For Workers' Power: The Selected Writings of Maurice Brinton: by Maurice Brinton, edited by David Goodway, 380 pgs. By Keith

Mar 05, 2007

Holy shit, I am out of my league here. Where's Maddy Tight Pants? She actually knows what she's talking about. She actually comprehends this stuff. She actually reads a paragraph like "...And stress that no collective autonomy is meaningful which does not have organizational repercussions. Autonomous activity and life—whether in the realm of practice or in the realm of ideas—is impossible in hierarchically-structured organizations. As Bookchin points out 'the tragedy of the socialist movement is that it opposes organization to spontaneity and tries to assimilate the social process to political and organizational instrumentalism" and understands it, probably fairly effortlessly, the first time she reads it. Not me. I feel that I am, at best, vastly unqualified to review this thing. It's a tome. It's a gorgeous book, but it's a tome: 380-some pages, tight leading, ten-point type, footnotes galore. There is a lot of stuff here and frankly, by the time I finished Dave Goodway's introduction (seventeen pages in and of itself) and footnotes, I was already overwhelmed. So, the following consists of what I, a fucking dolt when it comes to even the basest tenets of socialism and/or libertarianism (which is what the majority of this book covers), could cull and decipher from For Workers' Power.

1) Members of libertarian/ socialist/ anarchist groups in 1960s Britain disbanded, splintered, reformed, and switched teams more than Dischord bands did back in1988.

2) Though not entirely, the majority of this book actually consists of Maurice Brinton's creative translations of Cornelius Castoriades's writings in French for Solidarity, a magazine/ pamphlet outlet/ activist group with which Brinton was involved with for years.

3) Brinton is at his best when he manages to merge political theory with personal experience—his diary entries from both the Belgian General Strike of 1960 and yeah, his two weeks spent in Paris in May of 1968 are prime examples—when he writes like this, Brinton is able to build a body out of a working skeleton of political theory and the flesh-and-blood, I-was-there quality of eyewitness testimony, something that's practically necessary if you want to keep the attention of a reader with my less-than-working knowledge of socialism and/or libertarianism.

4) As a whole, I admire AK Press—as an anarchist publishing house it's seemingly indefatigable, one that's done an incredible amount to resuscitate and reprint old (but still valid and important) texts and collections and make them available to a new readership. At the same time, like many of their titles, I wouldn't suggest this one for the layperson just getting into the topic—at times Brinton's writing is incredibly stiff, and there are internal references to so many other texts and authors (the majority of them dating back to the ‘60s or earlier) that it's easy to become overwhelmed. Still, I'd imagine that those with a working knowledge of socialism and libertarianism, and those familiar with Brinton and his output, would be thrilled to have so much of his previously-out-of-print work collected into one book. –Keith Rosson (AK Press, 674-A 23rd Street, Oakland, CA 94612-1163)

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