How can I build up a library about working-class struggle?

By Seth Galinsky
July 6, 2020

“What book do you recommend?”

That’s a question heard many times over the last several weeks as fellow protesters against police brutality looked at the wide range of titles by Socialist Workers Party leaders and other revolutionary fighters on party literature tables.

If you are reading this article, perhaps you are one of the many new Militant  subscribers who had never been to a protest before cops brutally killed George Floyd in Minneapolis. But the cruelty of those eight minutes plus that cop Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck spurred you to action. 

For those who have decided that you can no longer just accept “that’s the way it is” — whether it’s police brutality and racism or the attempts of the capitalist rulers to put their crisis on our backs — here’s some suggestions for beginning to put together a library that will help you understand the roots of the oppressive conditions and exploitation we face and what can be done to end them.

Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power  by Socialist Workers Party National Secretary Jack Barnes should be near the top of your list. And don’t skip the introduction! That’s where Barnes explains that we live under the dictatorship of capital and that the ruling families will use “whatever degree of state power is necessary to defend and advance their own class interests.” 

That’s why, Barnes says, “the revolutionary conquest of state power by a politically class-conscious and organized vanguard of the working class — millions strong — is necessary.”  

Is Socialist Revolution in the US Possible?  by SWP leader Mary-Alice Waters. Possible, she says, but not inevitable. That depends on us. 

Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? Class, Privilege, and Learning Under Capitalism, also by Barnes. How the capitalist class utilizes a layer of well-paid professionals, and their “education” system, to convince us that we can’t be trusted to know what’s in our own interests and to follow orders. And how in the coming battles working people will begin to see what we are capable of as we transform ourselves and our attitudes toward life, work and each other. 

The Turn to Industry: Forging a Proletarian Party  by Barnes explains “the working-class program, composition, and course of conduct of the only kind of party worthy of the name ‘revolutionary’ in the imperialist epoch.” 

Tribunes of the People and the Trade Unions  with articles by Karl Marx, V.I. Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Farrell Dobbs, and Barnes. This book takes up why strengthening and transforming the unions so that they aid every social and political movement in the interest of the complete emancipation of the working class is central to building a revolutionary party. 

Red Zone: Cuba and the Battle Against Ebola in West Africa  by Enrique Ubieta Gómez. A lively account of the actions of more than 250 volunteer Cuban health workers in fighting the Ebola epidemic in 2014-15. The book describes the actions by the kind of men and women only a deep-going socialist revolution can produce. 

After you read these you will want to check out more books published by Pathfinder Press, such as Cosmetics, Fashions, and the Exploitation of Women  by Joseph Hansen, Evelyn Reed and Mary-Alice Waters; Cuba and the Coming American Revolution, by Barnes; and the new edition of The Jewish Question  by Abram Leon, on the historical roots of the fight to end anti-Semitism once and for all. 

Visit or see page 4 for the distributor nearest you — or look for our book table at the next protest you go to.