Sunday April 20th, 2014, 10:05 pm (EDT)

Review

Book reviews and essays

The Philosophy and Politics of Freedom

Raya Dunayevskaya, The Power of Negativity: Selected Writings on the Dialectic in Hegel and Marx, edited by Peter Hudis and Kevin B. Anderson (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2002), 386 pages, $100.00 cloth; $24.95 paper.
August H. Nimtz, Jr., Marx and Engels: Their Contribution to the Democratic Breakthrough (Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 2000), 377 pages, $71.50 cloth; $24.95 paper.
John Rees, The Algebra of Revolution: The Dialectic and the Classical Marxist Tradition (London and New York: Routledge, 1998), 314 pages, $85.00 cloth; $26.95 paper.

In these terrible times, to believe in the possibility of helping to make the world a better place, and to commit ones life to that, makes one a revolutionary. Over the years, some of us have been inclined to embrace Karl Marx because he was on our side—the side of labor, of the oppressed, of the working-class majority—and provided invaluable intellectual tools for understanding and changing reality. Others, in this dangerous time of intensifying capitalist “globalization,” are also reaching out to what Marx has to offer. With his comrade Frederick Engels he produced enough material to fill the numerous volumes of their Collected Works of which the final volume is due in 2003. A number of helpful books are now appearing that contribute to the collective process of understanding and utilizing this legacy for changing the world. Those who can offer some of the most fruitful insights will be those who, following the example of Marx and Engels, have committed themselves politically in their own lives. Which brings us to the works under review… | more |

Occupation’s Mixed Legacy

Eiji Takemae, Inside GHQ: The Allied Occupation of Japan and Its Legacy, translated and adapted by Robert Ricketts and Sebastian Swann with a preface by John W. Dower (New York and London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2002), 751 pages, hardcover $40.

Eiji Takemae, the doyen of Occupation studies in Japan, first wrote in 1983 in Japanese this fascinating account of how the United States, over a brief space of time, “dramatically rewove the social, economic and political fabric of a modern state, resetting its national priorities, redirecting its course of development.” It is now available in a substantially revised and enlarged English edition. This major contribution is accessible to the general reader with little or no background in these important events—which brought New Deal reform to an essentially feudal country, and in what became known as the reverse course, restored important elements of the Old Order as part of a Cold War turnaround. While right-wing Japanese then and now present the democratization process as the imposition of a victor’s peace and cultural imperialism, for most Japanese it was liberation from repressive militarist autocracy… | more |

Don’t Mourn, Organize

Joe Hill's Children

Where were you during the “Battle of Seattle” in late November 1999? Due to my teaching schedule, I wasn’t able to be there, but like many other activists young and old around the world who weren’t there, I was thrilled, jumping with joy in front of my television watching CSPAN while listening to KPFA-Pacifica reporters on the ground, running to my computer to look up the latest IndyMedia news. I knew for sure that nothing would ever be the same. Not even the events of September 11, and their fascistic fallout have shaken that certainty. However, since September 11, I have felt the need for some evidence and encouragement, and I found it in From ACT UP to the WTO: Urban Protest and Community Building in the Era of Globalization, a collection of compulsively readable analyses, first person stories, and interviews of forty-one activists brilliantly edited and introduced by Benjamin Shepard and Ronald Hayduk… | more |

A Student-Worker Alliance is Born

Liza Featherstone and United Students Against Sweatshops, Students Against Sweatshops (London and New York: Verso, 2002), 119 pages, paper $15.00.

Not long ago, the conventional wisdom was that capitalism was so completely triumphant that we were at the “end of history.” So strong and seemingly obvious was this view that many progressives embraced it. People’s imaginations shrunk and only the smallest and most local kinds of change appeared possible… | more |

A Remarkable Journey

Doris Haddock (with Dennis Burke), Granny D: Walking Across America in My 90th Year(New York: Villard Books, 2001), 285 pages, $21.95, hardcover.

Doris Haddock is a retired shoe factory worker and a member of the Episcopal Church in Dublin, New Hampshire, where her grandmother came in the nineteenth century to work in a textile mill. Doris married young, raised a family, and has twelve great-grandchildren… | more |

Sweatshop Labor, Sweatshop Movement

Miriam Ching Yoon Louie, Sweatshop Warriors: Immigrant Women Workers Take on the Global Economy (Cambridge, Mass.: South End Press, 2001), 306 pages, $18.00 paper.

The reemergence of sweatshops in the United States has taken many people by surprise. It was commonly assumed that sweatshops disappeared years ago and that their presence would no longer be accepted. This proved to be fatally wrong… | more |

Unusual Marx

Karl Marx, Kevin Andersonand Eric Plaut (editors), and Gabrielle Edgcomb (translator), Karl Marx on Suicide (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1999), 147 pages, $49.95 hardcover and $14.95 paper.

There is a rather unusual document among Marx’s writings. It is titled, “Peuchet: vom Selbstmord” (Gesellschaftspiegel, zweiter Band, Heft VII, Elberfeld, Januar 1846), and it is composed of translated excerpts from Jacques Peuchet’s Du Suicide et de ses Causes (a chapter from his memoirs). The book under review is an English translation of this document, combined with introductions by editors Kevin Anderson and Eric Plaut. As we shall see, this small and almost forgotten article by Marx is a precious contribution to a richer understanding of the evils of modern bourgeois society, of the suffering that its patriarchal family structure inflicts on women, and of the broad and universal scope of socialism… | more |

Antiwar Movements, Then and Now

Bill Ayers, Fugitive Days: A Memoir (Beacon Press, 2001), 292 pages, $24.00 cloth.

“It is difficult to communicate at a distance the sense of helplessness and suppressed rage we all felt by the end of 1967,” historian David Schalk recently recalled of the sixties U.S. antiwar Movement. I certainly would not know. I was not even born then. Yet, if organizing meetings held after September 11 are any indication, the legacy of just this movement looms large. Seattle veterans have started talking about a global peace and justice movement. A recent e-mail even proclaimed, “you don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing.” And one wonders if it’s time for a pause to consider the story of the underground struggle against the Vietnam war… | more |

Taking Exams, Taking on Capitalism

Bertell Ollman, How to Take an Exam…& Remake the World (Montreal and New York: Black Rose Books, 2001), 191 pages, $19.99 paper.

Bertell OIlman’s How to Take an Exam … & Remake the World has a double agenda, which OIlman candidly acknowledges: to offer advice about studying (which the student wants) and to make a powerful plea for socialism (which OIlman wants). As a study guide, the book offers suggestions for exam preparation that are mostly serious (persistently reminding the student of the importance of advance preparation and offering guidance about how to do that), sometimes cheeky (pre-exam sex is okay, drugs and cheating not), sometimes subversive (in the advice on how to get over on the professor), and at bottom deeply crit- ical of exams as a genre, especially the ones that discourage thinking. OIlman argues that the function of exams is to train submissive work- ers, a trenchant assessment that grows increasingly explicit as the book develops. These exam tips and observations form less than half the story of the book, which scatters them amongst a devastating political analysis. While his experience as a professor makes him a good adviser for exam taking, his commitment to progressive politics and his deep knowledge of Marxism and capitalism make the political and economic material the more powerful part of the book, as he intends… | more |

Wealth Gap Woes

Chuck Collins, Betsy Leondar-Wright and Holly Sklar, Shifting Fortunes: The Perils of the Growing American Wealth Gap (Boston: United for a Fair Economy, 1999), 94 pp., $6.95 paper.

It is a telling historical fact that during both the lean times of the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the boom times of the 1990s, one thing has remained relatively constant: economic inequality in the United States has been increasing. During recessions it is workers who are asked to tighten their belts and who have to cope with falling wages, shrinking fringe benefits, or even massive layoffs, while everything possible is done to preserve corporate profits and income that is derived through ownership. During times of expansion one might expect the incomes of both owners and workers to increase. However, in the boom of the 1990s, while income derived through ownership increased, wages for most workers continued to stagnate and fringe benefits continued to be whittled down. About the only thing that kept the poverty rate at a respectably low level was the low unemployment rate. The boom now seems to have ended without workers ever making substantial gains… | more |

Sixties Lessons and Lore

Maurice Isserman and Michael Kazin, America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s (Oxford University Press, 2000), 368 pages, $25.95 paper.

The sixties were risky, frisky, shattering, chaotic, moral, exhilarating, riotous, international, destructive, communitarian, divisive, vivid, anarchistic, dogmatic, and liberating. Relentlessly commodified in subsequent years, the sixties became a boxed set: music, culture, clothing, academic professions, mythology, and de-fanged pabulum. It takes courage to undertake an interpretive survey of a turbulent recent decade; historians Isserman and Kazin’s achievement provokes, reminds, and informs. They have produced a valuable reference book, a genre where their uncertain perspective does little damage. Their brilliant opening set piece describes the 1961 Civil War Centennial Commission—which decided explicitly to exclude the words “Negro,” “slavery,” and “Emancipation,” from their re-enactment pageantry of white regional rivalry. When a black New Jersey delegate, arriving to participate in the opening Fort Sumter commemoration, was denied a room at the Commission’s segregated South Carolina hotel, all hell broke loose. Eventually, in a resolution that foreshadows the 1995 Hiroshima exhibition at the Smithsonian,“two separate observances were held, an integrated one on federal property, and a segregated one in downtown Charleston.” What a sensational narrative to open an exploration of race, history, and the war to explain the war… | more |

A Collective Past Within Us

Hadassa Kosak, Cultures of Opposition: Jewish Immigrant Workers, New York City, 1881-1905 (SUNY Press, 2000), 163 pages, $50.50 cloth, $17.95 paper.

The scholarly (and popular) subject of American Jewish involvement in the labor movement and the political left is old and familiar, but due for renewal in every generation. And for good political as well as scholarly reasons: every new generation of conservatives (or what we might call Imperial Liberals) seeks to make the radical connections into an immigrant hangover at best, while on the other side scholars dig deeper into the archives for fresh evidence of socialism as a founding faith of the Lower East Side ghetto … | more |

Radicals Known and Unknown

Jeffrey B. Perry, editor, A Hubert Harrison Reader (Wesleyan University Press, 2001), 505 pages, $70 cloth, $24.95 paper.

Somewhere on the road to becoming a Marxist during the 1970s, I heard about Hubert Harrison. A black radical from the early part of the century, his name was mentioned as an almost mythical character. Little was said about him, except that he was important and had been on the Harlem political stage. And then, almost like a ship disappearing into a fog bank, any further references vanished from view… | more |

On Walking the Walk

Anne Braden, The Wall Between (2nd edition, Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1999), 348 pages, $40 cloth, $20 paper.

Perhaps you, like me, tend to greet reissues in general and memoirs in particular, with a polite ho–hum. Why a reissue now, I ask, and who benefits from this republication? Does anyone lose? But when I read Anne Braden’s analytical memoir, I concluded that we all gain by The Wall Between now becoming available to a wider audience… | more |

Questioning Globalization

Paul Hirst and Grahame Thompson, Globalization in Question: The International Economy and the Possibilities of Governance(2nd edition, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1999), 310 pages, $29.95, paper.

Where, and how, one distinguishes between continuity and change goes to the heart of methodological differences in the social sciences, and in intellectual endeavors more broadly. In the case of globalization, there are those who stress the underlying continuity, while others claim there has been a profound disjuncture in the historical development of capitalism as a mode of production. Political implications always follow from theorization of the social world. But even when there is agreement on the dimensions of a situation there may still be profound differences over what is to be done, and where individual and organizational efforts are best directed. In the case of the overlapping conversations concerning globalization, the topic of the book under review here, this is all certainly true… | more |

Refusing to Cooperate

Morton Sobell, On Doing Time (San Francisco: Golden Gate National Parks Association, 2001), 416 pages and CD-ROM, $15.95 paper.

When the Rosenbergs received the death penalty for what J. Edgar Hoover called “the crime of the century,” Morton Sobell was sentenced to a term of thirty years. A second edition of On Doing Time, his memoir of one of the most controversial cases in U.S. legal history, is now published in paperback by the Golden Gate National Parks Association. Included with this new edition is an exciting CD-ROM containing selections from Sobell’s partially released FBI file, as well as a new preface and additional photographs. His lawyer, the late Marshall Perlin, fought over the course of more than twenty-five years to obtain the files under the Freedom of Information Act. They provide important supplementation to the book.… | more |

U.S. Militarism and Imperialism and the Japanese “Miracle”

Aaron Forsberg, America and the Japanese Miracle: The Cold War Context of Japan’s Postwar Economic Revival, 1950-1960(Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), 332 pages, $45.

Historical research on postwar Japan and East Asia has produced a number of high quality studies that have contributed to the formation of a political and economic perspective not too distant from the Monthly Review conception of the transformation of modern capitalism. These works point out that the conditions for Japanese economic recovery were found not only in the willingness of Japan’s capitalist elites to reignite the process of industrial accumulation, but also in the propulsive role played by military spending and by actual wars.… | more |

Telling the Story of Our America

Juan Gonzalez, Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America(New York:Viking Penguin, 2000), 346 pp., $27.95 cloth, $15 paper.

With passion and eloquence, Juan Gonzalez presents a devastating perspective on U.S. history rarely found in mainstream publishing aimed at a popular audience. The United States emerged in just two hundred years, he points out, as the world’s superpower and richest nation. “No empire, whether in ancient or modern times, ever saw its influence spread so far or determined the thoughts and actions of so many people around the world as our nation does today.” The majority of U.S. people don’t like to think of their country as an empire… | more |

Neoliberalism from Reagan to Clinton

Michael Meeropol, Surrender: How the Clinton Administration Completed the Reagan Revolution (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998), 377 pages, cloth $34.50, paper $19.95.

Recent presidential elections in the United States have obfuscated, more than clarified, the social divisions of American society. While the Democrats project a well-worn image of protecting working Americans the Republicans declare the need to defend traditional American values. In reality, the consensus between the two parties on the superiority of American government and the beneficence of capitalism rules any challenge to the status quo politically out of bounds (even the candidacy of longtime policy activist Ralph Nader was seen as beyond the pale). The contest between Albert Gore and George W. Bush—a contest between patrician familial dynasties that could only occur in the United States—was no exception… | more |

Subverting A Model

Vijay Prashad,The Karma of Brown Folk(University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 248 pages, $25 hardcover.

The Karma of Brown Folk is essentially addressed to two audiences and is surprisingly successful in being readable by both. Its primary audience is the “desi”—men and women of South Asian descent living in the United States. This widely dispersed group of some fifteen million first and second generation immigrants is often referred to as a model minority—untroublesome, hardworking, entrepreneurial, conservative, clannish, and family oriented. In approaching these countrymen the author’s freely avowed purpose is a subversive one. He wants to destroy the image by re-forming the fact behind it… | more |