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Review: Why Scotland will never be the same again

The People’s Referendum: Why Scotland Will Never Be the Same Again
by Paul Geoghegan
Luath Press 2015
177 pages

Review by Alex Miller

April 16, 2015 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The UK-wide general election for the Westminster parliament scheduled for May 7, 2015, looks set to be a very close, perhaps even closer than the 2010 election that resulted in the Labour Party being replaced by a Conservative Party-Liberal Democrat coalition government.

Kobayashi Takiji: Class struggle and proletarian literature in Japan

Kobayashi Takiji (1903-1933).
The Crab Cannery Ship: and Other Novels of Struggle
By Kobayashi Takiji
Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2013, 328 pages
[Scroll to the end for a video presentation of this article, and to Note 1 for Takiji Memorial:  February 20, 2009, a three-part documentary tribute to Kobayashi Takiji, produced by Heather Bowen-Struyk.]

By Doug Enaa Greene

April 15, 2015 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- In 2008, one of the best-selling novels in Japan was an 80-year-old novel, Kanikosen (Crab Cannery Ship) by the communist author Kobayashi Takiji, detailing the wretched working conditions on a fishing ship and the crew's strike and determination to overthrow their oppressors. The novel, previously selling a moderate 5000 copies per year, shot up to sales of 500,000, along with the release of four manga versions reaching many more readers.

Ian Birchall on John Riddell's 'To the masses': Essential resource on communism's early years

To The Masses: Proceedings of the Third Congress of the Communist International, 1921
edited and translated by John Riddell
Brill, Leiden & Boston, 2015
1299 pages, €399.00

April 12, 2015 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The following review by British socialist historian Ian Birchall introduces a major addition to our knowledge of the revolutionary movement of Lenin's time: John Riddell's To the Masses: Proceedings of the Third Congress of the Communist International, 1921. Birchall's review is scheduled for publication in Revolutionary History, a journal with 43 published volumes.

The review is published here with kind permission of Revolutionary History and Ian Birchall. Riddell's latest volume, available only in Brill's library format at the moment, will be published in a popular, more inexpensive edition by Haymarket Books in February 2016.

For more on the Communist International, click HERE. Click for more by or about John Riddell.

* * *

Review by Ian Birchall

This changes some things: Jodi Dean on Naomi Klein's 'This Changes Everything'

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate

By Naomi Klein
Alfred A. Knopf, 2014

By Jodi Dean

March 17, 2015 -- I Cite, submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by the author -- How do we imagine the climate changing? Some scenarios involve techno-fixes like cloud-seeding or new kinds of carbon sinks. Cool tech, usually backed by even cooler entrepreneurs, saves the day -- Iron Man plus Al Gore plus Steve Jobs. In green.

Other scenarios are apocalyptic: blizzards, floods, tsunamis and droughts; crashing planes; millions of migrants moving from south to north only to be shot at armed borders. The poor fight and starve; the rich enclave themselves in shining domed cities as they document the extinction of charismatic species and convince themselves they aren't next.

Paul Le Blanc on Tamás Krausz's 'Reconstructing Lenin': Sorting through Lenin’s legacy


Reconstructing Lenin: An Intellectual Biography
By Tamás Krausz
New York: Monthly Review Books, 2015
564 pages; Order HERE

For more discussion on Lenin, click HERE. For more by Paul Le Blanc, click HERE

Review by Paul Le Blanc

March 10, 2015 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- This edition of Tamás Krausz’s study of Russian revolutionary Vladimir Ilyich Lenin is compelling and imposing in more than one way. It is not, strictly speaking, an intellectual biography. So much is offered in this remarkable volume, however, that many readers will not complain that they are not actually treated to a chronological narrative tracing the evolution of Lenin’s thought.

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.

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