A history of Socialism. For kids.
January 6, 2015 11:04 AM   Subscribe

Our 12-year-old has expressed some interest in the history of socialism and communism. I would love to find him some resources that aren't quite as blatantly one-sided and dismissive or even flat-out wrong as I've been able to find so far (like a video titled: "Socialism: From Marx to Obama" for example, ugh). I'm a staunch European social-democrat myself, so I can tell him a little about what I know myself, but I'd love to supplement it with some good, easy reading, and maybe some video.
posted by monospace to Education (11 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
A Young People's History of the United States isn't about socialism and communism directly, but it covers it in the chapter on Class Struggle, and also provides a lot of necessary context for the communist critique of capitalism.
posted by empath at 11:10 AM on January 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

How about Marx for Beginners?
A cartoon book about Marx? Are you sure it's Karl, not Groucho? How can you summarize the work of Karl Marx in cartoons? It took Rius to do it. He's put it all in: the origins of Marxist philosophy, history, economics; of capital, labor, the class struggle, socialism. And there's a biography of "Charlie" Marx besides.
posted by Kerasia at 11:49 AM on January 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

I read "Marx for Beginners" when I was about 13 and loved it.
posted by neroli at 12:01 PM on January 6, 2015

As a supplementary suggestion, you might want to look at "Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children's Literature" (NYT review); also look at this MeTa, A Little Rebel's Tale on the Blue, with a few other resources, and the FPP that spawned it, Tales for Little Rebels.

Seems like you can have a look at "Marx for Beginners" here (.pdf). I've read other books in this series, and they've been terrific.
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:19 PM on January 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

For an American history perspective, Wobblies! A Graphic History is fun.
posted by nonane at 12:31 PM on January 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

I read Animal Farm in my 6th grade Russian Revolution class (It was a weird school).
posted by pseudonick at 12:49 PM on January 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

I am much older than 12 now, but I really enjoyed this Marx graphic biography as well as this graphic bio of Trotsky. I think Rick Geary may also have done Emma Goldman, Rosa Luxembourg and Che. I really enjoy these kinds of bios as an introduction to socialism and communism because they do a lot to show the conditions in which they were first conceived. The Trotsky version has the benefit of also talking about the splits in leadership around the Russian Revolution, which is important in understanding where communism ended up (IMHO).
posted by dame at 1:17 PM on January 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

The comic biography of Emma Goldman Dangerous Woman is accessible for a 12 year old IMO, but it does discuss her views on sex and reproductive rights and has brief panels of nudity, relevant and not gratuitous.
posted by viggorlijah at 5:37 PM on January 6, 2015

The * for beginners is awesome comic-book-style presentation of these issues. The ones that I have read are also surprisingly thorough and accurate, to the point where I would use them as a quick reference.

Marx for Beginners (pdf)
Lenin for Beginners (pdf)
Trotsky for Beginners (pdf)

I don't know exactly what reading level you consider your child to be at, but I would also consider the entries in the Very Short Introduction series: Socialism, Marx, Communism.

If s/he wants even more, consider The Red Flag (there are other histories as well). Beyond that, marxists.org is an incredible reference for reading primary documents like The Communist Manifesto (a pretty short read). If s/he is wondering which parts of this archive to read, see (warning: self-promotion) this MF project.

I don't know of any good video about socialism or communism per se. Unfortunately, given the highly political nature of the subject, it is difficult to find resources that aren't "one-sided and dismissive or even flat-out wrong," as you say. Looking around just now, I have found some resources that look alright, but I haven't vetted them for non-awfulness.

Although, there are plenty of films that touch on these topics peripherally, some more silly than others -- Reds, Red Dawn, Dr. Zhivago, Fall of Eagles, Ten Days that Shook the World, etc. There are also plenty of high-quality documentaries about specific communist or quasi-communist movements: The Weather Underground, Jonestown (I should add that both of these might not be age-appropriate, depending on your tastes), etc. A lot of them are on YouTube or other websites. (But whatever you do, stay away from the horrible Marx Reloaded.)
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 9:53 PM on January 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

The Intelligent Woman's Guide To Socialism by Bernard Shaw is superb.
posted by conrad53 at 10:53 PM on January 6, 2015

Ken Loach's Land and Freedom. This transmits the romance through a teenager. The romance is is where its starts. Can't find a version with subtitles but get a flavour from about 7:30 into this when the debate is in English. Can't remember if there is anything unsuitable for a 12 year old. This would lead naturally to Homage to Catalonia.

I would think for a 12 year old, stuff about the Tolpuddle Martyrs, Robert Owen, the birth of the welfare state in Britain, would be more engaging than Marxist theory.
posted by smugly rowan at 2:13 PM on January 7, 2015

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