Reviews

Marx Returns

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It’s 1849 and Karl Marx is living in London, having fled Prussia and been expelled from France following the 1848 revolutions. Poverty stricken, he is trying to complete his manuscript Capital, A critique of Political Economy while cramped in two rooms with his wife Jenny, housekeeper Helene Demuth, three children plus a fourth on the way. Marx, active in the Communist League, defends his revolutionary ideas to workers against anarchist detractors and conspiracy theorists.

Natives

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Akala has already revealed to the world that the Wu-Tang Clan’s lyrics can rival Shakespeare’s. He has also helped restore the weight and significance of African contributions to human history in his Oxford Union speech and his freestyle sessions on the BBC.

In his first book, Natives, Akala now takes on the British Empire and tears down the myths of greatness that surround it. One of these myths, he tells us in chapter five, is that William Wilberforce ended slavery.

Rise Like Lions: Poetry for the Many

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Any anthology of poetry that takes part of its title from the great revolutionary poet Shelley’s cry of anger and call to arms in response to the Peterloo Massacre, The Mask of Anarchy, and reprints the poem in full, is going to be worth reading.
Add to this the works of Milton, Blake, Brecht and Langston Hughes (to name but a few) and it becomes an even more attractive proposition.

You're Not Here

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Tariq Mehmood, author of this novel for young adults, was one of the Bradford 12. Arrested in 1981 when Asian youth took to the streets to confront the threat of organised racist attacks on their community, they were charged with making petrol bombs. All 12 were acquitted in a landmark 1982 trial on the grounds of the right to self-defence. “Self-Defence is No Offence” was the slogan of the campaign to free them.

The Murderer of Warren Street

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The French Blanquist revolutionary, Emmanuel Barthelemy, was hanged for the Warren Street murders on 22 January 1855. He had been sentenced to death, even though the jury that found him guilty had recommended clemency. It was a public execution, watched by perhaps as many as 10,000 people, apparently a disappointing crowd for the time.

How had a dedicated and uncompromising French revolutionary, a veteran of the 1848 barricades, come to die on the scaffold in London?

A World to Win

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The bicentenary of Karl Marx’s birth has been commemorated in various ways this year and this colossal new biography by Swedish academic Sven-Eric Liedman is the latest addition to the Marx bibliography.

At over 600 pages, Liedman’s book aims “to present Marx’s work in all its breadth”, giving equal weight to both his life and his work. Everything from Marx’s university thesis and love letters to Jenny Von Westphalen to unpublished responses intended for Russian revolutionary Vera Zasulich are considered worthy of evaluation alongside The Communist Manifesto and Capital.

Mistaken Identity

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How did identity politics go from being part of a wider radical movement for change to becoming a tool for establishment politicians to undermine the left? If identity politics doesn’t move us towards genuine liberation, what sort of politics do we need? These are the central questions that Asad Haider asks in this thoughtful and thought-provoking book about race, class and the limitations of identity-based politics.

May Made Me: an oral history of the 1968 uprising in France

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Among the many books published in the 50th anniversary of the May ’68 revolt, this one stands out for its ability to hear from those directly involved. Through dozens of interviews with participants, Mitchell Abidor lets us feel the transformative power of mass struggle on individuals and society.

Students fighting the police on the barricades and 10 million workers on general strike made what had seemed impossible capable of being realised. And people found courage and new strengths.

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