Books

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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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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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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