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Germinal (St. Ives)

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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: 10.65

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 Shop4whisky
Price: 33.99

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 young....it'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: 23.17

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.


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: 16.07

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

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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.


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