Another week, another bundle of articles from our electronic magazine rack. This week’s offerings include: a fabulous interview with David Harvey; a mindblowing analysis of the meaning of class by a Hungarian we’ve never heard of (but probably should have); more reflections on the crisis; an appreciation of Ralph Nader; the dangers of populism in the US; a conversation with a Die Linke member on the missed opportunity to save socialism in East Germany; an interview with LA anarchist Joaquin Cienfuegos; the split within the ANC and what it means for the South African left; and crisis- and Chechnya-denial in Russia.
Jeffrey J. Williams. The Geography of Accumulation: An Interview with David Harvey. A lot of money got sucked out of people’s pockets, so where did it go? And all these other people, money’s flowing into their pockets, so there’s a connection. The difficulty is to prove that that money ended up there, but my inference is, somebody’s sucking in money, like the hedge fund guy who got $1.7 billion last year. Who is doing something that’s so valuable it’s worth $1.7 billion in one year? That is accumulation by dispossession, which I think has been ratcheting up over the last fifteen or twenty years and is what neoliberalism has been very much about. We have to combat that, as well as engage in the classical forms of class struggle. I’m interested in forms of alliance between different movements that see the situation differently. Building alliances always means you’ve got to take something you don’t like and try to build it into a political movement that can go somewhere. So when I call for a New New Deal, that’s really what I’m trying to do—let’s think about it in those terms and counter the accumulation by dispossession and all the other forms of exploitation that we’re seeing. We can’t just get rid of capitalism tomorrow, we have to stabilize the system, and I think one of the ways of stabilizing it, interestingly, is by reconstructing far more in the way of public intervention.
Gáspár Miklós Tamás. Telling the truth about class. All versions of socialist endeavour can and should be classiﬁed into two principal kinds, one inaugurated by Rousseau, the other by Marx. The two have opposite visions of the social subject in need of liberation, and these visions have determined everything from rareﬁed epistemological positions concerning language and consciousness to social and political attitudes concerning wealth, culture, equality, sexuality and much else. It must be said at the outset that many, perhaps most socialists who have sincerely believed they were Marxists, have in fact been Rousseauists. Freud has eloquently described resistances to psychoanalysis; intuitive resistance to Marxism is no less widespread, even among socialists. It is emotionally and intellectually difﬁcult to be a Marxist since it goes against the grain of moral indignation which is, of course, the main reason people become socialists.
Rob Sewell. Top Economic Strategist warns of ‘Catastrophe and Revolution.’ We are facing the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. Despite all the efforts to bail out the banking system, the economic crisis has only just started to bite. How deep or long the crisis will last is difficult to estimate, but given the financial house of cards built up in the last world boom, the capitalist system has entered unprecedented times, in which a depression cannot be ruled out. Even the strategists of capital are terrified of this scenario, with all the mass unemployment and misery that goes with it.
Rohini Hensman. Marxism and the Economic Crises. The credit system was relatively undeveloped in Marx’s time, and he would not have been familiar with hedge funds, mortgage-backed securities, collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), credit default swaps (CDSs), and all the other derivatives that are now part of the global financial system. However, he was familiar with generalized crises, and tried to explain financial turmoil in terms of what is now referred to as ‘the real economy’: i.e., a crisis in the accumulation of capital. In his view, such crises were inevitable in capitalism, because it is a system of production not for human need but for profit.
Juliette Jowit. World is facing a natural resources crisis worse than financial crunch. The world is heading for an “ecological credit crunch” far worse than the current financial crisis because humans are over-using the natural resources of the planet, an international study warns today.
Talal Nizameddine. Is Marx laughing in his grave right now? The boom-bust of the current economic system is a dangerous path to follow. Few would espouse a Soviet-style socialist economy as the alternative. But nuclear proliferation, a population explosion, environmental erosion, religious extremism and wars to control resources and supply routes as we are seeing in the Eurasian landmass require radical ideas to be introduced about managing the world economy. These concerns are not driven by moral factors alone but by a genuine fear that the gamble on the current system is not a risk worth taking. Business leaders may be amazing when it comes to making money but how much do they know about society, politics and the human psyche. Can they tell us where is the line when something must break and an unexpected violent and horrific upheaval sweeps across our world?
William Greider. Nader’s Stubborn Idealism. The hard warning Nader poses is not about himself but about how the left and other elements of the old Democratic coalition will respond to their new situation. Nader is not optimistic. “I see a lot of anger around the country, but I don’t see it organized,” he said. “Anger that’s unorganized has no power.” The rationale behind his serial campaigns for president was always about this vacuum in politics. His conviction was that third-party campaigns could help mobilize a popular counter-force to leverage the Democrats and break up the two-party monopoly. For many reasons, he failed in this, as he frankly acknowledges.
Chris Hedges. Populism Arising—But Will It Be the Killer Kind? The old assumptions and paradigms about capitalism and free markets are dead. A new, virulent populism, still inchoate, is slowly and painfully rising to take their place. This populism will determine the future of the [US]. It is as likely to be right-wing as left-wing.
Luis Luque Álvarez. The opportunity to modify the German Democratic Republic passed too quickly. Dagmar Enkelmann, deputy of the Left Party of Germany, tells of her experience during the days of the fall of the Berlin wall and the reasons that led to the collapse of socialism in her country.
Eugene Puryear. Mbeki’s downfall signals shift in ANC, South African politics: ANC’s left wing strengthened by president’s resignation. Mbeki’s policies won him plenty of accolades in the West, but within South Africa protests against the ANC became increasingly prominent. The government became progressively more identified in the eyes of the masses with harmful policies and the absence of adequate social services, especially in the townships. There, even basic services such as access to water are not guaranteed. These policies have slowly alienated two of the major sections of the ANC: the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions. As such, the groups have recently become centers of anti-Mbeki feeling. Many members of both groups still believe the ANC is the best vehicle for progressive change, but they also feel betrayed by Mbeki’s complete rejection of progressive policies. Tensions have increased as workers have started to take on the government through strike action, where the SACP and COSATU leaders have been brought into further conflict with Mbeki’s government.
Chuck Morse. The Empire Is Losing Its Grip: An Interview with Joaquin Cienfuegos. Joaquin Cienfuegos, twenty-five, is a longtime anarchist militant, member of Revolutionary Autonomous Communities, Cop Watch Los Angeles, Anarchist People of Color (APOC), and one of the organizers of the first annual LA Anarchist Bookfair, which will occur on December 13, 2008. I spoke with Cienfuegos about his recent conflicts with law enforcement and his activism generally.
Robert Skidelsky. Crisis-hit Russia must scale down its ambition. The official view is that Russia is an outstandingly successful economy temporarily derailed by a financial shock of foreign origin. Its annual economic growth in real terms averaged 7 per cent in the years during which Vladimir Putin was president (2000-08), annual real wages rose by almost 15 per cent, the federal budget was continually in surplus. Mr Putin, now prime minister, was quick to blame America for the downturn. Before the crisis hit home Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president, boasted in June that Russia was not part of the problem but part of the solution. Its cash-rich companies would invest abroad, Moscow would become a world financial centre, the rouble would become a reserve currency and so on. All this turned out to be fantasy. The Russian stock market has lost 70 per cent of its value this year. The commodity prices that spearheaded its boom are now falling. The easy credit money from the west that fuelled it has now fled. Russia has failed to diversify its economy and its politics have long made investors nervous. A confrontation with reality is long overdue.
Aslan Doukaev. Putin’s Long-Ended War Enters Its 10th Year. Perhaps hoping to emulate the devil’s imputed success in convincing much of humanity that he does not exist, Russian propagandists have taken great pains over the past several years to persuade the world that the war in Chechnya is over, and the region is on the fast track to stability and prosperity. No effort has been spared in ensuring that the Russian spin on the situation is heard loud and clear and remains unchallenged. Even with official accreditation, no foreign journalist is allowed to travel within Chechnya unchaperoned. Vast swathes of the republic still remain off-limits to outside observers. Human rights organizations are routinely harassed. Foreign NGOs and aid agencies are being squeezed out one by one. The Russian media in general, and television in particular, rarely question the official line, all too aware of the perils of crossing the Kremlin. Few seem to remember these days that freedom of speech is enshrined in the Russian Constitution. Indeed, it is almost inappropriate nowadays to subject the issue of Russian laws and their application to a critical analysis.