Chris Harman


Pick of the quarter

(Winter 2006)

From International Socialism (2nd series), No.109, Winter 2006.
Copyright © International Socialism.
Downloaded with thanks from the International Socialism Website.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The Bolivian election was due to take place two days after we went to print. But the country seems likely to be in turmoil in the months ahead, whatever the outcome. Two recent articles are a useful complement to Mike Gonzalez’s piece in our last issue. Forrest Hylton and Sinclair Thomson provide an account of the last two uprisings in the October issue of New Left Review (available on, while Robert Albro writes on the country’s indigenous movements in the October issue of the Bulletin of Latin American Studies.

Anyone prone to write off workers’ struggles in Third World countries should read the fascinating account of the strikes against the privatisation of Pakistan’s telecoms corporation by Aasim Sajjad Akhtar in the October Monthly Review (

The November issue also contains two pieces of some interest. Chinese-born Yiching Wu grapples with developments in his homeland from a critical Marxist point of view in Rethinking China’s “Capitalist Restoration” (, discussing, among other ideas, those put forward by myself and Mike Haynes.

John Mage and Nepalese revolutionary Parvati provide an account of the guerrilla struggles to overthrow Nepal’s monarchy, described by Parvati as a struggle for ‘people’s power’ to ‘build a national capitalist economic base with a socialist orientation’ ( and Those with memories of the over-glowing accounts of guerrilla movements against imperialism in places like Mozambique, Guinea Bissau and Angola 30 years ago will identify with the resistance to the monarchic dictatorship, but will be wary about taking at face value all of the articles’ claims about the popular movement.

Africa is becoming a continent of increased interest to the imperialist powers because of oil, and growing competition between China and the US. Sandra T. Barnes argues in a very useful article in the Review of African Political Economy (July-September 2005) that this is leading to ‘strategic philanthropy’ on the one hand and a proliferation of US bases on the other.

In the same issue, Tim Jacoby shows how the notion of ‘failed states’ is being used to justify such intervention.

Some years back the American Marxists Anwar Shaikh and Ahmet Tonak produced an analysis of the statistical development of the US economy in terms of Marxist economic categories such as the rate of profit and the rate of exploitation (Measuring the Wealth of Nations, 1984). Simon Mohun provides a corrective update of some of their figures in the September issue of the Cambridge Journal of Economics. He concludes that the rate of surplus value on productive labour is around 2.9, as opposed to their estimate of 2.3.

Readers wanting to follow up our coverage of present day China should look at the September issue of the China Quarterly. It centres on culture today, with particularly interesting articles by Jeroen de Kloet on social comment in popular music and by Deborah Davis on consumption in the cities, with a breakdown of social differentiation and consumption levels in Shanghai. Few readers will be able to afford the journal – but some will be able grab the chance to read it in university libraries.

Supporting the struggle of a country against imperialism does not necessarily mean ignoring the way the local rulers exploit the workers and peasants. Readers who understand this will be interested in an article by Tuong Vu in Communist and Post-Communist Studies (September 2005). Based on archival research in Hanoi, it looks at the way workers struggled within what claimed to be a socialist state.

The last two issues of Historical Materialism for 2005 contained a number of articles taking up issues debated in International Socialism. Among them are Neil Davidson’s polemical Isaac Deutscher memorial prize lecture on bourgeois revolutions; Paul Blackledge on the late Brian Manning and Manning on the Levellers; Rick Kuhn on Henryk Grossman; Daniel Bensaïd on John Holloway; and Ian Birchall on books on Trotskyism.


Last updated on 12 January 2010