Books

Coming Out from the Shadow

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Review of 'France: The Dark Years', Julian Jackson, Oxford University Press £25.00

From 1934 until 1944 France was engulfed by a civil war. Following the surrender of the French republic, a French state based in Vichy waged war against Jews, Communists and other 'undesirables'. Technically France was divided into zones of occupation, with the Vichy regime directly responsible for the southern third, and the Nazi occupiers for the rest of the country. But even in those zones French police and civil servants were largely responsible for sending Jews to their deaths in Auschwitz and the other death camps, and for waging war on the left.

Awakened from the Nightmare of History

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Review of 'That They May Face the Rising Sun', John McGahern, Faber £16.99

I first encountered John McGahern's novels when, in my early teens, I made my first foray into the adult section of the local library and came across 'The Dark'--a nice, short, approachable novel, so I thought. And it had the word 'fuck' on the first page. I didn't know then that the novel, first published in 1965, had been banned in the Republic of Ireland, and that subsequently McGahern had lost his job as a teacher.

Purging the Demons

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Review of 'Two Hours that Shook the World', Fred Halliday, Saqi Books £12.95

This seems at first sight a sober and often intelligent book--a useful antidote to post 11 September hysteria. For example, we learn that big governments like the US often commit terrorist acts, and that 'international terrorism' is a secondary phenomenon, certainly not a major threat to international order. In addition, the current 'discourse' between the 'west' and 'Islam' is meticulously picked apart.

Mapping the Divide

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Review of 'The Global Media Atlas', Mark Balnaves, James Donald and Stephanie Hemelryk Donald, BFI Publishing £14.99

I love maps, and this well presented paperback provides 50 maps with a difference--they break down the world into the haves and have-nots in the global communications revolution that has swept the world in the last ten years.

Anger and Optimism

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Review of 'Ten Reasons to Abolish the IMF and World Bank', Kevin Danaher, Seven Stories Press £4.99

Kevin Danaher personifies the most exciting features of the movement against capitalism--he's angry and he's optimistic. 'We abolished slavery, we abolished Jim Crow laws, we abolished child labour, we abolished the exclusion of women from voting, we abolished the 60-hour work week, and we can abolish international banking institutions that do more to prevent democracy than to promote it,' he declares in 'Ten Reasons to Abolish the IMF and World Bank'.

Digging at the Roots of Dissent

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Review of 'Italy and its Discontents', Paul Ginsberg, Penguin £25.00

Last year a lot more happened in Italy than demonstrations in Genoa. In May the Blairite DS party lost power to Berlusconi. The party then split over what to do about the Genoa protests. Then the leadership supported the war in Afghanistan and the party squabbled some more. In the party's brief life it has only suffered from 'exitism', not entrism.

Permanent Debate

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Review of 'Trotsky and the Origins of Trotskyism', Alfred Rosmer, Francis Bootle £10

There is now a vast amount of literature on the subject of this book. First and foremost there are Trotsky's own brilliant and voluminous writings, then Isaac Deutscher's mighty 'Prophet' trilogy, Tony Cliff's four-volume political study, works by Victor Serge and Natalia Trotsky, Pierre Broué, Ernest Mandel, Duncan Hallas and many lesser figures.

The Sky is No Longer the Limit

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Review of 'Full Spectrum Absurdity', ed. Ken Coates, Spokesman Books £5 and 'The Last Frontier', ed. Ken Coates, Spokesman Books £5

Socialists by their very nature are internationalists and care about peace and social justice worldwide. These two booklets (part of a regular series from Spokesman for the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation) give lively commentaries and background to current issues in collections of short essays.

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.

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