Books

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.

Extract: A Rebel's Guide to Alexandra Kollontai

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In this extract from her new book, A Rebel’s Guide to Alexandra Kollontai, Emma Davis sets out the Russian revolutionary’s views on sexuality and relationships under capitalism and beyond.

Alexandra Kollontai described how women’s oppression resulted in unequal and often fraught relations between men and women.

While relationships occupied an important part of Kollontai’s life, they also frustrated her. She expressed this frustration in one of short stories: “I’ve read enough novels to know just how much time and energy it takes to fall in love and I just don’t have time.”

Safe as Houses

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The Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 was an atrocity waiting to happen and there were a thousand warning signs which were not acted on.

There were the obvious ones — members of the Grenfell Action Group explicitly warning of a “catastrophic fire”. And then there were the hundreds of smaller ones — every shoddy repair job and ignored complaint in social housing developments.

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