Reviews

1 August 2022 Eve Wedderburn

Jerwood Space, 171 Union Street, Southwark London, SE1 0LNhttp://www.jerwoodspace.co.uk/jerwood-visual-arts/ Leeds Art Gallery, 18 November 2022 – 22 January 2023https://www.fvu.co.uk/projects/jerwood-fvu-awards-2022  

The Jerwood Space:

The Jerwood Space is the kind of space you invent in one of those Why-Don't-They conversations that regularly happen amongst frustrated utopians with artistic leanings. Beautifully housed in a refurbished Victorian school, it is mixed space of rehearsal rooms, gallery space, studio space, rehearsal rooms and hipster café. Every inch of it is thoughtful and reflective; even the café seems to have caught the self-reflective practice vibe, announcing: NO INSPIRATIONAL QUOTES. JUST GOOD COFFEE. It is its own Platonic…

1 August 2022 Erica Smith

Ebury, 2022; 400pp; £20

Five women give first-hand accounts of four undercover police spies who targeted them between 1987 and 2010. It is gripping and sickening to learn the extent of abuse that these women – and others – experienced. The format of the book involves short, dated sections from each of the five women, so that their stories are woven together. This can be confusing at times but it keeps the reader’s focus on the progress of their grooming, gaslighting and ghosting – and on their partial victory against the long-term abuse and misogyny of the…

1 August 2022 Gabriel Carlyle

Verso, 2017; 224pp; £17.99

Sometimes you discover a book which you just can’t believe slipped past you when it was published.

Marcus Rediker’s 2002 book The Many-Headed Hydra: The Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (co-authored with Peter Linebaugh) has become a modern classic. So how could anyone with an interest in radical history fail to spot the publication of a new book by him – let alone one with this book’s subtitle?

Fortunately, it’s not too late to correct this oversight.

Given the prominent role played by Quakers in…

1 August 2022 Erica Smith

The Sentinel Publishing, 2021; 212pp; £9.99

Ted Parker was a working-class boy born in bomb-blasted Folkestone in 1942. His father was an army dispatch rider in the Second World War who died of Hodgkinson’s disease when Ted was eight. His mother was left to bring up two children alone and scraped a living as a cleaner in an army base.

When Ted was 13, she remarried and her new husband bought Ted his first guitar. Folk music and rock’n’roll remained important throughout Ted’s personal and political life. He did not do well at school and at 16 signed up, with his parents’…

1 August 2022 Ian Sinclair

Verso, 2022; 368pp; £20

Opening with a quote from the lawyer Otto Gritschneder – ‘Those who sleep in a democracy will wake up in a dictatorship’ – Nils Melzer notes that his new book is intended as ‘an urgent appeal… a wake up call to the general public.’

The United Nations special rapporteur on torture from 2016 until March 2022, Melzer provides a damning indictment of the US, UK, Sweden and Ecuador for their treatment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Writing in methodical and accessible language, he runs through the key events, starting with WikiLeaks…

1 August 2022 Erica Smith

Verso, 2021; 336pp; £20

‘1977 was the Queen’s 25th Jubilee, so we were subjected to doses of gush and drool in the media accompanied by her celebratory pink hat.… Labour was in power, but the new leader, James Callaghan, was more royal than the royals, and I was aware that a new right lurked among the Conservatives, deploying a rhetoric of freedom while backing the suppression of trade unions as well as gays.’

This quote is so topical I had to include it in the review, although it is one of the most subjective paragraphs in this beautifully-measured account…

1 June 2022 Emma Sangster

Windmill Books, 2022; 1,120pp; £14.99  

How do ordinary people – seemingly decent and peaceful at the individual level – become key parts of a system that perpetrates violence and destruction?

This is a question that our society is perhaps only beginning to widely acknowledge. For example, details have only recently surfaced of the thousands of ordinary people from the British Isles who invested in slave ownership in the British Caribbean.

I You We Them operates in the same territory, exploring the role and psychology of the individual, removed by distance…

1 June 2022 Andrew Bolton

PM Press, 2021; 208pp; £16.99 (less for the e-book)  

Rebecca Subar has written a great book. It is not complicated, has lots of stories, and is easy to read. It got better and better as I read through it. I remain inspired. But who is Rebecca?

Rebecca is ‘a transmasculine anti-Zionist able bodied white American Ashkenazi secular Jewish mom.’ She understands both privilege and vulnerability, she knows both being ‘up rank’ and ‘down rank’. This gives her insight and empathy with other vulnerable groups.

Professionally, Rebecca taught Peace and Conflict Studies at West Chester…

1 June 2022 Milan Rai

Verso, 2022; 448pp; £25

This is not so much a biography as one well-informed radical’s readable take on modern world history (with a lot of attention paid to the Russian Revolution – Trotsky is quoted frequently). The figure of Winston Churchill is mostly just a hook Tariq Ali uses to hang some eye-opening stories on.

If you want a thorough, sceptical, myth-busting account of the life of Winston Churchill, search out Clive Ponting’s 876-page Churchill (out of print).

Ponting’s attention to detail is remarkable. For example: ‘Churchill’s…

1 June 2022 Ian Sinclair

Hurst, 2021; 368pp; £14.99

Presumably hastily put together after the disorderly US-UK-NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, The Ledger is written by two advisors to the Western militaries and Afghan government: David Kilcullen and Greg Mills. Their roles gave the pair an enviable level of access to top level US-UK government and military sources, whom they cite regularly, but is also likely a key reason why their analysis is so restricted, generally limited to what Noam Chomsky calls the ‘fight it better’ school of criticism.

Kilcullen and…

1 June 2022 Gabriel Carlyle

Verso, 2021; 256pp; £16.99

‘The sky is a cornucopia – heaven, not so far from earth. We have to guard that cornucopia against industries and interests that would make it scarce.’

Thus writes anthropologist David McDermott Hughes, on the final page of this enthralling book. It’s simultaneously a call for a new ‘socialism of the wind’ and an in-depth exploration of the social, political and cultural challenges facing the renewable energy revolution.

Two ideas underlie this book.

Firstly, we urgently need to rapidly move the world’s energy system…

1 April 2022 Gabriel Carlyle

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 Niebuhr (writing in 1957), ‘regard the highly…

1 April 2022 Cath

Chris Coates, James Dennis, Jonathan How & Kirsten Stevens-Wood (eds), Diggers & Dreamers: Intentional Community in Britain (12th edition): Diggers & Dreamers Publications, 2021; 196pp; £14.50 Chris Coates, A Life in Common: A Diggers & Dreamers History: Diggers & Dreamers, 2021; 198pp; £12 Both titles available from www.diggersanddreamers.org.uk

The Diggers & Dreamers (D&D) editorial collective has changed membership over the years, but the format of its definitive guide to intentional community in Britain hasn’t. The 12th edition (2021) does not disappoint as the go-to source of information for those seeking a more fulfilling alternative to the nuclear family, to precarious renting or to dedicating one’s waking hours to wage slavery for a mortgage.

Having migrated online, the print version is now only issued every few years – the last one was the 25th…

1 April 2022 Henrietta Cullinan

Goldsmith Press, 2020; 432pp; £32

Having volunteered with a small religious group supporting homeless refugees in Calais and London, I resonated strongly with this book. In particular, it helped me to see, in hindsight, our contribution as part of an extraordinary international mobilisation of volunteers endeavouring to provide refugees and migrants with on-the-ground help.

The book is divided geographically into ‘flashpoints’; places where refugees and migrants gathered to cross borders or found their journey across Europe blocked by governments’ policies.

1 April 2022 Gabriel Carlyle

Declassified UK, 2021; 26m; available on YouTube: www.tinyurl.com/WartonsWar

In their classic 1988 book Manufacturing Consent, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky write that: ‘A propaganda system will consistently portray people abused by enemy states as worthy victims, whereas those treated with equal or greater severity by its own government or clients will be unworthy. The evidence of worth may be read from the extent and character of attention and indignation.... While this differential treatment occurs on a large scale, the media, intellectuals, and public are able to remain unconscious of…