Peasants Lost Collective Farming and Gained Urban Poverty

In the early 1980s, China undertook a massive reform that dismantled its socialist rural collectives and divided the land among millions of small peasant families. Known as the decollectivization campaign, it is one of the most significant reforms in China's transition to a market economy. From the beginning, the official Chinese accounts, and many academic writings, uncritically portray this campaign as a huge success, both for the peasants and the economy as a whole. This mainstream history argues that the rural communes, suffering from inefficiency, greatly improved agricultural productivity under the decollectivization reform. It also describes how the peasants, due to their dissatisfaction with the rural regime, spontaneously organized and collectively dismantled the collective system. A closer examination suggests a much different and more nuanced story. By combining historical archives, field work, and critical statistical examinations, From Commune to Capitalism argues that the decollectivization campaign was neither a bottom-up, spontaneous peasant movement, nor necessarily efficiency-improving.  | more…

Buried machinery in a barn lot; Dallas, South Dakota, May 1936

No Empires, No Dust Bowls

Ecological Disasters and the Lessons of History

When scientists describe the increase of Dust Bowl-like conditions under climate change, they signal a particular kind of violent ecological and social change. But equally violent are the social forces, historical developments, policies, and practices that produce such massive socioecological crises in the first place. | more…

Monster soup commonly called Thames water, being a correct representation of that precious stuff doled out to us!

Cesspools, Sewage, and Social Murder

Environmental Crisis and Metabolic Rift in Nineteenth-Century London

The accumulation of human excrement in nineteenth-century cities, particularly London, precipitated a historic environmental crisis—an aspect of the metabolic rift mostly overlooked in ecosocialist analysis. The solution that was finally adopted only shifted the problem out of sight, setting the stage for even greater crises in our time. | more…

Healthcare workers celebrating in Cuba

The Birth of the Cuban Polyclinic

During the 1960s, Cuban medicine experienced changes as tumultuous as the civil rights and antiwar protests in the United States. While activists, workers, and students in western Europe and the United States confronted existing institutions of capitalism and imperialism, Cuba faced the even greater challenge of building a new society. | more…

The Age of Monopoly Capital: Selected Correspondence of Paul A. Baran and Paul M. Sweezy, 1949-1964

A Marxist Correspondence

Paul A. Baran (1910–1964) and Paul M. Sweezy (1910–2004) were two of the most creative and influential Marxist economists of the last century. The Age of Monopoly Capital collects hundreds of letters between Baran and Sweezy, written between 1949 and Baran’s death in 1964. The correspondence contains numerous interesting, important, and unanticipated ideas. Nuggets of wisdom about economic theory, socialist history, dialectical method, academic politics, and many other topics are scattered throughout. | more…

Paul M. Sweezy and Paul A. Baran

Two Intellectual Giants of the American Left

Instead of theory, early U.S. radicals excelled in reportage, like John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook the World, or fiction, like Upton Sinclair’s packing-house shocker The Jungle. To Europeans American thought seemed impermeable to the difficult ideas of Marxism. That changed with the founding of Monthly Review in 1949, which marked a newly realized if not entirely new trend in American Marxist thought. | more…

The Russians Are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce

The Russians Are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce

Karl Marx famously wrote in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon that history repeats itself, “first as tragedy, then as farce.” The Cold War, waged between the United States and Soviet Union from 1945 until the latter's dissolution in 1991, was a great tragedy, resulting in millions of civilian deaths in proxy wars, and a destructive arms race that diverted money from social spending and nearly led to nuclear annihilation. The New Cold War between the United States and Russia is playing out as farce—a dangerous one at that. The Russians Are Coming, Again is a red flag to restore our historical consciousness about U.S.-Russian relations, and how denying this consciousness is leading to a repetition of past follies. | more…

Romans during the Decadence

Revolution or Decadence?

Thoughts on the Transition between Modes of Production on the Occasion of the Marx Bicentennial

Revolution is still on the agenda for the global periphery. Restorations in the course of socialist transition are not irrevocable—and in the weak links of the center, breaks in the imperialist front are not inconceivable. | more…

The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, and Capitalism in Seventeenth-Century North America and the Caribbean

The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, and Capitalism in Seventeenth-Century North America and the Caribbean

Virtually no part of the modern United States—the economy, education, constitutional law, religious institutions, sports, literature, economics, even protest movements—can be understood without first understanding the slavery and dispossession that laid its foundation. To that end, historian Gerald Horne digs deeply into Europe’s colonization of Africa and the New World, when, from Columbus’s arrival until the Civil War, some 13 million Africans and some 5 million Native Americans were forced to build and cultivate a society extolling “liberty and justice for all.” | more…

"The Chinese Factory in the Street of Teng-chan at Nagasaki, founded in 1688"

Economic History and the ‘East Wind’

Challenges to Eurocentrism

The decline of Western dominance over the capitalist world system and the concurrent rise of Asia demand a deconstruction of the accepted wisdom of economic history. Understanding the legacy of Eurocentrism in both the rise of capitalism and its historiography is necessary if we are to challenge the dominant discourse and ideological assumptions of the so-called “European miracle.” | more…

The Coming of the American Behemoth

The Coming of the American Behemoth: The Origins of Fascism in the United States, 1920–1940

Forthcoming in November 2018

Most people in the United States have been trained to recognize fascism in movements such as Germany’s Third Reich or Italy’s National Fascist Party, where charismatic demagogues manipulate incensed, vengeful masses. We rarely think of fascism as linked to the essence of monopoly-finance capitalism, operating under the guise of American free-enterprise. But, as Michael Joseph Roberto argues, this is exactly where fascism’s embryonic forms began gestating in the United States, during the so-called prosperous 1920s and the Great Depression of the following decade. | more…

A Socialist Defector

A Socialist Defector: From Harvard to Karl-Marx-Allee

Forthcoming in February 2019

The circumstances that impelled Victor Grossman, a U.S. Army draftee stationed in Europe, to flee a military prison sentence were the icy pressures of the McCarthy Era. Grossman—a.k.a. Steve Wechsler, a committed leftist since his years at Harvard and, briefly, as a factory worker—left his barracks in Bavaria one August day in 1952, and, in a panic, swam across the Danube River from the Austrian U.S. Zone to the Soviet Zone. Fate—i.e., the Soviets—landed him in East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic. There he remained, observer and participant, husband and father, as he watched the rise and successes, the travails, and the eventual demise of the GDR socialist experiment. | more…

Karl Marx and the Birth of Modern Society

Karl Marx and the Birth of Modern Society: The Life of Marx and the Development of His Work (Volume I: 1818-1841)

Forthcoming in February 2019

For over a century, Karl Marx’s critique of capitalism has been a crucial resource for social movements. Now, recent economic crises have made it imperative for us to comprehend and actualize Marx’s ideas. But without a knowledge of Karl Marx’s life as he lived it, neither Marx nor his works can be fully understood. There are more than twenty-five comprehensive biographies of Marx, but none of them consider his life and work in equal, corresponding measure. This biography, planned for three volumes, aims to include what most biographies have reduced to mere background: the contemporary conflicts, struggles, and disputes that engaged Marx at the time of his writings, alongside his complex relationships with a varied assortment of friends and opponents. | more…