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Sasha Lilley & Noam Chomsky at Book launch event in Boston

Sasha Lilley and Noam Chomsky

News > Additional Stories

Sasha Lilley & Noam Chomsky at Book launch event in Boston

Photo by Martin Voelker

A fantastic turnout joined Capital and Its Discontents author Sasha Lilley and contributor, world leading intellectual, father of modern linguistics and outspoken media and foreign policy critic Noam Chomsky at Raven Used Books in Boston this week. They both spoke and took questions for an hour and all had a great time.

Capital and Its Discontents
cuts through the gristle to get to the heart of the matter about the nature of capitalism and imperialism, capitalism’s vulnerabilities at this conjuncture—and what can we do to hasten its demise.
Through a series of incisive conversations with some of the most eminent thinkers and political economists on the Left—including David Harvey, Ellen Meiksins Wood, Mike Davis, Leo Panitch, Tariq Ali, and Noam ChomskyCapital and Its Discontents illuminates the dynamic contradictions undergirding capitalism and the potential for its dethroning.
Read more

Buy the Book | Buy the eBook | Back to Sasha Lilley's Page

Cointelpro 101 on Tour

COINTELPRO 101 exposes illegal surveillance, disruption, and outright murder committed by the U.S. government in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. “COINTELPRO” refers to the official FBI COunter INTELligence PROgram carried out to surveil, imprison, and eliminate leaders of social justice movements and to disrupt, divide, and destroy the movements as well. Many of the government's crimes are still unknown. Through interviews with activists who experienced these abuses first-hand and with rare historical footage, the film provides an educational introduction to a period of intense repression and draws relevant lessons for present and future movements.

Currently the Freedom Archives are bringing showings of Cointelpro 101 to a town near you.

COINTELPRO 101 screening @ Lucy Parsons Center, Boston, MA

When: Wednesday, April 06 2011 @ 07:00 PM - - 09:00PM
Where: Lucy Parsons Center
549 Columbus Ave
Boston, MA

COINTELPRO 101 screening @ Reed College, Portland, OR

When: Friday, April 08 2011 @ 05:00 PM - - 07:00PM

Where: Reed College
Vollum Lounge
Portland, OR

COINTELPRO 101 screening @ Mix96 Community Space, Olympia, WA

When: Sunday, April 10 2011 @ 08:00 PM - - 10:00PM

Where: Mix96 Community Space
119 Washington St NE
Olympia, WA

COINTELPRO 101 screening @ Evergreen College, Olympia, WA

When: Monday, April 11 2011 @ 05:00 PM - - 07:00PM

Where: Evergreen College
Olympia, WA

COINTELPRO 101 screening @ S Puget Sound Community College, Olympia, WA

When: Tuesday, April 12 2011 @ 03:00 PM - - 05:00PM

Where: South Puget Sound Community College
Olympia, WA

COINTELPRO 101 screening @ Lewis and Clark College, Portland, OR

When: Wednesday, April 13 2011 @ 07:00 PM - - 09:00PM

Where: Lewis and Clark College
Portland, OR

COINTELPRO 101 screening, panel discussion, Newark, NJ

When: Saturday, April 16 2011 @ 04:00 PM - - 07:00PM

Where: I.Y.O (International Youth Organization)
703 South 12th Street
Newark, NJ
Description: The Freedom Archive is pleased to present two New Jersey screenings of COINTELPRO 101. The film is 56 minutes and is followed by a panel discussion featuring Bob Boyle, Bonnie Kerness, Ashanti Alston, and T.J. Whitaker.

COINTELPRO 101 screening (Law and Disorder Conference) @ 5th Ave Cinema, Portland

When: Saturday, April 16 2011 @ 08:30 PM - - 10:00PM

Where: 5th Avenue Cinema
510 Southwest Hall St
Portland, OR

COINTELPRO 101 screening @ Zeitgeist, New Orleans, LA

When: Sunday, April 17 2011 @ 12:00 PM - - 02:00PM

Where: Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center
1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd
New Orleans, LA

Interviews in the video include:

  • Muhammad Ahmad (Max Stanford), Founder of Revolutionary Action Movement, author of We Will Return In The Whirlwind: Black Radical Organizations 1960–1975.
  • Bob Boyle, Attorney representing many activists and political prisoners targeted by COINTELPRO.
  • Kathleen Cleaver, former leader of the Black Panther Party, now Professor of Law at Emory and Yale Universities, and co-editor of Liberation, Imagination, and the Black Panther Party: A New Look at the Panthers and Their Legacy.
  • Ward Churchill, co-author of The COINTELPRO Papers and Agents of Repression.
  • Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Native American activist and author of Outlaw Woman: A Memoir of the War Years 1960–1975.
  • Priscilla Falcon, Mexicana activist and professor whose husband was assassinated for his leadership in the Chicano struggle.
  • Geronimo Ji-Jaga Pratt, former leader of the Black Panther Party who was falsely imprisoned for 27 years in a COINTELPRO case.
  • Jose Lopez, Director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center in Chicago and long-time advocate of Puerto Rican independence.
  • Francisco "Kiko" Martinez, Chicano/Mexicano activist and attorney.
  • Lucy Rodriguez, Puerto Rican Independentista and former Political Prisoner
  • Ricardo Romero, Chicano/Mexicano activist and Grand Jury resister
  • Akinyele Umoja, African American History scholar at Georgia State University.
  • Laura Whitehorn, radical activist and former political prisoner who was targeted by the federal government.


More PM Author events | Buy DVD now 

Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism: A Review

By Travis Tomchuk 

Left History Journal 15, nr. 1 p.218
Queen’s University

Peter Marshall’s Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism is a well-researched and in-depth study of the history of anarchist thought and practice, written not only to demonstrate the existence of a “profound anarchist tradition” but also to show that this political philosophy “offers many ideas and values that are relevant to contemporary problems and issues”(xiii).  The breadth of the book is impressive. Marshall begins with the Taoists of ancient China and ends with contemporary forms of anarchism such as the green anarchists of the late twentieth century. In Demanding the Impossible, Marshall outlines the key tenets of anarchist philosophy, traces the history of European and American libertarian thought, and discusses the theorists who tend to populate the anarchist canon such as Godwin, Stirner, Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Tolstoy, and a few others—Reclus, Malatesta, and Goldman—who usually do not make the cut. Marshall then proceeds to explore the anarchist movements in Europe, the United States, Asia, and Latin America, and explores the continual development of anarchist thought in the second half of the twentieth century from Paul Goodman to John Zerzan.

Marshall identifies himself as an anarchist and his enthusiasm for the material is more than apparent. However, there are some serious flaws with Demanding the Impossible. The first stems from Marshall’s very broad definition of anarchism. According to the author an anarchist is “... one who rejects all forms of external government and the State and believes that society and individuals would function well without them”, which reads more like a definition of libertarianism than anarchism (xiii).  As a result of such a sweeping definition, some very strange individuals fall under the anarchist umbrella—for example, the so-called “anarcho-capitalists” who believe the state is a hindrance to free market capitalism and that all public services and spaces should be privatised (559). Given Marshall’s own conviction that such a society would be no less exploitative than our present day world, and one’s own sense that capitalist societies are going in this direction without in any way embodying the other ideals of anarchism, the reader is left to wonder about the coherence and usability of his underlying conceptualisation of his subject.

Yet another odd inclusion in the book, and there are many, is Albert Camus. Camus’s link to anarchism is so tenuous as to be almost non-existent. He may have left the French Communist Party and trumpeted rebellion and syndicalism in The Rebel but so what?  Camus was a French nationalist and an apologist for French colonialism in Algeria by any means necessary, hardly an anarchist position, a fact that Marshall openly admits. Nor did Camus proclaim himself an anarchist.

So why include him?

Marshall would have been better served to define anarchism more clearly at the outset of Demanding the Impossible. Had he defined the term more closely -as a leftwing political philosophy that is not only against the state and government, but for the freedom of individuals who in turn respect the freedom of others; not only against hierarchy and capitalism, but for a society of free producers- there would have been no need to include such questionable figures and tendencies. It might have made more sense for Marshall to write two books — one on anarchism proper, and another on libertarianism, in all its left- and right-wing permutations and combinations. 

A second problem with Demanding the Impossible, and this is a problem of most general histories of anarchism, is its focus on Europe and the United States. In a book of over 700 pages of text, there are roughly thirty pages dedicated to regions outside of Europe and America, those being Latin America and Asia. Part of this problem is due to a lack of English-language sources on the anarchists and their movements in China, Korea, Argentina, and Brazil. In light of the ever increasing number of studies on anarchism and its importance in these typically ignored regions, Marshall could have struck a better balance between Europe and the United States on the one hand and the rest of the world on the other.

As a history of anarchism, Demanding the Impossible is, in many ways, a great improvement over previous works by James Joll and George Woodcock because it treats anarchism as much more than an old millenarian movement that died in Spain in 1939. However, Marshall’s broad definition of anarchism, which leads to the inclusion of many individuals who were not anarchists, and his narrow focus on Europe and the United States, will leave many readers scratching their heads—and waiting a far more coherent and international history of the movement. 

Buy book now | Back to Peter Marshall's Author Page

Poetry, faith, and the Muslim soul

By Frankie Martin
The Washington Post
February 21, 2011

For Americans, Islam brings to mind many things, but poetry is rarely among them. Yet the Muslim world has produced some of the greatest poets the world has seen, like Rumi, currently the most popular poet of the United States. In this environment of suspicion and questions about who Muslims are and what they believe, poetry can be useful in understanding the religion and those who practice it.

Suspended Somewhere Between, a new collection of poetry by Akbar Ahmed, the world-renowned Islamic scholar and chair of Islamic studies at American University, provides these insights, giving an authentic and new perspective on a religion and a part of the world that is so constantly on our minds. The poems provide a window into Islam today, with its problems as well as its possibilities.

I have worked with Ahmed for the better part of a decade after taking his class in school, inspired by his message of improving relations between the Muslim world and the west. Yet I was unaware he was also a poet. These talents were concealed over a long career in the Pakistani civil service beginning in the 1960s, although some poems were published years ago, for which he won international awards, and were set to music by top Pakistani pop stars.

With this new book, Ahmed makes his American poetry debut in a collection combining older poems with new ones, providing glimpses of a life which has taken him from London to the mountains of Waziristan and now the halls of power in Washington, D.C. The poems range from the introspective and reflective to historical, political, and religious.

The title of the book, Suspended Somewhere Between, reflects Ahmed's own life--he physically moved between cultures and continents--but also modern dilemmas in an age of globalization where our identities are often in flux.

The poetry reflects this suspension, and is influenced by poets from both European and Muslim traditions from Coleridge and Keats to Hafiz and Rumi. There is also a strong influence from the great poets of Muslim South Asia, Ghalib and Iqbal.

Where the structure and meter of the poetry sometimes evoke the great English poets, Ahmed also uses classic Islamic poetic techniques to great effect. The scholar Roger Boase, who wrote on the poetry of Muslim Spain, characterized the Muslim poet of that era as a "jeweler with words, seeking the means of verbal images to fix and thereby eternalize a fleeting experience of joy or sadness or aesthetic delight."

I would describe Ahmed's poetry, which bursts with sights, sounds, smells, and sensations, in much the same way. Ahmed the jeweler often strings together linearly disconnected words, many of which are symbols like references to Xerxes, Samarkand, or an "iced Himaylan dream." When read together they effectively convey a mood or atmosphere. In "diaspora" there is a rapid-fire succession of images which give the impression of being lost in another culture: "Bulbous domes in mist/shrouded confuse me...the noon-heat edacity/of the seraglio lifts/ the veil and I see the/squalor of pavement-domesticity...the harlot/ of ethnic hungers/ sucks me in."

Islam is a constant thread running through the poems, and references to Muslim architectural wonders like the Taj Mahal or early caliphs like Umar are just as likely to appear in a love poem as one that is religious or historical in focus. Ahmed is uniquely placed, as a young man coming of age in the 1960s to comment on Islam's interaction with the modern world and the challenges it would face in the 21st century.

The most striking poem on this subject is "I, Saracen," in which a supremely assured twenty-one-year-old Ahmed assumes the voice of Islam itself: "Out of the shimmering sands I rode/suddenly Colossus-like the world I strode." Yet colonial and post-colonial realities had thrown the once confident Muslims into a crisis. What, then was the way forward? Even then Ahmed was clear. His Islam is one of "computers and the minaret," open to other belief systems but firmly rooted the tradition of a faith which prizes scholarship over violence. He exclaims: "The task so immense, its breadth its length/ so great, I sip of history for strength/ then scimitars cast aside, quills unsheathed/ Muslim true never surrendered while he breathed."

Many of the poems convey a philosophy that lacks a western category, a kind of religious existentialism. That is, Ahmed is guided and inspired by God and the Islamic tradition, but is fully aware existence often seems senseless and empty, especially when witnessing profound suffering. Isolation brings on these feelings, and Ahmed is often isolated, whether he feels he is the only human being amidst bloodshed, feels love which is unrequited or hopeless, is caught between cultures, or finds himself alone in nature.
In "high on these slopes," Ahmed's everyday life assumes that of a mountaineer in the "Himayalays of solitude," gazing at the "ants" living life's "sad and ancient patterns." He concludes: "under the illusions of conviviality/there is only white and cold bone/and/every man must stand alone." Although Sartre is referenced, the clear influence is Ghalib, the nineteenth century South Asian Muslim poet.

Many of the poems pulse with an energy and optimism for Pakistan, a new country founded as a homeland for South Asia's Muslims, but Ahmed fears an uncertain and volatile future. In "you, my father," Ahmed notes that while his father used to have to stand whenever an Englishman entered the room, he looks on his father's life with "envy" because he was secure in his identity in an established colonial structure. With independence and the partition of Pakistan from India, the certainty disappears and things fall apart.

Many of the poems capture Ahmed's struggles to promote the compassion and justice of Islam in this new world. The suffering of ordinary people, seen in titles like "the small boy by the road" clearly weighed heavily on Ahmed, and he witnessed horrors he puts down in words. In "they are taking them away" about the 1971 war between Pakistan and Bangladesh, Ahmed asked "what compulsions drive such men/what fear makes them such savages/while reason, so thin on the breast/deserts so quickly." The violence got so abhorrent, Ahmed writes, that "rape was relief/death a desire/and killing a kindness."
The state bureaucrats and civil servants, who are supposed to uphold the law, are failing miserably, and in "Votive Peregrination" Ahmed the jeweler strings some not so flattering words together to describe them. The bureaucrats are "coleopteral...with bated breath/wheezing... toothless sycophants/chanted in glabrous halitosis/in the unison born of/discalced despair."

Things look no better in the hills of the Pakistani tribal areas. In "Pukhtun landscape: a mood," Ahmed knows a violent storm is coming: "the fever stalks this land/from peak to glen and clan to withers youth, dries the blood in the veins of man... the old order is sick in bed/and our tomorrows hint at being red." And standing at the Khyber pass, looking towards Afghanistan, Ahmed marvels that so many foreign empires have tried to invade and hold the territory: "Like wind they came, like water they left/ the thousands of soldiers, the thousands of years/passages long gone, long forgotten/in this catacomb of desire and history."

Through all the pain and uncertainty, however, Ahmed clings to his humanity. This comes through in the flashes of humor sprinkled throughout the often intense and serious poems, as in the existential "'the world is too much...'" in which the poet, after conveying his fears of life and love, concludes that his greatest is to "fear flab anywhere." His description in "a little while" of an unattainable love as a "marshmallow...never toasted" cannot help but bring a smile to the reader.

Ahmed's humanity is also his Islam, the strand that holds everything together and gives him, and the reader, hope for the future. In these moments, Ahmed firmly channels the great poets of the mystic Muslim tradition. In "What is it that I seek?" Ahmed observes the same thing in Rumi, Mandela, Jesus, and Gandhi: "It is God's greatest gift/It raises us high above/It is the bridge over the rift/It is love, love, love." He encourages us to "Give it in generous measure."

As an American reading Suspended Somewhere Between, I found myself transported to a different world, which I feel I understand much better on its own terms. It has its predicaments, yes, but also its promise.
Both are on display in the ongoing Arab revolutions, which have exposed many of the internal Muslim societal problems Ahmed writes about, from corruption to violence and hopelessness. But like Ahmed in "I, Saracen," the Arab protesters have put away the scimitar in their desire for a modern society, using their religion and tradition to guide them. They have hope, energy, and optimism for the future.

As Dan Futterman, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter (Capote) who portrayed Daniel Pearl in A Mighty Heart, writes in the book's forward, Suspended Somewhere Between is a "treasured gift" for showing the "soulful depths of this remarkable man." Through him, we also glimpse the soul of Islam as he experienced and understood it. In a time of such turmoil in the Muslim world and questions in America about Islam, this is an invaluable insight to have.

Frankie Martin is an Ibn Khaldun Chair Research Fellow at American University's School of International Service.

Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Back to Akbar Ahmed's Author Page

Teaching for Change Interview with Derrick Weston Brown

By Don Allen
April 5, 2011

Teaching for Change staff member Derrick Weston Brown has just released his first book of poetry, Wisdom Teeth (published by the Busboys and Poets imprint of PM Press). Derrick started at Teaching for Change as a bookseller nearly six years ago and was integral to the launch of Teaching for Change’s Busboys and Poets Bookstore. At that time he became Busboys and Poets’ first Poet-in-Residence. Derrick’s hometown is Charlotte, N.C., but he currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metro region, specifically Mount Ranier, MD. He teaches creative writing at Emerson Preparatory School in northwest and at Hart Middle School in southeast. 

Teaching for Change: How does your hometown Charlotte influence you? 

Derrick Weston Brown: Charlotte has and will always be home to me, although I haven't lived there for close to ten years. I had a great childhood and I developed a love of books and writing through my family. Both of my grandmothers were elementary school teachers. Both of my aunts were librarians, and everyone in my family loved to read. As an only child, I had an active imagination and my family encouraged it as well as helped me focus my imagination toward the performing arts




TFC: What was your favorite book when you were a kid?  What is your favorite children’s book right now? 

DWB: That's an easy one, The Story of Ferdinand. Favorite kids book right now; Those Shoes and Hip and Hop, Don't Stop.

TFC: What are you reading right now?

DWB: John Murillo's Up Jump the Boogie and an autobiography about a Liberian peace activist called And Still No Peace Came.

TFC: What is the book that you are most likely to tell people that they MUST read? 

DWB: The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

TFC: Who are the biggest influences as a writer?  

DWB: As a writer: Sonia Sanchez, Paul Beatty, Sherman Alexie, Lucille Clifton, Shel Silverstein. As a person: Mom.


Derrick introducing Sonia Sanchez at TFC fundraiser

TFC: What book (or books) changed your life in some way? 

DWB: Paul Beatty's The White Boy Shuffle and a little known book called The Stray by Jamie Wyeth. These books changed my life as a writer because I really saw from Beatty's work that all the elements and literary devices of great creative writing could be used in poetry AND fiction. Jamie Wyeth's The Stray was the first book to make me cry, because of the unexpected tragedy at the end of it. I was not ready and Wyeth didn't foreshadow anything. Like life, death comes without warning. I was so mad at the end of the book. I was twelve or thirteen and I felt betrayed. I was so invested in the characters, that when the tragedy came, I was ill-prepared. That's when I knew, that was good writing.

TFC: Can you share your favorite haiku (written by you)? 


Paul D's Haiku to Sethe
I always loved trees
long slim limbs swaying brown boughs
Sethe be my Oak

(This is from "The Sweet Home Men Series – For Toni Morrison" in Wisdom Teeth – ed.)

TFC: Why is your book called Wisdom Teeth?

DWB: Wisdom Teeth is about growth and pain and inevitable readjustment. I've always had a hard time with change. This book reflects the journey and continuance of that struggle, discomfort and eventual understanding that change is the one constant in this world. 

TFC: How does D.C. influence your poetry?

DWB: D.C. is important because it is a great city for writers. Before I moved to D.C. I had an email conversation with E. Ethelbert Miller. He told me that D.C. was fertile ground for writers. D.C. also influenced my growth from a young man into a "grown" man. I learned how to hustle in this city. I got my heart broken in this city.  I found love, lost love, found love in this city. I also found a strong and nurturing writing community in this city. I learned what it is to really "craft" a poem in this city

TFC: How does Hip Hop influence your poetry?

DWB: I think I'll quote Mos Def to answer this question:


My restlessness is my nemesis
It's hard to really chill and sit still
Committed to page, I write rhymes
Sometimes won't finish for days
Scrutinize my literature, from the large to the miniature
I mathematically add-minister
Subtract the wack
Selector, wheel it back, I'm feeling that
From the core to the perimeter black,
You know the motto
Stay fluid even in staccato


Derrick Weston Brown's Biography

Information about Nine on the Ninth, the poetry series hosted by Derrick Weston Brown

Buy Wisdom Teeth now | Download Wisdom Teeth now | Back to Derrick Weston Brown's Author Page

Capitalism's Global Slump

By Ashley Smith
The Socialist Worker
March 7, 2011

A new book provides a framework for understanding the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression--and the opportunities for revolutionaries, writes Ashley Smith.

IN LATE 2008, our rulers panicked. With the spectacular crash of the investment bank Lehman Brothers, they were seized with the fear of the possible collapse of the global financial system. As George W. Bush's Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson confessed, "I'm worried about the world falling apart."

But today, the bankers and capitalists seem to have recovered their gravity-defying hubris. Wall Street firms handed out record bonuses at the start of the year--and big business cheerleader-in-chief Barak Obama boasted in his State of the Union Address, "We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever know, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again."

Don't believe the hype. The crisis has not ended, but mutated. The governments of the world spent trillions of dollars to bail out banks and corporations, essentially transferring their bad debts and losses onto government ledgers. In some countries, this caused a sovereign debt crisis that could lead to defaulting on their debt.

To get themselves out of this trap and balance their budgets, governments everywhere have launched massive austerity programs. They are slashing public workers' wages and benefits, gutting social programs, raising the retirement age to lower the cost of social security, and scapegoating the oppressed to divide and conquer any opposition. The only success story among the world's major economies, China, is plagued with overcapacity, speculative bubbles on the stock market, and rampant inflation.

Review: Books

David McNally, Global Slump: The Economics and Politics of Crisis and Resistance. PM Press, 2011, 230 pages, $17.

Canadian socialist David McNally's new book Global Slump: The Economics and Politics of Crisis and Resistance, brilliantly explains the roots and nature of this new epoch of crisis, capitalist austerity and working-class resistance.

In an accessible and witty style, he uses Karl Marx's theory of crisis to explain the arc of world capitalism from the long boom after the Second World War to today's slump. He also develops a perspective that can guide the revolutionary socialist left to build forces in the thick of emerging struggles for reform and eventual revolution.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
McNALLY ARGUES that booms and crises are rooted in the dynamics of competitive exploitation at the heart of the system. Capitalists, in order to out-compete their rivals, invest in plant, machinery and technology to increase productivity so workers make more products that can be sold at a cheaper price. This generates a boom for a period of time, but soon, rivals catch up. Worse, since they are investing more in technology than in living labor, which is the source of profit, their rate of profit goes down.
Crises then break out. Corporations have built too many factories, producing too many products that they can't be sold at a high enough rate of return. Such crises of overproduction and declining profit rates can only be overcome when capital can rid itself of some of the overaccumulation--by cheapening the cost of plant and machinery and driving down the cost of living labor. When that's accomplished, the cycle repeats again.

In ageing capitalism, however, crises take on a different character. To restore growth, the actions taken during crises must be more destructive to clear out space for renewed expansion. For example, it took the Second World War to restore growth after the Great Depression.

But fearful of the gravity of such deep crises, national states now step in to protect companies from failing, thus preventing the destruction of overaccumulated capital. "The result," McNally argues, "is a stretching out of the crisis--by making it longer, if less severe. In short, by inhibiting the destruction of capital, recessions are made less brutal--but also less effective."

Based on this theory, McNally explains how the postwar boom turned into crisis in the 1970s. The Second World War had laid waste to Germany and Japan, as well as large parts of Europe. Therefore, capitalism was able to sustain a prolonged boom from the end of the war up to the early 1970s. By then, the rise of Japan and Germany as economic rivals to the U.S. triggered another crisis of overproduction and declining rates of profit.

All the governments responded with policies known as Keynesian that typically revolve around increased government spending to stimulate demand and investment. Keynesians, according to McNally, wrongly think that crises are rooted in capitalist's psychological fear of inadequate returns. If state investment is substituted for them, then it can trigger another expansion in the economy.

The Keynesians are wrong theoretically--crises are rooted in the system itself, not in the bosses' mindset. The proof was in what happened in the 1970s--state spending merely triggered an inflationary spiral and poor growth rates, described at the time as "stagflation."

To get out of a massive global crisis, the ruling classes, especially in the U.S., turned to quite different policies, which came to be known by the term "neoliberalism." This meant letting the free market rip, by implementing deregulation and privatization, and shredding social welfare system. The face of neoliberalism on a world scale was globalization, where more powerful countries battered their way into markets in the less developed world.

McNally argues that ruling classes used three strategies to cheapen capital and labor in this era. First, they shut down factories and turned to lean production techniques that lowered the cost of plant and machinery. Second, they smashed unions in the advanced capitalist world. Third, carrying out what Marx called "primitive accumulation," they dispossessed peasants in the developing world, driving them into the cities as cheap labor.

As a result of these measures, McNally argues, the capitalist class was able to overcome the crisis of the 1970s and trigger a period of expansion from the early 1980s until 2007 in the advanced capitalist world and sections of developing world, especially around China in Northeast Asia. The neoliberal boom tripled the size of the world economy.

McNally's argument is an important correction to Robert Brenner, Alex Callinicos and the late Chris Harman, who have claimed that the world economy has suffered a long downturn since the 1970s. These authors argue that capitalism in the neoliberal period pales in comparison to the robustness of the postwar boom.

But as McNally shows, the postwar expansion was exceptional in the history of capitalism, and when you instead compare the neoliberal period to other periods of capitalist expansion, it matches their rates of growth and profitability.

McNally also counters other radicals who suggest that the neoliberal expansion was merely the product of speculative bubbles or the casino economy on Wall Street created by what economics call financialization.

He also rejects Marxists like Gerard Dumenil and Dominique Levy, who believe that finance capital effectively carried out a coup to take control of the state and thus deregulate the free market in its interests.

The problem with such conceptions is that they can lead their supporters to tail Keynesianism, with its case that there is no systemic cause of capitalist crisis, and that financial regulation can solve the current crisis.

Instead, McNally shows how financialization is rooted in the problems of the system itself. It was an unintended consequence of the 1970s crisis, it enabled the neoliberal expansion and it then exacerbated the crisis.

How? From 1946 to 1971, countries backed their currencies with gold. But as the U.S. increasingly imported products from abroad, its competitors built up enormous dollar reserves that the U.S. could no longer back with its own gold. Nixon therefore abandoned the gold standard, allowing currencies to change in value, or "float," against one another. From this point on, finance capital found ways to speculate on currency movements. Deregulation of financial markets in the 1980s and '90s was a matter of government policy catching up to reality, rather than policy causing the speculation.

As a result, finance capital became the predominant section of American capital, garnering 41 percent of U.S. profits in 2007. By then, these profits were no longer underpinned by growth in the real economy.

THE NEOLIBERAL boom came with enormous social costs. The capitalist class impoverished workers in the advanced capitalist world. "In the U.S.," McNally writes, "real wages were 15 percent lower by 1993 than they had been in 1978."

McNally pays particular attention to racist dynamics of this class war on workers. In the U.S., he tracks how, as the U.S. cut social programs, it turned to prisons to jail its racialized "surplus" population.

Finance capital turned to what he calls "predatory inclusion" by pushing credit cards not only on workers as a whole, but particularly on impoverished people of color. Banks abandoned racist practices of redlining and entrapped people of color in sub-prime loans.

In the Global South, the predatory nature of the neoliberal boom has been even more dramatic. McNally shows how the U.S., through the IMF, imposed structural adjustment policies on indebted countries, privatizing state industry, gutting the welfare state and opening them up to multinational capital.

Neoliberal agricultural policies opened countries to imperialist agribusiness, whose subsidized products undercut local agriculture, driving peasants off the land to become a source of cheap labor in their own countries, or abroad as migrant workers, where they suffer from xenophobia and racial oppression.

The neoliberal boom fell prey to the classic contradictions of capitalism and turned into a bust in 2007. By the mid-1990s, the boom had produced overcapacity and an orgy of speculation centered in one of the new areas of growth--Asia. The crisis in Asia starting in 1997 was a sign that the neoliberal boom was coming to an end.

Since then, McNally argues, the advanced capitalist world engaged in increased financial speculation, first in high-tech and then real estate. Growth in the real economy was restricted to China, Northeast Asia and countries like Brazil, which mainly supplied commodities to the Asian boom.

But financial speculation could only delay the day of reckoning until 2007, when the combination of overproduction and declining rates of profits popped the mortgage bubble and threatened to bring down the world banking system.

While national states have been able to bail out the financial system and prevent collapse, they have not been able to restore growth. Instead, because they saved the "too-big-to-fail" corporations and banks, they have been unable to clear out the overaccumulated capital and restore the rate of profit.

The world economy is thus mired in what McNally calls a slump. "Rather than describing a single crisis," he writes, "the term is meant to capture a whole period of interconnected crises--the bursting of a real estate bubble; a wave of bank collapses; a series of sovereign debt crises; relapses into recession--that goes on for years without a sustained economic recovery."

Until capital is able rid itself of the overaccumulation, cheapen the cost of capital goods again, and drive down the cost of labor even further, it won't be able to generate another boom.

McNally argues that capital and their states are determined to find a way out of the slump through austerity. "Our rulers," he writes, "hope to soften us up for 'a decade of pain'--a period of high unemployment, falling incomes and huge cuts to health care, education and social welfare programs."

What little recovery we have now is a result of this class war. As McNally reformulates a quip by Lawrence Summers, "We have statistical recovery because we have a human recession."

AT THE same time, however, the crisis is producing the hope of resistance. McNally recounts some of the highlights of class fightback, from the Republic Windows and Doors factory occupation in Chicago, to the U.S. immigrant rights movement, to the heroic struggles in Bolivia, to the teachers' revolt in Oaxaca, Mexico, the victorious general strike in Guadeloupe and Martinique, and the wave of strikes in Europe.
To this, we can now add the revolutions that have erupted in North Africa and the Middle East against U.S.-backed tyrants and their neoliberal policies that have impoverished the working class and dispossessed the peasantry. And now, in the U.S. itself, the uprising against union-busting and austerity in Wisconsin, and its echoes in protests around the country.

McNally calls for socialists to throw themselves into these struggles. He emphasizes how neoliberalism has undermined, in a term adopted from Canadian socialist Alan Sears, "organized structures of dissent." The ruling class has smashed up unions and broken apart mass organizations of the oppressed, while benefiting from the NGO-ization of much of the left.

The task of socialists therefore is to help build struggles for reform, forge new organizations to sustain resistance and--in the middle of that process--organize new revolutionary socialist parties that fight for a whole new society that ends the reign of capital and establishes workers' democracy.

One significant missing element in this otherwise brilliant book is the question of the relation of the economy to world imperialism--the competition between capitalist states for the division and redivision of the world system. This absence weakens McNally's explanation of the postwar boom. He argues that the great boom was largely the result of the destruction wrought by the Second World War. That of course was a factor, but is insufficient to explain the persistence and length of the boom.

A host of Marxists, including British socialists Tony Cliff, Michael Kidron and Chris Harman, developed an explanation--the permanent arms economy--that showed how military competition between the U.S. and state capitalist Russia was at the root of the boom.

During the Cold War, both states diverted surplus into arms production that would have otherwise been ploughed back into investment in plant and machinery for producing capital and consumer goods. As a result, the world system averted the problem of overaccumulation and the tendency of the rate of profit to fall up until the early 1970s. By then, states like Germany and Japan, which were under the umbrella of the U.S. and did not spend much on military production, had caught up with the U.S. by investing in plant and machinery, generating a classic crisis of overaccumulation and declining profit rates.

McNally also doesn't take the impact of the slump on the dynamics of imperialism in the current period. He does refer to increased competition between countries as they attempt to export their way out of the crisis, but never develops the point. Other Marxists like Alex Callinicos and Joel Geier have pointed out that the crisis is likely to sharpen the antagonisms between the world's capitalist states--most obviously, the U.S. and its main rising competitor China.

Some authors like Dilip Hiro contend we are witnessing an emerging multipolar world order. We have already seen the failure of the main capitalist states to coordinate economic policy as they have turned to beggar-thy-neighbor policies to protect their own capital. Add to this increasing competition over resources, especially oil, and we can see the prospects of increased inter-imperial conflict in the system.
Besides this missing discussion of imperialism, McNally has written an invaluable book for a new generation of radicals and Marxists looking to understand the system, why it doesn't work and how we can transform it. Everyone should buy, read, and discuss this book as part of rebuilding a fighting socialist left around the world today.

Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Back to David McNally's Author Page

Michael Moorcock's Modem Times 2.0 is a good introduction to the literary legend

By Joe Gross
The Statesman
April 3, 2011

It's fitting that Michael Moorcock's house seems to exist in four dimensions and is weirdly tough to get to.

First, GoogleMaps completely blows the directions to Bastrop, failing to mention an overpass.

Then, the entrance to Moorcock's house bears a perpendicular relationship to the street address, the result of an L-shaped lot that dates to when the legendary English writer bought the house in 1994 with his American wife, Linda Steele.

Partially because it's confusing and partially because I'm an idiot, I practically circle the place before I find the door. The cat does not look too impressed.

It's fitting because Moorcock, 71, is one of the preeminent fantasists of his age, having given the world everything from the iconic anti-hero Elric to the immortal/immoral anarcho-terrorist Jerry Cornelius, to the wretched and completely unreliable Col. Pyat.

As the editor of the English literary magazine New Worlds, Moorcock midwifed science fiction's transition between the Golden Age and the new wave, making a home for such avant-garde writers as J.G. Ballard, Thomas Disch and Norman Spinrad.

It's impossible to imagine generations of writers without Moorcock, from Alan Moore to Neil Gaiman to China Mieville. (Heck, it's impossible to imagine something like Dungeons and Dragons without Moorcock's Eternal Champion books.)

He made records with Hawkwind and won acclaim for such mainstream novels as Mother London, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize. A 2010 anthology of his nonfiction, Into the Media Web, spans fifty years, 300,000 words and 720 pages, and weighs 4.5 pounds.

Look on his works, ye mighty, and, well, at least be a bit intimidated at his productivity and his imagination. It really is something else.

But if you have no idea who the man is, his most recent book is not a bad introduction.

Modem Times 2.0 is an entry in PM Press' "Outspoken Authors" series and comprises an appropriately baffling and non-linear Jerry Cornelius short story (slightly revised from a story published in 2008); the essay "My Londons," a clear-eyed reflection on Moorcock's life in that most iconic of cities; and an interview with Moorcock conducted by series editor Terry Bisson. (You might know Bisson from his excellent alternate-history novel Fire on the Mountain; if you don't, you should.) PM Press also is slated to reissue Moorcock's Pyat Quartet starting in March 2012.

Cornelius isn't Moorcock's most famous character, but perhaps he is the most flexible, which is saying something for a writer famous for leaving himself an awful lot of room for multiple meanings (or no meaning at all).

The blurring of high and low art, and a mix of science fiction, fantasy and avant-garde literature, has been a through-line in Moorcock's singular career.

"The Cornelius stuff wasn't published as sci-fi in England," Moorcock says. "One of the frustrating things about America for me is the tendency to isolate anything that has any pretensions to address a grown-up audience and start slotting it into a special category, like calling an English TV version of ‘I, Claudius,' ‘Masterpiece Theatre.' There's a division between, let's call them, intellectuals and the public in this country that is so much greater than it is in Europe. It's much harder to find an ordinary, common cultural level."

Is Cornelius a hipper-than-thou secret agent, indulging in every vice? Is he an adolescent fantasy? All of this and more. Cornelius is where Moorcock's head goes when events warrant.

"If things in the world get too painful, I start to automatically default into Jerry Cornelius," Moorcock says. "For example, I'm writing a Cornelius story right now that has to do with the various uprisings in the Middle East, but it's not set there, which is pretty typical for that character. I try to find angles of attack that aren't the normal angles. He's less a character than a literary device."

Well, that's certainly true. The Cornelius books are less sci-fi than experimental fiction—more in the tradition of Thomas Pynchon or William S. Burroughs than, say, Isaac Asimov. Often made up of seemingly disconnected paragraphs, they work as much by juxtaposition as anything else.

"I don't like to deal with the event head-on," Moorcock says. "If you don't, it perhaps broadens the subject. Sometimes it doesn't work—this is an on-going experiment—but when it works, a Cornelius story should be able to give a few different angles on world events."

Right now, Moorcock is enmeshed in The Whispering Swarm, the first book in the planned "Sanctuary of the White Friar" trilogy.

"I'm not sure if I really should be working on trilogies at my age," Moorcock laughs, "but this one is essentially an autobiographical novel with a very heavy fantasy element."

Whispering Swarm
is about London, but a London with a key difference. "There was a part of London called Alsatia that was a sanctuary for those who had broken the law," Moorcock says. Located between the River Thames and Fleet Street, and including the Whitefriars monastery, Alsatia held the sanctuary privilege (and a certain measure of lawlessness) for centuries before being dissolved by Parliament in 1697.

It's an extremely attractive idea, and Moorcock imagines it has continued to the present. But he adds that the book is autobiography, mostly. "I'm trying to look at the ways I used escapism at crucial moments in my life, my two previous marriages, for example," he said. "Whether I used escape routes and how I used them."

There isn't a publication date yet — "It isn't scheduled because I'm only a third of the way through the bastard" — but may he live to finish it and a dozen more, on this Earth and others.

Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Back to Michael Moorcock's Author Page

Suspended Somewhere Between: A Book of Verse A Review

By Craig Considine
An Organic Intellectual
March 2011

Akbar Ahmed’s Suspended Somewhere Between is a collection of poetry from the man the BBC calls “the world’s leading authority on contemporary Islam.” A mosaic of Ahmed’s life, which has traversed cultural and religious barriers, this book of verse is personal with a vocal range from introspective and reflective to romantic and emotive to historical and political. The poems take the reader from the forbidding valleys and mountains of Waziristan in the tribal areas of Pakistan to the think tanks and halls of power in Washington, DC; from the rustic tranquility of Cambridge to the urban chaos of Karachi.
The collection spans half a century of writing and gives the reader a front row seat to the drama of a world in turmoil.

Can there be more drama than Ahmed’s first memories as a boy of four on a train through the killing fields of North India during the partition of the subcontinent in 1947? Or the breakup of Pakistan into two counties amidst mass violence in 1971? Yet, in the midst of change and uncertainty, there is the optimism and faith of a man with confidence in his fellow man and in the future, despite the knowledge that perhaps the problems and challenges of the changing world would prove to be too great. 
Ahmed’s poetry was a constant source of solace and renewal to which he escaped for inspiration and sanity. He loved poetry of every kind whether English, Urdu or Persian. Ahmed was as fascinated by Keats and Coleridge as he was by Rumi and Ghalib. For us, he serves as a guide to the inner recesses of the Muslim world showing us its very heart. Through the poems, the reader gets fresh insights into the Muslim world and its struggles. Above all, they carry the eternal message of hope and compassion.

Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Back to Akbar Ahmed's Author Page

Crossing the American Crisis Reviewed in The Liberal Ohioan

By Greg Rosenthal
The Liberal Ohioan

April 2011

It took just five years for a social movement to develop in the face of the Great Depression of the 1930s in what has been described as the Great Revolt from Below of 1934 because of the massive strikes and social protest that created modern industrial unionism and the public social system packaged in the New Deal.

Almost four years have passed since the onset of Great Financial Crisis and public outrage and resistance has already begun. Most recently, we have seen the attack on the public sector in Ohio and Wisconsin (often confused with a narrow attack on union bargaining rights) where the entirety of the public social system gained during the 1930s is in danger; but not without a fight that speaks to all sectors of the population.

According to Naomi Klein, the ideological underpinnings for ramming through austerity measures, budget cuts, and attacks on the public sector and workers rights comes from a simple dictum by free-market ideologue and economist Milton Friedman, lead architect of what Klein calls, “disaster capitalism.”

Friedman once said, "Only a crisis produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around." The ideas ‘lying around’ happen to be state-socialism (bailouts) for banks, financial firms and multi-national corporations, while everyone else is subject to the grind of free-market capitalism’s chaos in a race to the bottom.

As evidenced in the social movements of the 1930s and a new documentary following the economic crisis, Crossing the American Crises: From Collapse to Action, crisis may also serve as an opportunity for the acceleration of resistance, social movements and alternative forms of economic relationships based around human rights values. Of equal importance is the consideration that people have been both in crisis and organizing for social change well before the the Great Financial Crisis, which filmmakers Silvia Leindecker and Michael Fox make sure to not overlook through the myriad of interviews they conduct with grassroots organizations across the U.S.

In contrast to other recent documentary films capturing the effects of the economic crisis, such as Capitalism: A Love Story or American Casino, Leindecker and Fox give us a front row seat to not simply to the voices of hardship prompted by the economic crisis, but also the many movements that exists in the midst of such devastation. When weaved together into such a film, one finds hope in the shared narrative of a growing Social Movement.

Literally crossing the United States in their car, we meet inspiration from human rights organizations like the United Workers in Baltimore, the Poverty Initiative in NYC, the Vermont Workers Center, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, Detroit Summer; housing activist in D.C; green worker-run cooperatives in NYC; IVAW (Iraq Veterans Against the War) nationally; education activist, youth advocates and Freedom Schoolers in New Orleans.  

If you thought it would be tough to capture the scope of the greatest economic crisis since the 1930’s AND resistance into one film . . . well you would be right. But you cannot get much closer to connecting all the dots in just ninety minutes as Crossing the American Crisis.

The filmmakers close with a clear call to action: To hear the pain of the millions suffering under an unjust economic system, and to be inspired to action through the examples of ourselves and our neighbors, organizing for social and economic justice into what could be a collective human rights social movement, capable of transforming the current power relations to extend human dignity for all.

Greg is currently a Leadership Organizer with the United Workers in Maryland, a human rights campaign and education consultant for organizations such as IVAW and the Civilian-Soldier Alliance and Grad Student in Intercultural Communication at UMBC.  He can be reached at

Buy DVD now | Back to Filmmaker Sílvia Leindecke's Page | Back to Producer Michael Fox's Page

Alternative Media Spotlight on PM Press

Autonomy Alliance
Interview with Ramsey Kanaan
March 20, 2011
Founded in 2007, PM Press has been churning out radical titles at a fairly remarkable rate the past few years. PM Press was started by a small group of experienced individuals who, according to their website, claim that they're "old enough to know what we’re doing and young enough to know what’s at stake." Autonomy and Solidarity Quarterly corresponded with one collective member, Ramsey Kanaan, about the origins and direction of the business, as well as the changing nature of media consumption.

How and why did PM Press form? More specifically, why did you and your cohorts leave AK Press to start a new publishing house?

Ramsey: The briefest of answers would be both that it was time, and that the more folks engaged in radical publishing endeavors, the better. We could, and we did. Three of us left AK Press (which I founded - named after my mother's initials - three decades or so ago as a young kid) to form the initial nucleus of PM Press. Not for political/ideological reasons, but more because of the mundanities of both how we internally organize/make decisions/are accountable to each other, and because of differences of opinion on how to rise to the challenges (as publishers, and disseminators of ideas) of the changing media landscape/world that we live in. And with the one person, one vote structure at AK, there's only so long one can remain the outvoted minority before it's time to move on. Not a matter of right, or wrong, necessarily. But definitely time...

Is PM Press organized as a workers' cooperative?

Ramsey: No, formally, we are a California corporation (as is AK Press). Partly, of course, it depends on the definitions of a workers cooperative. In terms of ownership structure, PM is co-owned by Craig and myself. In terms of pay, we are all paid the same, dependent on hours worked, and time served. There is a great deal of autonomy for folks involved in PM, in terms of the decisions that need to be taken - for example with the different editorial decisions associated with each imprint.  
From the start, PM Press has placed a particular emphasis on non-theoretical titles (i.e. radical fiction, music, etc.). Is this avenue of propaganda something you felt was underutilized at AK Press?
Ramsey: My philosophy, and interest, as a propagandist has always been to get useful ideas, of whatever nature, out there, in as many different ways/formats as might connect with the widest number of folks. Whether that be non-book formats (such as CDs, DVDs, pamphlets and the like), different genres of book (fiction, art et al), or dealing with the effects of new technology on the book. For what it's worth, all of our books (and DVDs and CDs) have been available in all of the different digital formats,from the get go. Questions of formats/genres and different avenues of distribution and institution building were all definitely thorny issues at AK Press. I'm also really into theory, and the theoretical. They are all pieces of the bigger picture, and all equally vital. Fortunately, some of the diverse group of paid and volunteer staff at PM Press emphasize the fiction, or gender issues, or food issues, while others are stuck deep in the past uncovering hidden histories of radical art, music, and movements...

Talk about some of the more recent PM titles. I'm personally very excited about the new Jerry Cornelius novel, Modern Times 2.0, incidentally.

Ramsey: Putting out four to five titles a month, it's difficult even for us to keep up at times! Certainly, the new Michael Moorcock book is exciting. Anything by this literary genius is cause for celebration - and over the next year, we'll be reissuing unexpurgated editions of his Pyat Quartet, and a weighty collection of his non-fiction titles. In the same "Outspoken Author" series as Modem Times, we'll have a new Ursula K Le Guin novella in a couple of months, and new books by Cory Doctorow and and Rudy Rucker later this year. The political economy imprint Spectre I think is doing fantastic work in actually providing theoretical work which can help us understand the world we live in, and then, y'know, change it! David McNally's Global Slump is probably the finest exposition of what neoliberalism actually is (and hence how to understand it, and dismantle it), ever! And Sasha Lilley's Capital & Its Discontents serves as a wonderful introduction to understanding capitalism in crisis, how we got into this mess, and how we might get out. The Liberty Tree double CD is both a wonderful exposition of the life and times (and relevance today) of Thomas Paine, all in the words of the man himself (and his contemporaries and detractors), along with twenty-one songs of social significance from the two greatest living singer/songwriters - Leon Rosselson and Robb Johnson...  

Overall, would you say the shift from non-digital formats (books, magazines, newspapers, etc.) to Internet based formats (blogs, podcasts, downloads, etc.) has negatively affected the ability of the general public to gain knowledge and insight into important issues? How has this change in media consumption affected the ability of AK/PM Press to stay afloat financially?

: A many layered question! But ultimately, the problem isn't a shift in format(s). The problem is the lack of a "movement" that can sustain, and nurture, and promulgate, and enact upon ideas, and secondly, that folks are not reading. Arguably, the way we interact with ideas affect our abilities to both understand, and act upon them. Reading a blog (or a magazine article) is
very different from reading a book. Doing either in a distracted fashion won't help. And a culture which pushes atomized isolation and consumption (internet commerce, social networking) over community and folks coming together (bookstores, libraries, meetings) is going to produce very different social movements, in both form and content. Financially, the "new media" has pretty miserable for the producers -whether that is writers or publishers - and the disseminators. Nothing in this world is free, or is free to produce. But the internet currently has that 'race to the bottom' mentality, where folks expect it to be cheap, or free. Allied to the fact that modern technology means that stuff can be produced even easier/cheaper (on many levels), the end result is that there is more crap out there than ever before, and even less intellectual ability to wade through it all. Increasingly, the job of us propagandists is both a quality issue, and a curatorial one. How can we produce well edited, good looking, accessible material, and how can we get that stuff out there, amidst the ocean of garbage fighting for folks' attention. Definitely tricky times ahead!  

Thanks so much for your time. Any final remarks? 

: Always a pleasure, and thanks for your support, interest and good works. Folks can always check out our website ( for the latest, request paper catalogs, sign up for our email list, join the Friends of PM subscription scheme (get everything we publish, mailed straight to your door, for as little as $25.00 a month), contact us and read a good blog or two by our authors. And then of course, there's that perennial problem of overthrowing Capital and the State...


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