Gruesome Acts of Capitalism, The: by David Lester, introduction by Jean Smith

Jun 04, 2007

Marketed as the “Harper’s Index of the havoc to humanity and the environment caused by global economic inequality,” The Gruesome Acts of Capitalism reads like any other list of facts. But facts in and of themselves are subjective in their interpretation. As with following exchange I had with my Dad.

Me (reading from page 59): Hey Dad, did you know “the U.S. defense budget in 2004 will be $1 billion a day?”

Dad: It’s a good thing Bush won. He’ll be sure to double that.

Me: Touché.

            As the table of contents states, the chapters are “divided by the names of historical figures whose struggles against inequalities are fitting reminders of what is possible.” Unfortunately, boiling down the lives of people like Emma Goldman and Louise Michel to a simple sentence or two hardly seems fair to the individual or the reader. Rudolph Rocker doesn’t even merit a complete sentence: “Bookbinder, editor of the Yiddish newspaper (Arbeiter Freund), labour organizer, theorist on Syndicalism.”

            Staring down on some of these pages only adds to the sense of helplessness anyone concerned about the well being of others may feel. (“In India, it is estimated that more than 5,000 women are killed each year because their in-laws consider their dowries inadequate.” What the fuck am I supposed to do with that?) David Lester does, however, end his book with a listing of websites and organizations where you can find information of fighting back. ( is invaluable to anyone who is careful about who they give their money to.)

            While by no means perfect, all of the book’s royalties do go to the Canadian Centre for the Victims of Torture. It would be well worth the ten dollars to leave a copy on the back of my old man’s toilet tank. He might even learn something. If nothing else, reading that Tom Cruise reportedly made $75 million for Mission: Impossible 2 will keep him regular. –Chris Devlin (Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 201E-121 Osborne St., Winnipeg, MB, R3L 1Y4 Canada)