Reviews

Harlem 69

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“In every city you find the same thing going down/ Harlem is the capital of every ghetto town.”

So sang Bobby Womack in Across 110th Street, which refers to the unofficial boundary between Harlem and the rest of New York City. In 1969 Harlem was a city within a city, with more than 90 percent of its population being black. It is the subject of the last book in Stuart Cosgrove’s trilogy about key political events and music of the late 1960s.

Algiers, Third World Capital

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Elaine Mokhtefi arrives in Paris in 1951. Over the following decades she gives her all to facilitate the movement for Algerian Independence, on the way mingling with the best — and worst — political figures of the time.

Mokhtefi ascribes her political awakening to May Day 1952 when she witnesses a huge protest and is at first “bewitched by the formidable display of worker solidarity and trade unionism.” At the rear of the parade she notices thousands of men “young, grim, slightly built and poorly dressed” without banners, rushing with arms raised to join in.

Freedom

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Nathaniel lives in Jamaica and doesn’t want to move to England with his master’s family, leaving his mother and sister behind on the Jamaican plantation.

But his mother has told him: “once a slave sets foot on English soil, they’re free”. Perhaps he can earn his fortune and buy his family’s freedom, too. What would Nathaniel learn from this journey and living in England?

Flawed Capitalism

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I first met David Coates in the York branch of the International Socialists in September 1971. So it is with great sadness that I learned that he died on 7 August this year.

There are two sides to the way Coates presents capitalism as flawed: the impact that it has had on the mass of the populations in the UK and US, the two societies he analyses in the book, and flawed in the kind of capitalism under review. He believes that the rise of Trump and the populist right mean that we are at a turning point that needs to be seized by all progressives.

Economics for the Many

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This collection of essays begins with the undoubted instability and polarisation neoliberalism has caused. It ends with Guy Standing claiming vindication for his 2011 prediction that a political monster would emerge. In between there is much useful detail about the systemic theft at the heart of the current system and well-argued proposals for alternatives.

Codename Intelligentsia

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This is a very good book. It makes an important contribution to the history of British Communism. Russell Campbell painstakingly chronicles how the Communist Party transformed the upper class socialist Ivor Montagu, a younger son of Lord Swaythling, into a shabby apologist for the very worst excesses of Stalinism, someone even prepared to work for the Russian secret police, the GRU.

Palestine: A Four Thousand Year History

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Nur Masalha’s Palestinian history is a powerful antidote to Zionist narratives, and to accepted Western narratives, which place Palestine as a territory that began its life in 1918 under British rule.

Masalha details Palestine’s 4,000 year history, from Late Bronze Age Egypt through the Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic empires to the modern era.

Charles Aznavour: a forgotten episode

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Charles Aznavour, the French singer and songwriter, died on 1 October, aged 94.

The son of parents who had fled the Armenian genocide during the First World War, his family’s involvement with the Communist resistance movement in Paris during the Second World War has not been given enough prominence in the obituaries that have appeared in the British press.

Laughing with Tony Hancock

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This year we celebrated the 50th anniversary of 1968, that iconic year of struggle continues to provide inspiration in the fight for justice and equality. But there was also a sad anniversary: 2018 marked 50 years since the suicide of Tony Hancock, one of Britain’s best loved comedians, aged just 44.

At the height of his popularity 15 million people tuned into the radio programme, Hancock’s Half Hour, broadcast from 1954 to 1961, which doubled up as a television show from 1956.

As An Equal? Au Pairs in the 21st Century

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The popular image of an au pair is perhaps a young Swedish woman staying in a comfortable middle class home, helping out with a bit of child-minding and enjoying a cultural exchange over the capacious dinner table, practicing her English language skills on ten-year-old Tarquin and six-year-old Tilly.

Cox and Busch’s research uncovers a rather different picture. There may be up to 100,000 au pairs in Britain — an estimate as there is no regulation — and they are being employed to plug a huge gap in the provision of childcare for working parents.

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