Reviews

October 1917

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Books marking the centenary of the Russian Revolution are not in short supply. But this is among the few to praise the revolution rather than seek to bury it.

American Marxist Paul Le Blanc provides an introduction to the collection of articles with an overview of eyewitness accounts and interpretations by historians with varying degrees of sympathy, mostly none.

Kill All Normies

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This provides some good insights but draws the wrong conclusion. The book focuses on the so-called “Alt-right” and how with a degree of success, promoted its ideas online. The self-promoted name “Alt-right” encompasses a spectrum from far-right populists to actual fascists. Under Trump, Steve Bannon from the far-right news channel Breitbart became the president’s chief strategist before being forced to step down by the anti-racist movement that erupted after Charlottesville.

The Unwomanly Face of War

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The author is a Nobel Prize winner who documents the experience of women that served in the Soviet Army in the Second World War, based on hundreds of interviews she carried out in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

One million women served in the Soviet Army and she spoke to women who worked in every possible role and geographical area, including sappers, nurses, surgeons, foot soldiers, air force captains, pilots, tank drivers, partisans and snipers.Originally heavily censored, it was first published in 1985, and this is the first time it has been available in English.

The Liar's Quartet

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Sitting in the shadows of the fairly new Trinity Shopping Centre near the now closed Conservative Club, there is a Red Shed, also known as Wakefield Labour Club.

Having miraculously survived various redevelopments in the city centre the Red Shed celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. The Red Shed is the political origin of comedian Mark Thomas’s activism, so to celebrate its birthday he put on a show and took The Red Shed on tour.

The Liars Quartet collects the scripts of The Red Shed and his previous shows, Cuckooed and Bravo Figaro!

The Corruption of Capitalism

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On the plus side, Guy Standing has put together a powerful indictment of contemporary capitalism. While some of his material is familiar, it seems fair to say that everyone will come away from this book knowing more about the inequities of capitalism than they did before.

He looks at the use of charities as a means of tax avoidance, for example. We learn that Lady Gaga’s Born This Way foundation raised $2.6 million in 2012 but gave away only $5,000. And the Cancer Fund of America over ten years raised getting on for $90 million, but only gave cancer patients a paltry $890,000.

No Way But This: In search of Paul Robeson

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Paul Robeson must be counted as one of the most remarkable Americans of his era, or indeed any era. It was for his singing voice that he was best known but that reflected only a fraction of his talents.

He was a good enough actor to be offered leading roles in a number of films and in theatre productions in the West End of London and on Broadway. He was also an outstanding athlete. All this was achieved in the face of the discrimination that came his way for being an African-American.

There's No Place

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The spectacle of President Trump rubbing his hands together in delight as he visits the ruined underwater city of Houston perplexed me to begin with; even for a man that strange, this was bizarre behaviour, surely?

Then I read Glyn Robbins’s new book and the penny dropped — Trump is a property developer. The destruction of homes and immiseration of the poorest people doesn’t evoke empathy. For him and his fellow developers it is an opportunity to mop up.

Hip and hop: You Can Do Anything

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I have a three year old niece who loves reading together, so I was excessively excited to learn that rapper and activist Akala has brought out his debut children’s picture book. Trying to find books that don’t reinforce gender stereotypes or the centrality of the nuclear family isn’t easy, even in worlds of talking animals and magic. So I was keen to see what Akala would offer us.

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