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Monthly Review Volume 72, Number 6 (November 2020)

November 2020 (Volume 72, Number 6)

In this issue of Monthly Review, we publish two articles marking the two-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Frederick Engels. In the attempt to address our planet’s ecological crisis, Engels’s work has once acquired a renewed importance. His analysis of the dialectics of nature was to play a formative role in the development of modern ecological and evolutionary views and is now being rediscovered in that context. | more…

A famous early photograph of Frederick Engels

Engels’s Dialectics of Nature in the Anthropocene

Today, two hundred years after his birth, Frederick Engels can be seen as one of the foundational ecological thinkers of modern times. Engels’s contributions to our understanding of the overall ecological problem remain indispensable, rooted in his own deep inquiries into nature’s universal metabolism. It is because of the very comprehensiveness of his approach to the dialectic of nature and society that Engels’s work can help clarify the momentous challenges facing humanity in the Anthropocene epoch and the current age of planetary ecological crisis. | more…

Portrait of Frederick Engels

Engels’s Emergentist Dialectics

In grasping emergent qualities and laws on various levels of organization of matter, dialectical theory employs its own conceptual structure, scientific language, and investigation method, and takes a categorially open-ended shape. In this context, Engels provides a remarkable illustration that not only argues for the interconnection and interpenetration of distinct spheres such as chemistry and biology, but also draws on a generative feature of self-organizing systems. | more…

New this week!
Facing the Anthropocene: Fossil Capitalism and the Crisis of the Earth System

Facing the Anthropocene: An Update

Scientific knowledge and debates in Anthropoene science have developed over the years, particularly in the two main fields involved: geology, which has mainly been concerned with formally defining the new epoch; and Earth System science, which studies the global biological, chemical, and physical changes that are reshaping the conditions of life on this planet. | more…

Marriott strike in San Francisco, CA, October 2018

The Mexican and Latino Question

What Is to Be Done?

This article will be released in full online November 30, 2020.

In his book Chicano Communists and the Struggle for Social Justice, Enrique M. Buelna examines the life of Ralph Cuarón, a Mexican-American or Chicano seaman, furniture maker, father, husband, and lifelong activist who joined the Communist Party at age 19 during the Second World War. The Communist Party, however, largely ignored Mexican workers and local members were not pleased with his organizing of that segment of the working class. In the early twenty-first century, the Mexican question remained, although it became known as the “Latino question” after considerable immigration from Central America in the 1980s and ’90s. In their book The Latino Question: Politics, Labouring Classes, and the Next Left, Armando Ibarra, Alfredo Carlos, and Rodolfo D. Torres deconstruct the word Latino, arguing that it homogenizes an extremely diverse population. | more…

First climate demonstration in East Timor, in front of the government palace

The Renewal of the Socialist Ideal

Any serious treatment of the renewal of socialism today must begin with capitalism’s creative destruction of the bases of all social existence. Since the late 1980s, the world has been engulfed in an epoch of catastrophe capitalism, manifested today in the convergence of (1) the planetary ecological crisis, (2) the global epidemiological crisis, and (3) the unending world economic crisis. Added to this are the main features of today’s “empire of chaos,” including the extreme system of imperialist exploitation unleashed by global commodity chains; the demise of the relatively stable liberal-democratic state with the rise of neoliberalism and neofascism; and the emergence of a new age of global hegemonic instability accompanied by increased dangers of unlimited war. | more…

African American migratory workers in front of a 'juke joint' in Belle Glade, Florida (February 1941)

Race Is About More Than Discrimination

Racial Capitalism, the Settler State, and the Challenges Facing Organized Labor in the United States

Organized labor—based on white-exclusive and later white-dominated, though not necessarily exclusive, trade unions—formed itself as part of the settler state, not in the sense of being an apparatus of the state, but in the sense of accepting certain important precepts. The unions took for granted the nature of the settler state and, as such, conceived that the unions were to exist to serve the “legitimate” population, or at least the working class of the legitimate population. | more…

Dissenting POWs: From Vietnam's Hoa Lo Prison to America Today

Dissenting POWs: From Vietnam’s Hoa Lo Prison to America Today

Forthcoming in April 2021

Even if you don’t know much about the war in Vietnam, you’ve probably heard of “The Hanoi Hilton,” or Hoa Lo Prison, where captured U.S. soldiers were held. What they did there and whether they were treated well or badly by the Vietnamese became lasting controversies. As military personnel returned from captivity in 1973, Americans became riveted by POW coming-home stories. What had gone on behind these prison walls? Along with legends of lionized heroes who endured torture rather than reveal sensitive military information, there were news leaks suggesting that others had denounced the war in return for favorable treatment. What wasn’t acknowledged, however, is that U.S. troop opposition to the war was vast and reached well into Hoa Loa Prison. Half a century after the fact, Dissenting POWs emerges to recover this history, and to discover what drove the factionalism in Hoa Lo. | more…

Racism and the Class Struggle: The Meaning of Black Revolt in the United States

Racism and the Class Struggle: The Meaning of Black Revolt in the United States

Forthcoming in May 2021

Updated Edition with a New Introduction and Afterword

Having just written his groundbreaking book, The American Revolution, Detroit autoworker James Boggs sat down in the early 1960s to continue his study of revolution. Boggs looked at the Black Power uprisings then beginning in the United States within the global context of the overthrow of rightwing puppet regimes in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In Racism and the Class Struggle, Boggs produced thirteen powerful and prescient chapters that wrestle with topics such as the specific character of American capitalism and its intricate relationship to American democracy, the historic mission of the Black revolution in the United States, and the need for the 1960s Black movement to develop theoretically and organizationally. | more…

Friedrich Engels (1891)

Engels vs. Marx?: Two Hundred Years of Frederick Engels

At the bicentenary of his birth, Frederick Engels’s reputation as an original thinker is, among Anglophone academics at least, at its nadir. Despite the recent global economic crisis and associated increases in inequality that have tended to confirm Karl Marx and Engels’s general critique of capitalism, Marxism is an optimistic doctrine that has not fared well in a context dominated by working-class retreat and demoralization. But if this context has been unpropitious for Marxism generally, criticisms of Engels’s thought have a second, quite separate, source. Over the course of the twentieth century, a growing number of commentators have claimed that Engels fundamentally distorted Marx’s thought, and that “Marxism” and especially Stalinism emerged out of this one-sided caricature of Marx’s ideas. | more…

Red cockerel, "Forward Ever, Backward Never": Convention People's Party logo and slogan

Postcolonial Reconstruction in Ghana, 1952–66

In 1952, the West African nation of Ghana, recently having freed itself from British imperialism, set out on a project of radical economic reconstruction unmatched anywhere on the continent in scope and ambition. Having attained political independence with the creation of a sovereign parliament and executive office, the Convention People’s Party under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah drew up extensive plans for ensuring the conditions necessary for real, not just on-paper, independence. | more…

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