Phil Webster

Catalonia and Lenin

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The SWP is quite right to support the right of the people of Catalonia to determine their own future. Most of the mainstream media frames the question as “Should Catalonia break away from Spain?” In fact the real question is, “Should the people of Catalonia have the right to separate from Spain if they want to?”

The “illegal” referendum was organised because the Spanish Constitution makes it virtually impossible to hold one “legally”. And the brutal repression we have witnessed has probably created a majority in Catalonia for independence even if one did not exist before.

Two sides to the story

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In her powerful two-part series on the family Susan Rosenthal does an excellent job of showing how the family under capitalism is central to women’s oppression and how it puts everyone — women, men and children — under pressure.

She also shows convincingly how all the negative aspects of the family are caused by the capitalist system, and how the oppressive burdens of the family could be lifted under a socialist society.

A Spy Among Friends

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Ben Macintyre, Bloomsbury, £20.00

A Spy Among Friends is a fascinating insight into the life of Kim Philby and the secret world he inhabited. Philby, a high-ranking member of the British intelligence service, was part of the infamous Cambridge Five spy ring.

His defection to the Soviet Union in 1963 stunned the British establishment.

During and after the Second World War Philby was employed by Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (SIS or MI6), but was secretly working for the Russian secret service, which had recruited him in the 1930s.

Stephen Ward was Innocent, OK

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Geoffrey Robertson, Biteback Publishing, £12.99

The Profumo Affair is infamous as a scandal involving sex and spies from the "swinging sixties".

But in this meticulously researched book human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson shows that it also involved a gross miscarriage of justice.

The scandal blew up in 1963 after revelations that the secretary of state for war, Tory minister John Profumo, was having an affair with Christine Keeler.

This was at the same time as Keeler had been seeing Yevgeny Ivanov, a naval attache at the Russian Embassy in London and probably a spy.

The Potter's Field

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Andrea Camilleri

This excellent novel is the 13th of Andrea Camilleri's Italian detective stories to be translated into English. If you want to escape with a bit of entertaining crime fiction written with a left wing slant, these are the books for you. Camilleri should be rated alongside the greats of crime writing: Raymond Chandler and (the Marxist) Dashiell Hammett.

Anti-slavery theory

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In his review of Darwin's Sacred Cause, by Adrian Desmond and James Moore, Terry Sullivan (Books, Socialist Review, February 2009) gives some praise to the book, but ends by saying that it is not totally convincing.

Desmond and Moore argue that Darwin's strong anti-slavery views fed into his evolutionary theory. Darwin rightly believed that all humans were the same species with a common ancestor, and he broadened this out to argue that all living creatures evolved from a common ancestor.

An Echo from the Past

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Chris Harman argues (June SR) that it was wrong to call for a vote for Chirac against Le Pen in the second round of the French election.

I agree that the way to stop the Nazis is by mass action, not just by voting. I agree that the slogan of the left should be 'Onto the streets' not 'Vote Chirac'. I agree that our politics should be those of the united front, not the popular front. I agree that in certain circumstances the Tory-type right would let the Nazis into power. And I agree that the left should never agree to withdraw from standing in elections under pressure to 'unite behind an anti-Nazi candidate'.

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