Reviews

Reading 'Capital' Today

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The editors of this collection describe reading Marx’s Capital as a political process and certainly Marx intended that his work would become a weapon in the hands of the working class. Reading ‘Capital’ Today does not obviously emerge from any political practice, but rather from readings by authors mostly better known for their academic contributions than their activism.

Urban Revolt

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Read this to be inspired by stories of city-based resistance in some of the most difficult conditions possible.

The editors want to confront the idea that capitalism is triumphant everywhere and instead look at examples where “the hegemony of ruling classes is being directly challenged by mass organisations”. Their examples range from Africa to Asia to Latin America.

The End of Policing

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Alex Vitale condemns the politics of austerity for creating the circumstances in which heavy-handed policing becomes the accepted means of controlling a poor, marginalised majority in a system which exists to serve the 1%.

It surprised me how far the US police and criminal justice system have been militarised. Local forces hold extensive, state-funded, stores of military hardware and the training of officers is undertaken by private companies who routinely train foreign militia and the military.

Rock in a Hard Place

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Metal as a genre of contemporary music is still derided across the world, despite being one of the most commercially successful styles of popular music since its birth in the late 1960s.

Orlando Crowcroft details what this most demeaned style of music continues to mean to fans in six of the most war-ravaged and hostile countries: Lebanon, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Palestine, and Syria.

Big Capital

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Big Capital is a neatly packaged explication of London’s housing crisis with an emphasis on those who most suffer from it.

The main campaigns against social cleansing are examined, and the kleptocratic property industry is exposed. Along the way there are some startling revelations, like the out of work actor who got paid to pretend he was a resident in order to support a controversial development, or the treatment of single mothers and their children who were shipped out of London to Boundary House, a squalid ex-student residence in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire.

Roots, Radicals and Rockers

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Set between the period after the Second World War and the early 1960s in Britain, Billy Bragg’s history of skiffle music is clearly a labour of love, a work of dedicated musicological research and social history. The fact that it contains 430 pages gives an idea of the scope and depth of the work. It is replete with detail, illustrations and recollections of people involved at the time, whether directly or as close surviving relatives.

Threads from the Refugee Crisis

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After years of war in parts of Africa and the Middle East — with its ensuing famine and economic collapse — a mass of people are on the move in search of safety and sanctuary. The EU policy of Fortress Europe is designed to keep them out. The result is a human catastrophe, as we witness years of harrowing images of migrants forced to make the desperate sea crossing to try and reach a place of safety.

A Redder Shade of Green

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The author describes this collection of articles as “debates, polemics and arguments because although environmentalists, scientists, and socialists share concerns about the devastation of our planet, we frequently differ on explanations and solutions”. The argument Angus repeatedly returns to is a defence of the Marxist method as he understands that, “If our political analysis doesn’t have a firm basis in the natural sciences, our efforts to change the world will be in vain.”

The Age of Inequality: Corporate America's War on Working People

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This digest of 114 articles by 67 contributors from the US magazine In These Times (ITT) covers the years since its inception in 1976. David Graeber describes the massive increase in fortified borders that result when so-called free trade agreements simultaneously destroy traditional jobs in the global south and outsourced jobs in the north. Arundhati Roy’s opening paragraphs dismember the brutalities of neoliberalism with razor-sharp precision. In “Failed Prophet” (2009) Bernie Sanders rails against Chicago University’s neoliberal Milton Friedman Institute.

The Communist and the Communist's Daughter

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I really wanted to like this book. Jane Lazarre looks back on her father’s life as a Communist Party (CP) organiser in the US, at her own relationship with him and the influence that he and his politics had on her. Plus she is a wonderfully skilful writer. Unfortunately the book has a fatal flaw. It does not really get to grips with the history of American communism. This is not uncommon, and not just as regards the American CP.

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