Reviews

Brit(ish) On Race, Identity and Belonging

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Racism, as we know, is a long-contested debate, issue and argument that has morphed throughout the centuries in Britain. Hirsch, who is of mix-race heritage, uses this as a starting point to open up dialogue around the subject of identity, exploring themes of origins, bodies and class which are some of the main chapters in the book.

Discussing a variety of topics from dating, education and police brutality to the EU referendum and the rise in Islamophobia, she dissects her personal experiences, comparing them against official statistics and historical facts.

Martin Luther King

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Fifty years ago on 4 April 1968, Atlanta-born King was murdered. To commemorate this massive loss to anti-racists and revolutionaries Yuri Prasad correctly argues that it is essential to rescue King from the hagiographers.

Even Donald Trump cites King as an inspiration, but the new generation of activists who stand on King’s shoulders in the many fights for justice and equality today, including Black Lives Matter, face the same brutal police violence that protestors did in the 1960s.

Champions of Equality

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This is a welcome account of the development of LGBT+ rights within trade unions in Britain in the last 50 years. But Champions of Equality also insists on the necessity of linking the workers movement, the left and the struggle against oppression as the key to winning real gains and reforms in society today.

Peter Purton explains the shift in general social attitudes and the resulting political gains for LGBT+ people through a detailed analysis of how LGBT+ issues were first raised, organised around, and won within the union movement.

Aftershock

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US author John Feffer’s Aftershock is a howl of liberal outrage at the failures of liberalism in Eastern Europe.

In 1989 mass demonstrations, which intensified manoeuvres at the top, brought down the Stalinist dictatorships of the Eastern Bloc. In the wake of their collapse, Feffer travelled to the region to set up an office for the Quaker American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).

America City

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America City, set in the early 22nd century, is an example of the growing genre of climate fiction or cli-fi. It opens with a description of a devastating superstorm that hits Delaware, crushing even steel-reinforced homes. As climate change bites, Americans are fleeing the stormy east coast and going west. Others are escaping the parched south of the country, leaving their homes to the dust as it becomes too expensive to irrigate the farmland.

Global Social Work in a political context

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Unlike many academic books this is an easy and enjoyable read. In social work, too often books focus on the individual practice, with little about the context in which we intervene. Ferguson et al emphasise the political role of social work and the need to fight for radical approaches in a time ripe for radical politics.

The analysis in the first part of the book of the economic and ideological politics of neoliberalism sets the scene for understanding social work in a wider context than British shores.

The Rohingyas

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The Muslim Rohingya people have lived in Rakhine state, Myanmar, for centuries. As a result of their persecution by the majority Buddhist Burman ethnic group, 300,000 Rohingya had crossed to Bangladesh and were living in refugee camps prior to the first publication of this book in 2016.

Europe’s Fault Lines

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Liz Fekete has done all socialists and anti-racists a service by documenting the extent of right wing mobilisation across Europe. She discusses the rise of the fascist right such as the Front National in France, and the right wing parties that are gaining ground in Austria, Poland, Hungary and the rest of eastern Europe.

Importantly she identifies this push as coming not simply from fascist ideologues but from the actions of mainstream parties as they adopt increasingly right wing positions.

So They call You Pisher!

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Many years ago I read a book edited by Phil Cohen called Children of the Revolution; it was stories of people who had grown up with parents who were members of the Communist Party (CP) in the 1950s. I found it oddly depressing with the notable exception of the interview with Michael Rosen. He was one of the few contributors who had not lost faith in the ability to fight to make the world a better place.

1917: War, Peace and Revolution

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By 1917 all sides in the First World War were at a stalemate. The Battle of the Somme had already led to huge casualties on all sides. By January 1917, having lost a million men either killed, wounded or captured, France needed to end the war. Similarly, Russia was on its knees, with 4.5 million killed, wounded or sick, food shortages and inflation.

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