Discount CD shops buy up Trotsky - Where next for anti-capitalism? - Michael Moore latest - Political cartoon books - Hardt and Negri reach a mass market
Capitalism loves a profitable trend and radical ideas are on the up, so we shouldn't be surprised at the bizarre spectacles this throws up. For instance, discount CD shops in central London that only ever stock 20 or so bestselling book titles, are now buying up huge quantities of Isaac Deutscher's three-volume biography of Trotsky that they can sell for less than it costs the independents to buy.
For at least the last year we have been inundated with anti-globalisation this and anti-capitalist that, but some of these books do address real political arguments within the movements. Anti-Capitalism: Where Now? (Bookmarks £6) is a collection of essays by leading activists of the movement, including Prabir Purkayastha from the Mumbai World Social Forum, Michael Albert of radical website Znet, Naomi Klein, Alex Callinicos, CWU general secretary Billy Hayes, Brazilian socialist Luciana Genro and Susan George. Others aim to arm activists with the figures to win their arguments - like the admirable, if uneven, series of pocket No-Nonsense Guides, on subjects ranging from Water, Islam and the Global Media to Women's Rights and the Arms Trade (Verso £7 each).
But so many of the current crop are just the products of lazy publishers looking for the next No Logo without understanding that Klein's phenomenal success was written before Seattle and articulated the mood on the streets. There are, however, one or two mainstream publishers with a finger on the political pulse. Penguin has a long tradition of putting out mass market left wing political and sociological ideas and were sharp enough to buy the paperback rights to Stupid White Men when HarperCollins US (owned by Rupert Murdoch) was famously trying to pulp the first editions after 9/11 and refused to give it any publicity. Now Penguin is rushing out a hat trick; first there is Will They Ever Trust Us Again? Letters from the War Zone to Michael Moore (Penguin £12.99) where we find out what the recruits from the deindustrialised stretches of America who chose the military over minimum wage service jobs really think of the 'war on terror'. The Official Fahrenheit 9/11 Reader is not just a film script, but also a rebuttal to his critics who said he just had his facts wrong (Penguin £8.99). Finally there is Chain of Command: the Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib (Penguin £17.99) by Seymour Hersh - the journalist who exposed the cover-up of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam when Colin Powell was screen-master general. With an unpleasant sense of déjà vu Hersh is again looking for the culprits beyond the excuse of a few bad apples.
Some of the most beautiful comic and cartoon books have emerged out of the horrors of the last couple of years. Steve Bell's Apes of Wrath (Methuen £12.99) is funny and slightly deranged in its furious anger at Bush and Blair. Art Spiegelman, author of Maus (Penguin £14.99), has created In the Shadow of No Towers (Penguin £20), a very large black board book that catches the light to show little people falling and falling. It sucks the reader into his experience of living next to 'ground zero', 'equally terrorised by Al-Qaida and his own government'.
Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri are both expected to be at this month's European Social Forum. Their last book, Empire, which was so contentious with its ideas of autonomous 'smooth spaces' existing outside of the orbit of the state, was published by an academic press (Harvard £13.95). Their next, Multitude, will be published next year by, you guessed it, Penguin.