Tony Phillips

A People’s History of the German Revolution

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The German Revolution of 1918 to 1923 was one of the most important yet little known events of the 20th century. Had the workers emerged victorious it is likely that there would have been no Stalinism, no Hitler, no Second World War, no Holocaust and we would be living in a very different world today. The late Bill Pelz has written a brief and enjoyable history of the revolution up to 1920.

Pelz explains how the rapid development of capitalism in the newly unified German state created a working class with a high level of class consciousness.

Karl Marx’s Ecosocialism

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This fascinating book builds on the work of Marxists such as John Bellamy Foster to argue that Karl Marx’s thought is central to understanding that humanity’s destruction of the planet is due to the capitalist mode of production. It is a further blow against the perception that Marx was a naive Promethean — someone who believed that simply increasing production will solve all humanity’s ills and that therefore Marxism has nothing to say about ecological crisis.

Russia in Revolution

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Steve Smith has provided a useful overview of Russian history from the end of the 19th century to the 1920s centred, of course, on the dramatic events of 1917 and their aftermath.

He presents a panoramic view and yet includes a considerable amount of detail for a relatively short book.

Smith argues that the revolutions of 1905 and 1917 were rooted in the clash between the growing pressure for modernisation of Russia society and the barrier represented by the Tsarist regime.

Hesitant Comrades

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Given that Ireland was officially part of the UK until 1922 and that many British unions organised in Ireland, not to mention that large numbers of Irish workers lived in Britain, you might assume that the struggle for independence was a major issue for the British labour movement of the day. In fact, as this book brings out, it was an embarrassment for the leaders of both the Labour Party and the trade unions.

Strikes stopped call-up

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There was an important omission in Chris Fuller’s fascinating piece on resistance to conscription during the First World War (“Forced to fight their war”, March SR). Chris concludes by stating that the government backed off from introducing conscription in Ireland “still stunned by the Easter Rising”. In fact it was mass resistance, crucially the general strike called by the Irish TUC, that forced Lloyd George to retreat.

1956: The World in Revolt

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1956 was a year of change across the world. The apparently stable international order imposed by the victorious powers at the end of the Second World War was challenged by a series of dramatic revolts. This book provides an excellent survey of the key events from Budapest to Cairo and Algiers to Montgomery, Alabama.

Author Simon Hall brings their impact home with lively and inspiring blow by blow accounts and portraits of key personalities such as Rosa Parks, Gamal Abdel Nasser and Imre Nagy.

Outsider in the White House

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This Socialist Senator’s campaign to be president shows that the appetite for a left wing alternative to establishment neoliberal politics is as strong in the US as it is in Britain, Greece and Spain.

Sanders has repeatedly managed to get elected as a democratic socialist, not for either the Democratic or Republican parties. His politics were shaped by participation in the civil rights and anti Vietnam war movements of the 1960s.

His hero is Eugene Debs, a socialist who ran for president from prison, having been jailed for opposing participation in the First World War.

Economics after Capitalism

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Any book which argues that “capitalism doesn’t work and alternatives are possible” should be welcomed by revolutionary socialists.

The author Derek Wall, a leading member of the left in the Green Party, surveys the various strands of anti-capitalism around the world and looks at how capitalism can be replaced.

Wall begins with insider critics of neoliberalism such as George Soros and Joseph Stiglitz rightly pointing out that “they act as a vaccine against the virus of anti-capitalist protest”.

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