|Phila Left Book circa 1995|
I have been a member of a socialist reading group for the last 25 years in Philadelphia, which we just call Phila Left Book. We meet once a month in a cafe or restaurant for two hours, and discuss the book or articles of the day. Currently we meet at Manakeesh Cafe and Bakery at 4420 Walnut St in West Philadelphia. We started with four old friends. Our numbers have fluctuated between 5 and 15 over the years. We do not have a political litmus test for members. The books and topics we select reflect the interests of the members. We challenge each others politics and experiences. It is more congenial than graduate school - no papers to write. My continuing socialist education has largely come from our readings and discussion in these years. I haven't affiliated with any left organization since the 1980s, but I feel very attached to my Left Book comrades. I've made new friends. It is also a social support group for us left malcontents. We share our life milestones, medical crises, political activities. We've had two members die during these years which brought us closer together. It is not all politics.
I've assembled a list of books we've read, as best I can remember. I'm sorry we didn't keep a record of our reading. So here is our booklist in random order:
Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Program (1875).
Eric Foner, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery (2010).
Steve Fraser, The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power (2015).
Anton Pannekoek, Worker's Councils (1947).
C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow (1955).
Simone Zelitch, Waveland (2015).
Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940).
Manning Marable, Malcolm X: A Life of Revolution (2011).
Jack London, The Iron Heel (1908).
Seymour Martin Lipset and Gary Marks, It Didn't Happen Here: Why Socialism Failed in the United States (2000).
Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010).
Michael A. Lebowitz, Build It Now: Socialism for the Twenty-First Century (2006).
Chris Hedges, Death of the Liberal Class (2011).
Albert Soboul, A Short History of the French Revolution 1789-1799 (1977).
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto (1848).
Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014).
Paul Mattick Jr., Business as Usual: The Economic Crisis and the Failure of Capitalism (2011).
Maurice Brinton, Paris: May 1968 (1968).
George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia (1938).
Michael Heinrich, An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx's Capital (2012).
Ellen Meiksins Wood, The Origins of Capitalism (1999).
Max Shachtman, Race and Revolution (2003).
Antonio A. Santucci, Antonio Gramsci (2010).
David McNally, Against the Market: Political Economy, Market Socialism and the Marxist Critique (1993).
Immanuel Ness and Dario Azzellini, Ours to Master and to Own: Workers' Control from the Commune to the Present (2011).
Eric Foner, A Short History of Reconstruction (2015).
Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks (1971).
Frederick Engels, The Origin of the Family Private Property and the State (1884).
Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society (1964).
Peter Singer, Hegel: A Very Short Introduction (2001).
Joseph Stalin, The Economic Problems Of Socialism in the USSR (1952).