This is a devastating account of the rise of Jacob Zuma to the presidency of South Africa, despite the obvious evidence of Zuma’s political corruption. More than this, it is a book which is an extended reflection on what has happened to the promise of the African National Congress (ANC) after the fall of apartheid; on how and why so little has changed for the majority of black South Africans and how characters like Zuma have come to dominate.
This is a very long overdue book. It reveals a period of the most extraordinary militancy by the largest group of organised workers in Britain, a phenomenon which has largely been ignored. In 1919, as a revolutionary wave swept Europe, mass strikes gripped British coalfields waged against the coal owners, the government and the miners’ own national and regional union officials.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.