Reviews

South Africa’s Corporatised Liberation

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A recent World Bank report, published in March 2018, showed South Africa to be the most unequal society on earth. Seventy five percent of the country’s aggregate wealth is held by the richest tenth of the population, while the poorest half hold a mere 2.5 percent. These 30 million people, in fact, have a total wealth equivalent to the two richest South Africans. The report points out, rightly, that much of this inequality is the responsibility of the racist apartheid regime that ruled South Africa from 1948 to 1994.

Fire and Fury

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To say the release of this book caused a furore would be an understatement. Trump threatened to sue if it was published. The publishers responded by bringing forward the publication date, and the media the world over was fixated for a good 48 hours.

The Privatisation of Israeli Security

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One of the most important but least known dimensions of the neoliberal counter-revolution is the privatisation of security and of the military. This process leaped ahead during the US occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Indeed, by 2008, the US Department of Defence spent nearly half its budget on private contractors. As Hever points out, Israel is a long way behind the US, but the privatisation process has nevertheless clearly begun and is moreover part of a global development. Even now, Russian private contractors are fighting for the Assad regime in Syria!

Roses and Radicals

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For those younger readers who want to know about how women won the vote in the US this book is an ideal introduction.

Just like in the UK, the epic struggle to win the vote for women in the US took decades of protests and struggle. Zimet writes that the story has its origins in London at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention. Twenty four year old Elizabeth Cady Stanton boarded a ship with her new husband to take the 3,000 mile round sea trip to attend. She was a full time abolitionist.

No Place To Lay One’s Head

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Polish born Françoise Frenkel begins by giving us a sensory image of her love of books. She recalls that as a child she imbued personality into each book, describing their “attire” in multi-coloured bindings: “Balzac came dressed in red leather, Sienkiewicz in yellow Morocco, Tolstoy in parchment, Reymont’s Paysans clad in the fabric of an old peasant’s neckerchief”. We watch her progress as she opens and runs a French bookshop, La Maison du Livre, in Berlin from 1921 to 1939.

Brazil: Neoliberalism versus Democracy

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This is an excellent short history of Brazil’s economic, political and social development since the 1930s. The account is explicitly grounded on Marxist political economy. It bases its analysis on an examination of the systems of accumulation which have dominated the period and the battles between the political elites and the mass of the Brazilian population.

The Balfour Declaration

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Bernard Regan has produced a timely and well researched analysis of the Balfour Declaration of November 1917. The declaration stated unequivocally the British government’s support for the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”. The qualification that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” was a view observed less in its implementation than in its negation.

If the Symptoms Persist

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Francis Combes lays out his ideological stall in the first poem, which stands alone, outside of the four sections that follow. In “No, the Earth is Not Round” he writes, “And the world goes haywire/ Because the earth isn’t round/ At least/ Not yet”.

Combes, who is based in France, is excoriating in his criticisms of capitalism and frequently sardonic. In “This World is Well Made” he mocks: “Yes, this world is well made:/ there are streets for beggars/ and palaces for bankers./ Everything is as it should be.”

A Party With Socialists in it

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With the Labour Party’s swelling membership amid continuing tensions between the Labour’s left and right wings, a book that addresses the fortunes of socialists in the party could not be more timely. Simon Hannah has provided a good summary of their rises and falls, going back to the creation of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) in 1893, the formation of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) seven years later, through to the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and ensuing battles with the party’s right wing.

Karl Marx’s Ecosocialism

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This fascinating book builds on the work of Marxists such as John Bellamy Foster to argue that Karl Marx’s thought is central to understanding that humanity’s destruction of the planet is due to the capitalist mode of production. It is a further blow against the perception that Marx was a naive Promethean — someone who believed that simply increasing production will solve all humanity’s ills and that therefore Marxism has nothing to say about ecological crisis.

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