Historian of the Left

Art & Film & Music

Signs of Subversion

If somebody would’ve told me that in 2018 I’d see a magical realist film comedy about a labor struggle in Oakland, well, I’d say that sounds just about right. Boots Riley’s hot new film Sorry to Bother You exposes the absurdity of America’s racial capitalist regime. It critically portrays the modern workplace, while also giving us a glimpse of what it may take to radically transform it. Check out my […]

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The Partisan’s Lament

From eastern Ukraine to an Oregon wildlife refuge, right-wing militias have lately expropriated the memory of antifascist resistance and partisan struggle. But we would do well to remember the progressive and emancipatory potential of that history. Below I’ve translated a famous song of the French Resistance, “La Complainte du partisan” (1943). Here’s a beautiful version by the Russian-born French singer Anna Marly, who composed the song’s original music in 1943 (the lyrics date […]

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A Poem for Dark Times

We surely live in dark times. This afternoon I remembered a poem that Bertolt Brecht wrote in the late 1930s. It was called “An die Nachgeborenen,” and it aimed not to console, but to provoke. Below is my loose translation from the German. (Here’s a recording of Brecht reading the original.) To Future Generations– I –Really, I live in dark times!Innocent words are foolish. An unfurrowed browIndicates apathy. He who laughsJust […]

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“Inside Job,” or, Our Financial Institutions and the Immoral People Who Run Them

Charles Ferguson’s documentary film Inside Job (2010) tells the story of the 2007/08 financial collapse, its causes, and its consequences. Through a series of interviews with key players and commentators (including Nouriel Roubini, George Soros, Barney Frank, Christine Lagarde, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Paul Volcker, and Eliot Spitzer) and a careful analysis of publicly available records, Ferguson diagnoses the American and global financial system with chronic greed, corruption, immorality, and even cocaine […]

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