Books

A Revolution Undone

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H M Hellyer was both witness and participant in the momentous events that shook Egypt in 2011 and the subsequent developments that finally led to the military coup of July 2013. From visiting and staying in Tahrir Square to helping form one of the numerous local committees that sprang up to guard and look after local communities when the regime sent out its thugs, Hellyer was joyously drawn to the revolution and his world outlook was transformed.

The Dilemmas of Lenin

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Writing about Lenin is a crowded field and inevitably controversial. This reflects the extraordinary role played by Lenin himself in the only socialist revolution thus far in the history of capitalism. Hated and demonised by Cold War historians, distorted and buried under the Stalinist rewriting of Bolshevism and the Russian Revolution, all writers who attempt to present what Lenin actually wrote, said and did are most welcome.

Testosterone Rex

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Testosterone Rex is a firm riposte to the recent book Testosterone: Sex, Power and the Will to Win, which places testosterone as so important that “a simple fact remains: without testosterone there would be no humans to have a history”. This bold claim is challenged by neuroscientist and feminist writer Cordelia Fine, who wrote the bestselling Delusions of Gender.

The Disappearance of Émile Zola

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On Monday 18 July 1898 the French novelist Emile Zola was sentenced to a year in prison and a 3,000 franc fine. His crime was to have written an open letter to the French president entitled “J’accuse” (I accuse).

In it Zola accused military officials, including the minister of war, of falsely convicting Major Alfred Dreyfus (a Jewish officer) of passing military secrets to Germany. Fully aware that he risked prosecution for libel by denouncing the army and government’s handling of the Dreyfus affair, Zola boldly stated:

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.

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