Andreas Malm introduces Verso’s new free ebook, Property Will Cost Us the Earth

“There can be only one accurate description of the situation: out of control.”

Andreas Malm

Andreas Malm’s book How to Blow Up a Pipeline, with its call for the environmental movement to start sabotaging fossil fuel infrastructure to save our planet, has sparked a vibrant discussion on the left about direct action tactics and eco-sabotage to address the climate crisis.

Verso has put together a free, downloadable ebook, Property Will Cost Us the Earth, of essays from activists and writers around the world grappling with the idea of direct action and eco-sabotage, survey climate activism around the world, and argue for the necessity of building a fighting global movement against capitalism and its fossil fuel regime.

Moving from Mozambique, the Niger Delta, and the coal mines of India to the forests of Ecuador and the watersheds of North America, Property Will Cost Us the Earth details the global scale of climate devastation as well as active struggles around the world to halt further extraction. From this come tactical and strategic questions: how can local direct actions relate to political work forcing states to end reliance on oil, coal, and gas? What kind of protest movement can we build that reflects the urgency of our moment? What does a direct action–based movement require from those on the frontlines of struggle?

With contributions from: Alyssa Battistoni, James Butler, João Camargo, Jen Deerinwater, Ben Ehrenreich, Madeline ffitch, Frente Nacional Anti-Minero (Ecuador), Bue Rübner Hansen, Siihasin Hope, Tara Houska, Jessie Kindig, Benjamin Kunkel, Anabela Lemos and Erika Mendes from Justiça Ambiental! (Mozambique), Andreas Malm, M.O.T.H. Collective, Vanessa Nakate and Amy Goodman, Brototi Roy, Andrea Sempértegui, Richard Seymour, and Adam Tooze.

Andreas Malm’s introduction is reprinted below.

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From Feudalism to Capitalism

Social and Political Change in Castile and Western Europe, 1250–1520

Series: Historical Materialism Book Series, Volume: 252

Author: Carlos Astarita Translator: David Broder

BRILL

Cover From Feudalism to Capitalism

Carlos Astarita’s From Feudalism to Capitalism: Social and Political Change in Castile and Western Europe, 1250–1520 presents for an English-speaking readership a major intervention in a number of debates in Marxist historiography. The work has four thematic nuclei: the socio-political evolution that led to the feudal state, the genesis of capitalist rural production, the class struggle and the relationship of these factors with the commercial flow between regions. Received interpretations are revaluated through a series of original case studies that greatly enrich our understanding of theoretical terms, and suggest new interpretations of the absolutist state, the temporal validity of the law of value and the origins of capitalism.

This book was originally published in Spanish as Del feudalismo al capitalismo/i> by Publicacions Universitat de València (PUV), 2005, 978-84-370-6206-8.

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Wars of Position? Marxism Today, Cultural Politics and the Remaking of the Left Press, 1979-90

Series: Historical Materialism Book Series, Volume: 248

Author: H.F. Pimlott

BRILL

<img src="https://brill.com/coverimage?doc=%2Ftitle%2F21878&width=300&quot; alt="Cover Wars of Position? <i>Marxism Today

Inspired by Raymond Williams’ cultural materialism, H.F. Pimlott explores the connections between political practice and cultural form through Marxism Today’s transformation from a Communist Party theoretical journal into a ‘glossy’ left magazine. Marxism Today’s successes and failures during the 1980s are analysed through its political and cultural critiques of Thatcherism and the left, especially by Stuart Hall and Eric Hobsbawm, innovative publicity and marketplace distribution, relationships with the national UK press, cultural coverage, design and format, and writing style. Wars of Position offers insights for contemporary media activists and challenges the neglect of the left press by media scholars.

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‘The Dawn of Everything’ gets human history wrong

Is inequality inevitable? Is freedom just a choice? Two materialist critiques of a widely-praised book.

Climate and Capitalism | December 17, 2021

Introduction

It’s not often that a book by radical authors gets reviewed — let alone favorably reviewed — in the mainstream press. The Dawn of Everything, by David Graeber and David Wengrow, is an exception. Published just two months ago, it has already received accolades from many of the world’s most influential English-language newspapers and magazines.

Even reviewers who question the author’s arguments for anarchism have hailed it as “a brilliant new account upends bedrock assumptions about 30,000 years of change,” (Atlantic) and “a dazzling array of stories about civilizations across many continents and thousands of years, all of which are grappling with what it means to be free” (Washington Post). We’ve also seen positive comments — raves in some cases! — from left-wing posters on social media.

It is certainly an enthralling book, but the two reviews published below, both from materialist anthropologists, argue that its account of human history ignores masses of contrary evidence, and that its political argument is idealist and voluntarist. Both reviews are particularly critical of the book’s failure to consider the causes of the oppression of women.

Chris Knight is a senior research fellow in anthropology at University College London, where he forms part of a team researching the origins of our species in Africa. His books include Blood Relations: Menstruation and the Origins of Culture and Decoding Chomsky: Science and Revolutionary Politics. His review of The Dawn of Everything was first published in Times Higher Education.

Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale both trained as anthropologists and are finishing a book about human evolution, class society and sexual violence. Nancy’s most recent book, with Richard Tapper, is Afghan Village Voices: Stories from a Tribal Community, 2020. Jonathan’s is Fight the Fire: Green New Deals and Global Climate Jobs. Their review of The Dawn of Everything was published in The Ecologist, and in their blog, Anne Bonny Pirate.

Both reviews are republished with the kind permission of the authors.

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Critique of Architecture: Essays on Theory, Autonomy, and Political Economy

Douglas Spencer

Birkhäuser, Basel 2021, 227 pp., €29,95 pb
ISBN 9783035621631

Reviewed by Lukas Meisner

Marx & Philosophy Review of Books | December 07, 2021

Being a ‘critique of architecture’, Douglas Spencer’s new essay collection is ‘necessarily part and parcel of the critique of capitalism’ (190) as well. This is because architecture provides exemplary material for a critique of capital’s material(-ised) ideology – a critique that sets ‘base’ and ‘superstructure’ not as two separate units unilaterally determined but as a fundamentally reciprocal relationship. As David Cunningham writes in his foreword: ‘Positioned in complex ways between the “infrastructural” and “superstructural”, and consequently mediating between them, architecture is, it may be argued, a privileged site for an interrogation of the productive operations of capital.’ (15) Understanding architecture in this way, Spencer questions not only the positivist, affirmative or immersive takes of his discipline but also its alternatives – like Fredric Jameson’s neo-Althusserian quasi-mystification of the economic sphere as something theoretically impenetrable yet allegorically catchable. Hence, with its persistent counter-hegemonic sensitivities, Spencer’s book is an excellent specimen of critical theory. With it, he is seated between the early Frankfurt School, highly complex Marxisms and critical architectural theory. Accordingly, the essays in the volume are historically finetuned to the developments of the present and its continuities with the past: from the (late) Fordist ‘production of the producer’ (203) to the neoliberal ‘politics of depoliticization’ (101).

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Adorno and the Ban on Images

Sebastian Truskolaski

Bloomsbury, London and New York, 2021. 232 pp., $35.95 pb
ISBN 9781350129221

Reviewed by Iaan Reynolds

Marx & Philosophy Review of Books | November 29, 2021

In three thematically distinct but closely interwoven chapters, Sebastian Truskolaski organizes the work of Theodor W. Adorno around the Old Testament ‘ban on images’ [Bilderverbot], treating the figure of this ban as an overlooked ‘leitmotif’ of Adorno’s work. As the author notes, this monograph’s intention is not a comprehensive overview of Adorno’s work, but a ‘reorganization’ of his ‘uncomfortably systematic “anti-system”’ (8). Through attention to the figure of the image ban, Truskolaski claims, we can understand the way in which Adorno’s political thought differs from those of his contemporaries, as well as ours. Tracing out the metaphysical, theological and aesthetic implications of the prohibition on images, Truskolaski’s masterful treatment of Adorno’s project thus works against dominant interpretations of the latter as a politically quietist or normatively impoverished project. This book is valuable not only as a contribution to ongoing debates concerning the political orientation of critical theory, however, but also as a well-structured introduction to a wide range of Adorno’s concerns.

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Karl Radek on China: Documents from the Former Secret Soviet Archives

Alexander Pantsov (ed)

Brill, Historical Materialism Book Series, Volume: 219, Leiden, 2020. 510 pp., €205 hb
ISBN 9789004232693

Reviewed by Fabian Van Onzen

Marx and Philosophy Review of Books | November 26, 2021

Sometimes, the greatest theoretical works come to us in the form of lectures rather than systemic books. This is the case with Karl Radek, whose lectures on the Chinese Revolution have recently been published by the Historical Materialism book series. Stenographic copies of Radek’s lectures given at the Communist University of the Toilers were discovered by Alexander Pantsov in the Soviet archives, which had been kept secret for over ninety years because of Radek’s involvement with the left-opposition. Along with other recent books such as Mao Zedong Thought by Wang Fanxi, Karl Radek on China provides us with important documents on how the left-opposition approached the Chinese Revolution.

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Toward a New World: Articles and Essays, 1901-1906

On the Psychology of Society; New World, and Contributions to Studies in the Realist Worldview

Bogdanov Library, Volume: 245/3
Historical Materialism Book Series, Volume: 245/3

Author: Alexander Aleksandrovich Bogdanov
Editor / Translator: David Rowley

BRILL

Cover Toward a New World: Articles and Essays, 1901-1906

Alexander Bogdanov (1873–1928) wrote the articles in this volume in the years before and during the Revolution of 1905 when he was co-leader, with V.I. Lenin, of the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, and was active in the revolution and the struggle against Marxist revisionism. In these pieces, Bogdanov defends the principles of revolutionary Social-Democracy on the basis of a neutral monist philosophy (empiriomonism), the idea of the invariable regularity of nature, and the use of the principle of selection to explain social development. The articles in On the Psychology of Society (1904/06) discredit the neo-Kantian philosophy of Russia’s Marxist revisionists, rebut their critique of historical materialism, and develop the idea that labour technology determines social consciousness. New World (1905) envisions how humankind will develop under socialism, and Bogdanov’s contributions to Studies in the Realist Worldview (1904/05) defend the labour theory of value and criticise neo-Kantian sociology.

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Class Struggle and Resistance in Northern France and Belgium during the Second World War

Steve Cushion

The class struggle did not disappear during the Second World War following the occupation of Europe by the German armed forces. In northern France and Belgium a shop steward-based movement quickly emerged, mainly led by communist activists, that attempted to defend and advance wages and conditions and, above all access to sufficient food for working class families. In so doing, they organised an impressive series of strikes that involved nearly a quarter of a million workers and won some significant material gains although at the cost of severe repression with many activists being killed in prison or while resisting arrest. A significant number of these militants, when on the run from the forces of repression, fought back with armed attacks and sabotage. The hunted became the hunters.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation and Working Class Resistance to the Nazis

Merilyn Moos

The leadership of the trade unions and the social democratic parties of Europe did not play any significant role in the resistance to the growth and spread of fascism in the 1930s and 40s. The major exception to this pattern was the International Transport Workers’ Federation led by Edo Fimmen, which defied convention by organising illegal underground resistance groups amongst German seafarers, dockers and railway workers as well as bringing aid and solidarity to the republican forces during the Spanish civil war.

This pamphlet examines the connection between the class struggle and anti-fascist politics as well as the relationship between mass action and the armed struggle under a repressive regime. In so doing, we add a discussion of class into the historiography of the Second World War which, with a few exceptions, is dominated by an analysis based on an assumption of patriotism and class collaboration, and which explains the Nazis and other fascists as representing “evil”, without looking for the class interests they represented.

SOURCE: Journal of Historical Materialism

Marx and Digital Machines: Alienation, Technology, Capitalism

Mike Healy

University of Westminster Press, London, 2020, xi+156pp., £ 19,99
ISBN 9781-912656790

Reviewed by Thomas Klikauer

Ever since German philosopher Hegel discussed alienation and Karl Marx converted it into the sensible framework of the economics of capitalism, alienation isn’t really a new subject – many might even think all has been said. Yet, Healy’s exquisite book applies several recent frameworks of alienation to two groups of workers – IT workers and academics. His book delivers surprising insights and results. Healy has divided his book into eight short and very readable chapters starting with a conceptual chapter on “alienation”. The book’s key empirical chapters are on IT professionals.

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