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Spring 2014 Leader Letter: Faculty Book Shelf

Wed, Feb 19, 2014

Dr. John Holst has an eclectic reading list over the winter months.

Stout, N. (2013). One day in December: Celia Sánchez and the Cuban Revolution. New York: Monthly Review.

Celia Sánchez is the missing actor of the Cuban Revolution. Although not as well known in the English-speaking world as Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, Sánchez played a pivotal role in launching the revolution and administering the revolutionary state. She joined the clandestine 26th of July Movement and went on to choose the landing site of the Granma and fight with the rebels in the Sierra Maestra. She collected the documents that would form the official archives of the revolution, and, after its victory, launched numerous projects that enriched the lives of many Cubans, from parks to literacy programs to helping develop the Cohiba cigar brand. All the while, she maintained a close relationship with Fidel Castro that lasted until her death in 1980.

The product of 10 years of original research, this biography draws on interviews with Sánchez’s friends, family and comrades in the rebel army, along with countless letters and documents. Biographer Nancy Stout was initially barred from the official archives, but, in a remarkable twist, was granted access by Fidel Castro himself, impressed as he was with Stout’s project and aware that Sánchez deserved a worthy biography. This is the extraordinary story of an extraordinary woman who exemplified the very best values of the Cuban Revolution: selfless dedication to the people, courage in the face of grave danger, and the desire to transform society. (Review retrieved from http://monthlyreview.org/press/books/cl3171/)

Guevara, E. (2013). Diary of a Combatant: From the Sierra Maestra to Santa Clara, Cuba, 1956-1958. Melbourne: Ocean Press.

The publication of this title by Ocean Sur in Spanish in July 2011 provoked considerable international attention (including CNN). This never-before-published diary (comprising a dozen small notebooks) Ernesto Che Guevara kept during the guerrilla war in Cuba when he joined the struggle to overthrow the Batista dictatorship that led to the 1959 revolution has now been meticulously transcribed by his widow, Aleida March.

Why did it take more than fifty years for this diary to be published? Maybe because of some caustic comments Che makes in his usual brutally frank style. Maybe it was felt appropriate to wait until Fidel Castro had produced his own memoirs (now published by Ocean Press as The Strategic Victory).

In launching the book in Havana in July 2011, editor María del Carmen Ariet marked that it was "never clear whether or not Che wanted these diaries published" as he had reworked several pieces into his famous Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War, on which Steven Soderbergh based part one of his epic movie Che, starring Benicio Del Toro.

Nevertheless, all Che's diaries – from his early Motorcycle Diaries and its sequel, Latin America Diaries, through to his last diary from Bolivia – are extraordinary examples of his literary gift and his political incisiveness, in terms of his personal reflections, his criticisms and self-criticism, and his observations about others and events.

Other features of this new book are 58 unpublished photos from Che's personal archive and unpublished letters (including correspondence between Che and Fidel), an index and extensive glossary.

(Review/Summary retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Diary-Combatant-Ernesto-Che-Guevara/dp/0987077945)

LeBlanc, P. & Yate, M. D. (2013). A freedom budget for all Americans: Recapturing the promise of the Civil Rights Movement in the struggle for economic justice today. New York: Monthly Review.

While the Civil Rights Movement is remembered for efforts to end segregation and secure the rights of African Americans, the larger economic vision that animated much of the movement is often overlooked today. That vision sought economic justice for every person in the United States, regardless of race. It favored production for social use instead of profit, social ownership, and democratic control over major economic decisions. The document that best captured this vision was the Freedom Budget for All Americans: Budgeting Our Resources, 1966-1975, To Achieve Freedom from Want published by the A. Philip Randolph Institute and endorsed by a virtual ‘who’s who’ of U.S. left liberalism and radicalism.

Now, two of today’s leading socialist thinkers return to the Freedom Budget and its program for economic justice. Paul Le Blanc and Michael D. Yates explain the origins of the Freedom Budget, how it sought to achieve “freedom from want” for all people, and how it might be re-imagined for our current moment. Combining historical perspective with clear-sighted economic proposals, the authors make a concrete case for reviving the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement and building the society of economic security and democratic control envisioned by the movement’s leaders – a struggle that continues to this day.

(Review retrieved from http://monthlyreview.org/press/books/pb3607/)

For a book review essay, Holst is reading about Antonio Gramsci (22 January 1891 –27 April 1937) who was an Italian writer, politician, political theorist, philosopher, sociologist and linguist. He was a founding member and onetime leader of the Communist Party of Italy and was imprisoned by Benito Mussolini's Fascist regime.

Gramsci was one of the most important Marxist thinkers in the 20th century. He is a notable figure within modern European thought and his writings analyze culture and political leadership. He is known for his theory of cultural hegemony, which describes how states use cultural institutions to maintain power in capitalist societies.

Coutinho, C. N. (2012). Gramsci's political thought. Leiden, The Netherlands, Brill.

Santucci, A. A. (2010). Antonio Gramsci. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Srivastava, N., & Bhattacharya, B. (Eds.). (2012). The postcolonial Gramsci. New York: Routledge.

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