SocialismToday           Socialist Party magazine

Issue 173 November 2013

The only hope is revolt

Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt

Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco, Nation Books, 2012, £18

Reviewed by Dylan Murphy

Pulitzer prize winning journalist and avowed socialist Chris Hedges has teamed up with cartoonist Joe Sacco to catalogue America’s ‘internal colonies’ where the most downtrodden sections of US society survive against the odds. The result, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, intimately details the ‘third world’ type of poverty and the atomisation of working-class communities. Chris Hedges’s powerful commentary is accompanied in each chapter by the moving cartoons of Joe Sacco which tell the story of various people caught up in America’s internal colonies.

The book starts in the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota where those stuck on the reservation have been left to rot in a sea of poverty and hopelessness. The tragic result of this has been the atomisation of a once proud people whose communities are devastated by rampant alcoholism, family break-up, drug abuse and violence. However, there is some hope in the emergence of the American Indian Movement which has stood up to racist oppression and resurrected Native American religion and culture such as the once banned sun dance.

The portrait of Camden City reveals an internal colony blighted by terrible poverty, mass unemployment, a high murder rate and a rampant drugs trade following the de-industrialisation of America over the last few decades. Lone individuals stand out trying to keep communities together and provide a safety net for a people who have been completely abandoned by the state.

The story moves on to the mining communities of West Virginia where open top coal mining means the destruction of entire mountains by mining companies whose ruthless pursuit of profit has involved the poisoning of huge areas, creating an ecological disaster zone in this once beautiful area. The decimation of the deep coal mining industry left once proud communities atomised and demoralised. Here again, the drugs trade is one of the few growth industries. As in Pine Ridge small numbers of people are fighting back and campaigning to force the mining companies to take measures to deal with the toxic coal dust which poisons the air.

They focus next upon the farms in the Immokalee region of Florida where the super-exploited workers are illegal aliens from South and Central America. Workers here are trapped in these modern day slave plantations enduring extremely harsh and dangerous conditions. Over the last decade over 1,000 workers have been freed from these slave plantations in police raids. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers was formed in the 1990s and has been campaigning to force all of the big food companies and supermarket chains to sign up to the Fair Food Agreement.

The book finishes by hailing the Occupy movement as a turning point in the American political scene. Hedges writes: "The American Dream… is a lie. The virus of corporate abuse – the perverted belief that only corporate profit matters – has spread to outsource our jobs, cut the budgets of our schools, close our libraries, and plague our communities with foreclosures and unemployment. This virus has brought with it a security and surveillance state that seeks to keep us all on a reservation… Revolt is all we have left. It is our only hope".

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