Reviews

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.

Coming Out from the Shadow

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Review of 'France: The Dark Years', Julian Jackson, Oxford University Press £25.00

From 1934 until 1944 France was engulfed by a civil war. Following the surrender of the French republic, a French state based in Vichy waged war against Jews, Communists and other 'undesirables'. Technically France was divided into zones of occupation, with the Vichy regime directly responsible for the southern third, and the Nazi occupiers for the rest of the country. But even in those zones French police and civil servants were largely responsible for sending Jews to their deaths in Auschwitz and the other death camps, and for waging war on the left.

Anger and Optimism

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Review of 'Ten Reasons to Abolish the IMF and World Bank', Kevin Danaher, Seven Stories Press £4.99

Kevin Danaher personifies the most exciting features of the movement against capitalism--he's angry and he's optimistic. 'We abolished slavery, we abolished Jim Crow laws, we abolished child labour, we abolished the exclusion of women from voting, we abolished the 60-hour work week, and we can abolish international banking institutions that do more to prevent democracy than to promote it,' he declares in 'Ten Reasons to Abolish the IMF and World Bank'.

Spirited Rebellion

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Review of 'Falun Gong's Challenge to China', Danny Schechter, Akashic Books £11.99

One of the unexpected side effects of China's economic reforms over the last 20 years has been a flowering of religious expression and organisation. Local temples and cults, 'folk religions', Confucianism and Taoism--all have gained millions of believers, as have Buddhism, Islam and many varieties of Christianity. The Chinese state has responded in many different ways, ranging from outright repression to official attempts at co-option.

Mapping the Divide

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Review of 'The Global Media Atlas', Mark Balnaves, James Donald and Stephanie Hemelryk Donald, BFI Publishing £14.99

I love maps, and this well presented paperback provides 50 maps with a difference--they break down the world into the haves and have-nots in the global communications revolution that has swept the world in the last ten years.

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