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Ben E P

Joined 3 years, 1 month ago

Ex-poet, revolutionary communist.

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Frantz Fanon: The Wretched of the Earth (2004, Grove Press) 4 stars

The Wretched of the Earth (French: Les Damnés de la Terre) is a 1961 book …

Review of 'The Wretched of the Earth' on 'GoodReads'

4 stars

I picked this up when everyone on my Instagram feed was recommending White Fragility, a book by a white woman who spent two decades making her living by talking about diversity to corporate audiences.

It was really interesting reading Fanon alongside Black Against Empire, a book about the Black Panther Party which I've yet to finish (but will pick up again now that I'm down to reading 4 books at once--eep). The Wretched of the Earth apparently influenced the Panthers to a large degree, and it's easy to see why in sections like "On Violence" and "The Trials and Tribulations of National Consciousness." I remember reading about founding members of the Panthers considering Black Americans to be a colonized nation within the so-called United States, which allowed them to adapt Fanon's discussion of Algerians finding their way in battling the French colonizers to their own confrontations with the American State. …

Rosa Luxemburg: Reform or Revolution (1988, Pathfinder Press) 4 stars

Review of 'Reform or revolution' on 'GoodReads'

5 stars

Up there with The State and Revolution by Lenin as a pretty masterful refutation of opportunist (and what we might call today "radlib") attempts to co-opt the socialist project and Marxist theory specifically.

The ideas in this pamphlet are as important today as they were in Luxemburg's for clarifying intent and defending the movement from distractions that masquerade as critical additions or edits to certain fundamental ideas in the Marxist traditio.

For example, Luxemburg writes of Bernstein (the opportunist who is the focus of Reform or Revolution, just as Kautsky was for Lenin's State and Revolution):

"To him, ‘capitalist’ is not an economic unit but a fiscal unit. And ‘capital’ is for him not a factor of production but simply a certain quantity of money.

Here too, the theoretic base of his economic error is his “popularisation” of socialism. For this is what he does. By transporting the concept of …

Mark Fisher: Capitalist Realism (EBook, 2009, Zero Books) 4 stars

Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? explores Fisher's concept of "capitalist realism," which he takes …

Review of 'Capitalist Realism' on 'GoodReads'

4 stars

Like Adam Curtis's Hypernormalisation, this book is a heady attempt at parsing the continuum of what Fisher calls "the Real" and "the big Other." He invokes Marx, Baudrillard, Lacan, "Office Space," Nirvana, and "Children of Men" with equal deference, utilizing pop culture and theory to explain the puzzling, if no less certain, links between neoconservativism and neoliberalism, and posits a leftist anti-capitalist project based on critical analysis of capitalist realism's offerings and shortcomings, as much as its obfuscatory sleight of hand aims at perpetuating a sense that it is, itself, unalterable and unable to be opposed.

V. I. Lenin, Todd Chretien, Richard Pipes, Vladimir Ilich Lenin: State and Revolution (2014, Haymarket Books) 5 stars

Review of 'State and Revolution' on 'GoodReads'

5 stars

Kautsky Kautsky KAUTSKY!

This proved to be an incredibly useful read for me, defining (in Lenin's terms, of course) key concepts in Marxist theory such as "opportunist" socialism, the dictatorship of the proletariat, the bourgeois state, and (you guessed it) revolution in about 1/10th as many pages as English editions of Das Kapital Vol. 1 (I'll get to it, I swear).

Why are socialists often categorized as "revolutionary"- or "reform"-minded? Or, worse, counter-revolutionary? Why are (some of) the anarchists at odds with (some of) the Marxists? How does a state wither away? How dope was the Paris Commune? Why is Kautsky such a simp for the bourgeoise?? Ol' Lenny's got the scoop, and he's bringing it to you in plainer language than you'd expect for the early 20th century, frankly.

My only real complaint is that Lenin is pretty keen on repeating himself at various points. But given that he …

Angela Y. Davis: Are Prisons Obsolete? (Paperback, 2003, Seven Stories Press) 5 stars

With her characteristic brilliance, grace and radical audacity, Angela Y. Davis has put the case …

Review of 'Are Prisons Obsolete?' on 'GoodReads'

5 stars

An important foundational text for understanding the case against the carceral "justice" system. Historical context for the development of imprisonment as the primary response to undesired behavior (as defined by the state) informs Davis's analysis of the popularization of the crime/punishment dichotomy in an effort to inure the population to, or at least publicly justify the criminalization of marginalized communities as the engine for increasing profits in an ever-expanding number of private sector businesses that make up the prison industrial complex. The final chapter provides proposals for decarceration and decriminalizing in the pursuit of abolition.

Rudolf Rocker: Anarcho-Syndicalism (Paperback, 2004, AK Press) 4 stars

Review of 'Anarcho-Syndicalism' on 'GoodReads'

4 stars

I'd been meaning to read this for quite a while, and when I saw that Audible Anarchism had an audiobook version, I figured I'd start that way. I ended up tearing through it (with the occasional backtracking to ensure decent absorption/comprehension) and it was really enjoyable.

If you've read Homage to Catalonia, this is an even more interesting read, as Rocker was commenting on the situation in Spain as it unfolded. Of course, it's a bit sad to encounter Rocker's high hopes for the CNT-FAI fending off Franco's forces in hindsight.

In any case, it's the strongest piece of theory in support of anarchism I've yet come across. Unlike works I've read penned by Bakunin, Goldman, Parsons, etc, this relies less on firey ideological rhetoric, and grounds itself instead in a history of anarcho-syndicalist movements and orgaizations while focusing on the tendency's particularities within the socialist traditions of the 19th …

Kate Evans: Red Rosa (2015) 4 stars

"A giant of the political left, Rosa Luxemburg is one of the foremost minds in …

Review of 'Red Rosa' on 'GoodReads'

5 stars

A really enjoyable graphic biography, with plenty of notes to contextualize the pull quotes from Rosa's writing that are interspersed throughout the dialogue and narration. A great introduction to Luxemburg as a theorist, which emphasizes her work filling in certain gaps she noted in Marxist theory, and Luxemburg's history as an organizer and activist, putting her considerable skills at oration to work in the movement.