Alan Gibson

How Lenin set the course for October

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Vladimir Lenin returned to Russia in April 1917, five weeks after a revolution had overthrown the hated Tsar. Alan Gibson sets out the pivotal role Lenin played in arguing that the revolution must go further than change at the top. His April Theses are an object lesson in audacity and leadership.

‘This is the ravings of a madman.” So said Alexander Bogdanov about Vladimir Lenin’s speech in the days following his arrival at the Finland Station in Petrograd at the beginning of April 1917 — a speech that Pravda published as The April Theses.

Art and revolution

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Roger Huddle is right to be disappointed by the Royal Academy’s Revolution exhibition (March SR). Thankfully, unlike the stolid display on show there, the Imagine Moscow show at the Design Museum makes an effort to bring to life the artistic dynamism that the events of 1917 propelled.

None of the six architectural projects exhibited were ever built, but the fantastic ideas behind them live on in cities across the world, though sadly more often than not without their original political aims.

Caught in the Revolution

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Helen Rappaport has skilfully woven together the accounts and reports made by more than 80 foreigners who were either visiting or working in Petrograd when, on International Women’s Day 1917, tens of thousands of women walked out on strike and began calling out more textile workers and their male colleagues in the engineering and munitions plants.

Their accounts of the following five days of escalating revolutionary turmoil are fabulous, not because of any political acumen — far from it — but because the revolution itself was fabulous.

Citizen Clem

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The 1945-50 government of Clement Attlee is seen as the Labour Party’s golden age — a period that brought about not only the creation of the NHS, national insurance and public assistance (the three pillars of the welfare state) but the nationalisation of coal, railways, electricity, gas, road transport and the Bank of England, and an improved education system.

Have the Tories been trumped by Brexit?

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The Tory government's divisions over Brexit can only be sharpened by Donald Trump's election to president of the US. Theresa May's woes go deep and won't easily be solved, writes Alan Gibson.

What does Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election mean for the Tories? Does it help or hinder the government’s crisis-strewn plans for Brexit? Like every other government, the Tories face not only the bumpy transition from Obama’s administration to Trump’s, but a president elect notorious for unpredictability.

The Labour Party's record on border controls

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Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to bow to the demand for tougher immigration controls is a rebuttal, not just of the calls made by right wing Labour MPs such as Rachel Reeves, Chuka Umunna, Stephen Kinnock and shadow Brexit minister Sir Keir Starmer. It is also a rebuttal of Labour’s dreadful past.

Lenin on the Train

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There can be few more important journeys than the one Vladimir Lenin took when he embarked from his exile in Zurich on the “sealed” train that took him and an assortment of fellow comrades to revolutionary Russia in March 1917.

Catherine Merridale provides an exhilarating account not just of the journey itself, across war-torn Germany, through Sweden and Finland and on to Petrograd, but of the machinations that led to it, and the fantastic events of the February revolution that instigated it.

America's Addiction to Terrorism

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A US survey in April last year found that 58 percent of Americans believe that torture under certain circumstances can be justified. Henry Giroux is rightly horrified. He argues that a combination of neoliberal capitalism, the rise of state terrorism following 9/11 and advances in internet and smartphone technology have brought about an unprecedented crisis in US culture, with frightening consequences. And although Giroux can be accused of exaggeration, much of his argument not only rings true, but has significant implications for Europe and the UK.

The Dignity of Chartism

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This short collection of essays by the great historian of Chartism, Dorothy Thompson, is an enjoyable read. It brims with important political activists, both men and women, who helped build what became the first major national working class movement in history.

It takes up key arguments, such as the movement’s class character, the reasons for its rise and subsequent decline, its relationship with other political movements, and it reveals just how explosive Chartism at times became.

The Emperor's New Clothes

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Russell Brand makes no secret about whose side he’s on in his latest film, made in collaboration with director Michael Winterbottom. Taking up Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale of the same name, Brand invites an assembly of infants to judge on the fairness of a society riven with the most grotesque inequality. Scenes from this sequence are brilliantly juxtaposed with a host of great interviews with working mothers, New Era housing campaigners, UK Care and Your Choice Barnet care workers, a campaigner with cerebral palsy against cuts to disability benefits, and so on.

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