good novels with good political or working class content

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Devrim's picture
Devrim
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Jan 15 2008 18:09
Battlescarred wrote:
Victor Serge was an arsehole

That is a bit strong.
Devrim

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Jan 15 2008 22:19

I found a book at a 2nd hand bookshop a couple of days ago called "Scenes Of Revolutionary Life" by Judah Waten, a loosely historical novel about a young communist in Melbourne and London in the late 1920's and early 1930s. Haven't read it yet, but looks interesting.

anna x
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Jan 15 2008 22:29

I read a couple of Paulo Friere books that were pretty interesting.
all the best.
gregg.

JonC
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Jan 15 2008 22:37

USA by John Dos Passos - if I remember rightly. I read it years ago and would like to re-read it but haven't had the time recently.

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Jan 15 2008 23:47
Utter wrote:
Red Marut: I didn’t read in any romanticising about people from Oakland and their past way of life in any either Grapes of Wrath or Dubious Battle. I think they both are great stories about people and about living in this, that is not only in California during the thirties, society. The symbolic description of capital in chapter five in Grapes of Wrath is one of the best I´ve read and both books are filled with these small occasions of comradeship that one time will overthrow this society. Maybe if you’ve grown up in it you read the books different, maybe if you are an academic you read them different. I think Steinbeck is really worth reading though.

Well it wasn't meant as any personal criticism of you, Utter. I enjoyed reading Steinbeck years ago, and the 'Grapes' film and song, but I still think what Dunbar-Ortiz (who is an Okie academic) wrote is illuminating and a more accurate view.

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Jan 16 2008 10:26

Hands down the best American working class novel is Going Away by Clancy Sigal. It's the story of a worker fired from a non-skilled film processing job in Hollywood who then drives a brand new car for friends from L.A. to New York with something like a month to do it. He visits many sites across the country where crucial events in U.S. history, especially working class struggle, took place -- while consuming a considerable amount of booze, having romantic encounters, and against the backdrop of his own soundtrack, which is attentively listening to the car radio news accounts of the unraveling events of the Hungarian Revolution (it's set in October-November 1956). Kinda like Kerouac's On the Road meets Brecher's Strike! -- but even better than that sounds.

Sigal's has recently written a memoir about his unconventional upbringing by his organizer mother, called A Woman of Uncertain Character, reviewed here: http://cgi.sfbg.com/printable_entry.php?entry_id=1513. I haven't read it, but I wrote to Sigal to ask about some things from the review and in his response he made it sound fantastic.

My second favorite working class novel is Standing Fast by Harvey Swados which, speaking of working class Oakland, even has a fictionalized account of the 1946 Oakland General Strike. The title is from a Stan Weir account of that general strike, where he describes what he experienced as giving him the strength to "stand fast for a long, long time." The fictionalized Weir character is called "Joe Link." The novel is a sweeping story of a interlinking group of characters in the Workers' Party (?) from before World War II, through the war and then into the early 1960s. A moving read.

I agree with someone else above about Alfred Döblin's tetralogy novel called November 1918: A German Revolution, which unfortunately has only been translated into two English volumes: 1. A People Betrayed and 2. Karl and Rosa. Both great reads though.

I also agree about Orwell's Down and Out in London and Paris being worth reading. I liked Balestrini's The Unseen and found it powerful, but it was weird and sometimes awkward to read because of its punctuation, or lack thereof.

And a final note: last year at this time I saw Dunbar-Ortiz speak at a San Francisco labor history event. It was impressive that her grandfather was a Wobbly, but she kept referring to him as a "respected professional" because he was college-educated veterinarian and an organizer. It was tragic that he was run out of Oklahoma by the KKK, but I got the impression that her family was more middle class than "dirt poor" working class Okie. I bring this up because her politics clearly devolved from her family's I.W.W. heyday and she later became a lame 3rd Worldist cheerleader for any old Stalinist regime, as well as getting entangled with the mindless vanguardism of the Weather Underground. Her history might be of interest, but her political ideas today are shit.

Battlescarred
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Jan 16 2008 15:35

No, Devrim, Serge was an arsehole.

Battlescarred
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Jan 16 2008 15:40

I would also recommend USA and Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos. Beware of his later novels, though as he turned sharply right, and his writing deteriorated at same time
Also Strumpet City by James Plunkett about Dublin working class before WW1

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Jan 16 2008 15:48

Q

Edit: Iain M Banks is good novel material but not overly political about the system the Culture have. He kind of normalises an anarchist-style attitude and structure to the Culture based on their being truly post-scarcity (ie. to the extent nothing is denied anyone) but that’s set in the realm of their Minds (god-like machine entities) effectively doing all the work for them and using superior intellect to maintain productive capacity way beyond what their human(ish) charge could actually want. Them kicking the arse out of a militaristic Prussian-style attacking power is cool in Consider Phlebas though 8)

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Jan 16 2008 16:04
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the loneliness of the long distance runner

I agree. Best novel about Borstal ever. Not that I can think of any others... Unless Scum was a novel first?

Also, and I realise this might provoke a slagging... How about Island by Aldous Huxley? One of my fave books of all time.

And not forgetting the forthcoming novel from Wayne Foster. Promises to be a good 'un.

yoshomon
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Jan 16 2008 16:14

Anything by Michelle Tea.

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Jan 16 2008 17:35
Quote:
And a final note: last year at this time I saw Dunbar-Ortiz speak at a San Francisco labor history event. It was impressive that her grandfather was a Wobbly, but she kept referring to him as a "respected professional" because he was college-educated veterinarian and an organizer. It was tragic that he was run out of Oklahoma by the KKK, but I got the impression that her family was more middle class than "dirt poor" working class Okie. I bring this up because her politics clearly devolved from her family's I.W.W. heyday and she later became a lame 3rd Worldist cheerleader for any old Stalinist regime, as well as getting entangled with the mindless vanguardism of the Weather Underground. Her history might be of interest, but her political ideas today are shit.

Well no surprise that a lefty academic should have shit politics. But in 'Red Dirt' she says that her grandad was a vet and Wobbly organiser, but went bust in the depression. He took a severe beating from the Klan that prob. shortened his life and needed a metal plate inserting in his skull. Her family was homeless when she was born and her dad was a poor sharecropper during her childhood until the family left the land - then he became a truck driver for the rest of his working life.

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Jan 16 2008 17:40

Crime novels by Dashell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Paco Ignacio Taibo. There's a couple of Taibo's books which have anarchist/revolutionary characters - he's obviously sympethetic. Chandler was very political, but very cynical about the ruling class and boy could he turn a phrase.

j.rogue
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Jan 16 2008 17:41
Hieronymous wrote:
...she later became a lame 3rd Worldist cheerleader for any old Stalinist regime, as well as getting entangled with the mindless vanguardism of the Weather Underground. Her history might be of interest, but her political ideas today are shit.

I know those were her politics in the 60s - 80s, but is that still the case today? I was under the impression that she is now an anarchist. Didn't she edit an anarcha-feminist reader?

j.rogue
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Jan 16 2008 17:42
yoshomon wrote:
Anything by Michelle Tea.
Quote:
a lefty academic (that has) shit politics.
Deezer
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Jan 16 2008 18:31
lucy_parsons wrote:
And not forgetting the forthcoming novel from Wayne Foster. Promises to be a good 'un.

Aye it does but if anything I spouted shite about when I was drunk ends up being repeated in the lines of any of the characters I'm gonna break his legs wink

Not entirely convinced that digital recorder never got switched on the two nights we were sitting up drinkin before coming down with the cold.

Hope he got home safe and yeah it should be a good novel. I'll arrange a book launch (with free food and booze) in Belfast when its published.

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Jan 16 2008 19:08

That digital recorder scares the shit out of me. I'm convinced he's going to plant it in my flat to expose my cheating ways. wink

And glad to see you're referring to it (correctly) as a cold. He hasn't stopped moaning since he's got back, the wuss.

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Jan 16 2008 19:41
j.rogue wrote:
Hieronymous wrote:
...she [Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz] later became a lame 3rd Worldist cheerleader for any old Stalinist regime, as well as getting entangled with the mindless vanguardism of the Weather Underground. Her history might be of interest, but her political ideas today are shit.

I know those were her politics in the 60s - 80s, but is that still the case today? I was under the impression that she is now an anarchist. Didn't she edit an anarcha-feminist reader?

She's an academic at a suburban Northern California university, formerly Hayward, now called East Bay State. She's really a nice person, but she's as much an anarchist as her protégé Chris Crass, with whom she seems to have a mutual admiration society. With all their nostalgia for 3rd world state capitalist regimes, contemporary advocacy of multiculturalism and identity politics, as well as a strong affinity for "progressive" electoral politics, they're part of a large San Francisco activist ghetto that comrades here describe as Anarcho-Social-Democrat.

I saw her on a panel at a conference called "Anarchy Now" about 3 years ago at University of California Santa Cruz, along with Iain Boal of Retort, Arlif Dirlik author of books about Chinese Anarchism and Communism, and Barry Pateman of Kate Sharpley Library. She sucked and just regurgitated liberal crap. Dirlik was sharp and gave a good presentation. Boal was clever, but something was missing. Pateman supplied that missing thing: class analysis, which none of the others talked about. On a later panel John Holloway dismissed working class solidarity and internationalism as anachronisms. Next to Dunbar-Ortiz, he was the biggest fool of the day. All in all, it was a big waste of time. It would have been worthwhile if they had let Barry Pateman talk for the whole time.

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Jan 16 2008 21:21

"Woman on the Edge of Time" by Marge Piercy. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Its great politically, but even better as just a great read and a gripping story.

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Jan 16 2008 21:57

The Jungle. Sinclair
The Man who Killed Durrutti. Pedro de Paz

Stuff by Jack Trevor Story

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Jan 16 2008 23:18

The Woman At The Edge Of Time by Marge Piercy is a cracking read as are any of Iain M Banks Culture novels. Another Scottish author worth checking out is Ken Macleod. I've just finished reading Learning The World which is set on a gigantic ship that has an "anarcho-capitalist" system in place. Apparently in his other novels primmos are the enemy so that should go down well with folk on here laugh out loud
Oh and Banks writes a wee bit more about the culture here.
AK Press carry quite a bit of fiction so you could check their catalogue.

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Jan 17 2008 00:07

How Late it Was, How Late by James Kelman

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Jan 17 2008 02:16
welshboy wrote:
Another Scottish author worth checking out is Ken Macleod. I've just finished reading Learning The World which is set on a gigantic ship that has an "anarcho-capitalist" system in place. Apparently in his other novels primmos are the enemy so that should go down well with folk on here laugh out loud

He must go through all the groupings. Another book has a world ala SPGB.

yoshomon
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Jan 17 2008 02:20
j.rogue wrote:
yoshomon wrote:
Anything by Michelle Tea.
Quote:
a lefty academic (that has) shit politics.

Still a great writer. 'Chelsea Whistle' is amazing.

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Jan 17 2008 04:09

a quick note: I haven't read the rest of this thread, but...

Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo

Marx in Soho by Howard Zinn

Devrim's picture
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Jan 17 2008 06:24
Battlescarred wrote:
No, Devrim, Serge was an arsehole.

Why?

Devrim

Battlescarred
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Jan 17 2008 18:38

I'll tell you in a few days. I'm away on a holiday!

yoshomon
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Jan 17 2008 18:51

In one of Jeanette Winterson's novels (Written on the Body?) there's an anarchafeminist who blows up urinals. For working class content her novel 'Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit' is the best though.

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Jan 19 2008 15:57

Most Vonnegut, but esp Jailbird

Also Catch-22

tastybrain
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Jan 23 2008 16:03

Has anyone read any Patrick Hamilton? I haven't read anything by him but he sounds interesting. He wrote black comedy about pre-war, working class London and was a Marxist at one point.