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Wobblies and Zapatistas: Alternative action

Alternative action

Wobblies and Zapatistas, by Staughton Lynd and Andrej Grubacic (PM Press), 300 pp.

Wobblies and Zapatistas recounts a radical history and connects activist political movements and generations

Global capitalism has suffered a major blow in the past year, the largest economic turmoil since the 1930s fuelling political discussions on possible alternatives to the current economic model. For those seeking alternatives to mainstream historical narratives, Wobblies and Zapatistas: Conversations on Anarchism, Marxism and Radical History is an important read. Spanning from the Cold War to the 1990s expansion of market-driven free-trade policies, this engaging book offers critical historical reflections on events that have shaped contemporary politics.

Based on expansive conversations between Staughton Lynd, a celebrated American activist and author, and Andrej Grubacic, a Serbian anarchist scholar currently living in the U.S., the book bridges disconnected grassroots political generations to present a discussion between the old left in North America, defined by the Civil Rights struggle and the movement against the war in Vietnam, and the young, often anarchist-inspired generation of political activists shaped by major protests against corporate globalization, such as those seen in Quebec City in 2001.

Uniting these generations is a tall challenge, especially as many ’60s radicals in North America now walk the halls of power, but Wobblies and Zapatistas steps away from doctrine or dogma to focus on human stories of struggle and communication through conversation.

The U.S. civil rights struggle is presented here through Lynd’s fascinating reflections on his involvement in the grassroots efforts that reshaped race relations. Lynd, a living contemporary of Martin Luther King, directed the Mississippi Freedom Schools, and was integrally involved in the anti-Vietnam War effort in the U.S., speaking at the first March on Washington in 1965 and travelling to Hanoi that same year for a fact-finding mission in defiance of U.S. travel restrictions.

Equally fascinating is the conversation on solidarity movements and networks that emerged in the U.S. during the Cold War as U.S. President Ronald Regan funnelled billions of dollars into proxy wars in Central America that resulted in hundreds of thousands of lives lost in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Parallels are drawn in Wobblies and Zapatistas between the solidarity delegations to Central America in the ’80s and present-day activists participating in visits to the West Bank through networks such as the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) or delivering aid to the besieged population in Gaza.

A radical publication in substance and format, Wobblies and Zapatistas presents an alternative history of social movements in North America that makes historical events come alive on the page and connect to today’s activist efforts for change.

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