Reviews

Iraq: The Cost of War

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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

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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

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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

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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.

1917: Stories and Poems

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When the revolutionary workers of Russia seized state power in 1917, 70 percent of the population were illiterate. Yet the revolution revealed a hunger for knowledge and art, and a cultural debate raged over the soul of the revolution.

Translator Boris Drayluk says the aim of this collection of poetry and prose from 1917 to 1919 is not to describe the revolution, but to “steep the reader in its tumult”, and I think he is successful.

Rethinking Revolution

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This collection of essays looks at revolution in the 21st century via the legacy of the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Individual contributions range from assessments of the left in Latin America and Greece to a survey of Marx and Engels’ views on the revolutionary party, the October Revolution itself and the Chinese Communist Party. However, there are some notable omissions, such as any analysis of the Arab revolutions in 2011.

Citizen Clem

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The 1945-50 government of Clement Attlee is seen as the Labour Party’s golden age — a period that brought about not only the creation of the NHS, national insurance and public assistance (the three pillars of the welfare state) but the nationalisation of coal, railways, electricity, gas, road transport and the Bank of England, and an improved education system.

Traveling Soul

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This Is My Country. People Get Ready. We’re A Winner. Mighty, Mighty (Spade and Whitey). Keep On Keepin On. Future Shock. We Gotta Have Peace. Power To The People. Ever since the Middle Passage, African-American struggles for freedom, justice and dignity have had a soundtrack.

At first it may only have been patterns beaten on a resonating surface and field songs of cruel Southern plantation work. But their steady elaboration into country blues, urban jazz and Sunday gospel forms became electrified after millions migrated north before and during the Second World War.

The Book of Harlan

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Born in Georgia in 1917, black jazz and blues musician Harlan moves north, first to Kansas City and then to Harlem. With best friend Lizard, a Jewish trumpet player, he forms a band that, in the late 1930s, joins other black musicians in the Harlem of Paris, Montemarte. But when Paris is occupied by the Nazis, Harlan and Lizard are transported to Buchenwald.

Events in Buchenwald are dramatised in stark, economical detail. In one particularly gruelling scene, Isle Koch, wife of the commander of Buchenwald, amuses herself by brutally abusing captives.

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