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Issue #1761      December 14, 2016

Politics, history, The Day of the Skewbald Cow & other subjects

Summer reading & 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 and books, including Marxist-Leninist classics, and lighter reading of interest.

On August 22, 1966, a group of Aboriginal people walked off Wave Hill station where they were employed and the whole community walked to the local Welfare Settlement where they made camp on the banks of the Victoria River and began a strike for better wages and working conditions.

Later they moved on to Daguragu in the Northern Territory on the banks of Wattie Creek. It became clear that they wanted more than equal wages and working conditions but their land back and to take control of their lives.

Hannah Middleton lived and worked with the Gurindji at Daguragu from April 1970 to February 1971. Her booklet, Flowers to Make Daguragu Pretty: The Gurindji 1966-2016 (36 pp, $12), published for the 50th anniversary of the walk-off, tells the story of the past 50 years and her small part in it.

The Cuban Five were framed and imprisoned in the US more than 16 years for the “crime” of gathering information for the Cuban government on the plans of murderous terrorists planning attacks on Cuba.

“I will die the way I’ve lived” (36 pp, $14) contains a series of 15 water colours by Antonio Guerrero on 15 years of imprisonment, with some very interesting and insightful text by three of the other Five – Antonio, Gerardo and Ramón. A great read and drawings.

Women in Cuba: the making of a revolution within the revolution (346 pp, $28) 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.

Yolanda Ferrer, as a 15-year-old, took part in the national literacy campaign in 1961, was a founding member of the revolutionary militias and at the time of writing was the General Secretary of the Federation of Cuban Women and a member of the Communist Party’s Central Committee. She has since passed away.

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 a woman’s place in it. The integration of women into the workforce was a bit too much for some!

“My wife doesn’t need to work,” the claims went. “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?”.

A really great read, in particular, for anyone interested in the Revolution, politics, building of socialism, which includes women’s equality.

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 you would like to know how it all works? Then you can’t go past Karl Marx’s Wage-Labour and Capital and his Value, Price and Profit (62 pp, $15) – 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.

Das Kapital is a Marxist icon, but to read its three hefty volumes takes more time than many of us have. Engels produced a handy synopsis, On Marx’s Capital (49 pp, $12) – only 130 pages which makes a great introduction as well as suiting time-poor readers.

The concept of the state is fundamental to understanding capitalist society and the revolutionary process. “The state is a product and a manifestation of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms. The state arises where, when and insofar as class antagonism objectively cannot be reconciled. And, conversely, the existence of the state proves that the class antagonisms are irreconcilable, Lenin writes in State and Revolution (103 pp, $10).

This important booklet clarifies what Engels and Marx said about the conditions in which the state exists and its role in class society. Lenin counters the distortions that are propagated by bourgeois writers and explains the well-known term “withering away of the state”.

Against Fascism and War (125 pp, $20) contains the famous report to the 7th World Congress of the Communist International in 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.

Dimitrov 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 election of Trump and 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 (110 pp, $20) is a first-hand account of one of Australia’s most historic events written in a colourful and entertaining style. In 1854, at a young age Monty Miller fought and was wounded in the Eureka Stockade.

At 85 he was sentenced to six months hard labour for his leadership in the anti-conscription struggles in 1917. There is an introduction by Vic Williams along with Williams’ poem “Are You Ready Monty Miller?”

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 Pritchard.

Tales of the Middle Ages (244 pp, $28) – the tales in this book are written by professional authors and historians. They describe various aspects of the medieval history of Western, Central and Eastern Europe and also of some Oriental countries between 5th and 15th centuries.

Those thousand years witnessed many important events, such as the emergence of most modern European and Asian states, the first voyages around the world, and the discovery that the Earth was round and the Universe infinite. In the Middle Ages America was “discovered”, book printing and the telescope invented and many masterpieces of art and literature created.

There are numerous tales, many of them well known but others not so familiar. They include the Ancient Germans; Chlodwig, King of Franks; The Domesday Book; the Crusades; the Taborites; the Day of the Skewbald Cow; Jeanne D’Arc; Ibn Batutu; the Goliards and much more.

There are numerous illustrations, many in colour. It is a fascinating and easy read.

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. There is also a Marx t-shirt without any text. This comes in black with white or gold image or red with a black or white image.

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.

If you are looking for something very Australian, the classic white on blue Eureka t-shirt is a winner. 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

* For other political books Shop@cpa.

Next article – Culture & Life – Book review – Living fantasies

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