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Vol. 81/No. 31      August 21, 2017

(feature article)

Marxist books presented in Sulaimani, Kurdistan

SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region, Iraq — “If you read these two books, you’ll have a better understanding of the deepening crisis in capitalist politics in the U.S. today I’m sure you’re hearing about,” said Steve Clark, editorial director of Pathfinder Press, at a meeting at the Endese bookstore here July 20. “You’ll find out why the wealthy rulers were taken by surprise by the outcome of the presidential election last November.”

Clark was holding up The Clintons’ Anti-Working-Class Record: Why Washington Fears Working People and Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? Class, Privilege, and Learning Under Capitalism — two new books by Jack Barnes, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party in the United States. At the invitation of Endese owner and manager Hazhar Majeed, who chaired the program, Clark was speaking at a book-signing event to introduce some 100 of Pathfinder’s Marxist titles the store in downtown Sulaimani has recently begun selling. The books are displayed on a large bookshelf in the store.

Noting that this year is the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, Clark said that Pathfinder traces its origins to that victory in October 1917. More specifically, he said, it began with the founding two years later of the Communist Party in the U.S., part of a world organization of parties — the Communist International — that were forged by revolutionary-minded workers seeking to emulate what workers and farmers had done in the former Russian empire.

“There are no recipes, no templates, to bring about revolutionary change. But it’s necessary to understand experiences and lessons from other struggles the world over. That’s why Pathfinder publishes writings and speeches by communist and other revolutionary leaders in their own words,” Clark said. He pointed to books by Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, Vladimir Lenin, and Leon Trotsky; by Barnes, Mary-Alice Waters, James P. Cannon, Farrell Dobbs, Evelyn Reed, and other communist leaders in the U.S., current and past; by Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Malcolm X, West African revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara, and others.

Over the coming year, Clark said, Endese will also be translating 10 titles produced by Pathfinder into Kurdish and publishing them.

Both of the new books I’m focusing on, Clark said, help explain the subtitle of The Clintons’ Anti-Working-Class Record — that is, why the U.S. capitalist rulers fear working people. Under mounting blows to the living standards, job conditions, and human dignity of tens of millions, more and more workers are open to discussing radical changes, including explanations by communist workers of the roots of today’s world capitalist crisis — and revolutionary solutions to it. Down the road, the rulers know, working-class discontent will lead to rising battles in the factories and on the streets.

That fear explains the contempt in the liberal media and among upper middle class and professional layers in the U.S. toward working people, millions of whom voted for Donald Trump in 2016, hoping he’d act on his pledge “to drain the swamp” of capitalist politicians and government bureaucrats. These workers want a change from past administrations, Democratic and Republican, under whom workers’ conditions have grown increasingly intolerable.

The working class, Clark said, is the real target of today’s crusade by big sections of the U.S. rulers to invalidate the 2016 election and indict, convict, or impeach President Trump or those close to him. This includes looking to the political police, the FBI, to criminalize what are really political disputes.

The closing chapter of Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? — “Capitalism, the Working Class, and the Transformation of Learning” — presents a course toward overcoming what’s faced by workers and the oppressed today. It explains the communist approach to education — to learning as a lifetime activity, Clark said. To get there, Barnes explains, requires preparing working people “for the battle to throw off the self-image the rulers teach us, and to recognize that we are capable of taking power and organizing society.”

During the discussion, a young woman asked, “Are you saying, in face of governments that have enormous wealth and big armies, that education is the solution to the problems we face? How can that be?”

“That’s not what I’m saying,” Clark responded. “There can only be education worthy of working, creating humanity when working people have made a revolution and taken power out of the hands of the capitalist rulers.”

That’s what workers and farmers did in Cuba nearly 60 years ago, he said, and that’s how education began being transformed there, too. “After taking political power, the July 26 Movement began in 1961 by mobilizing hundreds of thousands of young volunteers to take off the better part of a year to go out to the countryside to teach farmers and rural laborers, the majority women, how to read and write,” Clark said.

After the discussion, participants crowded around a table where Pathfinder books were on sale. Top sellers were Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? Che Guevara Talks to Young People and The Clintons’ Anti-Working-Class Record.  
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