Leftist Literature for Cool Newbies


#43

Oh hey thanks for reminding me they reprinted this. Just ordered.


#44

oooh this book is so good. i had a teacher of semiotics / communication theories back in 2015 who passed it for us and talked about how he was friends with the journalist who did the portuguese translation


#45

i have an awful problem of piling up tabs of long form writing i want to read on my browser. over the last two weeks i powered through many of them. most are about politics. some are in english. i wondered: why not dump some of those here? anyway,

arcary wrote a very insightful and fresh breakdown of the current ratfuckery in the country. this person translated it in english as a twitter thread. the essay is focused on the main reactionary political actor, so it’s not an overall look on the [recent] history of brazilian politics or anything (although you get a lot of that on the side).

i once called bolsonaro a “gated community caudilho” to a friend, so seeing the author use similar terminology refering to him makes me feel, like, intellectually vindicated lol

a case study of economic development in a “model” african country. i didn’t know about it at all before reading this. very interesting, while – as it always is – also being depressing when looking forward

very well researched and put-together. i had pronounced physical reactions of cosmic horror while reading. important gving the planet’s current situation etc etc

great interview with fred engst, a chinese teacher of economics, son of two american expats. his mom worked on the manhattan project (!) and moved to china (where she stayed for the rest of her life) in 1948 to live with her future husband, a dairy farmer.

the interview deals with a lot of things in detail: from line struggles during the socialist construction period that had their peak in the cultural revolution, how was it like being there (fred was fourteen as it began in '66), how capitalist restoration took place afterwards, etc.

most interesting parts for me were about the fundamental importance of dealing with contradictions between countrside and urban centers (something overlooked by many) and social class reproduction across generations through land ownership.

extraordinary lives of ordinary people, indeed

an apt enough response to this bizarre trend i’ve seen online from people in the US and the UK (that’s very hard describing to friends irl) of creating, uh, some mythical “financial socialism” or something? i mean, things like these are cute because you get to pretend for a second that politics is about clashes of minds and not wrestling for power.

(given my background i’m more open to policy levers than a lot of serious people but come on lol)

https://marianamazzucato.com/projects/mission-oriented-innovation-policy/

the chief economist for one the three nominally leftist presidential candidates mentioned mazzucato’s formulation of “the entrepeneurial state” on an interview as an inspiration for their programme. the presentation is full of word-salad but i want to read her book. very middle-class-professional-friendly, too


#46

Apparently Albert Einstein was a socialist! This article he wrote in 1949 is hella marxist:

Some solid excerpts:

Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?


#47

I hear Martin Luther King, Jr. was also socialist.


#48

It’s surprising how much discussion of economic models was compressed in the last fifty years (I’d think as a result of Cold War sorting but it really only got going in the late '70s as the business community began really politically moving). You can find frank discussion like this in the planning for the New Deal:

http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/15862.html

We were very close to a jobs guarantee bill in the '70s but it was weakened and then ultimately squashed under the Carter administration as people started questioning if the Keynesian framework still worked.


#49

He never endorsed socialism as full-throatedly as Einstein, but yes, he was a socialist. The Poor Peoples’ Campaign was an attempt to build working class solidarity. I don’t think he ever centered the idea of socialism in his writings or speeches but it was a recurring theme. A couple of famous quotes:

I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic… [Capitalism] started out with a noble and high motive… but like most human systems it fell victim to the very thing it was revolting against. So today capitalism has out-lived its usefulness.

We must recognize that we can’t solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power… this means a revolution of values and other things. We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together… you can’t really get rid of one without getting rid of the others… the whole structure of American life must be changed. America is a hypocritical nation and [we] must put [our] own house in order.

There must be better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.

[sources for these quotes here]


#50

as far as einstein goes it’s his “it’s precisely because I am a pacifist that I think we need to fuck up some nazis” stance that I always appreciated