Books

Codename Intelligentsia

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This is a very good book. It makes an important contribution to the history of British Communism. Russell Campbell painstakingly chronicles how the Communist Party transformed the upper class socialist Ivor Montagu, a younger son of Lord Swaythling, into a shabby apologist for the very worst excesses of Stalinism, someone even prepared to work for the Russian secret police, the GRU.

Flawed Capitalism

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I first met David Coates in the York branch of the International Socialists in September 1971. So it is with great sadness that I learned that he died on 7 August this year.

There are two sides to the way Coates presents capitalism as flawed: the impact that it has had on the mass of the populations in the UK and US, the two societies he analyses in the book, and flawed in the kind of capitalism under review. He believes that the rise of Trump and the populist right mean that we are at a turning point that needs to be seized by all progressives.

Algiers, Third World Capital

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Elaine Mokhtefi arrives in Paris in 1951. Over the following decades she gives her all to facilitate the movement for Algerian Independence, on the way mingling with the best — and worst — political figures of the time.

Mokhtefi ascribes her political awakening to May Day 1952 when she witnesses a huge protest and is at first “bewitched by the formidable display of worker solidarity and trade unionism.” At the rear of the parade she notices thousands of men “young, grim, slightly built and poorly dressed” without banners, rushing with arms raised to join in.

Palestine: A Four Thousand Year History

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Nur Masalha’s Palestinian history is a powerful antidote to Zionist narratives, and to accepted Western narratives, which place Palestine as a territory that began its life in 1918 under British rule.

Masalha details Palestine’s 4,000 year history, from Late Bronze Age Egypt through the Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic empires to the modern era.

Economics for the Many

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This collection of essays begins with the undoubted instability and polarisation neoliberalism has caused. It ends with Guy Standing claiming vindication for his 2011 prediction that a political monster would emerge. In between there is much useful detail about the systemic theft at the heart of the current system and well-argued proposals for alternatives.

Freedom

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Nathaniel lives in Jamaica and doesn’t want to move to England with his master’s family, leaving his mother and sister behind on the Jamaican plantation.

But his mother has told him: “once a slave sets foot on English soil, they’re free”. Perhaps he can earn his fortune and buy his family’s freedom, too. What would Nathaniel learn from this journey and living in England?

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.

“Pushkin’s radicalism tends to be denied”

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Lifelong socialist, trade union militant and anti-racist activist Jack Robertson talked to Socialist Review about his new book The Man Who Shook His Fist at the Tsar. It’s about the life of the great Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin, and his place in the tradition of Russian radicalism.

The majority of the book takes the form of a narrative history, looking at episodes in Pushkin’s biography and in Russian history, but you start with a new verse translation of Pushkin’s epic poem The Bronze Horseman. Why have you chosen to spotlight that?

You Are Always With Me: Letters To Mama

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Frida Kahlo was a prolific letter writer. At 16 she began writing letters to her mum, Matilde Calderon Kahlo. You Are Always With Me is a collection of some of these letters written by Frida, published for the first time in English.

The letters begin two years prior to Frida’s life-changing bus accident that left her bedridden for months at a time and in constant pain that she dulled with alcohol and pain killers.

City of Segregation

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The poisonous link between housing and racism in the US has received some welcome and overdue attention lately. Richard Rothstein’s book The Color of Law and George Clooney’s film Suburbicon each expose how black people have been deliberately excluded from “white areas”. City of Segregation shows how the legacy endures, 50 years after the US Fair Housing Act sought to end housing discrimination.

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