Books

Pressing for Reform

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Review of 'Voices of Revolution', Rodger Streitmatter, Columbia University Press £13.50

As the radical journalist Upton Sinclair once noted, the establishment newspapers generally do not challenge the status quo, but rather construct a 'concrete wall between the public and alternative thinking'. Hence the need for the dissident press whose primary purpose is to effect social change.

Moved by Justice

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Review of 'Josephine Butler', Jane Jordan, John Murray £22.50

Jane Jordan's biography of Josephine Butler exposes the brutality of women's oppression at the height of British capitalism. In particular, our attention is turned to the treatment of working class women under the Contagious Diseases Acts passed in the second half of the 19th century. Jordan shows the 20-year struggle it took to finally defeat these vicious acts and celebrates the life of its determined leader.

Going Back to His Roots

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Review of 'The Gatekeeper', Terry Eagleton, Allan Lane £9.99

Prince Charles once dubbed him 'that dreadful Terry Eagleton'. It's not often a royal is so indelicately forthcoming about a former professor at Oxford University but, then again, this one's no hoary old academic. He is, of all things, a revolutionary Marxist who, as these short memoirs reveal, has mixed his time as an Oxford don and Britain's foremost literary theorist with stints selling socialist newspapers in the street and leafleting workers at the local car plant.

Civilised Behaviour?

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Review of 'British Counter-Insurgency', John Newsinger, Palgrave £45

The major impression one is left with after reading this book is the utter brutality of British imperial government policy towards subjugated people who threaten its interests anywhere in the world--and that applies equally to Tory or Labour governments.

It Remains to Conquer All

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Review of 'Reflections', Edward W Said, Granta £20

Exile, in the words of Wallace Stevens, is 'a mind of winter', in which 'the pathos of summer and autumn as much as the potential of spring are nearby but unobtainable'. Edward Said reflects on his and the Palestinians' political condition, in one of a wide range of subjects and styles of essays in this collection.

Fifty Years of Subversion

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Review of 'Rogue State', William Blum, Zed Books £15.95

William Blum has written a devastating record of the history of US imperialism since the Second World War. A former State Department official, he left the US government in 1967 because of his opposition to the Vietnam War. Since then he has been concerned to expose the role of the CIA and other US government agencies in, as they say, 'defending' US interests throughout the world.

Breadth of Vision and a Zest for Life

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Review of 'Marx and Engels: Collected Works Volume 48', Lawrence and Wishart £45

Engels' letters are a delight to read. Here we have him as active as ever as he approaches the age of 80. He is immersed in editing volume two of Capital, which involves him working his way through hundreds of pages of nearly illegible handwriting despite his own diminishing eyesight.

Culture of Hope in a World of Horror

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Review of 'Spaces of Capital', David Harvey, Edinburgh University Press £16.99

The cotton industry of the early 19th century was an international affair. A vital part of the labour force was African, transported through the slave trade to the American South where the raw material was cultivated. Cotton goods were produced in the mills of Lancashire by a workforce which had been drawn from the surrounding English countryside. The finished products were then distributed for sale in Europe but also to India and beyond, with devastating consequences for the indigenous Indian textile industry.

White Male

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Review of 'Dictionary of Labour Biography', ed. Greg Rosen, Politicos £30

This volume is part history, part journalism, and by no means all the figures covered are dead! It is a huge 660-page work of reference with several hundred entries. It boasts some very well known contributors, including John Monks on former TUC general secretary Vic Feather and Gordon Brown on Red Clydesider James Maxton. However much readers of Socialist Review will disagree with many of the assessments made, it is guaranteed that they will exert a peculiar fascination, and occasionally horror, on the reader.

Far from Home

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Review of 'A New World Order', Caryl Phillips, Secker & Warburg £17.99

Caryl Phillips is an interesting writer. He writes in a confident, polemical way about the 'black experience' on both sides of the Atlantic. As Caryl Phillips points out in newspaper and magazine articles that make up his new book A New World Order, many black people, in both the US and the UK, have never felt quite 'at home'. Phillips's writing is all about not quite belonging, and is divided into the four corners of his world - the US, Africa, the Caribbean and Britain.

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