Chanie Rosenberg

K is for Kollontai

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The success of the Russian Revolution of 1917 enabled the radical ideas on women's liberation that had been germinating in pre-revolutionary times to develop, and be widely discussed and materially embodied in the real world.

A revolution turns all preconceived notions upside down. When profit held sway in the old society, it suppressed the needs and desires of the masses from whom it was extracted. These very needs and desires were to become the motive force of production in the new socialist society, both satisfying material requirements and, even more fundamentally, nourishing the human personality.

The First of a New Genus

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Review of 'Mary Wollstonecraft', Lyndall Gordon, Virago £25 and 'Caleb Williams', William Godwin, Penguin £8.99

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97) lived during the time of the enclosures, when rich farmers were grabbing centuries-old common lands as their private property, and doing the equivalent to women, turning them into the property of fathers, then husbands. A Marriage Act of 1753 removed rights previously held by a wife to her property or earnings, to her children in case of separation, to divorce and to physical protection in the home. The law allowed the husband to do with her what he wished, including beating her. Marriage 'put an eternal end to a woman's liberty'.

The Fire First Time

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Chanie Rosenberg rediscovers a revolutionary classic.

Rosa Luxemburg was an original and creative Marxist thinker and this little book - with a new introduction by Martin Smith - is refreshing testimony to these qualities. It was written in 1906, soon after the Russian Revolution of 1905, which embraced Poland, that part of the Russian Empire from which Rosa originally came, and into which she again smuggled herself (after living in Germany since 1898) in order to participate in the revolution.

Israel: Yet More Road Blocks on the Road to Peace

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On a recent visit to Israel I learnt a lot about the movements of solidarity by many Israelis for the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

There are around 24 of these organisations, dedicated to ending the occupation. I went on one of these activities, called 'Checkpoint Watch (Women for Human Rights)', which brings together 400 Israeli women who, each morning and evening, monitor human rights abuses at Israeli military and border-police checkpoints.

Geometric Smiles

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Review of ’Constantin Brancusi: The Essence of Things‘, Tate Modern, London

Constantin Brancusi (1876-1958) was the greatest sculptor of the first half of the 20th century, and is often compared to Picasso as an innovator of new styles. In particular Brancusi was the first great sculptor to approach abstraction in his work, and the exhibition dramatically shows his movement in this direction. He thus laid the foundation of the avant garde and ’modernism‘. At the same time he always sought meaning beyond the ephemeral. As he said, ’What is real is not the external form but the essence of things,‘ and this too comes across and is strongly felt.

Low Pay: Underbelly of the Beast

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Chanie Rosenberg looks at a new book exposing the scandal of the US working poor.

In the richest country in the world, the US, the working poor number 30 million and, with the families they struggle to support, millions more.

A low wage job in the US is one insufficient to meet the basic needs of the workers' families. But inadequate wages are only the beginning. Low wage jobs also mean few or no benefits, rigid schedules, late night shifts, unsafe and unhealthy conditions, and lack of respect. It is this 'piling on' that makes low wage jobs not just quantatively different than better paying jobs, but qualitatively different.

Hope and Courage

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Review of 'The Boy David Story', director Alex McCall

The Boy David Story follows the life of a baby born in 1974 with a horribly disfigured face - a big hole where a nose should have been, half a mouth and two normal eyes. He was abandoned in a Peruvian forest. He was found and taken to hospital in Lima where the long saga of rehabilitation and plastic surgery began, covering in all 85 operations (70 before he was 14), mostly performed in the US, for which there were few precedents to help the surgeons. Just one of these - using bone from his skull to build a nose - took five hours.

Stand Up and Be Counted

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Review of 'Vive la Revolution: A Stand-Up History of the French Revolution', Mark Steel, Simon and Schuster £10.99

If you're a stand-up comic you have to be constantly aware of your audience, ensuring that they are amused. That means that every assertion you make needs to have appended to it a joke or amusing ditty. If you don't feed them in this way or your jokes or ditties are not up to scratch, you lose your audience. If you succeed you can get over serious ideas while they think they're simply having fun. Mark Steel is a stand-up comic, and this book's title says it is a stand-up history of the French Revolution.

A Revolution in the Making

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Review of 'To Kill a King', director Mike Barker

This film is set against the background of the English Civil War after the parliamentary rebel armies have decisively defeated the Royalist forces of King Charles I at Naseby in 1645. A film covering the period to Charles I's public execution and beyond has many devolopmental options - a history of the 17th century, the causes of the Civil War, the nature of the social revolution of which it was an expression, the religious cloaks, the main dramatis personae of the action, and more.

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