Originally published in 1979, Beyond the Fragments (BTF) was an intervention in the left by three British socialist-feminist activists who offered a thoroughgoing critique of democratic centralism and the vanguard party ideal as it was then practiced on the revolutionary left. BTF argued that left groups had failed to capture the creativity and enthusiasm of the tremendous numbers of people who had entered political activity in the 1960s and 70s. The authors recognized the necessity of an organization capable of gathering the energy of social movements and union struggles—the “fragments”—and focusing that energy on a revolutionary vision and anti-capitalist politics. However, they argued that the left would inevitably fail unless we were ready to revolutionize ourselves, taking on board insights from the women’s liberation movement.
The English translation of Daniel Bensaïd’s autobiography, Une lente impatience, is a welcome event in the Anglophone Marxist world. Not only does it contain a rich history of some of the most decisive moments for the French Left from the ’60s to the present, it also deepens our understanding of the heterodox sources that coexisted within Bensaïd’s unique form of Marxism.
Despite significant changes in the economy, mass worker organizing is still possible. Since the publication of False Promises: The Shaping of American Working Class Consciousness in 1973, Stanley Aronowitz has been one of the most important left critics of the official US labor movement. His latest book, The Death and Life of American Labor, builds on and synthesizes much of this previous work, and is a provocative contribution to discussions of the road out of organized labor’s current crisis.
This new intellectual and political biography of Lev Davidovitch doesn’t pretend to bring sensational new discoveries from the archives in Moscow, but it gives us a wonderful introduction to the ideas and struggles of the founder of the Red Army. Sympathetic but even-handed, it emphasizes the greatness of the revolutionary thinker and leader, without ignoring his shortcomings. The hostile biographers, from Robert Service to Peter Beilherz are criticized and rejected, but their arguments are considered with attention. In short, this is a most intelligent and insightful presentation of Trotsky’s thought and historical action.
Paula Rabinowitz exquisite and startling new book about the “golden age” of U.S. pulp publishing, from the late 1930s to the early 1960s, is rightly confident in the originality of its enterprise. Gorgeously illustrated, American Pulp audaciously sets in motion at least a half-dozen crisscrossing storylines to create a new cartography of pulp performance.
For a woman often described by men as “too abrasive,” “formidable,” and “too ambitious,” Barbara Ransby’s incisive biography provides a more nuanced picture of Eslanda Robeson.
The meteoric rise of Chinese capitalism over the past two decades has elicited myriad responses by mainstream and left commentators. From neoconservatives decrying the rise of the “red dragon” to leftists seeking to find socialist diamonds in the rough of “the sweatshop of the world,” enormous confusion has been sparked by the seeming contradiction of the world’s largest self-proclaimed “communist” party leading its nation in capitalist dynamism.
Cinzia Arruzza’s Dangerous Liaisons is an ambitious attempt to give a brief history of the interrelation between the 18th to 20th century women’s, labor and left anti-capitalist movements in the UK and Europe, and the theoretical debates in that same period about the interconnection between male and class domination and exploitation.
The re-issuing of Marxism and the Oppression of Women: Toward a Unitary Theory, 30 years after its initial publication, is a chance for socialist feminists to review the legacy of the Marxist tradition in theorizing the secondary status of women. Vogel’s study stands out for its thorough research and critical inspection of Marx’s and Engels’ discussion of women’s oppression, and how their views evolved.
The “Russian question,” that is, the question of the nature of the Soviet Union, dominated much of Marxist debate throughout the twentieth century as first anarchists and Leninists, and later Trotskyists and Stalinists, and then Maoists argued about the economic, social, and political character of Soviet Russia (and then also of Eastern Europe, China, Cuba, Vietnam, and North Korea).