Archive | December, 2013

Labor Books in Review: a 2013 Round-up

4 Dec

Blogger’s note: There are several reviews here, and I’m not endorsing any of them, just posting this as fyi.


Book Review: The Best Damn Thing Ever Written: The Mexican Revolution by Adolfo Gilly

2 Dec

i adelitaThis book is an exhaustive analysis of the Mexican Revolution from a Marxist perspective. Gilly, himself a revolutionary, was introduced to this history while incarcerated at Mexico’s infamous Lecumberri prison in the 1960s. Friedrich Katz describes the radical milieu in the foreword:

“The prisoners discussed social, political, and economic problems, lectures were given, and manuscripts were scrutinized and criticized. Octavio Paz concurred with the opinion of U.S. historian, John Womack, when he called the prison…’our Institute of Political Science.'”

The result of these remarkable conclaves was The Mexican Revolution, published in 1971.[1]

And it is brilliant, absolutely brilliant.

There are many memorable passages in The Mexican Revolution, none more than its first:

“Much more than any other Latin American country, Mexico won its independence from Spain through a popular war whose principal leaders…were also representatives of the Jacobin wing of the revolution…however, it was not this wing that consummated victory or began the task of organizing the newly independent country, but rather the conservative tendencies that in the course of the struggle were able to eliminate the radical wing as a result of the decline of the people’s intervention in the war.”

There is more insight in this paragraph into the Mexican Revolution (or any other) than one is likely to find in a hundred books on the topic, and certainly more than one will encounter in the highly leveraged history lessons of the bourgeois schoolhouse. Here Gilly sets a sedulous tone for his thoughtful examination of the event based on the sociohistorical forces at play, and their determinant effects on the course of the war. This he does artlessly, and with laudable skill; real history, unerringly perceived and rendered. From its opening lines and throughout, this book distinguishes itself from the numbing profusion of “but-discontent-grew-among-the-(fill in the blank)-and-they-rose-in-rebellion,” narrative histories favored by bourgeois publishers. More importantly, it establishes itself as a seminal contribution to labor and revolutionary studies. One emerges from this book having learned much more than the particulars of the Mexican struggle.

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