Reviews

Confronting antisemitism on the left

The double meaning apparent in the title of Daniel Randall’s new book Confronting Antisemitism on the Left expresses its two important aims: to confront antisemitism which appears on the left while at the same time confronting antisemitism firmly from a left perspective. Grabbing the baton from Steve Cohen’s important 1984 analysis of left-wing antisemitism, That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Antisemitic, and running much further, Randall’s book is not only sharp in its arguments about the nature of antisemitic forms of leftist discourse, but it’s also very well grounded in the history of the...

A balance sheet of "Corbynism"

Just over a year after Jeremy Corbyn was elected, in September 2016, the new Labour Leader addressed the Burston Strike Rally in Norfolk.

Unlocking land profits, locking out tenants

A review of Estate Regeneration and its Discontents: public housing, place and inequality in London, by Paul Watt. This is a most important book, and a powerful indictment of the Tory and Blairite housing agenda. The objective of council housing was to give everyone a decent place to live, as a right, at a rent they could afford, and with security of tenure irrespective of income. In that it was largely successful. To the Tories and Labour’s hard right housing is a commodity, nothing more, to be used for the maximisation of profit irrespective of the consequences. Regeneration is part of this...

Another sort of anti-fascism

The 43 Group has long held a strange place in Jewish and anti-fascist memory. On the one hand, the story of a group of Jews who violently beat the fascists off the streets of post-war Britain has an obvious romantic appeal. On the other hand, there has been remarkably little serious history written about what was, at its peak, a very well-organised fighting organisation of anti-fascists with a regular newspaper, democratic structures, a substantial headquarters and hundreds of active members. Before the publication of Daniel Sonabend’s new book We Fight Fascists, the last on the organisation...

Maxwell: a charlatan capitalist

The subtitle of John Preston’s new biography, Fall, is "The Mystery of Robert Maxwell". Mysteries certainly abound in this story — and not just about the fraudster’s death. The biggest mystery of all is how it was that this extraordinary charlatan was allowed to continue with his business activity right up to the time of his death in November 1991, despite having been declared by a Department of Trade and Industry investigation in 1971 to be “not in our opinion a person who can be relied on to exercise proper stewardship of a publicly quoted company”. This gripping book is so entertaining that...

How class struggle shaped fossil fuel

The devastating and sometimes fatal Texas power outages of February 2021 show “how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America,” so spewed Texan governor Greg Abbot: “It just shows that fossil fuel is necessary.” As eye-popping as this shameless lying may be, Abbot only acts as the personified caricature of the irrationality we see systemically with international capitalism. The urgent necessity to halt climate change is universally accepted by scientists. It is the greatest danger facing humanity. Leading bourgeois economists, champions of capitalism, are urging...

Study guide: Fossil Capital by Andreas Malm

See a review here, a previous one here, a recording of a talk on the book here: and get the book here. Download a version of this study guide as a PDF here. Possible study schedule A suggested 9 week study schedule: Chapter 1: Setting the scene, the fossil economy (read chapter 2 if you like, or come back to that later with chapter 12) Chapters 3 and 4: Energy types and prime movers; proto-fossil economy; the industrial revolution and the first structural crisis Chapters 5 and 6: the advantages of water, and of reservoirs and aqueducts; some peculiarities of the capitalist mode of production...

Bessie Smith's blues are current

If you’re looking for a "straight" biography of Bessie Smith, then Jackie Kay's Bessie Smith, published by Faber, is not for you. Although Jackie Kay (Scotland’s maker, or poet laureate) has clearly done her research into Bessie Smith’s extraordinary life and gives credit to Chris Albertson’s definitive 1971 Bessie for much of the factual information she uses, this is not a conventional account of a life, but a semi-poetic description of the author’s identification and imagined relationship, with her subject. Kay writes: “I don’t know what gave me the idea … to write about my life and write...

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