What You Should Have Read in 2021

Should auld acquaintance be forgot? Of course not. Here’s a roundup of our best writing from 2021.

We published Jacobin in print. We published Jacobin online. We published Jacobin in 2021.

Too many of us pinned our most desperate hopes on 2021, eagerly awaiting the moment when the terrible memory of 2020 would finally be washed away. But that moment never came.

We’re still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, a catastrophe exacerbated by ruling-class greed and government negligence — two constants of capitalism that, like the novel coronavirus itself, transcend national divides.

At the beginning of the year, American liberals praised Joe Biden as the second coming of FDR. Meanwhile, American capitalists did what they do best: they used the proceeds of their extravagant cruelty to fund some of the stupidest shit you’ve ever seen, like Jeff Bezos’s rocket ship joyride and whatever Mark Zuckerberg’s “metaverse” is. By year’s end, with his domestic agenda stalled, the Biden administration already seemed asleep at the wheel.

But there are some reasons to be hopeful. Internationally, we’ve seen left-wing presidential candidates snatch victory from the jaws of neofascists in places like Chile, Honduras, and Peru. And even in the United States, a resurgence of working-class activity this year led to major strikes (or strike threats) in industries as varied as food processing, film production, and higher education — hopefully a sign of even bigger things to come.

This year was a mixed bag. Jacobin was there through it all, publishing more than two thousand online articles, four print issues, tons of podcasts — you know the deal. But we can’t continue to do this work without your support. If you have money, please consider giving us some. And if you haven’t yet, please subscribe.

Here’s the best of Jacobin from a maddening year.


The year began with the now infamous insurrection in Washington, when a crowd of Trump supporters, instigated by the president himself, gained entry to the Capitol building with the intention of preventing the certification of the election results. Many were quick to characterize it as a nearly successful coup, but some of our contributors were not so sure. And historian Kim Phillips-Fein reminded us that, while American capital came out in opposition to January 6, the business class has long been a key pillar of support for the anti-democratic right.

When Biden was inaugurated just days later, our contributors advocated a confrontational orientation toward the new president — while also demanding that he make good on his most progressive campaign promises by not capitulating to the GOP.


In the disorienting aftermath of the Capitol riot, many across the country were shocked to learn just how many current and former military personnel participated in the insurrection. We pointed out that the connection between the armed forces and the militia movement has existed for generations, so we can’t fight the far right in military court. If our goal is to weaken the Right’s power, our contributors argued, we need to dismantle the warfare state root and branch — and build in its place a humane welfare state that provides for all.

In our winter print issue, historian and Jacobin editorial board member Matt Karp wrote about the politics of the Second Gilded Age, in which intense identity-based partisanship and extreme material inequality prop one another up.


Attempting to make good on campaign promises, Biden succeeded in getting a mammoth COVID relief bill through Congress. While liberal commentators were quick to praise the president’s stimulus in superlative terms, our writers cautioned that injecting much-needed cash into the economy wasn’t the same thing as empowering workers. But the gap between promise and reality in Biden’s stimulus did provide powerful opportunities for socialists to organize.

Meanwhile in Brazil, a judge overturned all of Lula’s convictions, clearing a path for the Workers Party leader and former president to run for reelection — potentially turning the tides of Brazilian politics.


A wave of dramatic protests and national strikes rocked Colombia, calling for an end to police and military impunity and fairer economic policies for the country’s poor masses.

At home in the United States, staff writer Branko Marcetic took a look at Joe Biden’s record on immigration and foreign policy after a hundred days — and, unfortunately, found a lot of continuity with the Trump administration.

We also took a step back and examined how a small handful of humans over thousands of years have figured out how to amass tremendous power and wealth in our print issue on the ruling class.


In Jerusalem, settlers and Israeli officials attempted to expel Palestinian residents from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, sparking renewed struggle throughout occupied Palestine. Against the cynicism of state discourses and the pitiful hand-wringing of the liberal press, our contributors were unequivocal: Palestinians deserve our solidarity — and a single secular, democratic state, with equal rights for all.

Pablo Iglesias, cofounder and longtime leader of the Spanish leftist party Podemos, retired from public political life. We reflected on his proud, but incomplete, legacy.


In a historic victory over the archconservative Keiko Fujimori, trade unionist Pedro Castillo was elected president in Peru. In Jacobin, Castillo described his political trajectory — from elementary school teacher to trade union militant to the head of a left-wing governing coalition. And after his first hundred days in office, we spoke to Anahí Durand, Peru’s minister of women and vulnerable populations, about the unique challenges confronting Castillo’s administration.

Jacobin staff writer Alex Press launched Primer, a podcast focused on exploring all aspects of the behemoth that is Amazon, one of the largest corporations in the world and arguably the most significant. All fourteen episodes so far are available at Jacobin Radio.


War criminal Donald Rumsfeld died — not in disgrace, as he should have, but rather just in time to be celebrated as a national hero on the Fourth of July. We told him to rot in hell. But we also paused to reflect on his legacy as both a military planner and a Washington insider.

Haitian president Jovenel Moïse was assassinated by a group of assailants who stormed his home under cover of night. In a series of interviews, journalist Kim Ives of Haïti Liberté spoke to Jacobin about who could be behind the killing, the importance of opposing US meddling, and the troubling outcome of the country’s political crisis. And in the aftermath of the attack, we shone a light on the Colombian mercenary industry (weeks before the New York Times covered the story, just saying).

The summer Olympics reached their fearsome crescendo, as did this year’s NBA finals. We called for solidarity with Simone Biles. And NBA legend Kareen Abdul-Jabbar appeared in our pages again, writing about the Milwaukee Bucks’ historic victory, as well as his own Bucks championship in 1971.


The United States withdrew from Afghanistan, finally ending a criminal and frivolous occupation which was doomed to fail from the beginning.

Nina Turner, who we interviewed in March, lost the race in Ohio’s 11th congressional district to establishment favorite Shontel Brown, demonstrating the lengths to which the Democratic machine will go to defeat its leading critics. In better news, New York governor Andrew Cuomo — a bad man and a terrible governor — finally resigned, as state senator Julia Salazar and the Working Families Party’s Sochie Nnaemeka predicted months earlier in Jacobin.

Things have changed since the years when socialism and its historical agent, the working class, could be disregarded as relics of the past. In our summer issue, we argued that the question is no longer whether the working class matters, but how it can fight back.


In Graz, Austria’s second largest city, the Communist Party of Austria won control of the city government for the first time in history. We spoke to one dedicated activist and public official, who told us how his party built their “red fortress” in the Alpine republic. (A few months later, we talked shop with Elke Kahr, Graz’s first Communist mayor.)

Texas’s dystopian “heartbeat law,” a shocking win for the antiabortion movement, took effect. Faced with a “useless” Supreme Court, our contributors argued that it was high time for Congress to pass a federal law codifying abortion rights.


Producer and movie star Alec Baldwin fatally shot cinematographer Halya Hutchins while rehearsing with a prop gun on a film set — a tragic consequence of studios prioritizing profit and speed over crew members’ lives. Just days earlier, the union representing sixty thousand “below the line” film and television workers reached a tentative agreement with the studios, narrowly averting a massive strike. But as conditions continued to deteriorate, many workers demanded more.

Just months after his compatriot Rumsfeld, Colin Powell died. He was also celebrated as a national hero; again, our contributors weren’t having it.


India Walton made history in June when she beat incumbent mayor Byron Brown in the Democratic primary for mayor of Buffalo, New York. But Brown, an establishment Democrat, promptly launched an independent write-in campaign to oppose the democratic socialist. In an interview with Jacobin, Walton called Brown “a sore loser” and promised to fight tirelessly for a better Buffalo. But sections of the city’s corrupt political establishment threw their weight behind Brown’s gambit, and he managed to snatch victory away from Walton and her grassroots coalition at the last minute.

Meanwhile, in Honduras, left-wing candidate Xiomara Castro defeated narco-president Juan Orlando Hernández in a shocking upset. Her historic presidency could reverse the course of Honduran politics.

The fourteen hundred worker-strong Kellogg’s strike entered its second month, with the company still intransigent and the strikers still determined. As trade unionists have long said: one day longer, one day stronger.

Back at Jacobin HQ, we released an issue that took a broad look the problem of crime, and the long history of state violence that has never really been about making life more secure for working people.


It was released in print the month before, but the online masses got a chance to read our feature essay on the incredible story of Afeni Shakur and the Panther 21. It’s among the best pieces of long-form writing we’ve released, and it deserves your attention.

In Chile, socialist and former student leader Gabriel Boric defeated the archconservative José Antonio Kast in a historic election — the first since the ongoing process to remake the country’s dictatorship-era constitution began. His victory vindicated the mass movement that took to the streets in 2019, but Chile’s political fortunes remain uncertain.