The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
ENO's production of La Boheme is a triumph,
Eli Zaretsky sees US history as characterised by three great crises.
The abolitionist movement and civil war, then the slump and New Deal and finally the most recent collapse of the financial system were and remain crises in which the left played a significant historical role.
Yet in his analysis the author appears to separate out "the left" from the context of active social organisations such as trade unions or civil rights groups when in fact the two are intrinsically intertwined.
What unifies the left, Zaretsky argues, is its rejection of hierarchies and the inevitability of inequality that such hierarchies imply.
Central to his view of US history is the struggle between liberalism and the left.
"Without a left, liberalism has become spineless and vapid; without liberalism, the left becomes sectarian, authoritarian and marginal," he maintains.
The author argues that a strong left is essential if the US is to pull itself out of its long-term decline, contending that the country's moral decline is implicit in its abandonment of the project of equality.
Since the end of the second world war the US has experienced a continuous shift to the right and a marginalisation of the left.
Zaretsky shows how the latter's traditional call for freedom has been transformed by the neoliberals into mantras of "choice" and "meritocracy," thus cleverly suppressing the aim of social equality.
Neoliberalism has created "a cold rationalistic world divided between highly educated and pampered elites and a vast, struggling underclass ... a mean world in which the dominant classes tolerate injustice in the name of economic necessity," Zaretsky states.
"Almost every voice in America today is in thrall to the rich, the banks and the military, the technology companies, the celebrities and academic elites.
"Only a left could have the commitment and capacity to go deeper and to think independently on the basis of the country's core values."
This is another book which attempts to address the issue of the left's apparent inability to mount a concerted and effective struggle against global capitalism and the right wing's ability, despite the depth of the crisis, to retain its hegemony.
As such it's a worthwhile read.