Sasha Simic

Hard to Be a God

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Russian director Aleksei German’s last film Hard to Be a God (2014) is an adaptation of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s 1964 novel of the same name.

The Strugatskys were Russian brothers who wrote science fiction novels in the former USSR (Arkady died in 1991 and Boris in 2012). Their most famous work, Roadside Picnic, was filmed by Andrei Tarkovsky as Stalker (1979).

White God

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In contemporary Budapest 13 year old Lili reluctantly moves into her estranged father’s tiny flat when her mother takes up an overseas academic post. Her friend, the gentle giant Hagen, comes too, which doesn’t go down well with her dad. When a neighbour falsely claims Hagen has attacked her, Lili’s father throws him out. Hagen is brutalised by street life in a series of exploitative and abusive encounters.

Look Back in Anger

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Harry Patterson, Five Leaves, £9.99

At the start of the Great Miners' Strike in March 1984 Nottinghamshire's coal-mining industry was second in size only to Yorkshire's with 32,000 employed in the pits. But of those, less than 2,000 workers stayed out for the duration of the year-long strike.

Harry Patterson's useful history of the strike in Nottinghamshire asks why the majority of its miners scabbed.

When the Nottinghamshire miners were balloted in mid-March on whether to join the action with the rest of the NUM, only one in four Notts miners voted to back it.

Dr Who: Resistance is eternal

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In this, his 50th anniversary year, Doctor Who has become a contested figure. The right think he's one of them. The Daily Mail, for example, sees him as an embodiment of "traditional values".

"What finer example of a man - brave, reflective, with a keen sense of heroic duty - is there than Doctor Who?" it writes. And it's true that there are aspects of the character the right are happy with.

The Doctor is an aristocrat from a fantasy super-Britain. His home planet, Gallifrey, is a combination of Eton, Oxbridge and parliament on steroids.

Stand Up, People: Gypsy Pop Songs from Tito's Yugoslavia, 1964 - 1980

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Various artists

Whatever else the long-gone "Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia" was, it was multicultural. Established in 1945, it was made up of six republics and populated by 22 different ethnicities, including Muslim Slavs, Albanians, Jews, ethnic Germans, Turks, Vlachs and Hungarians. It had three major religions, two alphabets, three official languages and a variety of minority languages, including Albanian, Turkish, Bulgarian, Romanian, Italian, Czech, Slovak, Ruthenian and Roma.

All Power to the Councils!

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Edited by Gabriel Kuhn

The Russian Revolution of October 1917, which ended the situation of dual power in favour of the workers' councils (soviets), was never intended to be confined within Russia's borders.

Germany, as one of Europe's most industrially advanced nations, was seen as a key battleground for the future. And almost a year after Russia's revolution the Bolshevik strategy was vindicated by the German Revolution of November 1918. Initially the German Revolution seemed to replay events in Russia, but with the prospect of a far easier transition to full workers' power.

Bring Up The Bodies

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Hilary Mantel

In Bring Up The Bodies, Hilary Mantel returns to the court of Henry VIII and the life of his foremost administrator, Thomas Cromwell, which she evoked so brilliantly in her last novel, Wolf Hall.

Wolf Hall covered the eight years in which the "King's great matter" of his divorce from Katherine of Aragon ran its course. Bring Up The Bodies spans a much more concentrated period of just eight months and ends with the execution of Anne Boleyn and her alleged lovers in May 1536.

Trieste

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Daša Drndic

Trieste tells the story of the only concentration camp with a crematorium on Italian soil. It was built in the spring of 1944 at the Risiera di San Sabba, a former rice mill in a suburb of Trieste.

Trieste sat at the crossroads of Italian, German, Austro-Hungarian and Slavic cultures and was a richly multilingual and multicultural melting-pot. It is bitterly ironic that it became a site of Nazi mass murder.

The King's Speech

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Director: Tom Hooper, Release date: 7 January

This is a very peculiar film that pulls off something of an artistic coup.

It's both an obsequious, servile, heritage heavy glorification of a recent British monarch and also a deeply critical study of the royal family and of monarchy in general.

It's the story of how Albert Frederick Arthur George Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, who was born the Duke of York and died King George VI, struggled to lose his paralysing stammer - a handicap which in an age of mass communication made him a liability and an embarrassment to the royal family.

Held to Ransome

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I really enjoyed John Parrington's review of The Last Englishman, Roland Chamber's new biography of Arthur Ransome (Books, Socialist Review, November 2009).

The bourgeois press don't know what to make of Ransome and the "problem" of his attachment to the Russian Revolution. If they could view history from the perspective of the working class, they would see there is no "great mystery" as to why he endorsed the revolution and gave the early soviets his wholehearted support. He recognised it for what it was - the self-liberation of the poorest and most oppressed people on the planet.

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