A Study of Monthly Review’s Marxist Political Science in the Twenty-First Century: A View from China

by Cheng Enfu and Fu Hao

MR Online | September 18, 2021

| Paul Sweezy and Leo Huberman in Cuba BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT | MR Online

An important and principled academic journal dealing with the theory and practice of Marxism and socialism, Monthly Review, was established by Leo Huberman and Paul M. Sweezy in 1949, at an especially difficult time for the U.S. left-wing movement, when it was encountering attacks and slanders under the Truman Doctrine and McCarthyism. Nevertheless, Monthly Review grew and eventually became one of the world’s most influential left-wing magazines. Over seventy years, it has published articles from numerous well-known social activists including Albert Einstein, W. E. B. DuBois, Che Guevara, Barbara Ehrenreich, Noam Chomsky, and Bernie Sanders. It has also brought together and developed many renowned Marxist scholars, such as Harry Magdoff, Paul A. Baran, Ellen Meiksins Wood, Robert W. McChesney, and John Bellamy Foster. In this way, it has made an outstanding contribution to the development not only of Marxist theory in the United States, but of world socialism as well.

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China: Imperialism or Semi-Periphery?

Minqi Li

Monthly Review | 2021Volume 73, Issue 3 (July-August 2021)

China is currently the world’s largest economy measured by purchasing power parity. As the rapid expansion of the Chinese economy reshapes the global geopolitical map, Western mainstream media has begun to define China as a new imperialist power that exploits cheap energy and raw materials from developing countries. Some Marxist intellectuals and political groups, drawing from the Leninist theory of imperialism, argue that the rise of monopoly Chinese capital and its rapid expansion in the world market have turned China into a capitalist imperialistic country.

Whether China has become an imperialist country is a question of crucial importance for the global class struggle. I argue that although China has developed an exploitative relationship with South Asia, Africa, and other raw material exporters, on the whole, China continues to transfer a greater amount of surplus value to the core countries in the capitalist world system than it receives from the periphery. China is thus best described as a semi-peripheral country in the capitalist world system.

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The Household and the State

Prabhat Patnaik

IDEAs | August 16, 2021

Simple analogies can be deceptive, even dangerous. An example is the analogy often drawn between the household and the state. Just as a household cannot “live beyond its means” for ever, and sooner or later its creditors not only stop giving loans but take away the assets of the household for defaulting on loan repayment, likewise, the state cannot “live beyond its means” for ever and go on borrowing ad infinitum; sooner or later its creditors stop giving loans and even attach its assets.

This is a very common argument. One has heard it innumerable times, from spokesmen of Bretton Woods institutions and from Finance Ministers’ budget speeches, providing a rationale for restricting the fiscal deficit. Since the fiscal deficit is a measure of the state’s additional borrowing, incurring a fiscal deficit implies that the state is “living beyond its means”, which would eventually bring it to grief, as happens with a household.

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Climate change: the fault of humanity?

Michael Roberts blog | August 12, 2021

The sixth report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) runs to nearly 4,000 pages.  The IPCC has tried to summarise its report as the ‘final opportunity’ to avoid climate catastrophe.  Its conclusions are not much changed since the previous publication in 2013, only more decisive this time.  The evidence is clear: we know the cause of global warming (mankind); we know how far the planet has warmed (~1C so far), we know how atmospheric CO2 concentrations have changed since pre-industrial times (+30%) and we know that warming that has shown up so far has been generated by historical pollution.  You have to go back several million years to even replicate what we have today.  During the Pilocene era (5.3-2.6 million years ago) the world had CO2 levels of 360-420ppm (vs. 415ppm now). 

In its summary for Policy makers, the IPCC states clearly that climate change and global warming is “unequivocally caused by human activities.” But can climate change be laid at the door of the whole of humanity or instead on that part of humanity that owns, controls and decides what happens to our future?  Sure, any society without the scientific knowledge would have exploited fossil fuels in order to generate energy for production, warmth and transport.  But would any society have gone on expanding fossil fuel exploration and production without controls to protect the environment and failed to look for alternative sources of energy that did not damage the planet, once it became clear that carbon emissions were doing just that? 

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Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty

‘Wealth of Data, Poverty of Theory’

Michel Husson

Abstract

Thomas Piketty’s book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, provides a monumental database for the history of capitalism. But the author’s interpretation of these data is based on an inconsistent theoretical framework that constantly oscillates between two definitions of capital: either capital as accumulated drawing rights on the value created; or capital as a factor of production in the neoclassical tradition. Capital as a social relation is forgotten and the history of capitalism appears as an accounting mechanism.Keywords: Pikettycapital

Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century has rightly been welcomed: it provides a monumental source of data on the history of capitalism and offers information that will be essential for all those economists who want to study its dynamic in the medium and long term. Piketty thus follows in the footsteps of such authors as Angus Maddison1 and Pierre Villa.2 We should also thank him for making all of these materials freely available.3

In this work we find data on income inequality across the world, and it would be no exaggeration to say that the ‘Piketty group’ (including people such as Anthony Atkinson and Emmanuel Saez) has supplied a significant part of the arguments raised by recent social movements (the indignados, Occupy Wall Street, and such like) and even one of their watchwords: ‘We are the 99 percent!’

The following comments will be no less critical for that reason, however, since Piketty’s theoretical framework is not at the same level as his wealth of data. In order to demonstrate this, we will above all be examining the two fundamental laws of capitalism that Piketty uses in order to read his data. The central line of march of this investigation is the idea that Piketty incoherently mixes up two definitions of capital, both as a ‘factor of production’ and as the whole ensemble of ‘drawing rights’ on income.

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The CPC 100 years on: Understanding China’s contemporary political economy

Ken Hammond

Liberation School | July 1, 2021

Citizens celebrate CPC’s 100th annivesary. Photo: Yang Hui. Global Times.

Introduction

Today, July 1, 2021, is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. Celebrations throughout China and commemorations worldwide are taking place today in recognition of the Party’s leadership and its incredible legacy. It’s worthwhile for socialists to reflect on this legacy and, in particular, and the contemporary state of China’s political economy.

On November 9, 2013 Xi Jinping gave a talk at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in which he discussed the characteristic features of China’s economy after more than two decades of “reform and opening.” He recalled that at the 14th National Congress of the CPC, in 1992, the Party had re-dedicated itself to the goal of “establishing a socialist market economy, allowing the market to play a basic role in allocating resources under state macro control.” He went on to assert that, by 2013, a socialist market economy had been “basically established” but also observed that “there are still many problems.” This assessment of the situation, which remains essentially applicable to China today, reflects the complexity of China’s historical path since Liberation in 1949.

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NATO declares China as global security challenge

M K Bhadrakumar 

Countercurrents | June 18, 2021

Family Portrait of NATO Allies, Brussels, Belgium, June 14, 2021

The NATO brings to mind the classic paradigm of someone all dressed up and nowhere to go. It has to constantly reinvent a reason for its existence.

The NATO is a lucrative hunting ground for the American arms industry. The bigger the NATO’s threat perceptions, the greater the scope for US exports of weaponry.

In the final analysis, NATO’s naming of China as a systemic challenge, for the first time in the alliance’s history, would have profound implications for international security. Prima facie, it will draw China and Russia even closer together. 

***

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Capital and the Ecology of Disease

 John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark and Hannah Holleman

Monthly Review | Volume 73, Issue 02 (June 2021)

New beech leaves, Gribskov Forest in the northern part of Sealand, Denmark
New beech leaves, Gribskov Forest in the Northern part of Sealand, Denmark. Malene Thyssen, Own Work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link.

“The old Greek philosophers,” Frederick Engels wrote in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, “were all born natural dialecticians.”1 Nowhere was this more apparent than in ancient Greek medical thought, which was distinguished by its strong materialist and ecological basis. This dialectical, materialist, and ecological approach to epidemiology (from the ancient Greek epi, meaning on or upon, and demos, the people) was exemplified by the classic Hippocratic text Airs Waters Places (c. 400 BCE), which commenced:

Whoever wishes to investigate medicine properly, should proceed thus: in the first place to consider the seasons of the year, and what effects each of them produces, for they are not all alike, but differ from themselves in regard to their changes. Then the winds, the hot and cold, especially such as are common to all countries, and then such as are peculiar to each locality. We must also consider the qualities of the waters, for as they differ from another in taste and weight, so also do they differ much in their qualities. In the same manner, when one comes into a city to which he is a stranger, he ought to consider its situation, how it lies as to the winds and the rising of the sun.… These things one ought to consider most attentively, and concerning the waters which the inhabitants use, whether they be marshy and soft, or hard, and running from elevated rocky situations, and then if saltish and unfit for cooking, and the ground, whether it be naked and deficient in water, or wooded and well-watered, and whether it lies in a hollow or confined situation, or is elevated and cold; and the mode in which the inhabitants live, and what are their pursuits, whether they are fond of drinking and eating to excess, and given to indolence, or are fond of exercise and labor.…

For if one knows all these things well, or at least the greater part of them, he cannot miss knowing, when he comes into a strange city, either the diseases peculiar to the place, or the particular nature of common diseases, so that he will not be in doubt as to the treatment of the diseases, or commit mistakes, as is likely to be the case provided one has not previously considered these matters. And in particular, as the season and the year advances, he can tell what epidemic diseases will attack the city, either in summer or in winter, and what each individual will be in danger of experiencing from the change in regimen.… For with the seasons the digestive organs of men undergo a change.2

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USA IN DECLINE

The Disintegrated States of America

Pepe Escobar

Thankfully, considering its urgent message, Martyanov’s book is finally being widely read. It’s already an Amazon bestseller.

Andrei Martyanov is in a class by himself. A third wave baby boomer, born in the early 1960s in Baku, in the Caucasus, then part of the former USSR, he’s arguably the foremost military analyst in the Russian sphere, living and working in the US, writing in English for a global audience, and always excelling in his Reminiscence of the Future blog.

I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing Martyanov’s previous two books. In Losing Military Supremacy: The Myopia of American Strategic Planning, nearly three years ago he conclusively proved, among other things, how the missile gap between the US and Russia was a “technological abyss”, and how the Khinzal was “a complete game-changer geopolitically, strategically, operationally, tactically and psychologically”.

He extensively mapped “the final arrival of a completely new paradigm” in warfare and military technology. This review is included in my own Asia Times e-book Shadow play.

Then came The (Real) Revolution in Military Affairs, where he went one step beyond, explaining how this “revolution”, introduced at the Pentagon by the late Andrew Marshall, a.k.a. Yoda, the de facto inventor of the “pivot to Asia” concept, was in fact designed by Soviet military theoreticians way back in the 1970s, as MTR (Military-Technological Revolution).Read More »

INNOVATION CAPITALISM COVID-19 

Patents versus the People

Prabhat Patnaik

IDEAs | May 17, 2021

On October 2, 2020, even before any vaccines against Covid-19 had been approved, India and South Africa had proposed to the WTO that a temporary patent waiver should be granted on all such innovations. In the following months, 100 countries had supported this demand. And on May 5, the US, usually the most ardent defender of the patent system, agreed to a temporary patent waiver on anti-Covid vaccines, committing itself to “text-based negotiations at the WTO”.

The basic argument for such a move arises from the urgent need at present to expand vaccine production. A patent works by creating artificial scarcity so that prices are kept high for a longer period and the innovating firm can make profits that are large enough supposedly to recoup the investment made in developing the patented product, but the scarcity of vaccines is precisely what the world can ill-afford at present. When thousands are dying around the world, saving lives has priority over firms’ profits, for which patents on vaccines must be removed.Read More »