What have you read recently?

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spacious
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Sep 11 2019 12:30
R Totale wrote:
spacious wrote:
After this will probably read the new translation of Tronti's Workers and Capital that appeared with Verso.

I'll be interested to hear what you make of it - I impulsively bought it because it was half-price, but I'm finding it pretty difficult to get through, I suppose the Leninism of Tronti's language is one barrier but even beyond that, so far it seems a bit lacking in actual workers' inquiry compared to what I was expecting - far too much "the party must be based in the factory" and not enough "here's what it's actually like in the factory" for my tastes so far. Still, maybe it picks up once you get past the first bit.

Yeah I've read most of it years ago in the translations available online, and at the time I did connect with it. Curious to see if that's still the case. It is very much a leninist "what to do" kind of discourse, though for me at least, autonomia as a whole definitely stood for a different species of "militancy" or a transition to a more distributed and informal notion of social struggle.
I think what I got from it then is pretty different from the more highly political levels of Tronti's thinking, which feel pretty opaque and Althusserian to me, and I haven't really bothered with those parts, but I think that is mainly his later work and not this book.

Perhaps you'd find more of what you want in Romano Alquati's work on FIAT, which is based on inquiry in specific factories, but to my knowledge that has only been translated to German and perhaps French.

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Sep 18 2019 06:27
Agent of the International wrote:
I have also finished reading Facing the Enemy: A History of Anarchist Organisation from Proudhon to May 1968 by Alexandre Skirda. It was okay. This definitely has a strong platformist perspective. I must add that I had trouble comprehending many passages in the text that just didn't make any sense whatsoever. Maybe it's a translation issue? I don't think I would recommend this to newbies.

I thought that it was rambling and that the layout at times made it confusing to follow. I also thought that the author had an annoying tendency to pontificate a bit too much about why anarchist movements after the Russian Revolution botched things up and to that end the author sometimes seems to suggest that had they just followed platformist principals that all would have turned out well.

The parts of the book that I found most insightful were the early chapters having to do with the infiltration of the police provocateurs into early European anarchist groups. Also, the few paragraphs were the author attempts to get behind the facts surrounding the allegations of sexual misconduct made against the French anarchist Sebastien Faure for alleged offenses against young girls that he reportedly did a short stint in prison for, which is kind of a big deal, both for the subject matter and because I know of nothing else written about Faure (certainly not saying I've read everything) that has made more than cursory mention of the allegations.

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Sep 18 2019 21:50

Recently read Anarchism and Violence: Severino Di Giovanni in Argentina 1923–1931 by Osvaldo Bayer. The book explores a somewhat obscure chapter from anarchist history.

Severino Di Giovanni, was Italian anarchist and an exile from Fascist Italy who with the aid of a small group of comrades carried out a series of bombings against representatives of Italian Fascism in Argentina, often with unintended consequences, as well as partaking in assassination attempts against particularly brutal agents of the Argentine state. Anarchism in Argentina at the time of Di Giovanni was represented primarily by factions gathered around the theoretical publications La Protesta, and Los Antorcha, respectively, as well as the Anarcho-syndicalists of the FORA and the autonomous workers unions. Di Giovanni, while living underground and always but one step ahead of the law self-published his own paper, Culmine. The infighting between the factions gathered around the various publications was often fierce and sometimes even lead to bloodshed.

Osvaldo Bayer's Anarchism and Violence is not a book that I would give to someone new to anarchism but for anarchists that have been around for a while, it's highly recommended.

On a completely different note, I've also been reading the book Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James McPherson, which is said to be the best treatment of the US Civil War in a single book. I am about one fourth through the books 800 plus pages and the book still has yet to get to the actual war, which is fine by me since I'm more interested in the social and political situation leading up the war than in bloody battles of the war itself, and this book does not disappoint in that respect. I've learned many things about the Antebellum Period from the book that I hadn't know; such as the fact that the Southern slavocracy had plans to spread their system of plantation slavery south to the Caribbean and Central America, and that wealthy and influential Southerners bankrolled several unsuccessful filibuster attempts in Cuba and Honduras to those ends .

Battle Cry also makes clear that slavery was at the heart of Southern desire for cessation from the Union and that the Southern slavocracy saw themselves as the rightful heirs of the American Revolution of 1776 (or "Counter-Revolution of 1776") by way of abolitionism being an attack against what they perceived to be their Constitutional right to property, in their case property in the form of other people.

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Sep 25 2019 20:58

Taking a break from the Tronti and reading Dale Beran's It Came From Something Awful, the expanded version of his medium post on 4chan that went around a while back. Really liking it so far, with the proviso that I haven't read it all yet. As a book about 4chan/8chan/beta/incel culture, it's not exactly the most uplifting reading, but he's a good writer and actually knows what he's talking about I'd recommend people read his "skeleton key" post first, if you think that's any good you'll probably like the book, if you hate it then probably don't bother. Not entirely free from cringey errors - he describes Jeremy Hammond as being "a member of an obscure far-left group known as antifa or the black block", and does that annoying thing of saying "situationist" to mean "anyone who does pranks", but it's a hell of a lot better than certain other books on the subject, and he actually cites his sources. Theoretical influences cited include the Romantics, Marcuse, Baudrillard and Arendt, if that helps anyone make their mind up about it.

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Sep 25 2019 21:22

Philip K. Dick's Ubik. Funny, weird, and doesn't really have an ending like most of his novels. But the world-building and characters as always is great. I really liked how everything is commodified; need to open a door, well, you have to pay for it.

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Sep 26 2019 18:13
Khawaga wrote:
Philip K. Dick's Ubik. Funny, weird, and doesn't really have an ending like most of his novels. But the world-building and characters as always is great. I really liked how everything is commodified; need to open a door, well, you have to pay for it.

Five cents please.

Weird, I've just read Ubik this week too. I agree the world its built is very interesting and surprisingly close at times to what the 90s were like.

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Sep 26 2019 19:25
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surprisingly close at times to what the 90s were like

I had a similar reaction, though not necessarily the 90s, just that PKD was eerily "accurate" in depicting our present.

MT
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Sep 27 2019 06:18

Trying to found worthwhile sources related to anticapitalist perspective on climate change. Read some shorter pieces by Robert Smith. The arguments against the possibility of capitalism overcoming the catastrophy are fine but not completely convincing (not mentioning the conclusions that some call trockist).
Found also this but geeting those texts free online seems to be a problem:
https://climateandcapitalism.com/2019/07/27/20-essential-books-on-marxis...

Do you know of any analytical texts from anarchist perspective that explain all the aspects of the issue and how green capitalism cannot be the solution? Or can it? smile

Otherwise, this was absolutely excellent and deeply insightful. Big respect for the author:
https://libcom.org/files/The%20First%20Socialist%20Schism,%20Bakunin%20v...

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Sep 28 2019 17:54
MT wrote:
Trying to found worthwhile sources related to anticapitalist perspective on climate change. Read some shorter pieces by Robert Smith. The arguments against the possibility of capitalism overcoming the catastrophy are fine but not completely convincing (not mentioning the conclusions that some call trockist).
Found also this but geeting those texts free online seems to be a problem:
https://climateandcapitalism.com/2019/07/27/20-essential-books-on-marxis...

Do you know of any analytical texts from anarchist perspective that explain all the aspects of the issue and how green capitalism cannot be the solution? Or can it? :)

I dunno about all aspects, but there's the AF pamphlet on the subject. There's Jasper Bernes' critique of the Green New Deal as well. It's not super climate change specific, but I really rate Gelderloos' Diagnostic of the Future for some perspectives on possible futures for capital. The nihilist/anti-civ lot love Desert, although I've never read that and don't feel particularly keen on most of the people who tell everyone to read it.

sherbu-kteer
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Oct 2 2019 13:08

Anyone read Bhaskar Sunkara's Socialist Manifesto? I just finished the preface and found it pretty tedious. I might come back to it later when I've finished reading other stuff, but the beginning doesn't much motivate me to continue. I get the feeling he intended it to be a bit funny and simple so as to be read by a wide audience, but the preface at least just felt convoluted.

I have also been reading Jerome Mintz' the Anarchists of Casas Viejas. I'm about halfway through and it's fantastic. There's so much detail about Spanish peasant life and politics, you really get a sense of what anarchism meant to these people. From the stories of the girl being beaten by her father for entering into a free love relationship instead of a marriage, to the struggles around literacy, the oppressiveness of the church and the general social order, it's all covered. What is distinctive to me is how the more 'cultural' questions, like those of free love, atheism and so on were totally integrated with the 'economic' questions of collectivism, the struggle for better pay, class war in general.

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Oct 5 2019 17:49

Finished the Beran. I think the last quarter or so is the weakest, he tends a bit towards Nagle-style "both sides" arguments in the last few chapters, although nowhere near to the same extent or as obnoxiously as Nagle does. And there are a few really bizarre moments like attributing the punching of Richard Spencer to "antifa (in this case, a Philadelphia chapter called the black bloc)" - no idea where that came from. Also it's kind of funny that he's very careful about explaining internet memes and so on to the uninitiated, but sort of assumes familiarity with Plato's Republic, the Tempest and the Illiad. Still very much worth reading though - the thorough examination and demolition of Evola is excellent, and without wanting to constantly compare it to Nagle too much, it is really revealing to see what it's like when someone actually bothers to critically examine and investigate the ideas of a far-right theorist, rather than just namedropping them.

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Oct 9 2019 10:41

If you’ve read some John le Carre you may be interested in - ‘A Legacy of Spies’.

Not having read all of the books relating to George Smiley, I could well have missed some of the references alluded to in this book. However some knowledge of ‘The Spy who came in from the Cold’, and ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’, are the minimum necessary to get the context and irony of the story. The book moves back and forth in time, as the secret past comes back to haunt the present. I liked finding out what had happened to characters years after the original book.

Recently a British spy chief condemned John le Carre’s cynical portrayal of the British Secret Service, I wonder if he’d just read ‘A Legacy of Spies’.

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Oct 9 2019 21:14
Auld-bod wrote:
If you’ve read some John le Carre you may be interested in - ‘A Legacy of Spies’.
...
Recently a British spy chief condemned John le Carre’s cynical portrayal of the British Secret Service, I wonder if he’d just read ‘A Legacy of Spies’.

I will put it on my list. I think Le Carré has always been very cynical about the Secret services, The Spy who came in from the cold is pretty cynical, in general pretty much anyone above the level of field agent is cynical, and anyone who isn't is usually punished for it, the Looking-glass war for example, is pretty brutal on that front. Also they are pretty open that everything is part of a large, probably pointless game and that generally winning involves manipulating people's good qualities. That is how Smiley ultimately brings down Karla.

I have started Woman on the verge of time, I am not getting into it too much unfortunately, not sure why. I will stick with it though. Probably expected too much.

The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga. Amoral narrator, quite interesting to have a look at the master-servant relationship, but ultimately a bit unsatisfying. Doesn't really address any of the issues it starts to raise.

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Oct 10 2019 19:02

Just finished PKD's The Man in the High Castle which is really good. Alt history about the Nazis and Japanese winning WW2 and occupying the USA. And the story features a novel that is an alt history about what would have happened if the allies won WW2. Quite philosophical at times and not as frantic (for lack of a better word) than some of his other novels. This one may be my favourite of PKD's in terms of quality (though We Can Build You is still my fave in terms of the story). Currently reading The Simulacra.

redredred
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Oct 12 2019 06:06

Uller Uprising by H. Beam Piper. His Future History series is supposed to be god-tier and it's pretty good so far

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Oct 13 2019 02:16
jef costello wrote:
I have started Woman on the verge of time, I am not getting into it too much unfortunately, not sure why. I will stick with it though. Probably expected too much.

I liked Marge Piercy's historical novel City of Darkness, City of Light about the French Revolution, but likewise found my attention wandering with Women on The Edge Of Time, and after a few attempts at reading it I put it on my back-burner of books to finish reading eventually.

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Nov 1 2019 18:45

I just finished reading Setting the Record Straight by Richard Hart.

A book about the Grenadian Revolution, I found a scan of it online, it was a very surprising read. Hart was the Attorney General for the New Jewel Movement and his booklet is openly pro the revolution.

Curiously though Hart seems to be a fairly mild labour party social democrat at heart, so many of the things he praises Bishop and the NJM for run counter to the narrative of them being another Cuban style regime.

He talks about the NJMs desires to restore parliamentary government, their commitment to a mixed economy, etc. He even talks about how there was two powerful businessmen in the cabinet, how their investment law was being updated to attract foreign investment and how they would give interest free loans to large rural estates to stop them going under and details the time the NJM broke up a successful workers co-op at the Coca cola plant and gave it back to the franchise holder as good things proving their revolutionary commitments.

I was genuinely surprised, I'm used to most pro Bishop narratives being written by Castro worshippers who know very little about Grenada. This on the other hand is full of information from anecdotes to statistics and champions them as moderate social reformers who openly defended investment and moderate dealings.

Their were a few bits that I found odd, the first section is a detailed explanation about the NJMs plans to revive "normal" government via elections and parliament. But the second section is about the NJMs mass meetings they were famous for, and their Hart makes the case that they were open and lively, got thousands of people to participate and were successful in amending laws and getting investment.

But after reading those sections I had a strong question, of if that's true and this system was so astounding, why were the NJM pushing for representative government? They appear to already have a superior democratic system so why the regression?

And some very interesting parts are glossed over. According to Harts account of the in fighting that destroyed Bishop, the reason it got so serious wasn't that Bishop and the rest of the NJM leadership had a rift, its that they had this rift while Bishop was visiting Eastern Europe and Cuba, so apparently they were afraid Bishop would come back with a load of Cuban commandos and kill them.

Which to me is really interesting, why did they think that was a possibility? In public the NJM and Cuba had a great relationship so what does this tell us about the reality? but Hart just moves on.