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Germinal (St. Ives)

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Scapa 16 Year Old Scotch Malt Whisky 70 cl
Scapa 16 Year Old Scotch Malt Whisky 70 cl
Offered by DrinkSupermarket
Price: £51.99

5.0 out of 5 stars My current favourite, 11 Sep 2014
A summer breeze wafts salt spray on to a heather covered headland where bees gather their heather pollen to make honey. Scapa is made from that honey. Well, that's what it tastes like.

Paris Commune, The
Paris Commune, The
by Donny Gluckstein
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.69

5.0 out of 5 stars The Paris Comune - the first workers' government, 3 Sep 2014
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This review is from: Paris Commune, The (Paperback)
Donny Gluckstein has produced an excellent short, readable account and analysis of the Paris Commune.

Gluckstein starts with an account of the considerable achievements of the Commune, achievements all the more remarkable given the short lifespan of the Commune itself.

Gluckstein then goes into the history of the time and how the Commune grew out of the crisis in France following the defeat of France to Prussia and how the growing radicalisation in Paris came to a head when the government attempted to seize the arms of the National Guard - a citizens militia formed overhwelmingly from the working class.

Gluckstein is particularly good at examiing the main political factions of the Left and how each in turn, Jacobins, Proudhonists, Blanquists had strengths and weaknesses and also excellent at analysing the dilemmas brought about by democratic 'power from below' with the need for a disciplined response to the military threat from the government at Versailles and the opportunities missed by the Communards to break the siege of Paris. These failures would hand the initiative to the 'forces of order' who would storm Paris and drown the Commune in blood.

Gluckstein concludes with accounts of how the modern Left views the Commune and the lessons that can be taken from it. Also included is a series of biographical sketches of key figures.

This must be the best short volume account and analysis available.

The Consolidation of the Capitalist State, 1800-50 (Socialist History of Britain)
The Consolidation of the Capitalist State, 1800-50 (Socialist History of Britain)
by John Saville
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars The Consolidation of the Capitalist State, 1800-50, 26 Aug 2014
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This is s short and readable account of how the rising capitalist manufacturing class was brought into the British state's political structures while, at the same time, the working class was disciplined by laws, acts, a new police force and how a capitalist state was only truly consolidated in Britain once the working class, democratic Chartist movement had been defeated.

Genes, Cells and Brains: The Promethean Promises of the New Biology
Genes, Cells and Brains: The Promethean Promises of the New Biology
by Hilary Rose
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.03

4.0 out of 5 stars Science, society and capitalism, 26 Aug 2014
The Roses have produced a timely book which looks at the promises made by genetic science and the mapping of the human genome and how they stand up to scrutiny.

This is done via a historical survey about past claims as to how biology can explain humanity's problems or provide solutions to them - here eugenics raises its ugly head. The authors also examine the philosophical, political and economic assumptionsmade those who announce great claims for the new biology. The attempts to make out that humanity can be reduced to biology and the role of business in determining what research takes place and what does not.

An excellent warning not to take the commercially motivated claims of science at face value.

The Prophet Outcast: Trotsky 1929-1940
The Prophet Outcast: Trotsky 1929-1940
by Isaac Deutscher
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.42

5.0 out of 5 stars The Prophet Outcast, 23 July 2014
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`The Prophet Outcast' is the third and final volume of Isaac Deutscher's seminal biography of Leon Trotsky.

Deutscher manages to weave the personal with the political, the tragedy with theoretical insight. The `Prophet' trilogy remains, even 50 years after its completion, one of the great books, let alone history books, of all time, superior to recent biographies of Trotsky and a great Marxist history of the Russian Revolution in its own right. The quality of prose throughout is of the highest order.

We follow Trotsky into exile, first to Prinkipo in the Sea of Marmara, then Norway, France and, finally, Mexico. Every step of the way hounded by the spies and assassins of Stalin's counter-revolutionary GPU. As we make our way through the 1930's, the counter-revolutionary terror catches up with those who made the Russian Revolution and exterminates them while, at the same time, sabotaging revolution in Spain and botching opposition to the rise of Hitler, until only Trotsky is left and then he is finally murdered after a good many of his children and grandchildren have been slain over the years.

Deutscher takes many journeys into the writings of Trotsky and explores the way in which he tried to tackle and understand the events of his time: the rise of Stalinism, the rise of Nazism, the coming of the Second World War and his attempts to save classical Marxism from the dead dogma that it was becoming in the USSR.

In most of this description, Deutscher is successful. Deutscher is weaker when he tries to analyse the worth of some of Trotsky's ideas and demonstrates, to my view, too much of an accommodation with Stalinism and too rosy a view of the post-Stalin USSR. Some of Deutscher's criticism, though, is valid - the founding of a Fourth International was a mistake of Trotsky.

A word needs to be said about the Verso edition- and that word is ... shoddy.

Great read.

Glengoyne 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky
Glengoyne 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky
Offered by The-Scottish-Experience
Price: £30.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Seriously smooth, 21 July 2014
Glengoyne claim that they are the distillery that distils at the slowest rate. The whisky is certainly smooth. They also have no peat.

Aroma: clean, malt, grain, toffee fudge - definitely no smoke or peat.

Taste: light, smooth, toffee, fudge, slightly sherried.

Finish: medium length, malted grain and sherried fudge.

Good stuff.

LEDAIG Island Malt Whisky 70cl Bottle
LEDAIG Island Malt Whisky 70cl Bottle
Offered by Shop4whisky
Price: £21.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A peaty whisky for summer, 30 May 2014
Aroma: new cut grass, freshly cut wood, undercurrents of smoke and peat which build over time. Overall it smells's a NAS, so I've no idea how old it is.

Taste: Young and fresh. Green grass. Apples? Smoke/peat which, as with the aroma, builds in intensity with time.

Finish: Longer than I was expecting. Long gentle peat smoke.

Great light peaty whisky for summer.

Laphroaig Whisky Quarter Cask 70cl
Laphroaig Whisky Quarter Cask 70cl
Offered by The Grapevine
Price: £42.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Smooth, peaty, quaffable., 29 May 2014
If you like peaty whisky but find the standard Laphroaig 10 yr old too strong on the iodine level, then you might enjoy this Quarter Cask. The iodine levels have been toned down and it's very smooth and highly drinkable.

I would question, though, whether it's justified to charge more for a whisky that takes 5 years to make, as the Quarter Cask does, than they do for the 10 year old.

Discovering the Scottish Revolution 1692-1746
Discovering the Scottish Revolution 1692-1746
by Neil Davidson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £23.15

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 18 May 2014
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This is Marxist historiography at its very best.

Davidson deftly weaves region, religion, class, economy, international relations, culture, language, mode of production into a great swirling dialectical tapestry.

The resulting pattern? How Scotland became a modern capitalist state. Davidson examines Scotland post-1688 to the union of 1707 and the various Jacobite revolts that followed and how it was only after Culloden in 1746 that Scotland truly embarked upon its bourgeois revolution, that is embarked upon creating the forms of property ownership and supporting legal structires to facillitate the growth of capitalism, because it was only after Culloden that the power of Scotland's landed aristocracy was finally broken.

All this is quite brilliantly argued, but the real genius is in the relation of Scotland's revolution to those of America, France, Germany, Italy etc. The seed is here from which Davidson's later masterpiece, 'How Revolutionary Were the Bourgeois Revolutions?' would grow, where Davidson explores the variety of processes whereby capitalism supplanted pre-capitalist modes of production.

The Conundrum of Russian Capitalism: The Post-Soviet Economy in the World System
The Conundrum of Russian Capitalism: The Post-Soviet Economy in the World System
by Ruslan Dzarasov
Edition: Paperback
Price: £23.02

4.0 out of 5 stars The failure of capitalism in Russia., 22 April 2014
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This is an interesting book on a number of levels.

Firstly, it's marvelous to get a book written about Russia by a Russian from a Marxist perspective. Not only that, but from a perspective which adopts an analysis that owes so much to the outlook of Leon Trotsky and his analysis of the USSR and the degeneration of the Russian revolutionary regime. That does lead to some problems, however.

Dzarasov argues that the USSR was not socialist and not capitalist and yet seeks to argue that Russian capitalism today is a continuation of the Stalinist system. In Marxist terms, the terms in which Dzarasov wishes to argue, that doesn't work at all and Dzarasov would have been much better going with the far more incisive analysis of the USSR as a state capitalist system - an analysis that he seems completely unaware of - as other analyses of Eastern Europe such as `First the Transition, then the Crash' show that such approaches are superior.

Secondly, the analysis of Russian capitalism is devastating for those ideologues of free market capitalism who sold the idea that Russia would enter a capitalist utopia as a result of their prescriptions. Living standards, life expectancy and wages are still, nearly a quarter century later, much lower than in the USSR. Russian industry is much less competitive now than in the USSR - in the USSR, productive technology was updated, on average, every ten years, today that has doubled to twenty years.

This is the `conundrum' of the title. Russian capitalists do not make long term investments and do make inferior investments - so new productive technology is usually second hand Western equipment rather than new.

Dzarasov locates this within the nature of Russian capitalism and how the capitalists simply seek to get rich via what Dzarasove refers to as `insider rent' and either protect their capital from take over by potential rivals or seek to take over rivals themselves in a corrupt and unstable environment where getting rich quick and concealing ownership and control of business via myriads of cover companies and other businesses `owned' by relatives etc is the common practice.

Thirdly, Russian capitalism is placed firmly within an analysis of trends of global capitalism, especially the financialisation of global capitalism which reinforces the trend away from long term and towards short term investment. Although, again, Dzarasov would have been on stronger ground if he'd located this trend with the trend of falling profit rates in the world economy.

Anyway, utterly damning verdict on the Yeltsin/Putin neo-liberal catasrophe.

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