This is Readings and Ramblings. It is readings because this is a site for blogging about books and I intend to do that. It is ramblings because I might want to write about something else now and then.
A good deal of this book concentrates on how to handle other peoples attitudes to your cohabitation while it seems to me that the best way to handle it is to just bear in mind that it is none of their business. If someone else disapproves then that is their problem. Other parts of the book delve into things that seem irrelevant to an unmarried relationship such as how to compromise and get along. I don't know why this is in a book on domestic partnership when it could all apply just as equally to married couples.
The most useful parts, though, concern legal ramifications and I am not so sure that it is all that useful to all unmarried couples. The main advantage to domestic partnership over marriage that I have always seen is that it is just a lot less hassle to live together without marriage. By that I mean that if the relationship doesn't work out it is a lot easier to get out of it than it is to get out of a marriage. That is, one or the other of the couple just moves out and there is no need to worry about making one's way through a divorce. This book, however, advises taking on a lot of legal entanglements like wills, power of attorney and so forth and so forth to make the relationship as much like a marriage as possible without getting that one particular legal document, a marriage license. It seems to me that if you are going to go to all that hassle you may as well get married and take care of all the legal documentation in one fell swoop. Then, again, there is the getting out of it if it does not work out. A divorce can be a real hassle in itself even if an amicable divorce is gotten, but it is a lot more of a hassle if the divorce is not amicable. I am not sure that a divorce is any more trouble than having to undo all those legal papers and agreements one by one that this book advises.
A number of reasons that a couple might want to maintain a domestic partnership over a marriage are offered here, some rather spurious and some more practical and serious, but I can't help thinking that the authors kind of miss some of the most important reasons. I will give it three stars because the legal advice is bound to be useful to some people who are interested in the matters that legal advice covers. It stands to be outdated pretty quickly, though, because laws are always changing and the mere fact that gay marriage is becoming legal in state after state while this book assumes that it is not legal anywhere is an example of how it is already becoming outdated. However, as far as I can tell, the legal advice is accurate as of the time of publication at least.
This would have been a lot better if there had not been so many macho military men constantly bragging about how loyal they were to each other and making absolutely sure that no one but no one missed or forgot how macho they were. Sheesh! People like that are so obnoxious.
I don't think this book was intended to be humorous, but I think it was anyway. The premise is that a thirteen-year-old-girl is very embarrassed by being overweight in the first place, but then her aunt enters her into a contest to be a plus size model. Her family is ecstatic that she is chosen and they are constantly gushing at her about how lucky she is and what an honor it is. They go on and on about what an opportunity it is. The whole time she is absolutely horrified at the prospect of parading her fat down the runway. It is the clash of assumptions inherent in those two attitudes that I found funny. Imagine being told that you are extremely lucky while you feel mortified.
If you like nonstop action and violence you will probably like this book. The violence and fast moving action does not let up. Well, I suppose it wouldn't be a thriller novel without all of that action and violence. However, a little attention needs to be paid to other things like plot and characterization. The plot is pretty simplistic. A terrorist is out to wreck havoc on New York City and it is up to the hero to stop him. There is a subplot about the hunt for a missing treasure too, but that just kind of peters out and is left behind. A little more complexity in plot would have been really nice. Worse, though, is characterization. All the characters, every one of them, is a stereotype. I suppose the nonstop action would have to have to been interrupted to give the characters some complexity, but it would have made a better story. You have the muscle bound hero who meets one deadly situation after another without blinking and then just goes on to the next with weapons blazing. You have the evil land developer who will kill to get his way. And then you have the terrorist. He wants to make this country really hurt. Why does he want this country to really hurt? He doesn't say and no one else does either. There was a point where I thought his motive was going to be revealed, but it turned out that it simply told why he felt free to go on his rampage.
Nevertheless, despite the flaws the book was at least entertaining and it was not trying to be a great piece of literature. I will give it three stars for succeeding in being entertaining.
If you like varying descriptions of wildlife you should like this book. It is a collection of essays arranged in chronological order starting in the eighteenth century and finishing with the late twentieth century. I noticed that as the book progresses the essays become less sentimental and more objective, but none of them are bereft of sentimentality. This is certainly not a collection of scientific studies. It is more of a collection of musings. Most of the essays concentrate on American wildlife, but there are some forays to other continents especially Africa.
I like the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. I really do. However, there is something about it that always bothers me. That is that a lot of his stories are pretty blatantly racist. Oh, I have been told that I am only seeing a reflection of his times and that he should be excused for it. I have a hard time excusing him. What is a reflection of his times is that he could get away with it. The racism itself cannot be excused so easily. This collection is a bit different though. I can't say that any of Lovecraft's racism showed through here. I have no idea if the editor chose these stories especially because of that, but whatever the reason I don't see it. That makes it much easier for me to give the book the four stars that I want to give it.
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Vol. 78/No. 1 January 6, 2014 Gains by women in Cuba strengthened revolution (Books of the Month column)
Below is an excerpt from Women and the Cuban Revolution, one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for December. The book contains speeches and documents by Fidel Castro, Vilma Espín and others. The piece is from the closing speech given by Castro on March 8, 1980, to the Third Congress of the Federation of Cuban Women. The FMC was forged in the heat of popular mobilizations in the opening months of the victory of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and grew out of women’s determination to participate in the revolution. A leader of the underground and Rebel Army combatants against the Batista tyranny, Espín was president of the FMC from its founding in 1960 until her death in 2007. Copyright © 1981 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.
BY FIDEL CASTRO It wouldn’t be possible to write the history of our revolution in the last twenty years without mentioning the Federation of Cuban Women. There is virtually no activity in which it has not participated in one way or the other; no activity, even those which are viewed as the almost exclusive domain of men: war and national defense, for example. Here, as in Nicaragua, Namibia, El Salvador, or Grenada, women are playing an active role. It is enough to mention some of those tasks, many of which were mentioned here and which are very important. For example, raising women’s educational level, going from the literacy drive in 1961, in which Cuban women played such an outstanding role, and the first schools for peasant women which were organized by the federation and from which hundreds of thousands of women graduated. The change in peasant women was evident — in their spirit, in their way of thinking and way of life, even in the most remote regions of the country. Even the way they dressed changed with the clothes they learned to make in the schools, a program that has continued over twenty years now. Then there are the struggle, the efforts, and the gains in the battle for the sixth grade and beyond, for intermediate and university studies. In this connection it is interesting to note that 31 percent of working women are studying, while only 25 percent of men are. [Applause] …
[O]ne of the things that most concerns us has to do with the participation of women in the economy of the country. I want to discuss this and some of the concerns I know have cropped up on this subject.
There is no doubt that we have made great progress in this respect in the past years. This is shown, for example, by the fact that prior to the revolution there were 262,000 working women — I think that’s the 1953 figure — and now there are 800,600. As Vilma explained in the report, it’s not just a matter of numbers, but a change in the composition since formerly many of those jobs were as servants, in bars, and jobs of that sort to which women were relegated under capitalism. That is in contrast to the many skilled women now working: teachers, doctors, architects, nurses, intermediate technicians; 78,000 skilled women have joined the work force in the last few years. That alone shows the true nature of the change.
In the last five years some 200,000 women have started working, that is, women have joined the work force at a faster rate than men; that is logical because employment levels for men were higher. Now 30 percent of the work force consists of women.
In coming years it won’t be easy for our country, for our revolution, to keep up that pace; for an underdeveloped country 30 percent is a high rate; of every 100, 30 women.
This comes at a time when the young people who made up the population boom are coming of work age. The boom made itself felt at the schools, in the efforts required to build elementary schools to cope, and then in the intermediate schools where we now have an enrollment of 1,100,000. …
Now, we can’t say that we are in a position to ensure — just as we guaranteed schools and medical care — increased jobs to keep pace with that growth, because it requires investments and new job opportunities. Therefore we will have some job problems as this enormous number of young people come of work age.
We feel that the revolution has the duty, the party and state have as their first duty doing all they can to come up with answers, with solutions to the employment problem.
This may also coincide with the quest for economic efficiency and productivity. It means savings in human resources, because efficiency in part means economizing on human resources. We are seeking greater efficiency. It is not a case of solving the problem by creating jobs per se, jobs which do not mean a service or benefit; putting fifty in an office to do work that can be done by twenty-five or thirty, for example. You understand what I mean. That wouldn’t be the right solution and to create jobs based on inefficiency would be antieconomical.
We’ve been making an effort to raise productivity and have been achieving this; we’ve been making an effort for efficiency and have been achieving this; but we still have a lot to do, a lot to accomplish in this field. …
But neither the party nor the government can give up — they can’t give up for a second — the struggle on behalf of the advancement of women. I am absolutely convinced that society stands to gain insofar as it is able to develop and make use of the moral, human, and intellectual qualities and capabilities of women. I’m absolutely convinced of this. And this is precisely what sets a just society, a socialist society, apart from a capitalist one. Related articles: Free the Cuban Five! Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home
This is one very long book and the fact that it has 1053 pages does not quite tell you how long it really is. By that I mean that there is a lot, a whole lot, on each of those 1053 pages. It took me about two months to read the whole thing and a few times I was tempted to quit simply because it took so long. I read it differently from the way I expect that most other people would though. It is a reference book and I expect that most people will read it like a reference book. That is, they will use it to look up some particular author for research purposes or because they want to know something about the author and if they browse they will stop and read an entry here and there and not try to read the whole thing. The way I read the book, though, was to read the whole thing from beginning to end.
It is something of an encyclopedia of authors. Each entry consists of some brief biographical notes like where the author went to school and what kind of employment the author has had and the dates of these events. That is followed by a bibliography of the author. Then, in most entries, there is a first person commentary by the author on his or her own writings. Then there is a third person essay on the writings of the author. Then the next entry begins. I did not count the number of authors listed, but there are a lot. Even so, though, I did note some glaring omissions. There were also a lot of authors I never heard of and a lot of those sound quite interesting. If you want to find out about new authors to try out this book just might be the one for you.
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Vol. 77/No. 44 December 9, 2013 ‘Fate of humanity rests on socialist revolution in US’ (Books of the Month column)
Below is an excerpt from Teamster Rebellion, one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for December. The book by Farrell Dobbs is the first in a four-volume participant’s account of the strikes and organizing drives that transformed the Teamsters union in the 1930s into a fighting social movement. Dobbs was one of the central leaders of those battles and, until his death in 1983, of the Socialist Workers Party. The selection is from an August 1966 talk by Dobbs to an audience substantially composed of members of the Young Socialist Alliance in California. Copyright © 1972 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.
BY FARRELL DOBBS We must be constantly aware of the key role of the United States in the world. United States imperialism is today the powerhouse of world reaction, as the war in Vietnam is abundantly demonstrating.
It is an iron fact that until capitalism is overturned here in the United States of America, the gang of imperialist mad dogs that rule this country are going to remain a mortal threat to all humanity. We must never forget that.
That means the showdown battle for world socialism is going to be fought right here in the United States of America. And when the revolutionary victory is won, outlived, decadent capitalism is going to disappear literally overnight from the face of our planet. Humanity is going to march forward to the building of an enlightened socialist society where people for the first time can really live together on this planet in peace and in security and with freedom. Humanity will finally realize the type of rewarding life that human intelligence is so abundantly capable of making, even at the present level of technological development. Once humanity learns how to conduct itself politically, organizationally, and socially, it can take advantage of these wonders.
That’s what we dedicate our lives to. We of the party, we revolutionaries in the United States — acting as best we can in solidarity with revolutionary fighters across the world — must always keep in mind that in the last analysis the fate of humanity rests on the socialist revolution in the United States. Our task is to build a party capable of leading that revolution, going up against the most heinous of the reactionary, monstrous ruling class regimes that exist on the face of this planet: the imperialist ruling class of the United States.
The road ahead in that struggle is going to be strewn with obstacles, and there are going to be many pitfalls. There’s no roadmap, no way you can find some kind of a detailed handbook that’s going to tell you what to do at each juncture. Our task is to chart a revolutionary course, based on a fundamental understanding of our program — a basic feel of our revolutionary strategy — and to hammer out the tactics in that direction as we go along.
There’s no timetable. Nobody can say how long it’s going to take or when it’s going to happen. I personally feel that those of you sitting in this room today, who have got all your youth going for you, have got at least Damon Runyon’s six-to-five chance of seeing that explosion.
But in saying so I want to add immediately: don’t make that a condition. Don’t adopt the criterion that the revolutionary change must happen in your time. Don’t take as a guide to your active life that narrow, provincial, self-centered notion that if it doesn’t happen during the time of your own subjective existence on this planet, it’s not important.
Always remember that history is magnificently indifferent to the problems of the individual. History doesn’t care whether you die at six or live to be seven hundred, if that were possible, or what happens during your particular lifetime. As the German poet Goethe once said, “History marches like a drunken beggar on horseback.”
A lot can happen during your limited lifespan, or you can live a dull existence. Some people have had the good fortune to live more in a year than others at a different historical juncture could live in their whole lifetime. Or, as Plekhanov once put it, “If it hadn’t been for the French Revolution, Napoleon would probably have ended up as a corporal in the French artillery.”
Don’t make it a condition that the socialist revolution must come in your lifetime. Be not only a citizen of the planet; be a citizen of time. Recognize that what’s fundamental is to be in rapport with the human race from the dawn of history, on to heights we can only vaguely begin to dream of.
And what’s the alternative? The alternative is to make a compromise with this rotten capitalist system. Do you know what people who do that are like? You remember the movie, The Devil and Daniel Webster? Jabez Stone, you know, sold his soul to Scratch, the devil. He did so on the promise that his personal ambitions would thus be served. Later he regretted the action and asked to have his soul returned. Scratch, who was played by Walter Huston, that magnificent actor, finally said all right, he’d give it back.
So Scratch took a small matchbox from his pocket. He opened the box and began poking around in it with his stubby finger trying, and trying, to find the mean little soul of Jabez Stone so he could give it back.
That’s symbolic of what you do to your own soul if you make a compromise with this rotten system.
Our job is to build a movement of men and women who emulate the seasoned fighters of the Continental line in the first American Revolution. Learn to be professional revolutionary fighters. Don’t be summer soldiers. Don’t dabble; don’t vacillate. Put nothing above the considerations of the movement. Maintain your place in the front ranks of the revolutionary fighters, and stand in that place for the duration.
There is no other way in which you can find so rich, so rewarding, so fruitful, and so purposeful a life. Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home
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Vol. 77/No. 42 November 25, 2013 US union organization lacked corresponding political advance (Books of the Month column) Below is an excerpt from Polemics in Marxist Philosophy, one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for November. In this collection of essays George Novack explains why the materialist foundations and dialectical methods of Marxism offer the only scientific basis for working-class political action. The author of numerous titles on Marxist theory and politics, Novack joined the communist movement in the U.S. in 1933, and remained a member and leader of the Socialist Workers Party until his death in 1992. The piece is from the chapter “American Philosophy and the Labor Movement.” Copyright © 1978 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.
BY GEORGE NOVACK “American philosophy and the labor movement…. How odd to couple these two together!” we can imagine eminent heads in both fields exclaiming. “What can they have in common?” It must be acknowledged that at present they make an incongruous, even ludicrous, juxtaposition. To most professors, philosophy has no special connection with either politics or the working class. Almost all union leaders believe the labor movement can get along very well without any philosophy. Here as elsewhere, extremes meet. The labor bureaucrats have as little regard for philosophy as the university mandarins have for the labor movement.
Is this estrangement a fixed and permanent feature of American culture? Or is it the product of special, episodic historical conditions? To answer these questions, let us first examine the evolution of the mass labor movement in the United States on its theoretical side, in its two main stages: the Gompers-Green era and the subsequent period of the CIO.
One of the outstanding peculiarities of the American labor movement has been the immense disparity between its strength in industrial action and organization, and its political and theoretical weakness compared with working class movements in other countries.
The American workers possess in full measure all the remarkable qualities which distinguish the American people generally and have been responsible for its colossal achievements. They radiate dynamic energy; they excel in sustained labor and collective organization for the execution of given tasks; they are ingenious, free of routinism, highly cultured in modern technology. They have displayed these capacities not only in working for their bosses but also in the struggles which have created the largest and most powerful trade union structure in the world. These magnificent traits can be counted upon to assert themselves even more forcefully in the decades ahead and will be the source of still greater accomplishments.
At the same time, the development of American labor has suffered from a pronounced unevenness. The growth of its self-awareness as a distinct social force with a world-historical mission has not kept pace with its union organization. Its creativeness in collective thinking has limped far behind its achievements through direct action. Along with its precious positive features our labor movement has inherited the meagerness and immaturity in theoretical matters rooted in the national past.
This defect was crystallized in the craft unionism of the old American Federation of Labor. The original AFL leaders deliberately turned away from any general conceptions of social development and class relations. In his autobiography Samuel Gompers tells how he consciously rejected the Marxism he knew in his younger days, as unsuited to American conditions.
The AFL heads scoffed not only at the ideas of socialism but at any philosophy; such highfalutin matters were no business of organized labor. They lived from hand to mouth, from craft to craft, from contract to contract. The crude tenets of Gompers (“a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work”; “reward your friends, punish your enemies”) grew out of and corresponded to the primitive organizational setup and class-collaborationist methods of the AFL. When Adolph Strasser, coleader with Gompers of the Cigarmakers, was asked by the Senate Committee on Education and Labor what the ultimate objectives of AFL craft unionism were, he answered: “We have no ultimate ends. We are going on from day to day. We fight only for immediate objects — objects that can be realized in a few years.”…
The founders of the CIO in the mid-1930s discarded the craft union framework of the AFL — but they did not break with its fundamental ideology. At this great turning point the regenerated ranks of labor needed four major improvements to carry forward their battles for a better life against monopolist rule. These were: an up-to-date union structure in the basic industries; a mass political party to challenge the capitalist two-party system on a national, state, and local level; a program, outlook, and theory on a par with this higher stage in its own development and corresponding to our revolutionary age of transition from one social order to another; and finally, a leadership capable of applying that program in action.
Under CIO auspices American labor succeeded in realizing only the first and most pressing of these objectives. In the 1930s and ’40s it built powerful national unions in the key sectors of trustified industry; that has been the imperishable accomplishment of the CIO. But this higher grade of union organization was not extended and fortified by equivalent advances in the political practices, the social views, or the theoretical knowledge of the union leadership.
Even though they captained a far more dynamic and highly developed movement, the general policies and ideological equipment of the top-ranking CIO leaders were little better than those of the old-line AFL bureaucrats. Related articles: DC taxi drivers join union, fight city gov’t attacks Fight of Cambodia garment workers enters third month Gov’t backs bosses, cops fire on union demonstration Grocery workers in DC oppose cuts in benefits Bay Area transit workers ratify new contract Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home