Reviews

1 June 2019 Cedric Knight

Allen Lane, 2019; 310pp; £20

In the future, there may be recriminations. Scientists will say that politicians failed to manage the quantified risks of climate change, while politicians will claim that the scientists didn’t shout loudly enough.

Whether because of laziness, corruption or ignorance, the dry facts have failed to prompt anything like adequate implementation of technical solutions. Maybe the idea that carefully nuanced refinements to the science could directly lead to a winding up of the fossil fuel industry within 20 years skated over some…

1 June 2019 Pascal Ansell

Pluto Press: 2017; 294pp; £13.50

Academics join novelists, a judge and a curator in sharing emotive explorations of home and belonging in this rich collection of essays about the complexities of place and identity-making. Do I Belong? encourages the reader to think hard about what the European project actually means.

Ambivalence about the European Union pervades the essays, as does concern for home-grown terrorism resulting from Europe’s colonial history – a history now coming back to haunt the present. Many contributors believe that the EU has failed in its…

1 June 2019 Ian Sinclair

Yale University Press, 2016; 432pp; £30

Think of Adolf Hitler and invariably an image is conjured up of an all-powerful leader, the most evil individual in modern history, using extreme barbarity to crush his opponents at home and abroad.

The latest study from Nathan Stoltzfus, professor of Holocaust Studies at Florida State University in the US, challenges this simplistic representation, raising profound questions for historians, citizens and activists alike.

Citing a huge range of German- and English-language sources – there are nearly 100 pages of…

1 April 2019 Fiorella Lecoutteux

OR Books; 2018; 226pp; £16 (purchase online here)

How can we hold dictators to account? The list of those who have enjoyed complete impunity is long. Lawyer Wolfgang Kaleck has spent his whole life fighting to reverse this state of affairs: using the law to challenge Latin American ex-dictators, representing the families of US drone-attack victims in Yemen, and filing criminal complaints against the likes of ex-US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld.

Kaleck’s latest book is a manifesto for international law and how it can be used to change the status quo. As Edward Snowden…

1 April 2019 Benjamin

Corporate Watch, 2019; 52pp; £4.50 or download / view for free online at: www.tinyurl.com/peacenews3221

Worlds End is a new 52-page graphic novel exploring climate change, capitalism, and the links between the two.

A recurring theme is tipping points – in the climate system and in societies. Both ecological and social changes can happen quickly. Despite the enormity of the challenges facing our generation, the authors’ message is optimistic, without being sugar-coated: ‘The future is uncertain, it’s also unwritten’.

For anyone who aspires to reject societal norms, here is a salutary reminder that we have all…

1 April 2019 Henrietta Cullinan

Pluto Press, 2018; 336pp; £19.99

Drawing on her own archives, interviews and experiences, Louise Toupin recounts, from a Canadian perspective, the beginnings (in 1972) of the now-famous global feminist movement, Wages for Housework. In ’70s Quebec, Toupin reports, women couldn’t serve on juries, rape was a crime only outside marriage, and contraception was difficult to obtain.

As Wages for Housework would frame it, the majority of women (60 percent in Canada, 72 percent in Italy) stayed at home, providing a variety of services for the male worker who supported…

1 April 2019 Tomas Remiarz

Wolf Press, 2018; 232pp; £9.99

Winter isn’t coming – it has arrived in this chilling post-Brexit fiction set in the moors and towns of Northern England. Britain has become a cold place for EU citizens like Mara, the book’s main character. Mara’s life story – from rebellious punk in 1980s East Germany via road protester in 1990s England to an academic career – is revealed in a series of flashbacks, intertwined with the love story between her and Beth whom she met on a road protest in the 1990s.

The comfortable life Mara has built for herself abruptly comes to…

1 April 2019 Ian Sinclair

Penguin 2019 (2018); 368pp; £9.99

Originating in a 2013 essay for the radical magazine Strike!, David Graeber’s provocative book is an engrossing, if sometimes uncomfortable, read.

A professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics and an anarchist, Graeber helpfully works up a functional definition of what he considers a bullshit job: ‘a form of paid employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence even though as part of the condition of employment the employee feels…

1 April 2019 Benjamin

Zed Books, 2018; 400pp; £12.99

In 2014, captain Peter Hammarstedt and his crew, from the marine conservation group Sea Shepherd, set off from Tasmania on ‘Operation Icefish’. Their mission was to search the Southern Ocean for six illegal fishing vessels, wanted by Interpol. These ships were accused of poaching endangered Patagonian toothfish. Against the odds, the activists were able to locate one of the wanted vessels, Thunder, stop it fishing and set it to flight.

The book is a thrilling roller-coaster story, as packed with surprises and intrigue as…

1 April 2019 Penny Stone

HammerOn Press, 2018; 384pp; £16

I must start this review with a statement of interest: I am a singer in the street choir / campaign choir movement. In many ways this makes me a more critical reader of this book, which collates the oral histories of over 40 voices from street choirs across the UK. It really matters to me that these stories are collected and made available, both to document the often unwritten history of ordinary people resisting social injustice, and to inspire others to become active!

The book details conversations with singers from across Wales,…

1 February 2019 Gabriel Carlyle

Adam Hochschild, Lessons from a Dark Time and Other Essays, University of California Press, 2018; 296pp; £22Rebecca Solnit, Call Them By Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays), Granta, 2018; 188pp; £12.99

The United States’ April 1917 entry into the First World War sparked a massive wave of internal repression that was to last until 1920.

US radical newspapers and magazines were targeted, with postmasters ordered to be on the lookout for anything ‘calculated to … embarrass or hamper the Government in conducting the war’.

The former secretary of war, Elihu Root (who would go on to co-found the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations) told a gathering at New York’s Union League Club that: ‘There are some newspapers…

1 February 2019 Cedric Knight

WW Norton & Company, 2018; 576pp; £19.99

Curiosity blows things up. Or at least, it vaporises interesting rocks using a laser designed by the US nuclear bomb laboratory at Los Alamos.

I am here referring not to the intellectual motivation behind much of ‘pure’ science, but rather to Curiosity, NASA’s robotic vehicle that is analysing the chemistry of Mars. This particular sharing of technology between ‘warfighting’ and the frontiers of science is one of the many diverse and disparate facts that you might glean from this wide-ranging book by historian Avis Lang…

1 February 2019 Jon Klaemint Hofgaard

Princeton University Press, 2018; 328pp; £14.99

There is a certain harmless air to tales. They are always fun to read and listen to because they conjure up worlds beyond our own doubtful and complex one.

What is fascinating about the stories collected by Michael Rosen in this book is that they give us a glimpse into a time – the late 19th/early 20th century – when the ideas and concepts of socialism were being tested and acted out in fictional realms peopled with elves, spirits, talking poultry, Martians and, especially, giants.

These were fantastical tales,…

1 December 2018 Gabriel Carlyle

University of California Press, 2018; 152pp; £17.99

On 15 February 2003, during the the famous million-plus-strong march against the US-led invasion of Iraq, I was handed a newsheet by an anarchist. Its gist, none too tactfully expressed, was that such mass demonstrations were pointless and that we were all fools for taking part. Whether or not he was right is one of the many questions about protest explored (in a US context) by LA Kauffman in this short but insightful book.

The mobilising director of some of the largest demonstrations in US history, including massive anti-war…

1 December 2018 Gabriel Carlyle

Pluto, 2018; 208pp; £16.99

For an event with such a pivotal role in the history of the 20th century (see PN 2622), the German Revolution of 1918-19 has a very low profile. Indeed, when he asked an upper-level class on Modern European History ‘What was the German Revolution?’ William Pelz received a number of incorrect answers (Hitler’s 1933 burning of the Reichstag, the 1989 fall of the Berlin wall, and ‘something to do with Luther and the Reformation’). But none of his students connected the words with ‘a movement that saw millions of people rising up to…