martin's blog

Turin, Gramsci, and Italy's "red years"
martinSun, 14/06/2015 - 12:32

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The red years: 1919-20

By Martin Thomas


The Russian workers’ revolution of October 1917 and the end of World War 1 in November 1918 were followed by a wave of economic turmoil and working-class radicalisation across Europe, and especially in Italy.

The four lives of Laurent SchwartzmartinSat, 07/02/2015 - 22:54

I recently came across Laurent Schwartz's autobiography, published in French in 1997, and in English in 2001. Maybe for reasons which I'll indicate, it has not become a well-known book; but there is much to be extracted from it.

Schwartz was a Trotskyist from when he was shocked by the Moscow Trials, in 1936, at the age of 21, until 1947; and an energetic left activist all his life, often cooperating with Trotskyists.

Later capitalismmartinMon, 05/01/2015 - 12:03

A discussion of Ernest Mandel's 1975 book Late Capitalism

A "magnum opus"

All too often we produce only a pastiche of the recent past when we try to map the future, or even the present. One conclusion is that our ability to predict is limited; another, that we should at least learn from the mistakes of previous pastiches.

The respectable leftmartinFri, 02/01/2015 - 13:09

Review of Ha-joon Chang: 23 Things they didn't tell you about capitalism. Penguin, 2010

The hegemony of neoliberalism

Submitted by martin on Thu, 01/01/2015 - 23:06

Review of Philip Mirowski: Never let a serious crisis go to waste: how neoliberalism survived the financial meltdown. Verso, 2013

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.

Finance and the "other exploitation"martinThu, 01/01/2015 - 16:37

Review of Costas Lapavitsas: Profiting without producing, Verso 2013

Capitalist exploitation is not just by the boss extracting from the worker, in return for a meagre more-or-less “living wage”, an expansible value-added which may be something like three times what’s paid out in wages.

It also comes from making working-class households pay interest on debts which they run up, often on disadvantageous terms, because of their relative poverty and relative lack of power in the markets.

A Gramsci glossarymartinWed, 27/03/2013 - 00:28

CAESARISM. By Caesarism Gramsci meant much the same as other Marxists have meant by Bonapartism. Quintin Hoare (SPN p.206) argues that Gramsci's "Caesarism" was broader than other Marxists' "Bonapartism", but I read Gramsci more as considering gradations of Caesarism as well as full Caesarism (SPN p.220).

Packed lecture hall for call to anti-capitalist revolution

Submitted by martin on Mon, 26/04/2010 - 23:26

Not only the scheduled lecture theatre, but also an overflow theatre connected by video link, were crammed full when David Harvey spoke at the London School of Economics on 26 April about his latest book, The Enigma of Capital, a book which concludes with a call for "revolution" to "dispossess" the capitalist class.

Notes on Tony Cliff's autobiography

Submitted by martin on Sun, 04/01/2009 - 21:10

Notes on Cliff's "A World to Win"
Cliff comments (p.3) that: "Readers may be shocked by the narrowness of my own life story outside politics". That's as may be. But what about the narrowness of his life story inside politics?
After the initial string of anecdotes about Arab suffering in Palestine (all about Arab suffering, incidentally, not about working-class suffering, so they leave unexplained why he became a socialist), Cliff refers to no event in the outside world as impinging on his thought other than:

Notes on "Political Economy of Money and Finance"

Submitted by martin on Thu, 01/01/2009 - 16:30

Makoto Itoh and Costas Lapavitsas, Political Economy of Money and Finance, Macmillan 1999

This book is a review of doctrine rather than a study of the latest developments. A great deal of it is concerned with the polemics between the "bullionists" and "anti-bullionists", and later between the "banking" and "currency" schools, in 19th century England. It also discusses rational-expectations doctrines and "post-Keynesian" doctrines (centred round the idea that the money supply is endogenous).


Notes on "A People's History of Iraq"

Submitted by martin on Sat, 13/09/2008 - 21:18

"A People's History of Iraq", by Ilario Salucci. Haymarket Books 2005

This book is an odd patchwork, and misleadingly titled (it is not at all a general history of Iraq), but contains some useful stuff.

The core of it is 100 pages, first published in Italian in 2003, of a fairly breathless narrative history of the Iraqi Communist Party up to 2002 by Salucci.

Added to that in the English edition are:

Notes on "Targeting Iran"

Submitted by martin on Sat, 13/09/2008 - 18:13

"Targeting Iran", by David Barsamian, with Noam Chomsky, Ervand Abrahamian, and Nahid Mozaffari. City Lights, 2007

This book is essentially an extended pamphlet against the Bush-Cheney administration's talk of a military attack on Iran - talk only temporarily shelved, and not clearly repudiated by Obama.

The interview with Noam Chomsky is thin - largely, I guess, an effort to boost the book's sales by getting Chomsky's famous name on the cover.

Ervand Abrahamian's contribution is much more substantial.

Construction workers to walk out on 12 September

Submitted by martin on Sun, 24/08/2008 - 17:16

I hear from a BLF activist in Brisbane that construction sites across the country are likely to walk out on 12 September.

On that day union official Noel Washington appears in Geelong Magistrates' Court for a first hearing. Washington has refused instructions from the ABCC - a special police force for the building industry set up by the Howard government, and due to be kept until 2010 by the Rudd government - to give the names of workers who attended a union meeting off site.

For refusing to testify, Washington could face six months' jail.

Notes on "Capital Unleashed", by Andrew Glyn

Submitted by martin on Sat, 23/08/2008 - 17:21

The strongest feature of this book is the detailed evidence it compiles of continued large variation in social conditions between the leading capitalist countries.

Globalisation and the "race to the bottom" are realities, but often understood in too sweeping a way, as if today's capitalist world leaves room for nothing between totally US-style cut-throat free market capitalism and workers' revolution.

The Bible

Submitted by martin on Fri, 22/08/2008 - 17:37

My younger daughter Molly is currently reading the Bible - reading it as a convinced atheist, for information and literary instruction - and I'm trying to keep up with her.

Molly reads much faster than me, so I'm still in Kings while she has finished the Old Testament and is about to start on the New. (Her plan after that is to read the Quran).

But it seems worth noting a few of our findings so far.

The Old Testament is "religious" in a very different way from that in which religion presents itself today.

"No to the Pope" protest in Brisbane, 19 July 2008

Submitted by martin on Wed, 20/08/2008 - 18:25

About 150 of us marched through Brisbane city centre on 19 July, on the occasion of the Catholic Church's World Youth Day in Brisbane, to say "No To The Pope".

See YouTube for pictures.It was a lively and worthwhile protest, getting a good response from passing shoppers. Several people applauded us; I saw at least one young woman trying to join the demonstration, but being held back by her friend (I don't know who won that tussle in the end).

RSP launched

Submitted by martin on Sat, 16/08/2008 - 18:34

In July I attended the launch meeting in Brisbane of the Revolutionary Socialist Party, a group formed mainly by the former Leninist Party Faction of the DSP (Castroite) group.

Australia-wide, the RSP includes many people formerly very prominent in the DSP, such as John Percy, Doug Lorimer, Allen Myers, and Max Lane. In Brisbane, so I'm told, they have about eight people.

It was impressive that they had set up a website, produced a first issue of a monthly paper, rented an office, made banners, and got t-shirts advertising their paper, Direct Action.

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