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Germinal (St. Ives)

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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: £18.68

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: £43.85

4.0 out of 5 stars The Arab Responses to Fascism, 15 Oct 2014
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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.


Pride [DVD]
Pride [DVD]
Price: £12.50

36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solidarity For Ever, 26 Sep 2014
This review is from: Pride [DVD] (DVD)
'Pride' is utterly brilliant. The story, the characterisation, the acting, direction, music, the politics, the lot.

It's about how a group of gay and lesbian activists in London combine to support a mining community in Wales during the Great Miners Strike of 1984-85 and about how that experience changes both the gay and lesbian activists and also the mining community. It's based on fact, on real characters and every part of it rings true.

I was part of a miners support group in the town where I lived and saw similar changes in both miners and supporters through the strike as the action of solidarity, of working to a collective common purpose empowered those involved and, in empowering them, changed their views: miners with racist ideas abandoned them in the face of financial contributions from Asian communities - one miner said: "I've been abused by some white people for being on strike, but no black or Indian person has abused me" similar changes happened with feminist women and with gay groups who altered their ideas about trades unions and 'macho' miners. 'Pride' captures that real experience superbly. That final point is brought home in 'Pride' where the 1985 Pride demonstration is lead by miners delegations from Wales and where the NUM leads the way in changing Labour Party policy towards lesbian and gay rights.

That a single film can tackle issues like sexuality, class, geography, AIDS, religion, homophobia etc and show how, via solidarity, people can overcome divisions is a fantastic achievement. That it can do so while avoiding sentimentality is even more remarkable. Sure there are scenes which tug at the emotions but that's because the emotions are real. There are also moments of great comedy.

Above all else, though, this is a film that shows that another politics is possible - a politics of hope.


Scapa 16 Year Old Scotch Malt Whisky 70 cl
Scapa 16 Year Old Scotch Malt Whisky 70 cl
Price: £50.85

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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. This salty, heathery honey is blended with Seville marmalade. And that is how Scapa is made. Well, that's what it tastes like.


Paris Commune, The
Paris Commune, The
by Donny Gluckstein
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The Paris Commune - 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: £11.25

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: £16.99

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 Ealain Gallery &SWS
Price: £41.84

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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.


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