Books

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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Swimming against the stream

Author: 

Todd Hamer

“One of the most outstanding features of Bolshevism has been its severe, exacting, even quarrelsome attitude towards the question of doctrine.” — Leon Trotsky

According to the common sense, the far left is a place where rows over obscure points of dogma lead to endless arguments, fractures and splits. How else to explain the dozens of tiny grouplets claiming to hold the holy grail of revolutionary wisdom? But seen from close quarters, the opposite is the case.

A review of Can Socialism Make Sense?

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Rezso Kasztner and Zionism

Author: 

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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The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

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A socialist who grew with the movement

Author: 

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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