by Marta Russell, edited by Keith Rosenthal
Spread out over many years and many different publications, the late author and activist Marta Russell wrote a number of groundbreaking and insightful essays on the nature of disability and oppression under capitalism. In this volume, Russell’s various essays are brought together in one place in order to provide a useful and expansive resource to those interested in better understanding the ways in which the modern phenomenon of disability is shaped by capitalist economic and social relations. The essays range in analysis from the theoretical to the topical, including but not limited to: the emergence of disability as a “human category” rooted in the rise of industrial capitalism and the transformation of the conditions of work, family, and society corresponding thereto; a critique of the shortcomings of a purely “civil rights approach” to addressing the persistence of disability oppression in the economic sphere, with a particular focus on the legacy of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990; an examination of the changing position of disabled people within the overall system of capitalist production utilizing the Marxist economic concepts of the reserve army of the unemployed, the labor theory of value, and the exploitation of wage-labor; the effects of neoliberal capitalist policies on the living conditions and social position of disabled people as it pertains to welfare, income assistance, health care, and other social security programs; imperialism and war as a factor in the further oppression and immiseration of disabled people within the United States and globally; and the need to build unity against the divisive tendencies which hide the common economic interest shared between disabled people and the often highly-exploited direct care workers who provide services to the former.
Marta Russell (December 20, 1951 - December 15, 2013) was an American writer and disability rights activist. Her book, Beyond Ramps: Disability at the End of the Social Contract published in 1998 by Common Courage Press analyzes the relationship between disability, social Darwinism, and economic austerity under capitalism. Her political views, which she described as "left, not liberal," informed her writing on topics such as healthcare, the prison-industrial complex, physician-assisted suicide, poverty, ableism, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
Disabled since birth, Marta's identity as a writer and journalist emerged as her disability progressed and she had to navigate the disability policy netherworld to survive. She became involved with disability rights groups such as ADAPT. A photographer as well as a producer of audio and visual content, Russell was recognized in 1994 with an award from the City of Los Angeles Commission on Disabilities for her contributions to disability society in the media. Russell was co-producer/correspondent for the KCET Life & Times documentary entitled, "Disabled & the Cost of Saying 'I Do", which was honored with a prestigious Golden Mike Award for Journalism (1995) from the Radio and Television News Association of Southern California.
Keith Rosenthal is a socialist writer and activist. He is a frequent contributor to the International Socialist Review magazine on the topics of disability, capitalism, and revolution.