Reviews

Scottsboro

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Ellen Feldman, Picador, £7.99

The Scottsboro boys were nine young black men wrongly convicted of the rape of two white women on a train in Alabama in 1931 and sentenced with the death penalty. Their fight for justice became a worldwide cause that saw Clarence Norris, as the last living defendant, receiving a pardon from the notorious governor of Alabama, George Wallace, only in 1976.

Striking Back Against Empire

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Review of 'Anti-Imperialism', ed. Farah Reza, Bookmarks £10

'I used not to use the word imperialism. I thought young people wouldn't even know what it meant... Suddenly I find that everyone is using the words imperialism and anti-imperialism.' George Galloway is spot on. The war in Iraq has meant that millions of people are asking questions about imperialism, questions that this excellent and timely handbook goes a long way to answering.

Conspiracy to Kill

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Review of 'An Act of State', William F Pepper, Verso £17

Martin Luther King is often viewed as being at the opposite end of the political spectrum to Malcolm X. The latter is seen as the uncompromising radical of the Black Power movement of the 1960s, while King is portrayed as a reformer who could not keep pace with the growing militancy of the times. The truth is not so black and white. King was increasingly shifting to the left, coming out against the Vietnam War and organising on class lines through the Poor People's Campaign and supporting strike action. The US was in flames, with 131 riots in the first six months of 1968.

The Gospel Truth

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Review of 'Apocalypse', Neil Faulkner, Tempus £25

Resistance to imperial expansion is not a phenomenon confined to modern times, as Neil Faulkner demonstrates in this richly detailed survey of the Jewish revolts against the Roman Empire in Palestine in the middle of the 1st century AD.

Bright Lights, Big Cities

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Review of 'Dead Cities', Mike Davis, New Press, £16.95

Mike Davis brings to each subject a completely idiosyncratic vision, with a huge passion to tell stories, explain and reveal. Dead Cities is a brilliant kaleidoscope of essays. Each section revolves around a different theme, together revealing the power and arrogance of political leaders in cahoots with corporate capital. In the preface, 'Flames of New York', he cites Ernst Bloch's comparison of pre-bourgeois towns with modern cities. It is the Americanised, 'big city' ideology that believes all problems can be technologically solved.

Profits on the Line

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Review of 'Down the Tube', Christian Wolmar, Aurum £9.99

Christian Wolmar is a bit of a Kiley fan--not the former soap actress turned pop star, but the former CIA agent turned transport supremo. There is a touch of Kileymania on the soft left, with the 'Guardian''s Polly Toynbee and London School of Economics 'expert' Tony Travers among the fans. Wolmar quotes Labour MP Karen Buck describing Kiley as 'a wow'. These Kiley fans share both a realisation that the London Undergound PPP is a disaster for the tube, and a real hostility to tube workers. Wolmar describes a tube strike over safety as 'opportunist'.

Art for Our Sake

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Review of 'Artists on the Left', Andrew Hemingway, Yale University Press £35

In the heart of San Francisco's city district can be found the popular tourist attraction Coit Tower. Lifts take you to the top, from which you get a magnificent bird's-eye view of the bay. Once a week, for a few brief hours, the stairwell is open to the public. Inside is an Aladdin's cave full of some of the finest murals in America. Inspired by the famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, artists like Clifford Wright, Bernard Zakheim and Victor Arnautoff have created a stunning series of wall paintings depicting life in the US.

A Thin Line Between Love and Hate

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Review of 'Caught in the Crossfire', Alan Gibbons, Dolphin £4.99

We read about politics, we participate in demonstrations, strikes and all sorts of other activity in opposition to the system. But how different people react to it in all aspects of their daily lives is something beyond our immediate experience, except for a particular oppression we may personally suffer. But an insight into these real life experiences and emotions, which can dominate people's lives, rounds out and enriches our intellectual and political understanding. That is where novels come in.

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