Capitalism Must Die!
by Katie Frank

Reviews may contain information that could be considered ‘spoilers’. Readers should proceed at their own risk.

Grade: 7
With a subtitle like “A basic introduction to capitalism: what it is, why it sucks, and how to crush it,” Capitalism Must Die! is a book with a clear sociopolitical agenda. If you think you will hate it based on the title alone, you probably will. With that said, the book provides an overall well-written, easy to understand introduction to anti-capitalism in the Marxist tradition. It defines terms without using a lot of jargon, and uses short comics and cartoons to introduce and illustrate difficult concepts with real-world examples. The tone of the writing is forceful and impassioned without being overly preachy or antagonistic toward the reader, which can often put people off of explicitly political books. McMillan has clearly spent a lot of time in activism and political education, and it shows in how fluently she translates high theory into everyday language.

The main pitfall of this book is that it’s hard to tell exactly who it’s for. As previously mentioned, people who outright disagree with the principles of anti-capitalism definitely aren’t going to pick this up, and even if they do, probably won’t be convinced (again, not the fault of the author — that’s just how political beliefs work). For those sympathetic to the book’s viewpoint or otherwise critical of capitalism, it provides a good introduction to Marxist thought on how capitalism works and how to dismantle it, but it doesn’t address a lot of the questions around culture, media, and identity that Marxism hasn’t historically been very good at answering. For example, the book identifies television as a component of the ideological field and briefly notes that it can be used as a tool to ensure complicity with hegemonic viewpoints, but doesn’t go any deeper, such as taking into account how media can/have been used by marginalized groups in oppositional ways. Neither does it explain how dismantling the class system and overthrowing capitalism addresses other kinds of systemic prejudices like racism or gender discrimination, except to suggest they are products of capitalism. Again, this isn’t a problem unique to this book or to McMillan’s explanations, but it does seem to limit the utility of the text as a tool for organizing those who might be interested in its viewpoint but not totally sold.

While it’s not perfect, Capitalism Must Die! is a good introduction to an important area of thought and activism; it would be a good text to use for teaching students about Marxist thought or sparking discussion / inspiration in an activist setting. It’s clearly written and much more fun than most explicitly political books, and worth picking up if you’re interested in and / or open to hearing this viewpoint.

Written: May 11, 2014
Published: May 12, 2014