Leftist Literature for Cool Newbies


#22

The Manifesto is really beautiful.


#24

internationalist thinker and overall cool-guy vijay prashad and a bunch of people from many countries recently launched the tricontinental institute for social research, covering local political issues mainly from the capitalist peripheries and linking the struggles against them within the current globalized order!

it’s really exhilarating so far!

mr. prashad is doing a conference about indian politics in an university not-too-far from where i’m living now, but unfortunately i couldn’t / can’t go :frowning:

(attn @tiburon)


#25

I still haven’t had time to read most of the books in my OP, but I picked up yet another one and did actually finish it:

This is a bite-sized bit of theory that I found really engaging and digestible. Mark Fisher talks about “Capitalist Realism”, a condition where both the individual and the wider culture seem incapable of even imagining life outside of capitalism. He explains why this is, how it works, and how we can pierce the veil.

The best part of the book for me was the chapter where he laid out three clear aspects of life that puncture directly through capitalist realism and make plain the failures of capitalism: co-morbidity of high rates of mental illness with late capitalism, the obvious presence of oppressive bureaucracies in late capitalism, and the oncoming climate apocalypse that capitalism is utterly unable to deal with.

He has a real sense of fun in the way he builds up his arguments too. The book starts with a riveting analysis of Children of Men, and ends with his imagining a Marxist version of the British reality show Supernanny.


#26

P.S. I also bought the most delightfully boring looking copy of the Communist Manifesto in existence from a rad bookstore with a dedicated “Marxism” section.

So many editions of the manifesto have garish dorm-room-poster cover art, so I appreciate this hideous pink and grey slab.


#27

ok, i’ve been overdue in contributing to this thread… here’s a list
https://www.marxists.org/subject/students/index.htm

There’s a lot of really good authors but here’s a sampler

MARXISM: An analysis of capitalism, rather than a model of socialist utopia. Explains why the system is bad.

  • Lenin - The Three Sources and the Three Component Parts of Marxism (1913)
    This is the one I would suggest people read off the bat. It sketches in broad outlines the development of Marxist socialism from French utopianism, German philosophy, and English political economy.

  • Marx - Wage Labor and Capitol (1847)
    This is kind of the ‘beginners guide to Marxism’, introduces the concept of surplus value, why profit is theft, the tendency of the rate of profit to fall over time, etc. Short and readable.

  • Engels - The Principles of Communism (1847)
    Short pamphlet, sort of a broad historic sketch of the Industrial Revolution, i.e. the development of capitalism, and the Marxist theory of history.

  • Marx - The Communist Manifesto (1848)
    I’m gonna be honest, I’ve never actually finished it… it’s worth reading though if only for historical interest, and so you get all the references to iconic lines. “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles…”
    Marx apparently wrote this in the span of a week after procrastinating on it for months and getting harangued by the Communist League to finish it. Which, relatable.

SOCIALISM: Why we ought to stand for something different.

  • Debs - Revolution (1907)
    How I Became a Socialist (1902)
    Competition vs. Cooperation (1900)
    The Canton, Ohio, Anti-War Speech (1918)
    Statement to the Court Upon Being Convicted of Violating the Sedition Act (1918)
    The Day of the People (1919)
    Eugene V. Debs, the Socialist Party leader who ran for president from a jail cell, lays out the case for a socialist analysis and socialist optimism.
    "Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.
    "In every revolution of the past the false and cowardly plea that the people were “not yet ready” has prevailed. Some intermediate class invariably supplanted the class that was overthrown and “the people” remained at the bottom where they have been since the beginning of history.
    "All hail to socialism! … It is coming just as certain as the rivers find their way to the sea. It is not yeat a popular institution. It is right.
    "I would be ashamed to admit that I had risen from the ranks. When I rise it will be with the ranks, and not from the ranks.

PRAXIS: The things we actually need to do to create socialism.

  • Lenin - The State and Revolution (1917)
    Written between the tumultous events of the 1917 February and October revolutions, and published after. TL;DR the state is a tool of class domination, used by the capitalist class to suppress the proletariat. Lenin’s main asset is that he lays out a clear(er) plan for taking power under his circumstances. While most of the Marxists of his era believed that a bourgeois revolution had to precede a communist one, and that Russia was too backwards to have communism, Lenin argued that (being reductionist) if one seized the state, one would have the greatest tool for creating socialism.

  • Mao - Combat Liberalism (1937)
    Short piece. Describes the process and attitude one should have when trying to build socialism. A lot in here is simple wisdom, but still good reminders.

  • Gramsci - Neither Fascism nor Liberalism; Sovietism! (1924)
    A lot in here resonates with our present time - Gramsci (an Italian communist) analyzes the weakness of liberalism in standing up to fascism.


#28

It took an embarrassingly long time, but I finally finished The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. It was pretty good! I found it kind of intimidating for a while, because I knew almost nothing about the French Revolution. The book was written right after these events happened, so there are a lot of contemporaneous references to popular newspapers and such. There is a ton of assumed knowledge that I just don’t have! But I let it wash over me anyway.

Once I got used to the rhythm of the writing, it was much easier to get through. I think I picked the wrong book to start with Marx, but I can see why people have been talking this one up lately. It’s creepy how much of this book applies to recent events in the US! Louis-Napoléon was definitely the Trump of his time (though much more capable and with far fewer brain worms). The conflict between the Party of Order and the proletariat really reminded me of the Democrats fighting Bernie so hard that they ended up playing themselves and losing the election. I mean, doesn’t this sound familiar:

Whatever amount of passion and declamation might be employed by the party of Order against the minority from the tribune of the National Assembly, its speech remained as monosyllabic as that of the Christians, whose words were to be: Yea, yea; nay, nay! As monosyllabic on the platform as in the press. Flat as a riddle whose answer is known in advance. Whether it was a question of the right of petition or the tax on wine, freedom of the press or free trade, the clubs or the municipal charter, protection of personal liberty or regulation of the state budget, the watchword constantly recurs, the theme remains always the same, the verdict is ever ready and invariably reads: “Socialism!” Even bourgeois liberalism is declared socialistic, bourgeois enlightenment socialistic, bourgeois financial reform socialistic. It was socialistic to build a railway where a canal already existed, and it was socialistic to defend oneself with a cane when one was attacked with a rapier.

This was not merely a figure of speech, fashion, or party tactics. The bourgeoisie had a true insight into the fact that all the weapons it had forged against feudalism turned their points against itself, that all the means of education it had produced rebelled against its own civilization, that all the gods it had created had fallen away from it. It understood that all the so-called bourgeois liberties and organs of progress attacked and menaced its class rule at its social foundation and its political summit simultaneously, and had therefore become “socialistic.” In this menace and this attack it rightly discerned the secret of socialism, whose import and tendency it judges more correctly than so-called socialism knows how to judge itself; the latter can, accordingly, not comprehend why the bourgeoisie callously hardens its heart against it, whether it sentimentally bewails the sufferings of mankind, or in Christian spirit prophesies the millennium and universal brotherly love, or in humanistic style twaddles about mind, education, and freedom, or in doctrinaire fashion invents a system for the conciliation and welfare of all classes. What the bourgeoisie did not grasp, however, was the logical conclusion that its own parliamentary regime, its political rule in general, was now also bound to meet with the general verdict of condemnation as being socialistic.

And so, the Party of Order fought socialism far harder than they fought fascism, to the point that they forfeited all power of their own, allowing a shitty, powermongering idiot to dissolve their government and take complete control.

Y’all, Karl Marx is pretty cool. I’m going to read the Communist Manifesto next, which I really should have started off with.


#29

Time for some leftist film for cool newbies!

I’ve recently entered one of a number of recurring phases in my life where I get anxious about my incomplete film history knowledge and fret about all the important works I haven’t seen. I’m addressing this by finally watching more Luis Buñuel films.

When I was in high school, a fated field trip to the Salvador Dalí Museum blew my mind wide open and got me hooked on modern art, especially Surrealism. At that time I watched Un Chien Andalou and L’Age D’or for their Dalí connection. I got a taste of solo Buñuel with The Phantom of Liberty. I could access certain parts of that film (for instance, I loved the scene of fancy dinner guests seated at toilets around the dining room table, then furtively excusing themselves to the lavatory to eat dinner), but most of the film went over my head.

Recently I’ve become more familiar with Marxism, and this has proven immensely helpful for understanding the subtext of infamous cool professional leftist Buñuel’s work. Today I watched The Exterminating Angel. It was great!

A group of bourgeois assholes have a big dinner party. The waiters, chefs, and doormen are all mysteriously compelled to leave the building before the dinner finishes. At the end of the party, the hosts and guests all find themselves completely incapable of leaving the room. Without their servants, the typical social hierarchy they depend on is disrupted and they can’t handle it. There’s a completely open threshold leading out into the living room, but whenever one of them gets near it they find an excuse not to go through. They’re stuck in the room for months, and descend into barbarity until two incredible twists that made me laugh out loud:

Through elaborate choreography, one of the guests manages to successfully recreate the conditions that normally lead to the end of a dinner party, and then says the magic words: “It’s very late, and we must be going.” This mystical incantation finally spoken, this unspoken rule of bourgeois morality at last followed, the guests are free to walk straight out the door. Then… they go and get stuck inside a church at the conclusion of a sermon, lol.

I can’t wait to watch more of Buñuel’s work, that was such a great exploration of the way our social relations keep us all illogically bound to insane systems of exploitation.


#30

HAPPY BIRTHDAY KARL MARX!!

I just finished reading the Communist Manifesto for the first time, and then found out it was his 200th birthday. Hot damn, comrades! What a coincidence.

The Manifesto is brilliant. It’s so accurate, so timeless, so engaging!


#31

this was good, varoufakis is always good


#32

Not otherwise familiar with this author but that first paragraph had me eyerollin something fierce. Something about our epoch makes pretensions to the numenous taste sour.


#33

varoufakis is up there with piketty as one of the only credible european market socialists to actually work within and understand centres of power and not be either an ideologue or a wet rag

I’m very surprised you haven’t heard of him! he was the greek economy minister during that whole episode! he’s very outspoken! you would have to pay almost no attention to non-US politics to not have heard of him!

and yeah the guardian makes some lame stylistic choices in editing but w/e


#34

You got it brother


#35

actually I guess john mcdonnell is up there too

he’s just, compared to the other two, only a politician and not an economist, and also hilariously unelectable


#36

Yanis Varoufakis is also the economist Valve hired back in 2012 to help them turn Steam into its own self sustaining digital economy. He’s had quite the career.


#37

give john mcdonnell power armor imo

love that boy


#38

Watch out, everybody:

I googled Murray Bookchin.


#39

When I went to the endnotes to check on a citation, I found this old news article folded up into the book:

It’s about an English Green Party conference in 1990, shortly after this book was written. A conference Bookchin may have attended!

A little underlined blurb proved a little depressing.

It’s amazing to open up this book of theory and find a genuine artifact from the movement it was a part of!


#40

describing any green party as what it claims to be versus what it is in practice seems more than a little generous imo


#41

You should write an updated foreword titled “gas leak from lightbulb”


#42

I just picked up a copy of the new edition of:

Para_leer_al_Pato_Donald%2C_Ediciones_Universitarias_de_Valparaiso%2C_1971

First published in 1971 in Chile, where the entire third printing was dumped into the ocean by the Chilean Navy and bonfires were held to destroy earlier editions, How to Read Donald Duck reveals the capitalist ideology at work in our most beloved cartoons. Focusing on the hapless mice and ducks of Disney—curiously parentless, marginalized, always short of cash—Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart dissect the narratives of dependency and social aspiration that define the Disney corpus. Disney recognized the challenge, and when the book was translated and imported into the U.S. in 1975, managed to have all 4,000 copies impounded. Ultimately, 1,500 copies of the book were allowed into the country, the rest of the shipment was blocked, and until now no American publisher has dared re-release the book, which sold over a million copies worldwide and has been translated into seventeen languages.

A devastating indictment of a media giant, a document of twentieth-century political upheaval, and a reminder of the dark undercurrent of pop culture, How to Read Donald Duck is once again available, together with a new introduction by Ariel Dorfman.

I am beyond excited to read this thing.