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P. Webster "Phil W." (Lancashire)
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Secrets of The National Archives: The stories behind the letters and documents of our past
Secrets of The National Archives: The stories behind the letters and documents of our past
by Dr Richard Taylor
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.75

4.0 out of 5 stars From the Domesday Book to the Dagenham Equal Pay Strike, 14 Jun. 2015
This interesting book examines a selection from the vast number of documents kept in the National Archives. It is beautifully illustrated and there is a very competent commentary on each document by Richard Taylor. (I am referring to the print edition; I cannot comment on the Kindle version.)

The book covers about 80 documents and almost 1000 years of history. I’ll just mention a few examples which I found particularly interesting.

The first document examined is the Domesday Book, which Taylor describes as “an expression of power” and of “remorseless control” which acted as a “gigantic tax return.” It reveals how “the Conqueror had almost completely filled the landowning classes with his fellow Normans.”

Another interesting section relates to Karl Marx’s application for British citizenship. Marx spent the second half of his life in England as what today would be referred to as an “asylum seeker”. But when he applied for actual citizenship in 1874 he was refused, based on a Metropolitan Police report (reproduced here) in which a certain Sergeant Reinners described Marx as follows: “He is the notorious German agitator, the head of the International Society, and an advocate of Communistic principles.”

Incidentally, Taylor points out that in the nineteenth century, when Marx came to London, “Britain’s open borders were a source of national pride.” Refugees certainly seem to have received a warmer welcome in Britain then than they do today, when they are likely to face xenophobic hostility from the media and harsh treatment from the state.

An anonymous letter from the workers of the parish of Ashill in Norfolk, sent in 1816 to the local gentry, is another interesting item. The letter-writers say to the gentry, referring to the enclosure of common land: “You do as you like, you rob the poor of their Commons right...” They point out: “There is 5 or 6 of you have gotten all the whole of the Land in this parish in your own hands and you would wish to be rich and starve all the other part of the poor of the parish.”

I also enjoyed reading:
• Richard III’s rant (written in his own handwriting) against his former ally the Duke of Buckingham, “the most untrue creature living”;
• the Special Branch file on George Orwell (in a section entitled “Big Brother WAS watching him”);
• the 1968 letter to Prime Minister Harold Wilson from the women workers at the Ford factory in Dagenham who were on strike in their “great fight for equal pay for women”.

Overall, this a great book for dipping into. I recommend it.

Phil Webster.


The Deeper Genome: Why there is more to the human genome than meets the eye
The Deeper Genome: Why there is more to the human genome than meets the eye
by John Parrington
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.90

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "...the complex interacting role of biology and environment in shaping our lives...", 9 Jun. 2015
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This important book takes us through the history of the development of scientific understanding of the human genome, and also outlines the key debates that are taking place in this field today.

It covers topics such as: the complexity of the genome; the importance of regulatory genes; epigenetics; the arguments about whether or not "junk DNA" is really junk; and the question of what distinguishes humans from other species.

Parrington also shows that we cannot understand human behaviour simply by saying that there is a gene for this behaviour and a gene for that. The genome itself is much more complex than that, and then there are the environmental and social influences on human behaviour.

So Parrington sums up his survey of the debates about mental disorders as follows. "A sensible viewpoint would, therefore, seem to be that social factors play an important role in the development of mental disorders, but susceptibility to conditions such as schizophrenia, which probably encompasses a range of different disorders, is affected by real biological differences between individuals."

Another positive aspect of the book is the scattering of interesting anecdotes about the individuals who have contributed to the scientific understanding of evolution and the genome. For example, there is a short but balanced and fair assessment of the relative contributions of Darwin and Wallace. We also learn that Jacques Monod spent the Second World War in Paris, not just working on his science, but also as one of the leaders of the French Resistance.

However, despite these positive comments, I am giving the book four stars rather than five for the following reasons. Firstly, although much of the book is understandable for an interested layperson like myself, there are quite a few parts which, quite frankly, I found very difficult to follow. I presume that the author has aimed his book at general readers as well as at his fellow professional scientists, but I fear that many general readers will find it heavy going in places.

Secondly, it seems to me that when he rightly argues that the "reductionism" of much of modern genetic theory has weaknesses and limitations as well as strengths, and when he correctly points to "the complex interacting role of biology and environment in shaping our lives", Parrington is adopting what the evolutionary biologist, geneticist and Marxist, Richard Lewontin, calls a dialectical approach to scientific understanding. But, disappointingly, Parrington makes no reference to dialectics in this book. Parrington also seems to be rather less critical of mainstream genetics than Lewontin is.

Finally, although I am not qualified to comment on the more technical content of the book, there is one specific point that Parrington makes about human evolution that I must criticise. This is where he uncritically repeats the discredited view that the "development of sophisticated technologies, art, and culture, which are assumed to have required a new kind of self-conscious awareness, only seem to have taken off as recently as 50,000 years ago, this event itself only occurring 100,000 years after the appearance of modern humans on the planet."

In fact this theory of a supposed creative explosion 40,000 - 50,000 years ago, which has been called the "Big Bang", the "Human Revolution", or the "Great Leap Forward", has been shot down in recent years.

The first thing wrong with this theory is that it assumes that behavioural change must be determined by biological change. But why does cultural change have to imply a change to the brain? It is more likely that the brain had become "modern" when Homo sapiens first evolved in Africa 150,000 or more years ago, and that any later cultural change took place for non-biological reasons. After all, the development of farming 12,000 years ago, of cities and writing 5,000 years ago and of industry 200 years ago were also "Great Leaps Forward", but no one believes that these were the result of genetic changes to the human brain.

Secondly, evidence of art and sophisticated tools has now been found which dates from much earlier than the time that the "Great Leap Forward" is supposed to have happened. For example, engraved pieces of ochre have been found in Africa dating from 75,000 years ago, and decorative beads have been found, again in Africa, dating back 100,000 years. As Stephen Oppenheimer has argued: "...humans came out of Africa already painting."

To sum up, I certainly recommend the book, but if you are not a scientist you will need to be prepared to work hard at it.

Phil Webster.


Game of Mirrors (Inspector Montalbano Mysteries)
Game of Mirrors (Inspector Montalbano Mysteries)
by Andrea Camilleri
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.89

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not the best, but still worth reading, 10 May 2015
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The best of Andrea Camilleri’s Montalbano stories are brilliant: they are amongst my favourites when it comes to crime fiction.

There has been an enjoyable formula for these books: Montalbano’s quirky personality; the interplay between him and his team; lots of humour; and the occasional critical social comment from Camilleri’s left-leaning perspective. (In the TV version we also get the beautiful Sicilian scenery.)

But the recent Montalbano books have been rather hit and miss. “The Potter’s Field” and “The Dance of the Seagull” were excellent. But, on the other hand, the mood of “The Age of Doubt” was dismal; “The Treasure Hunt” was spoiled by a distastefully grim scene; and “Angelica’s Smile” was disappointingly average.

This latest offering is not up to the standard of Camilleri at his best, but it is better than the weaker books in the series.

On the down side, we have Camilleri yet again bringing in a femme fatale figure: he has rather overused this theme recently. It was also obvious what was going on in the strange first few pages, partly because Camilleri has started off several other stories in a similar way. (I won’t say more in case I spoil it for anyone.) The plot is rather over-complex in places, and there are two of the sadistic murders that Camilleri seems to be increasingly bringing in to his stories.

On the positive side, after a rather stodgy start, the pace picks up nicely in the second half of the book. Montalbano is also on top form himself in imaginatively outwitting his opponents. There is plenty of the usual amusing banter between Montalbano and his colleagues, especially Dr Pasquano. And finally I’m glad to say that there are none of the irritating paranormal episodes that Camilleri has brought into some of the books.

So, overall, this might not be the best of Camilleri, but there are enough positive aspects to show that there’s life in the old dog yet.

Phil Webster.


Infinite Tropics: An Alfred Russell Wallace Anthology: Written by Alfred Russel Wallace, 2002 Edition, (First Edition) Publisher: Verso Books [Hardcover]
Infinite Tropics: An Alfred Russell Wallace Anthology: Written by Alfred Russel Wallace, 2002 Edition, (First Edition) Publisher: Verso Books [Hardcover]
by Alfred Russel Wallace
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Wallace's Writings, 18 Mar. 2015
Andrew Berry has brought together an excellent collection of the writings of Alfred Russel Wallace. The selection covers Wallace's career as a widely-travelling professional collector of plants and animals, as a naturalist, and as a scientific theorist. It also covers his political views and his later belief in spiritualism.

Wallace is best known for coming up with the theory of evolution by natural selection independently from Darwin. He certainly deserves credit for this, but nobody should take seriously the ridiculous conspiracy theory which claims that Darwin stole the theory of natural selection from Wallace.

Wallace himself was always happy to play second fiddle to Darwin. For example, in 1908 Wallace made a speech to the Linnaean Society in which he explicitly defended Darwin's priority, pointing out that "...the idea occurred to Darwin in October 1838, nearly twenty years earlier than to myself (in February 1858); and that during the whole of that twenty years he had been laboriously collecting evidence..."

Darwin's notebooks from the 1830s and his essays of 1842 and 1844 show that Darwin had developed his theory long before he published "On the Origin of Species" and long before Wallace had his brainwave.

Wallace was an admirable character. He did not have the advantages of wealth that Darwin had; he was a socialist (of sorts) who had progressive views on many issues; and his attitude towards native peoples was unusually enlightened for an era when racism was rife.

Wallace also disagreed (later in his life, at least) with Darwin's mistaken decision to allow into his evolutionary theory a subsidiary role for the Lamarckian idea of the inheritance of acquired characteristics. In this, Wallace has been said to be more Darwinian than Darwin himself.

Unfortunately, on the negative side, Wallace also ended up believing in spiritualism and arguing that the human brain/mind could not have evolved. Darwin and Wallace had become good friends, but Darwin was disappointed with Wallace over this issue. Darwin and Wallace also differed over the relative importance of natural selection and sexual selection. But these differences of opinion did not stop Darwin successfully campaigning to get a state pension for Wallace.

Phil Webster.


Infinite Tropics: An Alfred Russel Wallace Collection
Infinite Tropics: An Alfred Russel Wallace Collection
by Stephen Jay Gould
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.96

5.0 out of 5 stars Wallace's Writings, 18 Mar. 2015
Andrew Berry has brought together an excellent collection of the writings of Alfred Russel Wallace. The selection covers Wallace's career as a widely-travelling professional collector of plants and animals, as a naturalist, and as a scientific theorist. It also covers his political views and his later belief in spiritualism.

Wallace is best known for coming up with the theory of evolution by natural selection independently from Darwin. He certainly deserves credit for this, but nobody should take seriously the ridiculous conspiracy theory which claims that Darwin stole the theory of natural selection from Wallace.

Wallace himself was always happy to play second fiddle to Darwin. For example, in 1908 Wallace made a speech to the Linnaean Society in which he explicitly defended Darwin's priority, pointing out that "...the idea occurred to Darwin in October 1838, nearly twenty years earlier than to myself (in February 1858); and that during the whole of that twenty years he had been laboriously collecting evidence..."

Darwin's notebooks from the 1830s and his essays of 1842 and 1844 show that Darwin had developed his theory long before he published "On the Origin of Species" and long before Wallace had his brainwave.

Wallace was an admirable character. He did not have the advantages of wealth that Darwin had; he was a socialist (of sorts) who had progressive views on many issues; and his attitude towards native peoples was unusually enlightened for an era when racism was rife.

Wallace also disagreed (later in his life, at least) with Darwin's mistaken decision to allow into his evolutionary theory a subsidiary role for the Lamarckian idea of the inheritance of acquired characteristics. In this, Wallace has been said to be more Darwinian than Darwin himself.

Unfortunately, on the negative side, Wallace also ended up believing in spiritualism and arguing that the human brain/mind could not have evolved. Darwin and Wallace had become good friends, but Darwin was disappointed with Wallace over this issue. Darwin and Wallace also differed over the relative importance of natural selection and sexual selection. But these differences of opinion did not stop Darwin successfully campaigning to get a state pension for Wallace.

Phil Webster.


Alfred Russell Wallace
Alfred Russell Wallace
by Peter Raby
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Wallace's Contribution, 18 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Alfred Russell Wallace (Hardcover)
Peter Raby has produced an excellent biography of Alfred Russel Wallace. It outlines Wallace's career as a widely-travelling professional collector of plants and animals, as a naturalist, and as a theorist. It also covers his political views and his later belief in spiritualism.

Wallace is best known for coming up with the theory of evolution by natural selection independently from Darwin. He certainly deserves credit for this, but nobody should take seriously the ridiculous conspiracy theory which claims that Darwin stole the theory of natural selection from Wallace.

Wallace himself was always happy to play second fiddle to Darwin. For example, in 1908 Wallace made a speech to the Linnaean Society in which he explicitly defended Darwin's priority, pointing out that "...the idea occurred to Darwin in October 1838, nearly twenty years earlier than to myself (in February 1858); and that during the whole of that twenty years he had been laboriously collecting evidence..."

Darwin's notebooks from the 1830s and his essays of 1842 and 1844 show that Darwin had developed his theory long before he published "On the Origin of Species" and long before Wallace had his brainwave.

Wallace was an admirable character. He did not have the advantages of wealth that Darwin had; he was a socialist (of sorts) who had progressive views on many issues; and his attitude towards native peoples was unusually enlightened for an era when racism was rife.

Wallace also disagreed (later in his life, at least) with Darwin's mistaken decision to allow into his evolutionary theory a subsidiary role for the Lamarckian idea of the inheritance of acquired characteristics. In this, Wallace has been said to be more Darwinian than Darwin himself.

Unfortunately, on the negative side, Wallace also ended up believing in spiritualism and arguing that the human brain/mind could not have evolved. Darwin and Wallace had become good friends, but Darwin was disappointed with Wallace over this issue. Darwin and Wallace also differed over the relative importance of natural selection and sexual selection. But these differences of opinion did not stop Darwin successfully campaigning to get a state pension for Wallace.

Phil Webster.


Alfred Russel Wallace
Alfred Russel Wallace
by Peter Raby
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Wallace's Contribution, 18 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Alfred Russel Wallace (Paperback)
Peter Raby has produced an excellent biography of Alfred Russel Wallace. It outlines Wallace's career as a widely-travelling professional collector of plants and animals, as a naturalist, and as a theorist. It also covers his political views and his later belief in spiritualism.

Wallace is best known for coming up with the theory of evolution by natural selection independently from Darwin. He certainly deserves credit for this, but nobody should take seriously the ridiculous conspiracy theory which claims that Darwin stole the theory of natural selection from Wallace.

Wallace himself was always happy to play second fiddle to Darwin. For example, in 1908 Wallace made a speech to the Linnaean Society in which he explicitly defended Darwin's priority, pointing out that "...the idea occurred to Darwin in October 1838, nearly twenty years earlier than to myself (in February 1858); and that during the whole of that twenty years he had been laboriously collecting evidence..."

Darwin's notebooks from the 1830s and his essays of 1842 and 1844 show that Darwin had developed his theory long before he published "On the Origin of Species" and long before Wallace had his brainwave.

Wallace was an admirable character. He did not have the advantages of wealth that Darwin had; he was a socialist (of sorts) who had progressive views on many issues; and his attitude towards native peoples was unusually enlightened for an era when racism was rife.

Wallace also disagreed (later in his life, at least) with Darwin's mistaken decision to allow into his evolutionary theory a subsidiary role for the Lamarckian idea of the inheritance of acquired characteristics. In this, Wallace has been said to be more Darwinian than Darwin himself.

Unfortunately, on the negative side, Wallace also ended up believing in spiritualism and arguing that the human brain/mind could not have evolved. Darwin and Wallace had become good friends, but Darwin was disappointed with Wallace over this issue. Darwin and Wallace also differed over the relative importance of natural selection and sexual selection. But these differences of opinion did not stop Darwin successfully campaigning to get a state pension for Wallace.

Phil Webster.


The Malay Archipelago (Penguin Classics)
The Malay Archipelago (Penguin Classics)
by Alfred Russel Wallace
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wallace's Travels, 18 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This book completes the quartet of famous nature/travel writings by great scientists of the nineteenth century. It follows in the footsteps of Humboldt's "Personal Narrative", Darwin's "Voyage of the Beagle" and Bates's "The Naturalist on the River Amazons". All four books are thoroughly entertaining, though all are also rather long.

This new Penguin edition is an excellent one. (I am referring to the paperback edition - I cannot comment on the Kindle edition.) It is nicely produced; it includes both volumes in one book; and it contains an excellent and very full introduction by Andrew Berry.

Before he went on the expedition described in this book, Wallace had already travelled to South America (initially with Bates), and the dangers of such expeditions are shown by the fact that Wallace's younger brother died of yellow fever in South America and by the fact that, while he was returning to England, Wallace's ship sank and he lost most of the specimens he had collected, with Wallace and the crew being rescued after spending ten days in an open boat.

The travels described in this book form the background to the contribution that Wallace made to the development of the field of biogeography. Berry explains the significance of "Wallace's Line" in his introduction.

But Wallace is best known for coming up with the theory of evolution by natural selection independently from Darwin. In fact the idea occurred to him when he was laid up suffering from fever while on the expedition detailed in this book. (Though Wallace does not actually mention this in "The Malay Archipelago".)

Wallace certainly deserves credit for independently coming up with the same idea as Darwin, but nobody should take seriously the ridiculous conspiracy theory which claims that Darwin stole the theory of natural selection from Wallace.

Wallace himself was always happy to play second fiddle to Darwin. For example, in 1908 Wallace made a speech to the Linnaean Society in which he explicitly defended Darwin's priority, pointing out that "...the idea occurred to Darwin in October 1838, nearly twenty years earlier than to myself (in February 1858); and that during the whole of that twenty years he had been laboriously collecting evidence..."

Darwin's notebooks from the 1830s and his essays of 1842 and 1844 show that Darwin had developed his theory long before he published "On the Origin of Species" and long before Wallace had his brainwave.

Wallace was an admirable character. He did not have the advantages of wealth that Darwin had; he was a socialist (of sorts) who had progressive views on many issues; and his attitude towards native peoples was, as Berry says, "unusually enlightened" for an era when racism was rife.

Wallace also disagreed (later in his life, at least) with Darwin's mistaken decision to allow into his evolutionary theory a subsidiary role for the Lamarckian idea of the inheritance of acquired characteristics. In this, Wallace has been said to be more Darwinian than Darwin himself.

Unfortunately, on the negative side, Wallace also ended up believing in spiritualism and arguing that the human brain/mind could not have evolved. Darwin and Wallace had become good friends, but Darwin was disappointed with Wallace over this issue. Darwin and Wallace also differed over the relative importance of natural selection and sexual selection. But these differences of opinion did not stop Darwin successfully campaigning to get a state pension for Wallace.

I thoroughly recommend this book, which incidentally was a favourite of David Attenborough's when he was a boy. But if you want to know more about Wallace, I would also recommend "Alfred Russel Wallace: A Life" by Peter Raby, and "Infinite Tropics: An Alfred Russel Wallace Anthology" edited by Andrew Berry.

Phil Webster.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 19, 2015 5:14 PM GMT


[ [ [ The Works of Charles Darwin, Volume 5: The Zoology of the Voyage of the H. M. S. Beagle, Part III: Birds[ THE WORKS OF CHARLES DARWIN, VOLUME 5: THE ZOOLOGY OF THE VOYAGE OF THE H. M. S. BEAGLE, PART III: BIRDS ] By Darwin, Charles ( Author )Mar-01-2010 Paperback
[ [ [ The Works of Charles Darwin, Volume 5: The Zoology of the Voyage of the H. M. S. Beagle, Part III: Birds[ THE WORKS OF CHARLES DARWIN, VOLUME 5: THE ZOOLOGY OF THE VOYAGE OF THE H. M. S. BEAGLE, PART III: BIRDS ] By Darwin, Charles ( Author )Mar-01-2010 Paperback
by Charles Darwin
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Birds of the Voyage of the Beagle, 9 Mar. 2015
At first glance, this book appears to be just a dry, descriptive list of the birds that Darwin came across and collected on his Beagle journey. But there is actually a great deal of interest in it for anyone who is interested in either the development of Darwin's ideas or the history of ornithology.

The two species of South American rheas and the various species of mockingbirds and finches on the Galapagos Islands all ultimately played a part in the development of Darwin's thinking about evolution. Although his ideas on evolution did not begin to form until later, he did notice at the time that the mockingbirds on different islands differed from each other. In the case of the finches, though, he did not even realise that they were all related species which differed on different islands until this was shown by the ornithologist John Gould after Darwin's return to England. As he writes: "Unfortunately I did not suspect this fact until it was too late to distinguish the specimens from the different islands of the group; but from the collection made for Captain FitzRoy, I have been able in some small measure to rectify the omission."

Darwin also admits that he only realised that he had come across a specimen of the newly discovered smaller species of rhea when it had already been skinned and cooked ready for eating. But fortunately "...the head, neck, legs, wings, many of the large feathers, and a large part of the skin, had been preserved."

Many of the scientific (Latin) names of the species in the book have been changed since Darwin's day. So there is a bit of detective work involved in comparing the descriptions here with what is known and written about the birds today. But it is worth the effort. For example, of the Chimango Caracara Darwin writes that he "...saw them following by scores the plough, and feeding on worms and larvae of insects." Today the book Raptors of the World says that this bird "follows cattle or plough", and includes an illustration of a flock following a tractor.

There are also some wonderful scenes described in the book. For example, Darwin writes of Black Vultures "wheeling round and round in the most graceful evolutions." He also refers to Captain King (a previous captain of the Beagle) having seen a hummingbird "flitting about in a snow-storm" on Tierra del Fuego.

There are two reasons why I have not given this edition five stars. Firstly, the illustrations, which were originally in colour, are here reproduced in black and white. Secondly, the introduction is very brief: we could have done with more background information about the volume. Nevertheless, I recommend the book.

Phil Webster.


Trotsky's Marxism
Trotsky's Marxism
by Duncan Hallas
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Still relevant today, 12 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Trotsky's Marxism (Paperback)
Trotsky is best known for his political activities: firstly as a key leader, alongside Lenin, of the 1917 Russian Revolution, and then later as the leading opponent of the bureaucratic tyranny of Stalin’s regime, which destroyed the fledgling workers’ democracy in the 1920s and forced Trotsky into exile.

Trotsky also made contributions to Marxist thought, for example in his theories of permanent revolution and of “combined and uneven development”. This excellent little book shows how for Trotsky theory and practice were inextricably linked, as they have been for all the great Marxists.

Duncan Hallas discusses Trotsky’s writings under four chapter headings: Permanent Revolution; Stalinism; Strategy and Tactics; and Party and Class. There is then a fifth section on “The Heritage”.

In relation to Stalinism, although he argued for a new revolution by Russia’s workers to overthrow Stalin’s dictatorship, Trotsky clung to the view that Russia under Stalin was a “degenerated workers’ state”. Hallas argues – and I agree with him - that Trotsky was mistaken on this. Much more convincing is the theory that was first fully developed by Tony Cliff: that Stalinist Russia was a bureaucratic state capitalist society, as were the other so-called “communist” regimes that appeared later.

But despite this weakness, Trotsky did keep alive the fundamental Marxist idea that socialism must be based on internationalism and democracy. (The “dictatorship of the proletariat” was meant to mean the DEMOCRATIC control of society by the working class.)

For many years genuine Marxism was marginalised by the dominance of Stalinism on the one hand and the feeble reformism of social democratic Labour-type parties on the other. The long capitalist boom of the 1950s and 1960s also contributed to this marginalisation.

Today the post-war boom is a distant memory. Capitalism has reverted to crisis and threatens us with the dangers of economic collapse, fascism and war, as it did in the 1930s. Humanity today is faced with the same stark choice that the great German Marxist Rosa Luxemburg referred to a hundred years ago: socialism or barbarism. That is why Trotsky’s theories still have relevance today: they help to give us an understanding of the world and how to change it based on the real Marxist tradition.

I’ll end with a footnote on the author. The late Duncan Hallas, along with Tony Cliff, was a founder-member of the small political group in Britain which developed into the present-day Socialist Workers’ Party (Britain), which has links with similar groups in many other countries. Duncan Hallas was my favourite political speaker: he addressed meetings with a marvellous clarity. This book reminds me that this clarity of expression applied to his writing as well as to his speaking skills.

Phil Webster.


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