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Book Reviews: 'Capitalism’s Contradictions', 'Lenin on Cooperatives - & Other Articles on Marxism, Philosophy and Society', & 'The Vest Pocket Kodak & the First World War'

Breakdown theory

'Capitalism’s Contradictions. Studies in economic theory before and after Marx'. By Henryk Grossman (Haymarket Paperbacks. Chicago)

For a long while it was only by reputation that Grossman was known in the English-speaking world as a collapse of capitalism theorist, as his 1929 book The Law of Accumulation and Breakdown of the Capitalist System was not available in English translation until 1992, though Paul Mattick had publicised his theory in the 1930s. Grossman was an admirer of state capitalist Russia even under Stalin and died in 1950 in East Germany.

Book Reviews: 'Weapons of Math Destruction', ' The Death of Homo Economicus', & ' Comment je suis devenu marxiste'

Pluses and Minuses

'Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy', by Cathy O’Neil (Penguin. £9.99)

Computers may hold massive amounts of information about individuals, and can process this information to come to decisions which affect people’s lives. But it is often unclear what the basis is for the programs that do this processing, and their consequences can often be quite dire. The mathematical basis of the processing leads O’Neil to call them ‘weapons of math destruction’ (abbreviated, of course, as WMDs). Her book mainly relates to developments in the US, though that does not excuse a reference to ‘the British city of Kent’.

Book Reviews: 'Wilhelm Reich and the Function of the Orgasm', & 'What is Critical Social Research, Vol. II'

Mass Psychology

'Wilhelm Reich and the Function of the Orgasm, Short Biography, Book Reviews, Quotes, and Comments'. By Peter Fritz Walter

Socialists know Reich as one of those who have tried to combine Marx and Freud, though he was always more Freud than Marx. In the 1930s he was a member of the German Communist Party and wrote The Mass Psychology of Fascism in which he argued that the type of sexual repression that people in Germany had suffered in childhood had contributed to making them prepared to support an authoritarian ideology like fascism. Later, in the 1960s this pamphlet enjoyed a popularity as if it had been entitled 'The Mass Psychology of Capitalism'.

Pamphlet Review: 'The State and the Socialist Revolution'

Marxist refutation

'Why the Russian Revolution Wasn't a Socialist Revolution - Julius Martov's The State and the Socialist Revolution'. The Socialist Party. 100 pages. £2.

The Socialist Party has reprinted this classic Marxist refutation of Lenin's distortions of Marx's views on the state.

Lenin, who considered himself a Marxist and did in fact know his Marx, was concerned to justify in Marxist terms the Bolshevik coup and subsequent dictatorial rule in Russia. He claimed that Marx had advocated that the state should be 'smashed' in an armed uprising, that 'dictatorship of the proletariat' meant the dictatorship of a vanguard party acting on behalf of the proletariat, and he justified the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly on the grounds that the soviets were a higher form of democracy.

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