MURDERED BY CAPITALISM: A Memoir of 150 Years of Life and Death on the American Left

John Ross, Author . Nation $15.95 (353p) ISBN 978-1-56025-578-9

To hear Ross, who has covered Mexico for Noticias Aliadas (Lima), Texas Observer , San Francisco Bay Guardian and "other screwball publications," tell it, the American Left is dead and buried. Fittingly, he sets his history/dialogue in a graveyard populated by the ghosts of its heroes. Here lies E.B. Schnaubelt, Emma Goldman, Lucy Parsons, Sacco and Vanzetti and a host of others whose radical lifestyles and actions left their mark on those Communists, anarchists and revolutionaries who saw America in more utopian terms than the capitalists they fought. Soaked by alcohol and salved by drugs, Ross, who has made a life out of dissent, converses with the dead (and dying from memory), lamenting the Left's losses, its infighting, its failures and the occasional victory. But Ross stumbles in his rhetorical excesses and in his efforts to tie together so many disparate rebels and outlaws—from Goldman and Fidel to the Weathermen and Civil Rights leaders. Strictly for members of the choir looking for a good historical primer on the American Left, the book nevertheless entertains with its pugnacious language, Hunter Thompson-levels of chemical consumption and a conviction that no revolution can succeed without a sense of humor. Ross manages to salvage positivity from beneath all this forgotten death, and that's about all the solace the book offers for the true believer. (June 7)

Reviewed on: 05/10/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
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