• War Must Nourish Itself

    Herbert Langer, The Thirty Years’ War, Trans.C. S. V. Salt, Blandford Press, 1980 The seventeenth century was ruled by an aristocratic caste that no longer exists, save in the minds of the credulous and easily-deceived.   It was an imaginary caste of devils, angels, and other powers now consigned to oblivion.  For peasant and prelate, soldier […]

  • Doctor of the Working Class

    STRONG IN THE STRUGGLE: My Life as a Black Labor Activist by Lee Brown with Robert L. AllenBUY THIS BOOK Lee Brown’s memoir reads like a prizefighter’s.  And it’s right that it should.  The boxing talent he displayed in his hardscrabble youth served him well as an organizer, union leader and party militant.  Though the […]

  • Constructive Revenge

    “O there are times, we must confess To harboring a whim — we Like to picture old Karl Marx Sliding down our chimney” — Susie Day “Help fund the good fight.   By contributing to MR, you help reinforce the left and reclaim the future.” — Richard D. Vogel “To do my part, I just […]

  • Brickies, Sandhogs, and Ironheads: Two Novels of the Building Trades

    CHRIST IN CONCRETE by Pietro Di DonatoBUY THIS BOOK THIS SIDE OF BRIGHTNESS by Colum McCannBUY THIS BOOK Here are two novels of the building trades: one by an Italian-American bricklayer, the other by an Irishman who, at 21, paid his way across the States by digging ditches and painting homes.  Both novels have been […]

  • A Rough Guide to Radical Thought

    IDEAS FOR ACTION by Cynthia KaufmanBUY THIS BOOK After considering the long train of outrages committed by the current regime — an administration so callous, so degraded, that some European commentators have taken to calling George W. Bush a “gangsta bitch” (Dick Cheney is, of course, Bush’s “Original Gangsta”) — it’s nice to know that […]

  • Waiting for the Argus: Theodore Gericault and The Raft of the Medusa

    Jonathan Miles, Medusa: The Shipwreck, the Scandal, the Masterpiece, Jonathan Cape, 2007, pp. 288. At midday on July 2, 1816, the frigate Medusa, flying the white flag of Bourbon France and bound from Rochefort to Senegal with a cargo of arms, ammunition, and other supplies for the soldiers and colonists it bore, ran aground on […]

  • The Lithographer’s Tale

    A workingman and his wife are slow-dancing in the kitchen of their tenement apartment, with a portable Victrola beating time at 78 revolutions per minute.  The man stares over his partner’s shoulder at nothing in particular, while his partner, her head inclined, closes her eyes.  Neither one is smiling.  If the coal merchant’s calendar behind […]

  • The Red and the Black

    THE CRY WAS UNITY: Communists and African Americans, 1917-1936by Mark SolomonBUY THIS BOOK Mark Solomon’s account of the troubled alliance between blacks and Communists in the years between the wars is much more than a meticulous study of racial and social protest.  For Solomon, a long-time civil rights activist (and leading member of the left-wing […]

  • Stand Still and Rot

    The Eclipse of Art:  Tackling the Crisis in Art Today by Julian Spalding (New York: Prestel, 2003) Scoffing at tradition is nothing new; neither is shocking the public.  To skewer the bourgeois (without gutting him entirely, and thereby losing his patronage) is something every artist must do, if only to prove his revolutionary bona fides.  […]

  • The Big Picture

    A People’s History of the World by Chris Harman Universal or synoptic histories are not favored by professional scholars.  As specialists, they prefer the detailed monograph to sweeping world histories.  They look askance at those naive enough to believe that global history can be encompassed in one volume.  They know better, they say. It is […]

  • Red Earth, Black Earth

    BLACK EARTH: A Journey through Russia after the Fall by Andrew MeierBUY THIS BOOK Andrew Meier’s Black Earth is a travelogue of epic proportions.  In its finely written pages Meier, Moscow correspondent for Time from 1996 to 2001, recounts a reportorial odyssey that took him to every point of Russia’s compass, even to Chechnya and […]

  • Favorite Color: Red

    KARL MARX: A Life by Francis WheenBUY THIS BOOK It is fitting that a man who framed a dialectic based on violent contradiction — on thrust and counter-thrust, struggle and counter-struggle — should have lived a life fraught with contradictions.  In Francis Wheen’s biography, Karl Marx is neither hero nor nemesis, but a man of […]

  • Tinged with Fire

    RICHARD WRIGHT: The Life and Times by Hazel RowleyBUY THIS BOOK The author Richard Wright, whose works were recently republished by the Library of America, was a hospital orderly making thirteen dollars a week when he first experienced what literary biographers would call an epiphany.  It was in Chicago; the year was 1933.  The unlikely […]

  • Comrades in Arms

    IVAN’S WAR by Catherine MerridaleBUY THIS BOOK As civilians, we can never understand combat, or empathize with those who have seen it.  Samuel Fuller, a World War Two infantryman who saw combat in France — and who later, as a Hollywood director, recalled his trauma in The Big Red One — said it was impossible […]

  • The Maelstrom

    Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin by Gray Brechin University of California Press Every city has its cemetery.  But the greatest have mass graves.  Beneath St. Petersburg lies a virtual hecatomb — the remains of conscript laborers who died draining the Neva marshes for the palaces of Peter’s courtiers.  The Belle Epoque structures of […]