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Global peace activist speaks

The Times-Standard
June 19th, 2015

Global peace activist David Hartsough will speak on the “Power of Nonviolence” and his recently published book, “Waging Peace: Global Adventures of a Lifelong Activist,” at the Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 22 Fellowship Way in Bayside at 7:30 p.m. tonight (preceded by a potluck dinner at 6:30 p.m.). The Humboldt Friends Meeting, the Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and the Veterans for Peace Golden Rule Project are sponsoring this gathering.

Hartsough has been active in peacemaking and nonviolent movements around the world and will share some of those experiences. He has used his body to block Navy ships headed for Vietnam and trains loaded with munitions on their way to El Salvador and Nicaragua. He has crossed borders to meet “the enemy” in East Berlin, Castro’s Cuba and present-day Iran. He has marched with mothers confronting a violent regime in Guatemala and stood with refugees threatened by death squads in the Philippines.

Hartsough’s stories in “Waging Peace” educate and encourage readers to find ways to work for a more just and peaceful world. Inspired by the examples of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., Hartsough has spent his life experimenting with the power of active nonviolence. His stories provide a peace activist’s eyewitness account of many of the major historical events of the past 60 years, including the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War movements in the U.S., as well as nonviolent efforts in the Soviet Union, Kosovo, Palestine, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

Waging Peace” is more than one man’s memoir. Hartsough shows how this struggle is waged all over the world by ordinary people committed to ending violence and war.

Hartsough will also be participating in the re-christening and launch of the Ketch, the Golden Rule at 2 p.m. Saturday at Zerland and Zerlang Marine Services, 1493 Fay Ave. in Samoa. The Golden Rule, found at the bottom of Humboldt Bay and refurbished by Veterans for Peace and others, was originally used in 1958 to protest the testing of nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands. It was part of Hartsough’s inspiration for his lifetime of peacemaking.

Hartsough is the director of Peaceworkers based in San Francisco, co-founder of the Nonviolent Peaceforce and co-initiator of World Beyond War: A Global Movement to End All War. Hartsough met Martin Luther King in 1956 and has been active in the civil rights and peace movements since the 1950s and has worked as a peacemaker in many parts of the world and helped build many nonviolent movements.

Buy Waging Peace | Buy Waging Peace e-Book | Back to David Hartsough's Author Page

A History of Feminist Speculative Fiction: Sisters of the Revolution

By Mahvesh Murad
May 29th, 2015

The stories in Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology does exactly what you’d want them to—they tear apart cliches, they question gender and it’s implications, they look at identity using satire and humour and darkness with a sharp intellectual examination of stigma and society’s rules.

Put together by well known and highly regarded award winning editors Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, it’s a solid collection for anyone who wants to see how far feminist SF has come, with stories spread across the last 40 years or so.

Sisters of the Revolution
began life as a Kickstarter campaign and is co-published with PM Press. The stories are from a wide variety of SF-nal genres—there’s futuristic SF, there’s fantasy and myth and surrealism. While the stories are mostly reprints, they’re each an equally strong voice, placing classic SF writers like Ursula Le Guin and Octavia Butler along side contemporaries like Nalo Hopkinson, Nnedi Okorafor, Catherynne Valente and Karin Tidbeck. Though the classic are of course, always wonderful to read and admire (who isn’t still affected by James Tipree’s The Screwfly Solution, even at a repeated reading?), it is of course some of the newer stories that have not been read before that may stand out more, especially the ones that bring to attention writers of colour from non-western cultures. Nnedi Okorafor’s strong oral storytelling style in The Palm Tree Bandit is perfect for the tale of the woman who upends patriarchal norms and help change society. Nalo Hopkinson’s wonderful rhythms in the story The Glass Bottle Trick create an effective, chilling atmosphere for her take on the Bluebeard myth. Hiromi Goti’s Tales from the Breast is a beautiful, evocative story about new parenthood, nursing, and the complicated relationship between a new mother, her body, and her baby.

Some of the other contemporary stories that stand out are Catherynne Valente’s Thirteen Ways of Looking at Space/Time, a Locus Award finalist in 2011 and a reimagining of the creation myth; Ukrainian writer Rose Lemberg’s Seven Losses of na Re, about a young woman whose name is power; and Swedish writer Karin Tidbeck’s Aunts, a fantastic story about three enormous women who only live to expand in size. They eat and eat and eat, until they are so large that they can not breathe. They then lay down and die, with their bodies split open for their awaiting nieces to dig out the new ‘aunts’ from old ones’ rib cages.

The collection includes writers whose stories are now synonymous with SF in general (not just feminist SF): Ursula Le Guin’s Sur is about an all female team of explorers headed to Antarctica, Octavia Butler’s The Evening and the Morning and the Night is about a gruesome, horrific fictional disease and the equally horrific societal stigmas that result from it, Joanna Russ, whose seminal 1975 novel The Female Man had a massive impact on many women writers is featured in the anthology with a forty year old story called When It Changed, one that remains valid to this day, in its look at power dynamics between the sexes.

Tanith Lee’s inclusion in the anthology now feels poignant, given her recent death, but there is even more reason for more people to read her work and note her significance. This collection includes her 1979 story Northern Chess, a cleverly subversive sword and sorcery tale featuring something rare in such stories from that time—a female lead with agency and power.

Another name that deserves mention is of course Angela Carter, whose influence is vast. Her take on Lizzie Borden’s story in The Fall River Axe Murders is about the woman who hacked her family to death yet was eventually acquitted. The entire story takes place in moments (though it’s over a dozen pages long) and leads up to what we already know—that Lizzie would brutally murder her family. But it’s unimportant that we already know where this is headed—this is Angela Carter, even her weakest stories (if there are any) are masterpieces of mood and atmosphere. Of course, in this story Carter is very much pointing out that the damage done to a young woman by not allowing her to grow, to learn and to be free is irreparable, and affects more than just the woman in question.

In the introduction to Sisters of the Revolution, the editors accept that a collection like this will always seem a little incomplete, always seem a little lacking, given that the canon of feminist SF is constantly increasing—particularly when it comes to including more POC female writers, more and more of whom are finding their voices, finding their groove, their space in the field.

Regardless, a collection like this holds its own firmly and is a great resource for anyone looking to understand the history of feminist SF short stories.

Buy Sisters of the Revolution | Buy Sisters of the Revolution e-Book | Back to Ann VanderMeer's Editor Page | Back to Jeff VanderMeer's Editor Page

S. Brian Willson reviews David Hartsough's Waging Peace

By S. Brian Willson   

Peace in Our Times

Spring 2015 issue

We are fortunate to finally have David Hartsough’s Waging Peace, an extraordinary description of his amazing sixty-year journey as an activist spanning the entire Cold War and continuing to the present. As one of today’s authentic elders, Hartsough offers us a body of experiential knowledge presented in dramatic detail sometimes easily forgotten in today’s digital era of short memories.

Hartsough excitedly shares wisdom garnered from a broad range of experiences: direct, nonviolent confrontation of Cold War policies during his travels in Europe as well as in the US; active participation in the Civil Rights movement (he met Martin Luther King, Jr. at age 15); becoming a conscientious objector to US military conscription in the 1950s; participating with others in physically blocking weapons and military ships headed for Viet Nam; actively obstructing, with hundreds of others, the construction of nuclear power plants; accompanying aggrieved, impoverished campesinos facing historically repressive military threats in El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Palestine; facing death squads in the Philippines and Chiapas, Mexico; visiting Russia during the Cold War and again in 1991 when he joined many Russians in efforts to avert a coup ousting the reformer Mikhail Gorbachev; leading delegations to Iran creating citizen-to-citizen diplomacy; traveling over the years to the region of ex-Yugoslavia in efforts to participate in strategic nonviolent alternatives to the violence unleashed when Yugoslavia was broken up significantly due to US policies; recently protesting drone warfare with increasing numbers of others by obstructing entrances to drone bases in efforts to confront the most insidious and diabolical of all terror policies; among many, many examples of citizen power.

In the chapter, “Assault on the Tracks: Facing Violence With Love and Courage,” Hartsough describes his first-person, eyewitness account of the horrendous assault – attempted murder – that occurred at the Concord, California Naval Weapons Station on September 1, 1987—the first such account to be published, as far as I know. He was one of many protestors, organized under the name Nuremberg Actions that had been vigiling all summer, in direct confrontation of the movement of munitions by train and truck from the Pentagon’s largest West Coast arsenal.

Hundreds had already been arrested and jailed for trying to stop the flow of munitions to El Salvador and Nicaragua, where they were being used to murder and maim thousands of campesinos struggling for justice after decades of brutal, US-supported repression. President Reagan had signed new executive orders to counter “terror” at home and abroad, in effect reinstituting the FBI’s feared COINTELPRO—orders that remain in effect today. Reagan made the ridiculous claim that these impoverished people in Central America were creating a Soviet-inspired Communist beachhead “just two days driving time from Harlingen, Texas,” and that the US Americans dissenting from his policies of murder were terrorists themselves. On that day in September 1987, three veterans, after providing plentiful notice and surrounded by 40 others in solidarity, including Hartsough, began a munitions train blocking action just before noon. The train speed limit was 5 mph, its legal protocol required it to always stop awaiting arrests by police when demonstrators were present on the tracks. Two Navy spotters always stood on the front platform of the locomotive in radio contact with the engineer to assure clear tracks. On this particular sunny day, the locomotive accelerated to 17 mph, more than three times the legal speed limit, catching everyone off guard. One blocker (this reviewer) was unable to get off in time, losing both legs below the knee and suffering a fractured skull among a multitude of injuries. Hartsough, standing immediately next to the tracks, had his arm struck by the speeding locomotive knocking him to the ground from which vantage point he observed the dragged blocker “getting smashed from side to side as the train continued another four hundred feet before stopping,” Of all of his years of resistance, Hartsough described this as “the most horrible experience of my life.” 

In 2003, as a result of his many observations of conflicts in various countries, Hartsough helped launch the Nonviolent Peace Force (NPF), deploying teams of multinational citizens trained in nonviolence to accompany and stand in defense of endangered people in critical global locations.

Hartsough’s inspiring life story teaches us so much about the power of conscience and militant nonviolence, shaped by his years of participation with thousands of others in creative and educational resistance actions. He and his family also have modeled “right livelihood,” with modesty and humble simplicity, conscious of the old motto, often ascribed to Gandhi, “live simply that others may simply live.”

This is a primer for learning many practical approaches to militant, nonviolent revolution. Read and study it. You will not be sorry.

S. Brian Willson is a Viet Nam veteran, trained lawyer, long time peace activist, and member of Veterans For Peace.

Buy Waging Peace | Buy Waging Peace e-Book | Back to David Hartsough's Author Page

The Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad reviewed in Marvel at Words

Marvel at Words
July 9th, 2014

Summary: The six women of the Knitting Circle meet every week to talk, eat cake, and make fabulous sweaters. Until the night they realise they are all the survivors of rape—and that not one of their assailants has suffered a single consequence. Enough is enough! The knitting circles becomes the Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad. They declare open season on rapists, with no licenses and no bag limits. With needles as their weapons, the revolution begins!

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: I think my expectations were too high for this one. I knew of some of Derrick Jensen’s non-fiction books, and his general political leaning. So a book by him about a group of women forming the Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad had to be amazing, right? Not so right.

Let’s start generally. Generally, this book reads like it’s written for 9-13 year olds. At several points i considered giving this book to my 9-year-old niece, the only thing that stopped me was the fact that she wouldn’t understand a lot of the references. Generally, the humour is trying too hard. It’s past funny and into cringe-worthy slapstick territory. It’s not clever humour, it’s not even well done humour, it’s loud and poorly written humour. Generally, none of the characters were well-developed or likeable. They weren’t hateable, either, they were just two dimensional and there to serve an obvious point. Generally, the plot progression was ridiculous.

Nothing was believable. Maybe i was being to logical and rational in a book that had neither of those things, but i’d like a story about the eradication of rape to be somewhat based in reality.

More specifically, i like that the book broaches important topics that are not often discussed in day-to-day life. Rape, exploitation of women, women’s rights, media influence, police brutality, how fucked up politics is, religion, extremist groups and more. It broached these topics, but it did not discuss them. Instead, it tried to use humour and over the top caricatures to make their opinion of these things clear. Key word in that last sentence: tried. Rather than making their opinions clear, they shoved them into the reader’s face, while using such awful humour, i’m sure anyone who didn’t share the opinions would laugh it all off as a bad joke.

Ultimately, that’s my problem. That this book isn’t doing anything. It could have provided readers with an opportunity to think about things, things they might not have considered before, because they are told by the world that those things are normal. It could have helped a lot of people start to think about their life and the world around them a little more. Instead, it’s a poorly written book of bad humour. Wavering close to offending me, and allowing others to laugh at what they should be thinking about.

Purely on quality, this book is really only worth two stars, but i felt obligated to throw on an extra, because it is at least trying to write about subjects that should be written about–read about–more. But really, it’s a book about rape. I think this book could have been so much more well written, and with witty, intelligent humour. I think this book could have been written with a lot more respect.

Buy this book now | Download e-Book now | Back to Derrick Jensen's Author Page
| Back to Stephanie McMillan's Author Page

The Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad reviewed in Books, Life & Wine

By Mrs. Joseph
Books, Life & Wine
February 26th, 2015

In this darkly comic novel, the six women of the Knitting Circle meet every week to talk, eat cake, and make fabulous sweaters. The easy-going circle undergoes a drastic change when the members realize they are all the survivors of rape—worse still, that none of their attackers suffered consequences—and the group becomes the vengeful Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad, taking punishment into their own hands via their knitting needles. As the women take their revenge, groups of men issue statements against the vigilante ladies, from the Chamber of Commerce to the sinister Men Against Women Against Rape (MAWAR), plotting to stop and punish the Knitting Circle. Featuring strong female characters, this satirical piece explores love, revenge, feminism, violence, and knitting.

The Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad is a book I picked to read during my Scribd trial but I couldn’t get into it. DNF at 60%.

The plot idea and the blurb all sounded extremely interesting so I decided to read it when I started my Scribd trial. I was expecting a dark comedy – something like the movie Heathers.

Sadly, The Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad was more of a forced “chuckle, chuckle” than a dark comedy to me.

The Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad
starts with a woman on her way to a “special” dance class offered by her dance teacher (ballroom dancing). When the character arrived at the class she finds herself alone with the instructor – apparently the “special” class was an invitation to be raped. Instead of letting the instructor rape her, the character kills him with her knitting needles – and we’re off!

The Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad is funny, don’t get me wrong, but the funny wore really thin really quickly. Rape is a big deal and it happens all the time. Some of the points being made by the book – the men all being horribly clueless about rape and the (male) police not focusing on the rapes (crimes against women) but trying to put as much manpower into solving the murders (crimes against men) – all rang true. Sadly true.

“This is Franz Maihem with ultraurgent breaking news. We are linking you live to our FBI contact Chet Stirling for an emergency announcement. Chet, go ahead.”

Chet stands at his desk for several awkward seconds, staring blankly at the camera as the audio delay ticks by. Then his voice crackles as he says, “We have received a communiqué from the so-called Ice Queen Killers, whom our agency has classified as the greatest terrorist threat facing America today. They are more dangerous than al-Qaeda, the Taliban, North Korea, or Iran. They are even more dangerous and ruthless than domestic environmentalists. They are our top priority and we pledge to eradicate them.”

Franz asks, “What does the communiqué say, Chet?”

“It says, ‘We will stop killing rapists when men stop raping.’”

Franz asks, “That’s it?”

“That’s it. The entire message.”

Franz asks, “What the heck does it mean, Chet?”

Chet responds with the uncertainty of a man standing waving his arms while he cries, “Where’s my ass?”: “Well, Franz, we’re baffled. We have no idea what this could possibly mean. It’s certainly shocking and depraved, but you know chicks, I mean women—they’re incomprehensible.”

“What do women want? That’s the age-old question, isn’t it, Chet?”

“Yes. We’ve done extensive research on this question, and experts concur that women are irrational, hysterical, and contradictory. They often say no when they mean yes. In fact, sometimes they’re saying no with their mouths at the exact moment their eyes, and often their tantalizing breasts, are saying yes. They are devious, manipulative, lying, cheating, slutty whores.”

Franz clears his throat. “The message, Chet?”

Chet regains his composure, such as it is, and says, “Cryptologists are urgently trying to decipher this message as we speak. As soon as we figure out its precise meaning, we’ll alert the public. Meanwhile, please remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity.”
-The Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad, page 96

The book became even more sadly true when it talked about the lack of concern that men have dealing with rape.

I discussed some of my concerns about The Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad with my husband and he initially didn’t believe me when I said that crimes against women – especially rape – are under-reported and under-investigated. I told him that there are thousands of rape kits that were discovered sitting unprocessed in an improper storage facility in Detroit alone and showed him a couple of articles that made him speechless.

In Detroit:

More than 11,000 rape kits that were left in police storage, some for 20 years, are to finally be tested after a $4 million grant from the attorney-general.

The discovery of the kits gathering dust in a Detroit warehouse in 2009 has shocked prosecutors, who have pushed for the evidence to be processed and the rapists to be brought to justice.

On Wednesday Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and attorney-general Bill Schuette announced that $4 million in settlement funds will be used to examine the kits.

*Funds used to collect evidence from more than 11,000 Detroit rape kits
*DNA matched in 136 cases already, including 32 linked to serial rapists

Country (USA):

A five month CBS News Investigation of 24 cities and states has found that more than 20,000 rape kits were never sent to crime labs and an additional 6,000 rape kits from active investigations are waiting months, even years, to be tested.

Just…being 100% aware of how rape, rape jokes and rape culture is dealt with here in America…the slap-happy jokes and heavy handed sarcasm did not reach a level of comfortable for me. It just reinforced how horrible rape is dealt with here and how difficult it is for women to get justice for rape.

I may decide to try to read this again (based off of Stephanie McMillan’s resume) – but it will be quite some time.

Buy this book now | Download e-Book now | Back to Derrick Jensen's Author Page
| Back to Stephanie McMillan's Author Page

The Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad in Problems Worthy

By Rose Regina
Problems Worthy
March 21st, 2013

In addition to the high shock value name and reference to knitting, Derrick Jensen and Stephanie McMillan’s The Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad caught my eye from it arrived from PM Press because of the blurb on the back that referred to it as “Monty Python meets the SCUM Manifesto.” It did not disappoint.

The cover is brilliant. It has a knit background with a clothing label with the authors’ names at the bottom and most of the cover taken up by a shield shaped patch with “the knitting circle rapist annihilation squad” and a a ball of yarn with two knitting needles sticking through it and daintily dripping a single drop of blood. Copies of the patch are available from and

The plot is surprisingly substantial and full of endearing and plucky characters. The roast of television news anchors is priceless. Men Against Women Against Rape (MAWAR), a parody of men’s rights and Christian masculinity groups, is spot-on. I was impressed by smooth prose and the perfect lambasting of everything from the USDA and Department of the Interior to manarchists and a PETA-like animal rights organization cleverly named “PATE.”

Unfortunately, like many otherwise good, pop-culture friendly versions of rape culture feminism, this book leaves much to be desired in regard to recognizing the depth of race and class’s effects of societal structures. While I enjoyed the light-hearted, sardonic narrative about the obliteration of rape, I couldn’t help but think that even if rape disappeared, there are many people, including many, many women, who would still face some serious every day barriers to the relaxed, post-exploitation life this book hopes for. Arguably, if one’s disbelief is suspended enough to believe that killing rapists with knitting needles will actually end rape quickly and without the knitting needle wielders getting caught, then enough disbelief has been suspended enough to accept that racism and class also have been solved. There were a few spots throughout the book that indicated that in the vision of a post-rape society, or at least the people who are moving us rapidly towards a post-rape society, did not shed some fairly major hang ups regarding gender and social norms. I was also disappointed by the lack of representations of trans* people and non-hetero relationships. In spite of that, this book was hilarious and definitely a good option of funny fluff that mostly hits the nail on the head.
Perfect vision of a post-rape world this is not, but wonderful summer beach reading this is. I suspect that title alone will also do wonders for repelling people one might not want to engage with at the beach or on the subway.

Buy this book now | Download e-Book now | Back to Derrick Jensen's Author Page
| Back to Stephanie McMillan's Author Page

The Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad reviewed in The Socialist Review

By Jaswinder Blackwell-Pal
Socialist Review
December 2012

It's surprising to open a book and find, on the very first page, the line "Brigitte didn't set out to be a revolutionary. She just wanted to make some fabulous sweaters", but Derrick Jensen's new novel is unusual in every way. It follows a group of women who realise, during one of their weekly knitting groups, that they have all been raped. When they find out that none of their attackers have ever faced justice they decide to take things into their own hands.

Knitting needles are transformed from their domestic role into instruments of liberation as the women go on a killing spree, using their needles to stab their rapists. The movement spreads quickly and soon knitting circles spring up around the world, encouraging more women to fight back against sexism and rape.

The novel mixes very serious subject matter with a dark comic style which mocks the prevalence of "rape culture" and sexist attitudes. When the murders are first reported police claim they have no idea of a motive, despite the group issuing a message stating "Stop rape or face the wrath of the knitting circle".

Many elements of US culture and political life are satirised: the US state declares an alliance with Al Qaeda to stop the "terrorists" of the knitting circle; animal rights group PATE (a play on PETA) comes out against the knitting circles on the basis that if men aren't allowed to rape women it will increase attacks on animals, and US commentator Glenn Beck appears on TV to explain why rape doesn't exist.

A sense that the whole of society is complicit in the oppression of women runs through the book. One of the group was raped by a priest, another by a school counsellor and another by a police officer. None of them felt able to report their attacks because they knew they would not be believed. Though the novel is often hilarious, it also touches on the appalling truths about rape: that so many cases go unreported, and so many men walk free.

But while the book is a fantastic rallying cry against sexism it fails to explore the roots of women's oppression. In the end it suggests thaat rape and sexism can be eradicated without uprooting capitalism itself. By the end both the plot and its politics have lost their way. Cutting social commentary gives way to an increasingly surreal plot and the writing goes off on a number of un-useful tangents.

Despite its flaws, The Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad is still an enjoyable read, especially for revolutionaries. The problem is that the book doesn't offer any way in which readers can challenge oppression in their own lives.

The plot isn't meant to be realistic, and unfortunately we can't simply get rid of rape by all taking up knitting needles. If Jensen had spent less time on bizarre plot twists and more time trying to expose the roots of sexism in class society, the novel would be far stronger both politically and artistically. A book which challenges rape culture and the myths around it is fantastic, but women need to go even further to end our oppression for good.

Buy this book now | Download e-Book now | Back to Derrick Jensen's Author Page
| Back to Stephanie McMillan's Author Page

Does Harvard have a secret history as a major force for evil?

Does Harvard have a secret history as a major force for evil?

By Sarah Rose
New York Post
May 24th, 2015

“Verita$” was a best seller in Korea, author Shin Eun-jung’s native country, because she asks the question that’s hardly ever asked: Why Harvard?

Eun-jung says the third word a Korean baby learns, after mom and dad, is “Harvard.” She argues that this is a tragedy, because Harvard isn’t the global intellectual powerhouse of reputation.

Now, there are plenty of criticisms of Harvard, though rarely the one Eun-jung levels: that Harvard swanned its way to dominance by maintaining a false front of liberalism when it is, in fact, an arm of the governing right.

“Verita$” recites a litany of bad acts: the Salem witch trials, eugenics, a so-called “collaboration” with Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler, architects of financial collapse such as Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, McCarthyism, racism, sexism, tyrannical labor practices and “a poison called elitism.”

Her list is long. I might add Harvard produces such venerable alumni as Henry Kissinger, Ted Kaczynski and Dr. Oz.

The institutional corruption stems from Harvard’s hungry endowment, Eun-jung says. The Harvard Corporation invests wisely if not well, for instance backing Enron then mysteriously cashing out before it tanked the energy markets. This black box of university finance, she says, shows Harvard is an undemocratic pawn of international corporate overlords.

“This made me wonder: Why would Harvard go through the trouble of hiring leftist professors in the first place, if they are only going to marginalize them while they’re there?” She asks. “After thinking about this question, the answer became obvious: Harvard’s pride in the myth of its progressive character.”

I wish the author understood how hiring decisions are made — that is, in departments and not some sinister university-wide level. Also, that Harvard tends not to raise its own faculty. The assistant professorship is nicknamed “the folding chair,” as there is slim chance of rising to tenure.

It would have been nice too if the author had spent enough time on campus to unpack the multiple Harvards: the college, the professional schools (law, business, medicine, dentistry, design, education), the divinity school, school of government, oodles of institutes and an extension school.

When writing about Harvard it is helpful to ask, which one? There might not be a monolith called Harvard.

Within the college — the core of Harvard’s elite brand — there are many mansions: WASP legacy Harvard, the dirty white baseball hats of athletics and male-only drinking clubs; the precious, artsy and gay Harvard; a drone-like premed Harvard, and so on. These Harvards hardly know each other after freshman year — they are all too busy taking over the world.

I confess I am a child of the hegemama, class of 1996, and it was fascinating (by that I mean tedious) to read what other people think of mea mater.

The greatest criticism I, as a graduate, can lob goes unmentioned in “Verita$”: Harvard takes the finest collection of scholars and the ablest young minds and throws them together in the most mediocre educational infrastructure.

But are impressionable students really being brainwashed into right-wing conservatives? Hardly. There are hundreds of examples of notable graduates from both sides of the aisle. George W. Bush graduated from its business school; Elizabeth Warren its law school.

Shin Eun-jung sees Harvard’s investment in Kenneth Lay’s (center) Entron as a sign of the school’s cozy relationship with corporate interests.Photo: Getty Images

“Verita$” is on more solid ground when it takes the university to task on the taboo subject of class in the classroom. Harvard selects students primarily from advantaged backgrounds. Blue-collar kids have a hard time finding each other. Harvard can and should do better.

With a fraction of the endowment, Stanford recently announced free undergraduate tuition for families making less than $125,000 a year. That would be a good start.

Let us stipulate that “Verita$” is true, every terrible charge. We are left with the question: Who cares?

It’s hard to believe that Harvard is a hotbed for conservatives when it also produces Democratic firebrands like Elizabeth Warren.Photo: AP

I happily concede Harvard is a massive, moneyed institution lurking with unnamed evil, but I can’t grant the warrant that an exposé on this order matters.

Eun-jung’s Harvard is attended by straw men. Is some other school a nobler model? When rebels topple the John Harvard statue guarding University Hall, who replaces him? If Harvard were not Harvard, every other elite university already is.

Eun-jung’s book reads like a campus tour delivered by an embittered sophomore. But I would not hesitate to recommend it as a graduation present to this year’s seniors denied admission at the world’s fanciest university.

Buy the book | Buy the e-Book | Back to Shin Eun-jung's Author Page

Mayday, mayday! A new kind of unionism for a changing world

By Daniel Tseghay
April 30th, 2015

Solidarity unionism. What is it and how can the Canadian labour movement get it?

In 1982, when service and maintenance workers at a hospital in Warren, Ohio went on strike, they were not alone. Members of the Workers' Solidarity Club from Youngstown, Ohio -- about 200 km away -- joined the picket line. They made leaflets, invited members of other unions to join the hospital workers in rallies every week, and got themselves arrested while chanting "Warren is a union town, we won't let you tear it down."

The Workers' Solidarity Club was not an established union but an alternative to one, created by workers displeased by the organizations meant to advocate on their behalf. It's one among many "alternative kinds of organization, like the shopfloor committee and the parallel central labor union," writes Staughton Lynd admiringly in Solidarity Unionism: Rebuilding the Labor Movement From Below.

Lynd describes the Workers' Solidarity Club as initially being a forum where workers could get strike support and have discussions about the labour movement. It was created by workers and primarily composed of either them or retirees.

The club fostered an attitude of solidarity with all workers regardless of their union membership or even location. "Having lived through the way big corporations trampled on people's lives in Youngstown," writes the members, as quoted by Lynd, "we found it easy to relate to Native Americans in the Southwest, or to Nicaragua. In 1988 four members of the Club went to Nicaragua and worked there for two weeks. One of them, an electric lineman, returned with a fellow worker to help bring electric power to small towns in northern Nicaragua."

The difference, argues Lynd, between the club and others like it on the one hand and existing trade unions is that membership in a parallel union is voluntary, dues aren't deducted from paycheques, there are no staff members, and direct action is preferred over bargaining with management. But, most importantly, it comes from the bottom up. Rank-and-file workers organize and lead these organizations.

For Lynd, these parallel unions are especially necessary today. Lynd writes that the internationalization of capital has revealed the inability of centralized unions to respond to new challenges. We need solidarity across unions, industries, and even types of workers.

"[T]rade unions as they exist in United States are structurally incapable of changing the corporate economy, so that simply electing new officers to head these organizations will not solve our problems," he writes. "[T]he time has come to break with the forms of organization of the existing labour movement…[W]hether we work within or outside existing structures, we must self-consciously seek the emergence of new forms." And it looks like these new forms are attracting people.

While there's been an incredible decline in union membership across the country, he reminds us that "there has also been a revival and more widespread exploration of the 'solidarity unionism' that is front and centre in these pages."

In Canada, 70,000 temporary foreign workers were made undocumented based on the "four and four" law, where they can only work in the country for four years at a time and cannot return on another work permit for at least another four years. Many of these workers will either be deported, leave voluntarily, or remain in the country underground. But, in response, there's been solidarity.

The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change has raised the issue and made demands like granting permanent residency to all workers upon arrival and ensuring that all workers have access to the same social services others enjoy -- something which is not yet a reality for temporary migrant workers. The Canadian Labour Congress, and Unifor National, have agreed to take on this cause.

"For some time to come, the actions we may be able to take on behalf of a new kind of labour internationalism will be modest," Lynd writes. "We are at an early stage of organizing when what we are really doing is meeting people, making friends, building community in a one-on-one manner."

Perhaps the emerging connections between migrant workers brought in from all corners of the globe and Canada's labour movement is our most crucial form of solidarity unionism now.

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Anarchists Never Surrender: Review 31

By Ian Birchall
Review 31
May 2015

Victor Serge was witness to some of the most momentous events of the first half of the 20th century. He was an anarchist in Brussels and Paris, then, after a spell in jail, went to post-Revolutionary Russia. He supported the Revolution loyally for some years, then opposed the rise of Stalin, returned to the West and ended up in Mexico, escaping the Nazi occupation of France. Best known for his Memoirs of a Revolutionary (1951) and novels such as The Case of Comrade Tulayev (1967), he was also a prolific journalist. One of the main themes in his work is an ongoing dialogue with anarchism. Mitchell Abidor has assembled here a fascinating collection of his writings on the subject.

The first half of the book consists of articles written for various anarchist publications. Serge was a very angry, very young man – several of the pieces were written when he was still a teenager. There is much in Serge’s contemptuous rage against the madness of contemporary society that still rings true, like his hatred for commercialised sport and those who flock ‘to see brutes pummel each other, break each other’s jaws, and give each other black eyes.’ He mocks the practice of wishing ‘Happy New Year’ as ‘the festival of great social hypocrisy’ and scorns public holidays when we all agree to ‘rejoice on a fixed date.’

There are some remarkable insights. To this day secularism (laïcité) is almost universally seen as the backbone of the French Republic. But Serge denounced the ‘stupefying charlatans of the secular,’ seeing already before 1914 that the aim of secular education was to prepare children to be loyal soldiers: ‘who will they spill their blood for in the impending slaughterhouses?’ He also has some acute observations on how to ‘revolt usefully.’ While he recognises that hungry people will see shopkeepers as the enemy, he points out that ‘hanging a baker from a lamppost (which, I hasten to recognize, could be agreeable)’ cannot shorten an economic crisis and the only result will be that ‘good people will get months of prison time.’

Yet Serge’s anarchist philosophy has major weaknesses, and the very vividness and lucidity of his writing makes them easier to analyse. His anarchism comprised a radical individualism, inspired by Albert Libertad, whose teaching he later summed up as: ‘Make your own revolution, by being free men and living in comradeship.’ He may have had a vision of ‘a beautiful and harmonious life from which hatred and anger, injustice, and poverty will be banished,’ but he had no strategy for getting there other than individual revolt and self-improvement. Individual change preceded social change: ‘let us show how, by the transformation of men, society is transformed.’

Anarchism might appear ultra-democratic, but as Serge shows, it could easily develop into an ugly élitism. He rejected the proposals for collective action that came from socialists and syndicalists, and rejected the socialist belief that the working class would be the agent of social emancipation. Instead he sneered at ‘the imbecilic devotion to his master’s money of the wage earner.’

The second part of this book shows how Serge’s thinking developed. Already by 1917, when he came out of jail, he had clearly been reconsidering his position. There is a major essay on Nietzsche from 1917 which brings out many of the questions that the young revolutionary was now reconsidering. While many anarchists had admired Nietzsche, Serge saw him as ‘profoundly barbarous and an enemy of the progress for which we are fighting.’ Yet he ends with an expression of his torn ambiguity: ‘I love him ... but I don’t follow him.’

The real turning-point came with Serge’s arrival in Russia in 1919. Here was what he called ‘the reality-revolution, quite different from the theory-revolution, and even more from the ideal-revolution.’ Serge’s eyes were wide open to the horrors of the civil war and to the disturbing trends towards bureaucratic and dictatorial power which were evident even in the very first years of the Revolution. But he also saw the powerful hope embodied in the Revolution: collective action by working people was not some hypothetical abstraction but a reality on the streets of Petrograd.

Serge joined the Bolsheviks; there would be no time for criticism until the civil war was over, and he commended those anarchists who threw in their lot with the communists. He was subjected to much abuse from his former anarchist comrades, but for years he devoted his efforts to trying to win over European anarchists to support for the Russian Revolution – a task encouraged by Lenin and Trotsky, though not by some of their fellow-Bolsheviks.

In his last decade of exile Serge was preoccupied with the problem of what had gone wrong with the Revolution to which he had devoted himself. And some of the questions posed by anarchism continued to haunt him as he recognised that there had been many failures long before Stalin consolidated his power. As he noted: ‘In all of history there is no example of a dictatorship that died on its own.’

The mature Serge did not simply jettison his youthful anarchism; rather, he sought to raise it to a higher level, to achieve a ‘synthesis of Marxism and libertarian socialism.’ The final item in this volume is a thoughtful essay from 1938 on ‘Anarchist Thought.’ While being respectful to the anarchist tradition, Serge is forthright on its weaknesses. Anarchist thinkers, he writes, have not proffered ‘a word of explanation’ as to how social transformation is to be accomplished. The Russian Revolution ‘posed the sole capital question, one for which the anarchists have no response: that of power.’ Anarchist ideas will revive each time a new section of humanity rebels against an increasingly unjust world. These writings provide a valuable tool for understanding and criticising them.

Mitchell Abidor will be speaking about Victor Serge at an event in London on 15 May. Full details are available here.

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