Articles Reviews

  • Marx at the Movies

    It is the story of how the youthful Marx and Engels became fast friends and worked together as a team to overcame the obstacles they faced in order to build the first communist organization in history based on a scientific analysis of the capitalist system. For millennia, the lower classes had always dreamed of overthrowing their oppressors and creating a new world based on freedom and equality but it was only in the 1840s that a theoretical basis for such a transformation was developed.

  • Hué Back When: the Bloodbath in Vietnam Was Us

    By consensus in the school of conventional wisdom the Tet Offensive of 1968 was the turning point of the Vietnam War, after which the American war aim was not to win, but how to get out. Mark Bowden makes an excellent case that the fulcrum of that turning point was the Battle of Hue. But what if there was no turning point? In Vietnam the protracted war to expel a powerful foreign invader had its roots in millennia past; the American invasion was just another bump in the road.

  • Force of Evil: Abraham Polonsky and Anti-Capitalist Noir

    Polonsky both wrote (with novelist Ira Wolfert) and directed Force of Evil. Ostensibly a noir melodrama, the film takes direct aim at world of buying and selling as is immediately evident from its vertical opening shot of Trinity Church entombed by the monolithic structures framing Wall Street. We hear John Garfield as Joe Morse, the protagonist, in the following voice over: “This is Wall Street, and today was important because tomorrow, July 4, I intended to make my first million dollars.”

  • Wormwood and a Shocking Secret of War: How Errol Morris Vindicated My Father, Wilfred Burchett

    Wormwood tells the story of Eric Olson’s lifelong investigation into his father’s death. Did he fall? Did he jump? Was he pushed? Was it an accident? A mind-control experiment gone wrong? Was it murder? Was it an execution? To get to the truth, Wormwood also re-enacts the last ten days of Frank Olson’s life. Thus, about 18 minutes into the first episode, Frank Olson is being driven to a lakeside lodge for a meeting with his Fort Detrick and CIA colleagues.

  • Alexander Payne’s take on climate change, overpopulation, social inequality, and more

    Alexander Payne’s new film Downsizing, is an uneven, but engaging science-fiction satire that proposes to solve the earth’s ecological and other problems by “downsizing,” or physically shrinking, human beings. The creator of such noteworthy films as Election (1999), About Schmidt (2002) and Nebraska (2013), Payne employs, in Downsizing, a generally light touch in attempting to address pressing social ills.

  • Roman J. Israel, Esq.: Rebel with a cause

    In Roman J. Israel, Esq., the dilemma of the independent-minded Israel evokes the condition of many conscientious individuals in various fields today, including the film industry. Gilroy must surely be commenting on the current reality in Hollywood, where giant conglomerates attempt to control or smother any oppositional projects. Gilroy explores the moral and creative dimensions and consequences of being trapped in a world that has been reduced, as he puts it, to “transactions,” between people.

  • A wake-up call for radical communities

    Muhammed’s book states plainly that we must end capitalism or capitalism will end humanity. He dismisses Western democracy as the plutocracy the powerful that created it intended it to be, and calls for something radical to be instituted. Although emphasis is placed on broad mass movements and civil disobedience to bring along this change, Muhammed does not negate the importance of capturing state power.

  • It’s the economy, stupid!

    The impression of a region teeming with internecine enmities along bewilderingly archaic ethnic and religious lines hampers understanding of the Middle East. Stephen Gowans’s book on Syria contests this impression powerfully. It focuses on of four key actors: U.S. imperialism, secular Arab nationalism, the political Islam of the Muslim Brotherhood and its terrorist offshoots, and Saudi sponsored Wahhabism.

  • Nawrocki’s Displaced/Misplaced exposes plight of migrant workers

    Norman Nawroki, long a stunningly creative voice from out of Montréal’s anarchist community, combines spoken word with guitar, drum, piano and some very haunting violin in this compilation to benefit the city’s Immigrant Workers centre and Solidarity Across Borders. Nawrocki’s political poetry blends acute observation of the plight of migrant workers and refugees with musical and background voice arrangements.

  • Historical foundations of Aboriginal rights

    Having long ago established himself as a foremost scholarly interlocutor of Canadian Indigenous history, Arthur Ray, with a career that spans those ’70s books on my shelf (two magisterial studies: Indians in the Fur Trade and with Donald Freeman Give Us Good Measure) to new books including Aboriginal Rights Claims and the Making and Remaking of History, one would have thought he would be happy with what could be called “vanity projects.”

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