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IN 1926, HISTORIAN CARTER WOODSON inaugurated “Negro History Week.” Negro History Week bred Black History Month, and Black History Month bred the many diverse “Heritage” months of our American calendar: Women’s History Month, Asian Pacific Heritage Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, and American Indian Heritage Month, to pick just a few. But along the way, the justification for studying history changed.
GIVE THE MAN full points for timing. Released less than a year after the onset in the summer of 2008 of the global economic crisis, and now available on DVD, Michael Mann’s Public Enemies captures perfectly, if unconsciously, the political condition of our time. The film tells the story of John Dillinger, a bank robber who was elevated by the desperation of the Great Depression into an iconic outlaw and an enduring American folk hero. A brilliant filmmaker, Mann must be an economic genius, if not an outright clairvoyant, to have successful­ly planned his film to coincide with this recent summer of American discontent. Or, if this sounds like too much, then certainly Mann was awfully lucky. For otherwise adverse conditions conspired to produce a most recep­tive climate for Public Enemies.
RANDI STORCH’S RED CHICAGO takes to task prevailing caricatures of American Communism during the so-called “Third Period” of the late twenties and early thirties, a period in the history of American Communism frequently criticized for its growing ideological rigidity, its organizational Stalinization, and its ultimate failure to revitalize the flagging world revolution and to check the threat of fascism. Against such views, Storch argues historians have been unfair to the early Chicago Communists, falsely constructing them either as mannequins manipulated by Soviet puppeteers, or else as heroic defenders of the city’s working class, a collection of hyper-romantic organic radicals whose every breath stood in defiance of both employers and the party itself.
IF THE COLOR LINE WAS THE PROBLEM of the American 20th century, then the 20th century did not manage to solve it. De jure segregation ended some forty years ago, and American social norms mostly bar the public expression of racist sentiment or stereotype. Yet by any measure—access to quality healthcare and education, rate of incarceration, etc.—black Americans remain proportionally worse off than their white peers.
KARL KORSCH'S SEMINAL ESSAY “Marxism and Philosophy” (1923) was first published in English, translated by Fred Halliday, in 1970 by Monthly Review Press. In 2008, they reprinted the volume, which also contains some important shorter essays, as part of their new “Classics” series.