Category: Intellectual History

Are any of Rosa Luxemburg’s ideas relevant for us today?

One hundred years after the murder of Polish-German revolutionary socialist Rosa Luxemburg, are any of her ideas relevant for people today who want to transform society to achieve social and ecological justice? I believe the answer is yes. In spite . . .

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The Decline and Fall of Neoliberal Hegemony

In his scathing, Sturm und Drang takedown of the 1851 French dictatorial coup, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoléon, Marx remarks that history repeats twice: “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” Thus when Luther pit himself . . .

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A Preview of “What is Post-Modern Conservatism?: Essays on Our Hugely Tremendous Times”

What is Post-Modern Conservatism: Essays on Our Hugely Tremendous Times is going to be released later this year by Zero . . .

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Lyndon LaRouche

When Lyndon LaRouche’s disciples began setting up literature tables at American airports in the late 1970s, his conspiracy theories were already in full bloom, though not yet widely known. The same might be said about his claim to the title . . .

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Marx Turns 200: A Mixed Gift

A World to Win: The Life and Works of Karl Marx
By Sven-Eric Liedman
Translated by Jeffrey N. Skinner
Part of the Marx 200 series
Verso Books, 2018, 768 pages, $40 hardcover.
Amid an outpouring of discussion and new works marking the bicentennial of Karl . . .

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Marx and Marxism in Berkeley in 1968


Berkeley (California) was probably a unique political-cultural milieu in the U.S. in the 1960s, both before and after 1968. It was part of the larger political-cultural scene of the San Francisco Bay Area from 1945 onward. The Bay Area at the time was a relative backwater in the U.S., compared to the East coast. The area had, however, seen one of the biggest general strikes of the 1930s, when the Communist Party-influenced ILWU (International Longshore Workers Union) helped bring San Francisco to a halt in 1934, including mass street battles with the police.

Marx, Our Contemporary


No one should underestimate the changes in the social world occurring since Marx’s day, or overestimate to what extent we find ready-made answers to contemporary issues in his writings. Nonetheless, Marx’s analysis uncovers essential features and defining tendencies of capitalism far better than alternative frameworks.

Phyllis Jacobson on Norman Podhoretz and Kenneth Tynan

From the New Politics archives

Reprinted from New Politics, Spring 1967, pages 95-97  Image

Making It, by Norman Podhoretz, Random House, New York, 1967. 360 pp. $6.95.

Tynan Left and Right by Kenneth Tynan, Atheneum, New York, 1967. 479 pp. $8.95.

Postmodern Conservatism and Capitalism


Conservatives today have been deeply critical of what is often called postmodernism.  They have associated it with identity politics, political correctness, social justice warriors, relativistic “cultural Marxism” and a host of other evils.  For some conservatives, post-modernism is signifies everything that is wrong with contemporary society. University of Toronto Professor Jordan Peterson has characterized it as “dangerous” and “radical” and dismissed important authors like Derrida as “charlatans.” The National Security Council has claimed that “postmodern cultural Marxism” (whatever that means) mobilizes opposition to Donald Trump.  And right wing commentator Ben Shapiro has characterized Barack Obama the first “postmodern” President.

Bolshevism, Real and Imagined: A Reply to Mitchell Cohen


The greatest flaw of Mitchell Cohen’s “What Lenin’s Critics Got Right” in the most recent Dissent is that it repeats what Lars T. Lih, independent researcher and author of Lenin Rediscovered:‘What Is To Be Done’ In Context (Haymarket, 2008) and a biography of Lenin (Reaktion Books, 2011), calls the “standard textbook interpretation” of Lenin’s thought and, by extension, Bolshevism as a movement.

Marx’s Capital After 150 Years: Revolutionary Reflections


What does it mean to celebrate and concretize for today Marx’s greatest work, Capital, Vol. I? Such a discussion is terribly important at this juncture, when we are in a new situation where even some sectors of the right have started to attack neoliberalism. The Brexit vote in the UK, the large vote for Le Pen in France despite her eventual defeat by a neoliberal candidate, and above all, the Trump campaign have placed on the agenda a new form of right-wing populism with neofascist overtones that breaks with some key features of neoliberalism, such as free trade pacts, somewhat more open borders, and “humanitarian” intervention.  At the same time, Trump as president has put forth an incoherent agenda that contains major continuities with neoliberal austerity and old-style militarism, above all in the attempt to gut Obamacare. 

Rosa Luxemburg in China: Ninety Years of Ups and Downs

ImageIn recent years, Rosa Luxemburg’s name has gradually become more prominent in Chinese academia. A number of influential academic journals have even opened up research columns paying tribute to the revolutionary theorist, nearly a century after the first discussion of her work in China. This should be regarded as a second revival of the research on her in China. Compared with the other leading figures in the history of the international communist movement, whether worldwide or just in China, the present "Rediscover Luxemburg" phenomenon is unique. Regarding other leading figures, there have not been so many ups and downs.

Antonio Gramsci: From War to Revolution


Eighty years after his death, Antonio Gramsci is among the most influential Marxist intellectuals across the board. By the end of World War II, liberal intellectuals had already found in him “a Marxist you can take home to Mother.” The tone was set by Benedetto Croce, who allegedly gushed in 1947, upon reading Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks, “He’s one of us!”1 It reached the point that the Sardinian activist can be presented today as no less than the guarantor of “Italian Democracy.”2

The Rise and Fall of the Muckrakers


The Occupy movement and the Bernie Sanders campaign spotlighted once again the fact that a fairly small number of very rich people dominate the major economic and political institutions of the country.

Remembering Martin Luther King’s Last, Most Radical Book

Marking an anniversary of a book’s publication is, appropriately, reserved for books that were widely read when they first appeared many years ago. Books we commemorate with an anniversary are ones that ushered in a new way of thinking and influenced the way society tries to make sense of the world. Martin Luther King Jr.’s last book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community did neither of these things.

The Left Hook: The Marxism of Sidney Hook


I. Introduction

When the politics of Sidney Hook, a public intellectual and philosopher, are remembered today, they are generally associated with a right-wing variant of social democracy which was compatible with both neoconservatism and McCarthyism. 


Democracy, from King Hammurabi’s Time to Tomorrow

ImageTemma Kaplan’s Democracy: A World History arrives at a timely moment. With presidential candidates and U.S. officials alike evoking the term “democracy” as a justification for political movements or a pretense for extraterritorial violence, Kaplan’s history of democracy offers a sorely needed study at an opportune time.


Homage to E.P. Thompson

ImageE.P. Thompson (1924–1993) wore several hats during his life. His magnum opus as a historian was The Making of the English Working Class, one of the greatest history books written in the twentieth century in any language. He fought tirelessly for nuclear disarmament in the 1980s, which almost surely took years off his life.

My Experience with C.L.R. James and Correspondence

Wilson’s recollections of his association with Correspondence newsletter that was published in Detroit, Michigan, from 1959 to 1967, and of C.L.R. James.

The Contemporary Crisis of the American Ideology


Surveying the political scene in America, we are now witnessing the shattering of the last remnants of the American ideology that has maintained itself—despite strains—for almost 70 years. The ideas that justified the American economic and political system in the minds of most of our citizens throughout that long period came under stress during earlier storms—from the 1950s to the 1970s in particular—and a few beams and joists cracked but did not give way. Today the manifold crises of capitalism mean that the entire existing intellectual structure of American capitalism is breaking up. And because of the role that the U.S. capitalist class plays in the world, this represents a crisis of world capitalist leadership and legitimacy. The question then arises: What will the country’s rulers attempt to put in its place, and what alternative explanation will we on the left and in the labor movement be able to offer to the country’s workers?


Happiness Is Political

William Thompson’s Utilitarian Argument for Democratic Work

”Happiness is political,” is the opening line of Kaswan’s provocative book on William Thompson’s theory on the social nature of happiness and its ramification for organizing a just society. Kaswan introduces the reader to Thompson (1775-1833) as “perhaps the paradigmatic case of a traitor to his class.” Thompson was the only son of a wealthy merchant in Cork, Ireland; however as a political theorist, he developed ideas of the Enlightenment in a liberatory direction, calling for the elimination of subordination in all its manifestations.