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Global Slump reviewed in Socialist Studies

Global Slumpby Bill Burgess, Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Socialist Studies 8 no. 1 (Winter 2012), 239-295

David McNally’s prognosis in Global Slump seems exactly right:

Rather than describing a single crisis, the term [global slump] is meant to capture a whole period of interconnected crisis
the bursting of the real estate bubble; a wave of bank collapses; a series of sovereign debt crises; relapses into recessionthat goes on for years without sustained economic recovery. This, I submit, is what confronts us for many, many years to come (8-9).

My attention was drawn to two points in this book. The first is an important nuance in McNally’s discussion of the crisis. The second is his original explanation of the reasons for financialization.

Like most Marxists, McNally roots the current financial crisis in capitalist over- accumulation. The “majority” assumption is that there has been a more or less continuous “bust” in capitalist profits since the 1970s. In contrast, Global Slump insists that our understanding of the current crisis must acknowledge that a genuine profit “boom” occurred between 1982 and 2007.

McNally labels this period a “neoliberal expansion” (38). This draws attention to historically-specific factors that are often left out of accounts guilty of the complaint that Marxists have correctly predicted ten of the last three great depressions. The emphasis on neoliberalism suggests that rising exploitation may be an important determinant of the crisis. Too many explanations focus one-sidedly on over-investment in machinery.

Attention to rising exploitation also sets the stage for the significance of the “predatory inclusion” (121) of more and more people into financial markets. McNally describes how “sub-prime” mortgages in the United States disproportionately targeted poor people of colour. The indebtedness of developing countries quadrupled during the neoliberal boom (127). He emphasizes that credit can offset the dampening effect on consumer demand of rising exploitation. For example, McNally argues that the end of the neoliberal boom was signalled by the 1997 Asian Crisis but massive credit expansion postponed the broader crisis to 2007.

I perceive a partial disconnect between this attention to rising exploitation and ballooning credit and the book’s description of over-accumulation in the chapter titled “Manic Depression: Capitalism and its Recurring Crises.” The chapter explains that “mechanization is necessary to . . . win the battle of price competition . . . as the ratio of labour to total investment declines, so the ratio of profit to total investment will tend to fall” (77-78). The glossary entry for “over-accumulation” reports that it is “caused by intense competition to boost the productiveness of their companies by investing in new plants and technologies” (196).

Readers are directed in a footnote to a forthcoming work which will point out that “the actual process is more complex, with a variety of counter-tendencies. But this explanation does justice to a key part of the dynamics at work” (212). Well yes and no, because as Marx wrote, “to try to explain them [capital’s laws] simply as the results of competition therefore means to concede that one does not understand them” (quoted in Lebowitz 2010, 284). McNally (1999) has himself made this point against “horizontal” (inter-firm) accounts of over-accumulation in place of “vertical” (inter-class) accounts. For the fuller, “vertical” explanation I think the chapter needed to include the “problem” of realizing surplus value. This is where rising exploitation and credit nicely fit.

Global Slump identifies the other key element of the neoliberal expansion as the dramatic capitalist expansion in East Asia, especially in China. McNally highlights the dramatic proletarianization of the Chinese peasantry and the massive foreign investment attracted by the precarious position of these urban migrants. “China’s working class, today at 750 million . . . is one and a half times larger than the labour force of all the thirty rich countries of the OECD combined. The country’s surplus labour force alone is three times larger than the entire manufacturing workforce of the OECD countries” (52).

It may be that “tendencies towards over-accumulation and declining profitability . . . have become central features of China’s market-driven-development” (57). But the implication seems to be that this process of over-accumulation is the same as in wealthy capitalist countries. How do we then evaluate the influence of the Chinese state on the dynamics of the economy, on investment and demand? The statistic that “China’s 250,000 millionaire households, making up only 0.4 percent of the population, now control 70 percent of the country’s wealth” (57) caught my eye. I followed the sources to determine that the 70 percent actually refers to household wealth, not all wealth. It had been cited for a discussion on social inequality, so it was also my mistake to have read it too literally with other issues in mind. But my point about this experience is the need for more clarity on the particular structure and dynamics of an economy so central to global capitalism.

The second main point I got from Global Slump is McNally’s explanation of financialization.

The numbers are always impressive. Financial returns in the US rose from 16 percent of total profits in 1973 to 41 percent in 2007 (86). Trading in foreign currencies increased from twice the value of trade in goods to 70 times by 1995. “Over-the-counter” trade in derivatives grew from $1.2 trillion in 1992 to $4.2 trillion in 2007 (94). McNally provides a clear, understandable description of the various and often esoteric financial instruments – derivatives, collateralized debt obligations, credit-default swaps and the like.

He then briefly outlines a distinctive theory about the origins of financialization. It emphasizes the “historic transformation of world money that occurred after 1971, when the US government ended the convertibility of dollars for gold” (10). With no relatively stable reference point for value, the need arose for insurance-like protection against the resulting fluctuation in currencies and interest rates in the context of globalized production and sales. Thus, financialization does not flow from opportunities created by deregulation. It is rooted in the objective need of globalized capitalism for a measurable standard of value. McNally does not discuss it in these terms, but this sounds like an orthodox Marxist theory of money that had been challenged by the end of the gold standard.

In addition to trying to clarify the nature of the crisis, Global Slump was written to “think through what all this means for movements of resistance, struggles for social justice, and anticapitalist politics” (ix). In his second-last chapter McNally tries to “chart pathways of resistance and anticapitalist transformation” (10) by reviewing recent movements to occupy factories, general strikes in Guadeloupe and Martinique, social uprisings in Bolivia and Oaxaca and mobilizations of immigrants in the US. He emphasizes that the anticapitalist Left must “reclaim democracy—radical, direct democracy in particular—as a core value” (189).

McNally’s review of the contours of resistance from below depicts the commonality of struggles against neoliberal capitalism in imperialist and imperialized countries. Some of us would distinguish the context of these struggles more than he apparently considers necessary.

For example, the issue of anti-imperialism is not developed in his account of the “mass anti-neoliberal upsurges [that] toppled governments and rolled back privatizations in countries like Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela” (152). The discussion of anti-neoliberalism and anti-capitalism leaves out the governments placed in power by the above upsurges, and projects like the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) and the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.

This is an important book to read, especially for its distinctive explanation of the economic crisis.

References

Lebowitz, Michael A. Following Marx: Method, Critique and Crisis. Boston: Brill, 2009.

McNally, David. “Turbulence in the World Economy.” Monthly Review 51, no. 2 (1999), http://monthlyreview.org/1999/06/01/turbulence-in-the-world-economy.

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A Progressive Coloring Book for Progressive Kids

by Liz Gumbinner
Cool Mom Picks
March 11, 2011

When the airport gift shop coloring book choices "for girls" range from princesses to uh, princesses (and maybe the occasional princess) I'm reminded of how easily twenty-first century gender stereotypes are reinforced pretty much everywhere we look. Well hooray for a coloring book that goes in the entirely opposite direction.

Or more like, runs in the opposite direction, wearing sneakers and a dress, Atalanta style.

The title alone, Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away With Another Spoon, should give you a pretty good clue that this is not your ordinary coloring book. It's all about challenging traditional gender sterotypes.

Pages include illustrations and messages I love, like a man who wins a bake-off, a cowgirl riding a dinosaur, a girl building her own dollhouse, and a "beast" who likes "pretty things" like handbags and sparkly earrings. I especially love the co-ed tea party captioned "Tea, trains, and tiaras for everyone!" And there are quite a few kids depicted in wheelchairs throughout, which is pretty great.

But then, there are messages like Prince Charming searched high and low for the owner of the glass slipper . . . to find out where to get a pair in his size. Or a princess kissing a frog, thinking "I hope it's another princess." It happens to crack me up, and my own kids would like it. But I think honestly, the more ironic, edgy messages (like Prince Charming) will make some parents uncomfortable; not every parent has had the same-sex marriage or cross-dressing conversation with their kids yet, nor do all parents want to.

Now if you do want to, there happens to be a great conversation-starter page in the back featuring open-ended Socratic questions about gender. Because after this coloring book, I bet your kids will have quite a few.

Sometimes the Spoon is not a coloring book for every family. But if you think it's for yours, it's a fun way to get some good dialogue going and to remind kids that it's okay for boys to like EZ Bake ovens, and for girls to drive trucks.

Besides, you get to color in a cowgirl riding a dinosaur. Awesome.

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The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow on Midwest Book Review

Klausner's Bookshelf
Midwest Book Review
February 2012

"The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow." The world ended not with a bang but with a wumpus; as everyone wanted control of technological change leading to the Mecha Wars. In Detroit, Jimmy Yensid, his dad Robin and the pack reside in abandoned Comerica Park. Dad restored the classic Carousel of Progress; currently he recommends preservation of this last standing city as a heritage site. Being transhuman Jimmy ages slowly so though he has lived for decades he remains preadolescent. He spots a wumpus near a crumpled Ford factory. Riding his dad's mecha and accompanied by his canines packs piloting air drones, he attacks the wumpus. A gang riding eight smaller mechas attacks Jimmy. He fights back feeling like a murderer as life in abandoned Detroit is never dull.
 
"Creativity vs. Copyright." This fascinating essay/presentation focuses on proposed copyright laws in the electronic publication age. The impact on corporate profits has been discussed many times. Mr. Doctorow provides a fresh focus on the digital rights management (including monetary - how an author makes a living from Net sales is beyond my comprehension) of intellectual property in a world in which many users assume "information is free."
 
The thought provoking novella is a dark thriller that turns upside down the "future" as progress does not necessarily mean better. The exciting storyline looks deeply at change as everyone insists implementation of theirs; and customized technology may just lead to a wasteland. The well written essay/presentation provides the audience with insight into Mr. Doctorow's views especially on intellectual property ownership in an on demand digital world. Finally there is also included "Look for the Lake" Cory Doctorow Interviewed by Terry Bisson.

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Sensation in Midwest Book Review

Klausner's Bookshelf
Midwest Book Review
February 2012

Julia Hernandez leaves her husband City College Professor Raymond before murdering Peter Neads Fisherman and then vanishing. Since she left him, Raymond rationalizes her dumping him without warning as a "penis panic" attack on her part.
 
He spots Julia in public near where they lived in Lower Manhattan. The first time was at a grocer she never shopped in buying items she never ate when they were married. The second encounter is in Times Square in which Raymond chose flight rather than confront Julia with why. His running saves his life from an observer ready to push him into traffic. A distraught Raymond will soon learn why Julia committed murder and fled. He finds out about the insect eggs in her arm and the Simulacrum where anarchist wasps and a super genius spider hive that collectively is a "man" ready to shove the professor into traffic. These two insecticide species battle to steer or crash humanity.
 
Sensation
is an entertaining modern day parable that looks at the accumulative stress of minor annoyances in a world in which the individual has no wiggle room alternative. Told by the spiders, Nick Mamatas looks at the Butterfly Effect of chaos in an absolute controlled environment that makes independent thought that breaks away from one's profile impossible.

Although the two intelligent insect species are underdeveloped leaving readers with a void; fans will enjoy this allegorical look at New York, in which Seinfeld is right that as Queen sings in Bohemian Rhapsody "Nothing really matters, anyone can see nothing really matters."

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The Wild Girls on Midwest Book Review

Klausner's Bookshelf
Midwest Book Review
February 2012

"The Wild Girls." Bidh informs the girls in their Allulu language that they no longer are part of the Crown City. Chergos' daughter and Dead Ayu's first daughter are now Dirt Girls who if smart will keep their cherry intact until they marry wealth and begat Gods with their Crown husbands. Renamed Vui and Modh, if they want to survive they must accept who they are now and not what they were at the bottom of the food chain.
 
"Staying Awake While We Read." Ms. Le Guin's condemnation essay makes a case that corporate publishing firms care nothing about the golden geese and the readers except as a sham; as all that matters is profit at any cost to the literature.
 
"Outspoken Author Interview." Terry Blissom interviews Ms. Le Guin who revels at being an octogenarian with a strong defense of being against the avarice power-mongers who destroy environments in someone else's neighborhood and send other people's children to fight their profitable wars whether it is 1960s and 1970s Vietnam or Bush 41 and 43 Iraq.
 
'The Conversation of the Modest' is an essay that lives up its title as Ms. Le Guin espouses on what is modesty in a world in which fifteen minutes of fame on social media is sought and revered.
 
There is more to this interesting compilation. The novella is timely with its fascinating look at the tribes along the East River. While the rest of the strong collection also focuses on Ms. Le Guin's issues of concern for the past five decades which include the environment, women's rights in a capitalist cast system and war only good for the moguls.


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The Die is Cast: The Wrong Thing in the Tucson Weekly

by Christine Wald-Hopkins
Tucson Weekly
February 16, 2012

This powerful novel, by a former investigative reporter, depicts the Southwest's dark, soulless side

Smeared in my reviewer's pencil scrawl cross the top of Page 110 of this new Barry Graham novel are the words: "I CAN'T FINISH THIS BOOK!"

I finished the book. And I skimmed it in a second read, all the while dreading Page 110.

It's not as if you're not warned. In addition to the cover blurb's mentions of a "tragic sequence of events" and "explosive conclusion," Graham's narrator hints from the beginning that things might not turn out so well for the central character. It's just that you come to like the character. Somehow, you feel that as a reader, your involvement in his life might queer the inevitable, or maybe the book might turn into a sort of grown-up Choose Your Own Adventure, or Meditate Your Own Ending. Graham is a Zen monk; can't he arrange something?

But he can't, and it didn't. And I got to Page 110 again, and looked away again, and then realized that it's probably not the story or even the character that this book is about—it's not so much the what as the why.

The Wrong Thing is about a slight, young Mexican American from Santa Fe known as the Kid. He's introduced as if he were a legend, through rumors and sightings, and founded or unfounded allegations.

Unwanted by his family, not embraced by any adult, the Kid navigates childhood by scratching out his own paths: reading, learning to cook, defending himself with sharp objects, and getting into the drug trade. Never given affection, he doesn't know how to express it. Neglected and ill-treated, he learns to meet physical abuse with stoicism and patiently nurtured revenge. By the time he's out of school and jail, he can murder without compunction.

It's when he begins to take responsibility for others—a pleurisy-afflicted beauty who works at Woolworth's, and a stray cat—that the Kid experiences some modicum of joy. Too bad his die has already been cast. Thank Graham that he gets a moment of awareness and grace.

So, why, The Wrong Thing?

According to the press release, after Graham's four novels about the "urban wasteland" of his native Scotland were little noticed at home, but recognized in the U.S. (the American Library Association named The Book of Man one of the best books of 1995), he packed up and moved to Phoenix to write about our urban wasteland.

He highlights the economic disparities and social blights of the Southwest: Santa Fe's moneyed, gentrified society contrasts starkly with the Kid's family's poverty. The lack of social services and economic opportunity contribute to how the Kid's life plays out.

One-time boxer and investigative reporter Graham also takes on other aspects of the region—which comes across as a desert more than just geographically. The Kid spends some time in Arizona, where it's so hot that "everything seem(s) to be on fire," and Phoenix feels "like science-fiction movies, like maybe Blade Runner. The streets were jammed with cars, but there were no people on the sidewalks, nobody walking anywhere. There were no individual stores or cafes or bars on the streets, only strip malls." Graham takes a few jabs at Arizona's law enforcement, politics and newspapers, too.

The question of why the Kid acts as he does remains, and some of Graham's other writings might answer that. As a reporter, Graham witnessed two executions. In Why I Watch People Die, he muses about the 1998 execution of 43-year-old Jose Jesus Ceja, who committed a double-murder when he was 18. Even the original judge pleaded for his life at a clemency hearing, but they executed him anyway. "Welcome," Graham writes, "to Arizona."

In the same passage, Graham writes about himself. In 1984, when he was 18, he actually planned to kill and rob a man. Broke and hungry, Graham armed himself with a screwdriver with a weighted handle and went into a bookstore intending to "smash the (elderly owner's) head and pocket the money." After loitering and waiting for a customer to leave, he approached the owner intending to assault him. He was thrown off, however, when the old man merely bade him farewell.

"I walked down to the river and dropped the screwdriver into the water."

Graham must have had something going for him that the Kid doesn't.

As Graham presents it, immaturity, desperation and flat-out fear can drive someone to do the unthinkable—and no amount of magical reader thinking can undo the effects of a soulless, violent society.

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Alternative Vegan on Entertainment Realm

By Amy Steele
Entertainment Realm
March 2012

One of my favorite Simpsons scenes finds Marge and Homer at some vegetarian friends home. Chickpeas and something is the answer every time the Indian couple gets asked what’s in a dish. I love chickpeas. I love lentils. And quinoa and kale and tomatoes and cauliflower. In this cookbook, chef Dino Weierman shares recipes for what he calls “international vegan fare.”

He remains chatty throughout and says things such as:

“Veganism is a moral stance. It’s a political statement. At its core, it states unabashedly that the exploitation of animals is wrong.”

“Veganism is not a diet . . . It’s understanding that your “choice” to use animals means that you deny the animals’ choice in their own lives.

Sections on kitchen tools; cooking techniques; meals in one pot; basic dishes; more complex; sauce; dished to impress and easy peasy

I made some Simple Spiced Cauliflower. Curry. Yummy. New way to prep cauliflower.
The potato rounds are super simple too.

Will make the more difficult biryani and try the Quick Chickpea Soup. Usually I don’t follow a recipe to make a salad but often I copy something I ate in a restaurant [the Mediterranean salad from John Harvard’s Brew House or the Waldorf salad from Not Your Average Joe’s for example]. His Palm Hearts salad sounds quite delicious and I intend to make it soon.

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New American Vegan in San Francisco Book Review

by Holly Scudero
San Francisco Book Review
March 19, 2012

Vegan cookery remains a new frontier for many home chefs; many new vegans are not sure where to start, while experienced vegans may still have a hard time building an appealing meal that is also both nutritionally balanced and tasty. Fortunately, an ever-growing library of vegan cookbooks help to bridge that knowledge gap, and New American Vegan is a worthy addition. Vincent Guihan has assembled quite a collection of recipes here, ranging from vegan standbys such as Tomato Herb Sauce and Simple Vinaigrette Salad Dressing to more unique offerings like Tofu and Kale Hot Pocket and Tangy Pumpkin, Tomato, and Jalapeño Soup. There is an entire chapter devoted to sauces alone, which can be mixed and matched with different pastas, salads, and entrees, such as Tofu Cutlets and Light Seitan Cutlets, for endless mealtime possibilities. The recipes are extremely detailed, almost to the point of being tiresome for anyone used to cooking at home. Also included are tips on cooking techniques, which could be invaluable for new cooks, as well as listings of recommended kitchen equipment and pantry necessities, both of which seem to be staples in most vegan cookbooks. The main thing these recipes lack is an estimated yield; not knowing approximately how many people each recipe will feed makes meal planning difficult.

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Gilbert's Memoir Helps Us Understand Our History

by Rick Ayers
The Rag Blog
March 7, 2012

This is the third review of David Gilbert's Love and Struggle published on The Rag Blog. We have run multiple reviews of the same book in the past, when the articles have covered different territory and when we have considered the material to be of special interest to our readers. And we consider this to be a very important book. Also see the Rag Blog reviews of Love and Struggle by Ron Jacobs and Mumia Abu-Jamal.

As I write this, four presidents in Latin America are veterans of revolutionary guerrilla struggles of the 1960s. Pepe Mujica of Uruguay was a member of the Tupamaros and among those political prisoners who escaped from Punta Carretas Prison in 1971; Mauricio Funes of El Salvador is a member of the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front (FMLN) and his brother was killed fighting in the Salvadoran civil war; Daniel Ortega was a leader of the Sandinista National Liberation Front which fought an eighteen-year guerrilla war; and Dilma Rousseff of Brazil was a member of the urban guerrilla group National Liberation Command (COLINA) which carried out armed attacks and bank robberies in the late 60’s.

David Gilbert, who is of the same aspirational generation, is living a dramatically contrasting life—presently doing life in a New York prison. His recently released memoir, Love and Struggle, My life in SDS, the Weather Underground and Beyond, opens the door onto a world that mostly exists as some distorted corner of the political imagination of the U.S. in 2012.

But it’s a world and a story that is vivid and compelling—and one worth paying attention to at precisely this moment as a young generation of activists is generating its own stories on Wall Street and beyond.

Like Mujica, Funes, and Rousseff, Gilbert was a militant fighter in the '60s and '70s—but he found himself at war from within what Che Guevara called the “belly of the beast.”

The actor and activist Peter Coyote had this to say about the memoir: "Like many of his contemporaries, David Gilbert gambled his life on a vision of a more just and generous world. His particular bet cost him the last three decades in prison and, whether or not you agree with his youthful decision, you can be the beneficiary of his years of deep thought, reflection, and analysis on the reality we all share. I urge you to read it."

Written under the appalling conditions of imprisonment in the massive U.S. prison-industrial complex—under the endless dangers, harassments, and frustrations of life in various New York prisons—the existence of this volume is itself an amazing accomplishment.

Gilbert explores crucial issues of the '60s and today: racism, imperialism, the oppression of women, and the crisis of capitalism. The fact that it is self-critical without being maudlin or self-pitying, the fact that he has crafted a reflective, modest, and ultimately hopeful picture of his life and times, makes Love and Struggle particularly welcome.

We were, as a generation, born into war. After the “good war” to defeat fascism in the 1940s, the United States continued a series of military engagements designed to defeat liberation movements and assure its economic dominance in the world. While most everyone today agrees that the war on Vietnam was at best a mistake and more accurately a genocidal horror, it is curious how the American narrative has twisted even that memory.

Those who seek to draw the United States into more military adventures cynically extol the veterans of the war as heroes while leaving a record number of homeless vets to fend for themselves on the streets or to populate the prisons. At the same time, they denigrate the veterans of the resistance. Those who were right, in other words, are never honored in the corporate media—they are erased and disappeared

While David Gilbert represents an extreme of the resistance movement, and while the Brinks robbery which landed him in prison was thoughtless and harmful, Gilbert reminds us that it is essential to confront the many war crimes the U.S. committed in Vietnam—and continues to commit here and around the world—with no consequences.

David’s life sentence does not square with Lt. William Calley’s sentence of three years house arrest for the massacre of 104 Vietnamese civilians at My Lai in 1971 or John McCain’s record of bombing civilians from the air, wanton crimes against humanity; and it does not make sense against the other My Lai’s that occurred on a weekly basis.

Beyond the actions of troops on the ground, a just society would have prepared war crimes trials for top military and political leaders who ordered carpet bombing of civilian areas, the vast deployment of napalm and Agent Orange, the CIA’s “Operation Phoenix” assassination program, the decade-long, “secret” aerial bombardment of Laos, as well as the Cointelpro attacks against African American and Native American activists in the U.S. that resulted in hundreds being killed and imprisoned.

David Gilbert does not ask us to forget the costly human consequences of the 1981 Brinks robbery in which three people were killed and which landed him in prison. But his memoir forces us to encounter and understand much more about the struggles of the '60s and '70s.

Since the release of Sam Greene and Bill Siegel’s film Weather Underground in 2002, there has been a resurgence of interest in those in the United States who went from protest to resistance and from resistance to clandestine actions. Five or six “Weather” memoirs have come out in the past decade—each with a different approach or take on the history.

Two excerpts will perhaps capture some of the intensity of his insight and analysis. In discussing the work of the Weather Underground to build a clandestine movement against U.S. international wars, he reminds us of the example of Portugal:

"1974 brought an unanticipated but exhilarating boost to the politics of revolutionary anti-imperialism. On April 25, the dictatorship that had ruled Portugal with an iron hand since 1932 was overthrown. Popular discontent had been central and radicals, including socialists and communists, were major forces in the new constellation of power. The new government soon ceded independence to all of Portugal’s remaining colonies. The series of colonial wars in Africa had drained Portugal’s resources and economy, and that created the conditions for radical internal changes.

We saw the relatively poor imperial nation of Portugal as a possible small-scale model of what could happen to the far more powerful United States after a protracted period of economic losses and strains brought on by "two, three, many Vietnams." The costs of a series of imperial wars could crack open the potential of radical change within the home country."

And he often counters narrow and stupid characterizations of the '60s and '70s, reminding us of the human faces behind the mythology of the radical movements.

In discussing the death of Teddy Gold, his old friend from Columbia University, he seeks to set the record straight:

"When Teddy and two other comrades were killed in the tragic townhouse explosion, J. Kirkpatrick Sale immediately published a piece in The Nation defining Teddy as the epitome of "guilt politics." I don’t think Sale ever met Teddy; he certainly didn’t know him. Sale’s rush to judgment probably came from his urgency to discredit any political push toward armed struggle. The "guilt politics" mantra just didn’t fit the deep level of identification we felt with Third World people; and far from feeling guilt, with its condescending sense that we are so much better off than they are, we were responding to their leadership.

The national liberation movements were providing the tangible hope that a better world was possible. Those who caricatured him never saw Teddy on his return from Cuba—the very picture of inspiration, energy, and hope. The word that captures Teddy’s psyche as he built the New York collective was not guilt but exuberance."

Whether you agree with much that David says or very little, Love and Struggle is a book you won’t soon forget.

Rick Ayers was co-founder of and lead teacher at the Communication Arts and Sciences small school at Berkeley High School, and is currently Adjunct Professor in Teacher Education at the University of San Francisco. He is author, with his brother William Ayers, of Teaching the Taboo: Courage and Imagination in the Classroom, published by Teachers College Press. He can be reached at rayers@berkeley.edu. Read more articles by Rick Ayers on The Rag Blog.

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London Peculiar and Other Non-Fiction on SF Crows Nest

by Eamonn Murphy
SF Crows Nest
January 3, 2012

This book contains a wide range of Moorcock’s non-fiction, mostly from the last ten years or so but with a few earlier pieces. There is an introduction by Iain Sinclair and an editor’s forward by Allan Kausch. These are followed by two odd pieces, "Scratching A Living" which is a sort of day in the life of a writer and "A Child’s Christmas in the Blitz" which is an interesting autobiographical essay. Moorcock, it seems, was reading Edgar Rice Burroughs and George Bernard Shaw before he started school. Many modern youths can’t read them after they leave. That’s progress. Following this, the content is divided into six categories as follows: London, other places, absent friends, music, politics and introductions and reviews.

The section on London held no great interest for me because I am neither a Londoner nor particularly in love with our capital, though it is undoubtedly one of the great cities of the world. However, the title essay, "London Peculiar" had a bit more autobiography and it struck me that Moorcock has led an interesting life and should write it down.

The section on other places consisted of diary entries between 2001 and 2010, nine in all. They were originally published in the Financial Times and are interesting on world events and the geography of Moorcock’s life. He has homes in Paris, France and Austin, Texas and makes valid comparisons of the health services in the two places. Apparently Wal-Mart sells do-it-yourself wound sewing kits because even skilled American workers cannot afford routine medical care. Oh say, can you see the fun of it! Like most English people I do not anticipate that more free market in the NHS is going to be of much benefit to me, though the big corporations, accountants, lawyers and insurance companies are no doubt rubbing their hands with glee. Lest US readers go forth and lynch Moorcock, I should add that he is full of praise for ordinary Americans, adores the country and describes it in loving detail. It’s just the health service he’s not keen on.

The absent friends section is testament to one of the problems of living quite a long time: your friends die. Here Moorcock pays tribute to J.G. Ballard, Ted Carnell, Thomas M. Disch, Arthur C. Clarke and others. Clarke, it seems, was nicknamed "the ego" since childhood and threw "parties" where tea was served and home movies of the great barrier reef were shown to bored, sober guests. Apparently everyone knew he was gay but he was an easy-going, loveable soul and everyone liked him. They just tried to avoid his parties. Thomas M Disch, we learn, hated Phillip K. Dick for his hippie guru pose which he thought false. Disch committed suicide. It is probably the case that highly strung artistic individuals are more likely to perish through drink, drugs or suicide than us ordinary mortals. It kind of goes with the territory.

Music and politics are brief sections but mildly interesting. "Living With Music: A Playlist" has some surprises, the classical mostly. He cites the albums "American Beauty" and "Workingman’s Dead" by the Grateful Dead as favourite listening. For some reason I have always been under the impression that the Dead produced an awful racket but these albums (I sampled them) are almost as melodic as the Beach Boys. Moorcock is also a big Woody Guthrie and Mozart fan.

Introductions and reviews is the longest part of the book and too extensive to go over in detail. It features the obvious Science Fiction and fantasy writers: Leigh Brackett, Philip K. Dick, Aldous Huxley, HG Wells, Mervyn Peake and a few oddities like Robert Crumb. There are also reviews of some London literati. Having been around a long time and mixed in with the London avant-garde, music and literary scenes for almost as long, Moorcock knows a lot of people in the arts. He has been or is friends with Iain Sinclair, Peter Ackroyd, Alan Moore, JG Ballard, Mervyn Peake and many others. He’s not quite as fruitful a name dropper as Gore Vidal, who knew really famous people like Jack Kennedy, Orson Wells and Tennessee Williams but he does okay. When literary cliques review each other’s books and praise each other to the skies it can look suspicious and the ‘must read’ lists and reviews that come out every Christmas and summer holiday are always mocked in the English satirical magazine "Private Eye." This is too cynical. I prefer to believe that these literary cliques are friends because they like each other’s work, not friends pretending to like each other’s works for promotional reasons.

To appreciate everything on display here, one’s tastes would have to be as wide ranging as Moorcock’s and mine are not. I certainly share his love of pulp fiction and graphic novels but I am not really into the high flown literary stuff or not the modern’s anyway. Moorcock likes low, alternative and high art but has little interest in the middlebrow stuff, which he would probably call mediocre. It’s hard to imagine him settling down with the latest John Grisham.

This is probably the sort of book to keep by the bedside and dip into occasionally. Having a deadline to meet, I read the pieces in commercial breaks while watching, on the television, crime scene investigators at various locations across the United States. However you do it, it’s an entertaining and enlightening gaggle of stuff. Moorcock is many things but he is never boring.

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