Books

Peterloo: The English Uprising

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The 16 August 2019 marked the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre, where at least 18 people were killed by the military and 700 injured when some 80,000 people marched considerable distances to St Peter’s Field, Manchester to protest for parliamentary reform.

Mike Leigh’s film Peterloo has recently brought this to public attention. Leigh was outraged that a massacre of peaceful protesters had been effectively written out of English history. Leigh acknowledges the contribution that Robert Poole made to inform his work.

Vital Signs: The Deadly Costs of Health Inequality

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Why is it that, the world over, people’s health is so poor, despite large amounts of money being spent on healthcare, and in every country large differences remain between the health of the rich and of the poor? This big question is tackled comprehensively in this short book that ranges over a number of themes relating to health and healthcare.

Navigating the Zeitgeist

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One important point to make about Helena Sheehan’s political odyssey — from a conservative Catholic upbringing through the radicalism of the US left in the 1960s and early 70s, on to Official Sinn Fein and the Communist Party of Ireland, and then into the Irish Labour Party — is that it demonstrates with crystal clarity the importance of the theory of state capitalism for revolutionary politics.

The Many Not the Few: an Illustrated History of Britain Shaped by the People

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This is an ambitious attempt to narrate some of the major battles of British working class history in a way which is accessible and entertaining to a new generation. It is an attempt which largely succeeds, even if it does leave some important questions unanswered.

Second World, Second Sex

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Kristen Ghodsee documents the lost history of activism of women from Eastern bloc countries, specifically focussing on Bulgaria, within the United Nations Decade of Women 1975-1985. The links made by Eastern European activists with newly independent African nations challenged the hegemony of a Western or neoliberal capitalist vision of women’s emancipation. By sketching out this lost history Ghodsee attempts to draw conclusions about the legacy of “state socialism”, feminism and clash of ideologies during the Cold War.

The Politics of Operations

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This book starts well with a glib and intriguing introduction. We are invited to imagine a trip across the Argentinian Pampas, a journey that starts dreamily with visions of verdant fields of soya but ends jarringly with the realisation that this product: Intacta RR2 Pro is one of a new selection of transgenic seeds incurring violence and disruption to indigenous humans and plants by Monsanto.

Maoism: A Global History

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Author Julia Lovell provides an overview of Maoism in China and all the countries in which it had or still has influence. The book includes a lot of detail on various Maoist movements around the world but offers only a superficial explanation for Mao Zedong’s rise and the spread of his ideas. It includes many entertaining anecdotes but it does not provide sufficient historical context.

Heineken in Africa

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This book is a neat corrective to the dominant narrative that Africans have been in control since direct colonialism ended about 60 years ago. Therefore, if Africa is still backward and underdeveloped, it is the fault of Africans alone. Olivier Van Beemen demonstrates that it is the relationship of multinationals like Heineken with members of the African ruling class that upholds the dystopian dysfunction of African underdevelopment.

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