Category: Culture & History

On Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma”

On finishing a particularly annoying novel, a good friend of mine once gasped in exasperation: ‘The author’s fingerprints are all over this.’ I can’t say I remember now the book he was talking about, but the phrase has been with . . .

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Remembering the English Revolution

In 1649, a pamphlet titled Tyranipocrit Discovered was published in Rotterdam. Fusing the terms “tyrant” and “hypocrite,” the anonymous author called for an end to economic, religious, and political oppression in England.

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Russian Revolution

Muraskin and Epstein criticize Harrison’s view of the Russian Revolution; Harrison replies.

100 years after the death of Rosa Luxemburg

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The deaths of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht have haunted the imagination of the left for a century. Joe Sabatini reviews a recent publication exposing the events of their deaths, Klaus Gietinger’s The Murder of Rosa Luxemburg, as well as providing an introduction to some of the literary works inspired by the events of 15 January 1919.

The Soaring Writer Who Landed on His Feet

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Bill Fletcher, Jr. The Man Who Fell From the Sky. Hard Ball Press, $15, trade paperback, 350 pp.

“Race” as a biological category differentiating humans has been a spurious and discredited marker for more than a century. From Franz Boas’ early pioneering studies of the Inuit to Barbara Fields’ contemporary savaging of race-based ideology, we should all understand that humans are one race, end of discussion!

The Enduring Importance of Arthur Miller: The Price and The Hook

ImageSeventy-two years after his initial Broadway success with All My Sons and 14 years after his death, Arthur Miller continues to cast a long shadow over theater in the United States. His plays are staples of high school drama clubs, college and university theater departments and regional theaters around the country, and his best-known works – Death of a Salesman, The Crucible, All My Sons, A View From the Bridge and After the Fall – have been revived many times on Broadway.

Gangster Politics

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In The Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels referred to the state as “the executive committee of the ruling class.” Reflecting the collective capitalist interest in maintaining its accumulation process, capable of forging compromises among competing sectors of its own and other classes, this committee was also meant to enforce legal norms, contracts, and other rules of the game.

The Unbearable Centrism of Mainstream Documentaries

ImageThe Obamas’ deal with Netflix is the culmination of a worrisome turn in contemporary documentary.

Since the announcement in May of Former President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama’s multi-year production deal to produce narrative and documentary films and series with Netflix, there has been remarkably little conversation about it. Admittedly, there isn’t any work to evaluate just yet, but the news does raise enormously important questions in and of itself.

Marx and Marxism in Berkeley in 1968

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Berkeley (California) was probably a unique political-cultural milieu in the U.S. in the 1960s, both before and after 1968. It was part of the larger political-cultural scene of the San Francisco Bay Area from 1945 onward. The Bay Area at the time was a relative backwater in the U.S., compared to the East coast. The area had, however, seen one of the biggest general strikes of the 1930s, when the Communist Party-influenced ILWU (International Longshore Workers Union) helped bring San Francisco to a halt in 1934, including mass street battles with the police.

A Marxist theory of music: it’s all in the groove

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Much analysis of modern music focuses on lyrical content, but how can we understand modern musical forms? What relation do they have to the capitalist world in which they’ve developed? To answer these questions Kate Bradley interviewed Mark Abel, author of Groove: An Aesthetic of Measured Time.

Youth and Our Future: An Era of Superficial Outrage Politics?

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Many would like to believe that this American period of rampant national-conservatism is nothing more than a short stay in Republican purgatory. It is a reassuring idea that in a few years, as today’s progressive youth becomes a large part of the electorate, the United States will become a shining example of tolerant and progressive prosperity. Just as neo-conservatives envision a global American hegemony built on capitalism and military strength, some progressives have adopted a belief that the United States is destined to reach national political moksha with strong welfare, a prosperous middle class, and minority rights; the nasty racists and homophobes, the “deplorables”, will soon be outnumbered so vastly in the face of common-sense political ideology that the right will simply cease to exist. Unfortunately, this prophecy has proven a myth for millennials—and the nascent Generation Z doesn’t appear to have better prospects.

The Third Camp in Theory and Practice: An Interview with Joanne Landy and Thomas Harrison

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[Reprinted by permission from Left History 21.2]

Introduction

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.

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Radical America

Why the United States has not developed a permanent socialist movement has perplexed activists and theorists for more than a century. Paul Le Blanc takes up that query as an activist who wants to see an anti-capitalism mass movement take shape in twenty-first century America. To that end, he investigates some of the moments when the possibility of a significant left presence in the United States seemed at hand. He focuses on what made those movements viable and what thwarted their long-term success. The volume’s fourteen essays were written over a period of thirty years, from 1986 to 2015.

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Political Visual Narrative

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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.

Our Passive Society

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Sitting alone in my room watching videos on YouTube, hearing sounds from across the hall of my roommate watching Netflix, the obvious point occurs to me that a key element of the demonic genius of late capitalism is enforcing a crushing passiveness on the populace.

Special Section: Remembering 1968

A Call Center Coup: Ex-Teamster Boots Riley Tackles Telemarketing And its Discontents

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When I was a union rep, one of my most challenging assignments was assisting a Communications Workers of America (CWA) bargaining unit at a Boston-area telemarketing firm. Most CWA members in New England had call center jobs at the phone company, with good pensions, health insurance, and full-time salaries. As service reps, they fielded in-coming calls from customers with problems, questions, or new orders to place. In contrast, the telemarketing staff only interacted with the public, on behalf of various clients, via out-bound calling. Like the workers depicted in Boots Riley’s hilarious new film, Sorry to Bother You, they made cold calls to people who did not want to bothered, at dinner time or anytime, with a pitch for a new product, service, or donation to a political cause.

The Merry Month of May

Mitch Abidor’s New Oral History Explores the Lasting Legacy of the Revolt that Shook France in 1968

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Where Are the Riots of Yesteryear?

The “Inescapable Need and Possibility” of Third Cinema

Can a radical filmmaking tradition born of Perón’s Argentina reinvigorate activist cinema in Trump’s America?