Book Publicity & Reviews from the 1st and 2nd editions (1983, 2002)
Ballbuster? True Confessions of a Marxist Businessman is the second edition of a unique work that is:
- a straight forward business adventure story full of ups and downs, dangers, victories and defeats, with enough suspense to satisfy a Hitchcock movie (Warner Brothers almost made a film about the story);
- an extremely humorous autobiography, painfully honest (and just plain painful), full of irony and satire, and sprinkled (lightly) with scholarly insights;
- a critical view of business (and not just the game business) as seen from the inside; and
- a case study in the Marxist theory of "embodiment", which holds that the role you play in society is decisive in determining the kind of person you are, no matter what kind of ideas you have in your head.
In 1978, Bertell Ollman, a professor in the Department of Politics at NYU and one of America's leading Marxist philosophers, created a board game called CLASS STRUGGLE that pits capitalists against workers in a race to ally with minor classes and win elections, general strikes and the revolution. A prototype of the game was made, but Ollman could not interest any game company to manufacture and market it. So, together with a half dozen professor friends, he started a company, Class Struggle, Inc., to bring his creation to the market.
That's when all hell breaks loose with manufacturers who break their promises, toy salesmen who are only interested in the color of the box, banks who refuse to "finance the revolution", protests and bans and one distributor who worries that Ollman may be the Anti-Christ, death threats, workers who go on strike, the New York Chamber of Commerce hearing its first socialist speech (from one of its own, no less), a record media blitz of over 300 stories on the humorous Marxist professor and his game (ranging from "The Star" warning that "Professor Plans Dangerous Monopoly Game With Our Kids" to "Express", Paris, announcing that "The Star of the Frankfurt International Book Fair This Year Was Not a Book but a Game, CLASS STRUGGLE", and Warner Brothers buying Ollman's life story to do a movie. And throughout all this, the game sells...and sells, eventually 250,000 copies in five language editions. Yet, back at the store and little known to the general public, the person Italian papers are calling the "Marxist millionaire" is caught up in his own up and down struggle not to go bankrupt, with all the fears, hopes and anxieties that accompany this typically American experience.
There are many lessons to be drawn from this roller coaster ride over the bumps and the hollows the make up the life of a small business-person in America today, and Ollman misses few of them. But this is also a journey of self-discovery, and the peculiar charm of the book lies in the deft and humorous manner in which Ollman combines the two tales and the insights and derived from them to produce a moving autobiography of our most unusual businessman that is at the same time a learned treatise on our economic system.
Why a second edition? Why now? Because the latest economic crisis has made its analysis of the world of business more relevant and more useful than ever before. Also, with the growing protests against globalization all around the world, there is an entire generation of newly politically conscious twenty-somethings eager to read a true life adventure story that contains a probing criticism of capitalism and is funny as hell.
Finally, Ollman's enhanced reputation as a scholar, teacher and political activist (see below) is likely to attract more readers to this autobiography than ever before.
Originally published in 1983 under the title CLASS STRUGGLE IS THE NAME OF THE GAME: TRUE CONFESSIONS OF A MARXIST BUSINESSMAN, Ollman's autobiography received a flurry of enthusiastic reviews, but by the time most of the reviews appeared the book was no longer available.
ABBIE HOFFMAN - "Who would have thought that class struggle could be such fun? The adventures of a Marxist entrepreneur in the marketplace make for instant comedy."
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY - "Ollman, who emerges here as thoroughly likable, funny, dignified and scholarly, has so engagingly profiled himself and so affectingly related the psychic ravages of the small business entrepreneur that the NYU professor's memoir could well take off".
JAMES O'CONNOR (Professor of Economics, Univ. of California Santa Cruz) - "In these pages, Karl and Groucho Marx finally meet and share their respective talents for critical economic theory and madcap humor... A must text for micro-economic courses".
NEWSDAY - "Delightful book... quite often hilarious. [Ollman's] madcap adventure humanizes the left. Here is a revolutionary tract that will make you smile."
NEW YORK VILLAGER - "... a fun book... sometimes horrifying... sometimes hilarious... a mad merry-go-round that gets wilder and crazier as the story unfolds."
THE BUSINESS JOURNAL - "... one of the funniest books of the year... Ollmans has a fine wit, an eye for the ludicrous and a lovable ability to laugh at himself. Both the humor and the compelling narrative make the book difficult to put down."
MICHAEL PARENTI (author and lecturer) - "Ollmans's book will have you laughing, groaning (in empathy) and thinking... Here's the best kind of entertainmentit instructs while it delights."
NATION - "[Ollman] has a gift for the ridiculous and has certainly written an amusing book... There is even some discussion of humor and its place in radical politics"
BALTIMORE CITY PAPER - "... one of the funniest documents to come out of the American left... It is a great story, funny and sad and undeniably significant. Highest Marx."
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE - "... the story related in Ollman's book is absurd, moving and thought provoking... [also] fascinating... and even a little frightening."
FINANCIAL WORLD - "This madcap adventure ... owes more to the Marx Brothers than to Karl Marx... and will be read with enjoyment even by those who find Ollman's perception of reality at odds with their own."
VERMONT VANGUARD PRESS - "Not laughing? You will when you read this book... an exciting, hilarious and instructive plunge into the world of business."
LOS ANGELES TIMES - "... a candid and cautionary book... Ollman comes across as likable, witty and undogmatic."
HOWARD SHERMAN (Professor of Economics, Univ. of California, Riverside) - "I haven't laughed so hard in many years. Yet it was also so moving that I even cried in places. And all the while I felt I was really learning something about the painful paths of small business."
THE FLINT JOURNAL - "... [it's] a giant leap for a Marsxist to start up a small business. In this book, Bertell Ollman describes with clarity, grace and humor his adventures in mid-air ... If he had been a novelist he couldn't have come up with a better subplot than his concurrent battle to save his chairmanship at the University of Maryland."
LIBRARY JOURNAL - "A humorous and intriguing account."
BOOKLIST - "The story brims with ironies... A humorous, offbeat, cautionary tale."
BALTIMORE SUN - "Perhaps the most riotous business venture in recent history... The ironies of mixing Marxism with Christianity are nothing compared to the ironies of mixing Marxism and capitalism... [Ballbuster?] attains Biblical proportions."
NATIONAL GUARDIAN - "For the account of his adventures in trying to market his board game Class Struggle, the Order of Marx, with Groucho, Harpo, and Chico ribbons goes to Bertell Ollman, Marxist professor and activist, who keeps trying to make the left laugh."
*Ollman's autobiography also contains a biting account of his academic freedom controversy, perhaps the most widely publicized of such controversies since World War II, with the University of Maryland, and his accompanying libel suit against the journalists, Evans and Novack, in which Justices Bork, Scalia and Starr played decisive roles.
** This new edition also contains an Epilogue that brings the main tales told in the book up to date.
Bertell Ollman is a professor in the Department of Politics, NYU. He has published twelve books, the best known of which is Alienation with Cambridge University Press, which has sold over 25,000 copies. His most recent book, which like the CLASS STRUGGLE board game and his autobiography is also an attempt to mix politics and humor, is How to Take an Exam...and Remake the World.
He was born in Milwaukee, and received his university degrees from the University of Wisconsin and Oxford University. Besides NYU, he has also taught at the University of the West Indies (Jamaica), Columbia University and Oxford University (England). In 2001, he was the first winner of the Charles McCoy Life Achievement Award for Scholarship from the New Political Science section of the American Political Science Association.