Books

“Back to the 70s” will not reverse inequality

Author: 

Matt Cooper

The 970 pages of Thomas Picketty’s Capital in the Twentieth Century have been summarised in the three characters: r > g.

Expanded, this means, in recent years, the rate of return on the capital of the wealthy (r) has been greater than the rate of growth of the economy (g); the proportion of wealth owned by the richest becomes greater and inequality grows.

A review of Inequality: What can be done? by Anthony B Atkinson (Harvard University Press, 2015).

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Britain's New Corruption

Author: 

Pat Yarker

“Old Corruption has passed away, but a new, and entirely different, predatory complex occupies the State... with its interpenetration of private industry and the State... its control over major media of communication, its blackmail by the City, its reduction of the public sector to subordinate roles, and its capacity to dictate the conditions within which a Labour Government must operate...”

E P Thompson, “The Peculiarities of the English”, 1965.

A review of How Corrupt Is Britain? Edited by David Whyte (Pluto Press: 2015).

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Trade Unions: 

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Fighting union busting

Author: 

Jim Denham

Trade unionists have known for decades that employers operated blacklists, whereby records were kept on militants and activists (and, indeed, not particularly militant or active trade unionists) in order to exclude them from employment.

The practice was especially rife in the construction industry, where simply raising a concern over health and safety could be enough to ensure that you never found work. Countless working class lives were destroyed by the blacklist.

A review of Blacklisted, the secret war between big business and union activists by Dave Smith and Phil Chamberlain (New Internationalist).

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The hinterland of the contemporary left

Author: 

Pat Yarker

This book presents six occasional essays in which the American novelist Benjamin Kunkel gives an account of recent work by contemporary thinkers of the left.

A review of Utopia or Bust: A Guide to the Present Crisis by Benjamin Kunkel. (Verso 2014).

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Marxist Theory and History: 

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The hegemony of neoliberalism

Author: 

Martin Thomas

Philip Mirowski addresses the left, very broadly defined — “people who have taken it as a fundamental premise that current market structures can and should be subordinate to political projects for human improvement” — but with “a simple message: Know Your Enemy before you start daydreaming of a better world”.

He dismisses most already-circulating “better world” schemes as helpless against the dominance of neoliberalism.

A review of Never let a serious crisis go to waste: how neoliberalism survived the financial meltdown by Philip Mirowski (Verso, 2013).

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A record of plutocracy

Author: 

Martin Thomas

All the main storylines of Cameron’s Britain are there in this book. The food banks. The explosion of payday loans. Plunging wages for young workers, soaring rents and house prices, and almost no social house-building.

A review of Cameron’s Coup: how the Tories took Britain to the brink, by Polly Toynbee and David Walker

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The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

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A union which belongs to its members

Author: 

Gemma Short

Uetricht begins his account of the transformation of the Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU) and their 2012 strike by counterposing two incidents representing the opposite faces of teacher trade unionism.

A review of Strike for America: Chicago teachers against austerity by Micah Uetricht.

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The rise of “Islamic state” in Iraq and Syria

Author: 

Simon Nelson

Cockburn’s 160 pages are an introduction to the rapid rise of Islamic State (IS) across Iraq and Syria.

Recycling material from articles in the Independent and London Review of Books Cockburn charts how Islamists from various groups came to dominate the Syrian rebellion after 2012 and changed it from one of predominantly secular and democratic opposition to the ultra-conservative. In which Saudi Wahhabism and Saudi and Gulf state funding played a big role.

A review of The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution by Patrick Cockburn.

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Egypt: militancy and Morsi

Author: 

Harry Glass

On 25 January 2011, an 18 day struggle began that toppled one of the Arab world’s longest-serving dictators, Hosni Mubarak, President of Egypt.

Eighteen months later, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, the founding party of political Islam, was elected president. After barely a year he was deposed by a military coup and the old order was restored under Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. In the space of four years, Egypt has traversed from Mubarak’s military Bonapartism through the so-called “Republic of Tahrir” to the current “Republic of Fear”.

A review of Bread, Freedom, Social Justice: Workers and the Egyptian Revolution (Zed Books, 2014).

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Peter Hain's dim and feeble future

Author: 

Matt Cooper

Tony Crosland’s The Future of Socialism was published in 1956. Crosland had been a Labour MP (and would be again) but had lost his seat in the 1955 general election.

Labour had won power in 1945 on a welfare state programme that included the creation of the NHS and a new system of benefits.

Their Keynesian policies aimed at full employment, limited nationalisation and the first steps to decolonisation.

A review of Peter Hain’s The Future of Socialism.

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