Tag Archive - reviews

Car Culture: A Dead-End Road

Review of Bianca Mugyenyi and Yves Engler, Stop Signs: Cars and Capitalism on the Road to Economic, Social and Ecological Decay (Fernwood/RED, 2011).

By Harold Lavender

Wages of Rebellion Without Strategy

By Kaley Kennedy 

Review of Chris Hedges, Wages of Rebellion (Knopf Canada, 2015) 

About two thirds into Wages of Rebellion, Chris Hedges discusses the writing of Thomas Paine, saying "[Paine] spoke undeniable truths. And he did so in a language that was accessible. He called upon his readers to act upon these truths."  

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Hedges. Not only is much of Wages of Rebellion excessively academic, referencing dozens of authors, theorists, and political thinkers who are probably not common reading for those on the front lines of political struggle, but he also presents little in the way of a call to action. 

Decolonizing Property Rights in Canada

Review of Arthur Manuel and Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson, Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-Up Call (Between the Lines, 2015)

This vivid political memoir is co-authored by two prominent Indigenous leaders from interior British Columbia, Arthur Manuel (Secwepemc) and Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson (Syilx/Okanagan and Grand Chief of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs). Manuel’s voice predominates in the balance of the book, while Derrickson has written the afterword.

Explaining Acquiescence

By Charlie Post

Review of Steve Fraser, The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2015)

All of us on the left are all too familiar with the capitalist offensive of the past forty years. Under the banner of "neo-liberalism" capital has rolled back almost every gain working people across the world have made since the 1930s. All sorts of public industries, services and institutions have been privatized, social welfare programs that protected workers from the worst insecurities of the labour-market have been rolled back or simply abolished and unions and working class political parties that had traditionally organized and represented working people have been severely weakened.

Stories Capitalists Tell

By Geoff Bergen

Review of Nicole Aschoff, The New Prophets of Capital (Verso Books, 2015)

Storytelling is important to humans. Storytelling is equally as important to capitalism. In her new book Nicole Ashoff examines the elite in in our society and the stories they tell. She calls them, as the title suggests, “The New Prophets of Capital.”

Many people go to jobs they don't like and produce things that don't improve human life. Nicole Aschoff asserts - and I am inclined to agree with her - that this is a strange way to organize society.

Playbook for Progressives

By Maryann Abbs

Review of Eric Mann, Playbook for Progressives: 16 Qualities of the Successful Organizer (Boston: Beacon Press, 2011).

Another Politics

By Steve D’Arcy

Review of Chris Dixon, Another Politics: Talking Across Today’s Transformative Movements (University of California Press, 2014)

If there’s one thing that activists often lack, it is opportunities to reflect about what they’re trying to do, and how it might be done differently and better. Often overworked and pressured to focus on pragmatic and tactical questions under urgent timelines, it can be difficult to give political and strategic reflection the attention it deserves.

Just in the past couple of years, however, a number of widely discussed and important books have been published, inviting serious thinking and sometimes rethinking about what left activists are up to when they organize for social change.

Building an Infrastructure of Dissent

By Matthew Brett

Review of Alan Sears, The Next New Left: A History of the Future (Fernwood Publishing, 2013)

Bolivia Under Evo Morales

By Sarah Hines

Review of Jeffery Webber, From Rebellion to Reform in Bolivia: Class Struggle, Indigenous Liberation and the Politics of Evo Morales (Chicago: Haymarket, 2011).

Bolivia has been on forefront of challenges to neoliberalism in Latin America and the Global South, and stands out for the level of autonomy and power achieved by its social movements.

Lenin Reconsidered

By Charlie Post

Review of Lars T. Lih, Lenin (London: Reaktion Press, 2011)

Few historical figures on the international revolutionary left have been the subject of as much historical myth-making as Lenin.

Lessons for North American Labour from Workplace Organizing Abroad

Review of New Forms of Worker Organization: The Syndicalist and Autonomist Restoration of Class-Struggle Unionism, edited by Immanuel Ness, Oakland (PM Press, 2014)

By Steve Early

Understanding Canadian Imperialism

By Harold Lavender

Review of Todd Gordon, Imperialist Canada (Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2010).

Over the last decade Canada's carefully constructed if largely mythical image as a peaceful force in the world has rapidly unravelled. This image completely flies in the face of the Canadian state's support for coups, invasions and occupations. Involvement in the decade-long counter-insurgency war in Afghanistan has become the symbol of a more aggressive and militarist Canada.

David Graeber’s Democracy Project: A Review

By Brian S. Roper 

Review of David Graeber, The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement (Allen Lane,  2013)

Was the Occupy movement an anarchist movement? David Graeber certainly thinks so and dedicates much of The Democracy Project depicting it in these terms.

In reality the influence of Anarchism as a diverse political current was highly uneven across the hundreds of occupations that took place globally in September, October and November of 2011. The relative influence of anarchists, socialists, feminists, Indigenous activists, greens, social democrats, left nationalists, and others varied largely according to the relative strengths of these currents prior to the emergence of the Occupy movement, and how they conducted themselves during the course of the encampments.

Toward a New Labour Politics

By Maryann Abbs

Review of David Camfield, Canadian Labour in Crisis: Reinventing the Workers' Movement
(Winnipeg: Fernwood, 2011).

Against Austerity: A Crucial Reference Point for the Left

By Alan Sears

Review of Richard Seymour, Against Austerity: How We Can Fix the Crisis They Made (Pluto Press, 2014)

Richard Seymour's new book is an unflinching and insightful analysis of the current situation in which the radical left finds itself. These are hard times for radicals in Northern Europe and North America. You would think this would be a period of mass radicalization, given the glaring inequality being produced by blatant attacks on social programs, wages, migrants' rights and job security. Yet there are few effective fightbacks, and activist circles in some places are actually getting smaller.

Grassroots Anti-Poverty Movements in the South

By Maryann Abbs

Review of Augusta Dwyer, Broke But Unbroken: Grassroots Social Movements and Their Radical Solutions to Poverty (Winnipeg: Fernwood, 2011).

Catastrophism: A Climate Justice Activist’s Perspective

By Harold Lavender

Review of Sasha Lilley (ed.), Catastrophism: The Apocalyptic Politics of Collapse and Rebirth (PM Press, 2012)

Images and talk of catastrophes are pervasive in today’s world. Much discussion of the subject ignores issues of social justice and is not very favourable to a left-wing perspective. Yet the spectre of catastrophic climate change haunts the future. Climate change is wreaking destruction on many, is getting worse and poses a potential threat to life on the planet. This raises many serious questions about how the Left should respond.

A Diagnosis of the Current Situation

By Samuel Farber

Review of Chris Hedges, Death of the Liberal Class (New York: Nation Books, 2010).

The Neoliberalization of Social Democracy

Review of Social Democracy After the Cold War. Edited by Bryan Evans and Ingo Schmidt. 2012. Edmonton: AU Press. 

By James Cairns

A Crucial Book

By Charlie Post

Review of David McNally, Global Slump: The Economics and Politics of Crisis and Resistance. (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2011)

Memoirs of a Vietnamese Revolutionary

By Greg Sharzer

Review of Ngo Van, In The Crossfire: Adventures of a Vietnamese Revolutionary (AK Press, 2010).

Capitalist Crisis and Left Alternatives

By Hamid Sodeifi

A Review of Greg Albo, Sam Gindin and Leo Panitch, In and Out of Crisis by (PM Press, 2010)

The Lacuna

By Sandra Sarner

A review of Barbara Kingsolver, The Lacuna (HarperCollins 2009).

Anarchism and the Future of the Left

By David Camfield

A review of Cindy Milstein, Anarchism and its Aspirations (AK Press and Institute for Anarchist Studies, 2010)

Workers in the Global North: A Labour Aristocracy?

Review of Zak Cope, Divided World, Divided Class: Global Political Economy and the Stratification of Labour Under Capitalism (Kersplebedeb, 2012)

By Charlie Post

A specter has haunted anti-capitalist radicals and revolutionaries for more than 150 years—the specter of working class reformism and conservatism in the global North of the capitalist world economy. Why have those who Marx called the “grave-diggers of capitalism,” the wage-earning majority of the industrialized societies, embraced politics that either seek to “balance” the interests of capital and labour (reformism) or blame other workers for falling living standards and working conditions (conservatism)? 

Review of Let Them Eat Junk

By Daniel Serge

A review of Robert Albritton, Let Them Eat Junk (Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring, 2009).

There's a burgeoning genre of books showing the crisis in food. The 100 Mile Diet, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Slow Food Nation and others point out that one of the key dimensions of the ecological crisis is food. Modern agriculture uses vast amounts of natural resources like water, land and massive oil inputs to process and transport food. What makes Robert Albritton's Let Them Eat Junk the best book on food politics is his reason for that degradation: capitalism, and its need to make a profit regardless of the cost to natural or human health.

Democracy from Below vs Official Democracy

Review of James Cairns and Alan Sears, The Democratic Imagination: Envisioning Popular Power in the Twenty-First Century (University of Toronto Press, 2012)

By Salmaan Khan

Review of Direct Action: An Ethnography

By Jackie Esmonde

A review of David Graeber, Direct Action: An Ethnography (AK Press, 2009).

Vilified by the media, romanticized by scores of young people, viewed by some as the bane of the global justice movement – like it or not, the Black Bloc anarchists who first entered public consciousness at the Seattle demonstrations against the World Trade Organization in 1999 came to symbolize the resistance to global inequality of the late 1990s and early 2000s in North America.

Reflections of a Weather Underground Veteran

Review of David Gilbert, Love and Struggle: My Life in SDS, The Weather Underground, and Beyond (PM Press, 2012).

By Kim Moody

Occupy This!

Review of Judy Rebick, Occupy This! (Penguin, 2012).

By Donya Ziaee

Reading long-time activist Judy Rebick's new e-book Occupy This! re-awakened memories of my experience at the Occupy Toronto encampment in its very early days. The optimism, excitement and hope with which Rebick pens her latest book is quite reminiscent of the sentiments that drew me, and perhaps many others, to the camp in the initial period.

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