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John Bellamy Foster: The epochal crisis -- the combined capitalist economic and planetary ecological crises

[Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal urges its readers to consider taking out a subscription to Monthly Review, where this article first appeared. Click HERE for more on Marxism and ecology. For more by John Bellamy Foster, click HERE.]

By John Bellamy Foster

Parts of this argument on epochal crisis were presented in three overlapping keynote addresses in: (1) Esslingen, Germany on May 30, 2013, at a conference on Marxist thought organized by the Berlin Institute of Critical Theory (InkriT) and the Historisch-Kritisches Wörterbuch Des Marximus; (2) New York City on June 9, 2013, at the closing plenary of the Left Forum; and (3) Dublin on June 27, 2013, at the annual conference of the International Association for Media and Communication Research. The argument has been revised and updated based on the original notes for these talks.

Who really benefits from sweatshops?

Billionaire sweatshop sponger Bruce Rockowitz's CEO in October 2011 Rockowitz married Hong Kong pop star Coco Lee in a ceremony that reportedly cost $20 million. The company he manages had a combined net worth of $6.2 billion in 2012.

By David L. Wilson

September 19, 2013 -- Climate & Capitalism -- Consumers are ultimately the ones responsible for dangerous conditions in garment assembly plants in the global South, Hong Kong-based business executive Bruce Rockowitz told the New York Times recently. The problem is that improved safety would raise the price of clothing, according to Rockowitz, who heads Li & Fung Limited, a sourcing company that hooks up retailers like Macy’s and Kohl’s with suppliers in low-wage countries like Bangladesh. ”So far”, he said, “consumers have just not been willing to accept higher costs”.

Capitalism, sexual violence and sexism

For more discussion on feminism, click HERE. For more on India, click HERE.

By Kavita Krishnan

Kafila -- First published May 23, 2013, posted at the Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author's permission. The brutal gang rape of a woman in December 2012 triggered a mass movement against violence against women in India. The perpetrators were sentenced on September 13, 2013 -- Sexual violence cannot be attributed simply to some men behaving in "anti-social" or "inhuman" ways: it has everything to do with the way society is structured: i.e., the way in which our society organises production and accordingly structures social relationships. Once we understand this, we can also recognise that society can be structured differently, in ways that do not require – or benefit from – the subordination of women or of any section of society.

Simon Butler: Marxism and the ecological revolution (audio)

Simon Butler.

September 4, 2013 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Australian Socialist Alliance national executive member Simon Butler gave this speech, "Marxism and the ecological revolution", at the Marxism 2013 conference, which was held in Melbourne, Australia, over March 28-31. The conference was organised by Socialist Alternative.

In the talk Butler explores Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels' much neglected insights into the anti-ecological dynamic of capitalism, a system based on the dual exploitation of labour and nature. He also discusses the relevance of Marx's ecology for meeting today's crises and makes an argument for why 21st century socialists should also be ecosocialists.

The Great Rift: Capitalism and the metabolism of nature and production

August 7, 2013 -- MRZine -- John Bellamy Foster: We need a society that is geared, as István Mészáros always tells us, to substantive equality. And no compromise on the issue of equality. Bolívar said equality is the law of laws. So we need substantive equality and we need ecological sustainability. And they have to go together. How do we know they have to go together? Because what is causing the ecological damage and what is causing the social damage is the same thing: it's the rift in the production system; it's the alienation of nature, which is one with the alienation of human society.

Oil, energy and capitalism: An unpublished talk by Barry Commoner

Barry Commoner

Barry Commoner.

“Oil companies do not operate for the purpose of producing oil. They operate for the purpose of producing maximum profit. To solve the energy crisis, we have to reorganise our economic system.”

July 30, 2013 -- Climate & Capitalism, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Dr Barry Commoner was the best-known ecologist in the United States in the late 1960s and 1970s. His picture appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1970, and his 1971 book, The Closing Circle, was a best-seller and remains a classic of radical environmental analysis. As this talk shows, he was also an ecosocialist, before that word was created.

Commoner gave this talk at the Community Church of Boston on February 22, 1976, just before publication of his book, The Poverty of Power, when the “oil embargo” and energy crisis were still central political issues.

Green Party USA: Economic/ecological crises of the 21st century -- A deep green alternative

Document of the Greens/Green Party USA, submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by Don Fitz, national committee member of the Greens/Green Party USA. It is posted in the interests of discussion.

July 22, 2013 -- Why should we work longer hours in order to …

  • put our neighbours out of work,
  • produce fall-apart products that poison our children and grandchildren, and
  • have less time to enjoy life?

People are losing their jobs and homes. Many throughout the world are without food, medical care and transportation. Instead of addressing real needs, governments and international financial institutions are designing “austerity programs” that cut back on basic services and privatise everything from education and mail delivery to pension plans and public health.

Simultaneously, climate change intensifies before our eyes as summers warm, droughts expand, polar ice caps melt, and those who live in coastal areas are threatened by rising waters. This occurs amid heightened use of radioactive and other toxic chemicals, the destruction of biodiversity and a drive to pull the last resources out of the Earth so that nothing will be left to future generations.

Why we need an ecosocialist revolution (with video)

This is the text of Ian Angus'  talk at the Socialism 2013 conference in Chicago, June 29, 2013, organised by the international Socialist Organization (USA). The video and audio of Angus' talk is also available, thanks to Wearemany.org.

Ration consumption or ration production?

Review by Don Fitz

Any Way You Slice It: The Past, Present and Future of Rationing
By Stan Cox
The New Press, 2013

June 3, 2013 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal/Climate & Capitalism -- Stan Cox got quite a few folks a bit hot and bothered when his book Losing Our Cool critiqued air-conditioning during the middle of the 2010 heat wave. Now, in the middle of massive joblessness and economic downturn, his new book, Any Way You Slice It: The Past, Present and Future of Rationing, is based on the assumption that humanity needs to massively reduce consumption if it is to have any chance of surviving.

Is the guy nuts? Does he hate the working class and poor? Or does he have very keen vision into a topic that few progressives and socialists have even thought about? Peeking beneath the surface, Slice It has the potential to spark serious discussion about the role of social wages in challenging climate change as well as control over production during the transition to a post-capitalist society.

Away with confusion

Freedom and socialism

"There is a great divide between what freedom means to the capitalists and workers. For capitalists it means freedom to exploit, how and whenever they please...For workers it can mean nothing less than liberation from the chains of poverty and oppression."

By Kyle Matzpen

May 27, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal – By both its detractors and some of its supposed supporters, the name of socialism has been dragged through the mud. The word “socialism” is conjured up as a demon, a great dictatorial beast, bent on destroying all liberties and homogenising all differences. It is understood that under any system called socialism, the individual is reduced to nothing, while the state is risen on high to an omnipotent throne built on gulags, purges and secret police.

Europe's 'lefts' and the capitalist crisis

Front de Gauche (France) leader Jean-Luc Melenchon with SYRIZA (Greece) leader Alexis Tspiras.

For more on the developments on Europe's far left, click HERE (see also the pink tabs and the end of the article)

By Francois Sabado

May 20, 2013 -- International Viewpoint -- The situation of the "lefts" in Europe cannot be understood without starting from the crisis, its multiple dimensions and its effects on the social and political field. Hitting head-on all the organisations and parties linked to the history of the workers’ movement, precipitating ruptures, it obliges political forces to recompose around new axes.

Slovenia: Manifesto of the Initiative for Democratic Socialism

[The following document is the program of Slovenia's Initiative for Democratic Socialism. It is posted for the information of readers of Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal. Thanks to Michael Lebowitz for making it available. It is also posted at http://www.demokraticni-socializem.si/.]

The ideological dominance of capitalism as the only feasible mode of production is coming to an end. In the second half of the 1970s, when rapid and stable economic growth came to a halt in the "developed" world, the forces of capital intensified their attack on workers’ rights that has not ceased to this day. The foundation on which the ideological domination of capitalism was based had started to wither away, and the advocates of capitalism increasingly justified its existence by turning to the mere fact of its existence.

South Africa: Centenary of the 1913 Land Act

By Colin Bundy

April 18, 2013 -- Amandla!, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission --  Why consider the history of a hundred-year old law? Surely the Marikana massacre and farm-workers' strikes are more urgent? In fact, there are direct links between the Natives' Land Act of 1913 and current struggles. The Land Act and its consequences still shape rural South Africa and complicate contemporary programmes of restitution and land reform.

The Land Act was not a sudden departure, nor did it transform the countryside. It followed a long history of colonial conquest and dispossession; it codified and ratified various discriminatory practices established in colonies and Boer republics. In order to understand the Act's core features, we need to recall how land alienation took place in British colonies and Boer republics before Union.

Russia: An oligarch’s mistake, an oligarch’s fate

Boris Abramovich Berezovsky diedin London on March 23, 2013.

By Boris Kagarlitsky, translated by Renfrey Clarke

March 31, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- After everyone had finished their coffee, and reached demonstratively for their brief cases, he overrode the feeble impulses of his companions and placed a 50 pound banknote on the table. The change arrived in the form of a mountain of coins – what a disgrace that in Britain 1 pound notes have been taken out of circulation, forcing people to weigh their pockets down with metal! There were a lot of coins, of all denominations. But he sorted them out in a few moments, counted out a 15 per cent tip, raked the rest into his pocket, said his goodbyes and vanished.

“Mathematician”, I thought.

21st century Marxists need to return to Marx’s ecological critique

By Simon Butler

March 23, 2013 -- Green Left Weekly -- Do oil spills make good economic sense? A witness called by Canadian firm Enbridge Inc.— which wants approval to build a $6.5 billion pipeline linking Alberta’s tar sands with the Pacific coast — told a recent hearing in British Columbia (BC) that the answer is yes.

He said oil spills could benefit the economy, giving business new opportunities to make money cleaning it up. He told Fishers Union representatives that an oil spill in BC might indeed kill the local fishing industry, but their lost income would be replaced by compensation payouts and new career prospects, such as working for oil cleanup crews.

Upon reading this, some readers might protest: “That’s just not fair! How come British Columbian communities reap all the economic gains of a potential oil spill disaster, when we have to live in relative safety?”

It’s easy to laugh at this kind of thinking, to write it off as a desperate ploy by a greedy oil company.

Senior Chinese communist: `Industrial civilisation is unsustainable'

A group of volunteers wave green handkerchiefs as they ride their bicycles in Beijing on November 21, 2012, for the launch of a world-tour to promote low-carbon lifestyles.

[This article originally appeared in Chinese in Red Flag Manuscript, no. 22, 2012. This text is from the English edition of Qiushi Journal (vol. 5 no. 1, January 1, 2013), a publication of the Communist Party of China's central committee, via the Online University of the Left. The author is a former vice-chair of the standing committee of the National People’s Congress of China. Note: this article is also a slightly abridged version of the preface of the book Saving the Earth’s Biosphere — Concerning the Transformation of Human Civilization, which was edited by the author and published by Xinhua Press in September 2012. It indicates that despite the Communist Party of China's headlong rush to embrace environmentally unsustainable capitalism, there is some questioning of this course.]

By Jiang Chunyun

Reducing production: How should socialists relate to struggles against capitalist growth

By Don Fitz

March 19, 2013 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The question is not should we advocate reducing production within capitalist society but rather: How do we best relate to those struggles that are already occurring? Activists across the globe are challenging the uncontrollable dynamic of economic expansion which threatens the survival of humanity. It has never been more urgent to provide a vision of a new society that can pull these efforts together.

Fred Magdoff: The environmental crisis and capitalism (video)

Click HERE for more on Marxism and ecology.

March 11, 2013 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Fred Magdoff, a professor emeritus of plant and soil sciences, author of What Every Environmentalist Should Know About Capitalism, contributor to Monthly Review and ecosocialist spoke on the connection between the growing environmental crisis and capitalism. Professor Magdoff spoke at MIT University in Boston MA on March 11, 2013. This event was filmed by Doug Enaa Greene. Second part below.

Is population control an anti-capitalist policy?

Poor peasants are to blame?

By Ian Angus and Simon Butler

March 10, 2013 -- Climate and Capitalism, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- This article responds to an article that appeared in Dissident Voice on February 17, 2013. We submitted our reply on February 24, but the editors have not acknowledged our submission, or even had the courtesy to answer a follow-up email we sent a week later.

Since they have since published articles that we know were written long after ours, we can only conclude that DV does not wish to publish criticism of one of their regular writers.

We would think that a publication that says it is devoted to “challenging the distortions and lies of the corporate press”, would welcome a challenge to the distortions they publish themselves. Apparently not

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