Notes from the Editors

Monthly Review, April 2018 | Go to article overview

Notes from the Editors


In the Review of the Month in this issue, Gerald Horne writes that "what is euphemistically referred to as 'modernity' is marked with the indelible stain of what might be termed the Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Slavery, White Supremacy, and Capitalism." Horne's powerful essay, adapted from the introduction to his new book The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism, exemplifies the recent resurgence of black Marxist thought and theories of "racial capitalism." These form part of a triad of revolutionary new developments in Marxist theory, building on Marx's own open-ended critical analysis, that address (1) social reproduction of the household, (2) the expropriation of nature, and (3) racial capitalism. The first two were discussed in Reviews of the Month in the January and March issues of MR, and Horne's article gives readers an extraordinarily rich view of the third.

The greatest sociologist in U.S. history was undoubtedly W. E. B. Du Bois, who moved through several stages in his radical intellectual career, ending up as a powerful historical-materialist thinker. In works such as Black Reconstruction in America, Du Bois joined Marxism with the revolutionary struggle for black liberation, and one of his most important essays from this period was "Negroes and the Crisis of Capitalism in the United States," published in the April 1954 issue of MR. But if Du Bois remains an essential starting point for discussions of black Marxism in the United States, current discussions also draw deeply on the work of Cedric J. Robinson, particularly his Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition, first published in 1983. In his nuanced analysis, Robinson focused on three major figures in that tradition: Du Bois, C. L. R. James, and Richard Wright. Today, interest in Robinson's long-neglected work has been revived by such thinkers as Robin D. G. Kelley, Bill Fletcher Jr. (a longtime friend of MR), and Angela Davis. (See especially Kelley's episode on Robinson for the podcast This Is Hell!, Fletcher's recent YouTube video on "Black Marxism," and Davis's "Interview on the Futures of Black Radicalism," Verso blog, October 11, 2017-all reposted on MR Online.) This in turn has brought renewed attention not only to the writers mentioned above, but also to other theorists of racial capitalism, such as noted MR and Monthly Review Press authors Grace Lee Boggs, James Boggs, Oliver Cox, and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. Horne's own pioneering work-in such books as Race to Revolution and Confronting Black Jacobins, as well as The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism, all published by Monthly Review Press-has played an important role in this renewal of black radical scholarship.

The last few years have also seen an explosion of interest in racial capitalism, within the broad historical-materialist tradition, particularly in studies of the role of slavery in the origins of industrial capitalism-a theme already present in Marx's famous chapter on "The Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist" in Capital, but long downplayed. In addition to Horne's work, recent pathbreaking accounts include Sven Beckert's Empire of Cotton (Knopf, 2014), Edward E. Baptist's The Half Has Never Been Told (Basic, 2014), and Walter Johnson's River of Dark Dreams (Harvard University Press, 2017). In January 2017, Johnson opened a discussion in Boston Review titled "Race Capitalism Justice," arguing that slavery should be placed at the core of any analysis of capitalism as a racial system and raising fundamental questions of justice and humanity that extend to the present day. Johnson's essay was accompanied by perceptive responses from N. D. B. Connolly, Peter James Hudson, Peniel Joseph, Peter Linebaugh, Donna Murch, Caitlin C. Rosenthal, Manisha Sinha, Stephanie Smallwood, Andrew Zimmerman, and others. Together their contributions form one of the most provocative and inspiring exchanges on slavery, capitalism, race, and justice we have ever seen. ("Race Capitalism Justice" is available as a separate publication, with an introduction by Kelley, at http://store. …

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