Pick of the quarter

Issue: 108

Chris Harman

The last two issues of New Left Review have contained some unusually interesting material. Susan Watkins (NLR 33, May-June) provides a very useful analysis of the background to the attempt to push through the neo-liberal European constitution. She explains what is at stake for Europe’s rulers, although in my view she is a bit dismissive of the contradictory interests of the European and US ruling classes. Giovanni Arrighi’s piece in the same issue, ‘Hegemony Unravelling—2’, the second instalment in a two-part article, is more perceptive on this question. He highlights the importance of the rise of China for the world system despite (like many ‘world system’ theorists) projecting the history of capitalism back into the middle ages by identifying it with finance, rather than the exploitation of waged labour at the point of production.

Readers who want to find out about the background to the crisis of the Lula government in Brazil should look at Emir Sadir’s ‘Taking Lula’s Measure’ (www.newleftreview.net/NLR26706.shtml) and Lecio Morais and Alfredo Saad-Filho’s ‘Lula and the Continuity of Neoliberalism in Brazil’ in Historical Materialism 2005:1 (available at www.ingentaconnect.com/content/brill/hm/2005/00000013/00000001/art00001).

Continuing its recent interesting coverage on China, NLR 34 contains an interview with Han Dongfang, a worker activist involved in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 who now broadcasts into China from Hong Kong on workers’ struggles. He talks about his experiences and some of the struggles taking place today (www.newleftreview.net/NLR26803.shtml). In the same issue Tsering Shakya offers a useful short review of the biography of the Tibetan Communist leader Phuntso Wangye by Melvyn Goldstein, Dawei Sherap and Sillian Siebenschuh. Phuntso Wangye was imprisoned for 18 years by Mao.

Also in this issue of NLR, Andrew Glyn provides a mass of information on the world economy in ‘Global Balances’. His figures on the relative productivity of European and US industry differ from those given elsewhere (for instance in the book by Levy and Duménil reviewed earlier in this issue).

September’s Monthly Review contains two articles which readers might find a helpful complement to pieces in this journal—Ingo Schmidt on the crisis in Germany’s labour movement and Jeffery R Weber on Bolivia.

Readers who enjoyed our articles on Africa in the last International Socialism will find very useful the piece by David Seddon and Leo Zeilig in the Review of African Political Economy entitled ‘Class and Protest in Africa’.

May’s Sociological Review contains an interesting attempt by Andrew Smith to locate the rise of ‘post-colonial’ literature in the material conditions facing many Third World authors. Using examples from Nigeria, his ‘Bringing the Story Home’ argues that the market for literature leads authors to seek acclaim from Western audiences and so become ‘alienated’ from their local roots.

The summer issue of Capital and Class contains an interesting review of Michael Hardt and Toni Negri’s Empire from a strange source. The author, Paul Thompson, was a leading member of Britain’s own semi-autonomist organisation, Big Flame, in the 1970s. He moved via the Labour Coordinating Committee of the early 1980s to the New Labour magazine Renewal in the late 1990s, before recoiling faced with the reality of Blairism. He is able to make a number of coherent criticisms of the book (complete with a positive endorsement of points made by Alex Callinicos), despite continuing to find fault with revolutionary Marxism.