Barry Healy

Karl Marx: A Nineteenth Century Life
Jonathan Sperber
Liveright Publishing, 2013

In life, Karl Marx lived a tumultuous, revolutionary life. His death, too, has been less than tranquil.

Alive, he was the best hated man in Europe. For the ruling classes and police spies he personified the “spectre” that was haunting the continent, the demonic rise of workers’ revolution.

After his death he was bleached of his humanity, canonised by admirers and slandered by enemies. Both misrepresented him.

Love & Struggle, My Life in SDS, the Weather Underground & Beyond
By David Gilbert, PM Press, 2012
336 pp, $22.00

From the earliest anti-capitalist revolutions, starting almost as soon as capitalism cemented its political mastery of Europe in the late 1700s, there has been dispute between those whose moral outrage at oppression led them to conspiratorial methods and those saying that open political struggle is superior.

Originally this debate was between the Blanquists and Marxists and later between Bakuninite anarchists and (again) Marxists.

Toussaint Louverture: The Story of the Only Successful Slave Revolt in History; A Play in Three Acts
CLR James, edited by Christian Hogsbjerg
Duke University Press 2013
222 pp., $47.99

Hegel, Haiti & Universal History
Susan Buck-Moss
University of Pittsburgh Press 2009
176 pp., $89.99

“I was born a slave, but nature gave me the soul of a free man,” said Toussaint Louverture, the leader of the successful Haitian slave revolt of 1791 to 1804.

The Condition of the Working Class, A Documentary Film
By Mike Wayne & Deirdre O’Neill
Inside Film 2012
www.conditionoftheworkingclass.info

In the 1840s, when Frederick Engels went to Manchester to take up his duties of administering his father’s cotton milling enterprise, he discovered the dreadful conditions in which the city’s workers lived.

Northern Ireland: The Reluctant Peace
Feargal Cochrane
Yale University Press, 2013
368 pp, $38.00

Reginald Maudling, the Tory Home Secretary who oversaw the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre in Northern Ireland, perfectly expressed the British ruling class’s blend of condescension and indifference towards Ireland when he blurted out to his staff: “For God’s sake bring me a large Scotch — what a bloody awful country.”

As his policies created mayhem on the streets of Ulster, he coined the cute phrase “acceptable level of violence” to describe what was going on.

Black Against Empire, the History & Politics of the Black Panther Party
Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin Jr, University of California Press, 2013, 560 pp., $54.95

The United States in the 1960s was a tinderbox of unresolved racial tensions. With Jim Crow racism dominating the South and oppressive police patrolling the northern ghettos, Martin Luther King’s Civil Rights Movement ignited hopes for change nation-wide.

The Managed Heart, Commercialization of Human Feeling
Arlie Russell Hochschild
University of California Press, 2012
339pp, $39.95

Forcing front line staff to engage at a “personal level” with customers has been an increasingly obnoxious part of low paid workers’ employment.

To obscure the all-pervasive low quality of the “food” and “services” that capitalism offers, what is sold now is the “experience” of social interaction. Key to the Happy Meal is the “happy sale”.

All That I Am, A Novel
By Anna Funder
Penguin 2011
370 pp, $29.95

Germany at the end of World War I entered a political and cultural maelstrom that tested the integrity of all its participants. This factually based narrative, or “open-source novel” as author Anna Funder calls it, brings to life some of those who committed their lives to trying to bring socialism to Germany and combat Hitler.

In Western Australia, mental illness is the second-highest cause of disease for women and the fourth-highest cause for men.

Premier Colin Barnett has responded by publishing a green paper for public discussion for a new Mental Health Act. The proposed act contains provisions that would improve the rights of people subjected to a Compulsory Treatment Order (CTO). But it negates those same provisions by allowing the treating psychiatrist to simply ignore them.

The Marx Dictionary
By Ian Fraser & Lawrence Wilde
Continuum, 2011
223 pp., $39.99

“A is for Alienation, that made me the man that I am, and B's for the Boss who's a Bastard, a Bourgeois who don't give a damn.” So goes Scottish folk singer Alex Glasgow’s witty song, “The Socialist ABC”, which is a succinct introduction to Marxism.

However, for a slightly more rounded alphabetical introduction this volume is very good. In it the authors manage to condense quite readable explanations of some of the Western intellectual tradition’s most challenging concepts.

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