Born OTD in 1854, Irish poet and playwright, Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde. In Praise of Disobedience draws on works from a single miraculous year in which Wilde published the larger part of his greatest works in prose the year he came into maturity as an artist. Before the end of 1891, he had written the first of his phenomenally successful plays & met the young man who would win his heart, beginning the love affair that would lead to imprisonment & public infamy. In a witty introduction, playwright, novelist & Wilde scholar Neil Bartlett explains what made this point in the writer’s life central to his genius and why Wilde remains a provocative and radical figure to this day.

Included here are the entirety of Wilde’s foray into political philosophy, The Soul of Man Under Socialism; the complete essay … More

Born OTD in 1922, American historian, playwright, and socialist thinker, Howard Zinn. For anyone who grew up in the 20th century, this book is a must read. This autobiography chronicles the life and times of Howard Zinn, America’s foremost social historian. From his days growing up poor in New York to his service is the Second World War to his work with the SNCC in the Civil Rights movement, Zinn tells the story in a personal fashion with poignant detail and antecdotes and tales that will make you laugh and make you cry. This is one of the best autobiographies of the 1990’s, and is a must read for all fans of history, Howard Zinn, and the human bonds that bring us all together.

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Born OTD in 1880, American author, political activist, and lecturer, Helen Keller. She was the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. A prolific author, Keller was well-traveled and outspoken in her convictions. A member of the Socialist Party of America and the Industrial Workers of the World, she campaigned for women’s suffrage, labor rights, socialism, antimilitarism, and other similar causes.

This unique book presents a generally unrecognized aspect of Helen Keller’s life: her radical socialism, her defense of the IWW … More

Born OTD in 1936, British director of television & independent film, Ken Loach. Loach’s film Kes was voted the seventh greatest British film of the 20th century in a poll by the British Film Institute. Two of his films, The Wind That Shakes the Barley & I, Daniel Blake, received the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, making him the ninth filmmaker to win the award twice. Loach, a social campaigner for most of his career, believes the current criteria for claiming benefits in the UK are “a Kafka-esque, Catch-22 situation designed to frustrate & humiliate the claimant to such an extent that they drop out of the system & stop pursuing their right to ask for support if necessary”

The Cinema of Ken Loach examines the connection between art and politics that distinguishes the work of this leading British … More

Over the last century the novel ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ has been credited with having more influence on the growth of the labour & trade union movement than Marx & Engels. Yet for a long time little was known about the author, a house-painter called ‘Robert Tressell.’ Ian Hernon has traced his life from Victorian Ireland & South Africa to Edwardian Hastings &, ultimately, Liverpool. It is the story of how arguably the greatest novel about the English working class sprang to life from Tressell’s bitter experience & first-hand observations. It is also the personal story of a workmate & single parent who was much-loved in life & venerated after his premature death before his masterpiece was published.

That masterpiece has particular resonance in today’s political climate of austerity and division. With a preface by Len McCluskey, General … More

Born OTD in 1925, British pilot, politician, writer, & diarist, Tony Benn. Benn’s forward in Hastings’ much-loved writer, Robert Tressell’s novel, ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ reads: “..I have given this book to many, many people in the course of my life & all the recipents have been inspired by it as I have been. Every generation has to fight the same battles again and again, an every time it is the confidence of the campaigners that determines the speed of their success.”

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is a classic representation of the impoverished and politically powerless underclass of British society in Edwardian … More

Dicken’s novel ‘Hard Times’ begins serialisation in his magazine Household Words OTD in 1854. Unusually for Dickens, Hard Times is set, not in London, but in the imaginary mid-Victorian Northern industrial town of Coketown with its blackened factories, downtrodden workers & polluted environment.

This is the soulless domain of the strict utilitarian Thomas Gradgrind & the heartless factory owner Josiah Bounderby. However human … More

First published OTD in 1906, Upton Sinclair’s ‘The Jungle’. Sinclair wrote the novel to portray the harsh conditions & exploited lives of immigrants in the United States in Chicago & similar industrialized cities. Perhaps his main goal in exposing the meat industry & working conditions was to advance socialism in the United States; however, most readers were more concerned with his exposure of health violations & unsanitary practices in the American meatpacking industry during the early 20th century, greatly contributing to a public outcry which led to reforms including the Meat Inspection Act. Sinclair famously said of the public reaction, “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.”

The book depicts working class poverty, the lack of social supports, harsh and unpleasant living and working conditions, and a … More

Born OTD in 1923, the late great Harry Leslie Smith. Harry was an English writer and political commentator. He grew up in poverty in Yorkshire, served in the Royal Air Force in World War II, & emigrated to Canada in 1953. After retiring, Smith wrote his memoirs, and about the social history of Great Britain in the 20th century.

A survivor of the Great Depression, a Second World War veteran, a lifelong Labour supporter and a proud Yorkshire man, … More

A graphic biography of socialist labor legend Eugene V. Debs. Debs led the Socialist Party in the early 20th-century to federal and state office across the country, helped to pioneer a fighting union politics that organized all workers, & became the beloved figurehead of American radicalism. Imprisoned for speaking out against World War I, Debs ran for president from prison, receiving over 1 million votes. Debs’s story is the story of labor battles in industrializing America, of a socialist politics grown directly out of the American Midwest heartland, and of a distinctly American vision of socialism.

With the campaign of Bernie Sanders, the rise of mass movements like Occupy and Black Lives Matter, and the Wall … More