“The communists disdain to conceal their views” (Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 1848)
I am James Robb, a communist at large. For most of my adult life I have been an industrial worker. For twenty-five years I worked on the production line in meat packing and car assembly plants, and in diverse other industries, from fish processing to carpet to biscuits to leather tanning. In recent years I have been a high school teacher and part-time scribbler. My first novel, The Chain, was published last year.
In my youth I was won to the materialist conception of history, and still regard it as one of the most useful tools for unpicking the knotty problems of history and politics. For all but a few of my 56 years, I have lived in New Zealand. The blog will thus have a certain bias towards New Zealand politics and history, without, I hope, the slightest trace of patriotism.
While discussion of working class politics and history will form the central thread of this blog, the struggle for working class emancipation touches every aspect of life in capitalist society, so there will be some digressions into the related worlds of reading and writing, nature and science, farming and fishing, bourgeois culture and thought, and anything else that might take my interest. I address myself in the first place towards those who sense the deepening crisis of capitalist society, and who look to the lessons of two hundred years of working class struggle for answers.
The headline image is a detail from a mural painted in 1932-33 by the great Mexican muralist Diego Rivera in the Detroit Institute of Arts. That industrial workers should be the subject of a work of art is unusual enough in itself; even rarer that they should be portrayed without sentimentalism, without condescension, without pity. Rivera’s workers are not just oppressed and exploited, they are also dignified, confident, creative, and bound by solidarity. Rivera’s workers think and fight. My goal is to write this blog in the same spirit.
I invite questions, criticisms, corrections of fact, and discussion of the ideas I put forward here. To the best of my ability I will respond.