Reviews

Purging the Demons

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Review of 'Two Hours that Shook the World', Fred Halliday, Saqi Books £12.95

This seems at first sight a sober and often intelligent book--a useful antidote to post 11 September hysteria. For example, we learn that big governments like the US often commit terrorist acts, and that 'international terrorism' is a secondary phenomenon, certainly not a major threat to international order. In addition, the current 'discourse' between the 'west' and 'Islam' is meticulously picked apart.

Awakened from the Nightmare of History

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Review of 'That They May Face the Rising Sun', John McGahern, Faber £16.99

I first encountered John McGahern's novels when, in my early teens, I made my first foray into the adult section of the local library and came across 'The Dark'--a nice, short, approachable novel, so I thought. And it had the word 'fuck' on the first page. I didn't know then that the novel, first published in 1965, had been banned in the Republic of Ireland, and that subsequently McGahern had lost his job as a teacher.

Going Back to His Roots

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Review of 'The Gatekeeper', Terry Eagleton, Allan Lane £9.99

Prince Charles once dubbed him 'that dreadful Terry Eagleton'. It's not often a royal is so indelicately forthcoming about a former professor at Oxford University but, then again, this one's no hoary old academic. He is, of all things, a revolutionary Marxist who, as these short memoirs reveal, has mixed his time as an Oxford don and Britain's foremost literary theorist with stints selling socialist newspapers in the street and leafleting workers at the local car plant.

Moved by Justice

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Review of 'Josephine Butler', Jane Jordan, John Murray £22.50

Jane Jordan's biography of Josephine Butler exposes the brutality of women's oppression at the height of British capitalism. In particular, our attention is turned to the treatment of working class women under the Contagious Diseases Acts passed in the second half of the 19th century. Jordan shows the 20-year struggle it took to finally defeat these vicious acts and celebrates the life of its determined leader.

Civilised Behaviour?

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Review of 'British Counter-Insurgency', John Newsinger, Palgrave £45

The major impression one is left with after reading this book is the utter brutality of British imperial government policy towards subjugated people who threaten its interests anywhere in the world--and that applies equally to Tory or Labour governments.

Pressing for Reform

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Review of 'Voices of Revolution', Rodger Streitmatter, Columbia University Press £13.50

As the radical journalist Upton Sinclair once noted, the establishment newspapers generally do not challenge the status quo, but rather construct a 'concrete wall between the public and alternative thinking'. Hence the need for the dissident press whose primary purpose is to effect social change.

The Sky is No Longer the Limit

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Review of 'Full Spectrum Absurdity', ed. Ken Coates, Spokesman Books £5 and 'The Last Frontier', ed. Ken Coates, Spokesman Books £5

Socialists by their very nature are internationalists and care about peace and social justice worldwide. These two booklets (part of a regular series from Spokesman for the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation) give lively commentaries and background to current issues in collections of short essays.

Permanent Debate

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Review of 'Trotsky and the Origins of Trotskyism', Alfred Rosmer, Francis Bootle £10

There is now a vast amount of literature on the subject of this book. First and foremost there are Trotsky's own brilliant and voluminous writings, then Isaac Deutscher's mighty 'Prophet' trilogy, Tony Cliff's four-volume political study, works by Victor Serge and Natalia Trotsky, Pierre Broué, Ernest Mandel, Duncan Hallas and many lesser figures.

Culture of Hope in a World of Horror

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Review of 'Spaces of Capital', David Harvey, Edinburgh University Press £16.99

The cotton industry of the early 19th century was an international affair. A vital part of the labour force was African, transported through the slave trade to the American South where the raw material was cultivated. Cotton goods were produced in the mills of Lancashire by a workforce which had been drawn from the surrounding English countryside. The finished products were then distributed for sale in Europe but also to India and beyond, with devastating consequences for the indigenous Indian textile industry.

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