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Book Reviews: 'Not a Crime to Be Poor - the Criminalization of Poverty in America', 'A Party With Socialists In It - A History of the Labour Left', & 'The Kronstadt Uprising'

One Law for the poor

'Not a Crime to Be Poor: the Criminalization of Poverty in America'. By Peter Edelman (The New Press $26.95)

In 2010 sixteen-year-old Kalief Browder was charged with stealing a backpack. The judge set bail at $3000, but his family could not afford this. He refused to plead guilty to a crime he had not committed, and so was sent to the notorious Rikers Island jail in New York City. He spent three years there awaiting trial, eight hundred days of this in solitary confinement. He was eventually released (never having been tried, let alone found guilty), but now had severe mental health problems and committed suicide in 2015.

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'.

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