Monthly Review, NACLA, Proyect, Axtell?
Louis N Proyect
lnp3 at columbia.edu
Wed Feb 21 17:46:14 MST 1996
WHAT IS MONTHLY REVIEW
Paul Sweezy and Leo Huberman, two Marxist economists with no
party affiliation, founded the magazine Monthly Review in 1949. In
"Where We Stand", they state:
"The possibility and workability of such a system of society are no
longer open to doubt. Socialism became a reality with the introduction
of the first Five Year Plan in Soviet Russia in 1928; its power to
survive was demonstrated by the subsequent economic achievements of
the USSR during the 1930s, and finally, once and for all, in the war
against Nazi Germany. These facts--and they are facts which no
amount of wishful thinking can conjure away--give to the USSR a
unique importance in the development of socialism and the history of
We find completely unrealistic the view of those who call themselves
socialists, yet imagine that socialism can be built on an international
scale by fighting it where it already exists. This is the road to war, not
socialism. On the other hand, we do not accept the view that the USSR
is above criticism, simply because it is socialist. We believe in, and
shall be guided by, the principle that the cause of socialism has
everything to gain and nothing to lose from a full and frank discussion
of shortcomings, as well as accomplishments, of socialist countries and
socialist parties everywhere."
Some years later, MR created a publishing house. The magazine and
the publishing company represent a sort of "university of the left" that
have influenced and educated an entire generation of Marxists.
MR played a key role in explaining the imperialist nature of the
Vietnam war. It sought to show that American intervention into
Vietnam was not "mistake" but grew out of the nature of the system.
The Monthly Review and the Guardian newspaper were required
reading for many student leftists who were trying to develop a class
analysis of US foreign policy.
In the 1970s, MR turned its attention to Chile and the Cultural
Revolution. While much of the left was euphoric over Allende's
victory, MR developed a more critical view and published articles that
anticipated the danger from the Chilean military that culminated in
the 1973 Pinochet coup.
MR assigned major significance to the Cultural Revolution. Paul
Sweezy and Harry Magdoff, another MR editor, visited China in 1974
and came away with an appreciation that the Cultural Revolution, in
their eyes, confronted problems that the USSR had not faced:
bureaucracy and elitism, and the lack of participatory democracy.
Authors such as Hugh Deane and William Hinton, who are among the
most highly respected authorities on China, have contributed articles
over the years.
Charles Bettleheim has developed theories of socialism heavily
influenced by Mao Tse-tung's writings and the Chinese revolution. He
is the author of "China Since Mao" and "Class Struggles in the
USSR". It would be no exaggeration to say that he is the most
important Maoist theorist of the last forty years in the West. He said
the following of MR:
"Since its foundation, I read Monthly Review with the greatest
interest. It always helped me in the understanding of important events
of this last 40 years and it maintains a rare quality of analyzing
I was glad to have the opportunity of discussing in the pages of this
journal different matters of which I am especially interested.
It was the case in the 1960s concerning the relations between plan and
market, and the 1980s with the question of the nature of basic social
relations in the USSR. The discussions on this last subject with Paul
Sweezy were particularly stimulating."
Subscriptions to MR are $25 per year, $29 overseas; $22 for student
subscriptions. 122 West 27th St.,
10th Floor, New York, NY 10001
WHAT IS NACLA
The United States invaded the Dominican Republic by US in 1965 and
installed the Balaguer dictatorship. Student radicals in the United
States connected this event with the Vietnam war and decided to
challenge imperialist policy in our own hemisphere. More than
anything, these radicals decided that education was needed in order to
help mobilize public opinion against American gunboat diplomacy.
Michael Locker, a NACLA founder who was working with the SDS
Radical Education Project, said that some basic questions needed
answering: How do you make people in the US understand the
economic and military institutions, the government and the religious
organizations that perpetuate exploitation in Latin America? How do
you cut through the veil that obscures these relationships?
NACLA was formed in November 1966 by members of the Students
for a Democratic Society, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating
Committee and others. Its founding document stated that its purpose was
to "encourage, produce and distribute information designed to identify
and explain those elements and relationships of forces in the United
States and Latin American which inhibit and frustrate urgently needed
profound social and economic change."
There have been three general ideas that inform NACLA's work:
1) The work must be empirical and investigative. One of NACLA's
founders said, "We decided that was needed was factual
data...[NACLA] wasn't anti-theory, but a good theoretically-based
analysis without wasn't convincing without hard information to bring
it to people's sense of reality."
2) NACLA was concerned with the "political use of information". As
opposed to researchers on Latin America in academia, NACLA
selected issues that could provide information and analysis to people
involved in movements for social change.
3) NACLA sought to demystify the research process itself. It sought to
help researchers identify the precise sources of information needed to
investigate specific problems without assigning resources of the size
utilized by Brookings Institute or the Ford Foundation.
NACLA enjoys an excellent reputation among both left academics and
political activists. It has also become a target of the right-wing. The
Heritage Foundation urged the Senate Subcommittee on Security and
Terrorism to investigate NACLA. The IRS tried unsuccessfully to
revoke NACLA's tax-exempt status after a "field audit" failed to prove
that it produced "propaganda" rather than "research".
NACLA started to publish a newsletter in 1967. Early on it began to
write about the US media empire in Latin America, the Hanna
industrial complex, population control programs, raw materials
strategy, military aid and training programs.
In 1977 NACLA began publishing Report on the Americas, a monthly
journal. The editorial board of the publication includes some of the
most respected left-wing experts on Latin American studies in the
United States such as the following:
--Roger Burbach, the head of the Latin American studies department
at U. Cal., Berkeley and author of "Fire in the Americas", an attempt
to apply the lessons of the Central American revolution to US politics.
--Jack Hammond, author of books on Popular Education in El
Salvador and the struggle against Salazar in Portugal in the 1970s.
--Peter Kornbluth, head of the National Security Archives. The
archives helped to expose the secret funding of the contra war in
The current issue of the Report on the Americas includes the following
"The Free Flow of Money" by Doug Henwood
"Latin America in the Global Economy: Running Faster to Stay in
Place" by Gary Gereffi and Lynn Hempel
"The Mechanics of Brazil's Auto Industry" by Helen Shapiro
"In the Name of Fashion: Exploitation in the Garment Industry" by
"The GAP and Sweatshop Labor in El Salvador" by Barbara Briggs
and Charles Kernaghan
Subscriptions to NACLA cost $27 per year, $37 outside the US. Send
money to NACLA, PO Box 77, Hopewell, PA 16650-0077
WHO IS LOUIS PROYECT
I joined the Socialist Workers Party in 1967 because this group, along
with the CPUSA and pacifists like A.J. Muste, was spearheading
opposition to the Vietnam war through mass demonstrations. I turned
down an invitation from a college classmate to become a candidate
member of the Maoist Progressive Labor Party because this group,
despite fiery rhetoric, abstained from the antiwar coalition.
I never let the fact that the Vietnamese Communist Party had
repressed Trotskyists after WWII get in the way of my participation in
a movement that aided their cause. A Vietnamese victory would have
been a victory for the US working-class as well.
I left the SWP in 1978 because it was drifting in a workerist, sectarian
In 1982 I became involved with CISPES in NY and through my
involvement with Central American issues made the decision to visit
Nicaragua in 1984 on the occasion of the elections there. I made
contact with some Americans who were trying to organize technical
aid for Nicaraguan government agencies. The Nicaraguans needed
training in basic computer and engineering skills.
I made contact with a west coast group called Tecnica which was
beginning to organize brigades of Americans to volunteer their skills
to Nicaragua. I became the east coast coordinator of the group and
eventually the president of the board of directors.
Tecnica sent hundreds of volunteers to Nicaragua during the war
years. They helped to keep the infrastructure of the country going
during the embargo and bloody war. Our volunteers helped Ben Linder
with his rural electrification project until his murder by the contras.
After his death, they completed the project.
I am also one of the founders of the New York Greater Nicaragua
Solidarity Committee, an umbrella group of sister city projects, work
brigades, etc. that organized most of the political opposition to contra
funding in the New York area during the 1980s.
I was also part of the original task-force of Tecnica that went to ANC
headquarters in exile in Lusaka, Zambia in order to find out whether a
technical aid project was feasible for southern Africa. Shortly after the
task force returned, volunteers began to travel to Africa and
participated in the following projects:
1) Helped the ANC establish electronic communications between
headquarters and consulates around the world.
2) Trained SWAPO in the use of desktop publishing techniques which
they put to use in their victorious election campaign.
3) Worked with the governments of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and
Tanzania in various computer and engineering projects involved in
health-care, agricultural development, etc.
Over the last several years I have been training community activists,
trade unionists and others in the use of the Internet at the Brecht
Forum in NYC. Of the hundreds of people who have attended my
class, a large percentage, nearly fifteen percent I estimate, have been
black and female. Many of them are trying to use computers to provide
critical resources on behalf of the struggle against racism. I have also
given the class to Local 1180 in NY and to People with Disabilities in
I belong to the Committees of Correspondence, a non-sectarian
network of socialists who are trying to regroup larger left forces in the
direction toward an effective socialist party. I also endorse Solidarity,
another organization with a different heritage but common goals.
WHO IS DAN AXTELL
Please fill us in, Dan.
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