Books


  Marxist Economics and Politics

Capitalist Crisis by Mick Brooks

Review by David Brandon

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Mick Brooks is a lifelong socialist and activist in the labour movement and this commitment shows through in this book. He is no mere ranter, however, for this is a tightly-argued and coolly measured examination of the dynamics of capitalism and how a variety of conflicting forces create internal contradictions that lead to crises that ultimately it cannot avoid.


Brooks points out that even the most robust protagonists for capitalism do not understand the economic system they so vehemently advocate. These pundits were caught totally unawares by the onset of the Great Recession in 2007 for they had previously been arguing passionately that such events could never occur again. Other economists with disarming candour actually admit that they don't know the first thing about economics and cannot explain what causes recessions under capitalism or the speculative bubble which was the obvious manifestation of deep-seated problems.


The author, however, draws extensively on Marxist economic theory to argue cogently that falling rates of profit from the early 2000s encouraged those with spare cash to go in search of new or alternative places for quick returns on investment. Turning their back on what they considered to be the paltry returns from manufacturing industry and the provision of services, they engaged in a variety of ventures, particularly speculation in rising house prices. These created only fictitious capital. This is 'paper money' unsupported by any increase in real wealth. A 'bubble' by its very nature is bound to burst and when an economic bubble bursts it always does so with far-reaching and disastrous economic and social results. While it lasted, the bubble was simply a fool's paradise, a Tower of Babel built on a quicksand. Only Marxists predicted that its collapse would bring about a spectacular crisis of international capitalism the full implications of which are not yet clear.


'Capitalist Crisis' is based on wide reading, is scholarly but accessible and makes judicious use of quantitative evidence in support of its arguments. It is at one and the same time a narrative, a text-book and a call to action. In the author's own words: 'This book has been written in part to outline the background to these battles (in defence of public services and public sector jobs) to those who find themselves in the firing line. it strives to explain what happened, why it happened and why this extra fight is being picked with the working class now'.


Brooks looks at the two main options available to governments within capitalism - Keynesianism and monetarism, and concludes that neither of these 'solutions' will restore the long-term prospects of capitalism and guarantee rising living standards and expectations for the majority in society. It argues that the critique of capitalism put forward by Marx and his collaborators in the nineteenth century remains relevant and provides the underpinning for the creation of a fighting socialist alternative to end the chaos, anarchic waste, the wars and crises that the existence of capitalism inflicts on the world.


This is a book to be read and learned from and used and its appeal should extend not only to existing political activists but wider layers of those who want some explanation of the forces that are moulding their lives, for which they are being required to make sacrifices and over which they seem to have no control.
David Brandon is a longstanding labor movement activist living in Peterborough. He is the author of many books including a forthcoming biography of Margaret Thatcher and the horrors of Thatcherism.

The book retails for £9.50. Copies are available in the UK from the author for £11 including postage.


You can pay by sending a cheque payable to: M. Brooks, at 117A, Uxbridge Road, London W7 3ST, UK.
If you have a Paypal account you can send money direct to mickandbarbara@btopenworld.com
.

Or you can ask for my bank details and send a draft.  International rates vary for posting to different parts of the world, so it’s probably best to contact me and check out how much it would cost including postage. In any case don’t forget to supply your postal address. Thanks for your interest, Mick Brooks
 
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The Great Recession: by Michael Roberts

The Great Recession of 2008-9 was the worst slump in the world economy since the Great Depression in the 1930s. Michael Roberts forecast that it would happen a few years before and in this book he explains why the Great Recession happened - relying on Marx's analysis of the laws of motion in a capitalist economy. And he makes predictions of whether and when it could happen again.

Review by Jeppe Druedahl

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"A fast read book filled with facts not usually cited in the mass media. All views of The Great Recession as determined by simple chance, the human nature or stupid government policies are clearly refuted (even though it is explained how the last have aggravated it). It is argued that the Great Recession was a product of the dynamics of the capitalist system. It could only have been avoided if the whole system had been placed in the Museums where it rightfully belongs together with the stone axe. In the aftermath of the crisis we are still seeing daily mass sackings and the downward pressure on wages is actually accelerating. Therefore it is important with a book like this where it is shown that the bosses is not only responsible for the crisis, they are actually also in great numbers profiting it from it. A book that defends the working class. Especially the author’s insight into the global financial system combined with his Marxist method of analysis is very interesting. His use of Kondratiev cycles is clearly arguable – also from a Marxist point of view. The precise mechanics of Marx’ tendency for the rate of profit to fall and its relation to crisis is also pretty unclear. But even if you disagree with some of the underlying theoretical arguments, the facts and statistics of the book are powerful in themselves. It is clearly a good read if you not satisfied with the right wing exposition and “analysis” we see daily in the papers and on the TV." 
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Towards Socialist Democracy: by Martin Legassick 


For Ted Grant, (1915-2006) who for more than a decade exemplified for me Marxism in theory and in practice. And for Margie, who has tried to hold me on the right path ever since.
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The most authoritative single publication from anybody in the Militant tradition and really deserves attention. Ian Ilet.
Martin Legassick has written an expansive polemical treatise on socialist democracy. His book Towards Socialist Democracy (2007) which is some 700 pages long, provides a detailed analysis on the question of socialist democracy supported by a formidable array of notes and bibliographic references. This is a timely and significant book because it deals with issues of great historical import, raising issues which go beyond the debates about limited social reform within the framework of extant social systems. The book restores the importance of thinking about a socialist democratic alternative to the dominant worldwide social system – global capitalism.
The book, written by a committed participant in the struggles against capitalism,1 is also a systematic engagement with those who speak in defence of, or seek answers to, the problems associated with capitalism. It is clearly not intended for those who have no interest in, or are sceptical about, the promise of an alternative to global capitalism and the triumphalism of its present ideological dominance in discussions about the future of humanity.

The book is both a series of explanations about the nature of historically evolved social systems and an avalanche of refutations of dominant social conceptions, ideological systems, theories and practices and the power relations that are both a form and consequence of these. Its central proposition however is the elaboration and defence of ideas about socialist democracy and the conditions for its achievement. Germane to this is a perspective that re-iterates the view that another world – beyond the limits of global capitalism, is both possible and eminently necessary for the great majority of the world’s population and for the long term survival of humanity. It argues that to realise the potential of ‘modern industry, science and technique’ it is both obligatory and desirable to develop an ‘international system based on the democratic and harmonious planning of production on a global scale – a socialist society’ (2007:76). Legassick approvingly refers to George Monbiot who has argued that the task was ‘not to overthrow globalization, but to capture it, and use it as a vehicle for humanity’s first global democratic revolution’ (76).

In this endeavour, the strong argument of the book affirms and re-affirms, that the organised and politically conscious leadership of the working classes has the singularly important role since,
If the working class does not take power worldwide in the foreseeable future, the anarchy of capitalism threatens to create a level of global warming which would eliminate life on the planet. This is the final dreadful alternative posed by capitalism. Working-class power worldwide, by contrast, would point the way towards a harmonious, socially owned, democratic, planned economy on an international scale, opening the way to a classless society of abundance.
(576)
The book is written in the expectation that, at least amongst those who are critical of the dominant global system, there will be a more purposeful discussion about past attempts at socialist societies as alternatives to capitalism and about the asphyxiating grip of Stalinist conceptions of socialism throughout the world. In this regard we are assured that his use of the word ‘Stalinist’ is not as a term of derision but is intended to describe a particular ideological and theoretical system and its consequences for the development of a genuinely socialist democracy. To that extent, the book also represents an open and direct invitation to a debate about alternative approaches to socialist construction. Legassick studiously clarifies his standpoint on every issue that is explored, even while freely acknowledging (and engaging with) the criticisms against his perspectives. Enver Motala


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History From Below/Politics/ Labor History

The Many Headed Hydra: Marcus Rediker and Peter LinebaughReview by Bridget Anderson
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Winner of the International Labor History Award

Long before the American Revolution and the Declaration of the Rights of Man, a motley crew of sailors, slaves, pirates, laborers, market women, and indentured servants had ideas about freedom and equality that would forever change history. The Many Headed-Hydra recounts their stories in a sweeping history of the role of the dispossessed in the making of the modern world.

When an unprecedented expansion of trade and colonization in the early seventeenth century launched the first global economy, a vast, diverse, and landless workforce was born. These workers crossed national, ethnic, and racial boundaries, as they circulated around the Atlantic world on trade ships and slave ships, from England to Virginia, from Africa to Barbados, and from the Americas back to Europe.

Marshaling an impressive range of original research from archives in the Americas and Europe, the authors show how ordinary working people led dozens of rebellions on both sides of the North Atlantic. The rulers of the day called the multi-ethnic rebels a 'hydra' and brutally suppressed their risings, yet some of their ideas fueled the age of revolution. Others, hidden from history and recovered here, have much to teach us about our common humanity.





Live Working or Die Fighting: Paul Mason
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As world capitalism plunges into its worst crisis since the Great Depression, it faces a working class that is for the moment politically disarmed, but potentially immeasurably stronger and more broadly based than at any time in its history. Wage workers and their families now make up the majority of the world population, based on every continent, a majority of them women. While the revolutionary traditions of the older established working class in the formerly more industrialised countries have become largely eclipsed, globalisation has created tens of millions of young proletarians on new terrain. Hidden from public view, and unreported in the world press and media, workers from China to Chile are showing their militancy and learning afresh the hard lessons first undergone by workers in Britain and the West a hundred years ago and more. In his seminal book Live Working Or Die Fighting, Paul Mason gives inspiring eye-witness descriptions of recent strikes, occupations and uprisings in Argentina, Bolivia, China, India, Nigeria, South Africa, Peru, etc., and draws graphic parallels with earlier chapters of workers’ revolt from the labour history of Europe and the USA in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. If any single book is essential reading for socialists and worker militants today, it is this one.  Roger Silverman


Hard-Pressed in the Heartland: Peter Rachleff

For those who loved Barbara Koppel’s film documentary American Dream, here’s another angle on the story of P–9, a Minnesota meatpackers union local that fought both a conservative national union leadership and management’s drive for concessions during a heartbreaking strike in 1985–86. Going beyond academic history, it offers useful perspectives for rebuilding a democratic, militant, community-based unionism that can succeed where today's bureaucratic unionism cannot. Includes a history of the radical 1930s International Union of All Workers.

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Groundbreaking analysis of the birth of racism in America.

When the first Africans arrived in Virginia in 1619, there were no “white” people there. Nor, according to colonial records, would there be for another sixty years. In this seminal two-volume work, The Invention of the White Race, Theodore W. Allen tells the story of how America’s ruling classes created the category of the “white race” as a means of social control. Since that early invention, white privileges have enforced the myth of racial superiority, and that fact has been central to maintaining ruling-class domination over ordinary working people of all colors throughout American history.

Volume I draws lessons from Irish history, comparing British rule in Ireland with the “white” oppression of Native Americans and African Americans. Allen details how Irish immigrants fleeing persecution learned to spread racial oppression in their adoptive country as part of white America.

Since publication in the mid-nineties, The Invention of the White Race has become indispensable in debates on the origins of racial oppression in America. In this updated edition, scholar Jeffrey B. Perry provides a new introduction, a short biography of the author and a study guide.
Check out Jeffrey B Perry's website at: http://www.jeffreybperry.net/index.htm
Watch Jeffrey B Perry's presentation on The Invention of the White Race on You Tube.


 RIPPLES OF A LIE
Esther Barnett Goffinet
 The trial of the century did not involve a celebrity or well known public figure. The trial of the century centered around a man with character and integrity unmatched by most men. When the American Legion attacked the union hall in Centralia, Washington on November 19, 1919, it was the first time in history the union men fought back, leaving four soldiers dead. Innocent and unarmed, union man Eugene Barnett stood in the window of the hotel next door, a witness who could not be allowed to talk. "We know you had nothing to do with this," the prosecutor said, "but unless you keep your mouth shut, we're gonna send you up." Barnett had an extraordinary life through a turbulent time in our nation's history. Because of his willingness to sacrifice his life and freedom, every American has been touched by his contributions to our nation's history. Laws, beliefs and lives were transformed by his strength in doing what he believed was right -- to tell the truth. This is the true story of Eugene Barnett.

When the American Legion attacked the union hall in Centralia, Washington on November 11, 1919, it was the first time in history the union men fought back, leaving four soldiers dead.  Innocent and unarmed, union man Eugene Barnett stood in the window of the hotel next door, a witness who could not be allowed to talk.  “We know you had nothing to do with this,” the prosecutor said, “but unless you keep your mouth shut, we’re gonna send you up.”

Ripples of a Lie is a biographical/labor history of my father, Eugene Barnett.  Written as a narrative that makes history come alive, it is the only book available that tells the true story of the Centralia Massacre and the aftermath.  The only book written by a family member of the prisoners, from the prisoner’s perspective, and the only book written by someone who actually knew those involved.  It is 468 pages not counting the index and bibliography, and has 96 pictures with footnotes so facts can be checked.  It is academic quality and every word is true.

Please see the book at www.EstherBarnettGoffinet.com   you can contact me at estherbgoff@gmail.com or send a check to me at P.O. Box 414  Lewiston, Idaho 83501-0414 


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Capitalism, Socialism and the Environment


 Too Many People:  Ian Angus and Simon Butler

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“This excellent book is steadfast in its refutations of the flabby, misogynist and sometimes racist thinking that population growth catastrophists use to peddle their claims. It’s just the thing to send populationists scurrying back to their bunkers.” Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved

"How did apparently progressive greens and defenders of the underprivileged turn into people-haters, convinced of the evils of over-breeding among the world's poor? How did they come to believe the 200-year-old myths of a right-wing imperialist friend of Victorian mill-owners? It's a sorry story, told here with verve and anger.  Fred Pearce, author of Peoplequake


                                                                       


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 Women's Struggles

 
The Donegal Woman: John Throne

The Donegal Woman is based on a true story of the author's own grandmother. Born to the poorest of Protestant farmers in the hills of Donegal, Margaret was hired out as a child, raped by her master, and then, pregnant, forced to marry another man many times her age. But Margaret survived in a silent world of her own, driven by her passionate determination to do right by her children.

You can order this book by sending a check to: John  Throne,  2055 David Drive, Des Plaines. Illinois. 60018. If you would like it signed or to contact the author, send an e mail to: loughfinn@aol.com

This story of Irish peasant life is reminiscent of Patrick McGill, Peadar O'Donnell and Liam O'Flaherty, in its tone, emotional power and historical validity. But John Throne also has as insight into how women think and feel that is very rare among male writers of any nationality, let alone the Irish. This is his first novel and is based on the life of his grandmother. But to describe it as a family memoir is to grossly understate Throne's artistic achievement in recreating the brutal world of the Donegal hiring system through the eyes and complex emotions of a young girl. It is all the more remarkable given that he never knew his grandmother and had to glean the facts of her brief life from his mother.'
Padraig Yeats: The Independent

 'We have had stories before on the harshness of the life for the unwealthy of Donegal in past times, the aching eloquence of Patrick MacGill, the forensic anger of Peadar O'Donnell, but nothing like this, nothing as steady-eyed in its gaze or as relentless in its detail, as unflinching in its depiction of the class and gender contradictions that distorted humanity and stunted sexual and spiritual growth from generation to generation, like a dark curse passed down, a dumb inevitable condition never to be mentioned. This is the most powerful piece of new writing I've encountered in 2006.'
Eamonn McCann The Belfast Telegraph

 '...a compelling book, thanks to its powerful subject matter and Throne's gift for storytelling. A social history, but much more, it is a powerful story of a victim who gradually overcomes misfortune and finds happiness and independence. Indeed, this book forces one to reassess what good literature is... I am not sure which category of English literature in Ireland will accommodate it - but  whatever its genre, it deserves a place on everyone's shelves.'
Eilis Ni Dhuibhne The Irish Times

'There is a tang of the American writer, Steinbeck, in the way this book moves along. I hope that word of mouth shall see it a best seller on both sides of the Atlantic. It is one of the best books I have ever read.'
Nell McCafferty Irish journalist and writer

'An unadorned, searing tale that reclaims from the often brutal and brutalizing conditions in remote rural Ireland the buried history of one woman's struggle to survive and rear her children. 'The Donegal Woman pulls no punches. It is a just memorial to courage and perseverance, shot through with sunbursts of innocence, love and natural beauty. A disturbing, unforgettable portrait'
Gerald  Dawe: Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, Essayist and Poet.

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Colonialism




Histories of the Hanged by David Anderson

British colonialism's dirty war in Kenya.  An excellent account of the Mau Mau rebellion that arose as a result of the expulsion of Kikuyu from their lands and Britain's brutal response to it.
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Art and Revolution

Pussy Riot vs Putin: Stephen Morgan

Pussy Riot are the lightening rods of the next Russian Revolution. The "lumpen bourgeoisie" which rules Russia has shown its fangs. Little more than crooks and gangsters who gang raped Mother Russia in the fight for the spoils of capitalist restoration, their molestation of democratic rights in their treatment of Pussy Riot beckons the coming of a regime of criminal terror and mobster rule over the Russian people. This is the story of the heroines who stood up to the political mafia and its Don, Putin; of the history of Russian resistance to autarchy and of the perspectives for the future  of a country, which will once again shape the world.

“The truth is precious to us more than anything, even more than freedom.” Nadia Tolokonikovoy





Religion 

 Behind The Myths: John Pickard

There has never been a more important time for a study of the social, economic, and political origins of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the three important world religions that share a common root.
Behind the Myths: The Foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam adopts a Marxist, that is, a materialist, view of human development, so it takes as its starting point the idea that gods, angels, miracles, and other supernatural phenomena do not exist in the real world and therefore cannot be taken as explanations for the origin and rise of these faiths.
It looks instead at the material conditions at appropriate periods in antiquity and the social and economic forces that were at work, to outline the real foundations of these three doctrines. In doing so, it challenges the historicity of key figures like Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed.

This is a unique book that draws on the research, knowledge, and expertise of hundreds of historians, archaeologists, and scholars to create a new synthesis that is both coherent and completely based on a materialist world outlook.

It is a book written by an unbeliever for other unbelievers as a contribution to a discussion among atheists and secularists as to the real origins of the so-called Abramic faiths.
It will be a revelatory read, even to those already firmly of an atheist or secularist persuasion, underpinning their nonreligious views, and it will provide a valuable resource for all those who might be coming to question the hold that organized religion has had on human society.

Technology, The Internet

When Google Met Wikileaks
Julian Assange
Available from OR Books

This is a must read.  It is the result of a meeting between Eric Schmidt Chairman of Google and Julian Assange while he was under house arrest.  The first part of the book is a fascinating description by Assange of Google and its connection to the state and the military industrial complex.  There is an excellent review of this book by David Zarley that we reprinted on this blog: When Google Met Wikileaks.

"A fascinating conversation with one of the most far-sighted thinkers in technology. Assange is consistently ahead of the curve." —Edward Snowden

"Assange has one of the sharpest technological brains there is; the Schmidt transcript demonstrates how much stronger his grasp of the web is than even Google's executive chairman." —Rosie Kinchen, The Sunday Times (London)

 "An intriguing and pithy analysis of Google’s relationship with the US government." —The Independent



The Wikileaks Files

Available at Verso Books

The essays that make up The WikiLeaks Files shed critical light on a once secret history.” – Edward J. Snowden
Published in collaboration with WikiLeaks: What Cablegate tells us about US foreign policy.

WikiLeaks came to prominence in 2010 with the release of 251,287 top-secret State Department cables, which revealed to the world what the US government really thinks about national leaders, friendly dictators, and supposed allies. It brought to the surface the dark truths of crimes committed in our name: human rights violations, covert operations, and cover-ups.

The WikiLeaks Files presents expert analysis on the most important cables and outlines their historical importance. In a series of chapters dedicated to the various regions of the world, the book explores the machinations of the United States as it imposes its agenda on other nations: a new form of imperialism founded on varied tactics from torture to military action, to trade deals and “soft power,” in the perpetual pursuit of expanding influence. It illustrates the close relationship between government and big business in promoting US trade.

An introduction by Julian Assange—writing on the subject for the first time—exposes the ongoing debates about freedom of information, international surveillance, and justice.

With contributions by Dan Beeton, Phyllis Bennis, Michael Busch, Peter Certo, Conn Hallinan, Sarah Harrison, Richard Heydarian, Dahr Jamail, Jake Johnston, Alexander Main, Robert Naiman, Francis Njubi Nesbitt, Linda Pearson, Gareth Porter, Tim Shorrock, Russ Wellen, and Stephen Zunes

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