Books

Daring But Divided

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Review of 'The Resistible Rise of Benito Mussolini', Tom Behan, Bookmarks £8

The battles against Italian fascism in 1921-22 erupted as spontaneous self defence against the terror tactics of Mussolini's squads. Many of the left at the time dismissed these brave struggles. The reformist Socialist Party preferred to think that they could beat Mussolini at his own parliamentary game and paid for their error dearly. The new Italian Communist Party (PCI), instead of jumping in feet-first where workers resisted fascism, stood on the sidelines finding errors with those who fought back. The cost of failing to join the struggle on the streets was the victory of fascism.

Minority Report

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Review of 'At what Cost?', Rachel Morris and Luke Clements, The Policy Press £18.99

This study by the Traveller Law Research Unit (TLRU) seeks to fill a gaping hole in governmental auditing of one of Britain's most vulnerable and maltreated minorities--an estimated 200,000-300,000 Gypsies and travelling people. The authors expose the hidden costs of the 1994 legislation which released local authorities from the duty of providing travellers with authorised camp sites. A primary motive for the reforms was financial. Yet no study was ever done into the costs of not providing safe, legal stopping places.

Text Messages

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Review of 'Shakespeare is Hard, but So is Life', Fintan O'Toole, Granta £6.99

Shakespeare, we're told, is uniquely great--every school student aged 11 to 16 has to study his works. Yet the dominant ideas about Shakespeare--which Irish drama critic Fintan O'Toole confronts in this cheery polemic--make the plays seem boring and incomprehensible.

The Warmongers' Poisoned Chalice

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Review of 'The Final Frontier', Dominick Jenkins, Verso £19

As the US prepares to invade Iraq, ostensibly to stop Saddam Hussein using biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, a historical account that looks at how the United States played a central role in the development of such weapons is very timely. The book begins in July 1921 with New York in ruins following a bomb attack, the majority of its inhabitants wiped out by poison gas.

Imperial Roots

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Review of 'Striking Terror', eds. Robert B Silvers and Barbara Epstein, New York Review of Books £10.99

As George Bush prepares to launch an attack on Iraq the publication of this book is a timely reminder of the horrors of US imperialism. This collection of essays puts together a series of articles that originally appeared in the 'New York Review of Books' in the months following 11 September 2001.

Coercion and Consent

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Review of 'The Workers' and Peasants' State', eds. Patrick Major and Jonathan Osmond, Manchester University Press £15.99

When I was active in Natfhe in the 1970s and 1980s the Communist Party bureaucrats in the union saw East Germany, rather than Russia, as the 'socialist' motherland. In East Germany there were no show trials of the sort that had taken place in the rest of Eastern Europe in the early 1950s, women were positively encouraged to enter the labour force and so on.

This new book looks at the reality behind the surface. It contains a range of studies of the politics, society and culture of East Germany between 1945 and 1971.

A World They Have Lost

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Review of 'In Search of Fatima', Ghada Karmi, Verso £16

Edward Said has described Ghada Karmi's memoir as a 'novelist's envy'. Praise indeed and well deserved. Ghada will be well known to many readers of this magazine as one of the most prominent representatives of Palestine in Britain, a regular in TV and radio studios, as well as a staunch supporter of the Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

Winning the Obstacle Race

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Review of 'Fences and Windows', Naomi Klein, Flamingo £8.99

Naomi Klein is a brilliant witness to the rise of the anti-capitalist movement. Her style is spare but atmospheric and thought-provoking at the same time. She remembers significant detail to convey the potency of the protests. 'These protests,' she writes, 'are like stepping into a parallel universe... Corporate logos need armed guards, people usurp cars, art is everywhere, strangers talk to each other, and the prospect of a radical change in political course does not seem like an odd and anachronistic idea but the most logical thought in the world.'

Bankrupted by the World Bank

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Review of 'Zimbabwe's Plunge', Patrick Bond and Masimba Manyanya, Merlin Books £14.95

The economic crisis in Zimbabwe--with unemployment now at over 60 percent, inflation hitting 114 percent and 76 percent of the population below the poverty line--is in urgent need of analysis.

Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980, and inherited debts of nearly $700 million from the white minority regime. The authors of this book argue that Mugabe's Zanu government had the option of repudiating this debt. Had this happened, the government would have had much more flexibility to implement its social policies and address the land question.

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