Reviews

Hope lies in the proles

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As well as being one of the most significant literary figures on the left in the 20th century George Orwell was also a broadcaster, a columnist, a poet, an essayist, a war correspondent — and a Republican fighter in the Spanish Civil War.

His two most influential books, Homage to Catalonia (based on his experience fighting Franco’s army in Spain) and Nineteen Eighty Four (a nightmare vision of life in a totalitarian society), continue to be relevant today 70 years after they were first published.

Charlotte Salomon and the Theatre of Memory

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In his monumental work, Weimar in Exile, Jean-Michel Palmier powerfully evokes the huge sense of loss, displacement and trauma that artists, writers and intellectuals faced when they were forced into exile from Nazi Germany as the fascist regime tightened its grip and control of the German state during the 1930s and then across Europe with the onset of war and occupation.

Reckless Opportunists

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Ever had the feeling that a shifting, hidden force is stealing your lifeforce in order to make millions (while you work ever harder just to make ends meet)? Aeron Davis confirms not only that this is true but shows how much worse things are under the surface. Drawing on decades of interviews with prominent politicians and businessmen, he reveals the sardonic grin behind “the elites’” robbery of money and power and how this has spread to include a new bunch of opportunists with even sharper teeth.

Marx 200

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The 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth has produced plenty of articles and books discussing his legacy. Few of these have had any real clarity on Marx’s actual ideas. So it is refreshing to read Michael Roberts’ short, but detailed, discussion on the relevance of Marx’s economic ideas.

Who we are and how we got here

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We are all profoundly mixed up genetically, and our ancestors were always moving. These are just two of the discoveries that David Reich presents in this exciting book about the ancient DNA revolution.

Reich starts by explaining how rapidly analysis into ancient DNA has developed. Since 2001, when the human genome was sequenced for the first time, research has ballooned as costs have diminished and automation has mushroomed.

A Simple Man

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This is a devastating account of the rise of Jacob Zuma to the presidency of South Africa, despite the obvious evidence of Zuma’s political corruption. More than this, it is a book which is an extended reflection on what has happened to the promise of the African National Congress (ANC) after the fall of apartheid; on how and why so little has changed for the majority of black South Africans and how characters like Zuma have come to dominate.

Reform, Revolution and Direct Action amongst British Miners

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This is a very long overdue book. It reveals a period of the most extraordinary militancy by the largest group of organised workers in Britain, a phenomenon which has largely been ignored. In 1919, as a revolutionary wave swept Europe, mass strikes gripped British coalfields waged against the coal owners, the government and the miners’ own national and regional union officials.

South Africa’s Corporatised Liberation

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A recent World Bank report, published in March 2018, showed South Africa to be the most unequal society on earth. Seventy five percent of the country’s aggregate wealth is held by the richest tenth of the population, while the poorest half hold a mere 2.5 percent. These 30 million people, in fact, have a total wealth equivalent to the two richest South Africans. The report points out, rightly, that much of this inequality is the responsibility of the racist apartheid regime that ruled South Africa from 1948 to 1994.

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