Reviews

Winning the Obstacle Race

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Review of 'Fences and Windows', Naomi Klein, Flamingo £8.99

Naomi Klein is a brilliant witness to the rise of the anti-capitalist movement. Her style is spare but atmospheric and thought-provoking at the same time. She remembers significant detail to convey the potency of the protests. 'These protests,' she writes, 'are like stepping into a parallel universe... Corporate logos need armed guards, people usurp cars, art is everywhere, strangers talk to each other, and the prospect of a radical change in political course does not seem like an odd and anachronistic idea but the most logical thought in the world.'

Daring But Divided

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Review of 'The Resistible Rise of Benito Mussolini', Tom Behan, Bookmarks £8

The battles against Italian fascism in 1921-22 erupted as spontaneous self defence against the terror tactics of Mussolini's squads. Many of the left at the time dismissed these brave struggles. The reformist Socialist Party preferred to think that they could beat Mussolini at his own parliamentary game and paid for their error dearly. The new Italian Communist Party (PCI), instead of jumping in feet-first where workers resisted fascism, stood on the sidelines finding errors with those who fought back. The cost of failing to join the struggle on the streets was the victory of fascism.

A World They Have Lost

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Review of 'In Search of Fatima', Ghada Karmi, Verso £16

Edward Said has described Ghada Karmi's memoir as a 'novelist's envy'. Praise indeed and well deserved. Ghada will be well known to many readers of this magazine as one of the most prominent representatives of Palestine in Britain, a regular in TV and radio studios, as well as a staunch supporter of the Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

Mersey Memories

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Review of 'A Different World', Liverpool Women's History Group, Bluecoat Press £7.99

This book, beautifully produced, is a collection of memories of Liverpool in the 1930s and 1940s. They are recalled by a group of 15 older women, three of whom are octogenarians, others in their mid to late seventies and the youngsters who are between 50 and 60 years old.

Life of the Struggle

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Review of 'Free at Last!', Tony Benn, Hutchinson £25

Tony Benn is equally loyal to socialism and the Labour Party. The latest edition of his diaries, covering the last decade, describes a period when the rightward gallop of Labour brought those two loyalties into greater conflict. The decay of Westminster politics is so great, Benn jokes, leaving parliament leaves him 'free at last' to be involved in politics.

Coercion and Consent

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Review of 'The Workers' and Peasants' State', eds. Patrick Major and Jonathan Osmond, Manchester University Press £15.99

When I was active in Natfhe in the 1970s and 1980s the Communist Party bureaucrats in the union saw East Germany, rather than Russia, as the 'socialist' motherland. In East Germany there were no show trials of the sort that had taken place in the rest of Eastern Europe in the early 1950s, women were positively encouraged to enter the labour force and so on.

This new book looks at the reality behind the surface. It contains a range of studies of the politics, society and culture of East Germany between 1945 and 1971.

Imperial Roots

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Review of 'Striking Terror', eds. Robert B Silvers and Barbara Epstein, New York Review of Books £10.99

As George Bush prepares to launch an attack on Iraq the publication of this book is a timely reminder of the horrors of US imperialism. This collection of essays puts together a series of articles that originally appeared in the 'New York Review of Books' in the months following 11 September 2001.

The Warmongers' Poisoned Chalice

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Review of 'The Final Frontier', Dominick Jenkins, Verso £19

As the US prepares to invade Iraq, ostensibly to stop Saddam Hussein using biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, a historical account that looks at how the United States played a central role in the development of such weapons is very timely. The book begins in July 1921 with New York in ruins following a bomb attack, the majority of its inhabitants wiped out by poison gas.

Trouble and Strike

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Review of 'The Secret History of the IRA', Ed Moloney, Penguin £20 and 'Sinn Fein', Brian Feeney, O'Brian £11.99

These are two very different but equally invaluable books charting the tortured journey of contemporary Irish Republicanism towards constitutional politics. They are particularly illuminating about the transformation of the Provisional IRA from its pursuit of armed struggle against the British presence to ministerial office in the Stormont Assembly following the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, which at the time of writing has been suspended for the second time in recent years.

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