Books: Moving tribute to a selfless US communist

The Communist and the Communist’s Daughter: A Memoir by Jane Lazarre (Duke University Press, £22.99)

by John Green

Morning Star | December 18, 2017

IN THIS memoir, Jane Lazarre weaves a complex and fascinating account of her father, the lifelong communist, party organiser and Spanish civil war veteran William Lazarre, aka Bill Lawrence, in the form of an intergenerational dialogue.

Her father came to the US at the beginning of the last century to escape the pogroms in tsarist Russia and, already enthused by the ideals of communism, he joined the US Communist Party and became a full-time organiser. He volunteered for Spain in 1936 and became a commissar with the Lincoln Brigade.Read More »


Why don’t the poor rise up? A book review

by Lloyd McCarthy

Pambazuka News | September 28, 2017

The authors reject the capitalist view of poverty as the failure of individuals due to their personal attributes or as a correctable defect in modern capitalism. They explore critical pathways of thinking about organization, resistance, rebellion and revolution, offering different views on ways in which the underprivileged are defined, the forms in which they resist and obstacles to popular uprising.


Truscello, M., And Nangwaya, A (eds). Why don’t the poor rise up? Organizing the twenty-first century resistance. Chico: AK Press, 2017. 277pp. ISBN 978184935278-9 paper.

When academics and activists drawn from differing ideological persuasions, and dissimilar social milieu, from around the world, collaborate in the compilation of a book on the topical issue of social uprising in a time of relative calm, it begs the question, what is the state of the social order? Is it less desirable than its opposite? The question, Why don’t the poor rise up?” is addressed by 20 academics, labor organizers, and community activists in a book of the same title, Why Don’t The Poor Rise Up? Organizing The Twenty-First Century Resistance.”

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Herbert Marcuse remembered

Review of The Great Refusal: Herbert Marcuse and Contemporary Social Movements


MR Online | September 06, 2017

Herbert Marcuse

The Great Refusal: Herbert Marcuse and Contemporary Social Movements. Edited by Andrew T. Lamas, Todd Wolfson and Peter N. Funke, with a Foreword by Angela Y. Davis. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2017. 405pp, $44.95, pbk.

We are, the 1960s radical generation, now once more marching, marching, sometimes it seems mostly with the Millennials by our side.  And here comes the ghost of Herbert Marcuse, who was so much with us the first time around.

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Red masquerade: Helping the FBI take down the Communist Party


People’s World | August 31, 2017

Red masquerade: Helping the FBI take down the Communist Party

Poster for the 1949 Cold War propaganda film, The Red Menace. | Wikimedia Commons

In Dorothy Healey’s memoir, California Red: A Life in the American Communist Party, she reflected on the 1949 Foley Square Trial in which the federal government targeted the leadership of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) under the Smith Act for supposedly advocating the violent overthrow of the government. Healey wrote:

“One of the most depressing aspects of the trial was that unlike the great political cases of the 20s and 30s, like that of Sacco and Vanzetti or of the Scottsboro Boys, or even the hearings of the Hollywood Ten in 1947, there was almost no public outcry. Liberals were divided, demoralized, or worse yet, in some instances enlisting on the side of our prosecutors… [A]s the 50s began, it seemed to us we were on our own.”

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Review – Che, My Brother



Che, My Brother
by Juan Martin Guevara and Armelle Vincent
 Polity Press, Cambridge, UK, & Malden, MA, 2017

This book is a surprisingly valuable addition to a somewhat variable literature on Che Guevara. That surprise comes from the fact that, with one or two prominent exceptions (Jon Lee Anderson’s fine biography, Andrew Sinclair’s excellent political study in the long-lamented Fintana Modern Masters series published in 1970, and, more recently, Helen Yaffe’s study of Che as the prosaic-sounding Minister of the Economy in the early 1960s), much that is written on him tends to be either hagiography or polemic, romanticisation or sensationalism. Given that this account is written by Guevara’s (much) younger brother, we can be forgiven for fearing the worst: will it be either a warts-and-all ‘inside’ story or (worse still) a vicarious exercise in publicity-seeking?Read More »

“BALK!”: A fierce book of poems from the front lines of the class war


People’s World | August 31, 2017

“BALK!”: A fierce book of poems from the front lines of the class war

The most powerful poems take hold of our bodies…For example, a poem designed to evoke anger does much more than give us information about the triggering event; it shapes our energy into the very rhythms of anger. A series of words is chosen because it literally causes us to sputter and spit, stirring up memories and experiences from our personal past, reviving the emotion itself. –“How We Are Changed by the Rhythms of Poetry,” by Karin de Weille, published in The Writer’s ChronicleRead More »

The CIA and Me (Or How I Learned Not to Love Big Brother)

by Alfred McCoy | 24 August, 2017


[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Alfred McCoy’s new Dispatch Book, In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, won’t officially be published until September, but it’s already getting extraordinary attention.  That would include Jeremy Scahill’s powerful podcast interview with McCoy at the Intercept, a set of striking prepublication notices (Kirkus Reviews: “Sobering reading for geopolitics mavens and Risk aficionados alike”), and an impressive range of blurbs (Andrew Bacevich: “This is history with profound relevance to events that are unfolding before our eyes”; Ann Jones: “eye-opening… America’s neglected citizens would do well to read this book”; Oliver Stone: “One of our best and most underappreciated historians takes a hard look at the truth of our empire, both its covert activities and the reasons for its impending decline”).  Of him, Scahill has said, “Al McCoy has guts… He helped put me on the path to investigative journalism.”  In today’s post, adapted by McCoy from the introduction to In the Shadows of the American Century, you’ll get a taste of just what Scahill means.  So read it and then pre-order a copy of the latest book from the man who battled the CIA and won.

With today’s post, I’m closing TomDispatch through Labor Day. We’ll be back on September 5th. Tom]Read More »

Book Review: Reclaiming Edward Said’s Political Legacies

 by | August 17, 2017


Edward said, a towering intellectual and political philosopher of our times, was also a crusader of justice and human rights. He taught us to rethink the colonial enterprise in precise political terms by delineating the epistemological violence at its core. He underscored the fact that its strategy of control and domination derived basically from an attempt to define oriental knowledge by deforming and disfiguring it in ways that suited colonial interests. He called this massive devastation of civilizational knowledge, Orientalism. It became a classic work on its own right, although it had ostensible intellectual debts to the emerging fields of post structuralism and post modernism in multiple ways. His work paved the way for the emergence of a new hybrid discipline known as postcolonialism that gleaned freely from philosophy, literature and pollical science and shocked academia for decades to come. The book by Prasad Pannian is a significant addition to the global discussions on Edward Said and his enormous contributions to our cultural, political and social history.Read More »

New book exposes goals behind Washington’s Syria propaganda


People’s World | August 4, 2017

New book exposes goals behind Washington’s Syria propaganda

People walk through mounds of rubble which used to be high rise apartment buildings in the Ansari neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria. | Hassan Ammar / AP

“Are wars of aggression, wars for the conquest of colonies, then just big business? Yes, it would seem so, however much the perpetrators of such national crimes seek to hide their true purpose under banners of high sounding abstractions and ideals.”

This quote from Norman Bethune is the frontispiece for Washington’s Long War on Syria by Stephen Gowans, just out from Baraka Books.Read More »

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: Book Review

 by | August 2, 2017


Somehow, the new book of Arundhati Roy: The Ministry of Utmost  Happiness, does not seem to have received the reception it deserved. Partly this is understandable, because the fanfare, with which the first novel was celebrated when it received the Booker, could not be repeated. I saw only a few reviews of the new book. They were either written by fans or decided non-fans. There was a common tendency to compare the new book with the earlier one. This in itself is a problematic, if not wrong, approach. The God of Small Things was the living down of a childhood in a Syrian Christian village environment, violation of marriage rules, caste barriers, coming to terms with an orthodox communism under which playmates could be Lenin or Stalin, but never Trotzky or Rosa. The ingeneousness of that book was to make the microcosm of that village intelligible to the whole wide world without compromising the local colour. In the intermittent twenty years, Arundhati   has worked hard to understand People’s Struggles, first in Narmada, then all over the country. She plunged wholeheartedly into the Nuclear Question, which she felt to be “The End of Imagination”. She also did “Walking with the Comrades” in Bastar. She has lived down the caste question further in her long essay “The Doctor and the Saint”, which was published with the critical edition of Dr. Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste (New Delhi 2014).Read More »