Saturday, February 04, 2006

Recommended (Socialist) Reading

Lately, I've been reading a lot which my comrades may find of interest. I find pleasure in reading, or media consumption in general, when 1) the content changes the way I thought about something, 2) when I learn something new, or 3) the content is entertainingly clever, which in my case tends to mean bitingly ironic social critique.

The January issue of the Monthly Review (Vol. 57, No. 8) contains three excellent and relevant cover stories all of which I highly recommend.

The first "The New Geopolitics of Empire" by John Bellamy Foster gives us the historical context of geopolitics and describes how it is being implemented today as explicit US policy, and specifically as constituted by PNAC and the Bush administration. The basic foundation of the theory is that all states are in constant competition with each other and must continually expand, both economically and militarily. The theory focuses on the geography of this realpolitik defining the geography as the stage. Sadly but not surprisingly, this is a very anti-humane worldview (states are the actors, not people) and further was a very influential concept with the Nazis.

The second is "What Will We Do?" by Ursula Huws. In part, this article is a discussion of individual identity as related to job categories and skill sets. This article also makes the argument that the current drive towards a "knowledge worker" global economy is, at its root, the creation of a global reserve army of labor. She describes historical trends to contextualize the current landscape of labor and touches on all the contemporary topics such as outsourcing and the heretofore decline of industrial unionism.

The third is "What Was The Matter with Ohio?" by James Straub. This fascinating article is an analysis of the shift in working class politics from the left to the right in the US, one outcome of which was Ohio going to Bush in the 2004 election (note: I am personally convinced that the evidence is more than complete to show that the Diebold voting machines had a lot to do with the election results). He describes how the evangelical churches have become a haven for a working class stripped of its jobs as industrial jobs are shed in Ohio by the hundreds of thousands. Straub tells the story of Ohio populism and progressive politics and its role as a catalyst for worldwide unionism, all of which has been devastated by the movement of industrial production to the Mad Max capitalism of the periphery areas, such as the Asian Rim. He quotes one of Karl Rove's strategists as describing the evangelical churches as the "new unions" - places where people find solidarity and where their politics are molded. Unfortunately these institutions are completely reactionary and focus the working class resentment along racial and gender lines. Not surprising considering they are largely funded by the ultra-right wing corporatocracy.

The Jan-Feb 2006 issue of ISR (International Socialist Review, Issue 45) has many interesting articles, a series of which focused on the California execution of Stan “Tookie” Williams changed my mind and opened my eyes. Especially relevant as February is “Black History Month” in the US, the articles tell the story of Stan Williams, his role in the Los Angeles gangs, arrest and conviction, and the incredible amount of work he did from jail to work to keep youths away from drugs and out of gangs. I encourage all to read the articles and (re)open your eyes to the truth of class warfare waged along race lines in America.

Finally, two book reviews from the Jan 13. Texas Observer (Vol. 98, No. 1) described a Texas I’d never know about – the Mexican-American radical communist-anarchists of El Paso at the turn of the last century (1890s-1920s). Ringside Seat to a Revolution by David Romo tells the story of El Paso during these times. Romo is a native of El Paso and he delves in the multiple micro-histories using psychogeographic techniques to weave a compelling and rich tapestry of a city experiencing dramatic social change.

In The Hummingbird’s Daughter, Luis Alberto Urrea is a novel, telling the story of his great-aunt Terresita Urrea, a famous healer and the Joan of Arc of the Mexican Revolution. Urrea was an inspirational figure in Mexico but had to flee to El Paso due to persecution by the Mexican Army. She was said to have healed over 10,000 people on one occasion, and many revolutionary fighters claimed that her apparition appeared during battles to lead them to victory.

Most of these articles should be available online, but I fully recommend subscription to any or all of the above mentioned publications.

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