Books

The Three Worlds of Social Democracy

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The authors discuss the social democratic models in Western Europe, South America and peripheries. The central model in Europe discussed by Max Crook is British social democracy, which championed a mixed economy with the free market dogma of containing inflation through a monetarist economic policy. New Labour saw social democracy integrate the neoliberal economic model.

Hezbollah: The political economy of Lebanon’s party of God

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What is Hezbollah? Its disciplined and well-armed fighters are an important player in key regional conflicts, working in alliance with Syrian and Iranian states. Its media and telecommunications systems are independent of Lebanese state interference or control. Its network of municipal, welfare and business organisations structure daily life for hundreds of thousands of residents in its heartlands.

Rethinking Revolution

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This collection of essays looks at revolution in the 21st century via the legacy of the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Individual contributions range from assessments of the left in Latin America and Greece to a survey of Marx and Engels’ views on the revolutionary party, the October Revolution itself and the Chinese Communist Party. However, there are some notable omissions, such as any analysis of the Arab revolutions in 2011.

1917: Stories and Poems

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When the revolutionary workers of Russia seized state power in 1917, 70 percent of the population were illiterate. Yet the revolution revealed a hunger for knowledge and art, and a cultural debate raged over the soul of the revolution.

Translator Boris Drayluk says the aim of this collection of poetry and prose from 1917 to 1919 is not to describe the revolution, but to “steep the reader in its tumult”, and I think he is successful.

Our Revolution

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Our Revolution is essentially a lengthy version of the stump speech that self-proclaimed democratic socialist Bernie Sanders perfected at rallies across the country during his campaign. He provides an autobiography of his childhood as the son of working class parents in Brooklyn, his college days in Chicago as a civil rights activist, and his political life in Vermont as the independent mayor of Burlington to the state’s senator today.

Rebel Crossings

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This book is a fine example of someone on a mission. In the 1970s Sheila Rowbotham found a book in the British Library called Whitman’s Ideal Democracy and other writings by Helena Born, with a biography of the author written by Helen Tuffs.

Helena Born was a radical woman with some unconventional views. She came from a middle class family, became a socialist, was an active (and often leading) supporter and organiser of many strikes in the late 1880 and 1890s, during the period of New Unionism.

The Bleeding Edge

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This is an entertaining book. Hughes has a genuinely pleasing turn of phrase, for example: “The data explosion — how the cloud became a juggernaut”.

The book makes many interesting comments about the history of computing both in terms of software and hardware. And undoubtedly Hughes is on the right side of history and wants to explode the idea that capitalism is the most technologically dynamic system possible. However, there’s a but coming, and it is rather a long one.

Iraq: The Cost of War

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Jeremy Greenstock dedicates his book to his wife, but could as well have dedicated it to the global anti-war movement, stating, “For Anne, who suspected long before I did that Saddam had no WMD.”

Greenstock was the UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) in the run up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and UK Special Envoy for Iraq in the immediate aftermath.

He has written a long and hugely detailed book and in between a potted history of his own career and reflections on the role of the UN, American power and other major political events he focuses on Iraq.

Revolutionary Yiddishland

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It’s not often that any section of the working class suffers a defeat so crushing that the collective memory of its struggles and the living tradition of the participants is completely extinguished.

Perhaps the closest we have come to this is the fate of the revolutionary Jewish working class movement of the first half of the 20th century in Eastern Europe.

Revolutionary Yiddishland is a marvellous, bitter-sweet book that seeks to rescue this tradition. It is a bitter book because we know the ending.

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