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Structural Crisis Needs Structural Change

When stressing the need for a radical structural change it must be made clear right from the beginning that this is not a call for an unrealizable utopia. On the contrary, the primary defining characteristic of modern utopian theories was precisely the projection that their intended improvement in the conditions of the workers’ life could be achieved well within the existing structural framework of the criticized societies…. As we also know, the high-sounding “utilitarian” moral principle of “the greatest good for the greatest number” came to nothing since its Benthamite advocacy. The problem for us is that without a proper assessment of the nature of the economic and social crisis of our time—which by now cannot be denied by the defenders of the capitalist order even if they reject the need for a major change—the likelihood of success in this respect is negligible.… | more…

Reviving the Strike in the Shadow of PATCO

In the summer of 2011, labor unrest on both coasts provided a sharp rebuttal to the widely held view that the strike is dead (and buried) in the United States. Even as veterans of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) gathered in Florida to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of their historic defeat, a new generation of strikers was taking on big private-sector employers like Verizon and Kaiser Permanente. Last August, 45,000 Verizon workers walked out from Maine to Virginia in a high-profile struggle against contract concessions. One month later, they were joined by 20,000 nurses and other union members similarly opposed to pension and health care givebacks at Kaiser Permanente in California. Both of these struggles came right on the heels of last year’s biggest upsurge, the massive series of public employee demonstrations in Madison, Wisconsin that included strike activity by local high school teachers.… Like the walkouts of 2011, [the three books under review] remind us what striking looks like, whether it fails or succeeds in a single union bargaining unit, or becomes part of a broader protest movement.… | more…

A Most Reliable Ally

Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Unions

Martin Luther King, Jr., edited with introductions by Michael K. Honey, All Labor Has Dignity (Boston: Beacon Press, 2011), 240 pages, $17.00, paperback.

Many Americans who have failed to look deeply into the career of Martin Luther King, Jr. hold false assumptions about him. One is that he was a moderate solely focused on achieving civil rights for American Negroes (his terminology), and that he had a dream about a country where, as he said in August 1963, “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” Another is that he held to this vision of working within the system and building interracial harmony—”let us not drink from the cup of bitterness and hatred”—until the spring of 1967, when for some inexplicable reason the train flew off the tracks. In his (in)famous Riverside Church speech on April 4, 1967, King came out forcefully against the war in Vietnam, defended the National Liberation Front as a voice for people seeking independence from forces like the United States (whose leaders he accused of saying one thing and doing another), and called for a “radical revolution in values” that put poverty and people ahead of “things.” By the time the sanitation workers struck in Memphis one year later, King seemed to have gotten back on track with a more or less traditional labor support role, albeit a critical one, as the spiritual motivator of the strikers.… | more…

The Wisconsin Uprising

The essays in Wisconsin Uprising are outstanding. The accounts of the events in Madison in the winter and early spring of 2011 are the best I have seen in writing, with context, detail, and analysis I have seen nowhere else. Better yet, the connections of the Wisconsin revolt to the existential questions facing the labor movement are handled with a clarity, intelligence, perspective, and urgency that is exactly appropriate to the task. This book is a fundamental historical document in its own right and will stand the test of time. The authors include some of the most accomplished writers on the left, as well as a number of emerging young writers.… | more…

The Genius of Chávez

President Chávez presented his annual report on activities carried out in 2011 and his program for 2012 to the Venezuelan Parliament. After thoroughly carrying out the formalities required by this important activity, he addressed the official state authorities, members of parliament from all parties, and supporters and opposition members who had come to the Assembly to participate in the country’s most solemn act.

As usual, the Bolivarian leader was gracious and respectful to all those present. When anyone asked for the floor to make a clarification, he granted it as soon as possible. When one of the members of parliament, who had warmly greeted Chávez as

The Fruit Which Did Not Fall

CUBA was forced to fight for its existence facing an expansionist power, located a few miles from its coast, and which was proclaiming the annexation of our island, which was destined to fall into its lap like a ripe fruit. We were condemned not to exist as a nation.

Within the glorious legions of patriots who, during the second half of the 19th century, fought against the abhorrent colonial status imposed by Spain over 300 years, José Martí was the man who most clearly perceived such a dramatic destiny. He confirmed it in the last lines that he wrote, the night before the anticipated difficult combat

The Best President for the United States

A well-known European news agency yesterday published from Sydney, Australia that a group of Australian researchers at the University of New South Wales announced the creation of an electrical cable ten thousand times thinner than a strand of hair, capable of carrying as much electricity as a traditional copper cable.

Bent Weber, lead author of a study published in Science magazine at the University of New South Wales, in Sydney, Australia explained that “Interconnecting wiring of this scale will be vital for the development of future atomic-scale electronic circuits”.

“The wires were made by precisely placing chains of phosphorus atoms within a silicon crystal, according to the

January 2012 (Volume 63, Number 8)

» Notes from the Editors

In a little more than two months at this writing (December 3, 2011) the Occupy Wall Street movement has ushered in a new dialectic of world revolt. Occupy movements now exist in more than 2,600 cities across the globe. The response of the system has been increased repression. Yet, everywhere the movement has come up with new means of revolt. Had we tried in early October to predict how things would be at the start of November we would never have succeeded. Likewise we cannot predict now at the start of December how things will look even at the start of January. And it is precisely this quality of emergence, i.e. of not being predictable from the current state of affairs, which suggests that we are at a turning point. This global rip in the cloth of imperial capital’s supposed inevitability is irreversible; that we are fully ready to predict. Looking back it will be clear that as of late 2011, we are much closer to the start of a great global revolt against the plutocracy, the “one percent,” than to its end.… | more…

Women, Labor, and Capital Accumulation in Asia

One of the enduring myths about capitalism that continues to be perpetuated in mainstream economic textbooks and other pedagogic strategies is that labor supply is somehow exogenous to the economic system. The supply of labor is typically assumed, especially in standard growth theories, to be determined by the rate of population growth, which in turn is also seen as “outside” the economic system rather than in interplay with it. The reality is, of course, very different: the supply of labor has been very much a result of economic processes, not something extraneous to it. Throughout its history, capitalism has proved adept at causing patterns of labor supply to change in accordance with demand…. But nowhere has this particular capacity of capitalism to generate its own labor been more evident than in the case of female labor.… | more…

December 2011 (Volume 63, Number 7)

» Notes from the Editors

The last month (late September to late October 2011) was to all appearances a historical turning point. The Arab Spring gave way to the New York/World Fall as protesters occupied Wall Street (basing themselves in Zuccotti Park), and the movement of the 99% spread across the entire globe.… MR authors and friends have participated in the Occupy movement from the start, sometimes playing prominent roles. We have heard from friends directly involved in Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Boston, Occupy Chicago, Occupy Eugene, Occupy Oakland, and from people associated with Occupy movements throughout the world.… | more…

The Machinery of Whiteness

Steve Martinot, The Machinery of Whiteness: Studies in the Structure of Racialization (Philadelphia: Temple University Press), 223 pages, $25.95, paperback.
Jordan Flaherty, Floodlines: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six (Chicago: Haymarket Books), 303 pages, $16, paperback.

The overwhelming victory of Daniel and the FSLN

ON Sunday, November 6, 72 hours ago, there was a general election in which Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega and the FSLN won an overwhelming victory.

Perhaps by chance, the following day was the 94th anniversary of the glorious Soviet Socialist Revolution. Indelible pages of history were written by Russian workers, peasants and soldiers, and the name of Lenin will forever shine among men and women who dream of a just destiny for humanity.

These issues are constantly more complex and efforts invested in educating new generations will never be sufficient. For that reason, today I am dedicating a space to comment on this event, in the midst of