Books

Learning lessons from the Bolshevik feminists

Author: 

Katie Turton

Katie Turton reviews Women’s Liberation and the Russian Revolution in When Workers Took Power by Paul Vernadsky


Katy Turton reviews Women’s Liberation and the Russian Revolution in When Workers Took Power by Paul Vernadsky.

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“1917 was progressive... yet reactionary”!

Author: 

Paul Hampton

Steve Smith, professor of history at Oxford University has published what is likely to be one of the most widely read books on the Russian revolution this centenary year — Russia in Revolution: An Empire in Crisis, 1890 to 1928.

Don’t bother with this book. It is no guide to the history of the Russian revolution, nor of any use in today’s class struggles.

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Guevara is not our hero

Author: 

Pablo Velasco

Che Guevara is lionised as a revolutionary icon by wide sections of the global left. Even those claiming some Trotskyist heritage, from the various “Fourth Internationals” to the British SWP, publish mostly uncritical appreciations of the individual and his politics. Yet Guevara was never a working class socialist nor even a revolutionary democrat. He helped overthrow the hated dictator Batista in Cuba, but only to replace it with a Stalinist regime.

A review of The Politics of Che Guevara: Theory and Practice (Haymarket 2016) by Sam Farber.

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A tale that is close to home

Author: 

Rosalind Robson

When the dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale was published in 1985, its author, Margaret Atwood, was concerned about the growing strength of Christian fundamentalism in US politics. Unfortunately her story is still very relevant, in fact more relevant, thirty years later.

A review of The Handmaid’s Tale on Channel 4.

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Bob Crow: an unapologetic socialist

Author: 

Janine Booth

Janine Booth reviews Bob Crow: socialist, leader, fighter — A political biography, by Gregor Gall (Manchester University Press)


As the first book about Bob Crow published since his untimely death three years ago, Gregor Gall’s political biography of Crow provides us with an opportunity to review his life and his time in the railworkers’ union NUR and its successor RMT, to highlight the key reasons for his effectiveness and impact, and to examine the limits of those.

A review of Bob Crow: socialist, leader, fighter — A political biography, by Gregor Gall (Manchester University Press).

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The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

Trade Unions: 

Russian lessons for today’s workers

Author: 

Vicki Morris

It is 100 years since the Russian Revolution, the most important event in working class history, when the workers of a country, Russia, took their country over. Albeit briefly they ran that country in their interests, and extended support to workers in other countries who wanted to do the same.

A review of The Russian Revolution: when workers took power by Paul Vernadsky.

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The Jewish Question and universalism

Author: 

Dale Street

Dale Street reviews Antisemitism and the Left: On the Return of the Jewish Question by Robert Fine and Philip Spencer.


Central to Antisemitism and the Left is the concept of universalism as “an equivocal principle” which “shows two faces to the world”. There is the “emancipatory face”, which looks to embrace all humankind in a shared civil, political and social inclusiveness. And there is the “repressive face”, which marks out and excludes “the other” who is deemed not to meet the criteria for membership of humanity.

A review of Antisemitism and the Left: On the Return of the Jewish Question by Robert Fine and Philip Spencer.

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On the eve of revolution: Trotsky in New York

Author: 

Paul Hampton

In October 1917 Leon Trotsky was a principal leader of the Russian revolution, leading workers to power and the establishment of their own state. Trotsky would become the Commissar for Foreign Affairs, responsible for taking Russia out of the First World War. Yet his year had begun in very different circumstances.

For ten weeks Trotsky lived in exile in New York. His time there is retold by Kenneth Ackerman.

Paul Hampton reviews Trotsky in New York 1917: A Radical on the Eve of Revolution by Kenneth Ackerman.

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John Berger and seeing politically

Author: 

Hugh Daniels

Since the death of John Berger on 2 January the bourgeois press has squirmed over the task of commemorating a major public figure who was also a lifelong Marxist. Some have responded by simply attacking him.

As demonstrated in his seminal 1972 BBC TV series (and accompanying book) Ways of Seeing, John Berger shared the period’s wariness about the dangers of seductive ideologies. However he responded by encouraging us to locate contradictions and complexities within our experience of the world, rather than keeping our distance.

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Dare to hope and fight

Author: 

Sean Matgamna

Are we nothing higher than a modern commercially-conducted and regulated rendition of animals, amongst them primitive humankind, spending an entire lifetime browsing and grubbing for food?

That is the “shop until you drop” ethos which this society glorifies and depends on for dynamism. Leavened maybe with a bit of religious uplift, a half-tongue-in-cheek consultation with a horoscope to see what “the stars” are going to do to you? The small bacchanalia of a pop festival once a year or so?

In this excerpt from Can Socialism Make Sense? Sean Matgamna makes the case for being a socialist activist.

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