Leftist Literature for Cool Newbies


#1

~THIS THREAD IS A NO-CONDESCENSION ZONE~

Let’s talk about leftist books! I have long considered myself to the left of the US Democratic Party, but the election of America’s Baby Ubu Roi galvanized me to actually sit down and get educated. Do you have a favorite leftist book or author, fiction or non-fiction?

I picked up four non-fiction books the other day:

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I’ve heard from multiple people that this is the best introduction to Marx’s writing. It’s his historical analysis of the French Revolution and how Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte became a dictator, written right after it happened. I have very poor background in this area of history, but I’m hoping that some Wikipedia diving will prepare me for this. This book seems like a great way to absorb some Marxist theory.


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China Mieville is a cool leftist science fiction author who recently wrote this nonfiction book about the history of the Russian Revolution of 1917. I heard an interview with him talking about this book on Chapo Trap House and it sounded really fascinating. This book seems like a good way to learn about how a real leftist revolution has actually happened (and can again).


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I know this book is so common and popular as to be almost embarrassing. I saw Ladybird! I wish I’d been assigned this book in high school. I’m pretty sure I never got taught most of this book’s subject matter in Florida public schools, so it’s time to bone up. Maybe this book will help me apply some of the Marxist theory I’ll be reading to American history.


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I’ve been interested in the Situationists for a long time, from my interest in art history. I’ve tried to read parts of this book before, but it is really dense and difficult! However, I picked up a new translation that purports to be a little friendlier. I really think Debord hit the mark with his formulation of late Capitalism as a spectacle, and this book seems like it’ll contain deep truths on how that spectacle works and how to strike back at it. I’ve already made extensive use of his idea of détournement in my filmmaking and had a great time doing it. Reading this book will help me learn how Marxist ideas were further developed deep into the 20th century.


#2

if like me you identify more with regular-ass european socialist functionaries than heady jacobins then piketty has some real good numbers in his book


#3

Where would be a good place to start with Piketty?


#4

he only wrote the one!


#5

Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism I guess

Inventing the Future, Srnicek and Williams

Basically just trawl Verso lol


#6

#7

This happened to me.

I don’t know if or how much it inflected my life but I know it pissed off my dad so that’s something at least.

I would probably want to get a really strong foundation in a subject before I got China Mieville’s take on it but maybe that is just me I am a creature of powerful prejudice.


#8

Serious question: Why is that? I’m not too familiar with him as an author.


#9

Fisher’s Capitalist Realism, Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis, and Aime Cesaire’s Discourse on Colonialism are three generally brisk but rich reads


#10

His stylistic m.o. is doing onanistic donuts around whatever the ostensible point is. The only information he’s shown skill at delivering over a pretty lengthy career is “I really love displaying my knowledge of archaic words to you, the reader.” The idea of a history written by him makes me :doomdie:


#11

i mean in general i advocate for going to the actual literature about a subject (specially one as dense and complex as this one) before taking the not-committed-to-scientific-research-unless-for-cool-anecdotal-flavor version.

i haven’t actually read mieville’s book and i’m sure it must be a bliss to go through, but you know. i like this critique published on monthly review (definitely my favorite “serious” leftist publication in english) that shed light on many inconsistencies and omissions within his narratives and analysis.


#12

Don’t read works of progressive lit without the expectation of savage takedowns of said works it is the law


#13

I appreciate the critiques of October. Some solid points but I’m still looking forward to reading it. I have too many hours of work a week and too many hobbies, I have no time to dive into, like, primary sources on the Russian Revolution… So I’m ok with a bit of facile romanticization. I think I’ll still come out knowing a lot more than I did going in. I’ll report back with my thoughts on the book when I get to it!


#14

I’d say this qualifies


#15

I came to my lefyism through the legal-academic route which is too tedious and navelgazing to ever recommend to anybody.


#16

Thanks so much for this thread! I especially appreciate the no-condescension zone.

So far I’ve acquired a number of books, but read few of them. I’d second the recommendation of “Capitalist Realism” tho… it’s not super duper deep but it’s got some eye-opening ideas. It also engages with some of Zizek’s better ideas in a way that still works even though Zizek basically sucks now :stuck_out_tongue:

edit: Oh, Women, Race, and Class by Angela Davis is 100% essential reading afaik. The ideas will be familar to anyone already on the left, but there is soooooooo much to learn from it as far as just historical facts and events and people are concerned.


#17

on a wider reach i can’t recommend the writings of samir amin enough. he’s someone very important in core-periphery studies and thinks a lot about capitalism on a global scale (ie. the only scale that is structurally relevant)

i specifically attest for ‘eurocentrism’, ‘the liberal virus’, delinking: towards a polycentric world’ and ‘imperialism and globalization’

his articles are also super straight-foward and informative!


#18

I’ve enjoyed the two recent novellas he’s released lately, This Census-Taker and The Last Days of New Paris (which admittedly is completely up the alley of my adolescent interests, being about the French Surrealists and their creations fighting Nazis who responded by summoning and enslaving demons, creating a chthonic refugee crisis), but I haven’t found the patience to go through the whole Bas-Lag series.

I did like The City & the City quite a bit, though.

More on point to the thread, here’s the Chapo episode on October which might be of additional interest.


#20

This ain’t text, but I have a very good recommendation for newbs like me! Lately I’ve been listening to the Discourse Collective podcast. It has three categories of episode - Current Events, Culture, and Theory. All three are a good time, but the theory episodes are the ones that really shine.

Each theory episode breaks down a particular subject in leftist theory, explaining it in depth, with references to source texts. What really makes this work for me is that the episodes take the form of informal conversations between goofy friends. They crack jokes and have fun, but they also really make the material pop by relating it to present day life in the US.

If you want to get a good feel for what they’re like, as well as a great broad overview of concepts in Marxism, I recommend these two episodes:

This is their first Theory episode, and it’s where I started with them. A solid intro to Marxism!

This episode is a review of a bunch of concepts from their first “season” of theory episodes, but I think it also works well as a quick overview of various foundational concepts in Marxism. I found this episode’s breakdown of classes and discussion of the role of the police particularly helpful. I was listening to it while sitting alone in a dingy Sarasota, FL pizza place in the middle of the night, and two cops came in during that part of the episode. It was the right vibe.


#21

Also, I’m partway through The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte and I have to say, Marx was a great fucking writer, wow! I didn’t expect this level of style in his prose. I’m having a tough time following some of the particulars of this book, considering I have only a basic understanding of the events surrounding the French Revolution, but much of what he writes about here is universal enough that I still feel I’m getting something out of it.