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Germinal (St. Ives)
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On the Eve of 1917: Reminiscences and Documents of the Labour Movement and the Revolutionary Underground, 1914-17
On the Eve of 1917: Reminiscences and Documents of the Labour Movement and the Revolutionary Underground, 1914-17
by Alexander Shlyapnikov
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Zombie Killer, 2 April 2015
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The Reminiscences provide a useful insight into the life of an activist in the Russian revolutionary underground, the politics involved and sheds light on modern historical controversies and debates as well as factional disputes in the early 1920's Soviet Republic. It appears hastily written and poorly edited as there are sections which are repeated.

In terms of the 1920's factional disputes, Shlyapnikov was a leading member of the `Workers Opposition' faction and these memoirs, produced in 1923, are clearly part of an attempt to reinforce his position by presenting himself as a pre-eminent, if not THE pre-eminent `Old Bolshevik', as he links émigré activists across Europe with the underground in Russia - dodging police agents, agents provocateurs and spies at every turn. Maybe he's not exaggerating his role - Alexander Solzhenitsyn claimed that Shlyapnikov, not Lenin, was the real leader of the Bolsheviks.

In terms of modern historiographical disputes, `On the Eve of 1917' sheds considerable light.

On the issue of German funding via the agent Parvus, Shlyapnikov is quite clear that Parvus's role as a German agent was well known and he was shunned by Bolshevik exiles. When one Bolshevik exile took money for personal purposes from another suspected German agent, the Estonian Keskula, he was expelled from the organisation. Shlyapnikov spends a good portion of his memoirs bemoaning the lack of money the organisation has and it seems that one of the main sources of money came from personal, clandestine donations from Maxim Gorky.

The image of the Bolsheviks as a monolithic, bureaucratic party that bends to the iron will of a central committee, an image so beloved of modern Western historians as well as Stalinists, simply does not appear. There is little if any organisation worthy of the name - just collections of individuals struggling to keep contact with one another due to the actions of police agents, lack of resources and vast distances. Perhaps with an eye to the disputes of the early 1920's, Shlyapnikov is clear that alternative points of view were always acceptable with the party. Doubtless the image will continue to be pushed, especially as the centenary of the revolution approaches, but it long ago assumed the status of an ahistorical zombie that cannot be taken seriously at all.

The accusation that the Bolsheviks were really a collection of intellectuals who manipulated workers for their own ends receives a blow as Shlyapnikov reveals that nearly all intellectuals left the organisation following the defeat of the 1905 Revolution and he bemoans the lack of intellectuals in the organisation. Again the `manipulative intellectuals' thesis will continue to stalk the world of the historiography of the Russian Revolution as one of the zombie theses.

A more recent debate concerns whether there actually was a clear split in 1912 between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks where each became a separate party. Here, Shlyapnikov is less clear and there is evidence that could support either side of the argument. At times, Shlyapnikov talks of Mensheviks, Bolsheviks, Bundists and Inter-District Committee members as still being part of the same party into 1915 and 1916 and the terms `party' and `faction' are used interchangeably. Anyone reading most of the book at face value would assume the existence of a single, albeit factionalised, party. This mood is contradicted with sections at the end of the book where Shlyapnikov insists that by the end of 1916 there were two distinct parties and even refers to the Bolsheviks as RSDLP(B) whereas previously the term used was simply RSDLP. This section looks somewhat out of place and the possibility arises that the text has been tampered with by later Soviet editors.

Green Spot Irish Whiskey 0.7 Litre
Green Spot Irish Whiskey 0.7 Litre
Offered by DrinkSupermarket
Price: £36.93

4.0 out of 5 stars Smooth and sweet, 12 Mar. 2015
It smells young, I think it's 6/7 yrs, fruity - apricots, but it could be apples or pears - has obviously used ex-Bourbon casks, sweet, creamy.

Tastes very smooth and thick mouthfeel - it really fills the mouth. Sweet, flowery, toffee, fudgy, vanilla, cream

Finish is continuation of above. Later sips reveal a longer finish of lingering apple crumble which has been spiced with cloves and cinnamon and covered with well vanillered custard.

Great. Good value.

Yoichi 10 Year Old Single Malt 70 cl
Yoichi 10 Year Old Single Malt 70 cl
Price: £56.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Yoichi 10 YO., 20 Feb. 2015
The smell is a strange mix of what I have come to regard as a typical Japanese whisky smell - sort of floral, peaty, smoky, sweets - sherbet or Love Hearts. Really thick creamy texture, very smooth. There's a variety of flavours that come in waves - fruit, smoke, peat. The finish is a wave of smoke.

A very Scotch like Japanese whisky.

GlenDronach 15 Year Old Revival Single Malt Whisky
GlenDronach 15 Year Old Revival Single Malt Whisky
Offered by Ealain Gallery &SWS
Price: £46.98

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great sherried malt, 8 Feb. 2015
Lovely dark mahogany colour.

Aroma of sherry, spiced fruit, burnt sugar, coffee, dark chocolate, ginger, cinnamon, furniture polish - in a nice way.

Taste - rich, spicy, oaky, fruity sherry flavours, dark rum, very smooth.

Finish is medium length, rich cake, a Dundee Cake that has been soaked in sherry.

This is a great sherried whisky and its growing reputaion is well deserved.

Talisker - The Distillers Edition - 2000 10 year old
Talisker - The Distillers Edition - 2000 10 year old
Offered by Hard To Find Whisky
Price: £83.95

5.0 out of 5 stars A sweeter Talisker, 27 Jan. 2015
This is excellent. In terms of initial aroma you get all the thick peaty smells that you expect from Talisker and the initial sips don't reveal anything different from a regular 10 YO Talisker. This whisky needs to be left for 5-10 minutes to breathe in the glass. Then the rich, sweet sherry notes come through strongly and you get what you hoped for: all the powerful, peppery peat with added smoothness, deep fruityness and sweetness of the sherry finish.

Delicious. A great accompaniment to blue cheese.

The Gilded Youth of Thermidor
The Gilded Youth of Thermidor
by Francois Gendron
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £76.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Gilded Youth of Thermidor, 4 Jan. 2015
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This is an in-depth study of the jeunesse doree, the middle-class youth, the well-dressed dandies who fought the sans-culottes in Paris during the Thermidorean period, their social origins and the role they played, for a while at least, as the praetorian guard of the Thermidorean regime until the regime had defeated the sans culottes and the left and the essential monarchism of the jeunesse doree then posed a threat to the regime who then turned to the army as the main crutch of the republic.

SUNTORY Hakushu 12 Year Old Japanese Whisky 70cl Bottle
SUNTORY Hakushu 12 Year Old Japanese Whisky 70cl Bottle
Offered by 31DOVER
Price: £68.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top drawer, 23 Dec. 2014
This is delicious whisky.

The aroma is delightfully fruity, grassy, zesty and fresh with a hint of smoke.

The taste is so light and delicate with hints of lychees, lime and floweryness and yet there is also the most delicate rising of peat smoke.

The finish is of a good length and is sweet, spicy, tangy and smoky.

Yes, it's pricey - but there is no danger that you will regret spending the money.

The Origins of Capitalism and the Rise of the West
The Origins of Capitalism and the Rise of the West
by Eric H. Mielants
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Origins of capitalism, 18 Nov. 2014
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Eric Mielants' 'The Origins of Capitalism and the Rise of the West'is short, packed full of insight and startling facts where footnotes worth reading add considerably to the book.

Mielants is good at picking holes in the theories of others but is less sure footed with his own theory - that the European city state, and a system of inter-city-states, holds the key to explaining the rise of capitalism. Mielants' key target is the school of thought associated with Robert Brenner which sees capitalism developing in the English countryside and there are numerous problems that Mielants, and others, have identified with this school. Mielants is also adept at challenging the idea that capitalism could only have developed in Europe or that other parts of the world had some sort of cultural deficiency that prevented the emergence of capitalism as a dominant mode of production. Mielants does seem to have missed the Middle East, though. Mielants is surely correct to explore the role of merchant capital in cities and the role of the city in the Middle Ages.

Mielants' problem is that it was precisely in England that capitalism came to dominance and yet Mielants pays no attention to England at all. Mielants' favoured location of the communes of the Low Countries or the Italian mercantile republics were not the base from which capitalism came to dominate the world. Having identified the fact that it is crucial for a capitalist class to gain political dominance, he then fails to examine where and when this class first came to power - again, this was England not Italy. Also, he spends time examining the concept of a city, but no time on defining key terms whose meanings are open to varying interpretation - class, capitalism, bourgeoisie.

Nevertheless, required reading for anyone interested in the 'transition/great divergence' debate.

James Connolly: 16Lives
James Connolly: 16Lives
by Lorcan Collins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Connolly lives, 4 Nov. 2014
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This is a really good biography of James Connolly. It is part of a series called '16 Lives' that commemorates the lives of the 16 men who were executed by the British imperial state in the wake of the 1916 Easter Rising.

Lorcan Collins has produced a biography that is readable, that avoids the academic verbiage that gets in the way in far too many history books. Collins has produced an accessible, popular history.

The emphasis is upon Connolly's socialism but also how this leads him also into republicanism and opposition to British rule in Ireland. Connolly and his family are portrayed in a well rounded fashion and, most importantly, Connolly's politics are well explained.

I have a few small criticisms: a really good political-historical biography captures the political times in which its character is an actor and this book doesn't really do that. For a non-Irish reader this can lead to a little confusion - what, for instance, defined the Gaelic League as distinct from the IRB? There is also no assessment of Connolly's legacy. Still, I expect the brief for the series was specific.

Currently, in Britain, there's an uncritical attitude to WWI and the empire and looking at Ireland's struggle for independence and dissident voices like those of Connolly is a good place to start for an antidote and this book is a good place to start the treatment.

Arab Responses to Fascism and Nazism: Attraction and Repulsion
Arab Responses to Fascism and Nazism: Attraction and Repulsion
by Israel Gershoni
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £47.00

4.0 out of 5 stars The Arab Responses to Fascism, 15 Oct. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
There has been a common historical meme since World War Two that the Arab world had a positive attitude to fascism and Nazism, that Arab nationalists and Islamists were influenced by fascism, that they allied with fascism on the basis that the fascist regimes were at war with the British and French regimes that dominated the Arab world because 'my enemy's enemy is my friend', that this influence lives on today and was somehow formative in terms of Arab political culture. This volume of essays shows this picture to be inaccurate.

More than that, many of the authors point to the somewhat shoddy scholarship, frequently politically motivated, that has propped up the dominant narrative.

The essays examine Syria and Lebanon and looks at the attitude of the press towards fascism which was negative, looks at how the Syrian National Bloc was pro-British in WWII. Palestine is examined beyond the historical bogeyman of the Mufti and an overwhelmingly anti-fascist picture emerges. Egypt is shown to have had very little in the way of pro-fascist sympathy and the evidence that Young Egypt and the Muslim Brothers were pro-fascist is shown to be lacking. Even Iraq had an overwhelmingly anti-fascist politics.

The volume is, therefore, a very welcome counter to politically motivated misinformation that emerges from some corners of academia and is common on the internet.

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