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Inequality

Overcoming Racism

Recently, there has been a great deal of discussion about the racism of white workers. Unfortunately, little has been said or written about how white working-class racism can be overcome. In this essay, I examine a prison uprising in which black and white convicts struggled with racism and overcame it to a surprising degree … | more…

A Poetics of Anticolonialism

Aimé Césaire’s Discourse on Colonialism might be best described as a declaration of war. I would almost call it a “third world manifesto,” but hesitate because it is primarily a polemic against the old order bereft of the kind of propositions and proposals that generally accompany manifestos. Yet, Discourse speaks in revolutionary cadences, capturing the spirit of its age just as Marx and Engels did 102 years earlier in their little manifesto. First published in 1950 as Discours sur le colonialisme, it appeared just as the old empires were on the verge of collapse, thanks in part to a world war against fascism that left Europe in material, spiritual, and philosophical shambles. It was the age of decolonization and revolt in Africa, Asia, and Latin America… | more…

Prison Sentences

Doing Time: 25 Years of Prison Writing (New York: Arcade, 1999), 349 pp., $27.95, cloth.

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s old adage, about measuring a civilization by reviewing its prisons, if followed in the U.S. context, is a condemnation of this nation’s own version of the gulag archipelago. A cross-section of prisoner’s writings submitted to the PEN writing contest for the past quarter-century reveals the cold, dark underside of the American dream. Men and women, denizens of both state and federal prisons, write brilliantly about trying to stay human in the midst of places of marked inhumanity, and indeed, places that only succeed if they dehumanize … | more…

Booming, Borrowing, and Consuming

The U.S. Economy in 1999

As we take our first steps across what Bill Clinton likes to call the bridge to the twenty-first century, we’re hearing a lot of praise for the state of the U.S. economy. The word “boom” is frequently used, as is the phrase “the best economy in a generation.” Wall Street economist Larry Kudlow, one of the most exuberant of his breed, calls it “the only adult economy in the world.” The United States, we’re told, is a natural to succeed in this post-industrial era—fast, flexible, polyglot, and decentered … | more…

Naming the System: Inequality and Work in the Global Economy

Naming the System: Inequality and Work in the Global Economy

The economic boom of the 1990s created huge wealth for the bosses, but benefitted workers hardly at all. At the same time, the bosses were able to take the political initiative and even the moral high ground, while workers were often divided against each other. This new book by leading labor analyst Michael D. Yates seeks to explain how this happened, and what can be done about it.… | more…

Socialist Register 2003: Fighting Identities

Socialist Register 2003: Fighting Identities

Why do racial, religious, ethnic and national identities have such purchase on the lives of so many people, and why are they still at the center of so many major conflicts at the beginning of the twenty-first century? What form is racism taking amidst the inequalities, refugees and mass migrations of today’s global capitalism? How does the American state—as both the manager of the world capitalist order and as the embodiment of an all-too-often chauvinist national identity—fit into the picture of ‘Fighting Identities’?… | more…

Worked to the Bone: Race, Class, Power, and Privilege in Kentucky

Worked to the Bone: Race, Class, Power, and Privilege in Kentucky

Worked to the Bone is a provocative examination of race, class and the mechanics of inequality in the United States. In an engaging and accessible style that combines thoroughly documented sociological insight with her own compelling personal narrative, Pem Buck illustrates the ways in which constructions of race and the promise of white privilege have been used at specific historical moments in two Kentucky counties to divide those who might have otherwise acted on common class interests.… | more…

The Education of Black People: Ten Critiques, 1906–1960

The Education of Black People: Ten Critiques, 1906–1960

Undoubtedly the most influential black intellectual of the twentieth century and one of America’s finest historians, W.E.B. Du Bois knew that the liberation of African Americans required liberal education and not vocational training. He saw education as a process of teaching certain timeless values: moderation, an avoidance of luxury, a concern for courtesy, a capacity to endure, a nurturing love for beauty. At the same time, Du Bois saw education as fundamentally subversive. This was as much a function of the well-established role of education—from Plato forward—as the realities of the social order under which he lived. He insistently calls for great energy and initiative; for African Americans controlling their own lives and for continued experimentation and innovation, while keeping education’s fundamentally radical nature in view.… | more…

Discourse on Colonialism

Discourse on Colonialism

This classic work, first published in France in 1955, profoundly influenced the generation of scholars and activists at the forefront of liberation struggles in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Nearly twenty years later, when published for the first time in English, Discourse on Colonialism inspired a new generation engaged in the Civil Rights and Black Power and anti-war movements.… | more…

Socialist Register 2001: Working Classes, Global Realities

Socialist Register 2001: Working Classes, Global Realities

Socialist Register 2001 examines the challenges faced by workers and the labor movement under global capitalism in the new century. This collection of twenty timely and original essays lay the groundwork for a much-needed revival of class analysis. A broad range of working-class issues are addressed including knowledge work and the “cybertariat” in the new economy, feminism and unions, migrant labor, peasant struggles, internationalism, and the impact of unstable, casual, and contingent employment. Other essays examine critically important regional experiences in India, Iran, Russia, Brazil, Southern Africa, and East Asia, as well as Europe and North America. Contributors to this volume reveal new and exciting possibilities for change that transcend the limits of old forms of class organization and politics.… | more…

Meatpackers: An Oral History of Black Packinghouse Workers and Their Struggle for Racial and Economic Equality

Meatpackers: An Oral History of Black Packinghouse Workers and Their Struggle for Racial and Economic Equality

Available for the first time in paperback, Meatpackers provides an important window into race and racism in the American workplace. In their own words, male and female packinghouse workers in the Midwest—mostly African-American—talk of their experiences on the shop floor and picket lines. They tell of their fight between the 1930s and 1960s for economic advancement and racial equality. In cities like Chicago, Kansas City, Omaha, Fort Worth, and Waterloo, Iowa, meatpackers built a union that would defend their interests as workers—and their civil rights.… | more…