Books

October 1917

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Books marking the centenary of the Russian Revolution are not in short supply. But this is among the few to praise the revolution rather than seek to bury it.

American Marxist Paul Le Blanc provides an introduction to the collection of articles with an overview of eyewitness accounts and interpretations by historians with varying degrees of sympathy, mostly none.

Debriefing the President

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A book by an ex-CIA “leadership analyst” who admires George Bush senior and constantly seeks the best ways to defend American interests might not be the normal fare of Socialist Review.

However, this account of agent John Nixon’s meetings with the recently imprisoned Saddam Hussein has caused some minor ripples in the stagnant ponds of the bourgeois press for what it exposes of the American state and security services, and the way it clearly demolishes any lingering justifications of the US and Britain attacking Iraq.

Caught in the Revolution

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Helen Rappaport has skilfully woven together the accounts and reports made by more than 80 foreigners who were either visiting or working in Petrograd when, on International Women’s Day 1917, tens of thousands of women walked out on strike and began calling out more textile workers and their male colleagues in the engineering and munitions plants.

Their accounts of the following five days of escalating revolutionary turmoil are fabulous, not because of any political acumen — far from it — but because the revolution itself was fabulous.

Splinterlands

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The world of 2050 is a frightening, unstable place. The European Union has collapsed, having “hit a wall of Euroskepticism, fiscal austerity and xenophobia”. The United States is beset by environmental disasters, with Washington having been destroyed by Hurricane Donald in 2022.

A great uprising has fragmented China, and Russia has disintegrated along ethnic lines. Nationalism and terrorism are rife and the few centres of “order” are authoritarian safe havens where capital and the super-rich can carry on as before.

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.

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