In Cuba, the Media, and the Challenge of Impartiality, Salim Lamrani, a French journalist and professor of Latin-American studies at the University of Paris-Sorbonne Paris IV, raises important questions about the condition of journalism today and the role played by privately owned, centrally controlled media cartels. As an important addition to his previous work, The Economic War Against Cuba, Lamrani, examines media treatment of Cuba taking an investigative journalist’s approach to dissecting a variety of claims made about life and politics on the island since the revolution of 1959.
With the end of the Cold War and the victory of capitalism, and the seeming defeat of “Marxism-Leninism” in 1991, it appeared we could at last bury Lenin. And certainly, who will mourn for the death of a Lenin encased in granite monuments with his words turned into a dogmatic religion to legitimise the Eastern Bloc regimes? However, there is another Lenin who remains very much alive. This Lenin has been unearthed in recent years with the “Lenin renaissance”. Different scholars and political activists such as Lars Lih, Paul Le Blanc, Slavoj Zizek, Kevin Anderson, to name just a few have explored what remains very much alive in Lenin. While they don’t necessarily agree on all their conclusions, all of them have challenged Soviet-era mythology and anti-communist historiography by revealing the Lenin who fused a creative and dynamic Marxist theory to develop a revolutionary political practice to change the world.
Join Joseph J. Varga, author of Hell’s Kitchen and the Battle for Urban Space: Class Struggle and Progressive Reform in New York City, 1894-1914 for a special event sponsored by the Gotham Center for New York City History, on March 24 at The Graduate Center, City University of New York.
Winslow produced an excellent book. The essays hang together as proposals for, and responses to, the first New Left and as evidence of the intimate connection between Thompson’s historical writing and his politics. They provide a twofold intellectual history of those dramatic years. Thompson is powerful and elegant; Winslow is as passionate about intellectuals in socialist politics as Thompson was when he wrote these indispensable essays. But we need to understand what they built on.
The Web makes the press better, right? Not quite, writes Robert W. McChesney in Blowing the Roof Off the Twenty-First Century: Media, Politics, and the Struggle for Post-Capitalist Democracy (Monthly Review Press, 2014). A media scholar, he unpacks the demise of commercial journalism and its potential rise as a public good in the online era. Meanwhile, ad revenue plummets, as digital journalism appears, falsely, as a savior for print journalism. McChesney dissects the strengths and weaknesses of so-called new media.
Marsh identifies four sources for our contemporary malaise (death, money, sex, democracy) and then looks to a particular Whitman poem for relief from it. He makes plain what, exactly, Whitman wrote and what he believed by showing how they emerged from Whitman’s life and times, and by recreating the places and incidents (crossing Brooklyn ferry, visiting wounded soldiers in hospitals) that inspired Whitman to write the poems. Whitman, Marsh argues, can show us how to die, how to accept and even celebrate our (relatively speaking) imminent death. Just as important, though, he can show us how to live: how to have better sex, what to do about money, and, best of all, how to survive our fetid democracy without coming away stinking ourselves. The result is a mix of biography, literary criticism, manifesto, and a kind of self-help you’re unlikely to encounter anywhere else.
Walt Whitman was born in 1819 in West Hills, New York, on Long Island, and moved with his family to Brooklyn when he was not quite four years old. Like many children from working-class families (his father was, at various times, a farmer, carpenter, and house builder), Whitman left school before he turned twelve. He worked as an office boy, and at age thirteen he was apprenticed to a printer. In his late teens and early twenties, he taught school in various Long Island small towns. There he made his first tentative steps into journalism and Democratic Party politics.
In the mostly forgotten history of early twentieth-century movements for sexual freedom, Magnus Hirschfeld’s name is one of the most familiar—and one of the most contested. As a Jewish scientist who championed sexual deviants, he made a perfect target for the Nazis, who were tragically successful in extirpating much of his life’s work. In Western Europe today, where gay rights is virtually a civic religion, he risks becoming one of its plaster saints; the Federal Republic of Germany established an official, publicly funded Magnus Hirschfeld Foundation in 2011.
In its detailed analysis of the production of everyday life in the Middle West Side and its overall combination of spatial theory and historical research, Hell’s Kitchen and the Battle for Urban Space is a solid contribution to urban studies and a welcome addition to the sociological literature on New York City.
Race to Revolution: The United States and Cuba During Slavery and Jim Crow by Gerald Horne (Monthly Review Press, June 2014) enters a crucial, if little known, period of chattel bondage and its aftermath for islanders and mainlanders. What people of African descent do and say to be free is his special focus. Horne leaves mainstream history in the starting blocks. His book is a guided tour of people freeing themselves on both sides of the Florida Straits. He fleshes out that history. It should inform the current phase of relations between Uncle Sam and Cuba. The book’s context flows from the centrality of the slave trade and traders to what Immanuel Wallerstein calls the “world-system.” In Spanish Florida and Cuba, antebellum and post-bellum America, skin color signifies class status, creating and challenging the dominant political economy.
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin is among the most enigmatic and influential figures of the twentieth century. While his life and work are crucial to any understanding of modern history and the socialist movement, generations of writers on the left and the right have seen fit to embalm him endlessly with superficial analysis or dreary dogma. Now, after the fall of the Soviet Union and “actually-existing” socialism, it is possible to consider Lenin afresh, with sober senses trained on his historical context and how it shaped his theoretical and political contributions. Reconstructing Lenin, four decades in the making and now available in English for the first time, is an attempt to do just that.
Tully’s account is very readable. He is able to connect the features of the strike to the wider historical period and uses quotations from great thinkers such as Marx to explain the barbarity of the system and the actions of its participants. He rescues from obscurity the working-class fighters who made their mark, such as the strike leader Fred Ling whose energy and willingness to learn inspired Eleanor Marx; and the landlady of the Railway Tavern, Mrs Cundy, who let the pub be used as a strike HQ. Tully does an excellent job of introducing the reader unfamiliar with the history of the East End to the workers’ leaders: Tom Mann, Will Thorne, and especially to Eleanor Marx.
Cal Winslow’s thoughtful introduction to a selection of brilliant essays by Thompson summarises his quest for a new humanist socialist politics. This saw Thompson at the heart of working class self education (himself teaching in adult education) and facilitating ‘new left clubs’, with forensic historical research into the lives of working people producing The Making of the English Working Class (TMTEWC), the biography of William Morris & ‘Homage to Tom Maguire’ amongst others.
Robert McChesney, Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois, has a new book out, Blowing the Roof Off the Twenty-first Century: Media, Politics, and the Struggle for Post-Capitalist Democracy. McChesney talks about the book on the January 29, 2015 edition of Tell Somebody.
On January 25, 2015, the left-wing party, SYRIZA, won a stunning victory in Greece’s national elections. The new government, which says it intends to end the debilitating austerity measures forced upon Greece by the European Union, announced that the new Finance Minister is Yanis Varoufakis, a noted economist and good friend of Monthly Review (and MR author). We wish him well and trust that, unlike most economists, he will put his superb skills to work on behalf of the long-suffering Greek people and, indeed, all those oppressed by the policies imposed by the ruling classes of the European Union and United States.