Books

Our Friends in the North

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Review of 'Born under Punches', Martyn Waites, Simon & Schuster £10.99

1984: Coldwell, a fictional north east mining town, is under siege by the police. Stephen Larkin, a passionate young journalist, wants to expose the truth about the miners' strike--what's at stake for Coldwell and the country, and what Thatcher and the police are prepared to do to win.

Migrating Across the Waves

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Review of 'Welcome to Paradise', Mahi Binebine, Granta £12.99 and 'The Broken Cedar', Martin Malone, Scribner £12.99

Both these new novels are about faraway people. 'Welcome to Paradise' is about North African would-be emigrants waiting through the night on a Moroccan beach for the moment their trafficker decides it is safe to cross the Straits of Gibraltar. 'The Broken Cedar' is about the effects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on everyday Lebanese life in 1994, before the Israelis leave Lebanon, and an act of horrifying violence this gives rise to in the past of Khalil, who is an electrical shopkeeper catering to the needs of United Nations troops on the Israeli-Lebanese border.

A Matter of State

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Review of 'Class Theory and History', Stephen A Resnick and Richard D Wolff, Routledge £16.99

Stephen Resnick and Richard Wolff, two American sociologists, set out to explain in this book the nature of Soviet society. Their argument is that the USSR was 'state capitalist', by which they mean that the economic rules of that society were no different from those of the established class societies of America and the west. Such an argument is timely and important, but not entirely new.

Scottsboro

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Ellen Feldman, Picador, £7.99

The Scottsboro boys were nine young black men wrongly convicted of the rape of two white women on a train in Alabama in 1931 and sentenced with the death penalty. Their fight for justice became a worldwide cause that saw Clarence Norris, as the last living defendant, receiving a pardon from the notorious governor of Alabama, George Wallace, only in 1976.

The Gospel Truth

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Review of 'Apocalypse', Neil Faulkner, Tempus £25

Resistance to imperial expansion is not a phenomenon confined to modern times, as Neil Faulkner demonstrates in this richly detailed survey of the Jewish revolts against the Roman Empire in Palestine in the middle of the 1st century AD.

Conspiracy to Kill

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Review of 'An Act of State', William F Pepper, Verso £17

Martin Luther King is often viewed as being at the opposite end of the political spectrum to Malcolm X. The latter is seen as the uncompromising radical of the Black Power movement of the 1960s, while King is portrayed as a reformer who could not keep pace with the growing militancy of the times. The truth is not so black and white. King was increasingly shifting to the left, coming out against the Vietnam War and organising on class lines through the Poor People's Campaign and supporting strike action. The US was in flames, with 131 riots in the first six months of 1968.

On Russia With Love

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Review of 'Marx and Anglo-Russian Relations and Other Writings', D B Riazanov, Francis Boutle Publishers £10

During the 19th century, constitutional Britain and despotic Russia had one common and abiding interest--the defeat of revolution. In 1848, when the Tsar sent his army to crush the Hungarian Revolution, Lord Palmerston, Britain's foreign secretary, murmured to the Russian ambassador, 'Get it over quickly'. Although Britain and Russia clashed during the Crimean War of 1854-56, the war had a sham quality because Britain sought not to destroy but to contain Russia, so as to save Tsardom for the cause of counter-revolution.

Personal Best

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Review of 'In Black and White', Donald McRae, Scribner £18.99

Books about sporting celebrities rarely capture the attention of socialists, and perhaps rightly so. The vast majority are instantly forgettable chronicles of 'glory days' ghost-written for performers with no obvious talents beyond their speed, strength, stamina or agility.

Countering Captain Correlli

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Review of 'British Intervention and the Greek Revolution', John Newsinger, Socialist Historians Society £2.75

The Second World War was fought to make the world safe for freedom and democracy. That is the claim made today, just as it was at the beginning of 1946 when the regiment I was in was posted to Greece. The war being over, troops in the Mediterranean were expected to be sent home and demobilised. They were bemused--but not amused--to find themselves being used to keep in power a right wing government of black marketeers and Nazi collaborators. At the same time they were used in the relentless persecution of the Resistance.

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