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Murdered by Capitalism: A Memoir of 150 Years of Life and Death on the American Left (Nation Books) Paperback


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Product Details

  • Series: Nation Books
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books (May 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560255781
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560255789
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,375,248 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

To hear Ross, who has covered Mexico for Noticias Aliadas (Lima), Texas Observer, San Francisco Bay Guardian and "other screwball publications," tell it, the American Left is dead and buried. Fittingly, he sets his history/dialogue in a graveyard populated by the ghosts of its heroes. Here lies E.B. Schnaubelt, Emma Goldman, Lucy Parsons, Sacco and Vanzetti and a host of others whose radical lifestyles and actions left their mark on those Communists, anarchists and revolutionaries who saw America in more utopian terms than the capitalists they fought. Soaked by alcohol and salved by drugs, Ross, who has made a life out of dissent, converses with the dead (and dying from memory), lamenting the Left's losses, its infighting, its failures and the occasional victory. But Ross stumbles in his rhetorical excesses and in his efforts to tie together so many disparate rebels and outlaws—from Goldman and Fidel to the Weathermen and Civil Rights leaders. Strictly for members of the choir looking for a good historical primer on the American Left, the book nevertheless entertains with its pugnacious language, Hunter Thompson-levels of chemical consumption and a conviction that no revolution can succeed without a sense of humor. Ross manages to salvage positivity from beneath all this forgotten death, and that's about all the solace the book offers for the true believer.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"[E]ntertains with Hunter Thompson-levels of chemical consumption and a conviction that no revolution can succeed without a sense of humor." -- Publishers Weekly, May 10, 2004

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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I give this book a shining five stars and rate it a recommended read.
John Grimsrud
It's true this book is funny, but it is also very moving as it traces the more pugnacious side of US Left History.
STANDARD SCHAEFER
This book never descends into mere analysis of the contending trends.
David W. Ewing

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By STANDARD SCHAEFER on June 21, 2004
Format: Paperback
It's true this book is funny, but it is also very moving as it traces the more pugnacious side of US Left History. You get a real sense of the actors in this drama, their personalities as well as the effect of those personalities on the unfolding of rival left "organizations." In some ways, this is a real People's History as it contains and dramatizes all the contradictions of the various movements-Stalinist, Maoist, Anarchist, etc. Ross is much more sympathetic to violent resistance than Howard Zinn is, and his running down the forgotten violence by both right and left is meant to remind us that being left can't be being in a vacuum. Pacifism, for example, didn't bring on the 8hr work day. Most importantly, it reveals that the life of a political outsider and activist need not be sheer drudgery. Though it is struggle, Ross expresses a revolutionary joy. A good primer about left history, an excellent memoir of struggle. Ross has a muscular, but finely honed prose style. A joy to read.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By David W. Ewing on March 10, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The great contribution of this popularly written history of American radicalism is the joyful abandonment John Ross brings to slamming the annoying pacifism and political correctness of today's anemic Left movement. Yes folks, fighting imperialism and blowing it to bits can be fun! It's supposed to be fun. This bold idea is the premise of Murdered by Capitalism. Ross captures the spirit of the working class heroes who slugged it out, toe to toe, with the capitalist villains of American history. (Not the "corporate" villains PLEASE!) In addition to enjoying lives of adventure and freedom, people like Lucy Parsons, Eugene Debs and Big Bill Haywood kicked butt and made breakthroughs that bettered the lives of all working people for decades to come. This is partisan writing. Pacifism and political correctness are middle-class ideologies that have infected the Left. The working class must break out of these limits if it is to ever mount a fight for human liberation, for freedom, and for political power. Ross wants to blow these middle-class prejudices away. And his book succeeds in doing so. The book presents the entire history of the American left since the Eight Hour Day movement of the 1880s. That's a lot of history-and a lot of contending ideologies-to cover well. Ross tries to represent the disputes fairly, and this book can serve as an introduction to the disputations that roil the adherents of anarchism, syndicalism and Leninism down to the present day. But Ross's own untamed anarcho-communist ideology comes through, in all its poetic fury, on every page. This book never descends into mere analysis of the contending trends. Explaining our past mistakes and finding the way forward is, of course, absolutely necessary if we are going to win.Read more ›
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Robert S. Shields on July 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
John Ross is a fascinating and funny storyteller. The Publisher's Weekly dweeb who dis-ed this excellent book must have no soul. Ross might be that guy you've seen by the roadside and dismissed as a homeless drunk, however this homeless drunk tells a story everyone should know, and maybe understand. The enemy is revealed, and also the reason it is so hard to defeat.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By P. J. Sullivan on February 6, 2009
Format: Paperback
John Ross likes to visit cemeteries and chat up the bones of fallen working class heroes. Their surreal conversations cover decades of American labor history.

E. B. "Eddie" Schnaubelt was murdered by capitalism in 1913. That's what it says on his grave stone in Trinidad, California. He tells Ross how he came to California from Chicago, on the lam from the police roundup that followed the Haymarket bombing in 1886. He insists that neither he nor his brother Rudolph was the bomb thrower.

When Schnaubelt clams up on him, Ross descends into hell to interview President McKinley, then proceeds to a boneyard outside Chicago to chat up the remains of the Haymarket martyrs. Emma Goldman, Big Bill Haywood, Joe Hill, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Sacco and Vanzetti, William Z. Foster, and others join the conversation, discussing the pros and cons of communism and other isms. It makes for a lively discussion and even stirs the bones of Senator Joe McCarthy, who butts in all the way from Wisconsin!

John Ross is a long-time radical, beat poet, and freelance foreign correspondent. His book is a zany and raucous historical memoir of epic proportions. It often lapses into poetic imagery. It is pugnacious and outrageous at times, and always unequivocally on the side of working people against their capitalist tormenters. But it is not non-violent. There is even a warning on the cover that "This book contains graphic scenes of revolutionary violence." Ross condones that violence--if it comes from the Left. But otherwise, a good read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Brian Griffith on April 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
Feeling pretty goulish himself after 50 years of radical politics and hard drinking, Ross communes with a host of dead leftists in their graves. He records their various testimonies, mixes in his own debauched tale, and strings together a partly fictional parade of All-American revolutionary skeletons. With lapses of self-ridicule, Ross and his dead give free vent to self-righteous defiance against almost every known authority. They veer over the edge of legal speech, paying tribute to the old anarchist dream of a bomb for every president. Ross upholds the American right to bear bombs, but at some point in the 1960s realizes, ``I was 32 and had never thrown a bomb.``

Feeling that bombing is a central aspect of the American psyche, Ross reviles the government`s bombing campaigns, and tries to separate good bombs from bad bombs: ``In America, the bombs come in all flavors -- racist bombs, revolutionary communist bombs, union bombs, Capitalist bombs, criminal bombs, and just plain old grudge bombs.``

I enjoyed the banter of semi-sane idealists over the past 7 or 8 generations. But in terms of the means etc., I had some difficulty separating one bomber from the next.
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