ANTHONY ROMERO is the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. He is the ACLU's sixth executive director, and he is the first Latino and openly gay man to serve in that capacity. Born in New York City to immigrant parents from Puerto Rico, Romero was the first in his family to graduate from high school. A graduate of Stanford University Law School and Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy and International Affairs, he was a Dinkelspiel Scholar at Stanford, a Cane Scholar at Princeton, and a National Hispanic Scholar at both institutions.
MARK DOW and KENT WORCESTER are members of the New Politics editorial board.
There is no way that I am qualified to write a proper obituary for Don Trudell, a longtime member of the British IS/SWP who taught history and media studies at the American School in London (ASL) when I was a student there. I do not know where he was born, or went to college, or even his full name. The last time we spoke was in the early 1980s, and the last time I spent any significant amount of time in his company was when I was still in high school. Although I dined at his house a couple of times, and chatted with him after class on innumerable occasions, I can’t say that we ever became friends. But he was a singular individual and he left an indelible impression on how I think about the world.
Joanne Landy (1941-2017) and Thomas Harrison (1948-) became socialists as teenagers and have remained involved in the democratic left ever since. They were active in the student protest movement at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1960s, where they met and became close friends and collaborators. During the 1970s, they became increasingly interested in the issue of labor rights in Central and Eastern Europe, and they worked to link democratic and social justice struggles in the Eastern Bloc with social movements in the United States, the West, and the Third World. Until Joanne Landy’s death in October 2017, they were co-directors of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy (CPD), which was founded in 1982. Initially, the organization was called the Campaign for Peace and Democracy/East and West, but with the end of the Cold War the title was shortened.
This season’s roundup of nonfiction comics includes self-published and small-press titles as well as noteworthy releases from major trade publishers. Topics covered range from consumer capitalism and imprisoned anarchists to Trinidadian social history and the war in Syria. Each of these titles deploys a distinctive approach to the challenge of folding political themes into visual narrative. In different ways, these books suggest that the forward march of political cartooning continues unabated.
In her award-winning book Red Rosa (2015), Kate Evans combined feminist biography, intellectual history, and appealing visuals to tell the remarkable story of Rosa Luxemburg. While much of the narrative focused on friendships, relationships, and personal struggles, Evans also conveyed a sense of Luxemburg as a theorist of capitalism, imperialism, and war.
The pages that follow are taken from Seth Tobocman’s new graphic biography of the radical lawyer Leonard Weinglass, Len: A Lawyer in History (AK Press). This particular section is based on a transcript of a talk that Len Weinglass gave at the 2002 Left Forum on the relationship between Nixon-era encroachments on civil liberties and the Patriot Act.
English anarchism has produced a number of fine cartoonists, including Clifford Harper, John Olday, Paul Petard, and, arguably, the artist Hunt Emerson and the writer Alan Moore.
[This interview was originally published in Left History, vol. 18, no. 1 (2014).]
Phyllis Jacobson (1922-2010) and Julius Jacobson (1922-2003) were socialist activists in New York City from the mid-1930s through the first years of the twenty-first century. They were members of a radical generation that came of age during the great depression and embraced the language of socialism, communism, and Marxism. They were also the children of working class Jewish immigrants who grew up in the city’s outer boroughs. For their parents, the First World War, the Bolshevik Revolution, and the general strikes and mass uprisings that convulsed many countries after the war were all recent events. The near collapse of the global economy in the early 1930s confirmed for many of their cohort the basic assumption that capitalism was inherently impermanent. Adopting a socialist outlook in a period characterized by social upheaval and economic crisis was easy; the challenge had to do with selecting a suitable group or tendency from a fissiparous menu of options.
Red Rosa: A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg, Kate Evans, Verso, 2015, paperback, $16.95
Capitalism and Climate Change: The Science and Politics of Global Warming, David Klein (author) and Stephanie McMillan (editor and illustrator), Amazon digital services, 2015, eBook, $2.95
Gene Basset’s Vietnam Sketchbook: A Cartoonist’s Wartime Perspective, Thom Rooke, Syracuse University Press, 2015, paperback, $24.95
My War, Szegedi Szüts, Dover, 2015, paperback, $12.95
The graphic lit juggernaut rolls on. Even as DC and Marvel crank out superhero comics at roughly the same pace they have for the past twenty or thirty years, trade publishers and university presses are issuing nonfiction narrative art on a scale that would have been unthinkable a decade ago. Back in the day, the four books under review would have represented a significant percentage of like-minded cartooning to appear in any given season. Now practically every publishing house under the sun boasts a new graphic novel line or at very least a fistful of titles aimed at the words-and-pictures market.
The Hidden Story of Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman was not the first female superhero, but she is the best known of the modern-day costumed heroines. Armed with indestructible bracelets, her Amazonian heritage, and a “magic lasso,” the character’s inaugural debut came in the pages of All Star Comics #8 in December 1941; a month later she was showcased on the cover of Sensation Comics #1.
The cartoonist Will Eisner used to say that there are two kinds of comics, entertaining and instructional. Over time, he speculated, instructional comics would become the more popular of the two, as teachers and everyone else finally figured out that comics convey information more efficiently than ordinary prose. Eisner passed away in 2005 but presumably would have regarded the past decade’s outpouring of graphic nonfiction as confirming his thesis.
The gifted political cartoonist Phil Evans passed away earlier this year in the seaside town of Hastings, England. He was 68.
For many years the dominant trend in scholarship on C.L.R. James has been to emphasize his cultural and literary writings. Arguably the most popular way to frame his legacy has been to situate him as a forerunner to cultural studies, post-colonial studies, and identity politics. Grant Farred, for example, has criticized “earlier modes of James studies” that addressed “debates that occupied sectarian James scholars” and welcomed “the centrality of cultural studies within James scholarship,” while Brett St. Louis has argued that the “march of identity politics and post-modernism” is “irresistible,” and that James’s work is of value precisely because it “grapples with a proto-post-marxist problematic.”
With this issue of New Politics, “Words & Pictures” marks its tenth anniversary. From the outset, NP’s editors hoped that this back-of-the-book feature could showcase the work of interesting political cartoonists, past and present, and add a touch of visual interest to the magazine. The feature was introduced just as the magazine itself was undergoing a comprehensive makeover, starting with cover art by Bob Gill and, more recently, Lisa Lyons.
The dramatic implosion of the Socialist Workers Party (U.K.) has provoked an outpouring of analysis, debate, and sectarian invective, most of which has appeared online rather than in print. Socialist Unity, Weekly Worker, Soviet Goon Boy, and Links: International Journal of Socialist Renewal have all published exposés and polemics on the party’s shameful mishandling of accusations of rape and sexual predation on the part of a leading member, who is referred to as “Comrade Delta” in party documents.
The Marxists Internet Archive project recently uploaded the complete run of Labor Action, published by the Workers Party and its successor, the Independent Socialist League, between 1940 and 1958, as well as the Militant, published by the Socialist Workers Party.
An Interview with Lisa Lyons
Which came first, your interest in politics or your interest in cartooning?
They actually began together, when I was 13 or 14, with a badly drawn, over-the-top, heartfelt diatribe against my mother’s consumerism. Even though I was just a white, middle class teenager in Connecticut, I was indignant about inequality and injustice.
How did you get started as a political cartoonist?
This is a lightly edited transcript of an interview conducted by Mark Dow and Kent Worcester with Anthony Romero in April 2004 in his lower Manhattan office.
New Politics: Yesterday during the September 11 Commission hearings, when he was defending some of the Patriot Act measures that have been criticized, Ashcroft said that a lot of what the Patriot Act did was simply to extend measures that were already in existence.
Anthony Romero: Patently false.