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The talented and reviled Mr Pepper (Comintern agent)

A Communist Odyssey: The Life of József Pogány/John Pepper
By Thomas Sakmyster
Budapest-New York: Central European University Press, 2012
Photos, bibliography, index; 249 pp.

Reviewed by Dan La Botz

October 2013 -- New Politics, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author's permission -- During normal times in a capitalist society, skill and drive are harnessed by the corporations, the labour union bureaucracy and the political parties, but when the crisis comes a revolutionary party must harness the most talented and most ambitious for its purposes. The idealistic and the opportunistic, the selfless and the self-aggrandising, the ruthless and the kind, the brave and the cowardly among those most determined and striving souls must somehow be made use of for the higher purposes of the revolution and ultimately for of all of humanity. The revolutionary movement must bring out the best in them, for we are the only material we have.

Jonathan Sperber's new bio seeks to bury Karl Marx, not praise him

Karl Marx, A Nineteenth Century Life
By Jonathan Sperber,
Liveright Publishing, 2013

Click for more on Karl Marx and Marxist theory.

By Barry Healy

September 26, 2013 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- In life Karl Marx lived a tumultuous, revolutionary life and in death he has likewise been less than tranquil. Alive, he was the best hated man in Europe. For the ruling classes and police spies he personified the “spectre” that was haunting the continent, the demonic rise of communist revolution.

After his death he was bleached of his humanity, canonised by his admirers and slandered by his bourgeois enemies. Both misrepresented him.

His enormous collection of notes and half-formulated writings were bequeathed first to his long-time political collaborator Frederick Engels and later to the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). Engels laboured long and hard and managed to produce the second and third volumes of Capital.

Barry Sheppard's SWP histories an 'eye-opener' for young socialist activist

The Party, The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988, Volume I: The Sixties, a Political Memoir by Barry Sheppard, Resistance Books (Sydney), 2005, 354 pages.

The Party, The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988, Volume II: Interregnum, Decline and Collapse, 1973-1988, a Political Memoir by Barry Sheppard, Resistance Books (London), 2012, 345 pages.

[For more reviews of Barry Sheppard's books, visit HERE and SWPhistory.com.]

By Daniel Lopez

Robert Austin on 'Latin America's Turbulent Transitions' (video)

June 16, 2013 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Latin America expert Robert Austin gives an information-packed review of the new book, Latin America's Turbulent Transitions: The Future of Twenty-First Century Socialism, by Roger Burbach, Michael Fox and Federico Fuentes. The book is a detailed exposition and analysis of the powerful social movements challenging Imperialism across the South American continent.

Robert Austin is an honorary fellow at the school of history, philosophy, religion and classics, University of Queensland, St Lucia.

Latin America's Turbulent Transitions: The Future of Twenty-First Century Socialism
By Roger Burbach, Michael Fox & Federico Fuentes
Zed Books, 2013.

Order at Resistance Books.

Ration consumption or ration production?

Review by Don Fitz

Any Way You Slice It: The Past, Present and Future of Rationing
By Stan Cox
The New Press, 2013

June 3, 2013 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal/Climate & Capitalism -- Stan Cox got quite a few folks a bit hot and bothered when his book Losing Our Cool critiqued air-conditioning during the middle of the 2010 heat wave. Now, in the middle of massive joblessness and economic downturn, his new book, Any Way You Slice It: The Past, Present and Future of Rationing, is based on the assumption that humanity needs to massively reduce consumption if it is to have any chance of surviving.

Is the guy nuts? Does he hate the working class and poor? Or does he have very keen vision into a topic that few progressives and socialists have even thought about? Peeking beneath the surface, Slice It has the potential to spark serious discussion about the role of social wages in challenging climate change as well as control over production during the transition to a post-capitalist society.

Away with confusion

Life under the Tamil Tigers

Review by Chris Slee

A fleeting moment in my country: the last years of the LTTE de-facto state
by N. Malathy; foreword by Radha d’Souza
Clarity Press, Atlanta 2012

May 30, 2013 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- “Can the readers who did not experience this imagine what it is like to watch the complete destruction of one’s country: the physical destruction, the destruction of the governance structures, the complete dispersal of its people, and massacres on a massive scale? Has there ever been such complete destruction of a country in history? The only reason why it is not seen as such is because my country was only in the minds of its people, but was not recognized by the global system of states.”[1]

Review: Paul Le Blanc and Kunal Chattopadhyay’s Trotsky selection ‘a missed opportunity’

Review by Michael Fisher

Leon Trotsky: Writings in Exile
By Kunal Chattopadhyay and Paul Le Blanc (eds.)
London: Pluto Press, 2012

March 28, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Few figures in the history of socialist politics have attracted as much praise and contempt as Leon Trotsky. Liberals and social democrats loathed him for his unwavering defence of the October revolution and his uncompromising opposition to the politics of reformism. Communists reviled him for opposing Stalin and Stalinism, for declaring the degeneration of the Soviet regime and pouring scorn on the notion of socialism in one country.

Exclusive excerpt: 'One Day in December: Celia Sánchez and the Cuban Revolution'

The following is an excerpt from Nancy Stout's new book, One Day in December:  Celia Sánchez and the Cuban Revolution, published by Monthly Review Press. It is posted with the kind permission of Monthly Review Press. Readers of Links international Journal of Socialist Renewal are urged to order a copy HERE.

You can download the excerpt HERE (PDF), or read it on screen below. Alice Walker’s foreword is available at http://monthlyreview.org/2013/02/01/celia-sanchez-and-the-cuban-revolution

'Latin America’s Turbulent Transitions': compelling contribution to our understanding of the 'pink tide'

Latin America’s Turbulent Transitions: The Future of Twenty-First-Century Socialism
By Roger Burbach, Michael Fox and Federico Fuentes
Fernwood Publishing and Zed Books, 2013. Order Here

Review by Richard Fidler

March 11, 2013 -- Climate & Capitalism, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Latin America was the first region targeted by the neoliberal phase of capitalism, and it suffered some of its worst consequences. But it is in Latin America that neoliberalism has been most contested in recent years by new social movements of landless peasants, Indigenous communities and urban unemployed.

In a number of countries, this powerful democratic ferment has led to the election of anti-neoliberal, anti-imperialist governments — a process that started with the initial electoral victory of Hugo Chávez Frias in the late 1990s.

Christopher Hitchens: The guilty bastard

Unhitched: The Trial of Christopher Hitchens
By Richard Seymour
New York: Verso Books, 2012
134 pages

Review by Doug Enaa Greene

January 19, 2013 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- First impressions do matter. Now it is said that first impressions can be unfair, not giving us a chance to understand a person’s complexity. In the case of Christopher Hitchens, my first impression of him was that of a witty tool for the George W. Bush administration’s wars. In 2005, I first saw Hitchens while randomly flipping through television channels and finding a debate between him and George Galloway on the Iraq War.

How real was 'real socialism'? Michael Lebowitz's 'Contradictions of Real Socialism'

[For more articles by or about Michael Lebowitz, click HERE. For a free excerpt from The Contradictions of "Real" Socialism: the conductor and the conducted, click HERE.]

Review by Doug Enaa Greene

The Contradictions of Real Socialism: the Conductor and the Conducted
By Michael A. Lebowitz
New York: Monthly Review Press, 2012.
221 pages

For Asia-Pacific readers it is also be available from Resistance Books

January 8, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Even though the dominant capitalist system is experiencing its worst crisis in decades, those in search of Marxist alternatives are often scared off by this regular refrain from the system's defenders: “Well, what about the USSR? Things didn't work out quite so well there.”

Indeed. The popular memory of the USSR is one of bureaucratic red tape, long lines for basic necessities and harsh repression. If the Marxist answer is that the inevitable outcome of any revolution is merely the drab and misery of the USSR, then it is best to accept capitalism (with all its warts). Or so we are led to believe.

China's 'bureaucratic capitalism'

Photo: Alex Mahan/Flickr.

November 7, 2012 -- Socialist Resistance -- Terry Conway interviews Au Loong Yu,author of the forthcoming book, China’s Rise: Strength and Fragility (Resistance Books, IIRE, Merlin Press).

* * *

Can you explain why you have developed the term bureaucratic capitalism to describe China today and what you mean by that term?

I did not invent the term. It was first used, ironically, by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) during the 1940s to depict the kind of capitalism that the Guomindang (Koumintang] had created under its rule.

Maurice Meisner defines bureaucratic capitalism in his book The Deng Xiaoping Era – An Inquiry into the Fate of Chinese Socialism 1978-1994 as a term to refer to the use of political power for private pecuniary gain through capitalistic or quasi-capitalist methods of economic activity. He adds that although this is not new in history, the form of this in China today is more prominent than the others.

Review: Tommy Sheridan bio 'essential reading'

Tommy Sheridan: From Hero To Zero? A Political Biography
By Gregor Gall
Welsh Academic Press, 2011, 360 pages

Review by Alex Miller

October 23, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- In this book, Gregor Gall seeks to provide the “definitive and authoritative” political biography of Tommy Sheridan, former national convenor of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP).

Like Alan McCombes’ Downfall: The Tommy Sheridan Story (see review at http://links.org.au/node/2521), Gall’s biography goes into great detail on the split within the SSP in 2006, Sheridan’s successful defamation case against News of the World, and his subsequent trial and conviction for perjury in 2010.

The 'Marx party' -- Karl Marx's revolutionary household

Jenny and Karl Marx, 1869.

Love & Capital: Karl & Jenny Marx & the Birth of a Revolution
By Mary Gabriel,
Little, Brown & Company 2011
707 pages, $39.99

Review by Barry Healy

October 19, 2012 -- Green Left Weekly -- The spectre of Karl Marx still haunts the capitalist world. Only 11 people attended his funeral in 1883 and the corporate press still loves to dance on his grave, constantly declaring that his ideas are irrelevant. Yet with every economic crisis all eyes return to Marx's masterpiece, Capital, to understand what is really going on in our economic system.

How did this extraordinary work get produced? What circumstances fed the creative process?

Through Mary Gabriel’s intimate biography we see that hardship ― unrelenting, heartbreaking miserable poverty ― was the physical context. But in greater measure, love and unstinting generosity of the spirit nurtured the flame of creativity and rebellion.

The author of The Communist Manifesto and Capital, Marx was hounded from country to country in Europe before settling in London to further his revolutionary work. With him every inch of the way, physically, intellectually and emotionally was his family.

Few lives have been lived as intensely as that of Karl Marx. And through this book the zeal that his entire family shared is honoured.

Nature’s matrix: Linking agriculture, conservation and food sovereignty

Nature's Matrix: Linking Agriculture, Conservation and Food Sovereignty
By Ivette Perfecto, John Vandermeer, and Angus Wright
Earthscan, 2009

Review by Ian Angus

October 17, 2012 -- Climate and Capitalism, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- In any discussion of biodiversity and species extinction, someone usually insists that overpopulation is the problem. More people equals more farms equals less wilderness equals more extinctions. Life is a zero-sum game: you can have people and farming OR wildlife and biodiversity, but not both.

Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK and the Kurdish struggle

Prison writings: The PKK and the Kurdish Question in the 21st Century
By Abdullah Ocalan, translated and edited by Klaus Heppel; preliminary notes by Cemil Bayik
Transmedia Publishing, London, 2011 [Order here.]

Reviewed by Chris Slee

September 6, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Abdullah Ocalan is (or was -- it is uncertain if he is still alive) the leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a group fighting for the rights of the oppressed Kurdish minority within Turkey and in the Middle East more broadly. Ocalan has been held in a Turkish prison on the island of Imrali since being kidnapped from Kenya by Western intelligence agencies and handed to Turkey in 1999.

This book was written in prison, as part of an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. It was later adopted as a manifesto by the PKK at its 2002 congress.

Communist International's Fourth Congress: revolutionary fulcrum of the modern world

Toward the United Front, Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922
Edited and translated by John Riddell
Brill, 2011 (hard back), 1310 pages, 200 euros
Haymarket Books, 2012 (paper back), US$55

Haymarket Books is now taking pre-publication orders of Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, at US$50, a 10% reduction. It is due to be released in November 2012.

To take advantage of Haymarket’s offer, go to Toward the United Front, order the book, go to “check-out” and enter RIDDELL2012 in the “coupon code” field.

To recommend the Brill hardcover edition to your favourite library, go to Brill Academic Publishers and click on “recommend”.

Toward the United Front will also be available from Resistance Books in November.

Review by Barry Healy

New book on the history of the Tamil people's struggle for self-determination

Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka
By Ron Ridenour
New Century Book House
Chennai, India
(available from Resistance Books)

Review by Chris Slee

August 9, 2012 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Ron Ridenour‘s latest book is a very informative history of the struggle for self-determination by the Tamil people on the island of Sri Lanka. Ridenour explains the reasons why many Tamils took up arms to fight for an independent Tamil state. He shows the history of racism in Sri Lanka and the violent repression carried out by successive governments against peaceful Tamil protests. He denounces the history of mass murder of Tamils, both through government-instigated pogroms and through the bombardment of civilians by the Sri Lankan armed forces. He acknowledges that the Tamil independence fighters have also committed atrocities.

The debate about the nature of the former Soviet Union: Who was right?

Moscow 2008.

[For more discussion on the nature of the Soviet Union click HERE. See also the related discussion on Stalinism HERE.]

By Chris Slee

July 30, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The nature of the former Soviet Union was an issue which divided the left for many decades. Now that the Soviet Union no longer exists, differing analyses of its class nature should no longer be a reason for maintaining separate socialist organisations.

Nevertheless, this historical debate has relevance to current politics, since the theories developed to explain the nature of the Soviet Union were subsequently applied to other countries, including Cuba. In particular, the theory of state capitalism, of which British Socialist Workers Party leader Tony Cliff was a leading exponent, is applied to Cuba by many groups today, including Solidarity and Socialist Alternative in Australia.

Paul Le Blanc: Occupy, insurgencies and human nature: Paul Mason and/or Karl Marx

[Click HERE for more articles by Paul Le Blanc; For more discussion on the Occupy movement, click HERE.]

By Paul Le Blanc

July 25, 2012 – ESSF, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with Paul Le Blanc’s permission -- Paul Mason is one of the best journalists covering the global economy today. His book, Live Working, Die Fighting: How the Working Class Went Global, is an essential resource for anyone concerned about the workers’ struggle against oppression and for liberation in the past, present and future. I met him while I was in thick of Pittsburgh’s G20 protests, which he was covering for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). I had already read his splendid book (which I was using in one of my courses) – and his front-line television reportage of the protests and the realities generating them was outstanding.[1]

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