Reviews

How Labour lost

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This is the question circulating in the minds of virtually everybody on the left in British politics. How did we go from the heady days of the General Election of 2017 to the defeat of 2019 and the subsequent resignation of the most left wing leader the labour Party has ever had? Furthermore, how is it that after five years of being at the helm of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters have left so little behind either in policy, organisation or personnel terms?

The Myth of Chinese Capitalism: the Worker, the Factory and the Future of the World Dexter Roberts St. Martin’s Press £18

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The “myth” of this book’s title is that Chinese capitalism offers a model for other developing countries. In a wide-ranging study, Dexter Roberts sets out to show that it is unsustainable. At the same time he is clearly sympathetic to the plight of China’s millions of migrant workers - the work is dedicated to them - who leave their country homes to seek jobs in the booming coastal cities. This means the book is a slightly uneasy mixture of first-hand reporting of these peoples’ lives and background from secondary sources, many business oriented.

How Trump Stole 2020 Greg Palast with illustrations by Ted Rall Seven Stories Press £13.99

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In November 2018, 92 year old Christine Jordan, a cousin of Martin Luther King and herself a veteran civil rights campaigner, went to in the election vote for Governor of Georgia. She went to the same polling station she had voted in since 1968, but ‘this time…they threw her out…they had no record of her’. She was not alone. Tens of thousands of would-be voters were turned away. How did this happen? Greg Palast has, among other things, been investigating voter fraud in the US for the past twenty years.

The Return of Nature: Socialism and Ecology John Bellamy Foster Monthly Review Press £30

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We live in a world that is facing a profound and deepening ecological and social crisis. People are searching for an understanding of how this all happened, and what can be done about it. In The Return of Nature: Socialism and Ecology John Bellamy Foster has written a comprehensive account of the many socialist thinkers who have developed ecological critiques of society. It is essential reading for all who want to change the world; a sequel to Foster’s earlier work, Marx’s Ecology.

Pew Catherine Lacey Granta £12.99

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Pew spans a week in a small town in the Southern States of America. A young person is found during the Sunday morning service sleeping on a family pew. Visitors to the town are rare, so the family take this one into their home. The stranger is an enigma, remaining mute, speech and memory almost erased by a past trauma. Hilda, the mother, is determined to fit the stranger into accepted categories, but her insistent questioning gets no response, so the Reverend is invited for dinner.

The Pink Line: The World’s Queer Frontiers Mark Gevisser Profile Books £25

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In The Pink Line South African journalist and filmmaker Mark Gevisser presents a perceptive and comprehensive picture of the international fight for LGBT+ rights in the twenty first century. Gevisser meticulously and sympathetically charts the harsh realities of life for many LGBT+ people as he follows their struggles with families, police and public hostility. His research took him to 21 countries, striking up relationships over a number of years with a range of activists.

The War Against Disabled People, by Ellen Clifford DPAC campaigners protest against Atos Picture: Pete Riches Zed Books, 2020

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This is a thoroughly researched account of the history of welfare reform and its devastating impact on the lives of disabled people’s in Britain. It’s a powerful indictment of the governments responsible and a welcome tribute to the new movement that has fought back. Ellen Clifford is a prominent activist with the coalition Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC). The war of the title refers to the brutal process of welfare reform, which began with plans under New Labour governments to get a million people off benefits and into work.

Slavery: Scotland’s Hidden Shame

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Cat Mackay spoke to filmmakers Don Coutts and David Hayman about their 2018 documentary Slavery: Scotland’s Hidden Shame. Coutts and Hayman travelled to Sierra Leone and Jamaica, bringing to light facts about the Scottish ruling class’s central role in the horrors of the slave trade.

SR: Were you commissioned to make the documentary, or was it your own idea?

Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West, Catherine Belton William Collins £25

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Catherine Belton’s rigorously researched account of the rise of the Russian elite provides a rare glimpse into the activities of Putin’s inner circle. Such workings are often shrouded in mystery, behind the closed doors of the Kremlin. Belton presents us with a rare gift, an in-depth account of how the inner circle has consolidated its hold on Russia’s political system and the country’s vast resources to turn it into their own cash cow.

Sinews of War, Shipping and Capitalism in the Arabian Peninsula Laleh Khalili Verso £20

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Laleh Khalili, professor of International Politics at Queen Mary University in London, has carried out a wide-ranging study of the networks of trade in the Arabian Peninsula. Her research included travelling on huge container ships following sometimes dangerous routes. Khalili’s fascination with all things maritime is palpable. In chapters on routemaking, harbour-making, landside and shipboard labour and the bounties of war she demonstrates the close links between maritime trade and the major oil companies.

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