When Marx took up a comprehensive critique of political economy at the end of the 1850s, he also intended to write a book on the state. Marx planned a total of six books: on capital, landed property, wage-labor, the state, foreign trade, and the world market. In terms of range of content, the three volumes of Capital approximately comprise the first three books. The planned book on the state was never written; in Capital there are only isolated references to the state.
As the world was saying goodbye to Nelson Mandela in early December, I had my nose in Alan Wieder’s well-researched new biography Ruth First and Joe Slovo in the War Against Apartheid (Monthly Review, 2013). First, Slovo and Mandela were part of an ensemble of revolutionary comrades who together reshaped South Africa from the 1950s to the end of apartheid in 1991. The book is full of these and other familiar characters in a level of detail that would impress the most ardent Talmudic scholar. Wieder’s research involved hours and hours of interviews and immersing himself in court records, other documents and the personal papers of Slovo, First and others from the apartheid era.
Reading Save our Unions: Dispatches from a Movement in Distress is like sitting in on a seminar on the modern labor movement—with Steve Early playing the role of opinionated professor. Research has confirmed that we learn best when we are hearing stories. So the prolific Professor Early wisely builds his Save Our Unions seminar around case studies of labor’s triumphs and tragedies, past and present.
Henry Giroux is the author of America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth, published recently by Monthly Review Press. He is interviewed by Walid Darab for the Greed For Ilm podcast, discussing his book, “casino capitalism,” three examples of the war on youth, his recent appearance on Bill Moyers, and more.
There is still time during the holidays to purchase labor journalist Steve Early’s very readable and quite reflective latest book, Save Our Unions, published by Monthly Review Press. But books on labor are notoriously misunderstood and conspicuously undersold. This is really too bad. Like other books describing how people live and what they struggle for, Save Our Union records a very human story – a running narrative from an author who was directly reporting, and often directly participating, in the unfolding human drama as it occurred.
At the beginning of 2013, American workers were reeling from body blows — in Michigan among other places. How does that state transmogrify from being the heart of the labor movement to a “right-to-work (for less)” locale, taking its place alongside the Deep South? This anti-worker plague swept through surrounding states. Indiana, Wisconsin and Ohio, in that order, took away workers’ right to negotiate their conditions, even though this tack was defeated by a vote of the public in Ohio in November 2011. Indiana enacted a right-to-work law affecting private sector employees. A year after the Ohio vote, workers in Michigan were defeated on two referenda concerning government workers’ ability to negotiate. At that stage, what happened in the latter state shouldn’t have shocked anyone.
Save Our Unions: Dispatches From A Movement in Distress brings together recent essays and reporting by labor journalist Steve Early. The author illuminates the challenges facing U.S. workers, whether they’re trying to democratize their union, win a strike, defend past contract gains, or bargain with management for the first time. Save Our Unions contains vivid portraits of rank-and-file heroes and heroines, both well-known and unsung. It takes readers to union conventions and funerals, strikes and picket-lines, celebrations of labor’s past and struggles to insure that unions still have a future in the 21st century. The book’s insight, analysis and advocacy make this an important contribution to the project of labor revitalization and reform.
A remarkable political biography of two activists who devoted their lives to the struggle for equality in South Africa… Given its wealth of detail, the wide range of interviews that Weider has conducted, and the letters to which he has been granted access, it deserves to remain the definitive biography of First and Slovo for a long time… This timely book should be read by all who seek to understand the remarkable couple and the struggle against apartheid in South Africa in depth.
Henry Giroux is the author of America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth, published this year by Monthly Review Press. He was interviewed on Background Briefing with Ian Masters, discussing his recent appearance on Bill Moyers, “zombie politics,” student activism, and more. Background Briefing is broadcast by KPFK in Los Angeles and syndicated around the United States.
Ronnie Kasrils was a leader of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, Minister of Intelligence in the post-apartheid government, and author of The Unlikely Secret Agent, published by Monthly Review Press. He’s interviewed on Democracy Now!, discussing his relationship with Nelson Mandela and how the ANC’s economic views have shifted.