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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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