Reviews

A More Beautiful and Terrible History

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“Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther King could walk. Martin Luther King walked so Obama could run. Obama’s running so we all can fly.” Rap mogul Jay Z’s words reflected not just the “Yes we can!” optimism of Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign, but also the orthodox view of the Civil Rights Movement (CRM).

Most commentaries present us with a series of episodes which are celebrated as part of the glorious history of the United States.

Karl Marx’s Ecosocialism

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This fascinating book builds on the work of Marxists such as John Bellamy Foster to argue that Karl Marx’s thought is central to understanding that humanity’s destruction of the planet is due to the capitalist mode of production. It is a further blow against the perception that Marx was a naive Promethean — someone who believed that simply increasing production will solve all humanity’s ills and that therefore Marxism has nothing to say about ecological crisis.

A Party With Socialists in it

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With the Labour Party’s swelling membership amid continuing tensions between the Labour’s left and right wings, a book that addresses the fortunes of socialists in the party could not be more timely. Simon Hannah has provided a good summary of their rises and falls, going back to the creation of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) in 1893, the formation of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) seven years later, through to the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and ensuing battles with the party’s right wing.

If the Symptoms Persist

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Francis Combes lays out his ideological stall in the first poem, which stands alone, outside of the four sections that follow. In “No, the Earth is Not Round” he writes, “And the world goes haywire/ Because the earth isn’t round/ At least/ Not yet”.

Combes, who is based in France, is excoriating in his criticisms of capitalism and frequently sardonic. In “This World is Well Made” he mocks: “Yes, this world is well made:/ there are streets for beggars/ and palaces for bankers./ Everything is as it should be.”

The Balfour Declaration

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Bernard Regan has produced a timely and well researched analysis of the Balfour Declaration of November 1917. The declaration stated unequivocally the British government’s support for the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”. The qualification that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” was a view observed less in its implementation than in its negation.

Europe’s Fault Lines

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Liz Fekete has done all socialists and anti-racists a service by documenting the extent of right wing mobilisation across Europe. She discusses the rise of the fascist right such as the Front National in France, and the right wing parties that are gaining ground in Austria, Poland, Hungary and the rest of eastern Europe.

Importantly she identifies this push as coming not simply from fascist ideologues but from the actions of mainstream parties as they adopt increasingly right wing positions.

The Rohingyas

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The Muslim Rohingya people have lived in Rakhine state, Myanmar, for centuries. As a result of their persecution by the majority Buddhist Burman ethnic group, 300,000 Rohingya had crossed to Bangladesh and were living in refugee camps prior to the first publication of this book in 2016.

Global Social Work in a political context

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Unlike many academic books this is an easy and enjoyable read. In social work, too often books focus on the individual practice, with little about the context in which we intervene. Ferguson et al emphasise the political role of social work and the need to fight for radical approaches in a time ripe for radical politics.

The analysis in the first part of the book of the economic and ideological politics of neoliberalism sets the scene for understanding social work in a wider context than British shores.

America City

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America City, set in the early 22nd century, is an example of the growing genre of climate fiction or cli-fi. It opens with a description of a devastating superstorm that hits Delaware, crushing even steel-reinforced homes. As climate change bites, Americans are fleeing the stormy east coast and going west. Others are escaping the parched south of the country, leaving their homes to the dust as it becomes too expensive to irrigate the farmland.

Aftershock

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US author John Feffer’s Aftershock is a howl of liberal outrage at the failures of liberalism in Eastern Europe.

In 1989 mass demonstrations, which intensified manoeuvres at the top, brought down the Stalinist dictatorships of the Eastern Bloc. In the wake of their collapse, Feffer travelled to the region to set up an office for the Quaker American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).

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