Link to an article by Katalina Khoury:
Link to an article by Matt Novak:
Red Star Over Russia is one of the best English-language overviews of the birth and early decades of the Soviet Union. This is primarily a collection of visual materials, presented in large format with high-quality printing/reproduction. There are extensive annotations to contextualize the images, which increases the value of the book tremendously. This is really an essential collection. It is a very nearly necessary supplement to written histories and biographies of the era in question. For instance, the war photographs from the Great Patriotic War (WWII) are quite indescribable, and are, alone, the sorts of things every human being should be exposed to as part of a historical education.
There are, however, a few things to note about this book. King is a Trotskyist. So there is a disproportionate amount of material on Lev (Leon) Trotsky, and essentially no criticisms of Trotsky (such as of his well-documented arrogance). There is also a staunchly anti-Stalinist perspective. While documenting Stalin’s crimes is necessary, readers should be aware that the book is tilted against Stalin (and others) in a typical Troskyist way — without, say, the acknowledgment that many Troskytists have made in recent years that elements of Stalinism were inevitable in the USSR. Anyway, as a book that focuses on visual art, with tangential discussions of the text on propaganda posters and such, readers will have to look elsewhere to lean more about the music and writing over the early Soviet era — like the great writers Andrei Platonov and Mikhail Bulgakov. Moreover, there are a few misleading comments in the book. Take for instance an indication on page 308 that TASS window posters were “hand-painted”. As detailed in Windows on the War, the TASS news agency did release a few window paintings that were free-hand painted on easel, in the manner King implies, but they were very limited in number. More common were (small-scale) reproduced stenciled posters with painterly effects (what today might be called “artisinal” in the West). Although maquettes may have been initially hand-painted, these stencil posters were not free-hand painted. The images on pages 308 and 309 of King’s book are stenciled reproductions (evident by the individual sheets glued together to form the overall image).
The criticisms of this book are all ultimately minor. King’s Trotskyist slant should, however, be noted by readers. Yet King certainly does not hide his outlook, which is commendable. Everyone has an outlook — there is no such thing as “objectivity” in these matters.
Link to David Wineberg’s review of Chris Knight‘s book Decoding Chomsky: Science and Revolutionary Politics (2016):
Bonus links: “Decoding Chomsky. Science and Revolutionary Politics. Chris Knight. A Review.” (this review usefully relies on Bourdieu), and “Understanding the Labyrinth: Noam Chomsky’s Science and Politics” (“Chomsky’s stance undercuts the responsibility of scientists to speak out as public intellectuals against dishonest invocation of pretended science [o]n behalf of commercial and political interests.”), and Systemic Functional Linguistics, and Denial AKA disavowal (“In Verleugnung, the defense consists in denying something that affects the individual and is a way of affirming what he or she is apparently denying.”) and “Chomsky, Wolfe and Me” and “Noam Chomsky Responds to Chris Knight’s Book, Decoding Chomsky: Science and Revolutionary Politics” and “When Chomsky Worked on Weapons Systems for the Pentagon” (“In Chomsky’s writings, individualism and genetic determinism are both taken to astonishing extremes.”)
To the extent that Knight (or others) are insisting that Chomsky (or others) assume the position of a Hegelian “beautiful soul” I disagree. Other other hand, from sort of a Bourdieu (or Bachelard) sort of sociological perspective, it is crucial to understand the institutional field in which a “major” academic like Chomsky operates. I think Knight is more concerned with how Chomsky is or isn’t a “useful idiot” for military interests like Robert Oppenheimer with the Manhattan Project.