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New Media We Recommend

February 10, 2011

Below is a list of new materials that we have read/watched in recent weeks. The comments are not a “review” of the material, instead sort of an endorsement of ideas and investigations that can provide solid analysis and even inspiration in the struggle for change. All these books are available at The Bloom Collective, so check them out and stimulate your mind.

Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, The UFW, and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century, by Randy Shaw – Beyond the Fields not only is an excellent investigation into the tactics and strategies of the United Farm Workers (UFW), it provides some interesting analysis on the impact that the farmworker organizing had on other social justice struggles. After Shaw provides readers with an organizational history of the UAW he follows the work of organizers who got their start in farmworker organizing and ended up being involved in other civil rights struggles, electoral campaigns and the current immigration rights movement. The book provides numerous examples of how past movements can influence current movements.

Taking on the Trust: The Epic Battle of Ida Tarbell and John D. Rockefeller, by Steve Weinberg – Taking on the Trust should be required reading for anyone who claims to practice journalism. What Weinberg provides for the reader is a compelling account of how one of the most powerful men every in the history of the US was challenged by a woman who refused to submit to the traditional gender roles of her day. Ida Tarbel practices the kind of journalism we rarely see today, journalism that takes on power. Weinberg also talks about the controlled rage style of journalism that Tarbel practiced. Her writing on the Standard Oil Company led to the federal government’s dismantling of the Rockefeller oil monopoly.

Dispersing Power: Social Movements as Anti-State Forces, by Raul Zibechi – This, Raúl Zibechi’s first book translated into English, is an historical analysis of social struggles in Bolivia and the forms of community power instituted by that country’s indigenous Aymara. Dispersing Power, like the movements it describes, explores new ways of doing politics beyond the state, gracefully mapping the “how” of revolution, offering valuable lessons to activists and new theoretical frameworks for understanding how social movements can and do operate independently of state-centered models for social change. An important book for anyone who wants to explore how social movements outside of the US interact with political parties and electoral politics.

Citizen King (DVD) – The story begins on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963, when a 34-year-old preacher galvanized millions with his dream for an America free of racism. It comes to a bloody end almost five years later, on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. Citizen King pushes past the myths that have obscured King’s story to reclaim the history of a people’s leader. Using the personal recollections, diaries, letters, and eyewitness accounts of friends, family, journalists, law enforcement officers and historians, this film brings fresh insights to King’s difficult journey, his charismatic — if at times flawed — leadership, and his truly remarkable impact.



2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 10, 2011 9:31 pm

    I read Beyond the Fields about six months ago–it’s really excellent on a number of levels. The book is worth it alone just for the history it provides of the UFW, and the insight it gives into their strategy decisions. I spent a year organizing with one of the unions that was greatly influenced by the UFW; it was pretty eye-opening to see the roots of so many of our organizing tactics and strategy decisions. I had no idea the massive influence the UFW had on so many progressive organizations today.

    What I also think is extremely insightful is Shaw’s recounting of how the UFW fell apart, as Chavez turned the UFW into an organization that was extremely cult-like. The UFW would have never been as effective of a social justice organization as it was without the extreme dedication of many people in the organization, but that dedication was eventually warped into something that almost resembled Stalinism. This tension between figuring out how to encourage people to be dedicated, committed activists without making the organization top-down and cultish (which eventually leads to self-implosion) is an important question for activists of any kind.

    Definitely worth reading.

  2. Jeff Smith permalink*
    February 10, 2011 10:05 pm

    Thanks for the comments Micah. You are absolutely right on about Shaw’s look at the decline of the UFW. Lessons we all can learn from.

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