Review diverse books (because the anti-capitalist literature can be so boringly monochrome)

Something I’m going to start doing on this blog: reviewing diverse books. What does this mean? Well a blog called read diverse books had this challenge to read diverse books in order to fight against the cultural industry’s tendency to tell us stories about how great white people are, particularly males, particularly middle class, straight, heteronormative whites, etc. It looks like a good idea so I’m adapting it here.

I say adapting because the original challenge (and a similar one at wocreads) is mostly oriented to fiction, so it focuses on lead characters. I’m more into non-fiction political books, so I’m adjusting the challenge to focus on authors rather than protagonists (except for biographies, then it is about the authors and the protangonists). I’m also adding some additional dimensions beyond gender/sexuality and race: things like class, experience of state repression, and linguistic communities. And instead of just reading I like to review so as to engage with the ideas and hopefully share the most useful thoughts and tools with those who can make use of them.

The challenge looks like this. I have to review:

  • A book authored/edited by a woman

  • A book authored/edited by a homosexual

  • A book authored/edited by somebody from Latin America

  • A book authored/edited by somebody who grew up as an ethnic or racial minority in their country

  • A book authored/edited by somebody from Africa

  • A book authored/edited by somebody who identifies as part of an ethno-national community that is without a state

  • A book authored/edited by somebody from Asia

  • A book authored/edited by a biracial person

  • A book authored/edited by a transgender person

  • A book authored/edited by a refugee

  • A book authored/edited by somebody with a disability

  • A book originally written in a language other than English

  • A book originally written in one of the over 2000 UNESCO designated endangered languages.

  • A book authored/edited by somebody without university-level education

  • A book authored/edited by somebody who was imprisoned for at least a year

  • A book authored/edited by somebody who lived under state socialism

  • A book authored/edited by a collective

One of the problems with checklist challenges is that the goal often end up being to complete it so you can say “look how fuckin diverse I am”. The main reason I’m doing this is to show how uniform the anti-capitalist literature tends to be. The checklist will be used mostly as a commentary during reviews about how diverse or undiverse the books are. And the emphasis is on commentary – not a rating. I don’t want this to end up like a judge in the oppression olympics.

Looking back at what has been reviewed so far on this blog, two were written or edited by individuals (How to change the world, and New forms of worker organisation), both white males from the US and the UK, employed (currently or at some time in their lives) as university professors, presumably straight, abled bodied, and originally written in English for English-speaking audiences. The two books on Rojava reviewed here are also written for US/English-speaking audiences, but they at least are edited by collectives, and include some essays and interviews translated from Kurdish and Turkish. Both collectives do seem to be north america-based though.

On the other hand, Teaching Rebellion, is also edited by a collective, this time Mexico-based, and although it is unclear whether it was written originally for a Spanish-speaking or English-speaking audience, almost the entire bulk of the book is composed of interview/testimony pieces which are certainly translated. Clearly the most diverse book reviewed so far here, but it just shows how much things need to improve. Looking forward to seeing what books this challenge leads me to.

Best of August

The civil war in Syria gets worse, with Assad seeing success with his strategy of starving territory back into control, and Turkey crossing the border. Yet again, the establishment media has done little more than regurgitate the official spin: that Turkey is responding to the ISIL terrorist attack on its territory by committing ground troops to the fight against them in Syria. When in fact, the bomb attack was in (Turkey-occupied) Kurdistan, at the wedding of a Kurdish political activist, which was used by Turkey as an excuse to implement a plan it had drawn up not to fight ISIL but to attack the autonomist project of the Syrian Kurds in Rojava, who are the most successful grouping gaining back territory from ISIL. And the US has gone along with it and finally ended the uneasy ‘temporary’ relationship with the Kurds, possibly because they don’t want Turkey getting closer to Russia, possibly because they too see the Rojava autonomist project as a threat, probably both. Either way, it shows that for the US and Turkey alike, fighting terrorism is less of a priority than imperialist hegemony. See this and this articles on the deal.

2016_08 Puerto Rican graffitti
Puerto Rican street art by La Puerta collective calling for a revolution against US colonialism. Image from ROAR.

Workers at two app-facilitated, conditions-destroying delivery companies in London have opened an important front in precarity-capitalism by organising wildcat strikes – not because they are radical anarchists who say fuck unions and class collaborationist process, but because they aren’t actually allowed to have a union, and as ‘contractors’ they don’t officially work there, so wildcat is the only way they can get together and strike. An important fightback against capital and the propaganda of the ‘sharing economy’. As Carlos Delclos from ROAR puts it, “Companies like Uber and Amazon Mechanical Turk privatized the [mutual aid]-style networking that allows these workers to earn a living, and then challenged governments to adapt their legal structures to their “no-benefits” employment scheme”. See these pieces on the Uber eats strike here and here, and this earlier one on the Deliveroo strike.

Also in England, following the disgraceful behaviour of Byron, a hamburger chain that exploited undocumented workers for years and then rounded them up and turned them over to the immigration police, a group in the National Health Service calling themselves ‘Docs not Cops’ is organising to make hospitals and health facilities no-immigration-police-zones and to refuse them access to medical data. A good article was posted on Novara about them. And Red Pepper ran this article damning the Chilcot enquiry for purposefully avoiding questions on the real motives for the war in Iraq, and the role of private corporations and lobyists in pushing the invasion agenda. Nice to see this, because I was getting fairly sick of hearing the media call the Chilcot report ‘damning’ and peddling its face-saving language (e.g. saying Blair ‘exaggerated’ the threat from Iraq, when in truth he made it up, etc).

2016_08 Pretoria protest
Protest by students at a formerly white-only school in Pretoria, South Africa, where a ban on afros is the trigger leading to outburst, but only the latest of a series of policies that has led students to connect the dots of institutional racism. “That is what forces us to realise that no matter how hard we work or how well we speak, we remain black. That is what forces us to realise that we are still niggers. That is what forces ‘coconuts’ to become conscious”. Photo from Daily Maverick.

Elsewhere,

2016_08 Chinese anti-racist protest in France
French-Chinese community in Paris organise and take to the streets to protest against violent, anti-Chinese  racist violence following recent murder. Image from Liberation.fr

And finally an excellent intersectionalist analysis queering marxism – looking at the many ways heteronormative society pushes LGBT*Q people into precarity. I usually don’t like overly materialist left-wing analysis because they tend to reduce form of oppression to just the economic impact, but this one does a great job.

Best of July 2016

 

2016_07_Turkish demonstrators beat soldiers
Anti-coup demonstrators beat captured soliders, most of whom were young conscripts who had no idea what they were taking part in. Shows the masculinist character of what Erdongan described as saviours of democracy, and of the kind of fascist state and auxiliary society he is trying to mould. Image shared from the Guardian.

July was the month of violence and terrorism across germany, france, the usa, and a failed coup and nationalist backlash in Turkey. Although the levels of violence was still far less than in Iraq, Nigeria, or Somalia this month (not to mention Syria) the white media still focussed on dangers in the safest parts of the world. And when they weren’t talking about terrorism they were talking about leadership contests in the anglo-centric centres of the universe, all under the shadow of predictably senseless discussion on Brexit. Among some of the exceptions from within the empires are some interesting pieces on groups trying to tackle post-referendum racism, (see also a piece by the Wretched of the Earth Collective on how to practice anti-racist solidarity, previously linked to on this blog) a discussion thread critically exposing the shamelessness of the anti-democratic elite of the britain’s Labour party, plus some guidelines for how members can try to win back the organisation and turn it into a member-based party (although a structure based on direct democracy and instantly-recallable delegates is still beyond the horizon). And actually, some good points are made in this other post arguing how the time spent by activists reclaiming the Labour party might be better spent on extra-parliamentary organising.

2016_07_Trident protest
Demonstrators against nuclear submarines, stationed off Scotland. Image shared from catholic universe.

By far the best piece I read this month was a journal entry by a trans woman who has chosen not to undergo surgery and presents as male. Touches on all sorts of complexities of feminism in relation to trans* perspectives. Although it was published earlier in the year, it seems to have only been noticed recently. A similar post in response/inspired by it is also worth a read.

Elsewhere, a discussion of teachers’ unionising and strategising against neoliberalisation and racism and inequality, looking at recent examples in Mexico, usa and uk. A report of the Social ecology gathering in Lyon, outlining what an anti-capitalist, libertarian municipalist social ecology vision could look like, written by Janet Biehl, former partner, collaborator and current biogropher of Murray Bookchin. A sad enough piece about the decline of the Nordic model in Denmark over the course of the last 30 years and the embracal instead of neoliberalism. And pointers to some good movies that are probably worth a look at: recommendations selected from among films screening at the GAZE International LGBT Film Festival in ireland.

2016_07_Derry antifascists
Demo in solidarity anti-fascist prisoners in Russia, staged at Free Derry Corner. Image shared from wsm.ie.

 

 

 

Best of June 2016

June was the month where Muhammad Ali passed away. There was a lot of stuff in the media but this piece here is a nice and unique perspective. It was also the month of the Orlando massacre, the forty year anniversary of the Soweto uprisings, and things started to kick off in Oaxaca again. Try these pieces on: erasure of gay and trans people of colour, particularly radical activists, in how the Stonewall riots are remembered; how only 20 years after overthrowing a totalitarian police state South Africa under the ANC is in many ways reverting to the old logic of control; and this shocking piece about the new teachers’ strikes in Oaxaca, ten years after the rebellion, and the appalling response from the state. (incidentally, yesterdays Guardian shamefully chose to run this Reuters article which portrays the Mexican army very favourably, focussing on their plans to deliver food aid to remote regions who are running out of food supplies because of the teachers’ blockades. It euphemistically refers to the attack on the protests and murder as “eight people died last month in clashes between police and the protesting teachers”).

The refugee crisis continues as does Europe’s shameful response. Here is an interview with an asylum seeker which touches on the conditions in which asylum seekers are forced to live in Ireland and a revolution of sorts against the management in one of the residential centres and efforts to build a wider asylum seeker movement.

A data-supported critique of continued austerity policies in Greece, by Varoufakis, plus proposals for restructuring of debt. Preaching to the converted here – we all know austerity doesn’t work – but still a good resource when arguing with the unconverted or wilfully ignorant. And something you probably didn’t already know so much about, how investor-state dispute arbitration systems screw over countries to be benefit of profits of powerful private corporations and their corporate lawyers in this enraging article in the New Internationalist.

But finishing on an also angry but more hopeful note, a very interesting piece about student rent strikes in the UK and how they get at a financial system that distributes wealth from students in general to super-elite private schools which serve to reproduce britain’s almost feudal class structure. It also connects well with another piece – written in May, but anyhow – also at Novara about staff strikes at the same university and possibilities for some sort of class alliance between student rent strikers and precarious staff strikes to challenge the neoliberal university.

About POSTS OF THE MONTH: Consider this a Twitter feed on a timescale suitable for those of us who still have a life outside of the internet. Brief synopsis of blog posts and articles I found particularly good during the month but which I didnt have time to engage properly with.

Orlando means fightback – There is absolutely no room in our gay agenda for Islamophobia

Statement of solidarity with LGBTQ+ community after Orlando homophobic attack, but equally strongly anti the racist Islamaphobic agenda. Shared from anarkismo.net

There is absolutely no room in our gay agenda for Islamophobia

featured image

Our hearts ache for the victims of the homophobic hate crime that took place over the weekend in Orlando, Florida where a gunman attacked an LGBT+ club killing 50 and wounding over 50 more. Much has been asked by us and by other left queers about the LGBT+ community, whether it exists and if it exists why don’t we feel a part of it. Sadly it is at times like these that we become aware of its existence. When people are considered deviants and deserving of a murderous assault for their sexuality, a trait all of us in the community share, we cannot but come together in sadness and in mourning.


Orlando means fightback
There is absolutely no room in our gay agenda for Islamophobia

Our hearts ache for the victims of the homophobic hate crime that took place over the weekend in Orlando, Florida where a gunman attacked an LGBT+ club killing 50 and wounding over 50 more. Much has been asked by us and by other left queers about the LGBT+ community, whether it exists and if it exists why don’t we feel a part of it. Sadly it is at times like these that we become aware of its existence. When people are considered deviants and deserving of a murderous assault for their sexuality, a trait all of us in the community share, we cannot but come together in sadness and in mourning.

We wish to draw special attention to the fact that the Pulse nightclub was hosting a Latino night with a trans performer headlining. We must be aware of the disproportionately high number of attacks that are carried out on a regular basis against queer and trans people of colour and we must fight to end this violence. Racism and queerphobia came together over the weekend to form a devastating result and these are two traits of the attack that we cannot allow to be erased from this.

We further warn against the Islamophobic backlash that has already begun in the wake of these attacks. We reject the use of the hurt that our community is experiencing at present in order to justify Islamophobia. There is absolutely no room in our gay agenda for Islamophobia; our liberation is inextricably tied to the liberation of all oppressed groups and that includes our muslim siblings, in particular our queer muslim siblings.

While the media and US authorities have branded this an act of terrorism we feel it is of high importance to state that this act of terrorism was also a hate crime. Already attempts have been made to erase the identities of the victims of this attack, the usual ‪#‎AllLivesMatter‬ crusade has begun. The right wing media wishes to ignore the homophobic nature of this attack in order to continue their scaremongering of muslims. This is incredibly insulting and does a disgusting disservice to those who have been murdered primarily for their sexuality.

Just like Stonewall, Orlando means fight back. While many advances have been made and homophobia isn’t as common or as acceptable as what it has been in recent years we still have a long way to go; the road we take cannot be one of assimilation, whereby we have queer acceptance in a straight society – we must dismantle the straight society.

We must dismantle the society that made it possible for someone to harbour such views about us and to carry those views into such a tragic action. Greater hate crime legislation will not do this, all it will do is cover up the cracks of a society that is already deeply broken by the violence of neo-liberalism.

While we have made many advances, for too long has our focus been on marriage; something that will not prevent trans youth from being murdered, queer homelessness, and closer to home the DUP putting in place a conscience clause to effectively exclude us from civic society. When our right to live is cruelly taken away at the whim of a homophobic gunman we are starkly reminded of how much of a fight we have left. This serves as a rallying call against the violence of a society that is killing us, we must make it known that these queers bash back. No matter how bigoted a person is we will continue to survive, we will continue to resist, we will continue to live.

We call for an end to violence – state-sponsored, homophobic, racist, sexist, capitalist, imperalist violence. This can only occur through revolutionary methods; through overthrowing the society we currently live in.

For now, we must take care of each other because that’s what a community does. We must mourn and organise.

WSM, 13 June 2016