EDITORIAL PERSPECTIVES - FALL 2000 (continued)
Through the years, Annette has defended class and political
prisoners, such as the Trenton Six, the Rosenbergs and Morton
Sobell, the Attica Brothers and the Harlem Six, organizing around
these cases and producing pamphlets which are classics of U. S.
political literature: The Black Panther Party and the Harlem 21,
Attica 1971-1975, and Suicide on Rykers Island. In these pamphlets Annette convinces the reader intellectually by objectively
presenting the facts of the case, while touching you at the deepest levels of your humanity. Whenever as an activist she takes up
a defense, she somehow shows defense itself to be not just necessary but always possible.
Blacklisting during the McCarthy period by no means put an
end to her political and educational work. She was a co-founder
of the Fund for Social Analysis, a grant-making body established
during the darkest years of McCarthyism for the support of independent research and writing in Marxist studies. Her association
with the Fund led to her third subpoena to appear before the House
Un-American Activities Committee, issued in the late 1950s.
Annette has fought equally hard against racism at home and
imperialism abroad. During the Mississippi Summer of 1964, she
helped found the Charter Group for a Pledge of Conscience, an organization dedicated to developing an anti-racist consciousness
among Northern white liberals and radicals. She and other members
of the Charter Group helped lead the struggle to desegregate New
York City's public schools, and the book Annette edited, Schools
Against Children, embodied the spirit of that struggle.
She has been a continuous advocate for self-determination.
During the 1970s and 80s she participated in the various U. S.
People's Delegations to the United Nations Decolonization
Committee's hearings on Puerto Rico, and in 1982 presented testimony on behalf of the Delegation, condemning the U. S. colonial
occupation of the island. She has actively defended Puerto Rican
Annette's love of literature resulted in one of the only authentic North American Marxist treatments of English literature,
The Great Tradition in English Literature from Shakespeare to
Shaw. She has published innumerable literary articles and reviews in journals such as Science & Society, Jewish Currents,
Monthly Review, Socialism and Democracy and Masses and Mainstream. In a chapter in the Monthly Review book entitled New
Studies in the History of U. S. Communism, she discusses the Federal Theater and its significance in American left political social culture. She knew the people and actors directly involved in
this WPA project of the 1930s and her brother, Irwin Rhodes,
served as National Counsel to the Federal Theater.
At the young age of 75, in 1986, between teaching engagements
in the People's Republic of China, Annette completed the sorely
needed critical history of North American literature entitled
American Literature Root and Flower. This book was first printed and used in all the universities in China, including Beijing
Foreign Studies University where Annette taught English and American literature for two years, 1982-83 and again in 1987-88.
More than anything else, Annette is a teacher. She taught
philosophy at New York University and became principal of the Robert Louis Stevenson School. She has lectured across the United
States and throughout Eastern Europe. In 1954 alone, blacklisted
and during the national hysteria around the Rosenberg-Sobell trial, she toured 20 cities in 30 days and lectured 60 times. With a
sparkle in her eye, she will tell you how restful this tour was,
where all she had to do was speak, compared to her own organizing
efforts of the time and even to the efforts of those who organized
She has consistently taken her role as an educator of political activists seriously. She has made herself available over the
years to generations of young political organizers, teaching writing, editing and public speaking skills. Since her days at the
Robert Louis Stevenson School she has taught English to immigrant
peoples in classrooms and in her home. She has never been too
busy to help edit a newsletter or critique a fund appeal. Whatever she has set her hand to has become teaching: in all settings,
she has taken her own profound knowledge and opened it to all comers.
Annette was a teacher and chairperson of the Cultural Department at the Jefferson School throughout its existence, and taught
at its predecessor, the School for Democracy. She began working
with the New York Marxist School (NYMS) when it opened its doors
in the fall of 1975, and has remained a tireless friend, critic
and supporter of this educational project. She is a member of the
Board of Advisors of the NYMS's sponsoring body, The Brecht Forum.
She has taught at the Marxist School nearly every semester since
it opened and has helped steer the Brecht Forum through times of
political and financial turmoil. In 1995, she was proclaimed
their 20th Anniversary Teacher.
Annette T. Rubinstein has participated in every kind of political period: from mass movements where one felt that the revolution was around the corner to the debacle of fascism, the holocaust and World War II, on through the difficult McCarthy period,
then the new wave of protests of the civil rights, anti-war, national liberation, new left and women's upsurges, to our current
rather bleak but hopefully germinal period, witnessed by such happenings as the 1999 Seattle anti-World Trade Organization demonstration.
She is not only, at the age of 90, still active but also she
is ever learning and teaching and asking questions while teaching
those around her. One of her most recent seminars at the New York
Marxist School was designed as a class exploration into the debate
around American Exceptionalism, particularly addressing the lack
of working-class consciousness in the United States. Among her
many ongoing projects she continues to serve as an advisory editor
of Jewish Currents, and an editor of Science & Society, the
longest lived Marxist journal in the United States and the world.
Perhaps, among her most valuable teachings is the Talmudic
quotation she often repeats: "It is not upon you to finish the
work; neither are you free to desist from it." By being in her
presence -- whether leisurely sipping tea in her 71st Street
apartment, or working alongside her in the battlefield, or attend
ing her class on Herman Melville -- through the sum and substance
of Annette one learns that the good fight is a joyful life-engendering activity. And who knows, living out the good fight may
even lead to longevity, if Annette is any example. She will tell
you at times that struggle is also your duty, but even then she is
really telling you that taking responsibility to understand and to
act to transform the world is the most authentic and meaningful
life to lead and is the one most filled with the pure joy of being
in the world. Choosing to lead such a life is not a sacrifice but
a realization of one's self. The women's movement has taught us
the important truth that the personal is political and Annette is
always quick to remind us that the converse is equally true, the
political is personal.
The Brecht Forum
122 West 27th Street, 10th floor
New York NY 10011
The current issue begins with a study by two Israeli economists, Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler, "Inflation and Accumulation: The Case of Israel." This is both a careful sketch of
recent economic history, with implications for political and social trends in the Middle East, and an application of a novel theoretical perspective, developed by the authors in a series of recent works. Marxist models of capitalist accumulation have implicitly treated "capital" as a unified entity, which can be studied at the macro level ("capital in general"), or at the level of
a representative firm. Nitzan and Bichler suggest, to the contrary, that some of the crucial dynamics of accumulation and inflation result from the division between the largest core firms of
an economy, and the remaining firms. The core firms may accumulate "differentially," i.e., at the expense of the peripheric
firms, and they may do this via two different regimes: breadth,
and depth. While breadth and depth regimes do not alternate in a
determinate cycle, they do have internal limits, which may explain
how a particular regime comes to an end. Explanations of this
type, in turn, can be used to understand the inflation cycle experienced by Israel in the postwar decades. Nitzan and Bichler's
study imaginatively combines theory with data, and demonstrates
how meaning can be teased out of empirical information even when
the data sources are limited.
On a more abstract level, David Laibman addresses a recent
development in Marxist value theory, in his study "Rhetoric and
Substance in Value Theory: An Appraisal of the New Orthodox Marxism." This paper, appearing after a lapse of several years since
it was written (for reasons explained in the Author's Note at the
head), examines what has since come to be called the "Temporal
Single System" position, according to which Marx's precise approach to values and prices of production -- long criticized by
both friends and foes of Marxist political economy -- is re-affirmed on the basis of careful time-dating of inputs and outputs.
After examining this proposal, in several of its variants, Laibman
concludes that the essential core of Marx's theory is re-affirmed
precisely by developing and perfecting it, a process to which several generations of Marxist scholars have contributed. Neither
temporal/sequential nor simultaneous/structural approaches should
have priority within Marxist method; both are needed to reveal the
full dialectic of capitalist exploitation and accumulation.
Continuing a discussion of long-standing in SCIENCE & SOCIETY
(see, e.g., Fall 1995, Spring 1996, Spring 1999), Mehmet Tabak
studies the relation between proletarian revolutionary supremacy
and political power ("Marx's Theory of Proletarian Dictatorship
Revisited"). Opposing both the view that rejects the proletarian
dictatorship concept outright, and the one that identifies the
proletarian dictatorship with the bureaucratic state, Tabak sees
it as a form of direct rule by the working class, consistent with
greatly enhanced democracy and with the smashing or "shattering"
of the capitalist state. He concludes that "the dictatorship of
the proletariat, understood properly, remains as a solid political
alternative to what exists now," and alone can place "human need,
satisfaction, and freedom above the needs of capital and special
interests of ever-growing bureaucracies and the bourgeoisie."
Finally, we present the first part of a two-part symposium,
"Hegel, Marx, and Dialectics," inspired by John Rosenthal's article "The Escape from Hegel," which appeared in our Fall 1999 issue. The Rosenthal article, as its title implies, presents a Marx
at first mired in speculative metaphysics learned from his great
teacher, and then emanicipating himself from those metaphysics.
The key concept of abstract universal, however, survives within
a scientific political economy as the essential character of money
in capitalist circulation. The general Hegelian dialectic of universal-individual-particular does not succeed, and threatens to
draw Marx (and his successors) backward into the mire of wooly
speculative concept-chopping, when they should instead be doing
modern scientific investigations. Now Michael Williams, a well-
known contributor to the Hegelian revival, offers his explication
of the need for a careful recuperation of the Hegelian dialectic
within Marxist political economy. From his point of view,
Rosenthal is discarding baby with bathwater (to borrow a homey
phrase). Italian philosopher Maria Turchetto offers a different
view of the proper role of the dialectic within a non-determinist
political economy. Paul Diesing, in his comment, suggests that
Rosenthal is criticizing dialectics as a logic and a methodology,
when it is actually a way of thinking about the real world, a
guide to a richer empirical investigation, along the lines of what
Bertell Ollman calls "dialectical sensibility."
The symposium will continue in our Winter 2000-2001 issue,
with contributions from another prominent exponent of the Hegelian
Marxist revival, Tony Smith; and from Brazilian philosopher Jose
Arthur Giannotti. John Rosenthal's response to all five commentators will round out the second installment.