by Ashley M.
Claudia Jones: Beyond Containment
Edited by Carole Boyce Davies
241 pages. Ayebia Clarke Publishing. $24.95.
Picture this. It is 1948 and at the age of 23, your citizenship is denied to you because of your political activities since you were 18. How would you feel?
Claudia Jones, activist of Trinidadian origin, was outspoken as early as when she was in Grade 4! Yet, her deportation case was a big part of her life because it was the first time she was arrested. Jones knew that she was a thorn in the side of racist legislators in 1930s USA: “I was deported because I urged the prosecution of the lynchers rather than the prosecution of the Communists and other democratic Americans who opposed the lynchers, big financiers and war mongers, the real advocates of force and violence in the United States”.
Claudia Jones: Beyond Containment is a collection of the works of Claudia Jones, who created a ripple effect for many women of colour in the United States as an intellectual pioneer — daring to speak out against racism, sexism and class exploitation. The book, edited by Carol Boyce Davies, also highlights Jones’s life story through her many writings, essays, and poetry, which reflect how her personal experiences led her to rise up and resist. Her poetry was an outlet of creative resistance, capturing intense emotions that could only be expressed outside of political, formal writing and speeches. Read more…
by Kevin Edmonds
By Todd Gordon
432 pages. Arbeiter Ring Publishing. $24.95 ($16.46 from online retailers).
Most Canadians tend to view our country as a force for good in the world — we have even been subjected to beer commercials trying to convince us that we are a nation of peacekeepers, not soldiers.
by Noaman G. Ali
The Communist Manifesto (Illustrated). Chapter One: Historical Materialism
Edited by George S. Rigakos, illustrated by Red Viktor
29 pages. Red Quill Books. $12.50.
The crew at Red Quill Books has decided to put out a comic book version of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’s 1848 text, The Communist Manifesto. That may seem old school but the text seems remarkably fresh, like it was written yesterday, when placed alongside images of our own world today.
For example, we see images of Western UN soldiers handing out aid in an unspecified African country, even as military helicopters bombard villages. Marx and Engels’s text accompanies: “Just as [capitalism] has made the country dependent on the towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilised countries, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on the West.”
The language may be archaic (who they calling barbarian?) but its meaning comes through, especially when placed along the illustrations by Victor Serra (Red Viktor). Without a doubt, the best image is of a human pyramid of class struggle — ordinary folk throughout the ages struggling and climbing atop of rulers and their police forces: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”
But the editor, George S. Rigakos, a professor at Carleton University, saw fit to rearrange and trim some of the original words. While trimming might have been okay, throwing the words out of order seems to me to take away from some of the force of how Marx and Engels build their argument step by step. The text in the comic book seems a bit disconnected, rather than something building up.
Also, rather than letting the German revolutionary philosophers speak for themselves, Marx and Engels’s text is preceded by an editorial introduction in two parts. The first is a written piece by Prof. Rigakos which sounds almost apologetic about doing up this comic, given the supposedly repressive history of communism when put in practice — though apologetic, the piece is hopeful about new readers discovering the text. This apology is followed by a lengthy and wordless illustrated sequence where an old school, disillusioned communist activist yells at Marx’s grave in the rain, angry about Stalin and Pol Pot.
By no means should those struggling to build a new and better world avoid examining the sometimes colossal mistakes of actually-existing socialisms in the 20th century (though, even by that standard, Pol Pot’s Cambodia is a far stretch — it was backed by the imperialist United States in war against communist Vietnam). But Prof. Rigakos could have started out the comic by examining the relevance of Marxism and communism as a living and vital force in world politics today, be it the resistance of peoples in Latin America trying to build new socialisms, or the revolutionary communism of the peoples of Nepal, India and the Phillippines.
Instead, Prof. Rigakos gives too much to the current ruling classes who seek to discredit everything about communist movements past and present, trying hard to pretend that Marxism and communism are dead. So it comes down to Prof. Rigakos and Mr. Serra to breathe some new life into it by “reanimating” the text, as he puts it. But that text is already being animated by peoples around the world.
This book is the first of four parts, and hopefully the following parts focus more on what Marx and Engels wrote themselves and the living relevance of Marxism and communism today. Trying to introduce The Communist Manifesto to a new generation of students and youth is definitely a worthwhile effort, and we hope Prof. Rigakos and Mr. Serra are successful in this.
$12.50 is a bit hefty when your average monthly comic goes for $3 or $4 (and is therefore out of the reach of a lot of working folk), but it is a slickly produced, full-colour book by a small publisher and part of the proceeds go to supporting student scholarships. So if you have the money and like radical comics, you might want to get the four parts as they come out. Definitely grab a hold of the comic books from a library.
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction by Gabor Maté, MD (2008).
by Susan Rosenthal www.susanrosenthal.com/
first published by -International Health Workers for People Over Profit: www.healthworkersinternational.org
Gabor Maté’s latest book effectively demolishes the belief that addictions arise from chemical imbalances, genetics, or bad choices.
As in his two previous books, Scattered Minds: A New Look at the Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder (1999) and When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress (2003), Maté situates human suffering in a social context, inviting a political discussion of how social relations affect human health. Scattered Minds locates symptoms of ADD in the social neglect of children’s needs and concludes,
“What begins as a problem of society and human development has become almost exclusively defined as a medical ailment.”
When the Body Says No indicts “industrialized society along the capitalist model” as a source of toxic stress that “escalates as the sense of control diminishes” and causes physical and mental breakdown. In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts condemns society for depriving human beings of what they need to thrive and then persecuting and punishing them for using drugs to relieve their pain. All three books are well-written, engaging and brilliantly expose the fake science that pushes a pill for every ill.
While Maté situates human distress in the social realm, he seeks solutions in the personal realm. When the Body Says No ignores industrial pollution as a cause of cancer, as well as the impact of social class on one’s exposure to carcinogenic compounds. Instead, the author promotes the myth of “the cancer personality” – people who are more likely to get cancer because they repress their emotions, ignore their needs and put others first. He writes,
“In numerous studies of cancer, the most consistent identified risk factor is the inability to express emotion, particularly the feelings associated with anger.” (p.99)
Repressing emotions and ignoring one’s needs can contribute to health problems. However, these are behaviors that society demands of all women and that employers demand of all workers. The myth of the “cancer personality” is junk science that puts the cart before the horse. As long as the majority is exploited and oppressed, most people will feel angry most of the time, and rightfully so. Efforts to release or eliminate anger, without removing the social conditions that make people angry, is just another form of social control. Hungry Ghosts devotes considerable space to questioning why the war on drugs and drug addicts continues despite its total ineffectiveness and considerable harm. In fact, this “war” is not about drugs; it is the means by which the ruling class effectively justifies its repressive military-prison system at home and abroad.
All three of Maté’s books devote ample space to questioning why policy-makers ignore the solid research linking childhood trauma and deprivation with medical and social problems. The author cannot answer this question because he does not acknowledge the impact of class conflict on human health. In fact, the ruling class can accumulate capital only by robbing the working class of its health and vitality. Maté’s books are commercially successful because they tap into popular awareness of social problems while avoiding the uncomfortable conclusion that social revolution is required to solve them. The result is a liberal version of blaming the victim – society cannot be changed, so the individual must change. This regressive message is more insidious because it is hidden beneath a caring and progressive cover.
For an alternate analysis, read SICK and SICKER: Essays on Class, Health and Health Care.
BAYAN Canada and BASICS Free Community Newsletter present…
The author of the book, revolutionary hero of the Philippines Jose Maria Sison, was interviewed in August 2009 by BASICS Free Community Newsletter in Utrecht, Netherlands. You can view the interview here: BASICS Interviews José Maria Sison of the International League of People’s Struggles
Submitted by Black August organizers in Toronto BASICS #15 (Sep/Oct 2009)
Black August was established in the California prison system in the early 1970s by men and women of the Black Liberation Movement. Black August holds great significance in the African tradition of resistance against white supremacy and imperialism in the United States. In the late 1970s, the observance and practice of Black August left the prisons of California and was practiced by African American revolutionaries throughout the United States. Since then it has spread and grown and there are Black August events in cities throughout the U.S. and internationally.
As the journalist and former Black Panther Kiilu Nyasha writes: “Black August, [was] first organized to honor our fallen freedom fighters, Jonathan and George Jackson, Khatari Gaulden, James McClain, William Christmas, and the sole survivor of the August 7, 1970 Courthouse Slave Rebellion, Ruchell Cinque Magee. It is still a time to embrace the principles of unity, self-sacrifice, political education, physical fitness and/or training in martial arts, resistance, and spiritual renewal. The concept, Black August, grew out of the need to expose to the light of day the glorious and heroic deeds of those African women and men who recognized and struggled against the injustices heaped upon people of color on a daily basis in America.” Read more…
CANADA VERSUS LATIN AMERICAN DEMOCRACY: FROM JACOBINS TO SALVADOR ALLENDE, HUGO CHAVEZ AND JEAN BERTRAND ARISTIDE
When: Thursday, May 7, 7pm
Where: Bahen Centre (40 St. George Street at University of Toronto) Room 1130
Presentation and book signing with author Yves Engler
Introductory Remarks by Rick Salutin
Yves Engler’s The Black Book on Canadian Foreign Policy is the first serious critical overview of Canadian foreign policy and will challenge popular mythology of Canada as the peacekeeper and honest broker on the world stage. Read more…