The Africans were apprehensive—with good reason. It was early in 1862 and the nation in which they resided, the United States, was embroiled in a bloody civil war. As such, the Washington authorities sought to send hundreds of them to Key West to work on fortifications, as this small town was well behind the lines of the so-called Confederate States of America—which dominated most of Florida—and had sought secession precisely on the grounds of continuation of enslavement of Africans. But the Africans asked to take on this important task balked, assuming this might be a prelude to selling them into slavery in Cuba, just across the Florida Straits. Their nervousness was understandable, since, for the longest period, there had been a robust slave trade—licit and otherwise—between the republic and the Spanish colony.
On July 27, Gerald Horne, a radical scholar whose historical work refocuses our attention on the structures and legacies of white supremacy and black resistance, presented his two most recent books, Race to Revolution (published by Monthly Review Press) and The Counter-Revolution of 1776 (published by New York University Press) at Red Emma’s in Baltimore. The event was recorded and video is kindly provided by our friends at Red Emma’s.
The author and critic Walter Benjamin once wrote in an essay titled “On the Concept of History”: “There has never been a document of culture which is not simultaneously one of barbarism.” John Tully’s new book Silvertown is a well-researched examination of that very duality–with London, the 19th century heart of bourgeois imperial culture, at its center.
Jeb Sprague’s book “Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti” documents how key players among Aristides’ “peaceful opponents” in Haiti, along with military and government officials from the Dominican Republic, closely supported the insurgents who killed dozens of people while the international press (and the human rights industry) ignored it and depicted some of the financiers as victims of a “crackdown on dissent”
JOE SLOVO AND RUTH FIRST. We are entering their paths. Both grew up unbelievers in Jewish or any religious faith. They met when Ruth was at the University of the Witwatersrand, Joe just returned from the South African Army in the war against Nazi Germany. His motivation for volunteering, eighteen years old, unemployed, lying about being underage for military call-up—his early alliance with communism, and so to the Soviet Union under attack—was decisive in the act. But there remained the devastating racial dilemma in South Africa. He wrote: “How do you tell a black man to make his peace with General Smuts—butcher of Bulhoek and the Bondelswarts? ‘Save civilisation and democracy’—must have sounded a cruel parody. And fight with what? No black man was allowed to bear arms . . . if you want to serve democracy, wield a knobkerrie [wooden club] as a uniformed servant of a white soldier.”
The Monthly Review tradition has played a unique and invaluable role in understanding and explaining contemporary social being. Philosophically Monthly Review has been eclectic and broadminded. With respect to political economy the tradition of Monthly Review retains its broadmindedness, but can also be described as both steadfast and innovative. The new edition of John Bellamy Foster’s The Theory of Monopoly Capitalism (2014) is an excellent introduction and elaboration to fundamental issues in Marxian political economy in the context of the debates that emerged concerning monopoly capitalism and the Monthly Review tradition.
The essays in this book, many of which are either out-of-print or difficult to obtain, were written between 1955 and 1963 during one of the most fertile periods of E. P. Thompson’s intellectual and political life, when he wrote his two great works, The Making of the English Working Class and William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary. They reveal Thompson’s insistence on the vitality of a humanistic and democratic socialism along with the value of utopian thinking in radical politics. Throughout, Thompson struggles to open a space independent of official Communist Parties and reformist Social Democratic Parties, opposing them with a vision of socialism built from the bottom up. Editor Cal Winslow, who studied with Thompson, provides context for the essays in a detailed introduction and reminds us why this eloquent and inspiring voice remains so relevant to us today.
Michael A. Lebowitz: First of all, let me stress that demystification of capital is an essential revolutionary project. Marx answered the most important question of all—what is capital, what is this world of wealth that stands opposite and over us? If we don’t understand what Marx revealed, then even when we struggle against capital, we are most likely to be struggling against ‘unfairness’—unfair wages, unfair working conditions, unfair distribution of income, unfair taxes, etc. And, in the absence of struggle, it’s likely that we will blame the victims—i.e., that we look upon problems as our own fault, the result of our own deficiencies and that therefore the burden is upon us if we want to do better.
John Tully begins his marvelous book by recreating the day in 1889 when the yardmen at Silver’s India-Rubber, Gutta-Percha and Telegraph works submitted a written petition to management for a pay rise. He imagines them emboldened by the long struggle of 16,000 workers in the neighbouring Royal Docks for ‘the dockers’ tanner’, and by the earlier victories of the ‘little match girls’ at Bryant and May’s and the gas workers at Beckton. A New Unionism for the labouring masses was emerging, and they would be part of it. Soon 3,000 workers at Silver’s, desperate for better conditions and higher wages, would join the struggle
For those whose knowledge of the gay rights movement begins with Stonewall—or worse, with the fight for marriage equality—Ralf Dose’s short but well-researched monograph Magnus Hirschfeld: The Origins of the Gay Liberation Movement (originally published in German as Magnus Hirschfeld: German, Jew, Citizen of the World, 2005) comes at a propitious moment, when the State grudgingly hallows the LGBTQ community with the dubious privilege of matrimony.