Reviews

Four climate futures

Climate Leviathan: A Political Theory of Our Planetary Future by Geoff Mann and Joel Wainwright is an interesting read, with much to criticise, but some interesting and important questions raised.

Hitler's unwilling citizens

The resistance to the Nazis from within the German working class itself is a subject much overlooked in mainstream narratives around World War 2. The typical narrative that most people in Britain will come across is one of a relatively homogenous fascist population (minus Jews, homosexuals, Romanis, disabled people, etc.) that was overcome by the “good guys” of world politics at the time, chiefly Churchill and his plucky band of Brits. So the myth goes. Anti-Nazi Germans by Merilyn Moos offers a compelling left-wing alternative to this narrative. How could militants from the most advanced...

"Pluralist" is not "bipartisan"

To shun “partisanship” — that, according to a new book, is the way to success for Labour. And the proof is Joe Biden’s win in the US presidential election. The Dark Knight and the Puppet Master, by Chris Clarke, is published by Penguin and has been puffed on LabourList. The author is the son of Charles Clarke, who was Neil Kinnock’s chief of staff in the 1980s, then a minister under Blair. The book was first published (under another title) by a think-tank led by Peter Mandelson. The author tells us he is a sort of ultimate antithesis to the “Corbyn surge”. He grew up Labour-by-default, never...

Another history of Corbynism

If I were Owen Jones, I would be rather annoyed that Gabriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire got Left Out published before This Land: The Story of a Movement. When I read both, in the order of release, with Jones’s book I felt like I had read it all before. Jones, unlike Pogrund and Maguire, is a participant in the movement. He was one of the few columnists in the mainstream media to support the Corbyn leadership. He started his career working for John McDonnell and alongside Andrew Fisher. He makes clear in the book that he rates both of them highly. He sees McDonnell as Labour’s lost leader. But...

Left politics without the activists

Gabriel Pogrund’s and Patrick Maguire’s book Left Out: The Inside Story of Labour Under Corbyn is not really about the politics of the Corbyn Labour Party leadership, but about the “politics” in the sense of corridor chat, text-message exchanges, and WhatsApp groups at the top of the party hierarchy. Tellingly, it doesn’t mention the failure of the Labour Party in that period to promote any real ongoing political campaigns outside the general elections of 2017 and 2019. Either the authors take it as obvious that political parties won’t do political campaigning, or they picked up no argument or...

Unionising black workers in the USA

African Americans who maintained train engines had to sue the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen to gain admission to the union in 1944. Outside the court. The Memphis, Tennessee, bin workers’ strike of 1968 is now mainly remembered as an event that provided the backdrop for the assassination of Martin Luther King. King had made a turn, with his Poor People’s Campaign, towards fighting against poverty. 1300 black workers in Memphis struck against poverty pay rates that were so low many of the men wore dirty old clothes and needed social security payments to feed their children...

The New Jim Crow

Police violence in the USA is only a shore of a whole continent of racial oppression and marginalisation, so Michelle Alexander argues in her 2010 book, now a “classic”, The New Jim Crow. Alexander is a civil rights lawyer by trade. Chunks of the book are lawyerly, dissecting a string of Supreme Court rulings. She says herself that she wouldn’t have got to a “fancy law school” without affirmative action rules. Her punchline, though, is that racial oppression is knitted into a larger system of social inequality, and measures which create a bigger black middle class aren’t enough. “Piecemeal...

Abolish the police? Overthrow capitalism!

The slogan-title of Alex Vitale's book is The End of Policing. His detailed conclusion in the text, though, is that "policing needs to be reformed", with "a larger vision that questions the basic role of police in society". DeRay Mckesson and others, prominent in the Black Lives Matter movement, have circulated both a range of police reforms, and a narrower focus on curbing police powers. In the second exposition, some of the demands advocated in the first exposition are criticised as worthless, notably police body cameras and better training. In June 1917, when Lenin advocated revising the...

Socialism and science fiction

Photo by Florencia Viadana on Unsplash The simple connection between socialism and science fiction is that sci-fi imagines alternatives to the status quo. Frequently, this involves implicitly critiquing our present society or projecting possible outcomes of existing social trends. More to the point, sci-fi tends to imagine change at the level of the entire human species, such as by envisaging how humanity will evolve socially through the application of scientific inventions and discoveries. Since sci-fi imagines alternative worlds, it links in complex manners to both utopian and dystopian...

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