Chris Bambery

Preventing Mosley's Goal

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Review of 'Hurrah for the Blackshirts', Martin Pugh, Jonathan Cape £20

Back in 1994 I was on a demonstration against the British National Party (BNP) headquarters in Welling. Police had launched into the 60,000-strong march leading to an afternoon of constant police attacks as they blocked us reaching the Nazi offices. As we reached the end a strange group handed out a leaflet explaining not just why they hadn't joined our march but how they opposed it because the BNP were not a problem! Apparently the Nazis had a right to free speech and we were ignoring the real racists in the shape of the ruling Tory government and their Labour friends.

Decrying the Duce's Defenders

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Review of 'Mussolini', Martin Clark, Pearson £14.99

There is a sustained campaign to rescue the reputation of the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. When the Duce was shot by Resistance fighters and his corpse hung in a Milan square (where earlier executed partisans had been put on display), few would have expected Mussolini to have his defenders six decades on - at least not beyond a small fringe of fascist diehards.

Unity at Any Cost

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Review of 'Violence and the Great Estates in the South of Italy' by Frank Snowden, Cambridge University Press £18.99

Puglia, the southern heel of Italy, is being touted as the new Tuscany in the travel sections. Don't let that put you off going! But there are still Pugliese alive who remember when swathes of the region were engulfed in what was effectively a civil war.

His Friends in the South

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Review of 'Silvio Berlusconi', Paul Ginsborg, Verso £16

It would be all too easy to see Italy's prime minister and former cruise ship crooner, Silvio Berlusconi, as a bit of a buffoon and a dodgy geezer. There is often a smack of racist stereotyping when Berlusconi is under discussion. Paul Ginsborg, one of the most eminent historians of postwar Italy, takes Berlusconi very seriously. He is right to. He has written what must be the definitive English (and probably Italian) biography of the Italian mega-magnate and politician.

Roman Candle

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Review of "Fatal Silence", Robert Katz, Weidenfeld & Nicolson £20

The Resistance in Rome carried out the most successful wartime attack on German forces of any occupied city in Europe. A bomb attack killed 32 members of an SS unit specially recruited to fight the Resistance as they marched through central Rome. In reprisal Hitler and the German commander in Italy, Kesselring, ordered the killing of ten Italians for each dead German. Around 320 political prisoners, common criminals and Jews were hurriedly rounded up, taken to caves outside the city and shot before the entrance to the caves was blown up in an attempt to conceal the crime.

The Test of Loyalty

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Review of 'The French and Italian Communist Parties', Cyrille Guiat, Frank Cass £39.50

Totalitarianism was the term Cold War warriors used to describe various regimes the US did not like. It was borrowed from Mussolini, who used it specifically to describe his Italian fascist regime. For the cold warriors it became a term of abuse that could be thrust on fascist and Communist regimes alike, thereby blurring any differences between them. The term could also be thrown at parties and individuals whose views did not concur with Washington. Cyrille Guiat's study of the French and Italian Communist Parties stands firmly in this tradition.

The Guilty Men

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Democracy and liberation were not top of the agenda following the Second World War.

In the summer of 1940, Britain's 'finest hour', German aircraft were over the white cliffs of Dover and the streets of London, and Hitler's panzers seemed set to invade Britain. After beating a disorderly and chaotic retreat from Dunkirk you might have expected that every available British soldier would be lined up on the south coast ready to repulse an expected invasion.

Capital and Conquest

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Chris Bambery recalls the brutal history of the British empire.

On 2 September 1898 at a place called Omdurman, outside the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, 20,000 British and Egyptian troops under the command of Lord Kitchener faced 52,000 lightly armed cavalry and infantry. The latter proceeded to charge Kitchener's lines. The new machine-gun created by the American Hiram Maxim opened fire and some 10,000 Sudanese were left dead on the battlefield. There were fewer than 400 casualties on the imperial side, with just 48 British soldiers being killed.

Resistance Was Not Futile

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Review of 'The Irish War of Independence', Michael Hopkinson, Gill and Macmillan £24.99

The 1980s and 1990s were dominated by attempts by various academics to undermine any notion of popular mobilisation against the ruling order. Nowhere did that reach such a pitch as in Ireland. Many books and newspaper columns tried to denigrate the war fought for Ireland's independence from Britain between 1919 and 1921.

Industry - Anger into action?

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The firefighters' action has revived talk of the winter of discontent in the 1970s. Chris Bambery and Peter Morgan look at what happened.

Everyone has their breaking point and I'm afraid the FBU has reached theirs.' These are the words of Jim Burge, a firefighter of 15 years based in North London, who takes home just £21,500 per year. He was speaking shortly before the FBU leadership announced that they were suspending their first two strikes over pay after the government hinted that there might be more on offer than the 4 percent on the table.

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