During the 1970s, Michael Löwy, a leading intellectual of the Trotskyist Fourth International, attempted to generalize Leon Trotsky’s "theory of permanent revolution" into a general theory that could explain not only the Russian, but also the Yugoslavian, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Cuban revolutions. He believed his version of the theory could explain recent and still unfolding events in the colonies and developing nations of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Anyone interested in intellectual history from the great depression of the thirties to the post war 1980s will be familiar with the impact of Arthur Koestler, whose famous assault on Stalinism and the Soviet Union in his novel Darkness at Noon was a widely praised international bestseller. There was a vehemently critical biography written by David Cesurani, Arthur Koestler—The Homeless Mind published in London in 1998. It was an opinionated attack on Koestler’s personality and moral stature.
The United States’ status as some form of imperial power is scarcely disputed on the Left. Richard Immerman’s Empire for Liberty: A History of America from Benjamin Franklin to Paul Wolfowitz is not a book written particularly for or from the Left, yet in some respects it goes further in defense of this idea than many leftists have allowed.
The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg is the first volume in a projected 14-volume set, The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg, of all the extant writings of this great revolutionary socialist in English—all available newspaper articles and speeches, significant polemical and Marxist theoretical writings, and her letters and telegrams, prepared collaboratively by the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, Karl Dietz Veralg, and Verso Books.
The "civil wars" that Steve Early mentions in his new book are not about the class war between labor and capital, nor any war between a conservative right and a radical left in unions. It is the war that split labor’s progressive left, and Early is an apt author to tell us about it.
I found this volume of edited letters disappointing, particularly so since I agree with the critics, that Saul Bellow was a great writer, one of very best in the second half of the 20th century. Alfred Kazin compared him to Melville, and Norman Podhoretz declared that Bellow was "a stylist of the first order, perhaps the greatest virtuoso of language the novel has seen since Joyce."
Amongst the richest countries, the United States has some of the highest rates of indigence, especially for children; levels of poverty that are exorbitant for visible minorities and single mothers; a growing maldistribution of income and wealth; and seemingly never-ending increases in the use of soup kitchens and food pantries.
Anyone living in the United States today has, undoubtedly, been bludgeoned over the head with the key argument of those who don the false mantle of education reform, despite never having set foot in a classroom themselves: that the biggest obstacles standing in the way of education today are teachers and their unions.
Zoom zoom zoom zoom / The world is in a mess
With politics and taxes / And people grinding axes
There’s no happiness.
— So sang Ella Fitzgerald all those years ago
It is a sad irony, that in the midst of the deepest economic slump since the Depression, it is working class and socialist political institutions that have been in crisis. Even with the inspiring new movements in a number of U.S. states, the Mideast and some European countries coming up on the political horizon, the larger union movement here has remained mired in a sluggish defensiveness.
By this time, the usual New Politics reader may well have seen dozens if not hundreds of Youtube videos revealing the demonstrations in Madison, Wisconsin, during February and March, not to mention sights and sounds of solidarity-with-Wisconsin rallies around the country and in their own community. (Being good New Politics readers, they would have joined in.) The details have been hard to follow, even close to the scene.
The great Syrian poet, Nizar Qabbani (1923-1998) more than four decades ago called on a new Arab generation to break with their dictatorial, bankrupt, and corrupt leaders and their supporters. Qabbani, from his London exile, hoped that young people would transform the Arab world into a new free and vibrant society where citizens could develop their full potential and flourish.
Since the Crash of 2008, European governments and the banks that control them have been trying to make the working people pay the bill for the massive bailouts that saved the financial markets from near-total collapse. As in the United States, a previously undetected "debt crisis" has been declared while traders continue to pay themselves fabulous salaries and bonuses. Suddenly there is "no money" when it comes to paying for the health, education, retirement, and social services that benefit the general public.
Of all the profiles written about Bob Fitch during his lifetime—in Forbes Magazine, Monthly Labor Review, etc.—two of the best were penned by student journalists. In typical Fitch fashion, he made time for the students, sharing his experiences, insights and passions. Jessica Johnson met Fitch while interning for the late veteran labor journalist Martin Fishgold, a friend of Fitch and his fierce partisan.
Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.
Anaïs Nin, Diary, June, 1941
(during the darkest days of World War II)
Over the past several weeks, Bard College and I as its president have been the object of unsubstantiated, exaggerated, and often vitriolic accusations regarding a student group on campus that has chosen to affiliate itself with an organization called the International Solidarity Movement. Some of those who have posted on blogs and written emails claim that ISM is a "terrorist" organization committed to the destruction of the State of Israel and its people.
IN 1961, DWIGHT D. EISENHOWERwarned about the dangers of capitalized war, how the military-industrial complex was already taking on a life all its own, and the single-minded quest for profit—a virtue under capitalism — would continue to drive weapons companies to exert an untold influence upon politicians. Since that time, the war-making apparatus has expanded both in size and in kind, with ever more partners joining in on the enterprise.
The publisher of Wang Hui’s book described it as follows: "arguing that China’s revolutionary history and its current liberalization are part of the same discourse of modernity, Wang Hui calls for alternatives to both its capitalist trajectory and its authoritarian past."
What follows is our review of the book in the light of this description: how far this assessment is correct, and how relevant it is for those social activists who are pursuing just such an alternative in China.
North Americans seem to believe that torture has no history here. It happened in medieval Europe, at the command of dictators in far-off places, or as part of leftist insurgencies. For the United States, torture is anathema to our way of life, violative of our liberal-democratic commitments. From George Washington to George W. Bush, U.S. presidents have denounced torture unequivocally. Or so it was, as the story goes, before the September 11 attacks.
The current global crisis of capitalism makes the task set by the Daniel Singer Millennium Prize Foundation* look relatively straightforward.
Ngo Van’s memoir of "those other movements and revolts caught in the crossfire between the French and the Stalinists" in the years before the American commitment in Vietnam reminded me, painfully, of an "editorial" I wrote on the fall of Saigon.