Reviews

Sizing Up the Opposition

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Review of 'Stupid White Men', Michael Moore, Harper Collins £18.99

This book almost didn't make the shops. It was being printed when the planes crashed into the World Trade Centre. Any criticism of the US and the people who run it, the 'stupid white men' like Bush and Cheney, was deemed unpatriotic and unacceptable. So the publisher, Harper Collins (which is owned by Murdoch), refused to release the books for sale and at one point said it was going to pulp the 50,000 copies that had been printed.

Bursting the Dam of Dissent

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Review of 'Power Politics', Arundhati Roy, South End Press £7.99

'To be a writer--supposedly a famous writer--in a country where 300 million people are illiterate is a dubious honour,' writes Arundhati Roy in this latest collection of her essays. Roy's way of addressing this contradiction has been to use her fame to give a voice to those who feel they have no power. She has obviously been effective, for she faced a prison sentence this year for standing up to the Indian High Court which had allowed a massive dam project to go ahead that will mean 25 million people losing their homes and livelihoods.

Riding the Crest of a Wave

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Review of 'The Scar', China Miéville, Macmillan £17.99

Fantasy is one of the most popular forms of fiction today. A visit to any bookshop will reveal row after row of fantasy novels, mostly adventure stories but with a growing comedy section as well (mostly written by Terry Pratchett). The great bulk of these novels are set in some sort of romanticised feudal society where good is battling against evil, the lower classes know their place and magic works. There are elves, dwarves, trolls, dragons, princes and princesses, wizards and, inevitably, those most maligned of fictional creatures, orcs, the despised proletariat of conservative fantasy.

Toxic Shock

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Review of 'Five Past Midnight in Bhopal', Dominique Lapierre, Simon and Schuster £17.99

The tragedy of a toxic leak from Carbide's pesticide factory in Bhopal, India resulted in the worst industrial disaster in history, causing over 30,000 deaths and 50,000 injuries, and is felt almost 20 years after 'the event'. It was a request for help setting up a clinic that prompted Dominique Lapienne to spend three years searching for the truth behind the leak.

The Common Cause

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Review of 'The Wearing of the Green', Michael Herbert, IBRG £11.95

Over the last two centuries Irish people living in Britain have contributed to many campaigns and protest movements. But those few historians who have told their story, have most often written out this fighting past. Mike Herbert's history is the first full length account to give this radical history due weight.

Herbert does not just tell the story of the Manchester Irish, but locates their narrative within the linked stories of the movements for Irish independence, and of British working class history.

Poor State of Affairs

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Review of 'Rethinking Welfare', Iain Ferguson, Michael Lavalette and Gerry Mooney, Sage £16.99

When Tony Blair got into Downing Street, he threatened to 'think the unthinkable' about welfare. For Blair, this phrase was a code for launching an assault on the fundamentals of the welfare state itself through tuition fees for students, NHS privatisation, cutting single mums' benefits and a host of other attacks.

Torn Between Love and War

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Review of 'At Swim, Two Boys', Jamie O'Neill, Scribner £19.99

This story interweaves the innocence and romance of two boys falling in love with a sharp narrative on the political climate and events leading to the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland. The main characters' fathers, Mr Mack and Mr Doyle, joined the British army and served together. They are both Catholics and are now back in Ireland and living in a small coastal town near Dublin where their lives diverge. Mr Mack, a small corner shop owner, sees himself on the up moving into respectable society. He sees his old friend Mr Doyle as a drunk letting his family fall into poverty.

The Lowest Climb the Highest Peaks

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Review of 'Tigers of the Snow', Jonathan Neale, Little, Brown £18.99

In the 1960s a generation of hippies rejected the emptiness of bourgeois Western values, and headed for Nepal, the home to the Sherpas farmers who migrated from Tibet to the Himalayan pastures below Mount Everest 500 years ago. They were Buddhists and were despised by most of the Hindu Nepalese elite. The British thought them more timid and subservient than the warlike Tibetans, and they became the 'natural' choice as porters for the gentlemen climbers in the heyday of capitalism--the late 19th century onwards.

Marx Goes to the Market

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Review of 'Marx's Revenge', Meghnad Desai, Verso £19

This book is a testimony to the intellectual capitulation of a section of the left to neoliberalism. Meghnad (now Lord) Desai was once sympathetic to Marxism. Now he is an admirer of globalisation. This book is a sustained defence of capitalism against the global anti-capitalist movement.

Digging at the Roots of Dissent

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Review of 'Italy and its Discontents', Paul Ginsberg, Penguin £25.00

Last year a lot more happened in Italy than demonstrations in Genoa. In May the Blairite DS party lost power to Berlusconi. The party then split over what to do about the Genoa protests. Then the leadership supported the war in Afghanistan and the party squabbled some more. In the party's brief life it has only suffered from 'exitism', not entrism.

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