Summer Reads for Reds: Political Fiction

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Sure, you’ll be out organizing and agitating this summer, but when you do take a break, here are some suggestions of political novels culled from among members of the Democratic Left board and DSA’s National Political Committee. If you try them out, we encourage you to order from a local independent bookseller. -- Ed.

The Green Corn Rebellion, by William Cunningham: This 2010 reissue of the powerful 1935 novel about the 1917 rebellion by Oklahoma’s tenant farmers, members of the Socialist Party, against the draft and World War I is still gripping. There is a fine introduction by historian Nigel Sellars, author of Oil, Wheat, and Wobblies: The Industrial Workers of the World in Oklahoma. I half-expected this to be mainly of historic and regional interest, but I was pleasantly surprised. It stands alongside Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Upton Sinclair’s better work. 
Stuart Elliot

Tell Me a Riddle, by Tillie Olsen: It’s not a novel, but I’ll make a case for including these four short stories. The book includes the working-class feminist classic, “I Stand Here Ironing,” the monologue of a mother reflecting on raising her youngest daughter in poverty. It’s fairly autobiographical. Union organizing and mothering four children (the first of which she had at age 19) prevented Olsen from being very prolific. She produced beautiful and insightful political prose, with an eleventh-grade education and very little time to dedicate to her craft.
Amber Frost

The Dispossessed, by Ursula Le Guin: This science fiction work is the most astute political novel I have ever read. Shevek, a scientist who grew up in the anarchist community formed on the moon Anarres after its founders were exiled from the Earth-like home planet Urras, comes to oppose the rigid thinking and conformity of anarchist society and travels to the home planet. At first, he is impressed by the richness and apparent freedom of the dominant capitalist society on Urras, but learns that this is based on the oppression of the poor majority. He joins a popular uprising that is repressed with brutal force. Shevek returns to Anarres, still believing in the anarchist ideal and determined to risk the opprobrium of his fellow anarchists by fighting for his individual beliefs. 
Paul Garver 

Strumpet City, by James Plunkett: The story is set among the Dublin working class from 1907 to the great lockout of 1913. It’s neither a dreary prole-cult tome nor a tale of the valiant boyos of the Irish Republican Army. It’s about fully fleshed-out working people who are not simply nationalists battling British influence but trade-union class fighters warring against both their own gentry and British capital. It’s a super read, and the characters are unforgettable. Plus, the politics are excellent. I can’t think of another political novel in English that touches all those bases so poignantly and so well. Read the book before trying the mini-series with Peter O’Toole and Peter Ustinov. 
Michael Hirsch

Sugaree Rising, by J. Douglas Allen-Taylor: The San Francisco journalist J. Douglas Allen-Taylor tells a fictional story of resistance loosely based on the true history of a 1930s South Carolina Gullah community threatened with flooding and displacement by a government hydroelectric project. It is about the ways the community preserved its traditions and solidarity after the end of slavery and gives us the rich diversity of personalities who made up the community. The writing is amazing, with just enough dialect to be poetic. It’s told mostly from the point of view of a teenage girl who is trying to figure out what’s going on. I fell in love with it. 
Barbara Joye

Rosa, by Jonathan Rabb: I’m not a fan of books about serial killings of women, but the political twist, when the fifth body dredged from the canal might be that of Rosa Luxemburg, got me. Detective Inspector Nikolai Hoffner—a stock character clueless about family relationships, drinking too much, and an honest cop working under a dishonest government—can feel the noose tightening in Weimar Berlin as political currents he doesn’t understand swirl around him. It doesn’t quite work as a mystery, but the ominous foreshadowing of the horror to come gives us a sense of what it might have been like to live in that era. 
Maxine Phillips

The Regeneration Trilogy, by Pat Barker: These three novels trace the psychological impact of World War I experiences on several historical and fictional figures. In Regeneration, psychiatrist Dr. W. H. R. Rivers treats victims of shell shock, including poet Siegfried Sassoon; emerging poet Wilfred Owen; and the fictional working-class officer Billy Prior. The Eye in the Door explores the government’s targeting of pacifists and homosexuals. Action in The Ghost Road takes place in France and, by reminiscence, Melanesia, where Rivers previously conducted ethnographic research. While in Europe men are becoming mentally ill from going to war, Melanesians are suffering mental illness from being forbidden to engage in traditional warfare. I loved the vivid characters and rich context. 
Peg Strobel

This article originally appeared in the summer 2014 issue of the Democratic Left magazine. 

Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership. Democratic Left blog post submission guidelines can be found here.

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

June 27, 2017
· 77 rsvps

Join DSA activist Judith Gardiner to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 9 pm ET, 8 pm CT, 7 pm MT, 6 pm PT.

Data Security for DSA Members

June 27, 2017

Ack! I googled myself and didn't like what I found!

WHAT: A DSA Webinar about "Doxing"
WHEN: 9PM EST, 6PM PST

We're proud of our organizing, and chapter work is transparent for both political and practical reasons. However, there are basic precautions you can take in this time of rapid DSA growth to protect your privacy.

Key Wiki is a website that meticulously documents DSA activity and posts it for the world to see. If you're an active DSA member, likely your name is on their website. This is an example of "doxing".

As DSA becomes larger, more visible, and more powerful, we might expect that more websites like this will pop up, and more of our members' information might be posted publicly on the web.

Join a live webinar on Tuesday, June 27 with data security expert Alison Macrina, to learn:

  1. what is doxing? with examples and ways to prevent it
  2. how to keep your passwords strong and your data secure
  3. where to find your personal info on the internet and how to get it removed
  4. social media best practices for DSA organizers
  5. what to do if you've already been doxed

Zoom Link: https://zoom.us/j/9173276528

Call-in Info: +1 408 638 0968
Meeting ID: 917 327 6528

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

July 06, 2017
· 22 rsvps

Join Rahel Biru, NYC DSA co-chair, and Joseph Schwartz, DSA Vice-Chair, on this webinar for an overview of what we in Democratic Socialists of America mean when we talk about "socialism," "capitalism" and the goals of the socialist movement.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 6 PM MT; 5 PM PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Joseph Schwartz, schwartzjoem@gmail.com.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

July 09, 2017
· 6 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  9 PM ET; 8 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 6 PM PT.

Running for the National Political Committee

July 11, 2017
· 4 rsvps

Join this call to hear a presentation and ask questions about the role, duties and time commitment of a member of DSA's National Political Committee. In the meantime, check out the information already on our website about the NPC.

Feminist Working Group

July 12, 2017

People of all genders are welcome to join this call to discuss DSA's work on women's issues, especially in light of the new political reality that we face after the elections.  9 pm ET; 8 pm CT; 7 pm MT; 6 pm PT.

Film Discussion: Pride

September 10, 2017
· 12 rsvps

Join DSA members Eric Brasure and Brendan Hamill to discuss the British film Pride (2014). It’s 1984, British coal miners are on strike, and a group of gays and lesbians in London bring the queer community together to support the miners in their fight. Based on the true story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. The film is available for rent on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Film Discussion: Union Maids

September 24, 2017
· 11 rsvps

 

Join DSA member and labor historian Susan Hirsch in discussing Union Maids (1976). Nominated for an Academy Award, this documentary follows three Chicago labor organizers (Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki, and Sylvia Woods) active beginning in the 1930s. The filmmakers were members of the New American Movement (a precursor of DSA), and the late Vicki Starr (aka Stella Nowicki) was a longtime member of Chicago DSA and the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. It’s available free on YouTube, though sound quality is poor. 8ET/7CT/6MT/5PT.