DONATE NOW TO HELP UPGRADE LIBCOM.ORG

What Are You Reading?

615 posts / 0 new
Last post
Tyrion's picture
Tyrion
Offline
Joined: 12-04-13
Apr 19 2013 19:24

Silent_Wage_Slave, a friend gave me Work a few months ago. I also enjoyed it, and was surprised to feel that way. Good to see that Crimethinc has turned away from lifestylism, based on their criticism of the "individualist solution" as I think they put it in the book. Although I thought the section where they do make that criticism was rather weak what with describing state capitalism as the "communist solution" and social democracy as "the socialist solution." Lots of neat pictures/comics in there too.

Nanner, that Bolivia book sounds interesting. Does it go into the organization of production/distribution in these indigenous communities?

wojtek
Offline
Joined: 8-01-11
Apr 19 2013 22:56
Quote:
Raúl Zibechi's Dispersing Power

enjoy :)

JoeMaguire's picture
JoeMaguire
Offline
Joined: 26-09-03
Apr 20 2013 00:22
Silent_Wage_Slave wrote:
Crimethinc.'s "Work: Capitalism, Economics, Resistance".

I read this last year and wasn't that impressed. It seemed to cover an adequate analysis, but offer nothing in terms of a programme for going forward. An obvious improvement in the groups output, but I got the impression they are heavily indebted to prole.info for the graphics if nothing else.

NannerNannerNan...
Offline
Joined: 18-12-11
Apr 20 2013 12:18
Tyrion wrote:
Nanner, that Bolivia book sounds interesting. Does it go into the organization of production/distribution in these indigenous communities?

Hell's yeah! It's... it's definitely not communist. It's like a weird system of non-capitalist capitalism, wherein families own small businesses and such while providing mutual aid. It's really weird, and I still don't fully understand it. (though Zibechi's dense writing doesn't help!) Wotjek posted a link to the book, so definitely read all the way up to the third chapter, it's all very confusing. Zibechi calls the means of production "communitarian" and "communal" - and I'd be inclined to agree!

Oops forgot: I'm also a clever fuddy dudy and I'm making a crappy little epub wherein all of Libcom's article's in my favorite tags (syndicalism, workplace activity, on the job action, etc.) Is all put into a single ebook. It's already up to one thousand, nine hundred pages! (And I've already devoured half so HAH)

Seriously, it's such a bad epub the font in one part of the book and in another part are completely different, It moves like molassas, and I love evry page of it! I'm still fixing it to make it less terrible of course!

Tyrion's picture
Tyrion
Offline
Joined: 12-04-13
Feb 8 2014 20:17

I've very recently finished Burnett Bolloten's The Spanish Civil War: Revolution and Counterrevolution. Supposedly it's the most comprehensive history of events in the non-rebel areas during the war and while not the single best book I've read on the specific social transformations carried out in Spain (The Anarchist Collectives is better on that) it's definitely a very detailed and extensively documented account of the civil war.

I'm not sure what Bolloten's politics were, but the book's certainly not written from an anarchist perspective--there's some implicit liberal criticism of rural workers and peasants using force to gain control over the land and that the socialization efforts were somehow naive. Nonetheless, his description of the revolution are quite informative. A possible upside of Bolloten not being an anarchist is that he doesn't shy away from pointing out the conservative behavior of significant elements of the CNT during the civil war. I hadn't known that CNT officials did their best to prevent anarchist militiamen from defending the Aragon collectives following the government's attack on the Council of Aragon in the summer of 1937, which is perhaps unsurprising but particularly disappointing considering the result of capitulating in Barcelona in May.

Probably the most interesting part of the book for me was the role of the Stalinists in the civil war. I'd assumed that the PSOE and PCE essentially allied during the civil war, brought together in common opposition to the revolution. In reality, though both were reactionary organizations, the PCE had an increasingly hostile relationship with PM Francisco Largo Caballero and continued to face opposition to its growing dominance following Largo Caballero's ouster from PSOE Defense Minister Indelacio Prieto. Bolloten draws some interesting comparisons between the Stalinist methods of taking control of the Spanish government and their strategy with the post-WWII governments in Eastern Europe, suggesting that their success in the former case informed their behavior in the latter. In the case of Spain, the PCE focused its early efforts on gaining control of the police and military apparatuses, and using these to undermine its opponents despite not being in formal control of the government--during the period of its greatest power in the Republic, in the months following Prieto's ouster in April 1938, the PCE only had one actual cabinet minister.

Also intriguing is the international political maneuvering. When I've learned about the civil war in the past, the behavior of the foreign imperialist powers is typically simplified to ideological identification with Franco on the part of Germany and Spain and with antifascism on the part of the USSR. From what Bolloten writes, the situation was much more complex. Germany limited its support to the Francoist forces in order to encourage a greater Italian commitment--the triumph of Franco being an important contribution toward Italian hegemony in the Mediterranean--that would reduce Italy's ability to oppose the German seizure of Austria and Czechoslovakia and draw Italy into a closer alliance with Germany by hopefully escalating tension between Italy and the UK/France. The aim of the USSR, on the other hand, was to place itself in a position in which, having established Spain as a Soviet outpost (something that was constantly downplayed during the war itself to draw British and French support), it would be in a much stronger position to command an alliance with either the UK/France or with Germany. Alternatively, Stalin hoped that if he could draw the UK and France into the war, it would explode into a broader war in Western Europe that would weaken the more powerful states there and put the USSR in a position to assert itself over the rest of Europe.

Bolloten relies on a great deal of primary sources from British and French officials to underline that these efforts were futile and that the UK in particular was very dedicated in the years leading up to WWII to establish some sort of non-aggression pact with Germany. Any patriotic illusions about the nature of the UK's relationship with Nazi Germany are quite eviscerated by the extensive evidence of the British policy of building up Germany as an anti-Soviet ally. It casts the appeasement policy in a very different light--rather than the very popular view that Chamerlain and large portions of the British government suddenly became incomprehensibly naive in 1938, appeasement served the specific purpose of encouraging Germany to direct its forces against the USSR.

All in all an excellent and very readable book and highly recommend.

Pennoid's picture
Pennoid
Offline
Joined: 18-02-12
Feb 8 2014 23:41

@tyrion I've been meaning to read that for a while. I have Bolloten's The Grand Camoflauge which is a shorter work specifically about the Communist machinations to dominate the republican and anarchist side in the war.

cresspot's picture
cresspot
Offline
Joined: 8-09-13
Feb 9 2014 06:57

The Mirror of Production, Baudrillard, a very skeptical look at Marxism and its basis in the concepts of capitalist symbology or what have you blah blah blah it's a pritty good book

freemind
Offline
Joined: 10-10-08
Feb 9 2014 09:10

Hello Comrades!
I'm reading Proposed Roads To Freedom-Socialism,Anarchism and Syndicalism by Bertrand Russell.Im half way through it and its ok although some of Russell's observations on Anarchism are a touch moralistic and presumptuous.

Tyrion's picture
Tyrion
Offline
Joined: 12-04-13
Feb 9 2014 09:16

freemind, could you elaborate? I've never known much about Russell's politics and the Wikipedia page isn't great.

freemind
Offline
Joined: 10-10-08
Feb 9 2014 09:40

Hello Tyrion
I get the impression Russell overemphasises the erratic and emotional / personified image of Anarchism stereotyped by the Propaganda by the Deed of the late 19 th Century.Also although he praises Kropotkin who stressed that the ultimate Anarchist objective involved the Revolution/ Evolution perspective it seems there is an undercurrent with the author of scepticism re;human nature's ability to evolve in a post revolution scenario and progress.
I suppose that is the leitmotif of his theory hence the synthesis of his book which is fair overall and a good read but I feel he seems abrupt and ,retreats from Anarchism at a crucial stage and undersells the long term for an immediatism and safe option.
I maybe harsh but there are many positives in the book.

Ethos's picture
Ethos
Offline
Joined: 6-07-11
Feb 9 2014 22:50
freemind wrote:
Hello Comrades!
I'm reading Proposed Roads To Freedom-Socialism,Anarchism and Syndicalism by Bertrand Russell.Im half way through it and its ok although some of Russell's observations on Anarchism are a touch moralistic and presumptuous.

When I read that book a while back I was surprised by how unphilosophical Russell was in it. I agree with what you said in your follow up, he pushes for anarchism when confronted with the Marxism-Leninism of his day, but in the end retreats into guild socialism (if I remember correctly) as a way of having his cake (workers ownership) and eating it too (maintaining a 'state' of sorts).

Croy's picture
Croy
Offline
Joined: 26-05-11
Feb 10 2014 12:39

Finally started the AFAQ but probably gonna read something alongside it that's different because if I wait till I finish it's going to be like 2 years before I read any other book.

freemind
Offline
Joined: 10-10-08
Feb 10 2014 21:15

Hello Ethos!
I read anecdotes and quotes from Russell and he was lauded for his profundity and kudos however whilst Proposed Roads to Freedom isn't a bad book it is poor in some of its criticisms of Anarchism.Russell tends to equate in the context of armed working resistance and State violence,he does not seem to differentiate.He follows the same line on other issues and I agree with you that its an easy touch to go back and forth and cherry pick between ideologies.
He adopts a puritanical quasi pacifist-individualist line on issues of class violence and defence of a revolutionary gain and does not take into account the change of consciousness to counter post revolutionary problems and confuses a pre revolutionary mindset with a post revolutionary one.

Pennoid's picture
Pennoid
Offline
Joined: 18-02-12
Feb 13 2014 02:10

I'm reading The Origins of the Urban Crisis by Thomas J. Sugrue. It focuses on Detroit in post WWII era, and argues that Detroit's decline, like all U.S. manufacturing cities, has it's roots in the 40-60's. It also is explicitly concerned with the experience of black people in Detroit regarding housing and employment segregation.

At one point, when discussing the policies of the U.A.W., it chalks up it's racist behavior to the U.A.W.'s localism in the 50's and early 60's. Now, this is seems like a shallow analayis, and rightly so he isn't writing a history of the U.A.W. Maybe it's my knee-jerk federalism/anti-hierarchy, but I read in this a sentiment of "The progressive center is wh/top is what pulls the regressive majority." He somewhat qualifies it by quoting Charles Denby criticizing Reuther, but also stresses the national U.A.W.'s progressive character (supporting the NAACP through donations and federal employment and public housing integration movements).

The author argues that local union officials and management cohered in racist attitude to to keep blacks out of skilled positions and most departments that they could. Again, this makes sense, but I guess in general, I'm dissatisfied with the structural nature of the critique ("localism") vs. a historical approach which investigates why precisely that form lent itself to expressing white supremacy vs. interacial solidarity. I can imagine that kicking the reds out, WWII hyper-nationalism and military regimentation, etc. played a role. He does mention how the U.A.W. at the national level focused it's demands on cost of living benefits, hours, wages. Indeed, Reuther framed the focus on these demands as "Those which focus on the most workers AS workers." And Denby's critical re-framing: "Reuther says Negroes shouldn't raise any problems about Negroes as Negroes in the union. He says they should raise questions about workers in general."

I know that Marquart writes about the transformation of the U.A.W. into a "one-party" organization, or a top-down bureaucratic system. I still need to finish his book and read Denby's....

Does anyone know of any texts on the U.A.W. or Detroit labor focused on the black experience? I have Detroit I do mind dying, but it comes later.

jef costello's picture
jef costello
Offline
Joined: 9-02-06
Feb 13 2014 20:54

LA Noir - John Buntin. About the gangster Mickey Cohen and chief of police William PArker and how the department was set up and it's relationship with organised crime and with minorities. I've just got past the Watts riots part. It's not a bad book, although it isn't political, it's fairly balanced.

Ethos's picture
Ethos
Offline
Joined: 6-07-11
Feb 13 2014 21:08
freemind wrote:
Hello Ethos!

Hey there, freemind.

Quote:
He adopts a puritanical quasi pacifist-individualist line on issues of class violence...

Definitely agree with this. The only thing I would say is that he's not really an individualist like some "anarchists" are individualists. I mean, he clearly sides with Bakunin and Kropotkin on several issues and up to (at least) 1935 he considered himself a socialist. Also, from what I remember, never mentions any of the individualist gods (i.e. Spooner, Tucker, et al), so I speculate that his individualist-pacifism is probably more of a response to Leninism and Russia in his day than an actual commitment to individualist values over socialist values.

freemind
Offline
Joined: 10-10-08
Feb 13 2014 23:00

Ethos;
I think that's a very apt summary of his text.
He is thankfully not one of those awful Individualists who court lasse fairre and are an immature relic of what passed for Anarchism at one time.
His choice of Bakunin and Kropotkin is good as it highlights the Collectivist and Communist tendencies in the Movement.
The aim of trying to reconcile Anarchism,Socialism and Syndicalism has led him to seemingly chaotic and banal conclusions.Its a shame because there is a lot to be learned from fusing the Libertarian elements of the ideologies concerned but he doesn't do himself or the idea justice.

Auld-bod's picture
Auld-bod
Offline
Joined: 9-07-11
Feb 14 2014 13:16

freemind & Ethos ~

It has been years since I read any Russell. My memory is he was a freethinking liberal with a ready wit who could laugh at himself. He certainly had a strong pacifist streak, which along with his aristocratic background, I suspect prevented him from embracing the class struggle. One can admire his intellectual honesty while taking his politics with a pinch of salt.

EDIT:

An old copy of 'Anarchy' with Russell's face on the front was rather good on Russell & anarchism.

Ethos's picture
Ethos
Offline
Joined: 6-07-11
Feb 23 2014 23:15
Auld-bod wrote:
freemind & Ethos ~

It has been years since I read any Russell. My memory is he was a freethinking liberal with a ready wit who could laugh at himself...One can admire his intellectual honesty while taking his politics with a pinch of salt.

Yeah, I guess it wouldn't be a stretch to say I try to read too much into his political writings (or that I make excuses for him). He's just so influential in other areas which are of interest to me (e.g. philosophy of language), that I kind of wish he had better politics. smile

Edit:

To stay on topic:
I'm currently reading various papers by Robin Hahnel on capitalism and the environment/climate change for a presentation I'm giving soon. If anyone has any suggestions as to readings (not books, please) on this topic, please shout them out.

John Moore
Offline
Joined: 24-02-14
Feb 24 2014 21:54

Doing an essay on anarchy and whether it is possible. Any tips?
Any good writers to read? Websites? All ideas welcome

Croy's picture
Croy
Offline
Joined: 26-05-11
Feb 25 2014 15:10

If your doing about whether it is possible its your best idea to read things that cite examples of where it has been somewhat successful, so your looking at ukraine, spain 36. paris commune, etc etc

Drakula25
Offline
Joined: 20-02-14
Feb 25 2014 21:50

Why David Sometimes Wins by Marshall Ganz is an in-depth look at various organizing strategies amid American labor and what allowed Cesar Chavez and the UFW to triumph over the grape industry. It's fairly in-depth and it's made with labor organizers in mind. Worth reading but gets a little dull in the middle.

I'm also reading Max Blumenthal's Goliath: Life & Loathing in Greater Israel which is disturbingly good as an in-depth analysis of Israel's settler-colonial society and some of the more graphic elements of it that have to come to the fore within last 5 years. Not dull, but can be kind of disturbing. Not an easy thing to write about.

jonthom's picture
jonthom
Offline
Joined: 25-11-10
Mar 3 2014 07:33

just ordered this: Solidarity or Sabotage?

Quote:
The principles of trade unionism are based on working people acting together in solidarity with each other, to improve wages, working conditions, and life for themselves and all others. In its most developed forms, this extends not only to the worker next to you, but to working people all around the world, wherever they might be. Some of the foremost proponents of these principles in the United States since the 1880s has been the American Federation of Labor (AFL), then later the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), and since their merger in 1955, the AFL-CIO.

However, unknown to many labor leaders and most union members in the U.S., the foreign policy leaders of the AFL and then the AFL-CIO, have been carrying out an international foreign policy that has worked against workers in a number of "developing countries." This has been done on their own, and in collaboration with the U.S. Government and its agencies, such as the Central Intelligence Agency, U.S. Agency for International Development, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the U.S. State Department's Advisory Committee for Labor and Diplomacy.

In the post-World War II period, this foreign policy program has led to the AFL-CIO's foreign policy leadership helping to overthrow democratically elected governments—Guatemala (1954), Brazil (1964), Chile (1973); to support dictatorships in countries such as Guatemala, Brazil and Chile (after their respective military coups), as well as in countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, and South Korea; and to support efforts by reactionary labor leaders to help overthrow their democratically-elected leaders as in Venezuela in 2002. It has also included providing AFL-CIO support for U.S. Government policies around the world, including support for apartheid in South Africa.

This book argues that these activities—done behind the backs and without the informed knowledge of American trade unionists—acts to sabotage the very principles of trade unionism that these leaders proclaim to be advancing. It shows how labor activists have been fighting this sabotage, and calls for all Americans to support these efforts.

freemind
Offline
Joined: 10-10-08
Mar 3 2014 11:10

Just ordered Kill Anything that Moves which is about civilian massacres during the Vietnam War and Lenin as Philosopher by Pannekoek.