Hating on Hamilton

By Karyn Pomerantz, 7-14-2020

Hamilton, the smash Broadway musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, has seduced thousands of theatregoers with its hip hop lyrics, dancing, black cast, costumes, and lighting.  It is a triumph of form over content.

The musical tells the story of Alexander Hamilton who grows up in the West Indies, arrives in the colonies, and becomes the aide to and US Treasurer under George Washington. He exercises his ambition through alliances with powerful men and his marriage into the slave owning Schuyler family, a travesty which is barely noted in the play. 

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Book Review: “White Fragility” versus Anti Racist Agility

By Karyn Pomerantz, June 29, 2020

“White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo ranks as the number one best selling book on many publisher lists and has a months long waiting list at public libraries.  It clearly has an important message to garner such attention. What does this message mean for a multiracial fight against racism as we’ve witnessed in the protests around the world? What kinds of strategies does it encourage to overcome the racist nature of capitalism?

Dr. DiAngelo is a white woman educator who helps companies and organizations diversify their workforces and develop more harmony between workers of different “racial” and ethnic backgrounds. She creates and delivers an antiracist curriculum to the employees, mostly white, in order to expose white people’s racism and, as she states, to encourage them to recognize their privilege so they can stop oppressing black people. (The book focuses on black and white people). 

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Antiracist Book Reviews: Working-Class Unity versus “White Privilege”

by Bill Sacks, retired physician, REVISED June 27, 2020

Black authors have written many nonfiction books on racism over the last decade. Mark Whitaker listed and commented on several in the Washington Post’s Outlook section (June 14, 2020). He pointed out that Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me (2015) opened up a market for such books, and that Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow (2010) was an earlier bestseller that had a huge impact on public thought about incarceration.

The various authors’ analyses of racism differ. Coates claims that there is a caste system, in which all white people oppress all black people, regardless of class. The category of caste draws strict lines between members of different castes, in this case between all white people and all black people. Caste is proposed by Coates as the significant social categorization, as opposed to class, which is defined in relation to exploitation and consists of exploiters and exploited. However, it is class that defines the main interests of each group, not caste. Black exploiters have little in common with black victims of exploitation, who in turn have more in common with white victims of exploitation. Similarly, white victims of exploitation have little in common with white exploiters. The interests of exploiters and exploited are opposed to one another.

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Comrade or Ally? Book Review of : COMRADE, An Essay on Political Belonging by Jodi Dean

By Karyn Pomerantz, 6-12-2020

The uprisings over the horrendous oppression and killing of black people in the US have united people in ways we have rarely seen. Most protests in the past have been comprised of a single demographic group: mostly white in anti-war marches, Latin in immigration demonstrations, and black in anti-racist protests. The multi-racial and multi-ethnic participation in the rebellions stirred by police violence, disproportionate Covid19 deaths in black and native families, and sacrificial back-to-work decisions creates an enormous potential for working class solidarity and revolutionary change.   

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What Communism in the People’s Republic of China Achieved in Public Health

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A REVIEW OF AWAY WITH ALL PESTS: AN ENGLISH SURGEON IN PEOPLE’S CHINA DR. JOSHUA S. HORN 1954-1969. LONDON: Monthly Review, 1969.

 

by Peter Scheckner, May 28, 2020

As of this writing, May 18, 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has infected over 4 million people worldwide and killed over 300,00 people. The USA, supposedly the most advanced and wealthiest capitalist country, is leading the world in the wrong way as usual. It has the most deaths—91,000 plus, and the most cases, 1.5 million. It also has, ironically, the costliest health care system in the world.

In March of this year, CNN reported this about the connection between America’s awful health record regarding the Covid-19 pandemic: “The US is the only developed nation without universal health care. Nearly 28 million non-elderly Americans, or 10.4%, were uninsured in 2018, according to the most recent Census Bureau data available. This is an improvement from what it was before the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010. That year, 46.5 million non-elderly people — or 17.8% — lacked coverage. But the uninsured rate has started ticking up again over the past two years. Continue reading “What Communism in the People’s Republic of China Achieved in Public Health”

Working People Have been Destroyed by Pandemics Throughout History

By Peter Scheckner April 9, 2020

Review of The Greater Leveler: Violence and the History from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century Inequality by Walter Scheidel (Princeton and Oxford, 2017) and “Pandemics and the Shape of Human History: Outbreaks have sparked riots and propelled public-health innovations, prefigured revolutions and redrawn maps.” by Elizabeth Kolbert, from The New Yorker, April 6, 2020 edition, written March 30, 2020

In March of this year, commenting on the novel coronavirus pandemic, Vijay Prashad wrote the following in an editorial that appeared in the April 8, 2020 edition of Consortium News, an independent on-line political review:

“We won’t go back to normal, because normal was the problem. Certainly, the coronavirus is a serious matter and certainly its spread is a consequence of its own danger to the human body; but there are social issues here that bear serious thought. Key to any discussion has to be the sheer collapse of state institutions in most of the capitalist world, where these institutions have been privatized, and where private institutions have operated to minimize costs and maximize profit.

Neoliberalism is the political philosophy that has urged governments over the course of the past 50 years to cut social spending, cut taxes and allow the magical markets to allocate resources effectively. The virus has done damage; but the real damage has been done by this political philosophy. Now, in the midst of the novel coronavirus, it seems impossible to imagine a return to the old world, the world that left us so helpless before the arrival of these deadly microscopic particles. Waves of anxiety prevail; death continues to stalk us. If there is a future, we say to each other, it cannot mimic the past.”   Continue reading “Working People Have been Destroyed by Pandemics Throughout History”

Book Review: One Foot in the Grave by Tim Sheard, Hard Ball Press

by Sarah Harper, January 10, 2020

Lenny Moss is Back!

Few books are written about workers and by workers. Timothy Sheard’s Lenny Moss mystery series is a welcome change. This series, written by a retired emergency room nurse based his detective, Lenny Moss, on a real life janitor and union steward in a Philadelphia hospital. These books contain all the elements of a good mystery: suspense, developed characters, believable plots. Each mystery takes place within a larger medical framework. Lenny realizes early on in the series that when major crimes arise, he has to notify the police. He and Detective Williams learn to trust and respect each other’s skills.

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A Tale of Two America’s by Richard Freeman: Book Review

By Karyn Pomerantz, 12-1-2019

I recently read A Tale of Two America’s, a book on social class in the United States. Expecting a familiar data driven account of class based inequalities, I was surprised to discover 36 stories of real life experiences with class, stigma, and racism. Collated by John Freeman, the stories convey the subtle and overt challenges people face as workers and students from all walks of life.  They give voice to people many of us don’t know, and capture characters and situations sharply and poignantly.

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Book Review: Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland by Jonathan M. Metzl

Book Review:
Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland by Jonathan M. Metzl

by Karyn Pomerantz, August 2019

Dying of Whiteness examines how racism hurts white working class people. Metzl counters the common ideology of white privilege, which posits that white people benefit from racism in terms of social status, safety, education, and housing. While racism devastates non-white communities, it also hurts ordinary white people. Metzl’s analysis doesn’t explicitly frame these inequities as different levels of exploitation caused by capitalism, but he demonstrates how racism enriches the rich, prompts people to support policies against their best interests, and divides people to keep the working class weak (see other blog pieces on white privilege).

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Life as a Communist Organizer in the Farm Fields of California: the Autobiography of Epifonio Camacho

By Karyn Pomerantz, June 11, 2019

This autobiography of a revolutionary farmworker offers insights into the lives of the workers who plant and harvest our food under brutal working and living conditions. It highlights the need for militancy, revolutionary ideas, and total opposition to capitalism. Told in accessible language with clear explanations of complex political ideas and organizing strategies, it has much to teach us.
Camacho describes his childhood in Mexico, his work in the southern US and California, his leadership in establishing the United Farm Workers of America with Caesar Chavez, and his development as a communist. Along the way, he reveals the treachery of Chavez, the Church, liberal politicians, and the government.

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