1 April 2024Feature

Part of a recent online talk for PN by a longtime US peace activist 

“This is a really demanding and frightening subject that we’re dealing with.

Let me begin by saying that [Russian president Vladimir] Putin and [Dmitry] Medvedev [deputy chair of Russia’s security council] have been drawing from the US playbook from the beginning of the Ukraine War with their nuclear threats. 

They’re basically, as Noam Chomsky put it, moving to ensure that those who might come to protect those that Russia is determined to attack are at least limited in what…

1 February 2023Review

The Bodley Head, 2022; 875pp; £30

At 875 pages, including a 50-page bibliography and 90 pages of references, this is a huge tome, and a serious investment of time.

Those looking for a much shorter primer covering much of the same ground may want to check out John Newsinger’s The Blood Never Dried: A People’s History of the British Empire (Bookmarks, 2006).

However, those who persist will discover a hugely impressive tour de force, providing a deep dive into the massive violence that ‘was…

1 April 2022Review

Verso, 2021; 256pp; £9.99

In 1895, Mohammed Abduh – later the grand mufti of Egypt – claimed: ‘We Egyptians believed once in English liberalism and English sympathy; but we believe no longer, for facts are stronger than words. Your liberalness we see plainly is only for yourselves, and your sympathy with us is that of the wolf for the lamb which it deigns to eat.’

The ‘bland fanatics’ of Pankaj Mishra’s title are those advocates of ‘western civilisation’ who, in the words of the US theologian Reinhold…

1 October 2019Review

Verso, 2019; 624pp; £25

In this book, Cambridge university academic Priyamvada Gopal confronts the now infamous 2014 YouGov poll which found 59 percent of Britons thought the British empire was ‘something to be proud of’.

Resistance to empire was frequent, she notes, with connections formed between critics of imperialism based in the UK and rebels in the colonies.

Furthermore, Gopal argues that a form of ‘reverse tutelage’ took place, as insurgents and the movements they led helped to shape…

1 August 2017Review

Hurst, 2017; 288pp; £20

Over the years, many writers and scholars have challenged the view that the British empire was, in Winston Churchill’s words, a ‘valiant and benignant force in the history of mankind’. Shashi Tharoor’s latest book on British rule in India aims to combat what he calls Britain’s ‘historical amnesia’ over its past atrocities.

Drawing on an impressive array of historical sources, Tharoor claims that, prior to British rule, India was one of the richest countries in the world, with a 23…

1 August 2016Review

Hamish Hamilton, 2016; 320pp; £18.99

Reviewing Noam Chomsky’s first book in 1969, Robert Sklar wrote in The Nation that the importance of American Power and the New Mandarins lay in its power ‘to free our minds from old perspectives, to stimulate new efforts at historical, political and social thought’.

Chomsky’s latest book, Who Rules the World? is at least as powerful in ‘freeing our minds’. Chomsky is not a sloganeer – in his very first sentence he admits that ‘The question raised by the…

28 September 2014Review

Pluto Press, 2012; 280pp; £16

In the mid-18th century, the East India Company (EIC) accounted for half of the world’s trade, had its own army and enjoyed tax-raising powers over 10 million Indians. Yet, strangely, not a single London memorial exists to remember it.

The Battle of Plassey (1757) kicked off the EIC's takeover of a large swathe of Bengal. Company execs bought up and hoarded rice, contributing to huge famines throughout the 18th century. Robins cites an 1878 article from the Journal of the…

21 July 2014Comment

The First World War was not a war for Belgium, it was a war for empire.

The British view of the world, even today, is fundamentally shaped by a 100-year-old lie, a powerful myth that contrasts German aggressiveness with the US-UK defence of small countries and high principles. In reality, it is a documented fact that the sovereignty of ‘plucky little Belgium’ was irrelevant to Britain’s decision to enter the First World War. In reality, it is a documented fact that the military alliances that Britain entered into were born of a desperate need to shore up…

18 March 2014Feature

During the First World War, the great powers mobilised economic, human and military resources all over the world. They drew fighting men from all over the world into the conflict. They fought battles all over the world. The empires of the day threw their colonies and their colonial subjects into a war for supremacy.

In terms of economic mobilisation, Dr Glenford D Howe notes that, in the West Indies alone: ‘Gifts [in kind] to the value of several thousand pounds were contributed by the colonies to the war effort; these included sugar, rum, oil, lime, cotton, rice, clothing, logwood, and nine aeroplanes. A total of 11 ambulances and adequate funds for their maintenance were donated, and approximately two million pounds sterling was given to the British government and charities.’…

18 March 2014Feature

The European war against the world began long before 1914

There are a lot of issues that are debatable about the First World War. There is one fact, though, that ought to be beyond debate, and which ought to be acknowledged on all sides in the national conversation during this centenary year.

Reasonable people can differ, for example, on how important imperial rivalry was in causing the war. What all reasonable people should agree on, however, is that if, by some miracle, the major European powers had managed to stabilise their relationships…

1 July 2013Feature

Peace News played an important role in exposing British colonial torture in Kenya, publishing an expose by whistle-blower Eileen Fletcher on 4 May 1956.

Fletcher went to Kenya in December 1954 as a colonial social worker ‘rehabilitating’ women and girls in British detention camps and prisons for Mau Mau militants and sympathisers. She resigned in protest after trying to improve conditions for seven months.

Labour MP Fenner Brockway waved a copy of Peace News in a house of commons debate on Kenya on 6 June 1956, quoting Fletcher.

Fletcher had witnessed children of 11 and 12 being held in prisons in Kenya, and gave details,…

1 December 2012Review

Verso, 2012; 344pp; £16.99

Platform is a unique organisation combining art, activism, research, and education. Based in London, for over a decade it has been exploring the multi-dimensional reach of the oil industry into society, a ‘Carbon Web’ that encompasses governments, giant oil companies, banks, and a myriad other organisations, from law firms to universities, NGOs to cultural institutions. Written by two members of Platform, The Oil Road is an important component of this project, focussing on the story of how…

31 March 2012Review

A big book in every sense, The Death of Others looks at the fate of civilians in American wars since 1945 – focussing on the Korean War, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

John Tirman, executive director of the Center for International Studies at MIT and the person who commissioned the 2006 Lancet study on deaths in Iraq, argues that the American public is indifferent to the suffering of civilians in the wars their tax dollars pay for – just as the US military has little concern for…

1 September 2004Review

Common Courage Press, 2004. ISBN 1 5675 1252 6; 500pp; price US$25

Many activists have taken a crash course in US history thanks to Bill Blum. In Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower (2002, see http://peacenews.info/issues/2441/2441351.html ) he took us through the unvarnished history of interventions, sabotage and deceit by the US government.

Now his 1986 book on the CIA, updated in 1995, has again been updated to bring us up to the end of 2003, incorporating new…

1 April 2004Review

The Forging of the American Empire, Pluto Press 2003, ISBN 0 7453 2100 3; £16.99. Incoherent Empire, Verso 2003, ISBN 1 85984 582 7; £15

There was a time when anyone caught talking about “US imperialism” was instantly branded a mad Leninist. No longer. Today, aided and abetted by the ever-more brazen antics of the Bush administration, talk of American “empire” and “imperialism” can be found across the political spectrum.

Sidney Lens's excellent historical overview of US imperialism first appeared in 1971 and its reissue now, with a new introduction by Howard Zinn, is extremely timely. For one thing Lens's survey helps…