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A Study of Monthly Review’s Marxist Political Science in the Twenty-First Century: A View from China

An important and principled academic journal dealing with the theory and practice of Marxism and socialism, Monthly Review, was established by Leo Huberman and Paul M. Sweezy in 1949, at an especially difficult time for the U.S. left-wing movement, when it was encountering attacks and slanders under the Truman Doctrine and McCarthyism. Nevertheless, Monthly Review grew and eventually became one of the world’s most influential left-wing magazines. Over seventy years, it has published articles from numerous well-known social activists including Albert Einstein, W. E. B. DuBois, Che Guevara, Barbara Ehrenreich, Noam Chomsky, and Bernie Sanders. It has also brought together and developed many renowned Marxist scholars, such as Harry Magdoff, Paul A. Baran, Ellen Meiksins Wood, Robert W. McChesney, and John Bellamy Foster. In this way, it has made an outstanding contribution to the development not only of Marxist theory in the United States, but of world socialism as well.

Since 2000, Monthly Review has focused on the current world situation, pursuing the all-round development of Marxist studies. In this way, it has helped create a significant new trend within the U.S. left, especially in Marxist political science. With its radical style, serious attitude, diverse content, and innovative logic, Monthly Review has lent important strength to the development of Marxist analysis in the new century. At the same time, controversy continues to surround certain issues, which will no doubt keep generating future studies on global socialist theory and practice.

Beyond the Political Structure of the Capitalist Leviathan

In the field of Marxist political science, socialist democratic construction, and the theory of the state have always been crucial topics. Nevertheless, it has been remarked that “the Marxian theory of the state exhausted itself in the debates of the 1960s and ’70s and in the political defeats that followed,” while “few advances have been made in recent decades in the development of the theory of the state, particularly with respect to the advanced capitalist states themselves.”1 Even so, Monthly Review has continued to publish highly authoritative works from left-wing scholars as István Mészáros, Michael A. Lebowitz, and Marta Harnecker, who have pursued the goals of strengthening socialist political forces, enhancing democracy, and achieving practical gains for the left movement. In the era of capitalist political crisis, Monthly Review has clarified its theoretical principles and charted a practical path toward socialist political revolution, at the same time as pointing the way for future social reforms.

Monthly Review advocates a theory of moving beyond the capitalist state form of Leviathan authoritarianism in order to realize substantive democracy and equality, of carrying the fight beyond the current reality in order to defend social justice. To these ends, the magazine has engaged in many discussions of a vision of critical Marxist state theory in the twenty-first century. As an assistant and young colleague of Georg Lukács, Mészáros—a key MR thinker—set out his Lukács-styled logic in his Beyond Capital: Toward a Theory of Transition, where he called not only for abolishing classical capitalism, but for getting rid of the whole capitalist system. The key task of revolution, he maintained, was to overturn the executive agency of capital, the modern state, so that the radical class struggle could replace bourgeois representative democracy with a new social order. Mészáros pointed out that all capitalist state theory consisted basically of building giant walls to ensure legal governance by the ruling class, thus enhancing the ability of the Leviathan political power to deal with severe internal or external crisis. Meanwhile, the capitalist system constituted “a metabolic, or organic, order capable of its own reproduction, but only as long as the ‘command structure’ of the state is intact.”2

Based on this perspective, Mészáros approved the aim, set out in Karl Marx’s critical state theory, “to transcend the alienated capital-labor metabolism altogether, creating a society of substantive equality.”3 Mészáros acknowledged that the contemporary world was still divided into nation-states, and that posing the objective of abolishing these states in short order was naïve. He insisted, however, that it was necessary to analyze the requirements of social reform, so as to achieve “substantive equality” and “substantive democracy.” After the disappearance of Leviathan political states, people should be given back their old power, requiring substantive democracy and equality to ensure that people could take charge of society and build socialism. Mészáros pointed out sharply:

The question of substantive democracy is a matter of the vital decision-making processes in all domains and at all levels of the societal reproduction process, on the basis of substantive equality. And that requires the radical alteration of the social metabolism as a whole, superseding its alienated character and the alienating superimposition of overall political decision-making by the state over society. That is the only sense in which substantive democracy can acquire and maintain its meaning.4

For the sustainability of human history and the socialist project, it is crucial to uphold the principle of substantive democracy and equality. Bourgeois freedom and democracy, though disguised as “greater equality,” actually implement capitalist autocracy, with sovereignty over democracy always in the hands of capital instead of the people. A classless equality will never be achieved on this basis and, as a result, the objective of revolution should not be simply to take over a certain part of the old system, that is, capitalist state power, but to completely abolish and move beyond the essentially antagonistic relationship between capital and labor, making it possible to establish substantive equality. Mészáros further acknowledged that realizing substantive equality and democracy represents a very difficult and remote strategic goal. Nevertheless, it is only on the basis of fundamental equality and true democracy that it is possible to constantly evaluate the historical process of social reform and transition, and to make important progress toward the alternative system: socialism. This progress, meanwhile, also requires drawing a clear distinction with the failed Soviet model.

MR contributors call for upholding equality and justice via social reform, dialectically surpassing the traditional scope of socialist practice and making political breakthroughs in the social struggles of the new era. Daniel Finn dialectically analyzes various controversies that have arisen in the history of the world socialist movement, and argues that, in order to sustain socialist equality and justice, it is necessary to uphold the concept of the vanguard: “under normal circumstances, the politicized sections of the working class will thus be a minority, a vanguard if you will.”5 He supports Marxist thinking on nonhierarchical discussion, developing qualified left-wing politicians, reassessing the role of movement leaders, disarming the reactionary old authorities, and extending tolerance to dissenters after the revolution. Finn suggests that a broad socialist democracy should take the place of the tyranny of capital, and that it should be demarcated sharply from the erroneous trends of opportunism, adventurism, absolutism, and feudalism if it is to bring about substantive equality and democracy.

Criticism of the Capitalist State Apparatus

Proceeding from a Marxist perspective, Monthly Review has exposed the essence of class exploitation and the ruling mechanisms that underlie Western administrative and judicial systems, making special effort to develop a Marxist theory of the law. Since the beginning of the new century, the power of the imperialist state apparatus has grown increasingly massive. Led by the United States, the great Western powers have not only carried out military interventions outside their borders, but have also implemented secret surveillance and harsh administrative measures internally, placing a broad question mark over the very basis of the capitalist rule of law. More and more, left-wing Western thinkers who contribute to Monthly Review have begun pointing to the vices and drawbacks of the capitalist state apparatus, employing the concepts of Marxist political science to elaborate a legitimate concept of law.

Monthly Review has criticized the merger of the law of war with criminal law, while opposing surveillance and the violation of human rights and privacy in the name of patriotism, as defined by the ruling grand bourgeoisie and monopolistic interest groups. As Jean-Claude Paye observes, this combination of the law of war with criminal law has made the state fully able to dictate the population, leaving the ruling classes free to define their enemies and unleash wars on citizens under suspicion.6 Michael E. Tigar analyzes the U.S. historical tradition of constitutional violations, explaining that imprisoning “targets” through political investigation, internet surveillance, international courts, and classified files destroys the façade of political equality propped up by the bourgeoisie, demonstrating instead the absolute hypocrisy of the judicial system.

Monthly Review has also denounced the national emergency provisions of imperialist constitutionalism, which allow administrative power to override the law, and identified the police system as a core capitalist legal institution that continually denies civil liberties. Paye further notes that the constitutions of the United States and France include national emergency provisions that allow for the deprivation of civil rights by the state, thus permitting a dangerous political transition. The legalization of centralized political power in great capitalist states reveals the imperialist essence of so-called constitutional democracy, under which the constitution and congress can act as oppressive imperial machinery sustaining the privileges of the ruling class. Paye also observes that abuses by the judiciary can result in the rise of powerful police states, in which the enforcement powers of the police are maximized. In this way, the legal system is degraded and the police system is left as the core of the modern state, to the detriment of civil rights and popular interests.

Monthly Review further condemns capitalist criminal law and the prison system as found in the United States, exposing the class repression and racial oppression that is the basis of mass incarceration, and calls for humanitarian judicial reform. The U.S. prison system has long been denounced worldwide and, during the twenty-first century, its violence has worsened due to the creation by U.S. capitalism of the prison-industrial complex, an enormously profitable undertaking. Left-wing U.S. scholars agree that “prison has always been the final gate in the repressive apparatus of a state. It serves the purpose of social and political control, although it manifests itself differently in different nation-states and in different political periods.”7 Hannah Holleman states bluntly that neoliberalism has intensified the cruelty of U.S. prisons, with poorer conditions, more Black people jailed, severe racial injustice, and numerous other abuses. Richard D. Vogel details how the U.S. ruling class utilizes the prison system as an instrument of oppression. As the U.S. rulers attempt to lessen the chaos and solve the massive problems left by the postindustrial age, the prison system has been molded into a political machine through which the reactionary government deceives and represses working people.8 Monthly Review has called for the left to take the lead in building a movement to defeat capitalist states ruled by criminal laws, and to reset the course toward social revolution.

The Political Critique of Twenty-First-Century Imperialism

The theory of imperialism, which rests mainly on analysis of the monopoly capitalist economy, is an important part of Marxist political economy as well as Marxist political science in general. It demonstrates and verifies the expansionist and hegemonic actions of imperialist states in the fields of politics and the global economy, actions whose irrationality and atrocious character made the twentieth century the bloodiest and cruelest period in human history. Profiting from the “bonus” represented by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the tremendous changes in Eastern Europe, the United States entered the twenty-first century as the unchallenged leader of the imperialist world. At the center of the empire in a new era, MR contributors have continued their fearless, principled, and innovative criticism and exposure of the hegemonic politics of the United States, analyzing the imperialism of the twenty-first century with its stages of arrogance, crisis, and downfall. Exploring the new characteristics of the system in the first twenty years of the century, MR thinkers have applied Marxist politics to renewing and expanding the theory of imperialism for the contemporary era.

Stage 1: The Barbarity of Imperialism (2000–07)

The years from 2000 to 2007 were a time of arrogance and barbarity for imperialism. In the articles and comments on imperialism appearing in Monthly Review during the period leading up to the financial crisis, the theme of barbarism figured prominently. Monthly Review has declaimed against the new imperialist hegemony generated by capitalist globalization, urging the left to stay alert to the dangers of global neoliberal militarism in the new era. Samir Amin, in an article for Monthly Review, concludes that imperialism is an inevitable requirement of capitalist global expansion, and that globalization is unavoidable under capitalism. At its third historical stage, Amin argues, imperialism controls the world market through the mechanisms of financial capital, plunders the resources of the planet, commands the leading voices of ideology, and maintains its hegemony with military force, thus revealing the nature of imperialist authoritarianism.9 MR editors compare the Iraq War to the Vietnam War, criticizing the right-wing conservative militarism that, together with imperialism, trapped the U.S. army in Iraq, in what Noam Chomsky calls an “imminent crisis.”10

The magazine has also pointed out that imperialism is equivalent to terrorism, developing the theory of “the two wings of the eagle” of U.S. empire. Following 9/11, Monthly Review countered the hateful fervor of right-wing U.S. media. Chomsky noted that the United States has always been a leading terrorist state, supporting and participating in a wide range of terrorist actions. In Chomsky’s view, terrorism is only equivalent to the “low-intensity warfare” that the United States unashamedly wages, and the actions of terrorists pale by comparison with those of imperialism.11 The Iraq War shocked the whole world, but beyond the cruelty and inhumanity of imperialist war, William K. Tabb analyzes the historical logic of the U.S. worldwide economic-military intervention system. Positing the concept of “the two wings of the eagle,” Tabb explains:

The one [wing], the Wilsonian, is multilateralist and concerned with constructing global state governance institutions. The other is the unilateralist shock-and-awe approach, which holds that the way to gain respect is to use your big stick. The first tends to be liberal in the terms of U.S. politics and to represent transnational capital and international finance which prefer an open trading system based on the stakeholder hegemony discussed earlier. The second [wing] comes from the cowboy capitalism side, the oil industry, the military contractors, and the religious crusaders.12

Tabb points out that these two tendencies of U.S. policy, between which Washington switches freely, imply the desire of empire to feature both as dictator within neoliberalism and commander within militarism. These two barbaric roles have appeared throughout the history of imperialism.

Monthly Review has also analyzed the structural crisis of imperialism, and predicts that imperialist monopoly finance will pose greater and greater political and economic hazards. Mészáros states frankly that the political and judicial system fostered by the imperialist order has created instability and danger globally by assigning a leading role to monopoly capitalist politics: “What makes all this particularly disturbing is that concerning all matters of major importance—some of which may result in the destruction of humanity—we find at the highest levels of political decision making in the United States an utterly unholy consensus.”13 Monthly Review has also contended that financialization is a feature of imperialism, yet the subject has attracted limited attention compared to neoliberalism or globalization. Many thinkers have commented sharply on the risk of further financial crisis, noting that financialization produces market bubbles that encourage and conceal opportunistic practices. The effect is to weaken the political functions of the state, putting the world on the brink of uncontrollability and threatening to crush the whole system.14

Stage 2: Cracks in Imperialism (2008–15)

The period from 2008 to 2015 was one of crisis throughout the imperialist system. The subprime crisis and the ensuing financial tsunami, both of which began in the United States, swept the international market and set off a domino effect that sunk world capitalism into the biggest systematic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The cracks revealed during this dangerous time for imperialism brought concentrated political criticism from numerous MR contributors. The magazine has spoken out against imperialist monopolies and their role in uncontrollable social disasters, and has argued that the economic crisis, together with military failures, is costing the United States its global hegemony.Robert W. McChesney points directly to the political maladies hidden behind the financial crisis, showing that U.S. politics ignores real human rights and democracy, electing only spokespeople for certain capitalist groups, and takes an indulgent attitude toward political abuses, causing the world steadily greater harm.15 Tabb explains how U.S. military action in Afghanistan and Iraq became notorious for its unilateralism, and that the implosion of global finance has left the Washington Consensus moribund, with the “two wings of the eagle” threatened with the prospect of being fatally broken.16

Monthly Review has called on the global left to seize the historic opportunity provided by the cracks in imperialism, to rethink the Occupy Wall Street movement, and to save the world from further turmoil and danger by exposing the rising ideology of neofascism. Michael D. Yates has shown how the Occupy movement reflected the internal conflicts of imperialism at a profound level. U.S. elections, with their lobbying system and strategy of depoliticization, aggravate the widening class gap, at the same time as imperialism is cooperating on a global scale to raise the level of social exploitation and thwart any progress toward democratic justice and equality. Under the blows of the financial crisis, the United States is seeking once again to adopt the tactics of hostile conservative geopolitics and to reset fascist policies. Foster warns that “this grim reality marks the failed peace—Pox Americana rather than Pax Americana—of a failed system.”17 Amin declares that imperialist politics dominated by monopoly capital should be comprehensively resisted, and advocates a new internationalist liberation movement led by the people.18 The rise of imperialist military interventions and democratic oppression, however, is giving rise to dangerous mutants of fascism, against which the world needs to be on the alert.19

Monthly Review dialectically analyzes the concept of neoimperialism, now popular in left-wing academic circles, and develops an understanding of the present historical stage as that of “the new imperialism of globalized monopoly-finance capital.” The magazine provides a home for independent views on the evolution of imperialism historically and how to understand its features in the new century. In Monthly Review’s special summer 2015 issue, neither Foster nor Amin expresses full agreement with alternative concepts such as postmodern Empire, super-imperialism, and transnational capitalism, nor with the distinction between neoliberal “new imperialism” and “New Deal imperialism.” Both thinkers consider that “the fundamental parameters of imperialism” delineated in classical works remain central even though the “phenomenology” of imperialism has changed.20 Therefore, imperialism in the twenty-first century is simply a new stage in the dominance of globalized monopoly-finance capital; it is not outside the scope of classical Marxism-Leninism, politically or economically, but represents a continuation of the Marxist theory of imperialism.21

Stage 3: Imperialism: The Late Period (2016–21)22

Since 2016, with the presidential election victory of Donald J. Trump, the imperialism of the new century has taken an evermore reactionary and destructive path. Monthly Review criticizes late imperialism’s irrationality and decadence, affirming that, although the imperialist core of the system is weakening, its destructive power in relation to the planet and human civilization is still enormous, requiring a more unified, global revolutionary response.

In this respect, Monthly Review takes a clear-cut stand on revealing the neofascist essence of the Trump administration, criticizing the administration’s right-wing policies and the harm they are doing to the world. While other left-wing publications avoid discussing the neofascist behavior of the United States, Monthly Review has argued that the election of Trump marked a turning point for U.S. imperialist hegemony, coming under severe risk of falling into the neofascist vortex.23 In a 2017 debate with Dylan Riley, a member of the New Left Review editorial committee, Foster systematically explores the connections between neofascism and today’s imperialism, pointing out that Trump-style fascism incites action by right-wing reactionaries around the world and poses a huge threat to the development of society.24 Addressing the havoc created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Foster and Rob Wallace indicate that neoliberalism and neofascism aggravate the systematic oppression imposed by capitalist states, and that racism and nationalism are wielded in attempts to tear apart the world’s political and economic territory.25

Monthly Review analyzes in depth the structure of today’s imperialist politics and identifies the dead end represented by the policies of imperialism. As Amin explains, today’s imperialism is ruled by a tiny minority of the big bourgeoisie, which set out to divide the proletariat and deter it from activity, making political claims via their own media teams, hindering political reform and social development through a specific political system.26 Monthly Review points to the ways in which late imperialism, through grave damage to the environment and the safety of the planet, is leading humanity to the very edge of self-destruction. In addition, the magazine proposes strategies for the left’s fight against late imperialism. For many years, Monthly Review has insisted on the need for the comprehensive study of Marxist ecology, economics, and political science, contending that the Anthropocene (or Capitalinian) and late imperialism directly threaten the earth system, not only putting an end to capitalism, but also to the whole of human civilization.27 Foster observes that, in the late imperialist epoch, humanity faces the multiple threats of neoliberalism, neofascism, fossil-energy capital, and permanent militarism. These require strong social movements able to fight against all aspects of imperialism, racism, misogyny, patriarchy, and ecocide, unifying the power of the working class throughout the world and abolishing the Leviathan of capital.28 Monthly Review’s theory of late imperialism unquestionably provides important insights for left-wing activists as they organize and struggle.

Twenty-First-Century Socialism and the Ecological Socialist Revolution

Faced with the epochal crisis of late imperialism, left-wing thinkers are trying to devise solutions that can save the planet and civilization. As a result, the theory and practice of socialist revolution has become a new priority for study by Marxist political science. During a difficult time for traditional working-class movements and socialist revolutions, Monthly Review actively supports and praises the diversity of socialist revolutionary programs, taking a broad view of global politics, economics, culture, and ecology so as to explore future guidelines for socialist revolutions. Among these plans and directions, theories of twenty-first-century socialism and ecosocialist revolution have become a focus of Monthly Review’s analysis, providing constructive alternatives for the socialism of the new era.

Initiatives of Twenty-First-Century Socialism

Monthly Review strongly supports the theory and practice of “twenty-first-century socialism,” advocating a return to Marx while trying to establish new political dimensions for socialist construction in the new century. Under difficult conditions for socialist movements, Monthly Review has shown a determination to regard innovation and transition in socialist politics as key themes for study. The magazine has therefore focused on the political structure of Venezuelan twenty-first-century socialism, mainly through the work of Michael A. Lebowitz and Marta Harnecker. This work has brought about a remarkable expansion of the range of study of today’s Marxist politics. Here, Monthly Review sets out to establish the basic meaning of twenty-first-century socialism. Lebowitz, for one, addresses three mischaracterizations of socialism for the twenty-first century: (1) It is not a form of capitalism. “Socialism for the twenty-first century is not a society in which people sell their ability to work and are directed from above by others whose goal is profits rather than the satisfaction of human needs.” (2) It is not populism, nor is it “a statist society where decisions are top-down and where all initiative is the property of state office-holders or cadres of self-reproducing vanguards.” (3) It is not totalitarianism, it does not dictate personal beliefs, and does not worship technology and productive forces.29

In line with Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, Lebowitz advocates a revolution from the bottom up, and argues against total control by an authoritarian dictatorship, against calculated social distribution, against environmental degradation, and against factional opposition activity. This reveals a thoughtful introspection and an attention to earlier socialist experience and lessons, articulating a valuable socialist vision in a new way. Monthly Review calls for undertaking a political reform based on what Hugo R. Chávez called “the elementary triangle of socialism,” consisting of an organic relation between social property, social production, and the satisfaction of social needs. If the triangle is to be stabilized, state capital must be integrated within it by political means, and the control and utilization of the state apparatus by reactionary capital must be ended. Lebowitz stresses the need to realize “the protagonism of the people,” so as to help achieve socialist political reform in reality, inheriting and absorbing previous necessary social elements while creating new agencies to devise plans of cooperation and labor allocation to satisfy people’s political and economic needs.30 This process is to end in the construction of a progressive commune-type, where the potential of the people can be fully released.31 Citing the theory of socialist transition put forward by Marx in the Critique of the Gotha Program, Lebowitz calls for a political entity built on Lukács’s conception of proletarian class consciousness instead of the Soviet model, indicating that twenty-first-century socialism needs to be different than traditional Marxist state construction theory.

In line with this general approach, Monthly Review anticipates the need to develop “new human beings” through socialist political practice. Lebowitz observes that capitalism produces “the fragmented, crippled human being whose enjoyment consists in possessing and consuming things, the impoverished human being.”32 Hence, socialism must liberate and develop people as individuals and collectively, allowing them to become new human beings. He quotes Chávez to the effect that socialists have to be made, and that the new type of socialism must be humanist, assigning first place to life and not to states or machines. “Socialism for the twenty-first century is a revolutionary restoration—the return to Marx’s understanding of socialism.”33 To develop new socialist human beings is a necessary demand, one that provides a guarantee of the construction and consolidation of a new socialism, completing the theoretical loop of which twenty-first-century socialism is the practical embodiment.

Ecosocialist Politics

Basing itself on existing critiques of capitalism and on Marxist ecology, Monthly Review posits the creation of an ecosocialism of the twenty-first century. The best-known figure involved in Monthly Review’s Marxist ecological studies is undoubtedly Foster, editor of the magazine and a professor of sociology at the University of Oregon. He has published a long series of high-quality texts criticizing the “epochal crisis” caused by the global hegemony of imperialism in the new century.34 His work has laid out a political path for the establishing of ecosocialism, and posed three main ideas.

First, the ecosocialism of the twenty-first century must get rid of capitalism, the system that prevents humanity’s sustainable development. Twenty-first-century socialism must guide the social revolution with Marxist theory, rebuild the whole system of political analysis and social distribution, and create new socialist models that accord with human needs and the development of the planet. In the period of late imperialism and globalized monopoly-finance capital, the systemic crisis is not only causing an inevitable economic implosion, but is overdrawing natural resources and the earth’s environment. The system itself poses a severe threat to the survival of the human race, and must be replaced.

Foster agrees with Lewis Mumford’s “basic communism” view, expressed in The Condition of Man, that a stationary state or steady state economy is only possible in a society in which distribution is organized “according to need, not according to ability or productive contribution.”35 Under these conditions, socialism utilizes the social surplus, instead of production generated by the profit system, to satisfy people’s requirements and ensure ecological sustainability; it transfers social power to the producers and creates a society based directly on use values rather than exchange values. In this way, it achieves a harmonious coexistence between humanity and nature, upholding Marxist historical materialism in practice, overcoming the quandaries spelled out in the theory of the metabolic rift, and transforming society.

Second, political revolutions must be achieved by working people, who as a new “environmental proletariat” become the subjects of the revolution, entering into alliances with members of a wide range of movements. Ecological Marxists believe that working-class people who are aware of the connection between the crisis of the environment and the tyranny of capitalism are becoming a new environmental proletariat; the effect of their activity is to drive the class struggle beyond the economic realm, intensifying the realistic manifestations of their “co-revolutionary” status, and deepening the connotations of class struggle in the new era.36 Traditional working-class politics joins forces with environmental activism, antiracist struggles, and feminist movements, combining to form a broad revolutionary alliance of great influence and force. Strongly challenging the rule of imperialism and equipped with the guidance of Marxism, this alliance will be at the front of the construction of a future socialism.

Third, the final key idea advanced by Foster concerns the need to expound two stages of the social revolution, discussing the minimum and maximum programs of the revolution and visualizing ecosocialism in specific, practical terms. Foster divides the current ecological revolution into two main stages: (1) As a minimum program at the stage of capitalist democracy, the task is to try to unite as many people as possible, especially oppressed people, into an extensive revolutionary front that can fight for a sustainable mode of social development. (2) After attaining the stage of ecosocialism, it is necessary to enact a maximum program, establishing a society of substantive equality, ecological sustainability, and collective democracy toward the liberation of human beings as well as the return of nature to a state of health. Foster argues that to achieve the minimum program, we need to reduce carbon emissions, undertake a radical redistribution of income and wealth, develop alternative energy sources, divert military spending to the defense of the planet, block fossil fuels, radically cut down consumption, advocate for global cooperation, and protect environmental justice. This, he maintains, can provide the basis for the maximum program that achieves in full the ecosocialist goals of: (1) distribution according to human needs; (2) restructuring the social metabolic system so that it becomes more publicly owned, equitable, and impartial; (3) combining social management, ecological projects, political reforms, and global governance; and (4) achieving systematic security for human reproduction and natural circulation.37 Foster’s initiative is aimed at constructing an ecological socialism that truly cares for nature and serves the broad masses of people, fighting for the freedom and development of the entire human population in the twenty-first century.

The March Toward the Future in Left-Wing Politics

 Monthly Review’s studies in the area of Marxist political science have great value and innovative significance for the present era. The magazine has developed an epochal series of theories that focus on the new situations, needs, goals, and practices for the left in the current century. It explores and promotes Marxist politics historically and realistically; it relates classical Marxist theory to today’s global politics, economies, culture, society, and ecology, using a problem-oriented approach to drive the theory ahead. It explores revolutionary themes and goes beyond existing Marxist theories; it provides leadership to left-wing movements by advancing radical views; it presents a strong challenge to the old system and the authority of capitalism, calling for a struggle to achieve the grand aims of socialism. Finally, Monthly Review opens up a new pattern for international Marxist thinkers and activists—engaging with prominent theorists of the international left; initiating multilateral, multidimensional, and multivariant studies in the area of theory; and pursuing diversity to broaden the scope of Marxist thinking. Above all, the innovation carried out by Monthly Review in all these areas has helped create a huge new academic space for the development of Marxist political science, an achievement that deserves the applause and respect of the entire global left, as well as careful study.

The U.S. left historically suffers considerable repression and more critical academic analyses are often excluded from the mainstream, while many left-wing scholars suffer surveillance and black-listing.38 Additionally, Monthly Review, like most small left-wing publications, faces inherent financial challenges. Nevertheless, the independent socialist magazine has been steadfast in its criticism of the system.

Monthly Review has honestly admitted to shifts in thinking, for example, regarding the development of assessments of China’s socialism over the last two decades. Nevertheless, it has pointed out that China quickly recovered from the world financial crisis, in the process reviving Marxism in the context of the critique of neoliberalism, while the spread of ecological Marxism reveals the vitality of socialism with Chinese characteristics for the new era.39 As Foster puts it:

In this rapidly changing global situation, Chinese President Xi Jinping has recently emphasized the importance of reviving the role of Marxian political economy in China and the rejection of the neo-liberal extremes of neoclassical economics in conjunction with the reassertion of the importance of state property and rural revitalization within the overall economy. All the signs are that China is seeking to defend the strategic non-capitalist elements of its system as a response to the growing hostility of imperial capital at the center of the world economy. China’s answer to COVID-19, employing the model of “people’s revolutionary war” as a way of encouraging the self-organization of the population in its localities, has been a resounding success, pointing to the internal solidity of the polity and the potential revolutionary protagonism of its people.40

It is to be hoped that that Monthly Review’s Marxism will continue to generate an open, positive, and constructive space for the global development of left-wing political theory in the coming decades of the twenty-first century.


  1. John Bellamy Foster, “Marx’s Open-Ended Critique,” Monthly Review 70, no. 1 (April 2018): 1–16.
  2. John Bellamy Foster, “Mészáros and the Critique of the Capital System: Foreword to The Necessity of Social Control,” Monthly Review 66, no. 7 (December 2014): 7.
  3. Foster, “Mészáros and the Critique of the Capital System.”
  4. István Mészáros, “The Critique of the State: A Twenty-First Century Perspective,” Monthly Review 67, no. 4 (September 2015): 23–37.
  5. Daniel Finn, “Sustaining Equality and Justice in the Struggle for Socialism,” Monthly Review 57, no. 10: (March 2006): 52–62.
  6. Jean-Claude Paye, “Merging the Law of War with Criminal Law: France and the United States,” Monthly Review 66, no. 3 (July–August 2014): 128–35.
  7. Marilyn Buck, “The U.S. Prison State,” Monthly Review 55, no. 9 (February 2004): 49–54.
  8. Richard D. Vogel, “Silencing the Cells: Mass Incarceration and Legal Repression in U.S. Prisons,” Monthly Review 56, no. 1 (May 2004): 37–43.
  9. Samir Amin, “Imperialism and Globalization,” Monthly Review 53, no. 2 (June 2001): 6–24.
  10. Noam Chomsky, “Imminent Crises: Threats and Opportunities,” Monthly Review 59, no. 2 (June 2007): 1–19.
  11. Noam Chomsky, “The United States is a Leading Terrorist State: An Interview with Noam Chomsky,” Monthly Review 53, no. 6 (November 2001): 10–19.
  12. William K. Tabb, “The Two Wings of the Eagle,” Monthly Review 55, no. 3 (July–August 2003): 76–82.
  13. István Mészáros “The Structural Crisis of Politics,” Monthly Review 58, no. 4 (September 2006): 38.
  14. John Bellamy Foster, “The Financialization of Capitalism,” Monthly Review 58, no. 11 (April 2007): 1–12.
  15. Robert W. McChesney and John Bellamy Foster, “Capitalism, the Absurd System: A View from the United States,” Monthly Review 62, no. 2 (June 2010): 1–16.
  16. William K. Tabb, “Four Crises of the Contemporary World Capitalist System,” Monthly Review 60, no. 5 (October 2008): 43–59.
  17. John Bellamy Foster, “A Failed System: The World Crisis of Capitalist Globalization and Its Impact on China,” Monthly Review 60, no. 10 (March 2009): 19.
  18. Samir Amin, “Seize the Crisis!,” Monthly Review 61, no. 7 (December 2009): 1–16.
  19. Samir Amin, “The Return of Fascism in Contemporary Capitalism,” Monthly Review 66, no. 4 (September 2014): 1–12.
  20. Atilio Borón, Empire and Imperialism (London: Zed, 2005): 2–4.
  21. John Bellamy Foster, “The New Imperialism of Globalized Monopoly-Finance Capital: An Introduction,” Monthly Review 67, no. 3 (July–August 2015): 1–22.
  22. John Bellamy Foster, “Late Imperialism: Fifty Years After Harry Magdoff’s The Age of Imperialism,” Monthly Review 71, no. 3 (July–August 2019): 1–19.
  23. John Bellamy Foster, “Neofascism in the White House,” Monthly Review 68, no. 11 (April 2017).
  24. Editors, “Notes from the Editors, July–August 2019,” Monthly Review 71, no. 3 (July–August 2019).
  25. John Bellamy Foster and Intan Suwandi, “COVID-19 and Catastrophe Capitalism: Commodity Chains and Ecological-Epidemiological-Economic Crises,” Monthly Review 72, No. 2 (June 2020): 1–20; Rob Wallace, Alex Liebman, Luis Fernando Chaves, and Rodrick Wallace, “COVID-19 and Circuits of Capital New York to China and Back,” Monthly Review 72, no. 1 (May 2020): 1–15.
  26. Samir Amin, “The New Imperialist Structure,” Monthly Review 71, no. 3 (July–August 2019): 32–45.
  27. Foster, “Late Imperialism”; John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark, “The Capitalinian: The First Geological Age of the Anthropocene,” Monthly Review 73, no. 4 (September 2021).
  28. John Bellamy Foster and Farooque Chowdhury, “The Rise of the Right,” Monthly Review 71, no. 5 (October 2019): 1–11.
  29. Michael A. Lebowitz, “What Is Socialism for the Twenty-First Century?,” Monthly Review 68, no. 5 (October 2016): 26.
  30. Lebowitz, “What Is Socialism for the Twenty-First Century?,” 31.
  31. Lebowitz, “What Is Socialism for the Twenty-First Century?,” 36.
  32. Lebowitz, “What Is Socialism for the Twenty-First Century?,” 29–30.
  33. Lebowitz, “What Is Socialism for the Twenty-First Century?,” 41–42.
  34. John Bellamy Foster, “The Epochal Crisis,” Monthly Review, vol. 65, no. 5 (October 2013): 1–12.
  35. Lewis Mumford, The Condition of Man (1944; repr. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973), 467.
  36. David Harvey, The Enigma of Capital (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 228–35.
  37. John Bellamy Foster, “The Great Capitalist Climacteric: Marxism and ‘System Change Not Climate Change,’” Monthly Review 67, no. 6 (November 2015): 1–18.
  38. Editors, “Notes from the Editors, January 2017,” Monthly Review 68, no. 8 (January 2017), c2.
  39. Editors, “Notes from the Editors, July–August 2021,” Monthly Review 7, no. 3 (July–August 2021).
  40. John Bellamy Foster, “China 2020: An Introduction,” Monthly Review 72, no. 5 (October 2020), 1–5.