Join author Joseph Varga and MR Press for a book launch celebrating Hell’s Kitchen and the Battle for Urban Space, Thursday, September 26, 7 pm, at The New School for Social Research, 80 5th avenue (at 14th street and 5th ave), in New York City.
“Celia Sanchez is not a familiar name beyond Cuban borders but that should change with this, the first comprehensive biography of her life. As a committed soldier of social justice, she was instrumental in driving the one of the greatest revolutions of the 20th century and US writer Nancy Stout retells the story of an inspirational female revolutionary . . . This is an extraordinary biography, charting Sanchez’s involvement from initial organisation of Fidel’s landing to her remarkable transformation of a thorny thicket – marabuzal – into a preliminary training ground for rebel soldiers.”
When Cesar Chavez died in 1993, he was a cultural icon and progressive hero. Cast into poverty at a young age, he worked the fields as a youth before he went on to fuse his brand of Catholicism and grassroots organizing into the United Farm Workers, a union that sought to raise his Mexican farm laborer base out of poverty and into power. Chavez built a fighting union from the ground up — Si se puede! (“Yes we can!”) was its battle cry — but by the time of his death he left an organization gutted of its farm worker base, purged of its organizing core and tattered from relentless grower assaults.
While in part biography, Bruce Neuburger’s Lettuce Wars is really a history of life and work for agricultural labourers in California in the early 1970s. At its heart is the day to day struggle to make ends meet for tens of thousands of workers, mostly immigrant labour. But this is also a celebration of the struggle of those workers to get organised, and their victories against the bosses. Sometimes, this is in spite of their trade union leaders, and often it was because of a few individuals like Neuburger, prepared to stand up and be counted.
This is another book from the Monthly Review stable defending and extending the theoretical work of Baran and Sweezy, two redoubtable Marxist economists who along with Harry Magdoff kept the flame of Marxist economics alive in the United States through some pretty arduous domestic and international times. Readers may recall another title reviewed in Spokesman 111, The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences, in which the idea of capitalist stagnation was explained with particular reference to the present crisis. This new book takes on the task of defending and extending the same thesis on a broader theoretical basis, with additional material including substantial pieces on the international division of labour and China’s political economy.
Hell’s Kitchen is among Manhattan’s most storied and studied neighborhoods. A working-class district situated next to the West Side’s middle- and upper-class residential districts, it has long attracted the focus of artists and urban planners, writers and reformers. Now, Joseph Varga takes us on a tour of Hell’s Kitchen with an eye toward what we usually take for granted: space, and, particularly, how urban spaces are produced, controlled, and contested by different class and political forces.
The Endless Crisis breathes new life into the once-prominent analysis of monopoly capitalism and rescues it from the quiet oblivion of discarded academic thought. The book has no interest in being a political pamphlet for social movements or focusing on the sociological ramifications of our moribund economy. Foster and McChesney demonstrate tremendous reserve by not filling the pages with polemical calls to action and discussing thorny questions of political strategy. Rather, the authors issue a wake-up call to the leftist intelligentsia who have largely abandoned the critiques of capitalism and retreated from the field of economics altogether. Marxists have been largely driven out of economics since allowing “capitalism,” a term embedded with history and sociological conflict, to be replaced with the sterilized and ahistorical term, “market economy.” The Endless Crisis is a focused and muscular work that ranks alongside the works of John Kenneth Galbraith, Paul Sweezy, Paul Baran and other great political economists who were unafraid to deliver sobering criticisms of modern capitalism. It is a robustly researched testament to the enduring relevance of Marxist theory in the 21st century.
Here is Alan Wieder, author of the new book Ruth First and Joe Slovo in the War against Apartheid, interviewed about Ruth First and Joe Slovo on South Africa’s Morning Talk radio show, SAfm, July 15, 2013.
JOE’S FIRST IMPRESSION of Ruth was that she and her intellectual friends at the University of the Witwatersrand were “just too big for their boots.” It was 1946, Joe was just returning from the army and the Second World War, and Ruth was in the midst of her social science studies at the university. They were both engaged in political protests and actions through the Communist Party of South Africa,already committed militants and engaged intellectuals, each looking toward a life of struggle for justice and equality.
RUTH FIRST IS BURIED in Llanguene Cemetery in a dusty Mozambican suburb. Her grave lies next to those of other members of the African National Congress who were killed by the apartheid government in a 1981 raid, referred to as the Matola Massacre, where South African soldiers in blackface committed cold-blooded murder. Ruth’s killing was no less brutal: the South African regime sent a letter bomb that detonated in her hands and sent shrapnel into the bodies of her colleagues at Eduardo Mondlane University. Joe Slovo is one of two white South Africans that lie in rest at Avalon Cemetery in Soweto, one of Johannesburg’s massive black townships. His funeral, a national event, took place before a crowd of over 40,000 people packed into Orlando Stadium, home of Soweto’s premier soccer club, where he was eulogized by among others, the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Cyril Harris.