Books

Rezso Kasztner and Zionism

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Dale Street

Was Rezso Kasztner, leader of the Budapest-based Jewish Relief and Rescue Committee during the Nazi occupation of Hungary, a hero who saved the lives of tens or even hundreds of thousands of Jews from the Holocaust? Or was he a collaborator who knowingly played an indispensable role in assisting the Nazis in the deportation and murder of nearly 500,000 Hungarian Jews in a matter of weeks?

A review of Kasztner’s Crime by Paul Bogdanor (Transaction Publishers 2016).

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The ABCs of Socialism

Author: 

Simon Nelson

The team behind Jacobin magazine have produced a great set of short simple essays tackling questions often asked about the politics of the socialist left titled The ABCs of Socialism. As with any book with multiple authors — this has 13 in total — there are differences in style, emphasis and political conclusions (which I will address later). Nonetheless the book is remarkably consistent and reads well.

The team behind Jacobin magazine have produced a great set of short simple essays tackling questions often asked about the politics of the socialist left titled The ABCs of Socialism.

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A socialist who grew with the movement

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Jeff Rickertt in conversation with Martin Thomas

Ernie Lane was an active fighter for revolutionary socialist politics - as he understood them, in different ways over the years - in Brisbane, Australia, from the late 1880s through to 1954, a model of persistence and tenacity though not always of acuity. Jeff Rickertt, author of a recently-published biography of Ernie, The Conscientious Communist, talked with Solidarity about Ernie and about the book.

Jeff Rickertt, author of a recently-published biography of long-time activist Ernie Lane, talks about his book.

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Clement Attlee — the compromising committee man

Author: 

John Cunningham

Aware that the life of the post-1945 Labour leader and prime minister has been done before, Bew’s biography attempts to give new angles on Attlee’s life. He isn’t successful and the search for new perspectives ends up recounting endless Cabinet intrigues, Attlee’s relationship with Churchill, and countless opinions on Attlee from everybody and their uncle.

A review of Citizen Clem: a biography of Attlee by John Bew, published by riverrun, 2016.

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The puzzle of the 20th century

Author: 

Martin Thomas

For anyone who denies that capitalism is the end of history, Stalinism is the great theoretical puzzle of the 20th century.

A review of Western Marxism and the Soviet Union by Marcel van der Linden (Haymarket 2009).

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The battle now shapes the future

Author: 

Colin Foster

Peter Frase’s book Four Futures: Life After Capitalism is due to be published on 1 November. He will be explaining its ideas in a speaking tour in Britain from 24 September, and has already written about them on the website of Jacobin, the US socialist magazine he writes for.

He explains, at the end of that preview article, that his argument is dramatically over-simplified. The aim is to jolt us out of the always-common prejudice that society will go on much as it is now, with a nudge this way or that. It won’t.

Peter Frase’s book Four Futures: Life After Capitalism is due to be published on 1 November. He will be explaining its ideas in a speaking tour in Britain from 24 September, and has already written about them on the website of Jacobin, the US socialist magazine he writes for.

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The Left’s Jewish Problem — Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Anti-semitism

Author: 

Dale Street

Dave Rich’s The Left’s Jewish Problem – Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Anti-semitism is not quite what its subtitle suggests it is. But that does not make the book, published a fortnight ago, any the less worth reading.

The focus of the book is not Corbyn. At its core is an attempt to provide an explanation of “how and why antisemitism appears on the left, and an appeal to the left to understand, identify and expel antisemitism from its politics.”

A reviews of The Left’s Jewish Problem — Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Anti-semitism by Dave Rich, Biteback Publishing.

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Trotsky’s criteria for a workers’ state

Author: 

Martin Thomas

In a thorough study of Trotsky’s writings about bureaucratism and bureaucracy in Russia from 1917 to 1936, US socialist Thomas Twiss has shown that Trotsky’s conceptions changed as he grappled with the unexpected evolutions of the state.

A review of Thomas M Twiss, Trotsky and the problem of Soviet bureaucracy, Chicago: Haymarket Press, 2015. $36/ £25.99.

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Fossil fuels and the rise of capitalism

Author: 

Neil Laker

“The millowners told the workers to bow down to the steam idol or starve”

Fossil Capital explores the crisis posed by climate change by looking at the origins of capital’s dependence on fossil fuels. It is a significant contribution and a sound introduction to Marxist ecological thought. Above all the book demonstrates how capital accumulation and the global climate have a deep and inseparable relationship, and in particular that the history of the working class is an environmental one.

A review of Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming by Andreas Malm (Verso, 2016).

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Who profits from your pension fund?

Author: 

Rhodri Evans

Railpen is the pension scheme covering 500,000 current and former railworkers in Britain. According to a new book, What they do with your money, reviewed in the Financial Times on 18 June, it used to believe it was paying £75 million a year to financiers to manage its funds.

Then it probed further, and found that £290 million was being sucked out of the pension fund each year in fees for “fund managers”. Over 30 years, for example, that would be £9 billion, or over 40% of the total value of the fund.

The whole of high finance should be taken into public ownership, and its machine for enriching a few financiers should be replaced by a public, democratically-controlled, banking, insurance, and pension service.

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