Submitted by Dave Zink.
The first book I’ll review here is City Builders and Vandals in Our Age: Articles and Essays on Socialism, by Caleb T. Maupin, 2019.
In this compilation, Maupin takes a long view of history, from the birth of civilization, through the Greek and Roman Empires, the emergence of feudalism, capitalism, and socialism to modern times. Along the way, he sheds light on the Paris Commune, China and the Belt and Road Initiative, Russia, the Middle East, and how capitalism, imperialism, and militarism are all tied together today.
Maupin describes “City Builders” in his introductory essay: “Throughout human history, two distinct trends have been present among us. There have always been innovators, scientists, unifiers, [and others] who push civilization toward a higher state of being, driven by an inner flame of creativity and boldness.”
Who are the “vandals”? “City-builders have always stood in opposition to the efforts of vandals: hate-mongers, ignorance-celebrators, lynch-mob leaders, persecutors, snake-oil salesmen, bullies, [etc.]” who are forces for division and profit from tearing down what others have built.
Today’s “vandals”? How about health insurance corporations dead-set against a common-sense Single-Payer system that would diminish their profits and power? Proud-Boy Republicans who seem intent on turning the USA toward full-tilt fascism?
Maupin’s essays cover a lot of ground. He reveals why Julius Caesar was executed by the Roman oligarchy and looks into the deep roots of American socialism and the origins of the “New Left”. Throughout this book, you’ll find interesting history you probably didn’t get in school.
In his essay titled “Native Americans and the Confusion in American Politics”, Maupin writes about the genocide against indigenous people: “not as a crime to be blamed on all whites, but as a crime of capitalism… Exposing the crimes of this international economic order is not an attack on workers who happen to be white. On the contrary, opposing capitalism and fighting for the establishment of governments that represent the majority of people, rather than the millionaire elite, is in the interest of all Americans, of all backgrounds.”
The second book I’ll talk about is We Are City Builders: The Center for Political Innovation (CPI) Education Manual, 2021. You’ll find some real gems in this anthology. I really enjoyed “The Parable of the Water Tank”, by Edward Bellamy, “Why Socialism?”, by Albert Einstein, a “Letter to America Workers” by Lenin, and speeches by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Vice-President Henry A. Wallace.
Traditionally, Henry Wallace would have been re-nominated as the Democratic Party’s vice-presidential candidate for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s unprecented 4th run for president in the 1944 campaign. Wallace was clearly the most popular choice for vice president among Democrats, and many journalists predicted that he would win renomination. Roosevelt, in failing health, sent a public letter to the Democratic Party convention chairman saying, “I personally would vote for [Wallace’s] renomination if I were a delegate to the convention”. If Wallace had become president after FDR’s death, the USA would probably be much better off today. Its a tragedy of history that anti-New Deal backstabbers succeeded in getting Harry Truman onto the ticket instead.
These are just a few of the threads Maupin weaves together in the CPI’s Educational Manual. After each section of, there are thought-provoking questions for study and group discussions.
In these inspiring and optimistic books, Maupin lays out where we are politically, how we got here, and points the way forward. You may not agree with him on some things, but he presents ideas and asks questions that merit consideration by any who favor transformative progressive change.