Books

Flawed Capitalism

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I first met David Coates in the York branch of the International Socialists in September 1971. So it is with great sadness that I learned that he died on 7 August this year.

There are two sides to the way Coates presents capitalism as flawed: the impact that it has had on the mass of the populations in the UK and US, the two societies he analyses in the book, and flawed in the kind of capitalism under review. He believes that the rise of Trump and the populist right mean that we are at a turning point that needs to be seized by all progressives.

Economics for the Many

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This collection of essays begins with the undoubted instability and polarisation neoliberalism has caused. It ends with Guy Standing claiming vindication for his 2011 prediction that a political monster would emerge. In between there is much useful detail about the systemic theft at the heart of the current system and well-argued proposals for alternatives.

Codename Intelligentsia

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This is a very good book. It makes an important contribution to the history of British Communism. Russell Campbell painstakingly chronicles how the Communist Party transformed the upper class socialist Ivor Montagu, a younger son of Lord Swaythling, into a shabby apologist for the very worst excesses of Stalinism, someone even prepared to work for the Russian secret police, the GRU.

Palestine: A Four Thousand Year History

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Nur Masalha’s Palestinian history is a powerful antidote to Zionist narratives, and to accepted Western narratives, which place Palestine as a territory that began its life in 1918 under British rule.

Masalha details Palestine’s 4,000 year history, from Late Bronze Age Egypt through the Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic empires to the modern era.

As An Equal? Au Pairs in the 21st Century

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The popular image of an au pair is perhaps a young Swedish woman staying in a comfortable middle class home, helping out with a bit of child-minding and enjoying a cultural exchange over the capacious dinner table, practicing her English language skills on ten-year-old Tarquin and six-year-old Tilly.

Cox and Busch’s research uncovers a rather different picture. There may be up to 100,000 au pairs in Britain — an estimate as there is no regulation — and they are being employed to plug a huge gap in the provision of childcare for working parents.

A People’s History of the German Revolution

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The German Revolution of 1918 to 1923 was one of the most important yet little known events of the 20th century. Had the workers emerged victorious it is likely that there would have been no Stalinism, no Hitler, no Second World War, no Holocaust and we would be living in a very different world today. The late Bill Pelz has written a brief and enjoyable history of the revolution up to 1920.

Pelz explains how the rapid development of capitalism in the newly unified German state created a working class with a high level of class consciousness.

Crashing the Party

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In seeking to be Democratic Party Presidential Candidate for 2016, Bernie Sanders attempted to inject “democratic socialism” into American politics. His campaign concentrated on the massive economic inequalities that riddle all areas of US society. This book, written by a researcher and organiser on his campaign, seeks to describe how his outsider radicalism crashed and nearly derailed the neoliberal, free market campaign of the Democrat establishment, epitomised by Hillary Clinton.

Striking to Survive

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This is an important and timely book. During the summer over 50 student activists were detained for supporting Shenzhen Jasic workers who had been dismissed for setting up an independent trade union.

Despite the lack of independent trade unions China has more strikes than any other country in the world. Fan Shigang uses oral histories of people involved in a 24 day strike in the Pearl Delta River (PDR) to show the determination of the workers and the tactics the bosses will use to win — from police harassment to mass arrests and hired thugs.

City of Segregation

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The poisonous link between housing and racism in the US has received some welcome and overdue attention lately. Richard Rothstein’s book The Color of Law and George Clooney’s film Suburbicon each expose how black people have been deliberately excluded from “white areas”. City of Segregation shows how the legacy endures, 50 years after the US Fair Housing Act sought to end housing discrimination.

George Orwell Illustrated

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The great bulk of this book is a reprint of the 1984 publication Orwell for Beginners. I must confess I never read it at the time and only now appreciate what a great book I missed out on. It was an outstanding introduction of George Orwell’s politics that has certainly stood the test of time, and the artwork is tremendous. The reprint is accompanied by a 60-plus page update entitled “Planet Orwell”.

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