Jonathan Maunder

UKIP and the crisis of conservatism

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Strong votes for the United Kingdom Indepedence Party (UKIP) in recent by-elections has led to speculation that Britain may have shifted to the right. Jonathan Maunder argues that, although UKIP's vote is concerning, its root cause is a deep seated crisis in the base of the Tory party

The strong votes received by the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) in three by-elections in late November prompted speculation about the existence of a new right-wing mood in Britain. UKIP won 5.7 percent of the vote in Croydon, 11.8 percent in Middlesbrough and 21.8 percent to come second in Rotherham - the last result being its highest ever election vote. Opinion polling regularly puts UKIP on around 10 percent of the vote.

Budrus

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Director: Julia Bacha; Release date: 24 September

Budrus is a Palestinian village in the West Bank with a population of around 1,500. The village economy centres on agriculture, particularly the olive harvest.

This documentary film follows the inspiring protest movement which arose in the village in response to the planned route of Israel's apartheid wall. The wall would have cut through the village, stealing most of the land including the local cemetery.

Defending the theory of state capitalism

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Roger van Zwanenberg's criticism of the theory of state capitalism to describe the USSR raises the question of what we mean by socialism today (Feedback, Socialist Review, December 2009).

He argues the USSR was "part socialist" because workers received certain benefits from the state. But such benefits are perfectly compatible with capitalism - capital needs the workforce educated and healthy enough to be exploited.

Russian workers also faced continual attacks on living standards as Russia competed with other capitalist states. In 1988, the Izvestia newspaper revealed that relative health spending in the Soviet Union ranked between 60th and 70th in the world, while in infant mortality it was 50th and in life expectancy 32nd.

First as Tragedy, Then as Farce

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Slavoj Zizek, Verso; £7.99

Seven years ago Slavoj Žižek wrote a short book about the 9/11 attacks entitled Welcome to the Desert of the Real. I remember it being a particularly enjoyable and spiky polemic against the ideology of the newly declared "war on terror". By contrast his books after that seemed somewhat dense and maddeningly obscure. I found reading The Parallax View to be a particularly painful experience.

Lenin: A Study on the Unity of His Thought

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Georg Lukács, Verso; £6.99

This newly republished short book is essential in understanding Lenin's contribution to Marxism. When Georg Lukács wrote it in 1923 he had only recently become a Marxist, radicalised by the First World War and the Russian Revolution. He joined the Hungarian Communist Party in 1918 at the age of 33, and up to that point had written books on literary criticism.

Reflections on Empire

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Jonathan Maunder looks at contemporary art in the US in the post-9/11 era.

In his poem "Lennox Avenue Mural", the black American poet Langston Hughes captured perfectly the tension in a society where people's hopes and ideals are continually frustrated:

"What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore -
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over -
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?"

And the Word was Good

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Review of Word Into Art, British Museum, London: Jonathan Maunder welcomes an exhibition of modern art from the Middle East.

The Word Into Art exhibition at the British Museum is a real treat artistically, and at the same time a great riposte to current prejudices about Islam and the East. Taking in both artists who have remained in their country of origin and those who have settled elsewhere, the exhibition is a diverse, engaging and at times beautiful journey into Middle Eastern history and identity, as well as the thoughts and feelings of the individual artists themselves.

University Reds

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Review of 'Taking Back the Academy', editors Jim Downs and Jennifer Manion, Routledge £18.99

The university is a contradictory institution. On the one hand it is an institution of class society, providing capitalism with workers educated to fulfil specific roles in the economy. On the other hand it has to provide a degree of critical thinking about the society in which we live in order to retain any credibility. It groups young people together in large numbers, often independent for the first time in their lives. Both students and radical academics have played an important role in the anti-war and social forum movements.

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