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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 Democratic Fraud and the Universalist Alternative

The propositions put forward here—and many other possible ones—have no place in the dominant discourse about “civil society.” Rather, they run counter to that discourse which—rather like “postmodernist” ravings à la Negri—is the direct heir of the U.S. “consensus” ideological tradition. A discourse promoted, uncritically repeated, by tens of thousands of NGOs and by their requisite representatives at all the Social Forums. We’re dealing with an ideology that accepts the existing regime (i.e. monopoly capitalism) in all its essentials. It thus has a useful role to play on behalf of capitalist power. It keeps its gears provided with oil. It pretends to “change the world” while promoting a sort of “opposition” with no power to change anything. | more…

Can the Working Class Change the World?

Radicals of every stripe believe that capitalist economies are incompatible with human liberation. That is, while human beings have enormous capacities to think and to do, capitalism prevents the vast majority of people from developing these capacities. Therefore if we want a society in which the full flowering of human competencies can become a reality, we will have to bring capitalism to an end and replace it with something radically different  | more…

Proposing a Path to Socialism: Two Papers for Hugo Chávez

Everyone understands that it is impossible to achieve the vision of socialism for the twenty-first century in one giant leap forward. It is not simply a matter of changing property ownership. This is the easiest part of building the new world. Far more difficult is changing productive relations, social relations in general, and attitudes and ideas.… To transform existing relations into the new productive relations, we need first of all to understand the nature of the existing relations. Only then can you identify the mechanisms by which the new relations can be introduced. At this time, there is a great variety of experiments and approaches to changing productive relations which are being pursued. There is no attempt to set out specific proposals here but only to provide the framework in which such changes should be explored in order to move toward socialist productive relations. | more…

January 2008 (Volume 59, Number 8)

Notes from the Editors

The victory of the No vote in the Venezuelan constitutional reform referendum in December is being treated by Washington as a major defeat for Chávez’s efforts to promote a socialism for the twenty-first century in Venezuela. But the opposition to the Bolivarian Revolution was so aware of its own weaknesses that it adopted as its final slogan “Chávez, Yes; Reform, No.” The defeat of the constitutional reform was guaranteed by the fact that 44 percent of the population, many of whom had supported Chávez previously, chose not to vote. This may simply be due to the fact that the proposed constitutional reforms were enormously complex with changes in 69 articles. But it is also true that a propaganda campaign authored and choreographed by Washington and the CIA, and implemented by the Venezuelan elites who control the private media, had a considerable effect in blocking the reform effort. | more…

Albert Einstein (1959), charcoal and watercolor drawing by Alexander Dobkin

Albert Einstein, Radical: A Political Profile

2005 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Albert Einstein and the centennial of the publication of five of his major scientific papers that transformed the study of physics. Einstein’s insights were so revolutionary that they challenged not only established doctrine in the natural sciences, but even altered the way ordinary people saw their world. By the 1920s he had achieved international popular renown on a scale that would not become usual until the rise of the contemporary celebrity saturated tabloids and cable news channels. His recondite scientific papers as well as interviews with the popular press were front page news and fodder for the newsreels. Usually absent, however, was any sober discussion of his participation in the political life of his times as an outspoken radical-especially in profiles and biographies after his death | more…

Mészáros and the Critique of the Capital System

Foreword to The Necessity of Social Control

István Mészáros is one of the greatest philosophers that the historical materialist tradition has yet produced. His work stands practically alone today in the depth of its analysis of Marx’s theory of alienation, the structural crisis of capital, the demise of Soviet-style post-revolutionary societies, and the necessary conditions of the transition to socialism. His dialectical inquiry into social structure and forms of consciousness—a systematic critique of the prevailing forms of thought—is unequaled in our time. No less a historical figure than Hugo Chávez referred to him as the “pathfinder” of twenty-first century socialism.… The role of this foreword is to help to put his system of thought as a whole, and this book in particular, in their historical contexts, while illuminating some of the distinctive concepts governing his analysis. | more…

Monthly Review Volume 66, Number 7 (January 2015)

January 2015 (Volume 66, Number 8)

Notes from the Editors

The publication of socialist books in the United States has always encountered serious institutional obstacles. This can be seen in the enormous hurdles that stood in the way of the successful publication 130 years ago of the English translation of Engels’s The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845)—today recognized as the classic account of the impact of the Industrial Revolution on workers. In 1885 Florence Kelley (-Wischnewetzky), the daughter of William D. Kelley, a U.S. Congressman and supporter of Lincoln, translated Engels’s book into English. Her initial plan was to publish the translation in the United States with the respected publishing firm of G.P. Putnam & Co. However, Putnam declined to publish it on the grounds that the book was outdated…and did not apply to U.S. industrialization, where such conditions of class exploitation were supposedly absent.… It is owing to these difficulties, associated with the U.S. publication of his book, that we have the benefit of some of Engels’s more important comments regarding the problem of publishing socialist works in a capitalist society. | more…

Pete Seeger, Socialist Songster


Our friend and comrade Pete Seeger died a year ago this month, on January 27, 2014. Pete was a long-time reader of Monthly Review and, occasionally, a writer for this magazine. Harry Magdoff used to say that when a letter arrived from Pete, nearly always handwritten and often pages long, responding to an article or suggesting a topic to be covered or a book to be reviewed, it would go right home with him, to be pondered, considered, answered, and, especially, enjoyed. Seeger’s communications were never innocuous: he would tell the editors that something MR had published was wrongheaded (or, sometimes, right-headed); he would take an idea, turn it over, and suggest where to go with it. Like his music, Seeger’s letters demanded engagement, participation—and action. He had a special place in the MR family. | more…

Strike at the Helm

The First Ministerial Meeting of the New Cycle of the Bolivarian Revolution

On October 7th, 2012, after hearing of his victory as the nation’s candidate with 56 percent of the vote, President Hugo Chávez Frias announced from a balcony in his hometown that a new cycle was beginning the very next day, October 8th.… Only a few days later, on October 20th, he headed the first meeting calling together the ministers of this new cycle, the Comandante called for a series of critiques and self-criticisms in order to expand efficiency, strengthen communal power, and further develop the National System of Public Media, among other themes regarding the construction of socialism.… This document synthesizes his words, as a tool for a debate in which we should all participate.
Monthly Review Volume 66, Number 11 (April 2015)

April 2015 (Volume 66, Number 11)

The Review of the Month in this issue (“Chávez and the Communal State” by John Bellamy Foster) focuses on the revolutionary political strategy introduced by Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian movement in Venezuela. In the process it addresses how István Mészáros’s Beyond Capital played a key, strategic role in the development of Chávez’s thinking. Beyond Capital is a daunting philosophical work of around a thousand pages, while many of his other writings are nearly as challenging. MR readers will therefore be pleased to learn that we have just published a new book by Mészáros, The Necessity of Social Control (Monthly Review Press, 2015), expressly designed, as Foster writes in the book’s “Foreword,” as “an easily accessible work,” providing “a way into his thinking for the uninitiated” (9).… Yet, Mészáros’s new book is much more than that. | more…

Chávez and the Communal State

On the Transition to Socialism in Venezuela

On October 20, 2012, less than two weeks after being reelected to his fourth term as Venezuelan president and only months before his death, Hugo Chávez delivered his crucial El Golpe de Timón (“Strike at the Helm”) speech to the first meeting of his ministers in the new revolutionary cycle. Chávez surprised even some of his strongest supporters by his insistence on the need for changes at the top in order to promote an immediate leap forward in the creation of what is referred to as “the communal state.” This was to accelerate the shift of power to the population that had begun with the formation of the communal councils (groupings of families involved in self-governance projects—in densely populated urban areas, 200–400 families; in rural areas, 50–100 families). The main aim in the new revolutionary cycle, he insisted, was to speed up the registration of communes, the key structure of the communal state. | more…

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