Reviews

1 October 2018 Gabriel Carlyle

Verso, 2018; 192pp; £8.99

In John Carpenter’s celebrated 1988 sci-fi film They Live, a drifter living in a shanty town discovers a special pair of sunglasses which reveal a terrible secret that explains the huge disparities in wealth and power that surround him.

Wearing them, the hero is able to see reality as it truly is: his world is being run by aliens working alongside a wealthy human elite (‘the 1%’). Moreover, the aliens are manipulating ordinary people’s thoughts and perceptions to conceal this fact.

Reading Ann Pettifor’s book…

1 October 2018 Fiorella Lecoutteux

OR Books, 2018; 366pp; £13, available to purchase online here

The title of this book refers to a line in Mike Marqusee’s poem ‘Egypt’. In it, Egyptian people are filling a public square, presumably Cairo’s Tahrir Square, their images captured on TV. Much like a dream, Marqusee writes, what is happening is ‘turbulent and calm, much wished for, full of surprise.’ But unlike a dream, this is a revolution that will leave ‘definable traces in the atmosphere, like incense.’ He concludes: ‘I know this is not a dream because like a dream / everything is changed in its wake.’

This beautiful poem…

1 October 2018 Esme Needham

Aurum Press, 2018; 336pp; £20

If you asked someone who had never read or heard anything about the origins of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) who they thought might have founded it, the chances are they would guess something along the lines of ‘some well-meaning elderly man who was opposed to the shooting of rare birds for sport’, or something like that. But it seems very unlikely that they would come anywhere near the real founders of the RSPB: a group of women who were passionately opposed to the shooting of rare birds for feathers.

They…

1 October 2018 Emily Carrigan

PM Press, 2017; 288pp; £17.99

In his preface to this book Noam Chomsky claims that the book ‘merits great respect and close attention’ and I cannot disagree. In fact, I strongly recommend it to anyone presently involved in activism or movement building aimed at meaningful social change.

In part two, Albert puts forward a persuasive argument for ‘participatory economics’ (an economic system  based on participatory decision making) as an alternative to markets and central planning.

Thankfully however, he does not think that wider change will be…

1 October 2018 Samra Mayanja

Verso, 2018; 352pp; £9.99

When I told a friend that I was reviewing this book she was very excited to learn that Segal, a seasoned feminist academic and activist, was reaching a younger audience. This was because of the impact Segal had on my friend’s own feminist thought, years ago. Those, like myself, who have not encountered Segal’s work before, will find this book transformative in its ability to communicate the power of collective joy as a tool for resistance.

Segal’s thesis is meandering in style, straightforward in argument and essential in content…

1 October 2018 Charlie Kiss

Verso, 2018; 320pp; £9.99

Poet, former Children’s Laureate and presenter of Radio 4’s show about language Word of Mouth, Michael Rosen is also well-known as a scourge of ‘traditionalist’ education and his left-wing political activism on a wide variety of different topics.

This book covers Rosen’s life until he left university at 23. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that Rosen is the author of many children’s books, this means that the writing is often from a child’s perspective. I found it amusing reading about how a young child attributes communism…

1 August 2018 Erica Smith

OR Books, rev ed 2018; 388 pp; £10.99; ebook £7. Purchase online here

Alex Nunn’s engaging style makes Corbyn’s journey from jam-making backbencher to leader of the opposition seem both exciting and totally rational.

Last year, The Candidate won the Bread and Roses award for radical publishing. That first edition traced Corbyn’s rise up to the attempted coup by right-wing Labour MPs in mid-2016.

This new edition includes a 100-page(!) chapter covering last June’s snap general election and the incredible surge of support for Labour despite vitriolic attacks on Corbyn from the…

1 August 2018 Erica Smith

Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft, Lodge Hill Lane, Ditchling, East Sussex BN6 8SP until 14 October (Tues – Sat: 10.30am–5pm; Sundays & bank holidays: 11am – 5pm; £6.50 / £5.50, under-16s free)


emergency use soft shoulder (1966). Photo: Josh White, courtesy Corite Art Centre, Immaculate Heart Community, Los Angeles

Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft may seem an unlikely place to host an exhibition of 1960s Warhol-inspired socially-engaged prints from California, but these brightly-coloured, life-affirming texts by Corita Kent make for an exciting dialogue with artworks by members of the Roman Catholic local artistic community in the permanent collection.

In 1921, sculptor and type-designer Eric Gill was one of the…

1 August 2018 Ian Sinclair

Accent Press, 2018; 368 pp; £15.99

Achieving 40 percent of the vote – a record-breaking 10 percent increase on its 2015 performance – Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party carried off one of the biggest political upsets ever at the 2017 general election, dealing a serious blow to the Tory government and broader neoliberal ideology.

Steve Howell, deputy director of strategy and communications in the Labour leadership team, gives a detailed and engaging insider account of the election campaign. There are no big reveals, but there are many nuggets that will be of interest to…

1 August 2018 Emily Carrigan

Zed Books, 2018, rev ed; 268pp; £9.99

Empowering women is clearly one way in which we may be able to stop climate change: not because women are more nurturing or caring but because more people equals better ideas, and because your success is never sharper than when working with other humans of many different kinds.

As a general overview of what some women have achieved in the field, Why Women Will Save the Planet should be useful to activists and non-activists alike. While there are some inspiring examples of collective action and progress in the book, many…

1 August 2018 Erica Smith

Four Corners Books, 2018; 128pp; £10

In the summer of 1968, a young man named Sam Lord combined forces with Peter Dukes and Jean Lou Msika (a French Tunisian expelled from France because of his involvement in the May uprisings in Paris) to set up a low-cost/no-cost screenprint workshop in a damp basement on London’s Camden Road.

Over the next three years, the Poster Workshop printed thousands of revolutionary/protest posters from hundreds of designs. Peter Dukes kept a copy of every poster that was printed.

Now a representative selection of these posters…

1 August 2018 Fiorella Lecoutteux

The New Press, 2018; 368pp; £24.99

Two of the most pressing questions for the Left today are: Who are Trump’s supporters? And why did they vote for him?

A liberal Democrat based in California, US sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild has spent years researching the US right in its geographic heart, the South. She has attempted to cross the ‘empathy wall’ that blocks you from understanding someone with a wildly different worldview.

Hochschild’s research leads her to wrestle with a major paradox in the US today: those who are the most effected by alarming…

1 August 2018 Henrietta Cullinan

Zed Books, 2016; 208 pp; £14.99

For anyone who has visited refugee camps in Europe – or who has worked with those seeking asylum in this country – No Borders provides a perspective very different from the usual portrayal of migrants as victims of unjust, violent borders, victims whose rights are routinely ignored and who are denied access to basic amenities such as water, food and shelter.

Natasha King draws on social movement theory to picture many migrants as activists, refusing to be deterred by the borders, both physical and legal, that block their…

1 August 2018 Milan Rai

Profile Books, 2017; 512pp; £25

Sir Rodric Braithwaite was foreign policy adviser to prime minister John Major and chair of his joint intelligence committee. A history of the nuclear arms race from such an insider is bound to be a polished piece of mainstream propaganda.

For example, while he concedes that US president Richard Nixon did issue nuclear threats (over Vietnam in 1969, and during the 1973 Egypt-Israel war, both mentioned on p333 of the book), Braithwaite sees these as the two exceptions rather than the rule. He has this bold denial: ‘Even…

1 June 2018 Arkady Johns

Verso, 2016; 320pp; £9.99

It used to be that, when someone told me about a way to increase my happiness, I would take it on board without thinking. This book has changed that.

Surveying a broad sweep of history – from the measurement of mood by economists in the 18th century, to our current state where information about individuals is stored on the assumption that it will be useful someday – Davies investigates how happiness has become both a political and an economic goal.

The anti-philosophical approach of contemporary psychology, and the…