Gift wrapping the means of production

A specter is haunting Berkeley — the specter of the holidays.

Gift-buying is stressful on its own, but if your list includes one or more child of the revolution, you may be chewing off your bougie manicure. Everybody has that one angry leftist friend. Maybe you’re doubly panicking, because your pinko friend is Jewish too. What do you buy for that Hannu-communist in your life?

Well, we’ve got you covered. Whether they’re a theory junkie, black blocker or queer freedom fighter, here’s how to brighten your favorite comrade’s long winter (without them launching into a tirade about consumerism or praxis).


Leftists love books. We spend our paychecks at Moe’s and then we are forced to “redistribute” your leftover pizza. Expand somebody’s horizons with a copy of Alexander Berkman’s “Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist,” the true recollections of Emma Goldman’s Jewish friend who went to jail for utterly failing to assassinate a strikebreaker and there discovered the joys of situational homosexuality.

But don’t limit your buying list to theory and nonfiction! Consider Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen: An American Lyric.” Pick some left-leaning science fiction and fantasy compiled by author China Mieville or figure out if there’s anything by Alan Moore they don’t own yet. They probably don’t have “Promethea.” Get them “Promethea.”


Music is another safe bet, as many of us on the left still think that putting a “this machine kills fascists” sticker on your acoustic guitar will actually cause a fascist somewhere to drop dead. If your friend leans punk at all and they don’t own Bad Religion’s Christmas album, buying it for them is practically a mitzvah.

If they’re a softer, ivory tower type, try Mermaid Avenue, volumes one and two. If Billy Bragg and Wilco covering Woody Guthrie doesn’t storm their Bastille, I don’t know what will.

Alternative consumption

There’s no way to truly engage ethically with the machinery of capitalism, but you can save your friend from uncomfortably using the Starbucks gift cards their grandparents send them. A subscription to a service like Rhetoric Coffee will provide free trade caffeination, neat comic art and minimal globalism-related guilt.

The leftists you know have also likely been drinking heavily lately. Consider a bottle or two from a communally owned micro-vineyard. For the ambitious future commune-dweller, a home brewing or vinting kit will set them on a path to liberate their partying from bourgeois deceptions and jugs of Carlo Rossi. (Unless they’re straightedge. If they’re straight-edge, I really don’t know what to tell you. Beef jerky maybe?)


Plane tickets to DC for the inauguration day protests will probably go over well, though make sure you know their feelings on direct action first. Book the cheapest, shittiest seats you can. Revolution isn’t supposed to come with legroom.

If plane tickets are a little bit out of your tax bracket, a protest kit will keep your comrade supplied and ready to run from Oakland Police Department. Stock a small backpack with protein bars, water, caffeine supplements, a first aid kit, a legal defense hotline number and a gas mask. Remind them that this should not necessarily be interpreted as permission to do dumb shit and get arrested.

With these tips in mind, your nondenominational holiday gatherings should remain relatively free of impassioned debates about conscious capitalism’s hypocrisy, diversity of tactics or Gramsci. Happy holidays, comrades!

Contact Neil Lawrence at [email protected].