Books

Brit(ish) On Race, Identity and Belonging

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Racism, as we know, is a long-contested debate, issue and argument that has morphed throughout the centuries in Britain. Hirsch, who is of mix-race heritage, uses this as a starting point to open up dialogue around the subject of identity, exploring themes of origins, bodies and class which are some of the main chapters in the book.

Discussing a variety of topics from dating, education and police brutality to the EU referendum and the rise in Islamophobia, she dissects her personal experiences, comparing them against official statistics and historical facts.

Europe’s Fault Lines

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Liz Fekete has done all socialists and anti-racists a service by documenting the extent of right wing mobilisation across Europe. She discusses the rise of the fascist right such as the Front National in France, and the right wing parties that are gaining ground in Austria, Poland, Hungary and the rest of eastern Europe.

Importantly she identifies this push as coming not simply from fascist ideologues but from the actions of mainstream parties as they adopt increasingly right wing positions.

Aftershock

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US author John Feffer’s Aftershock is a howl of liberal outrage at the failures of liberalism in Eastern Europe.

In 1989 mass demonstrations, which intensified manoeuvres at the top, brought down the Stalinist dictatorships of the Eastern Bloc. In the wake of their collapse, Feffer travelled to the region to set up an office for the Quaker American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).

America City

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America City, set in the early 22nd century, is an example of the growing genre of climate fiction or cli-fi. It opens with a description of a devastating superstorm that hits Delaware, crushing even steel-reinforced homes. As climate change bites, Americans are fleeing the stormy east coast and going west. Others are escaping the parched south of the country, leaving their homes to the dust as it becomes too expensive to irrigate the farmland.

Champions of Equality

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This is a welcome account of the development of LGBT+ rights within trade unions in Britain in the last 50 years. But Champions of Equality also insists on the necessity of linking the workers movement, the left and the struggle against oppression as the key to winning real gains and reforms in society today.

Peter Purton explains the shift in general social attitudes and the resulting political gains for LGBT+ people through a detailed analysis of how LGBT+ issues were first raised, organised around, and won within the union movement.

Global Social Work in a political context

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Unlike many academic books this is an easy and enjoyable read. In social work, too often books focus on the individual practice, with little about the context in which we intervene. Ferguson et al emphasise the political role of social work and the need to fight for radical approaches in a time ripe for radical politics.

The analysis in the first part of the book of the economic and ideological politics of neoliberalism sets the scene for understanding social work in a wider context than British shores.

The Rohingyas

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The Muslim Rohingya people have lived in Rakhine state, Myanmar, for centuries. As a result of their persecution by the majority Buddhist Burman ethnic group, 300,000 Rohingya had crossed to Bangladesh and were living in refugee camps prior to the first publication of this book in 2016.

Yemen in Crisis

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One morning last December I opened the newspaper to read that “today marks 1,000 days since the beginning of the war in Yemen, a country which is now suffering from the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.”

By mid-2017 Yemen faced its worse famine since the 1940s and the world’s worst cholera epidemic. The war between Saudi Arabia and Houthi rebels has claimed at least 10,000 lives. The former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh had switched sides before being killed and wider imperialist tensions drive the conflict.

The Skull of Alum Bheg

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This is a remarkable work of historical detection. A skull found in a pub in Kent in 1963. A handwritten note inserted in an eye socket: “Skull of Haviladar Alum Bheg 46th Bengal N Infantry who was blown away from a gun. He was a principal leader of the mutiny of 1857 and of a most ruffianly disposition.”

Kim Wagner, who had been writing and researching colonial executions, is alerted to its existence and “found myself standing at a small train station on a wet November day with a human skull in my bag.”

1917: War, Peace and Revolution

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By 1917 all sides in the First World War were at a stalemate. The Battle of the Somme had already led to huge casualties on all sides. By January 1917, having lost a million men either killed, wounded or captured, France needed to end the war. Similarly, Russia was on its knees, with 4.5 million killed, wounded or sick, food shortages and inflation.

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