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ISR Issue 57, January–February 2008


THIS ISSUE of the ISR has a collection of analytical pieces taking up different aspects of the war in Iraq, which together reveal deepening problems for U.S. imperialism. Ashley Smith argues that the claim of politicians and the media that the “surge” is working—which has so far taken some heat off the issue—is riddled with holes, and that all the problems that preceded the surge are set to surge back. Aaron Hess analyzes the conflict between Turkey and the Kurds in northern Iraq, one of the developing faultlines threatening U.S. aims in the region. Dahr Jamail, award-winning journalist and author of Beyond the Green Zone, explains the role the U.S. has played in fomenting the sectarian divide in Iraq, despite its claims to the contrary. Saman Sepehri looks at the recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iran and argues that it reflects a tactical shift in the U.S. efforts to contain Iran.

Joel Geier analyses the unfolding credit crunch and forecasts a worsening crisis. The economic problems facing the U.S. are based on deep, intractable contradictions, which are having an impact on Washington’s political standing in the world. Nevertheless, as Tariq Ali argues in his wide-ranging interview with Sherry Wolf, the problems facing U.S. imperialism do not mean that the U.S. has exhausted its options in the Middle East. For example, the U.S. is still militarily unrivalled and remains the dominant economic power, argues Ali, and will not be dislodged unless there is an alternative—from below or by a rival state.

There are a number of important feature-length articles in this issue. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor examines W.E.B. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction, the much discussed but little read classic about the post-Civil War transformation (and subsequent counterrevolution) in the South. The book is referenced often by “whiteness” theorists as one of their key texts, but as Taylor reveals, the framework used in Black Reconstruction to understand the racial divide in the U.S. does not really support their views.

Sharon Smith, author of Subterranean Fire: A History of Working Class Radicalism in the U.S. (Haymarket Books, 2006) discusses the limits of identity politics—the idea that only those experiencing a particular form of oppression can either define it or fight against it—and argues instead for a class-oriented strategy for fighting the oppression that women, Blacks, Latinos, and others face under capitalism.

Kevin Murphy’s Deutscher Prize lecture in defense of the Russian Revolution, and of the best left-wing historians’ works on the topic, confirms the mass, democratic character of the Bolsheviks and of the revolution itself. Kevin won the Deutscher Prize for his book Revolution and Counterrevolution: Class Struggle in a Moscow Metal Factory (Haymarket Books, 2007).

As part of a series of forthcoming articles on the year 1968, Joe Allen recounts the Tet Offensive in Vietnam—a mass, coordinated military assault on dozens of urban centers—that destroyed Lyndon Johnson’s chance for a second term and convinced millions of Americans that the war in Vietnam was unwinnable.

Phil Gasper’s regular column takes up the controversy over recent attempts to make respectable arguments that link race, or genetic inheritance, and IQ.

The narrow defeat of Hugo Chavez’s referendum for a new constitution is the topic of an article by Lee Sustar, who argues that the vote reflects some of the problems facing a movement that is attempting to promote social change from above without challenging the bourgeois state.

Mostafa Omar reviews Illan Pappé’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, a meticulously researched history by a revisionist Israeli historian who concludes that Israel was founded on the systematic terrorization of the Arab population of Palestine.

Sherry Wolf’s dissection of Ron Paul’s politics, which was posted on MRZine and Counterpunch before we put it into print here, has stirred up quite a bit of online controversy, an indication, in our opinion, of the timeliness and importance of the piece.

Snehal Shingavi reports on the neoliberal policies of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)—the governing party in West Bengal. The party, which has “long since abandoned the fight for radical social change,” has launched attacks on local peasants who are resisting the imposition of Special Economic Zones.

Marlene Martin’s Q&A explains the origins and current work of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

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