This quarter’s selection

Issue: 138

A masterly analysis of the American presidential election by Mike Davis dominates the excellent new issue of New Left Review (II/79).1 The article combines a grasp of the complex demographic and sociological trends behind Barack Obama’s victory with an eye for the detail of the intense political and ideological struggles on the Republican right (among which is this excellent summary of the brutal essence of politics by one crazed former senior Republican, Dick Armey: “sometimes you’re the windshield and sometimes you’re the bug”). Davis is clear eyed about Obama—who, he says, regards the Democratic Party “the way a vampire regards its lunch” and “arguably saved Wall Street and General Motors”. But the trouble for American capitalism is that the sharp ideological turn to the right by the Republicans shows “the merely wealthy stop[ping] obeying orders from the very rich”. Davis’s prediction that the Republicans, secure in their gerrymandered stronghold in the House of Representatives, will continue to wage ideological war against Obama has already been confirmed by the failure of the two sides to reach a compromise over reducing the budget deficit.

Other noteworthy articles include an interesting piece on South Korea’s political culture by Kevin Gray (who is perhaps overly influenced by the country’s left nationalist currents), Adam Tooze’s telling review of the final two volumes of Michael Mann’s historical sociology of power (which takes him to task for failing properly to integrate the role of imperialism), a generous response to David Graeber’s Debt by Robin Blackburn,2 and Jiwei Xiao’s thoughtful reassessment of Michelangelo Antonioni’s documentary on China during the Cultural Revolution.

The current Irish Marxist Review (volume 2, number 5) contains a number of interesting articles on the history of the Irish workers’ movement and the struggle for independence. Paul O’Brien looks back at the Great Lock Out of 1913 in Dublin, while Conor Costick examines the Bureau of Military History, a collection of over 1,700 statements and interviews about struggles in Ireland between 1913 and 1921. Meanwhile, Colm Bryce analyses dissident republicanism and Goretti Horgan reports on the state of loyalism today.3

The January and February issues of Monthly Review contain a couple of interesting pieces on capitalism and ecology. In the January issue, Fred Magdoff unpicks debates about population and natural resource depletion to show how arguments about “overpopulation” obscure the massively skewed global consumption of resources (the richest 10 percent of the world’s population account for 59 percent of consumption). While Magdoff makes too many concessions to positions that emphasise sacrifice (“modest living standards”), he nonetheless is clear that it is the systemic imperative of competitive accumulation that is responsible for the degradation of the environment, a problem which can only be solved “with economic and political decisions resolved democratically according to principles consistent with substantive equality among people and a healthy biosphere for all the earth’s inhabitants”.4 In the February issue, John Bellamy Foster critically assesses Nasa scientist James Hansen’s “exit strategy” from climate change, arguing that “no gradual exit is possible”.5

The most recent Historical Materialism (20.4) was published just as this journal went to press and will be covered in our next issue.

Finally, the Marxists Internet Archive recently added a number of articles originally published in this journal in the mid-1980s, in which John Molyneux,6 Sheila McGregor7 and Lindsey German8 debated whether or not working class men benefitted from women’s oppression. These were very important debates for the tradition in which this journal stands. We hope their availability online will open them up to a much wider audience involved in contemporary debates around oppression, emancipation and privilege theory.




3All these articles are free to access at


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