Rebecca Townesend

Shooting the Darkness

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This book of photographs is linked to a documentary of the same name. It tells some of the stories of the Troubles in Northern Ireland using the photographs and memories of seven photographers: Stanley Matchett, Trevor Dickson, Alan Lewis, Martin Nangle, Crispin Rodwell and Paul Faith.

They each have their own chapter where they explain something of their own professional lives before providing a commentary on their photographs, which span from the 1960s until the early noughties.

The Case for Universal Basic Income

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Louise Haagh mounts a passionate defence for a Universal Basic Income (UBI), “to give all residents a modest regular income grant that is not dependent on means-tests or requirements”. Her book “argues for basic income as part of democratic reconstruction at a juncture of global crisis in governance”. She makes some big claims for it: “By weaving basic security into the fabric of society, basic income is a rising tide, lifting all boats, whilst bringing those stranded into common waters”.

Art for All

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In Art for All Christine Lindey considers socially committed art and artists across three periods — 1914–39, 1939–45 and 1945–62. In her introduction she explains the use of the term: “‘Socially committed’ suggests an active engagement with social change...[and] allowing the flexibility needed for the consideration of a wide gamut of works ranging from paintings to posters.”

How to Read Donald Duck

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Written in Chile in 1971 by Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart, How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic has had a troubled existence. Copies were burnt in Chile following 11 September 1973, when the Popular Unity government led by Salvador Allende was overthrown.

When translated only 1,500 copies of the 4,000 published were allowed into the US. It is only now that an American publisher has dared to reprint it in the country.

Bodyguard

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New BBC series Bodyguard is high octane from the opening moments, as the lead, Specialist Protection Officer David Budd (Richard Madden) helps locate a suicide bomber on a London-bound train and talks her down from detonating her device. The following day Budd is promoted and begins work protecting the home secretary, Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes).

Opening The Gates: The Lip Affair, 1968 – 1981

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Lip began as a watchmaking workshop in 1867 in Besançon in eastern France. By the 1960s it was a well-known and successful watch manufacturer. Lip was shaken by the political eruptions of May 1968 when the factory was occupied. Although Donald Reid’s magisterial book centres on events at Lip that started in 1973 it does acknowledge the impact of the preceding period; “the movement at Lip in 1973 developed directly out of May ‘68”.

If the Symptoms Persist

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Francis Combes lays out his ideological stall in the first poem, which stands alone, outside of the four sections that follow. In “No, the Earth is Not Round” he writes, “And the world goes haywire/ Because the earth isn’t round/ At least/ Not yet”.

Combes, who is based in France, is excoriating in his criticisms of capitalism and frequently sardonic. In “This World is Well Made” he mocks: “Yes, this world is well made:/ there are streets for beggars/ and palaces for bankers./ Everything is as it should be.”

Listening to a Pogrom on the Radio

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Michael Rosen’s latest collection of poetry for adults is wide ranging but at its heart displays a profound anti-racism and a fury at ruling class hypocrisy. In “Migration” he writes, “Our banks migrate billions/ but they don’t call that migration./ We say no to blaming migrants”.

For socialists who enjoy poetry this collection is an essential read for now, dealing as it does with some of our key political priorities including anti-racism, solidarity with refugees, Corbyn, privatisation and the attacks on education and the NHS.

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

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“The time has come./ I begin/ the story of Lenin”. So opens Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky’s astonishing 3,000-line poem written shortly after Lenin’s death in 1924. The poem articulates the grief and shock of Lenin’s passing; “On the worker/ bent at his gears/ the news pounced/ and bullet-like burned”. It also pleads for Lenin not to be idolised: “I’m anxious lest rituals,/ mausoleums/ and processions,/ should/ obscure/ Lenin’s essential/ simplicity”.

Queens of Industry

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Queens of Industry is a small but fascinating exhibition focusing on the women chosen to represent the industries of coal, wool, cotton and the railways as “queens” between the 1920s and 1980s. It would be easy to dismiss the whole concept as merely a sexist anachronism, but that would be to miss a more complex picture and dismiss the experiences of the women themselves.

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