THIS ISSUE of the ISR arrives in the midst of a major political and economic turning point—a shift in U.S. politics and a world financial crisis. By the time this issue reaches readers, the first African-American president will have been elected in the United States. His election represents the end of a long period of conservative ascendancy. However, as Lance Selfa’s analysis notes, the Democrats remain a party of big business. They will now set about attempting to restore the economic and military might of U.S. imperialism. But Obama will also face pressure—how much cannot now be predicted—to provide relief to ordinary people who feel, rightly, that the corporations responsible for the current crisis are receiving all the benefits of the bailout.
The worst financial crisis since the 1930s is now becoming the worst recession since the end of the Second World War. The crisis has prompted the kind of state intervention not seen since Roosevelt and has dealt an ideological death-blow to the free-market dogma of the past 25 years. It is not, of course, the “final” crisis of capitalism. As Leon Trotsky’s speech to the Communist International in 1921 explained, so long as the working class is not strong enough to challenge it, capitalism
will continue to live in cycles, swinging up and down. Crises and booms were inherent in capitalism at its very birth; they will accompany it to its grave. But to determine capitalism’s age and its general condition—to establish whether it is still developing or whether it has matured or whether it is in decline—one must diagnose the character of the cycles. In much the same manner the state of the human organism can be diagnosed by whether the breathing is regular or spasmodic, deep or superficial, and so on.
This crisis, as Joel Geier explains in his feature article, will be deeper and more prolonged than previous cyclical crises of recent decades. Geier outlines the origins of the crisis, its ideological and political impact, and how it is changing the contours of the world system. We also include supplementary analyses from Lee Sustar, Phil Gasper, and Argentinian Marxist Eduardo Lucita.
Economic turmoil is not the only thing roiling the planet. Climate change is threatening serious problems for life on Earth in the coming decades that must be addressed. Chris Williams outlines the scale of the problem, and why, though solutions exist, the capitalist system finds it so difficult to implement them.
In an ISR interview, Christian Parenti explains that if Afghanistan was Bush’s way into Iraq, it is now being presented as the way out. The war in Afghanistan, however, looks set to be a potentially worse mess than Iraq—unwinnable, in Parenti’s opinion. In a related piece, Ashley Smith explains that the occupation of Iraq still faces serious problems because the surge was not all it was cracked up to be.
Jeffery Webber’s analysis of Bolivia after the presidential referendum reveals how president Evo Morales, who rode to power on a wave of popular indigenous support, is attempting to do the impossible—straddle between his peasant and working-class base and the wealthy who want to see him thrown out.
On the domestic front, Sarah Knopp, a teacher from Los Angeles, explores the mushrooming of charter schools across the country, and how they are the sharp edge of an attack on public education.
In another important interview, Paco Ignacio Taibo II, a renowned Mexican novelist who was active in the student movement at the time, explores the student movement in the late 1960s surrounding the infamous massacre in Tlatelolco.
Finally, Todd Chretien pays tribute to a fallen comrade: Peter Camejo.