Alan Gibson

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.

The Deluge

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The Deluge: The Great War and the Remaking of the Global Order is an extraordinarily valuable book which traces the tumult that convulsed every part of the globe in the years following the end of the First World War, and the attempts by the victors of that war — the US, Britain, France and Italy — to create a system of global governance.

Migrants condemned to drown at sea

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A general election campaign marred by grotesque levels of racism has been punctured by some of the most graphic images of the effect of racism — the bodies of the hundreds of migrants drowned in the Mediterranean Sea during attempts to build a better life away from war and poverty. The images have touched millions across Europe, and hundreds of thousands in the UK, interrupting the depressing competition between the mainstream parties about who can out-Ukip Ukip to win a racist’s vote.

Cameron's Coup

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This is the book you want to stick down the throat of the first Tory you come across — even though it would be a terrible waste of the £10 you spent buying it. Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee and founding editor of Guardian Public David Walker have put together an audit of Cameron & Co’s near five years in office, and what a depressing and anger-inducing read it makes.

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate

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“I am convinced that climate change represents an historic opportunity to advance policies that dramatically improve people’s lives, close the gap between rich and poor, create huge numbers of good jobs and reinvigorate democracy from the ground up.” So says Naomi Klein is her latest book, This Changes Everything.

In a call to arms, Klein outlines what’s at stake. The non-binding agreement to keep the increase in global warming at 2°C that all the major powers signed at the Copenhagen Summit in 2009 is fast becoming a “utopian dream”.

Immigration: a hostile act

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The government's new bill aims to create a "hostile environment" for illegal migrants. Alan Gibson looks at the measures in the proposed law and how it will target all migrants and serve to stoke up racism.


What is the declared aim of the bill?

To create a "hostile environment for illegal migrants". This will be done by forcing landlords, NHS staff and public servants, and bank staff, to check the immigration status of migrants who are potential tenants, users of NHS services, appliers for a driving licence or a bank account. Other proposed measures include a drastic reduction in rights of appeal and bail, and a denial of the right of appeal prior to deportation.

What will the residential measures mean?

Whipping up hatred

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Alan Gibson looks at the wave of anti-immigrant racism that has been marked by the "Go Home" vans and UK Border Agency raids at London tube stations.

The demand by judge Peter Murphy in August that a Muslim woman transgress her religious beliefs and reveal her face to a packed courtroom is just the latest in a series of Islamophobic outrages - all conditioned by a deepening anti-immigrant onslaught.

Priestley's Wars

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Neil Hanson, Great Northern Books, £18.99

Neil Hanson's book is a useful introduction to novelist and broadcaster JB Priestley - a man who made a major contribution to the shape of post-war Britain, and who became one of the founding members of CND in 1958.

It is fitting that the book is published in the same year as the 90th anniversary of the First World War, for it was in this war that Priestley, who volunteered aged 19 just days after its outbreak, developed his utter contempt for bureaucrats and authority.

Can We Trust the BBC?

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Robin Aitken, Continuum, £9.99

If you have just spent several minutes shouting at the television - perhaps this time over the racist filth being broadcast care of the BBC's White Season - it's difficult to comprehend how anyone could possibly claim it is biased against the right. Yet this is the basis of Robin Aitken's book, Can We Trust the BBC?

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