THE BOOK Oil by US author Upton Sinclair was a bestseller when it was published in 1926. The story of the oil boom in California is told through the eyes of Bunny, an oil tycoon’s son who has sympathies with workers. But the real hero is Paul, a committed socialist, who leads an oil workers’ strike and returns from a visit to Russia full of excitement for what the Bolsheviks are doing.
What you notice is how relevant the ideas still are. Sinclair wanted to expose the relentless nature of capitalism and its ruthless drive for profit. Business interests are behind the First World War and its slaughter on the battlefield. Corruption and bribery are rife in the political parties. But Sinclair leaves us in no doubt that the system bears the seeds of its own destruction.
‘If we never try, we can never succeed,’ says Paul, talking about the oil workers’ strike. ‘Even if we fail, we raise class consciousness.’ Sinclair wrote from first hand experience. He was a lifelong socialist who had been arrested for supporting strikes, and stood for election on a socialist platform in California in the 1930s.
This book provides lots of powerful arguments through a good story. At over 500 pages it’s just the book to take on your next train journey!
La Commune (Paris 1871) is a French film with English subtitles directed by Peter Watkins. It shows the inspiring struggle of workers in Paris who took over the running of society. ‘The energy, conviction and skill with which the players of La Commune perform is startling. Few had any previous acting experience. So genuine is the force of their passion that at any moment you feel they might be about to erupt and carry the revolt live into the auditorium,’ says the ‘Guardian’.
The film is shown in two parts, each lasting around three hours. See both parts together for one price-£7 waged, £5 unwaged (proceeds to Socialist Worker Appeal)
Saturday 21 January, 2pm, Edward Lewis Lecture Theatre, UCL, Cleveland Street, London W1
When we opposed the National Front
An imagined revolt in Port Talbot