Martin Smith

Brer Rabbit

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I was browsing the shelves of my local secondhand bookshop recently and there, tucked away in a dusty corner, was an old copy of The Classic Tales of Brer Rabbit.

Rereading a few of the short stories took me back to my childhood when I devoured tales of Brer Rabbit and his gang Brer Bear and Brer Moose.

For those who don't know, "brer" (sometimes spelt br'er or bre'r) is simply a shortened form of "brother".

Brer is a trickster and a hustler. He is a figure who always succeeds in outwitting his arch-enemy, Brer Fox, through his wit and cunning, but never through brawn. Brer Rabbit is an anti-hero - mocking the powerful and bending the rules.

The BNP and EDL

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A new racist political group is organising on the streets. They call themselves the English Defence League, but who are they and what do they represent? Martin Smith investigates

Alan Lake is a middle aged English businessman. Last September he addressed an anti-Islam conference organised by the racist Sweden Democrats in Malmo. This shady figure told delegates that it was necessary to build an anti-Jihad movement that was "ready to go out onto the street". He also claimed that he and his friends had already begun to build alliances with football supporters.

A Tokyo Story

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Filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu is hardly a household name in Britain, but he truly is one of the world's greatest directors.

For those who don't know Ozu's work, now is your chance. Over the next few months many of his films, such as Late Spring (1949), Early Spring (1956) and Floating Weeds (1959), will be showing around the country. Just as importantly, his masterpiece, the heartrending Tokyo Story (1953), is being re-released on DVD.

Sounds of city streets

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The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) rips through the heart of two of New York's finest boroughs.

If you ever get a chance to drive along it, your journey will take you through a cityscape of dilapidated factories, graffitied walls and in the distance the gleaming skyscrapers of Manhattan.

I want to take a musical journey through the eyes of the composer Aaron Copland and the multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Stevens. Just like the BQE, it's a journey of the old and the new.

Poland's subversive cinema

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A popular joke in Soviet era Poland went something like this: "One day a pre-school teacher told her class, 'In Poland all kids are happy. They have lots of beautiful toys and live in great apartments...' Suddenly one child starts to cry and screams, 'I want to live in Poland!'"

Humour was one of the few ways of criticising the Stalinist regime. Another, much more powerful way was cinema.

This issue of Socialist Review looks at the political movements that brought down the Berlin Wall and state capitalist regimes across Eastern Europe. Throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s cinema played an important role in Polish society. Its impact was visual, direct and full of underlying messages designed to elude the state censors, subtly exposing life in a one-party state.

The Italian Resistance

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Tom Behan, Pluto Press; £18.99

One of the enduring myths of the Second World War is that only the Allies liberated occupied Europe. Tom Behan demolishes this notion in this fascinating new book, subtitled "Fascists, Guerrillas and the Allies". In doing so, he paints a picture of a powerful resistance movement, one which heroically played its part in breaking the back of Benito Mussolini's fascist state and forcing off Adolf Hitler's Nazi divisions.

A tale of two festivals

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This summer Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR) was invited to open one of the largest European music festivals, the Sziget festival in Budapest, and I was sent along to compere the event.

The day before I arrived in Hungary, reports were coming through that gangs of young skinheads had rampaged through the village of Veroce, attacked a pregnant Roma woman and beaten up a young Roma boy.

I talked about these attacks in interviews I gave to the press. I was surprised when I was told that it was best not to talk about this, as no attacks had taken place. I was even more taken aback when the police issued a statement saying that they had not received any reports of such attacks.

Grey Britain, The Gallows; Music for the People, The Enemy

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The Specials, The Jam and The Clash articulated the anger and pain felt by millions of young people during the early years of the Thatcher era. Today a new generation of young people are being thrown on the unemployment scrapheap - over 616,000 people aged between 16 and 25 have found themselves without work.

Two new albums, Grey Britain by The Gallows and Music for the People by The Enemy, are hymns for a new generation staring into the void created by the recession.

The Gallows are from Watford and The Enemy are from Coventry, both places, in their own ways, urban ghost towns - places where the dreams of the young, brought up on mass consumerism and materialism, are going to be destroyed.

Raw as war - Generation Kill

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The military theory of "rapid dominance" or, as it is more commonly known, "shock and awe", was deployed by the US military during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The theory is as simple as it is brutal.

The idea is to achieve speedy, overwhelming firepower and displays of force. This in turn paralyses the enemy's perception of the battlefield and destroys its will to fight.

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