Reviews

October 1917

Issue section: 
Issue: 
Author: 

Books marking the centenary of the Russian Revolution are not in short supply. But this is among the few to praise the revolution rather than seek to bury it.

American Marxist Paul Le Blanc provides an introduction to the collection of articles with an overview of eyewitness accounts and interpretations by historians with varying degrees of sympathy, mostly none.

Hezbollah: The political economy of Lebanon’s party of God

Issue section: 

What is Hezbollah? Its disciplined and well-armed fighters are an important player in key regional conflicts, working in alliance with Syrian and Iranian states. Its media and telecommunications systems are independent of Lebanese state interference or control. Its network of municipal, welfare and business organisations structure daily life for hundreds of thousands of residents in its heartlands.

Against Elections

Issue section: 
Author: 

The heart of the problem, according to David Van Reybrouck, is very simple: “Our democracy is being wrecked by being limited to elections, even though elections were not invented as a democratic instrument.”

His analysis starts by examining the paradox that everyone wants democracy but no one believes in it any more. Across Europe rates of voting have declined from around 85 percent in the 1960s to 77 percent in the 2000s, while politicians are among the most derided professions, with an approval rating of 3.9 out of ten, according to Eurobarometer.

The Trial of Roger Casement

Issue section: 
Author: 

While being one of the most compelling and interesting figures around the events of the 1916 Easter Rising, Roger Casement has not always dined at the top table of Irish rebels.

His homosexuality and his work for the British Empire while at the Foreign Office have meant that he has sat uneasily among some nationalists.

This entertaining, well-produced and timely graphic novel is symptomatic of recent moves to rehabilitate him.

Revolutionary Yiddishland

Issue section: 
Author: 

It’s not often that any section of the working class suffers a defeat so crushing that the collective memory of its struggles and the living tradition of the participants is completely extinguished.

Perhaps the closest we have come to this is the fate of the revolutionary Jewish working class movement of the first half of the 20th century in Eastern Europe.

Revolutionary Yiddishland is a marvellous, bitter-sweet book that seeks to rescue this tradition. It is a bitter book because we know the ending.

Iraq: The Cost of War

Issue section: 

Jeremy Greenstock dedicates his book to his wife, but could as well have dedicated it to the global anti-war movement, stating, “For Anne, who suspected long before I did that Saddam had no WMD.”

Greenstock was the UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) in the run up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and UK Special Envoy for Iraq in the immediate aftermath.

He has written a long and hugely detailed book and in between a potted history of his own career and reflections on the role of the UN, American power and other major political events he focuses on Iraq.

The Bleeding Edge

Issue section: 
Author: 

This is an entertaining book. Hughes has a genuinely pleasing turn of phrase, for example: “The data explosion — how the cloud became a juggernaut”.

The book makes many interesting comments about the history of computing both in terms of software and hardware. And undoubtedly Hughes is on the right side of history and wants to explode the idea that capitalism is the most technologically dynamic system possible. However, there’s a but coming, and it is rather a long one.

Rebel Crossings

Issue section: 

This book is a fine example of someone on a mission. In the 1970s Sheila Rowbotham found a book in the British Library called Whitman’s Ideal Democracy and other writings by Helena Born, with a biography of the author written by Helen Tuffs.

Helena Born was a radical woman with some unconventional views. She came from a middle class family, became a socialist, was an active (and often leading) supporter and organiser of many strikes in the late 1880 and 1890s, during the period of New Unionism.

Our Revolution

Issue section: 
Author: 

Our Revolution is essentially a lengthy version of the stump speech that self-proclaimed democratic socialist Bernie Sanders perfected at rallies across the country during his campaign. He provides an autobiography of his childhood as the son of working class parents in Brooklyn, his college days in Chicago as a civil rights activist, and his political life in Vermont as the independent mayor of Burlington to the state’s senator today.

Pages