Ian Birchall

We're Only Asking for the World

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Ian Birchall reviews a new book on anti-capitalism by Alex Callinicos.

'Another world is possible' is the most popular slogan of the anti-capitalist movement. In his new book Alex Callinicos contributes to the debate about how we get there. As usual, Alex has read all the important books and articles which many of us haven't got round to. For the busy activist and the beginner who wants to know what the arguments are all about, this book is invaluable.

Coercion and Consent

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Review of 'The Workers' and Peasants' State', eds. Patrick Major and Jonathan Osmond, Manchester University Press £15.99

When I was active in Natfhe in the 1970s and 1980s the Communist Party bureaucrats in the union saw East Germany, rather than Russia, as the 'socialist' motherland. In East Germany there were no show trials of the sort that had taken place in the rest of Eastern Europe in the early 1950s, women were positively encouraged to enter the labour force and so on.

This new book looks at the reality behind the surface. It contains a range of studies of the politics, society and culture of East Germany between 1945 and 1971.

The Jubilee: The House of Horrors

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Ian Birchall explains why he is not impressed by recent attempts to rehabilitate the monarchy.

Just after the queen mother's funeral Jonathan Freedland of the 'Guardian' apologised for misjudging 'the public mood' and wrote that 'these are days for republicans to walk humbly'. Freedland likes swimming with the stream, and had picked up on a certain swing back to popularity for the monarchy.

'Parrots Have Never Made a Revolution'

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Attacks on Labour and trade union leaders, as well as the occasional anecdote, makes 'In the Thick of Workers' Struggle', Tony Cliff's second volume of selected writings, essential reading.

Before 1960 Tony Cliff established himself as a theoretician with books on state capitalism in Russia, China and Eastern Europe. But as a revolutionary Cliff could not be satisfied by this. To show that Stalinism had nothing to do with socialism was merely a negative statement. Cliff now wanted to negate this negation, to look forward to the rebuilding of an authentic socialist movement.

Lessons to be Learnt

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In his review of Alfred Rosmer's book 'Trotsky and the Origins of Trotskyism' (February SR), John Molyneux says the argument about Zinoviev's role in the Comintern is 'obscure', and that Stalinism is explained by 'objective factors'.

Certainly the rise of Stalin was not just the defeat of 'good' individuals by 'bad'. But the isolation of Russia was not inevitable--it was caused by the failure of the Comintern, and here Zinoviev's role was important. There are two examples of this.

At the second congress (1920) there were a number of delegates from anarchist and syndicalist backgrounds. Lenin and Trotsky welcomed them, stressing unity in action. Zinoviev addressed them in terms that were patronising, sectarian and insulting. The debate is quite relevant to tactics in the anti-capitalist movement today.

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