Reviews

1 February 2022 Matthew Behrens

Netflix, 2021; 138 mins

As multiple crises rocked the globe at year’s end, social media burned up with a torrent of pugilistic partisan posts framed in a Bush-like purity test: were you with this trending Netflix film or were you against it?

I caved in to the combination of peer pressure and public health guidelines and watched Don’t Look Up – a comedy in which two astronomers attempt to warn humanity about an approaching comet that will destroy civilisation – only to wonder why so many were celebrating something that seemed to…

1 February 2022 Ian Sinclair

OUP, 2021; 256pp; £12.99

Nonviolent resistance campaigns have been twice as successful as violent campaigns in achieving their objectives. That was the conclusion of Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan’s Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, making it a seminal book in the study and practice of nonviolent struggle (see PN 2547 – 2548).

With Civil Resistance, Chenoweth,…

1 February 2022 Gabriel Carlyle

Verso, 2021; 208pp; £9.99

If you haven’t been hiding under a rock for the last three years, you’ll probably have heard of ‘net zero’. This is the idea that, in order to address the climate crisis, we must rapidly bring about a balance between human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere and human-caused removals of the same.

The best versions of net zero could be part of the solution and a instrument for climate justice.

However, as Holly Jean Buck argues in this timely work, the key issue is having a plan for managing the decline…

1 February 2022 Gabriel Carlyle

Granta, 2021; 272pp; £16.99

Before it went to the printers, Rebecca Solnit’s publishers tried to get her to add a subtitle to this book. She refused, on the reasonable grounds that, as a book about some roses that were grown by the author of 1984 and Animal Farm, it didn’t need one.

However, what might sound like a ridiculously narrow focus for a book, turns out to be anything but.

In a 1946 essay (‘A Good Word for the Vicar of Bray’) Orwell wrote about some inexpensive roses and fruit trees that he had planted 10 years earlier: ‘the…

1 December 2021 Andrew Bolton

Deseret Book Company, 2021; 288pp; £19.38

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, often known as ‘Mormonism’) has a strong war tradition, both in their additional scriptures and in their first years (1830 – 1844) on the frontier in the US, under the leadership of the founder of the church, Joseph Smith Jr.

Their violence continued after migration westward under Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, to what became Utah. It includes the Mountain Meadows massacre in 1857.

Mormons were encouraged to obey conscription in the First and Second World Wars and in the…

1 December 2021 Emma Sangster

Transnational Institute, 2021; 37pp; free, available at tinyurl.com/peacenews3696

The vast carbon emissions produced by the military are coming under increasing scrutiny. The UK ministry of defence (MoD) published a strategy on climate change earlier this year, outlining how it will reduce the carbon impact of 'defence' up to 2050. 

However, there will still be no external or independent scrutiny of greenhouse gases produced by the military, as COP26 failed to ensure that they will be included in emissions targets.

Emissions are only one issue in terms of the relationship of the security forces to the…

1 December 2021 Gabriel Carlyle

Haymarket Books, 2021; 200pp; £16.99

Hard on the heels of her 2019 book about democracy (see PN 2644 – 2645), Astra Taylor’s latest work brings together 15 essays, mostly written during 2019 – 2020.

The topics covered range from US universities (where ‘racism, commerce and education have been bedfellows from the beginning’) and sexism in the tech industry, to debt abolition and the problem of gerontocracy (government by old people) in US politics.

Compulsively readable, Taylor draws on a wealth of material to enrich her thinking.

Thus, in a piece…

1 December 2021 Virginia Moffatt

Quaero Publishing, 2021; 300pp; £8.99

The recent decision by the US to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan has reminded the world of the last 20 years of failed US foreign policy in the region. We’ve all become so used to the ‘forever war’ that it is easy to forget that, before Afghanistan, before the wars in Iraq and Syria and the 2011 bombing of Libya, Reagan ordered air strikes on Libya in 1986.

Those raids (abetted by the UK, who allowed planes to take off from Lakenheath) allegedly struck at targets linked to terrorism. As is always the case, they resulted in the…

1 December 2021 Henrietta Cullinan

Rowman & Littlefield, 2021; 438pp; £29

With this book, Ray Acheson guides us through the collaborative processes that brought about the 2016 UN Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), the first legally-binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons. Acheson is director of Reaching Critical Will, the disarmament programme of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

Drawing on their own observations and feminist analysis, Acheson recounts how the parties involved developed a new approach to international…

1 December 2021 Margaretta D'Arcy

PM Press, 2021; 176pp; £14.99

The global COVID-19 pandemic has brought the crucial, often-hidden role of waged and unwaged carers to the forefront. There couldn’t be a better time to read Selma James’ follow-on to her classic 1975 book, Sex, Race and Class, which exposed the exploitative underpinning of capitalism in women’s unwaged work.

I first encountered Selma James at a feminist workshop in 1975 and thought: who was this strident American telling me I was a housewife and should demand wages for my work? The idea seemed quite reactionary for Ireland, where a…

1 December 2021 Ian Sinclair

Mariner Books, 2020; 448pp; £13

With the Vietnam War still raging, in early 1971, a coalition of American anti-war groups converged on Washington, DC, around May Day (1 May) for a series of protests, including an attempt to shut down the city.

‘If the government won’t stop the war, we’ll stop the government’ was the unofficial motto of the movement.

Though it remains one of the lesser-known demonstrations against the US attack on Vietnam, by 6 May more than 12,000 people had been taken into custody, making Mayday the biggest mass arrest in US history.

1 December 2021 Erica Smith

Imperial College London 2021; 30m; available online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQ8vRk0e_Hk

Roma communities were first recorded in the British Isles in 1505, and Irish travellers have been here for much longer. These nomadic communities have always been the subjects of suspicion, fear and abuse – arguably that is why they have continued to travel from place to place. 

This short documentary highlights the most recent threat to travelling communities from the Police Bill, which is currently going through parliament. If passed it will mean that the failure to leave an illegal stopping place will become a criminal offence…

1 October 2021 Robin Percival

Oxford University Press; 336pp; £75 [!]

Since the formal end of the Northern Ireland conflict, when the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998, there has been an ongoing debate in Ireland and parts of academia about who ‘won’ the conflict. This is more than just a macho ‘we won, you lost’ type of contest. It goes to the heart of the role played by Britain’s intelligence services (primarily MI5 and MI6) in both fuelling the conflict and then helping to bring it to an end.

Broadly there are two camps.

The first camp, which is promoted by a small group of journalists…

1 October 2021 Henrietta Cullinan

Luath Press, 2021; 224pp; £12.99

For me, the most interesting chapter in Activism for Life was ‘Answering questions from a young activist’, in which Angie Zelter reflects on what makes for effective action and on her support for the direct action tactics used by current movements.

Most of the book, though, is storytelling along with an archive collection. Zelter covers 50 years of nonviolent direct action campaigns – from Greenham Common to the founding of XR Peace.

As she recounts her own experiences, Zelter calls for actions to be accessible to…

1 October 2021 Andrew Bolton

Pluto, 2021; 256pp; £16.99

Permaculture was launched by the book Permaculture One (1978), written by Terry Leahy’s fellow Australians David Holmgren and Bill Mollison. It began as a system of agriculture and horticulture that emphasised the growing of perennial tree crops as opposed to annuals, drawing on the practices of indigenous peoples with the use of ecological and agricultural sciences.

Permaculture then evolved to become ‘sustainable agriculture and settlement design informed by three permaculture ethics – care for the earth / care for people…