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Thomas Sankara and Burkina Faso's 'Black Spring'

Thomas Sankara: An African Revolutionary
By Ernest Harsch,
Ohio University Press, 2014.
163 pages

Review by Ernest Tate

February 9, 2015 -- The Bullet, submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by Ernest Tate -- A press report in 1983 that a popular uprising in Upper Volta, a small and poor land-locked country in Western Africa, had led to an obscure, but charismatic army officer becoming head of state was truly inspiring news for all those looking for some kind of breakthrough against imperialism in that part of the world.

It had come after the depressing news that Margaret Thatcher's Britain had defeated Argentina in the Malvinas and Ronald Reagan's USA had crushed Grenada, a clear message to the world that, on a moment's notice, imperialism would brutally crush anything that threatened its power.

But because the US empire had been taken by surprise by the Cuban Revolution 24 years earlier, many of us were then hopeful that maybe we were witnessing such a possibility again, in Africa.

Scottish independence: when, not if -- how Westminster lost Scotland

Disunited Kingdom: How Westminster Won a Referendum but Lost Scotland
By Iain MacWhirter
Cargo Publishing, 2014,
174 pages

Review by Alex Miller

February 4, 2015 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The independence referendum on September 18, 2014, has been hailed by many as the most important single event in the recent history of Scotland.

Eleanor Marx and the dawn of socialist feminism

Eleanor Marx: A Life
By Rachel Holmes
Bloomsbury 2014, £25

Review by Alex Miller

February 2, 2015 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- This new and very well-written biography tells the story of the life of Eleanor Marx (known to her family and friends as “Tussy”). Tussy was the third and youngest daughter of Karl and Jenny Marx.

The first part of the book deals with her childhood in London, and recounts her growing up in the the financially insecure and often poverty-stricken Marx family home, where she rubbed shoulders with the likes of Friedrich Engels and William Liebknecht. That part of the story is relatively well known through the many biographies of Karl Marx that have been published over the years.

The story of Tussy’s adult life is less well known, and Rachel Holmes seeks to right this, with the first full-length biography of Tussy since the 1970s.

Heroic class leadership: Lars T. Lih's ‘Lenin’

Lenin
By Lars T. Lih. London: Reaktion Books, 2011
235 pages

[Click HERE for more by or about Lars Lih. For more discussion on Lenin, click HERE.]

Review by Doug Enaa Greene

January 19, 2015 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Too often, when the name of Lenin is brought up in this day and age, it conjures up certain uncomfortable images in the popular and academic mind. Lenin is seen as the founder of the Bolshevik Party, who was hell-bent on establishing a totalitarian state. It is time that this image of Lenin be discarded. Lenin should be embraced by revolutionaries the world over desiring to build a society free of exploitation.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s 'The Era of the People': 'Citizens’ revolution' and ecosocialist vision


[The people] are supposed to exercise power through parliamentary assemblies. But the financial oligarchy which rule our present situation have taken upon themselves the right to veto their decisions. This is why the system doesn’t fear the left, which it has been able to control … But it has a clear-headed fear of the people. Since it is the people who directly and physically contend with them for power with a spontaneous program that is the negation of the established order. -- Jean-Luc Mélenchon

By Liam Flenady

Heaven or hell? Books look back on the German Democratic Republic

Stasi Hell or Workers’ Paradise? Socialism in the German Democratic Republic ― What Can We Learn From It?
By John Green & Bruni de la Motte
Artery Publications, 2009
50 pp.

Red Love: The Story of an East German Family
By Maxim Leo
Pushkin Press, 2013
272 pp.

Reviews by Barry Healy

November 16, 2014 -- Green Left Weekly -- The German Democratic Republic (GDR, or "East Germany") disappeared a quarter of a century ago after 41 years’ existence. The East German state is mostly remembered as “Stasiland”, as Anna Funder’s history of its secret police is called.

Yet, for all of its Stalinist failings, East Germany’s values still stubbornly retain many Germans’ endorsement, especially those of the eastern regions. In 2008, Der Spiegel surveyed young Germans nationwide and discovered that most defended what the GDR stood for.

This is usually dismissed as merely a form of nostalgia, but these two texts grapple with the fuller picture. What they recall are memories of when the fear of fascism could motivate whole nations ― and the promise of socialism inspired.

Husband and wife team Bruni de la Motte and John Green have personal links to the GDR. Born in Britain, Green studied in the GDR between 1964 and '68 and then worked on GDR television for 20 years.

Review: 'Britain’s Communists: The Untold Story'

Britain’s Communists: The Untold Story
By John Green (with contributions from Andy Croft and Graham Stevenson)
Artery Publications 2014, 335 pages.

Review by Alex Miller

November 10, 2014 – Links international Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) was founded in 1920, as one of the parties of the Third International promoted by Lenin and the Bolsheviks as an alternative to the Second (Socialist) International, whose member parties had discredited themselves by supporting their national governments in World War I.

Naomi Klein: ‘Only mass social movements can save us’ from climate catastrophe

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate

By Naomi Klein
Alfred A. Knopf, 2014

Review by John Riddell

October 20, 2014 -- Climate and Capitalism, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Despite endless conferences, treaties and solemn promises, greenhouse gas emissions have risen 61% since 1990, and the rate of increase is accelerating. As Naomi Klein tells us in her new book, This Changes Everything, we are now experiencing an “early twenty-first century emissions explosion”.

The reason for this ominous failure, she shows, is that the present capitalist profit system itself is incompatible with climate and environmental stability. Our only hope is the rise of mass movements with the combined goals of saving the environment and achieving social justice.

This Changes Everything is a rich resource of fact and argument: it’s a book that every climate justice activist should read, use and share.

‘The Right is right’

Review: Behind China's wildcat strike wave

Insurgency Trap: Labor Politics in Postsocialist China
By Eli Friedman
Cornell University Press/ILR Press, 2014.

By Jane Slaughter

October 15, 2014 -- Labor Notes, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- China is the world centre of wildcat strikes—given that no strike in China is officially allowed under the law. The government doesn’t issue statistics, but one source found 1171 strikes and worker protests from June 2011 through 2013.

Grenada: ‘A big revolution in a small country’

We Move Tonight: The Making of the Grenada Revolution
By Joseph Ewart Layne
St. George’s, Grenada: Grenada Revolution Memorial Foundation, 2014
Paperback 203 pp.
ISBN: 9781492724582

Review by Laurence Goodchild

October 3, 2014 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- “A big revolution in a small country” is allegedly how Fidel Castro described the overthrow of Grenada’s authoritarian government when being questioned on the matter back in 1979[i]. Grenada, a country which has a population of no more than 110,000 and a land mass of only 133 square miles, certainly is small. Yet the revolutionary transformation of the island between the years of 1979 and 1983 sent profound shockwaves throughout the Caribbean and beyond; well into the metropolitan centres of imperial power.

The economic and social progress made in those years is well documented and can largely be attributed to a state-led development strategy, expansion of participatory welfare programs and an independent foreign policy[ii]. These features of the revolution, which made it a beacon for all those struggling against colonial and neo-colonial practices, are what made it “big”. Furthermore, it is these features, rather than any illusionary threat, which undoubtedly led the USA to invade Grenada in 1983.

A lesson in humility for ‘New Atheists’

Christianity, Islam and Atheism: Reflections on Religion, Society and Politics
By Michael Cooke.
Sydney: Resistance Books, 2014.
Order HERE.

Review by Ben Courtice

September 11, 2014 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- For a time I stopped referring to myself as an atheist in public. I was intensely embarrassed by seeing ads on buses promoting atheism around the time of the World Atheist Conference in Melbourne. For a while I simply became “not religious” for public purposes. I found it embarrassing because public evangelism is the one thing that particularly galls me about religion.

I didn't change my opinions, but this book does a good job of outlining why I felt as I did, in far more insightful terms than I ever thought of.

Barry Sheppard on Daniel Bensaid's and Ernie Tate's memoirs of the 'tumultuous' 1960s

Paris, May-June 1968.

An Impatient Life, a Political Memoir
By Daniel Bensaid
London: Verso, 2013

Revolutionary Activism in the 1950s & 60s: a Memoir: volume 2, Britain 1965-1970
By Ernest Tate
London: Resistance Books, 2014

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal readers can read an excerpt HERE.

Read Barry Sheppard's review of Revolutionary Activism in the 1950s & 60s: volume 1 HERE

Reviewed by Barry Sheppard

September 9, 2014 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- These books cover the impact of the worldwide youth radicalisation that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s upon two sections of the Fourth International, one in France and the other in Britain. In both countries, this was a period of tumultuous events, including the US invasion of Vietnam and the international movement that erupted against it.

Marxism and feminism: Was Marx a ‘class determinist’?

Marx on Gender and the Family: A Critical Study
By Heather A. Brown
Haymarket Books, 2013
232 pp.

Review by Barry Healy

September 1, 2014 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- For the most part the Marxist movement has a had a troubled relationship with the women’s liberation movement. While some Marxists (such as those organised in Australia’s Socialist Alliance) have no problem with feminism, others have choked on the thought of a rebellious movement that does not fit neatly into their paradigm of a workers-led revolution.

Review: 'In Place of Fear II: A Socialist Programme for an Independent Scotland'

In Place of Fear II: A Socialist Programme for an Independent Scotland
By Jim Sillars
Vagabond Voices Publishing, 2014

Review by Alex Miller

August 13, 2014 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Jim Sillars is a well-known and well-respected figure on the Scottish political scene. He was elected (UK) Labour Party MP for South Ayrshire in 1970 but subsequently shifted away from mainstream Labour Party politics as a result of his commitment to devolution from Westminster and the setting up of a Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. It's worth remembering that the infamous "40% rule" that blocked the narrow majority vote in favour of devolution in the 1979 referendum was the work of UK Labour Party MP George Cunningham (with the support of fellow Labour MPs George Robertson, Robin Cook and Tam Dalyell).

Ian Birchall reviews Ernie Tate's 'Revolutionary Activism in the 1950s & 60s'

Revolutionary Activism in the 1950s & 60s: A Memoir
By Ernest Tate
Volume 1, Canada 1955-1965
Vol. 1: ISBN 978-0-902869-69-1; EAN: 9780902869691
Vol. 2: ISBN 978-0-902869-60-8; EAN: 9780902869608
Resistance Books, London, 2014

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal readers can read an excerpt HERE. To order a copy, email terryconway@tiscali.co.uk.

By Ian Birchall

Salvador Allende: Revolutionary democrat

Salvador Allende: Revolutionary Democrat
by Victor Figueroa Clark
London: Pluto Press, 2013
paperback 164 pp.
ISBN: 9780745333076

Review by Laurence Goodchild

August 5, 2014 – Links international Journal of Socialist Renewal -- In this succinct and well-researched book, Victor Figueroa Clark achieves numerous accomplishments. While detailing a vivid account of Salvador Allende’s life, Clark also provides a much needed historical context to Allende’s leadership of the Popular Unity government, and addresses his political strategy in a manner that is highly relevant to the contemporary “pink tide” in Latin America[i].

Class conflict in the shadow of Gallipoli: What government propaganda won’t tell you

Review by Chris Slee

In the Shadow of Gallipoli
By Robert Bollard
NewSouth, Sydney 2013

June 3, 2014 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- On April 25, 1915, Australian troops landed at Gallipoli on Turkey’s coast. They were part of a British imperial force aiming to capture Constantinople (now called Istanbul) and the land alongside the narrow waterway linking the Mediterranean to the Black Sea. It was hoped that this would enable British ships to enter the Black Sea and bring supplies to Russia, which was an ally of Britain in World War I.

The plan failed. After hanging onto a narrow strip of land for eight months, the Australians (along with the rest of the invading force) withdrew after suffering heavy casualties.

With the approach of the centenary of the Gallipoli landing, the Australian government is planning to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on commemorating this event.

Breaking a path for the '60s radicalisation: John Riddell reviews Ernest Tate's 'Revolutionary Activism'

Revolutionary Activism in the 1950s & 60s: A Memoir
By Ernest Tate
Volume 1, Canada 1955-1965
Vol. 1: ISBN 978-0-902869-69-1; EAN: 9780902869691
Vol. 2: ISBN 978-0-902869-60-8; EAN: 9780902869608
Resistance Books, London, 2014

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal readers can read an excerpt HERE. To order a copy, email terryconway@tiscali.co.uk.

Review by John Riddell

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