Sabby Sagall

Keeping the Faith

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Review of 'Chicken Soup with Barley' by Arnold Wesker, Tricycle Theatre

In the late 1950s a new wave of young, radical dramatists took British theatre by storm, challenging the conventional, complacent type of drama that dominated the stage with plays that explored at a deeper level the distortion of human relationships by our society, and confronting head-on the key political issues of the day. This group of dramatists included John Arden, John Osborne, Harold Pinter and Arnold Wesker.

Frayed at the Edges

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Review of 'The Question of Zion', Jacqueline Rose, Princeton University Press £12.99

Jacqueline Rose has produced a book that is timely and compelling. Written in a style both elegant and incisive, it insists on the need not simply to lambast Zionism but to understand it from within. The strength of Rose's book is that she approaches Zionism from both points of view: that of the victims of European anti-Semitism, but also, crucially, from that of the Palestinian victims of Zionist colonisation - the victims of the victims - as Edward Said described them.

Between Dreams and Injustices

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Review of 'Death of a Salesman' by Arthur Miller, Lyric Theatre, London

It is fitting that a few months after Arthur Miller's death we should have the opportunity to revisit the play widely regarded as his greatest. The main character, Willy Loman, is the embodiment of the American Dream, the idea that America is the land of freedom and opportunity, a country which ignores social and economic background, only recognising ambition and application. Anyone, however humble their origins, can make it to the top by dint of hard work and perseverance.

The Workers' Friend

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Review of 'East End Jewish Radicals', William J Fishman, Five Leaves £14.99 and 'The London Years', Rudolf Rocker, Five Leaves £14.99

These are timely re-issues. East End Jewish Radicals: 1875-1914, by historian Bill Fishman, himself an East End Jew, was first published in 1975 and is a fascinating account of the cultural and political life of London's East End Jewish community in its crucial, formative years.

One of the Greats

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I have just one point to add to Ian Birchall's excellent review of Paul Foot's The Vote (March SR).

George Orwell once wrote, 'A thousand influences constantly press a working man into a passive role.' Whichever social institution we examine - the working class family, the school, the mass media, the workplace - a sense of inferiority, of subordinate status, is constantly drummed into working class people. Unless capitalism is able to instil this image of inadequacy into them, it cannot survive as a system of exploitation run at their expense.

Middle East: A Cairo Conference Call

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Last December a call went out for delegates and activists from the Middle East, Europe and America to attend the third anti-war and anti-globalisation conference in Cairo, which was due to start as Socialist Review went to press.

In the last two and a half years, representatives from the anti-war and anti-capitalist movements in the Arab and Islamic world have met with their counterparts in the west to discuss ways in which links between them could be established and strengthened. Four hundred attended the first conference in December 2002, and 800 the second in December 2003.

Divinely Wrong

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Review of 'King Lear' by William Shakespeare, Albery Theatre, London

Shakespeare's King Lear is one of the plays that takes us to the heart of his work. Born in 1564 and dying in 1616, Shakespeare lived at a crucial historical gateway: the end of the old feudal order and the emergence within the traditional world of the new mercantile capitalism. His work vibrates with the tension between two rival conceptions of society, government, family and morality. Feudalism was a fixed, hierarchical, medieval world in which everyone knew their place, the serf at the bottom, the lord at the top.

A Conspiracy Theory

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Review of 'La Clemenza di Tito', David McVicar, English National Opera, London and 'The Magic Flute', David McVicar, Royal Opera House, London

Both these operas, written in 1791, the last year of Mozart's life, show how the European Enlightenment - the 18th century cultural movement that sought to combat religion and medieval superstition while asserting the primacy of reason and science - influenced him. As far as society and politics were concerned, the Enlightenment proclaimed the supreme values of freedom and equality. The law stood above kings and aristocrats with a constitution that had to maintain a balance of power between the rival institutions.

Palestine: A Mandate Without Power

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The first Palestinian election since 1996 has been greeted with a great international fanfare of publicity and a groundswell of expectations that it will usher in a new era of peace and stability, the attack on the Israeli checkpoint of Karni notwithstanding.

Both Bush and Sharon expressed satisfaction that 'their man', Mahmood Abbas (Abu Mazen), had been elected president following the death of Yasser Arafat. Most pundits and politicians seem united in the fond belief that Abbas has been given a mandate, first to eliminate corruption within the Palestinian Authority, and second to rein in the Palestinian resistance and deliver the Palestinian people's consent to a deal with Israel. All claim that this 'pragmatic' politician, who has called for the demilitarisation of the intifada, will be better able to negotiate peace than his predecessor.

Democracy: Their System, Our Fight

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The democracy of our rulers is a pale reflection of the real thing, writes Sabby Sagall.

Bush and Blair constantly proclaim their abhorrence of dictatorship, their insistence that the war on Iraq was motivated by their love of democracy, a system they will generously endow on the Iraqi people once the 'terrorists' are crushed. We can be forgiven some head-scratching. Didn't the US, with British support or connivance, help to install the most brutal dictatorships in Iran (1953), Indonesia (1965), Congo (1965), Chile (1973), Colombia (1990s till now)?

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