Books

A People’s History of the Portuguese Revolution

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This is an important and long-overdue book which I recommend strongly. The extraordinary events in Portugal in 1974-5 have been one of the great unreported stories of my lifetime. In that time there have been a smattering of hard-to-find specialist books on Portugal and an excellent chapter in the late Colin Barker’s “Revolutionary Rehearsals” but this book is a game-changer.

An Inconvenient Death

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The US and British invasion of Iraq in March 2003 killed millions and entrenched a cycle of violence and Islamophobia which continues to shape events.

The war was justified by Iraq’s supposed possession of “weapons of mass destruction” though none were ever found. Two million marched in London in protest in February 2003.

Latinx

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“Latinx — A person of Latin American origin or descent (used as a gender-neutral or non-binary alternative).” Latinx is a book that covers the expansive history of Latin America identity post-colonisation, giving an in-depth analysis of the representation of Lantix people in the US and their position in a continually polarising society. It also highlights the differences between North and South America when it comes to the representation and understanding of race from past to present.

The Realm of the Punisher

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I read this book hoping to learn about the Philippines, a country of which I have only a smattering of knowledge. I finished it with a slightly larger smattering: about Spanish and US imperial domination and Japan’s invasion during the Second World War; Rodrigo Duterte’s upbringing and his brutal reign as mayor of Davao, and his payment-by-results “war on drugs” as president that is causing thousands of state-sponsored murders.

October Song

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Paul Le Blanc adds to a rich tradition of historical analysis that shows a clear discontinuity between the Russian Revolution of 1917, as well as some bright periods of pluralism and worker self-organisation, and the later Stalinist dictatorship.

Le Blanc, in a simply-written, concise book, depicts all phases from pre-revolutionary Russia, to the period after the overthrow of Tsarism, the mixed economy, the New Economic Policy (NEP) and the Stalinist years.

The Common Wind

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This is a worthy companion piece to CLR James’s Black Jacobins, which immortalised Toussaint L’Ouverture and the successful slave revolt in the French Caribbean colony of Saint Domingue (now Haiti) in the 1790s. The book’s core brings to life the everyday resistance that often gets lost when recording revolutions. The slave owners were terrified of the slaves’ endlessly creative ways of spreading news. The existence across the Caribbean of “masterless” free black people made it harder for owners to control their slaves.

The New Enclosure

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Privatisation is the theme of the post-Thatcher era and key to understanding it is the attack on state assets, such as rail, post, coal and power, and on land ownership. The overt privatisation of public land that began in the 19th and 20th centuries is, the author states, the defining feature of the post-1979 era. Land ownership infers power: it shapes ecology, access to aquifers, fracking and more.

How It Happened

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This is a long overdue translation of Erno Munkácsi’s 1947 first-hand account of the final months and days that saw the extermination of over 400,000 Hungarian Jews in the death camp at Auschwitz. It is a powerful addition to any serious understanding of the degradation, humiliation and ultimately extermination that befell European Jewry with the victory of fascism. It should serve as an urgent and powerful reminder to all those fighting the far right today as to what awaits us if we are unable to stem its poisonous ideology.

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