Simon Basketter


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Paul Mason, Verso; £7.99

Hedge fund manager Andrew Lahde is quoted in Meltdown: "I was in this game for the money. The low hanging fruit, ie idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale, and then the Harvard MBA, was there for the taking. These people...rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman...making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless America."

The New Politics of Sinn Fein

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Kevin Bean, Liverpool University Press, £16.95

In 1992 and 1993 the IRA planted enormous truck bombs in the City of London. Counter-intuitively, the bombs were intended to move the emerging Northern Ireland peace process along. Irish Republicanism is built on such contradictions.

From its emergence at the beginning of the 1970s the modern Irish Republican movement has moved from the declared aim of the revolutionary overthrow of Northern Ireland to sharing the trappings of government with the Protestant supremacists of the Democratic Unionist Party.

Gordon Brown

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Francis Beckett, Haus, £10.99

One of the final attacks from Blair's camp to stop Gordon Brown taking over as prime minister was from the civil servant Lord Turnbull. He accused Brown of having a "Stalinist ruthlessness" and saying he was like "Macavity's cat".

The cat in question comes from a TS Eliot poem. "He always has an alibi, and one or two to spare: At whatever time the deed took place - MACAVITY WASN'T THERE!"

Blair had a talent for never taking the blame for his actions. Brown has continued and extended the habit.

Austerity Britain, 1945-1951

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David Kynaston, Bloomsbury, £25

"Dreariness is everywhere," wrote one schoolteacher in 1948. "Streets are deserted, lighting is dim, people's clothes are shabby and their tables bare." David Kynaston's history of the period from 1945 to 1951 is full of anecdotes recorded in diaries and letters, and from the Mass Observation archive. It is both the book's strength and its weakness. He says he aims to tell "the story of ordinary citizens as well as ministers and mandarins".

1981: Fighting Britain's Guantanamo

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Twenty five years ago Irish Republicans in British jails were fighting for the right to be considered political prisoners. Brutalised and abused they turned to a weapon of last resort, a hunger strike. Simon Basketter tells the story of their struggle.

The Guantanamo Bay prison camp - where orange jump-suited prisoners lie caged, blindfolded and held without trial - sums up the brutality of the "war on terror". Yet this regime has failed to crush the spirit of resistance among the detained. Their hunger strikes so terrified those who control the camp that they described them as unfair, an act of "asymmetric warfare". Most British politicians, even those who are still pro-war, have been forced to call for Guantanamo's closure, suggesting it is an aberration that would not occur under any British command.


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Review of 'Fatal Purity', Ruth Scurr, Chatto & Windus £20

Ever since Louis XVI lost his head on the Place de la Révolution in Paris, Maximilien de Robespierre has been seen as the evil, green-eyed genius of the French Revolution.

Who's Responsible

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Review of 'Manufacturing Discontent', Michael Perelman, Pluto Press £15.99

Most economic theory assumes a pure capitalism of perfect competition. US economist Michael Perelman offers a refreshing deconstruction of the pervading prejudices of corporate responsibility and shines a light on some of the workings of corporate power.

Spiralling Out of Control

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Review of 'Buffalo Soldiers', director Gregor Jordan

Buffalo Soldiers is a film that suffered from poor timing. Acquired by Miramax on 10 September 2001, a day later it was the sort of film that Hollywood didn't want. Its release was postponed again due to the Iraq war. At its first showing in the US an outraged critic threw a water bottle at the director because of its negative portrayal of the US military.

Opportunity Knocks

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John Rees's article (May SR) should be a starting point for an active debate about the tasks for socialists in the coming months.

The scale of the anti-war movement has led to a deep politicisation - in every workplace, school and community there are people who are thinking about how to change things. People have moved seamlessly from opposing the war to generalising about imperialism and neoliberalism. Now their anger against Labour is directed against privatisation, Sats or foundation hospitals.


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