The Great Walls of Mexico

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Review of 'Jose Clemente Orozco in the United States', eds. Renato Gonzáles Mello and Diane Miliotes, WW Norton £40.00

The Mexican Revolution, whatever else may be said about it, succeeded in producing an astonishingly rich visual art. This was the political mural, a unique form of expression, particular to the time and place of the Mexican Revolution. The three most famous and successful practitioners of this art form were Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco.

The Complete Works of Isaac Babel

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Review of 'The Complete Works of Isaac Babel', ed. Nathalie Babel, Picador £30.00

As one of the greatest writers of the early Soviet period in Russia, the first single volume edition of the works of Isaac Babel is an event. In the epoch of war and revolution Babel is an author of the first rank.

Born in the busy Russian port of Odessa on the Black Sea in 1894, Babel grew up in a shtetl, a Jewish village. The son of a small businessman of mixed fortunes, he grew up amid cultural riches and material poverty, assailed by racism from all sides.

Antiques or History?

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Review of 'What is History Now?', ed. David Cannadine, Macmillan £19.99

This collection was supposed to celebrate the 40th anniversary of EH Carr's seminal work 'What is History?' Carr was a fascinating character--a Foreign Office diplomat who became a Marxist, a columnist on the 'Times' who wrote history, a friend of Trotsky's biographer Isaac Deutscher, and a rebel in his way.

The Carbon Club

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Review of 'Private Planet', David Cromwell, Jon Carpenter Publishing £12.99

This book is full of shocking figures. According to the United Nations the gap between the richest fifth of the world's population and the poorest grew from 30 to 1 in 1960 to 74 to 1 in 1997. Three fifths of the population in developing countries--that's almost 3 billion people--lack basic sanitation. In Mozambique, the IMF-imposed measures mean that patients at Maputo Central Hospital have to pay $4 to see a doctor--this is the equivalent of the average person in Britain paying £160.

'Friend of the Unfriended Poor'

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Review of 'Shelley and Revolutionary Ireland', Paul O'Brien, Redwords £11

When Percy Bysshe Shelley set sail for Ireland in 1812 he was only 19 years old. He was full of radical enthusiasm and energy, having recently been expelled from Oxford for making his atheism public. He went to Ireland precisely to put his political ideas into practice: 'I beheld in short that I had duties to perform.'

The misery and oppression he saw in Ireland roused him to fury. He wrote:

The Forgotten People

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Review of 'Nickel and Dimed', Barbara Ehrenreich, Granta £8.99

Anti-war activists are frequently accused of anti-American bias, of blaming all Americans for their government's actions. This is very far from the truth. Anti-capitalists have long been aware of the extent to which the US, like the rest of the world, is divided between a tiny minority who benefit from global capitalism and the overwhelming mass of people who produce the wealth but, in the race for the bottom, are denied even a living wage.

Even the Best Laid Plans Go Wrong

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Review of 'Russia: Class and Power 1917-2000', Mike Haynes, Bookmarks £12

For most of the 20th century anyone who described him or herself as a socialist would quickly be asked where they stood on Russia.

Today such questions are presented as being of historical interest, but as soon as we try to articulate a vision of a different world, the question of Russia reappears. Is any attempt at a radical transformation of society doomed to reproduce the horrors of Stalinist repression?

Revolution on a Galactic Scale

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Review of 'Dark Light', Ken Mcleod, Orbit £16.99

Dark Light' is the second instalment in Ken Macleod's science fiction space opera, 'Engines of Light'. Ken Macleod is one of a handful of contemporary left-wing authors--others being China Miéville, Iain M Banks, Marge Piercy and Ursula LeGuin--who have shown the power of this genre to explore alternative histories and imagined futures.

Scar on the Conscience of the World

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Review of 'Class Struggle and Resistance in Africa', ed. Leo Zeilig, New Clarion Press £12.95

Tony Blair's stance towards Africa effectively sums up that taken by the rulers of the world more generally. At the Labour Party conference last October he called Africa 'a scar on the conscience of the world'--before authorising the sale to impoverished Tanzania of a military air traffic control system that even the World Bank has condemned as inappropriate. Africa, in other words, is a basket case, there just to be exploited economically and militarily.

The plight of Africa is indeed grim. Giovanni Arrighi sums it up in the latest issue of New Left Review: