Reviews

1 October 2019 Ian Sinclair

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 the discussion back in the UK: ‘the resistance of…

1 October 2019 Gabriel Carlyle

New Internationalist, 2019; £11.99; 112pp

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the last 10 months, there’s a strong chance you’re aware that this year marks the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo massacre.

On 16 August 1819, an estimated 40–50,000 people assembled peacefully on St Peter’s Field in Manchester to hear the well-known reformer Henry Hunt speak on ‘the most LEGAL and EFFECTUAL means of obtaining a reform in the Common House of Parliament’.

The crowd was attacked, first by the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry Cavalry, a private militia of…

1 August 2019 Jon Klaemint Hofgaard

The New Press, 2017; 272 pp; $25.95

The field of disability studies has never gained much traction in the popular sphere. Of course, this would not come as a surprise to someone like Sunaura Taylor who knows all too well that societies are primarily built by and for able-bodied people, and that disabled people are some of the most neglected and marginalised people in the world.

In this semi-autobiographical work, Taylor outlines with great patience what a disabled person is, and can be, in a similar way to Lynne Segal’s 2013 book, Out of Time, which tries to…

1 August 2019 Claire Poyner

Chatto & Windus, 2019; 432pp; £16.99

Caroline Criado Perez is the one who got a lot of stick for having the audacity to suggest it might be nice to have a famous woman on a UK banknote. Poor menfolk smelt the end of the patriarchy if they allowed this terrible idea to come to fruition, leading to her receiving a tsunami of abuse on social media, including threats of rape and murder.

But this book isn’t about banknotes. Rather, it’s about how the world is designed with men in mind (who knew?) and how women – even when the thing being designed is primarily intended for…

1 August 2019 Fiorella Lecoutteux

Zed, 2018; 272pp; £9.99

This short book addresses current feelings of disempowerment in Europe and shows us how to solve the crisis of the nation-state: together!

The writers are founders of the transnational European Alternative movement which promotes democracy, equality, and culture beyond the nation-state.

For Marsili and Milanese, Europe is a multitude of paradoxical things.

It is the European elites saving the banks rather than their citizens during the 2008 financial crash and forcing Greece’s progressive party Syriza into economic…

1 August 2019 Henrietta Cullinan

Polity Press, 2018; 240pp; £15.99

In this challenging analysis, Dave Wearing examines Britain’s relationship with the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] states – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, the UAE and Oman – in the context of modern international capitalism.

From the outset, Wearing dismisses the familiar discourse of ‘British values’, which presents our liberal democracy as being in natural opposition to an authoritarian Middle East, warning that this obscures the far weightier ‘common cause’ held between British elites and Arab monarchies.

1 August 2019 Pascal Ansell

Pluto Press, 2017; 224pp; £12.99

Music resonates in all corners of our lives. ‘It walks us down the aisle and marches us off to war.’ Dave Randall manages to sing music’s political praises while keeping his feet on the ground, siphoning the best of what has been thought about music into a book that is straightforward, intimate and downright delightful.

As a performer himself, Randall is no armchair theorist. We are with him as he plays with the band Faithless; and later pogo past him in a rave. Here in the club, we share his contemplation, alone yet together with…

1 August 2019 Ian Sinclair

Amberley Publishing, 2019; 296pp; £9.99

RT Howard is a writer specialising in intelligence and ‘defence’. His latest book looks at ‘individuals who were responsible for starting, conducting or extending an unnecessary war or show of force.’

Echoing the broad tenets of ‘Just War’ theory, four examples of what constitutes an ‘unnecessary war’ are provided: the decision to pursue military force rather than diplomacy or negotiations; the use of excessive force; ‘war undertaken for no obvious reason’; and futile wars.

Beginning with the North American revolutionaries in…

1 August 2019 Pascal Ansell

Pluto Press, 2019; 352pp; £19.99

 ‘Never have so many people decided so much in Portugal as between 1974 and 1975’. The peaceful revolution which kicked off this period, on April 25th 1974, is extraordinary. Not a single shot was fired by the revolutionaries, who risked everything to oust the country’s fascist regime and push the backwards state into the future. Raquel Varela is right to celebrate what followed, not just the day of the revolution. Workers took control of the factories, strikers won long sought-after rights, and after being systematically shoved aside by…

1 August 2019 Emily Johns

Sansom & Co, 2018; 128 pp; £25

This beautifully-illustrated book documents the lives of 44 artists who were conscientious objectors (COs) and pacifists in the two world wars.

In a series of monographs, Gill Clarke gives us a valuable insight into lives lived and shaped by political and spiritual objections to killing and the war machine.

She gives us a very particular record of the development of creative lives: how artists made a living; the political and social communities of artists; and the impact of war resistance on them – such as ruined hands from…

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 references – he…

1 June 2019 Fiorella Lecoutteux

Verso; 2019; 320pp; £16.99

‘This is a war story.’

Thus begins Nick Estes’ historical recounting of the survival of – and the resistance waged by – Native American people, the ‘first sovereigns’ of – and the ‘oldest political authority’ in – America.

US history saw the first white settlers attempt to ‘permanently and completely replace Natives with a settler population’. This is a war that continues to rage to this day, as seen in the horrific police violence against Native Americans fighting to resist the contruction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. DAPL…

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 necessary…

1 June 2019 Henrietta Cullinan

Lawrence & Wishart, 2018; 226pp; £18

In August 1976, women employed at the Grunwick photo processing plant in north west London walked out on strike. 30 years later, in 2006, women employees at Gate Gourmet, a factory that prepared in-flight meals for British Airways, also walked out.

This book describes how these two groups of women were led to take industrial action – and their subsequent betrayal by the trade unions. Their stories are set against an academic account of migrant settlement, work and family life in the UK.

Central to Striking Women are…

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 primary…