This quarter’s selection

Issue: 151

The most recent issue of Critique (volume 44, issue 1-2) includes an article by Christian Høgsbjerg assessing the influence of the events in Spain of 1936 on the writings of Trinidadian Marxist historian C L R James. James helped organise solidarity with the Spanish Revolution from London and defended the far-left POUM against Stalinist repression (although not uncritically). Høgsbjerg also discusses the colonial dimension of the Civil War. Franco was able to mobilise nearly 80,000 troops from Morocco—the Army of Africa—to fight on the Nationalist side in Spain, which elicited a racist response from some on the British left that needed to be countered by anti-imperialists.

In the same issue John McIlroy recounts the history of rank and file trade union movements in Britain during the 20th century. McIlroy warns against over-optimistic assessments, including from some contributors to this journal, of the influence of these movements and questions their suitability as a blueprint for future organisation.

In an article on the Jacobin website “Redeeming Chávez’s Dream” Mike Gonzalez analyses the current crisis in Venezuela where social programmes are failing, inflation is skyrocketing and basic goods are being sold on the black market at up to 100 times their original price. Gonzalez shows how Hugo Chávez’s PSUV party has seen a dramatic loss of support, more through popular dissatisfaction among its support base than through any particular enthusiasm for the right. “The PSUV and the Chavista state have effectively disarmed and demobilised the force that beat back the 2002 attempted coup against Chávez…that is, the mass movement itself”. Go to

In the June issue of Monthly Review John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark take exception to what they see as some misguided understandings of Marx’s ecological thought. They argue that the Frankfurt School, and especially Alfred Schmidt, mistakenly saw Marx as an Enlightenment thinker whose later writings ignored the problem of humanity’s relationship to nature. This often led to the pessimistic conclusion that humans would inevitably dominate and exploit the rest of the natural world, even in a future socialist society.

Foster and Clark also object to the notion of the production of nature most associated with Neil Smith. This theory, as they see it, subsumes nature entirely within society and effectively amounts to a denial that there are any natural processes existing outside of human society. Instead Foster and Clark reassert their own commitment to using Marx’s concepts of metabolism and of a metabolic rift between humanity and nature. They see this analysis as essential to confronting today’s environmental problems and creating a sustainable and egalitarian society.

Foster seems to have saved his most vehement criticism for Jason W Moore, author of Capitalism in the Web of Life. In an interview in Climate & Capitalism Foster says he was mistaken in the past to refer to Moore as a Marxist, that Moore is opposed to all green thought, and all possibility of an ecological critique of capitalism, etc. Moore is accused of understanding capitalism according to its own logic, so his work focuses on the ecological contradictions internal to the capitalist system. Foster would prefer to “focus on the separation of humanity and nature, on the degradation of natural processes and life, because that is the concrete reality of society, life and nature under the current alienated system of production, capitalism”—see The debate will no doubt continue.

The London Review of Books has also recently addressed the politics of climate change with the publication of Naomi Klein’s essay “Let them Drown” based on the Edward Said lecture she gave in May this year. Writing on the role of racism in allowing climate change to continue, Klein writes:

A culture that places so little value on black and brown lives that it is willing to let human beings disappear beneath the waves, or set themselves on fire in detention centres, will also be willing to let the countries where black and brown people live disappear beneath the waves, or desiccate in the arid heat.

Go to

The latest issue of New Left Review (II/98) has an interesting article by the editor, Susan Watkins, surveying the electoral new left (among which she controversially includes Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement in Italy). Very interestingly, especially in the light of NLR’s traditional support for the EU, Watkins stands aloof of the liberal-left stampede into the Remain camp:

At one level the politics of the Brexit referendum are clear: a vote to remain, whatever its motivation, will function in this context as a vote for a British establishment that has long channelled Washington’s demands into the Brussels negotiating chambers, scotching hopes for a “social Europe” since the Single European Act of 1986. A Leave vote would be a salutary shock to this trans-Atlantic oligopoly. It would not bring about a new golden age of national sovereignty, as Labour, Tory and UKIP Brexiters like to claim; decision-making would remain subordinate to Atlanticist structures. It would certainly involve a dip in GDP—around 3 percent, on the most plausible estimates, so smaller than the contraction of 2009. But the knock-on effects of a leave vote could be largely positive: disarray, and probably a split, in the Conservative Party; preparations in Scotland for a new independence ballot. The mechanics of exit negotiations, involving a two-year countdown once the Lisbon Treaty’s Article 50 has been invoked by, presumably, a new—Corbyn-led?—UK government, might themselves provide one of those unexpected frameworks for democratic awakening, as with the 2014 Scottish referendum and the Labour leadership campaign: the opportunity for a real debate on alternative futures for the country.