The Cultural Front

The Battleground’s Summer Book List

It’s 2021, not 1917. Yet, when you read as much progressive media as The Battleground does, you’d be forgiven for mixing up the dates.

Pandemic anxiety. Neukölln Berlin.

The problem is partially ideological. Politics precedes culture. And editorial. Culture is entertainment. When these approaches coincide on leftist platforms, this reinforces the suspicion that media like ours only cater to educated elites. The charge sticks, for the most part, even though we wish it were otherwise.

In our community, this amounts to predictably little coverage of the arts and literature, unless there’s some kind of didactic element to them. Or, to a lesser extent, when they reflect the outlook of working people and what’s come to be called “normie” culture, IE artists and bands that non-intellectuals are supposed to like.

It’s a highly classist view, which implies that complexity is lost on the folks with real jobs. But, of course, it flies in the face of lots of immensely popular musical idioms, like hip-hop, to cite but one example, which always prove otherwise.

Indeed, when it comes to refinement, the playing field is a lot more level than we think. The affluent can have bad taste, or be anti-intellectual, like normies. For progressive journalists, the trick is to find a way to avoid getting stuck in such ruts and think out of the box – this publication included.

It’s all about the context. In the 24-hour news cycle era, journalists have endless opportunities to introduce new kinds of stories. Because we’re expected to endlessly produce, all kinds of openings exist to sneak new kinds of content and styles into publishing that we weren’t able to in the past.

There is just not enough time or resources to publish the same kinds of work we identified as journalism before, particularly when production takes precedence over everything else. Cultural content is a great place to start because it’s so rich and complicated and can be leveraged in a variety of different ways to talk about politics.

That’s not something journalists are used to doing in news departments, because they’re not supposed to interpret, but report. But, bias and framing are at the core of journalism, so asking journalists to take a political approach to writing about music, for example, isn’t as big a stretch as it’s made out to be.

The task of independent media is to try and rethink our editorial mandate under these circumstances, and hijack contemporary sensibilities as best we can. For The Battleground, emphasizing popular culture – making it core to our editorial mandate, in the form of review essays, and non-traditional editorial content – is our way of starting this conversation.

We don’t try and publish at warp speed, as we are a slow journalism platform, with very limited resources. But the breaks we take publishing new stories are meant to be pauses in the otherwise frenetic pace of contemporary media production. Slow isn’t the new fast for us. It’s more like a time out, that we’ve learned to like, because it helps us think a little more clearly and do more innovative work.

In this light, here is our summer books list. We haven’t published one of these in a while, but friends of The Battleground have asked us to resume. Here’s what we’ve picked out for the next couple of months, some of which are catch-up reads from earlier in the year. Some of them will likely get reviewed, too.


Violent Ignorance: Confronting Racism and Migration Control
By Hannah Jones
Zed Books


The Revenge of the Real: Politics for a Post-Pandemic World
By Benjamin Bratton
Verso Books

Left Populism in Europe: Lessons from Jeremy Corbyn to Podemos
By Marina Prentoulis
Pluto Press

After the Apocalypse
By Srećko Horvat
Polity Books

Matzpen: A History of Israeli Dissidence
By Lutz Felder
University of Edinburgh Press

A Small Man’s England
By Tommy Sissons
Repeater Books

Kurdish Women’s Stories
Edited by Houzan Mahmoud
Pluto Press

An Atlas of Extinct Countries
By Gideon Defoe
Europa Editions

By Donna Ferrato
powerHouse Books

Factory Records 1979-1980
By Daniel Meadows
Café Royal Books

Photograph courtesy of Joel Schalit. All rights reserved.