Barry Healy

Of Mice & Men
By John Steinbeck
First published 1937

This year marks the 80th anniversary of John Steinbeck’s great mythic novel of alienation under US capitalism, Of Mice and Men.

On Google Earth, you can see where the Salinas River “drops in close to the hillside bank and runs deep and green”, a few miles “south of Soledad”, the novella’s opening lines.  Clearly, John Steinbeck knew this area intimately to be able to describe it so strikingly.

Cyril Lionel Robert James, best known as CLR James, was a Trinidadian-born, Black socialist whose work spanned many of the great struggles of the 20th century and across many continents.

A life-long anti-Stalinist, he died in 1989 just as the Soviet Union was beginning to break up – something that brought him joy. 

Now his remarkable life has been captured in a new documentary Every Cook Can Govern.

Antonio Gramsci, one of the founders of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), suffered and died in Mussolini’s prison system. In jail, he wrote his famous Prison Notebooks — more than 3000 pages long — in which he theorised a unique revolutionary Marxist alternative to Stalinism.

Sound System: The Political Power of Music
Dave Randall
Pluto Press Left Book Club, 2017
210 pp, $38.99

As a teenager, British writer and musician Dave Randall unwittingly attended a music festival in his home town where he heard the Special AKA sing “Free Nelson Mandela”. He experienced an epiphany.

“I had no idea who Nelson Mandela was,” he writes, “but I knew by the end of the first chorus I wanted him to be free.”

About 800 people marched through the streets of Fremantle on September 9 in a colourful demonstration urging a Yes vote in the equal marriage rights national survey. The pavements were left covered with love hearts and messages supporting the Yes campaign.

The march followed a rally in Fremantle’s Pioneer Park, which was welcomed to country by Aunty Corina Abraham. She compared the refusal of marriage rights to LGBTI people to the refusal of marriage rights to Aboriginal people under the control of the 1905 Aborigines Act.

There were innumerable horrors committed by El Salvador’s right-wing death-squad government during the civil war that raged from 1980 to 1992. Alongside the peasants and workers killed or disappeared and the nuns raped, were the priests who were executed. The most sensational execution of all was the murder of Archbishop of San Salvador Oscar Romero, gunned down while celebrating mass.

The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger portrays British Marxist cultural commentator John Berger over a period of five years.

Berger was a well-known figure on 1960s British TV, explaining and democratising art theory. He rocketed to international fame with his early 1970s book Ways of Seeing. Combining it with an accompanying TV series, he articulated a dialectical and demystifying approach to art.

Two very different exhibitions communicate critical evidence about the Aboriginal experience of the 1967 referendum, through which the Australian constitution was amended to remove the racist provisions of sections 51 and 127.

That victory certainly did not end racism in Australia, but opened up the possibility of a broader, unfinished struggle.

The Cuban Revolution has created international ripples ever since its military victory on January 1, 1959. The United States was quick to recognise the threats to its dominance in Latin America and set out to crush the rebel regime.

In response, the revolution’s leaders took the process rapidly leftwards, socialising property and seeking to help revolutionaries in other countries. The moral and political weight of Cuba’s revolutionaries remains far out of proportion to their economic and military strength.

Cuban moral authority within the Third World of super-exploited countries is absolute. However, the Cuban Revolution has proven a litmus test for the intellectual and moral fibre of socialist currents in the advanced capitalist countries — a test that some have failed.

David Kilcullen operates in the post-structural, morally grey nether world that neoliberalism has created. Not quite a mercenary — but not much better — he slides between being an Australian soldier, a top-level civilian strategic thinking adviser to the US military, a “security consultant” and an academic.

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