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Issue #1667      December 3, 2014

Summer reading and gift ideas – The editor’s selection

Looking for some gift ideas or just thinking about catching up with some reading when the Guardian takes a break? Then why not shop where your money counts, rather than line the coffers of the multinationals! The Communist Party of Australia has a range of T-shirts, DVDs and books, including Marxist-Leninist classics, working class struggles, women’s issues and cultural works.

The Communist Party Of Australia has some great new books on Cuba. Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Geurrero, Fenando González and René González, known as the Cuban Five, were framed and imprisoned in the US more than 16 years ago for the “crime” of gathering information for the Cuban government on the plans of murderous terrorists planning attacks on Cuba and in the USA.

Voices from Prison: The Cuban Five contains interviews (including the partner of Ramón), articles, poems, paintings, photographs and speeches which provide insight into the lives of these great revolutionary fighters. There are also tributes by fellow inmates whose lives were transformed by friendship with one or another of the Five during their time together in prison.

“I will die the way I’ve lived” contains a series of 15 watercolours by Antonio Guerrero for 15 years of imprisonment, with some very informative accompanying text by Antonio, Gerardo and Ramón. “The United States, with more than 2.2 million men and women behind bars today, has the highest incarceration rate of any state in the world. That system of capitalist ‘justice’, organised to dehumanise and break both inmates and their families, is portrayed in these works,” Mary-Alice Waters says in her introduction to the paintings and the Cuban Five. It would make a great present.

Between 1975 and 1991, some 425,000 Cubans volunteered for duty in Angola in response to requests from the Angolan government to help defend the newly independent country against multiple attacks by the US-backed South African regime. The Cubans played a critical role in securing Namibia’s independence and in seriously weakening the apartheid regime in South Africa and deepening the revolutionary struggle in South Africa.

“Those not willing to fight for the freedom of others will never be able to fight for their own”: Fidel Castro, July 1976. Cuba & Angola: Fighting for Africa’s Freedom and Our Own, contains contributions written between 1978 and 2013 by a variety of authors including Ernesto Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Nelson Mandela, Gabriel García Márquz and interviews with four Cuban Generals. They cover Cuba and Africa, including the Missile Crisis and Operation Carlota. A very interesting read.

Women in Cuba: The making of a revolution within the revolution is not a book about women per se, but about the Cuban Revolution with first hand accounts of two of its leaders – Vilma Espín and Asela de Los Santos. “What strikes the reader more than anything else in Espin’s account is the absence of dogma or schemas, the absence of clotted political jargon. There was only one guide: opening the way for the broadest layers of women to become involved – with organisation, effectiveness, and discipline – in ongoing struggles and the construction of a new social order,” Mary-Alice Waters notes in her introduction.

Yolanda Ferrer, a generation younger than the other women, as a 15-year-old took part in the national literacy campaign in 1961, was a founding member of the revolutionary militias, and is now General Secretary of the Federation of Cuban Women and a member of the Communist Party’s Central Committee.

Their stories give a rich history of the Revolution, in which men and women played leadership roles and fought courageously along side each other. There are some humorous moments too, such as when Castro explained to a meeting in 1960 fundamental aspects of the Revolution and women’s place in it. The integration of women into the workforce was a bit too much from some:

“My wife doesn’t need to work,” some said. “I’m supporting her.” Or “Who will do the cooking?”; “Who will do the cleaning?”; “Who will wash the clothes and care for the children?”.

“This was the battle for consciousness of men and women …,” Asela de Los Santos says. A really great read, in particular, for anyone interested in the Revolution, politics, building of socialism, including women’s equality.

Now on a completely different subject to Cuba, but still about women and their experiences is Angela Davis’ Women, Race & Class. It gives the best insight into the links between women’s issues, racism and the class struggle that I’ve ever read. It contains a fascinating historical background on slavery and the emancipation struggle of Black women in the US, Communist women and women’s rights. It is an extremely educational and interesting book recommended for all readers, regardless of gender.

Got a gut feeling your boss is exploiting you? Do you feel your wages really cover all that hard work you do? You are not wrong if your employer is making a profit. But would like to know how it all happens. Then you cannot go past Karl Marx’s Wage-Labour and Capital and his Value, Price and Profit which offers two great pamphlets in one volume. Clearly written, covering important issues such as wages and profits, they are as relevant today as they were when written in the 19th Century. Essential reading for trade unionists and anyone interested in political economy or understanding how capitalism works.

There other political economy books on our website: cpa.org.au, just click on the “Shop@cpa” button.

Against Fascism and War, contains the famous report to the 7th World Congress of the Communist International, 1935 by George Dimitrov and a 1936 speech on The People’s Front. There is a foreword by James West from the Communist Party USA giving a historical background to the great Bulgarian Communist leader who was elected as General Secretary of the International.

He concluded his speech on The People’s Front with the words: “In the struggle against fascism and war, not empty words, not platonic wishes, but action is needed. To achieve this action it is necessary to bring about the unification of all forces of the working class and to carry out unswervingly the policy of the People’s Front.”

His call for anti-fascist unity has particular relevance today with the rise of neo-Nazis and other extreme right-wing forces and economic crises facing capitalist states.

Now for something Australian: Eureka and Beyond: Monty Miller – his own story is a first-hand account of one of Australia’s most historic events written in a colourful and entertaining style. At a young age Monty Miller fought and was wounded in the Eureka Stockade in 1854. At 85 he was sentenced to six months hard labour for his leadership in the anti-conscription struggles in 1917.

As well as Monty’s own description of the Eureka Stockade, the book contains extracts from “Labour’s Road to Freedom” with an introduction by the great Communist writer Katharine Susannah Throssell (Pritchard). There is an introduction by Vic Williams along with his poem “Are You Ready Monty Miller?”

CDs

When it comes to listening to one of the greatest voices ever and great politics combined, nothing goes past Paul Robeson. Paul Robeson was a staunch fighter against racism and used his deep bass-baritone voice around the world in the cause of peace and freedom, in support of trade union struggles and against fascism. He also worked tirelessly for friendship and peace between the US and the former Soviet Union. We have two great CDs in stock.

The first is The Peace Arch Concerts. This CD contains many old favourites including Ol’ Man River, Love Will Find a Way, Loch Lommond, Without Thee, Scandaliz’ My Name. In all there are 18 musical items as well as speeches from Paul Robeson and Harvey Murphy.

The second CD is Freedom Train and the Welsh Transatlantic Concert. Songs include All Men Are Brothers, Slumberland, Wales, Y Deln Aur (The Golden Harp), This Little Light Of Mine, and Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel. There is also a wonderful rendition of We’ll Keep A Welcome In The Hillside, performed by the Treorchy Male voice Choir.

For reviews and background to the two CDs, see “Two great CDs: Paul Robeson”, Guardian, #1597, 12-06-2013.

T-shirts

T-shirts always make popular and practical gifts. “Improve your Marx” (white shirt with black text) and Che Guevara (red or white with black graphic) are popular with students. If you are looking for something very Australian, the classic white on blue Eureka T-shirt is a winner.

On a more classic, revolutionary theme, the Lenin T-shirt (red or white with black graphic) or the CPA’s own red T-shirt with a small yellow logo which includes the hammer and sickle and Southern Cross stars are also very popular. T-shirts are $25 each including packaging and postage, sizes M-XXXL.

In the spirit of giving, every T-shirt or book order will receive a free copy of the CPA’s publication Hot Earth which puts the CPA’s case for planning and regulation to deal with the climate crisis.

The best present of course is a subscription to the Guardian.

And while you’re in the mood for giving, don’t forget the Press Fund! We still have wages and bills to pay over the break.

In unity

Tom Pearson – Editor

Next article – Barclays boycotted over Israel arms trade shares

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