Nine months into Washington’s “war on terrorism,” its predictable adverse consequences are becoming sharply etched. Incipient resentments in many parts of the world have been enhanced rather than diminished. An already dangerous situation has become more so¾both in a direct military/paramilitary sense and in terms of the obstacles confronting any movement to stem the expansion of global capital, which seeks to occupy every region and control every resource to its own advantage.
One of the most damning and least heard commentaries on the “anti-terrorist” pretext for U.S. policy, is the long record of U.S. support for terrorism against Cuba. This was placed dramatically on the record in the recent Miami trial of five Cuban operatives who had penetrated the counterrevolutionary terrorist network of the local exile community. Their statements to the court, portions of which we publish here, take on added importance in light of recent revelations about the disinclination of U.S. investigative agencies to pursue criminal leads that are not deemed to match Washington’s political targets.
Among the offshoots of Washington’s post-9/11 crusade has been the implicit green light given to Ariel Sharon to intensify Israel’s expansionist agenda in the occupied Palestinian territories. An already desperate situation for the Palestinian people has thus been severely aggravated, motivating growing numbers of them to resort to suicide attacks on Jewish civilians, thereby fueling even further the rhetoric of the now-dominant Israeli extremists. The U.S. media have been derelict in their failure to expose the underlying power-relation of the Jewish state to Palestinians, which bears all the trappings of colonial rule. Our symposium offers a corrective to this oversight by focusing insistently through diverse lenses on the conquest, subjugation, and dispersal of the Palestinian people that have marked Israeli policy. Especially noteworthy are the terms and underlying politics of the U.S.-driven “peace process,” which, far from restoring some kind of parity between the two peoples, has in numerous ways served to institutionalize the subordination of one to the other. Thus, as Moshe Behar shows, even the most conciliatory of the Israeli governments (that of Rabin, 1992-95) took no steps to break up the apparatus of occupation in the Palestinian territories.
The symposium as a whole helps give precise contours to what is often viewed as an intractable situation. By characterizing the conflict historically and structurally, the articles identify with varying degrees of explicitness the general direction in which there can be hope for a peaceful outcome. As with all radical visions, implementation remains an enormous challenge, requiring a great fund of imagination, openness, courage, and flexibility. No progress can be made, however, without first facing head-on, as these authors enable us to do, the full scope and gravity of the conditions behind the current impasse.
Moving back to the global canvas, Pierre Mesnard y Méndez offers a compelling discussion at once philosophical and literary of how, already before Bush’s post-9/11 “War on Terrorism,” capitalism’s visceral symbiosis with war had become firmly established. Like his near-namesake in the story by Borges (“Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote“), Mesnard y Méndez slips back into the persona of an earlier writer (in this case Marx) in such a way as to show the continuing applicability, under changed circumstances, of words written long ago. Unlike his fictional counterpart, however, P.M.M. does not give us a text identical to that of his renowned predecessor, but instead brings Marx, as it were, directly into the present, replicating his scope and his wit, along with his penetrating juxtapositions, while at the same time enriching the argument with an abundance of current references. Particularly notable are his reflections on the locales of present-day bloodshed, on how its economic function works to define its primary victims, and on the conceptual tricks¾including the very distinction of “war” (in its present-day form) from “terrorism”¾that are used to obscure what is going on.
In the saga of capital’s most recent expansionary phase, few cases of its impact are more telling than that of eastern Germany. The former German Democratic Republic was the country that seemed perhaps best placed to serve as a showcase for the benefits of capitalist restoration. Already possessing a relatively high living-standard, and with the prospect of ample assistance from the triumphant German Federal Republic (the biggest economic power in Europe), the newly integrated eastern region was expected to quickly attain economic parity with the rest of the country. What it got instead was a rude and sustained shock, which Gareth Dale explores in its many dimensions. His article offers a thorough response to those who would blame the region’s current plight primarily on its pre-1989 structures. Even viable enterprises in the East succumbed to hostile takeover by western interests, typically aimed at eliminating competition. A process initially trumpeted as promoting decentralization and small business became instead one of heightened industrial concentration, as the “market-oriented” government allowed its official restructuring agency to be run directly by and for big capital. The result in the East was a drastic turn, between 1990 and 2000, in popular attitudes toward capitalist precepts: from overwhelming support, to majority opposition.
In Latin America, unlike Eastern Germany, the privatization process of recent years has been added onto what was already, for many countries, a common practice. Carlos Vilas surveys the impact of this development within the framework of a wide-ranging theoretical and historical overview of Latin American revolutions. Examining the new conditions for U.S. intervention following upon the end of the Cold War, and taking into account the routine stabilization of constitutional regimes under the resultant neoliberal hegemony, he draws a careful balance of the prospects for change over the coming period.
Meanwhile, within the highly industrialized countries, a Left movement which in recent decades has had to give long-overdue attention to identities or attributes other than class, is now rediscovering the centrality of class in addressing the power relations of capitalist society. Rick Wolff proposes to carry this rediscovery a step further. Going back to Marx’s analysis in Capital, Wolff suggests that understanding class merely as a locus of power is insufficient. Unless exploitation and surplus-appropriation are integrated into the Left’s concept of class, he argues, any project of social transformation will remain severely limited in its scope and impact.
A parallel point might be made regarding the need to engage social issues in terms that go beyond social-scientific analysis to reflect the full range of human experience and emotions. This need received powerful expression in the work of Marxist literary critics in 1930s Britain. Ronald Paul, in introducing us to their writings, reminds us of a long and proud tradition of commentators who, as Annette Rubinstein has also shown (in S&D #21), far from valorizing literary propaganda, always insisted that a primary duty of the politically committed author is to produce work that can stand on its artistic merit.
We note with sadness the death of Stephen Jay Gould, the distin guished biologist, who brought a strong progressive social awareness into all his work, perhaps most notably in his polemics against “scientific racism” (see his book The Mismeasure of Man). He was a fre- quent participant in events at the New York Marxist School, including its commemorative symposium on the Communist Manifesto (in S&D #25). We will miss him.