Reviews

The historians and the Bolsheviks

Submitted by AWL on 13 February, 2019 - 10:53 Author: Colin Foster
civil war

On Tsarism, the bourgeois liberals under Tsarism, the Provisional Government in 1917, the Whites in the Civil War, and even the Mensheviks and the SRs, what Figes has to say is pretty much what the Bolsheviks said of them. Thus, for example: “Trotsky described Martov as the ‘Hamlet of Democratic Socialism’ – and this is just about the sum of it… [His qualities] made him soft and indecisive when just the opposite was required”.

Bolshevism, the civil war, and Stalinism

Submitted by martin on 4 February, 2019 - 12:40 Author: Martin Thomas
civil war

A review of Samuel Farber, Before Stalinism (Polity Press, 1990), re-posted from here.

Sam Farber, justly respected for his critical Marxist writings on Cuba, sums up his attitude in this book by quoting Victor Serge, an anarchist who rallied to the Bolsheviks after October 1917, became an activist in the Left Opposition, and then parted ways with Trotsky over his, Serge’s, rejection of Trotsky’s criticisms of the POUM in the Spanish Civil War.

A deviation from the road

Submitted by AWL on 30 January, 2019 - 11:20 Author: Andrew Coates
IDoB cover

“The force of things and the behaviour of men have contradicted all Lenin’s optimistic forecasts, his hopes in a superior democracy as much as his semi-libertarian ideas expressed in the State and Revolution and other writings of the same period, at the dawn of the revolution. Nothing in the individual theses of Trotsky has stood the test any better, in particular his wordy and abstract theory of the ‘permanent revolution’.” — Boris Souvarine, Stalin. A Critical Survey of Bolshevism, 1939.

Crisis and Sequels out in paperback

Submitted by AWL on 23 January, 2019 - 10:58 Author: Janet Burstall
c&s cover

Martin Thomas outlines the guide he followed in compiling Crisis and Sequels, a book on the 2007-8 crash and its aftermath now out in paperback edition.

“Analysis must proceed not from a blurred outline of a ‘typical’ capitalist economy, but from the complex reality of a world economy with its own structure and within it national economies substantially different in pattern both from the global structure and from each other”.

A heroine of Poplar

Submitted by AWL on 16 January, 2019 - 11:09 Author: Ian Townson
minnie l

Minnie Lansbury was one of the rebel Labour councillors of Poplar (East London) who in 1921 forced the Tory¬Liberal coalition government to start central government payments to equalise resources between councils in poor and in well¬off areas.

Janine Booth’s biography of Lansbury is rich in detail about her life; working¬class conditions at the time; and much more. It is a solid achievement given the scarcity of material available on Lansbury to work on.

Another voice from Gaza

Submitted by cathy n on 24 December, 2018 - 10:21 Author: Dan Katz
Asmaa al-Ghoul

A rebel in Gaza, behind the lines of the Arab Spring, by Asmaa al-Ghoul (pictured) and Selim Nassib is a short and easy-to-read book that should be read on the left.

For much of the British left Gaza exists only as an example of Israeli brutality; and Hamas, the Islamist group that runs Gaza, exists only as a group that fights Israeli bullying.

This book tells us about another aspect of the matter - what it is like to live as an opponent of Hamas, in Gaza, under a one-party religious state.

The spikes of austerity

Submitted by AWL on 31 October, 2018 - 11:58 Author: Matt Cooper
stop precarious work

Pay volatility is much greater than has previously been assumed, with the vast majority of workers in stable jobs experiencing significant month-to-month changes in pay.

Low pay comes with spikes.

A recent report by the Resolution Foundation looks at month-to-month changes for workers in stable employment. Previous research has only looked at how workers’ pay varies year-to-year.

Climate resistance must be built from below

Submitted by AWL on 31 October, 2018 - 11:04 Author: Neil Laker and Mike Zubrowski
system change

In his new book Burning Up, A Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption (Pluto Press), Simon Pirani notes that the world economy tripled in size between 1945 and 1973. And the world began to burn as much fossil fuel, every three years, as in the whole of the nineteenth century.

Creativity in the face of cruelty and oppression

Submitted by AWL on 24 October, 2018 - 11:30 Author: Matt Kinsella

Shortlisted for the 2018 Booker Prize, Washington Black is the story of George Washington Black, a child slave on a sugar plantation in Barbados.

The book continues the theme of author Esi Edugyan’s previous novel, Half Blood Blues, which features Hiero, a black musician sent to Sachsenhausen. Both stories centre on how human creativity persists in the face of cruelty and oppression.

Fighting capital or just a greedy few?

Submitted by AWL on 17 October, 2018 - 9:11 Author: Dale Street
corbynism

Published at the close of September, Matt Bolton and Frederick Harry Pitts’ Corbynism — A Critical Approach is not always an easy read. Bolton and Pitts go well beyond the argument that Corbyn does not understand antisemitism, does not really like the European Union, is a bit of a populist, and has a history (and present) of hanging out with some dubious characters. Rather, their book attempts to “elucidate the essential characteristics of Corbynism as a political orientation (and) outline and critique the general worldview which motivates such a platform”.

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