We Need Your Help
Military V. Health
Right V. NEA, Again
GAY & LESBIAN COMMUNITY NOTES
MJ's Queer Family
You, Me & the SPP
Schwartz's Solidarity Stories
Gordon's Anarchy Alive
Yates's Working Class
Rich's Human Eye
SCENES OF RESISTANCE
Coups, UNASUR, U.S.
Hug Them While They Last
Nowhere To Fall
Hoodboy on Pakistan
Ramiro on Drug War
Zaps - 10-09
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
In and Out of the Working Class
Book by Michael D. Yates; Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2009, 170 pp.
Michael D. Yates, a leading radical political economist in the U.S., focuses on economics and politics from a working-class view. This stance made him as popular as wet socks on a cold, windy day at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. From 1969 to 2001 he swam against the current there as a professor of economics. How does his life experience connect with readers today? Some answers may emerge from the author's new book In and Out of the Working Class.
Yates writes poignantly of working people, such as himself, in households, schools, and workplaces. Two pieces of fiction bookend his collection. In the first, a young boy wrestles with the siren call of gambling. The narrative voice is vivid. Tension builds as the stakes rise in bowling alleys and pool halls. A resolution to the character's risk-taking surprises. In the final story, an adult seeks fortune at the race track. Yates's fiction illustrates the hardscrabble realities of working-class lives that propel some people to gamble what scant resources they have.
Back in Yates's working-class community of Ford City in western Pennsylvania, a plate glass factory offered union employment. There, intersections of class, gender, and race infused his coming of age after WWII. Then, labor unions were strong and working people such as Yates and his family shared in their productivity gains. In the nonfiction pieces, he animates the ebbs and flows of these and the less prosperous times to follow though the lens of his parents, grandmother, friends, students, and coworkers. He gains employment as a factory laborer, then becomes a college professor of economics. Later, disillusioned, he leaves the academy to co-edit Monthly Review, write books, and travel around the U.S.
Yates doesn't forget his roots, but also does not romanticize the working class. Instead, he writes about its meanings. They range from finding and keeping employment to the psychic price involved. To this end, he recounts efforts, in and out of labor unions, to address the built-in lack of equality in capitalist America, rife with divisions of gender and skin color.
It is a remarkable route he took to becoming a radical. An essay on his performing in a minstrel show as a young teen makes for painful reading. Under a teacher's direction, white male youth blacken their faces and mock African Americans in dress and speech. Clearly, Yates comes from a place of racial intolerance, but learned from the experience. On the labor education front, at one point Yates was the lead researcher with the United Farm Workers. Oppressed farm workers and their allies forge first-ever contracts with growers and packers. Tragically, such forces roll back these gains over time. Yates unpacks the harsh realities of these lessons.
As a new economics professor, Yates immersed himself in the economics of Adam Smith and David Ricardo. Getting his legs in this new post, Yates wrote over 1,000 pages of lecture notes for the 5 classes he taught. In the meantime, Yates recounts hometown friends coming back from the jungles of southeast Asia as broken shells of their former selves. This deepened Yates's questioning of and acting against the guardians of the establishment. He writes of the price he paid for that opposition in alienation from fellow professors and college administrators. Yet he would do it again in a heartbeat.
As the black freedom and anti-Vietnam War movements grew during the 1960s, he discovered radical economic theory, notably that of Karl Marx. His critique of capitalist production as a pursuit of wealth through the logic of class exploitation moved to the top of Yates's list of intellectual influences. It has stayed there since, which is not to say that he gives all like-minded radicals a free pass. His essays drip with criticism of self and other rebels.
In and Out of the Working Class opens a window to social realities for readers facing the climate, food, fuel, home foreclosure, health care, and jobs crises, proof that writers with a consciousness forged in struggles can inspire as they voice alternative views of what is possible and offer radical ways to think and act.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.