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Reviewed by Chris Slee
Chasing the scream
By Johann Hari
Bloomsbury Circus London 2015
April 9, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — Over the past hundred years, millions of people around the world have been jailed for drug use. The United States has been particularly harsh. Its huge prison population, disproportionately Black and Latino, includes many people jailed for drug use.
But until 100 years ago, drug use was not a crime in the US (or in most parts of the world). Opiates were sold in pharmacies as remedies for a range of ailments.
Johann Hari explains that: “You could go to any American pharmacy and buy products made from the same ingredients as heroin and cocaine. The most popular cough mixtures in the United States contained opiates, a new soft drink called Coca-Cola was made from the same plant as snortable cocaine, and over in Britain the classiest department stores sold heroin tins for society women”. [page 9]
Most people used these products without any problem: “Just as a large majority of drinkers did not become alcoholics, a large majority of users of these products did not become drug addicts.
Reviewed by Tony Norfield
Finance Capital Today: Corporations and Banks in the Lasting Global Slump
By François Chesnais
Brill, Leiden, 2016
January 10, 2017 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Economics of Imperialism – This book is well worth reading. It is written in a clear and accessible style and discusses key points about the limitations of capitalism and the role of contemporary finance. Perhaps its most important point is how the financial system has accumulated vast claims on the current and future output of the world economy – in the form of interest payments on loans and bonds, dividend payments on equities, etc. These claims have outgrown the ability of the capitalist system to meet them, but government policy has so far managed to prevent a collapse of financial markets with zero interest rate policies, quantitative easing, huge deficits in government spending over taxation, and so forth. The result is an unresolved crisis, a ‘lasting global slump’, in which economic growth remains very weak and vast debts remain in place.
A Tate Gallery for the New Left: Portraits, Landscapes, and Abstracts in the Revolutionary Activism of the 1950s and 1960s
campaigning to become Mayor of Toronto, Canada, 1948.
Ernest Tate, Revolutionary Activism in the 1950s and 60s: A Memoir – Volume 1, Canada 1955–1965 (London: Resistance Books, 2014)
Ernest Tate, Revolutionary Activism in the 1950s and 60s: A Memoir – Volume 2, Britain 1965–1970 (London: Resistance Books, 2014)
By Bryan D. Palmer
August 18, 2016 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — Ernest Tate and Phil Hearse present Revolutionary Activism in the 1950s and 1960s at "Before ’68: The Left, activism & social movements in the long 1960s" conference. Hosted by UEA School of History in conjunction with the journal Socialist History, and the Institute of Working Class History (Chicago).
Ernest Tate's memoir is an important contribution to the history of the left in Britain and Canada during a unique period. It's a political life of Ernest Tate's life as a socialist during the fifteen year period from 1955 to 1970. In volume one, he tells us about his arrival from Toronto in 1955 as a working-class immigrant from Northern Ireland and about how he quickly became engaged in radical politics.
Excerpts of the book are available on Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal here.
By Ben Peterson
August 16, 2016 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Left Win with permission — In the wake of 2011 uprisings in the Arab spring and Occupy, there has been a resurgence radical ideas and a new enthusiasm for radical theorists. A new generation of activists are seeking to digest these experiences, to take lessons from them and prepare for the struggle to come. Joshua Clover’s Riot-Strike-Riot is part of this process. Unfortunately, it is an unhelpful attempt. Good theory contextualizes a struggle and draws together the threads of history together into a coherent argument, which can illuminate what has happened and what can now be done. Riot-Strike-Riot instead deifies certain tactics and if its strategic suggestions were taken up would hinder rather than advance the movement for post-capitalist revolution.
Review by Simon Butler
August 1, 2016 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal – Just days before the US entered World War II in 1941, a 20-year-old New Yorker and radical political activist named Murray Bookchin was looking forward to beginning work as a seafarer. Inspired by romantic notions of life at sea conveyed by writers such as the socialist novelist Jack London, Bookchin was keen to trade his arduous job in a New Jersey iron foundry for something more adventurous.
The night before he was due to ship out Bookchin’s worried friends took him out for a farewell drink or three. They succeeded in getting him boisterously drunk – so drunk that, as intended, Bookchin was in no shape to report for work the next morning and missed the boat. Not long afterwards the first of many US merchant ships were sunk in the Atlantic by German U-boats. It soon became apparent that Bookchin’s friends had saved his life.
Reviewed by Barry Healy
Paul Le Blanc
Reaktion Books, 2015, 224 pp., $39.99
Trotsky and the Problem of Soviet Bureaucracy
Thomas M. Twiss
Brill, 2014, 502 pp., $205.00
January 25, 2016 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — Leon Trotsky was one of the central leaders of the Russian Revolution. As the organiser and Commissar of the Red Army that saved the Soviet power and leading light of the struggle against Stalinism, he is surely one of the great heroic — and tragic — figures of the Twentieth Century.
Taken together these two books provide an insight into the major theoretical dilemma that emerged from the Russian experience: how a successful revolution could degenerate into a parody of workers’ democracy to the point of becoming a murderous dictatorship.
Because Trotsky’s revolutionary integrity remained untarnished after his murder in 1940 at the hands of a Stalinist assassin it is easy to fall into a deification of his work — something that competing Trotskyist sects have delighted in doing.
Paul Le Blanc steers clear of those rocks in his very fine, short biography. He demonstrates a very clear-eyed and measured approach, combined with an unqualified opposition to Stalinist tyranny.