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'When Miners March' in the WV Gazette

When Miners March Updated

By Steve Fesenmaier
The Charleston Gazette
May 26, 2010

In the history of WV, there are few books that can compare to William C. Blizzard’s “When Miners March.” Blizzard for interviewed for local films and for the History Channel’s two-hour epic, “The Real Hillbilly.” Kelley Thompson made a great documentary about him called “Remembering William C. Blizzard” and interviewed him for his great film about the Widen Coal Strike.

Blizzard  presented his book many times during the decade before his death in December 2009. Now, thanks to Wess Harris, who discovered the “lost son of Bill Blizzard,” literally saving him from a lonely retirement in an old mobile home, he published his book in 2006 and has sold thousands of copies of the best book about the WV Mine Wars.

Below is a short press release about a new updated version of the book that is also a great “audio movie” made by MountainWhispers’ Ross Ballard III.

For Immediate Release: Appalachian Community Services is pleased to announce the pre-market release of the PM PRESS edition of WHEN MINERS MARCH. Initial sales will be at the Vandalia Gathering this week-end at the Capitol. In addition to this greatly expanded edition, the restored
one pounder(two pounder) used by coal operators against striking miners living in tents in Matewan in 1920 will be on display. The antique artillery piece no longer is used to kill defenseless women and children but it is not retired. It now sees action blowing apart lies told about our Union history. Stop by and tell stories from your family’s history. Many artifacts from the Battle of Blair Mountain and the state treason trials will also be on display.

For further information contact: Wess Harris, 304, 927-5333 or
 flatridge at

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Back to William C. Blizzard and Wess Harris's page

Abe in Arms on TeensReadToo

Abe in Arms
by Pegi Deitz Shea
Category:  Contemporary
Age Recommendation:  Grades 9+
Rating:  5 Stars
By: Joan Stradling

After surviving the wars in Liberia, Abe has been adopted by a doctor and his family in America. Though therapy helped him deal with the loss of his family and helped him accept his new life, there are deeper
memories of his life in Africa threatening to surface. Memories that could destroy him and everything he's come to love.

Though he's a high school track star, Abe has to stop running and face his past in order to move forward with his new life. But will his past catch up with him before he's ready?

Abe in Arms amazed me. In spite of the horrors of child soldiers, war, and struggles to come to terms
with who he is and where he came from, Abe is easy to relate to. I found myself turning the pages without realizing I was even doing it. The story drew me in and kept me mesmerized as I learned more about Abe and his life.

This isn't the type of story I would normally read; I'm much more into fantasy and lighthearted fun.

However, the truth of Abe's experiences in a war-torn country, and the struggles he faces as he deals with memories he'd much rather forget, compelled me to keep reading until I couldn't help falling in love with Abe in Arms.

This eye-opening novel is a must-read! I don't often want to pick up a book and read it again, but I have a feeling I'll be opening Abe in Arms again in the near future.

Buy Book Now | Download e-Book Now | Back to Pegi Deitz Shea's Page

Leo Panitch on the purpose & context of the G20

Leo Victor Panitch (BA Manitoba, MA & PhD London School of Economics) is the Senior Canada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy and Distinguished Research Professor of Political Science at York University, Toronto, and the co-editor of the internationally renowned annual volume, The Socialist Register.

Co-author of the recently released In and Out of Crisis: The Global Financial Meltdown and Left Alternatives


His many books American Empire and the Political Economy of Global Finance, (Palgrave Macmillan 2009); Renewing Socialism: Transforming Democracy, Strategy and Imagination (Merlin 2008); Global Capitalism and American Empire (Merlin, 2004); From Consent to Coercion: The Assault on Trade Union Freedoms (Garamond 2003); The End of Parliamentary Socialism (Verso 2001); A Different Kind of State? Popular Power and Democratic Administration (Oxford University Press 1992); Working Class Politics in Crisis (Verso 1986), The Canadian State: Political Economy and Political Power (University of Toronto Press 1977); and Social Democracy and Industrial Militancy (Cambridge University Press 1976). In 1994 he was inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada for "the wide ranging impact of his published scholarship", including "his theoretical argument about the limitations of corporatism and for his contribution to the development of the theory of the state in capitalist societies." He is now completing a major book with his co-author Sam Gindin on The Making of Global Capitalism. Foreign Policy magazine (May/June 2009) featured his essay on 'Thoroughly Modern Marx' on its front cover.

Buy the book | Buy the eBook | Back to Leo Panitch's Page

Labor's Civil War on Labor Notes

As NUHW Files For Huge Hospital Election, A Member Reflects on Labor's Civil War in California
by David Mallon

[Editor's note: The National Union of Healthcare Workers is filing for an election today in a 43,000-person bargaining unit at the statewide Kaiser Permanente health care system in California, to decertify the Service Employees union (SEIU). Members will vote between SEIU, NUHW, and “no union.”

Kaiser is the largest bargaining unit in SEIU’s United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW), the local trusteed by the International union in January 2009. That action triggered the founding of NUHW and ongoing battles between the two unions, including a lawsuit, since then. It is the Kaiser unit, though, that will decide whether NUHW is able to survive, both because of its size and because of its traditions of member involvement.

NUHW interim president Sal Rosselli says the balloting, at hospitals and other health care facilities throughout California, will be the biggest private sector union election in 69 years. The election could happen as soon as 60 days from now. The National Labor Relations Board has also given the go-ahead to most other pending elections NUHW had petitioned for, which SEIU had contested and blocked by filing various legal objections.

A recently published book, Labor’s Civil War in California by Cal Winslow, tells the story of the fight between SEIU and NUHW. It’s reviewed here by an NUHW member.]

On a warm evening this spring I was walking with some colleagues along San Francisco’s Mission Street and happened upon three young yuppie revelers. They asked us if we knew where a strip joint was. We didn’t. The preppiest, clearly an MBA up-and-comer, though dressed only in shorts, a T-shirt, and flipflops—eyeballed the logo on my jacket. “What is NUHW?” he asked. I told him it was my union, and before I could get another word out, my friends and I were entertained with a tirade on the corruption of unions, how they were the bane of free enterprise and should be banned.

We moved on, realizing our boy was far too drunk to be corrigible, and we weren’t looking for a fight. Besides, after what the group of us had been through during the last three years, maybe MBA Boy had a point: unions can be occasions of corruption. This is what Cal Winslow’s remarkable living history, Labor’s Civil War in California, so ably documents. In bold strokes Winslow lays bare the subtle and not so subtle abuses of power the Service Employees union (SEIU) has engaged in of late. It is a portrait in corruption, and one not yet finished.

In many ways Winslow’s book is a painful read. He begins just about where my own experience starts: in 2007, with now-resigned International President Andy Stern leading SEIU’s “all-out assault” on its powerful, 150,000-member California health care workers local, United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW). “The attack,” Winslow writes, “was designed to break the union.”

This was no personality clash between powerful men. The differences between SEIU and UHW run far deeper than union leaders’ egos. It is a fundamental disconnect between competing worldviews. For SEIU, union saturation is the idol to be worshipped. But as membership grew so did the distance from democratic management of the union. The more remote the leadership from the rank and file, the easier it was to come quietly, out of the public eye, to agreements in corporate fashion.

NUHW has an opposite worldview, championing good contracts and involved members, believing health care workers will be drawn to the value and virtue of the union. Workers will recognize the quality of the representation they receive from their peers, democratically elected as stewards and executives of the union.
I’d had a foretaste of the SEIU approach. My bargaining unit within the Kaiser Permanente health system, the Kaiser Psych-Social Chapter, made up entirely of licensed and certified mental health professionals, had for 35 years been part of Local 535.We had bargained many successful contracts on our own, without any help from the International. But in the summer of 2006 SEIU conducted jurisdictional hearings at Stern’s behest and concluded that Local 535 should be dissolved and the various bargaining units farmed out to other locals. It was a preview of future power grabs. Stern’s arrogance was highlighted when my chapter sent him petitions asking that Local 535 not be dissolved and that we remain in that union. He ignored us utterly. There was not even an acknowledgement that we had protested. Local events like this were the grains of corruption that the International processed into bread for the locals to eat.
Winslow lays out in staccato fashion the multitude of plots hatched against UHW in 2007 and 2008: the “implosion” scheme, the deconstruction scheme, the vivisection scheme; the pooled voting scheme, and the “swamp and drown” with litigation scheme, culminating in the “let’s make it look like democracy” scheme that was the 2008 International convention in Puerto Rico.

When the various plots failed, the executive board rammed through at the convention a sneaky bit of legislation buried like pork in a tax bill. This resolution stripped UHW of 65,000 of its long-term care workers. The intent, of course, was to cripple UHW and pave the way for trusteeship.

This was the same gathering that declined to endorse language that would include “rank-and-file” members on bargaining teams. Executive Vice President Dave Regan ridiculed the notion from the dais, saying that guarantees of member involvement were to be found elsewhere in the constitution and bylaws and redundancy was unnecessary. Redundancy in a democratic system is its saving grace, not an encumbrance. Redundancy is the antidote against corruption.

Labor’s Civil War in California could be an essential element in the redundancy protections of democratic unionism. It should be read by every union member. It should be carried in their hip pocket, to be pulled out and referenced every time there is the slightest whiff of corruption rising from the employer or the union hierarchy. If we have learned anything over the past three years, it is that unions can get too big, when they are corrupted by the bosses, to maintain or revive integrity. And Winslow, page after page, documents SEIU’s corporate, top-down, autocratic unionism, resulting in grave injury to the workers who make possible the boss’s commodity: health care.

I was caught up in this, no doubt. The International, on the day of Obama’s inauguration, put in motion the final mechanism that would lead to UHW’s trusteeship. Regan asked me to resign; I refused and was removed as a steward and contract specialist a week later. Within a few months, hundreds of democratically elected stewards were fired by SEIU, having refused its loyalty oaths. Ultimately thousands of the most talented union members became disenfranchised, unable to participate in any aspect of the union’s relationship with the employer, because they strongly want a union in which they can vote for who runs it.

Stern has now retired to “green”-er pastures: just as health care corporations reap extraordinary profits and the health care grandees give themselves huge bonuses, Stern has given himself a tidy little retirement of $219,000-plus a year for life and has insinuated himself onto the board of directors of a NASDAQ corporation.

But our drama is yet unfolding, and many of us in California health care continue to be players. Winslow’s short book, concise and rich at the same time, does us a great service. He takes a page from the work of another great pamphleteer:
“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776.

David Mallon is now secretary of NUHW’s Kaiser Psychsocial Chapter. In January his unit voted 717-192 to leave SEIU and join NUHW.

Buy Book Now | Buy e-Book Now | Back to Cal Winslow's Page

Demanding the Impossible in Time Out NY

Marshall offers a lucid history of a movement that defies description.

Peter Marshall’s Demanding the Impossible has been hailed as the authoritative text on the rich and various history of anti-authoritarianism ever since it was first published by HarperCollins in 1992. This handsome new paperback edition from the independent PM Press features a new epilogue by the author, as well as updates and corrections throughout. Anarchism is a subject whose scope, reputation, and penchant for self-contradiction could—and by a certain logic, perhaps should—impede any effort to fully comprehend it. Not so with Marshall’s admirable doorstop; his prose is as clear and flowing as “the river of anarchy” that he chooses for his project’s guiding metaphor—a much more useful (and optimistic) choice than, say, “the labyrinth.”

Parts one through three (“Anarchism in Theory,” “Forerunners of Anarchism” and “Great Libertarians”) run about 200 pages and provide a concise overview of the philosophical and theoretical foundations of anarchist thought. Forms of belief and praxis are traced from the ancient Taoists, Greeks and Christians (among others) to Europe and America in the mid-19th century. Part four, “Classic Anarchist Thinkers,” is about as long as the first three parts together, and could easily stand alone; its 12 chapters are biographical essays on ten major anarchist thinkers from Godwin to Gandhi, plus chapters on American and German communist movements. Parts five, six and seven take back up roughly where part three left off, with five (“Anarchism in Action”) looking at specific movements around the globe, six (“Modern Anarchism”) exploring the New Left of the 1960s to the present, and seven (“The Legacy of Anarchism”) seeking to assess the state of anti-statism today, and to look toward the future.

Though this highly engaging book can certainly be read from start to finish, I expect that its ultimate role in the average reader’s life will be as a reference; not like an encyclopedia but rather more like a favorite author’s collected works or a Bible: a massive repository of wisdom (only some of it truly dubious) and of histories that might be otherwise lost to us.

Buy the book | Buy the eBook | Back to Peter Marshall's Page

Real Cost of Prison Comix on Culture
June 3, 2010
Stacy Davies

The Real Cost of Prisons Project (RCPP) director Lois Ahrens created the organization in 2000 to shine a spotlight on the more than 2 million people currently incarcerated in the U.S. Ahrens and her team are not interested in relieving convicts of personal responsibility, but instead focus on why so many people in our country are currently locked up—or mass-incarcerated. One of her goals was to create educational materials that could communicate complex ideas in real terms and make them interesting to people who had little use for data sheets and political talk. That led to 2008’s The Real Cost of Prisons Comix, a three-chapter graphic book illustrated by a host of talented artists and writers and filled with easy-to-understand histories of who really pays for the prison system, the “builders of the drug prison boom,” and the cycle of incarceration via government agencies such as multiple foster homes, low-paying jobs and the shame of circumstances. The book has been hailed by a dozen social activists, A People’s History of the United States author Howard Zinn among them. An innovative book, RCPP’s book is a harsh reality check for anyone who thinks every broken law deserves the maximum penalty, and should be a welcome resource for government agencies and drug law reformation advocates alike. The book retails for $12.95. For more information, visit


Buy book now | Download eBook now | Back to Author Page

Vegan Freak on Feminist Review
May 31, 2010
by Charlotte Malerich

Wherever one falls on the meat-eater to vegan continuum, you need to make the Torres duo your truth-speaking, profanity-spewing, tough-loving pals. They will move you closer to ethical veganism. For the already-vegan, Bob and Jenna offer the rationale and the moral support to stay that way. For four years, these wacky Ph.D.s have provided social commentary and intellectual critique to and for vegans through their podcast, blog, online forum and publications. In so doing, they've created the Vegan Freak ethos: a celebration of the way vegans stand out in a society that normalizes brutality and exploitation.

Two years ago my younger brother lent me the first version of Vegan Freak, a colloquial and genuinely caring guide to going vegan—covering everything from basic animal rights theory to getting along with non-vegans to where and how to find vegan products. I'd gone vegan as a teenager, emotionally devastated by exposés of modern industrial agriculture. But with the onset of my adulthood, Whole Foods markets were popping up like dandelions, and no less than Peter Singer had given the seal of approval to "humanely" raised animal products. The ideology of mainstream animal advocates looked hopelessly confused, applauding vegan diets and marketing cage-free eggs in the same breath, and my own veganism needed a shot of re-commitment. Vegan Freak offered that. In its pages I found a consistent, insistent morality and a practical guide to living it.

Now, the new edition appears and, as promised, it's been rewritten from the ground up. A thicker book both in page count and ideas, Version 2.0 reflects the clarity and maturity the authors have developed through years of vegan outreach. It still covers surviving holiday dinners and finding vegan alternatives for the leather fetishist in your life. Bad puns, tangential rants, and non sequitur chapter titles preserve the fun of the original. But new sections address recent trends in the vegan world: environmental veganism, veganism-as-body-image complex (or the Skinny Bitch effect), Oprah's vegan cleanse—all are sliced with a scalpel of abolitionist rationale.

For Bob and Jenna, there's no bad reason to go vegan, per se. Just inadequate reasons. Their goals—to help others go and stay vegan, to build a social movement recognizing animal rights—inform all their advice and criticism. Empathy bleeds through every sentence, but the Torreses treat their audience as responsible adults. They are not going to let us off the hook for failing to check if a soup is made with chicken stock or if our running shoes are all man-made materials. They are not content with vegetarians; cheese addicts get their own special page to bookmark and turn to whenever the craving strikes. Really, Bob and Jenna are sure we can make it through the traumatic dinner party with nothing but iceberg lettuce, and when we think about it, we are, too.

To their credit, the authors do not pretend to know what they don't. They frequently refer readers to other sources. The number of times they recommend Googling vegan product X will get tiresome if you read the book in one sitting. But for anyone attempting to make any kind of change, Vegan Freak is applicable and inspirational. The three-week, cold-tofu approach to personal lifestyle change worked for me when I decided to begin exercising regularly. And their thoughts about "impoverished veganism"—veganism that is only about what we consume and how we spend our money—encourages the already-vegan to think beyond personal choices. Most seriously, I credit my present involvement in any kind of activism, vegan-focused or not, to Bob and Jenna's inspiring, grassroots-y influence.

Indulge in a book now | Download e_Book | Learn more about the Torres duo

"Cook Food: A Manualfesto" That Makes You Want to Run to Your Kitchen
on Sun, 06/13/2010
by Elizabeth Roca

I’ll admit to feeling some trepidation before opening my review copy of Lisa Jervis’ Cook Food: A Manualfesto for Easy, Healthy, Local Eating (PM Press, 2009). Sure, I’d just finished a bowl of kale and potato soup, made by my own hands with greens from my local farmers market. And earlier I’d eaten a snack of raw asparagus spears from the same source. But while I aspire to fresh, healthy, local eating, I’m imperfect. Did a book with the word “manualfesto” in the title have room for my chocolate-eating, Coke Zero-drinking self?

I needn’t have worried. Jervis’s slim, informative volume is, in her words, “a short, quirky education in simple cooking; healthy, light-footprint eating; and the politics of food.”  It is indeed: not an exhaustive overview, but a brief, clear discussion that will make an excellent resource for those new to local eating as well as those familiar with the movement.

Jervis obviously has thought and read a great deal about food, as her discussions of light-footprint eating and the definition of processed food, among other topics, make clear. Her introduction includes a series of potential questions, such as, “I’m on a tight budget. Can I really do this?” and their answers (In a nutshell: yes.). Her tone is direct and friendly. While she acknowledges the potential conflicts between, say, an individual’s concern for the environment, her health issues, and the food selection available to her, she emphasizes the benefits of eating whole foods for both people and the planet, and encourages her readers to do their best.

The book is not all theory by a long shot. It includes suggestions for stocking one’s pantry (for those new to cooking); instructions for how to do everything from de-stemming greens to roasting vegetables to perfect brownness; and a boatload of recipes that range from a simple citrus vinaigrette to a greens pie that could serve a dinner party. Some of Jervis’ cooking tricks were ones I already knew, like adding vegetables to the pasta pot a few minutes before the timer rings. Others I appreciated learning. I’ve been cooking with both tempeh and nutritional yeast for years, but it never occurred to me to combine them; I’m looking forward to trying her recipe for Debbie’s Tempeh. And when I’m tired of my standbys for farmers market fare such as the previously referenced kale and asparagus, I know I’ll dip into this book for Jervis’ recipes for Beans ‘N’ Greens and Spring Vegetable Sauté Over Polenta.

Last is a “Further Resources” section, in which Jervis points readers toward a wide variety of material on food politics, cooking, gardening, and activism. I’m especially pleased by the “Sourcing” section and plan to explore the suggested websites for food co-ops and farmers markets in my area.

So there you have it: a short, quirky, unfussy book that answers a lot of questions about food decisions, our health, and what to eat for dinner tonight. Above all, it inspired me to run to my kitchen, which is what one really wants in a cookbook.

Indulge in a Book | Download e-Book | Learn more about Lisa Jervis

Low Bite on
By Eden Carter Wood
30 June 2010

The narrator of this hard-boiled underground classic, Morgan, is in prison, having been convicted of breaking and entering with force. To pass the time she works in the prison law library and gives legal advice to her fellow convicts. She also drinks hooch out of a coffee mug, gives backchat to the sweaty guards, and says things like ‘Prison time is chicken bones, something to be sucked clean’. It’s a world of street-talk and swaggering and cigarettes, and people called Birdseye and Deuce is what this is. And very readable it is too.

Contrary to what you might expect, Morgan’s not exactly popular, however. Johnson the lesbian-hating warden hates her for one thing, and Alex the fashionably long-haired lawyer doesn’t like her giving free legal advice neither. Then things get even more interesting when Morgan and her fellow inmates think they’ve found a ticket to the free world, a ‘bloodstained bank account’ they hope to bleed dry from the inside.

Low Bite was first published in 1989, and has apparently been long out-of-print. Happily it has reappeared, as this slim, well-presented reprint is likely to appeal to tough-girls and prison guards everywhere.

Buy Low Bite | Buy Low Bite eBook | Back to Sin Sorraco's Page

Sober Living For the Revolution on PMR

by Simon Czerwinskyj
Tue, Jun 22, 2010

The contemporary vision of straight edge is a highly westernized one, focusing on plodding metal music and alpha male attitudes, with politics largely subtracted from the equation. This widely-accepted stereotype of straight edge is roundly contradicted by Sober Living For The Revolution. Editor Gabriel Kuhn conducts a series of interviews with a wide spectrum of politicized and intelligent straight edge musicians and activists, shedding light on a whole different side of the subculture.

Kuhn has compiled a far-reaching collection of interesting and active individuals who recognize the inherent political implications of straight edge, going beyond the ego-driven, solipsistic version of straight edge that dominates in America.

On its face, straight edge is a set of rules, proffering its adherents to live drug-free and avoid casual sex. By taking an international bent, Kuhn is able to transcend the superficial face of straight edge. He talks to a woman named Tanja from Sweden, who speaks to how straight edge was a natural, and common, progression for radical communities in Umea, “I believe, for example, that living drug-free is seen by many – in particular by many women – as a form of solidarity with underprivileged social groups because these groups often seem to be affected the most when it comes to alcohol and drug addiction…The idea that living drug free might allow you to do more effective work for other people really spoke to me.”

This line of thinking extends to other individuals embedded in situations where politics are less a choice than a way of life: Kuhn talks to Jonathan Pollack in Israel, who is a straight edger, anarchist, and supporter of Palestinian resistance and Robert Matusiak in Poland, who runs a record label and talks of witnessing the ruination wrought by alcohol abuse in Polish culture.

If I were to wedge an overarching theme into this book, it would be that the ability to focus, organize, and carry out resistance to any oppressive force is undermined by the use of drugs and alcohol, as Sober Living For The Revolution also includes an entire section of manifestos that tie straight edge to anarchism.  “Wasted Indeed: Anarchy and Alcohol” explores the idea of indulging in and getting drunk off of life and its pleasures rather than controlled substances, and by extension, eschewing the version of straight edge that preaches purity, abstention, and control. Kuhn has gone above and beyond in his attempt to include all voices; Nick Riotfag’s essay “My Edge Is Anything But Straight” analyzes and critiques the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol in gay social circles. Kelly Leonard, founder of, speaks of the female experience and struggle within the straight edge community.

The book’s success stems from the articulate and insightful interviews, thanks to Kuhn’s probing, evocative questions, and the well-written, contrarian essays that all redefine straight edge as a  liberating belief system and aid in the struggle. The only glaring weakness is the interview with Andy Hurley, drummer of Fall Out Boy and Anarcho-Primitivist advocate, whose inclusion in the book seems to be a result of his high-profile status rather than his ability to engage in a meaningful discussion.

Sober Living For The Revolution begins with an interview with Ian MacKaye, member of the seminal straight edge band Minor Threat and the ultra-DIY Fugazi, who always has a lot of acerbic and educated insights on nearly any subject. Although he would most likely hate the title, he’s become an authority on straight edge, as he was instrumental to its inception and wide-spread popularity in the 1980′s. And as he’s had many years to ruminate on what straight edge and its applications mean, he has a unique, wizened perspective that I believe encompasses the spirit of the book and straight edge itself:

“There have been so many times when I would read something like, ‘Ian MacKaye is a practitioner of the straight edge lifestyle.’ A few years ago it finally hit me what was so annoying about it: it’s no fucking lifestyle! A lifestyle is something that one chooses. Like, if you choose to live on a beach and go surfing all day, that’s a lifestyle. But being straight is the base, that’s what’s underneath all of this! We’re born that way!”


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