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Germinal (St. Ives)

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Glengoyne 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky
Glengoyne 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky
Offered by Ealain Gallery &SWS
Price: 39.41

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: 23.18

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: 22.49

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.

The Workers' Revolution in Russia, 1917: The View from Below
The Workers' Revolution in Russia, 1917: The View from Below
by Daniel H. Kaiser
Edition: Paperback
Price: 16.25

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent short corrective to misleading accounts, 7 April 2014
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This is a really useful short volume, in fact a collection of short essays, that acts as a welcome corrective to misleading interpretations of the Russian Revolution.

It starts with Ronald Grigor Suny looking at the dominant hisoriography which claims that the October Revolution was not popular and was a coup and announcing that this volume will challenge that dominance. Sadly, this was back in 1987 and things haven't changed much since then - which is probably why this volume still has a freshness to it even though it was written 27 years ago.

Essays follow from James H Bater looking at the state of the working class in Moscow and Petrograd prior to the revolutionary year of 1917, Steve Smith looking at the fact that in Petrograd the revolution was certainly something which came `from below' and Diane Koenker doing the same with regards to Moscow. William Rosenberg looks at how the Bolsheviks lost some support amongst the working class in the year following October 1917 but here the weaknesses of `history from below' become apparent as the impact of bigger picture political events - civil war, blockade, foreign intervention etc - don't feature in the analysis although Rosenberg clearly locates the regimes problems in an escalating economic collapse dating back to before the February Revolution - far more than the dominant view is prepared to concede.

As the centenary of the revolution approaches, we can be guaranteed a distorted picture will be presented from much of the mainstream media and historians. This small volume is great place to start for a corrective.

1688: The First Modern Revolution (Lewis Walpole Series in Eighteenth-Century Culture & History) (The Lewis Walpole Series in Eighteenth-century Culture & History)
1688: The First Modern Revolution (Lewis Walpole Series in Eighteenth-Century Culture & History) (The Lewis Walpole Series in Eighteenth-century Culture & History)
by Steve Pincus
Edition: Paperback
Price: 16.99

4.0 out of 5 stars 1688 - all that and more, 7 April 2014
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I think this is a really interesting book - over long, not well written, vastly over evidenced - but definitely interesting.

Pincus is concerned with taking on both Whiggish, conservative and revisionist historians interpretations of what 1688 was about and where it sits in the long view of English, British, European and world history. This he succeeds in doing for the most part.

Pincus argues that 1688 was not a coup, was not a foreign invasion, was not motivated by religion, was motivated by opposition to an absolutist vision of the state, and, so, was European in outlook, but that Tory and Whig visions of the alternative to absolutism would be played out over the coming decades and that 1688 set England and Britain on the road to being a modern capitalist, manufacturing society.

In most of these arguments, Pincus succeeds. There are places where he doesn’t succeed. I don’t think that he makes a case for a genuinely popular revolution, at least not one where lower classes develop political agendas independently of higher social classes. Pincus also suffers because he views James II’s absolutism and the opposing Williamite vision as both being ‘modern’ without addressing how absolutism really fitted into societies with emerging capitalism and was essentially conservative.

All the way through the book, the revolutionary events of 1640-60 assume ‘elephant in the room’ proportions and eventually, in his conclusion, Pincus addresses how England’s two revolutions relate to one another. Unfortunately, this analysis is quite superficial and Pincus is quite dismissive of the mid-century events but does concede that 1688 was not possible without 1640 to 1660.

There's lots to chew over and anyone interested in how changes in modes of production interact with changes in political/state structures will be interested in what Pincus has to say......even though he says it ever so stodgily.

Victor Serge: A Biography
Victor Serge: A Biography
by Susan Weissman
Edition: Paperback
Price: 17.72

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Victor Serge: A Political Biography, 1 April 2014
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I enjoyed Susan Weissman's 'Victor Serge: A Political Biography' but, at the same time was unsatisfied by it.

It's well written, quite readable and the politics and history are well explained. If someone was unaware of Victor Serge or new to his ideas or politics then I think that this would be a good introduction.

However, how many people are there out there who are interested in Serge and yet have not read anything by him and would, therefore, look to start with this book? Precious few I would have thought. And that's the problem. For readers already familiar with Serge's life story and politics, this biography provides little that is new or insightful or that could not be gleaned from Serge's own 'Memoirs of a Revolutionary'. For those familiar with his fictional, literary output there is hardly any discussion at all and for those unfamiliar with it, there is little to hook you in.

I feel that a better approach would have been to cut down on stuff that is in 'Memoirs', as most readers of this book will have already read that, concentrate more on assessments of Serge's literary output, his personal and family life and his political legacy and where it fits in the ongoing tradition of anti-Stalinist Marxism.

The History of Democracy: A Marxist Interpretation
The History of Democracy: A Marxist Interpretation
by Brian S. Roper
Edition: Paperback
Price: 18.99

4.0 out of 5 stars No socialism without democracy, no democracy without socialism, 18 Mar 2014
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As a socialist, I have always believed that there can be no socialism without democracy and, more importantly, that there can be no democracy without socialism. With this in mind, I was pleased to see a history of democracy from a Marxist perspective as it fills an important gap.

Roper distinguishes between three different models of democracy. The classic Athenian model, the more recent and dominant liberal one and a socialist or Marxist view of democracy. Roper makes the point that liberal interpretations of democracy tend to try and assimilate earlier democratic practices into its own model even though they were distinct, time specific and historically contingent.

Roper's point is that Athenian democracy remains the model for popular workers democracy from below, and the chapter on Athenian democracy is eye opening, whereas Roman democracy is the one favoured by those who see democracy, in a more limited and controlled form handed down from above. The 1688 Revolution in England is an example suggested.

I found the chapter on the American Revolution illuminating. It is well furnished with quotes from the framers of the US constitution that show that representative democracy was clearly designed to keep power in the hands of a rich, property owning oligarchy and away from the mass of ordinary workers or farmers - let alone the slaves owned by the Founding Fathers.

The book is divided chronologically and is an excellent text for anyone seeking to understand a historically grounded socialist point of view, and then read on further. There are suggestions for more in depth reading at the end of each chapter.

Roper proceeds from Athens, via the transition from feudalism to capitalism on to capitalist democracy itself and concludes with two examples of socialist democracy in practice -- the Paris Commune and the first years of the Russian Revolution from 1917.

If I have a criticism, then it would be that not enough space is devoted to the struggle for democracy such as The Chartists.

Our society suffers a democratic deficit and many people are increasingly aware that this is the case. At the same time, the Left is in crisis and seemingly unable to offer an alternative to an increasingly crisis prone and undemocratic capitalism. Roper's book goes some way to providing us with a historically grounded understanding of where socialists should stand with regards to democracy.

Glenfarclas 12 Year Old / 70cl
Glenfarclas 12 Year Old / 70cl

5.0 out of 5 stars Great everyday dram, 2 Jan 2014
This review is from: Glenfarclas 12 Year Old / 70cl
New to the UK market, this 12 year old from Glenfarclas would make a great everyday dram.

Deep gold in colour, the aroma is sweet and fruit cakeish, you get a full mouthfeel of smooth fruity sherryness and a decent length finish.

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