Books

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.

Crashing the Party

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In seeking to be Democratic Party Presidential Candidate for 2016, Bernie Sanders attempted to inject “democratic socialism” into American politics. His campaign concentrated on the massive economic inequalities that riddle all areas of US society. This book, written by a researcher and organiser on his campaign, seeks to describe how his outsider radicalism crashed and nearly derailed the neoliberal, free market campaign of the Democrat establishment, epitomised by Hillary Clinton.

As An Equal? Au Pairs in the 21st Century

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The popular image of an au pair is perhaps a young Swedish woman staying in a comfortable middle class home, helping out with a bit of child-minding and enjoying a cultural exchange over the capacious dinner table, practicing her English language skills on ten-year-old Tarquin and six-year-old Tilly.

Cox and Busch’s research uncovers a rather different picture. There may be up to 100,000 au pairs in Britain — an estimate as there is no regulation — and they are being employed to plug a huge gap in the provision of childcare for working parents.

George Orwell Illustrated

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The great bulk of this book is a reprint of the 1984 publication Orwell for Beginners. I must confess I never read it at the time and only now appreciate what a great book I missed out on. It was an outstanding introduction of George Orwell’s politics that has certainly stood the test of time, and the artwork is tremendous. The reprint is accompanied by a 60-plus page update entitled “Planet Orwell”.

Striking to Survive

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This is an important and timely book. During the summer over 50 student activists were detained for supporting Shenzhen Jasic workers who had been dismissed for setting up an independent trade union.

Despite the lack of independent trade unions China has more strikes than any other country in the world. Fan Shigang uses oral histories of people involved in a 24 day strike in the Pearl Delta River (PDR) to show the determination of the workers and the tactics the bosses will use to win — from police harassment to mass arrests and hired thugs.

The James Connolly Reader

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The legacy of James Connolly, Ireland’s pre-eminent Marxist revolutionary, has been appropriated and sanitised by every political tradition including the Irish state to such an extent that his historical role has often been obscured. Shaun Harkin’s selection of Connolly’s writing shines a penetrating light through this fog and allows him to speak for himself.

A Specter Haunting Europe: The Myth of Judeo-Bolshevism

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Paul Hanebrink’s tremendous book could not be more timely. As he points out, we are in the middle of a “surge in political activity on the far-right in Europe and North America”. At Charlottesville there were neo-Nazis shouting the slogan “The Jews Will Not Replace Us”.

These are dangerous times and we need to know as much about the history and politics of the far-right as we can. Hanebrink’s book is a challenging and important contribution helping to develop that understanding.

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