This video from Kansas in the USA says about itself:
21 December 2010
For his Winter Reading 2011 Suggested Read, Bluford Library Tech Bernie Norcott-Mahany brings you The Iron Heel by Jack London — yes, the same Jack London that wrote The Call of the Wild. Considered the first dystopian novel of the 20th Century, The Iron Heel packs many surprises. Get Bernie’s take on the book, and find out how you can take part in Adult Winter Reading at the Kansas City Public Library.
By Robert Clive Turnbull in Britain:
Jack London: A warning for our time
Monday 1st September 2014
ROBERT CLIVE TURNBULL asks what lessons we can learn from the classic dystopian novel The Iron Heel
THE radical socialist publisher Charles Kerr of Chicago once famously said that there could be no educated socialists without socialist books.
In an age of so-called mass literacy where socialist ideas are increasingly becoming the talk of the chattering classes once again — witness Thomas Piketty and his book Capital — what can an earlier generation of socialist writers teach us about class struggle and the methods needed to combat the neoliberal onslaught?
Jack London (1876-1916) is part of that radical tradition of writers on the US left.
Like his contemporary John Reed, London worked hard, played hard and died young.
His novels, including Call of the Wild, White Fang, People of the Abyss, The Iron Heel and the autobiographical Martin Eden, describe a world in which people are struggling for meaning and purpose in the face of overwhelming hostility.
In the Iron Heel, for example, London describes the struggle of Edward and Avis Everhard and their battle with the Iron Heel — or the Oligarchy.
The “Iron Heel” are the major trusts or corporations which crush all competition and in the process condemn much of the human race to virtual serfdom.
Does this sound familiar? It’s sobering to realise that London wrote this novel in 1908 and his vision of the future has come very close to being realised.
For the Oligarchy of 1908, we could just as easily substitute many of the leading international conglomerates of 2014. It’s a frightening prospect.
In much the same way that international capital sought to buy off the working class after WWII with higher wages, consumerism and free education, the Iron Heel describes a situation in which the Oligarchy maintain power through what they call a labour caste and through the actions of mercenaries.
These are, in effect, trade union leaders who claim to be representing the working class but in reality are in the pay of the Oligarchy.
Again does this sound all too familiar? There are numerous examples that could be cited.
The actions of Labour MP and National Union of Railwaymen leader Jimmy Thomas and others during the general strike for example, or Neil Kinnock’s disgraceful decision not to back the miners in 1984-85.
At the time London wrote the Iron Heel, Samuel Gompers was in charge of the American Federation of Labour, which sought to work within the existing system.
Again this is exactly what has happened with regard to the so-called Labour Party and its representatives on the TUC and other bodies.
In many cases labour movement leaders have been co-opted by the very forces that they were originally set up to oppose, and this situation needs to change. So what can we do?
The working class of 1908 is not the same as the working class of 2014 and yet we face an unparalleled onslaught on our wages, living conditions, pay and pensions, the likes of which we have never seen before.
I want to suggest that the fightback has to begin with education — in the same way that Kerr referred to.
That fightback has to begin in schools, in colleges, in community workplaces, in organisations such as the People’s Assembly and others — but more than anything it needs the left to be united.
There is no scope for the petty doctrinal divisions that have tortured the British left for generations.
In the end the only people that can save the working class are the working class themselves.
As Noah Ablett famously remarked in 1909, “if the education of the workers is to square with the ultimate object of the workers — social emancipation — then it is necessary that such educational institutions be in the hands of the workers. Beware of the sounding brass and the tinkling cymbal of ruling-class professed sympathies with labour.”
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