Megrahi: You are My Jury ― The Lockerbie Evidence John Ashton Birlinn 2012 ￡14.99, 497 pages Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi was convicted in 2001 of blowing up Pan Am flight 103 over the Scottish town Lockerbie in December 1988 and is usually described in the mainstream media as “the Lockerbie bomber”. Readers familiar with Paul Foot’s series of penetrating articles on Lockerbie in Private Eye will already be familiar with the potentially problematic nature of Megrahi’s trial and conviction. But this book brings the story up to date.
A Rose Loupt Oot Edited by David Betteridge Smokestack Books 2011 £8.95, 64 pages www.smokestack-books.co.uk Last year marked the 40th anniversary of the work-in Upper Clyde Shipbuilders (UCS) in 1971, a campaign by Scottish workers that resulted in the reversal of the Conservative government’s decision to close down a number of shipyards on the River Clyde in Glasgow. A Rose Loupt Oot is a collection of poems, songs and artwork marking the anniversary.
Downfall: The Tommy Sheridan Story By Alan McCombes, Birlinn 2011 326 pages, pb £9.99 In the elections to the Scottish parliament in May 2003, the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) polled just under a quarter of a million votes and won six seats. By any stretch of the imagination this was a remarkable achievement for a party well to the left of Labour. It was a beacon of hope and inspiration for socialists the world over. By 2011, the SSP’s vote had slumped to below 9000. It failed to regain any of the six seats it had lost in 2007.
Springtime: The New Student Rebellions Edited by Claire Solomon and Tania Palmieri Verso 2011 283 pages, paperback, ￡9.99 In years to come, when people look back at 2010-11 and try to identify the moment the fightback against the British Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition really got under way, many will select the huge March 26 TUC-sponsored demonstration in London. Magnificent and inspiring as March 26 was, however, November 10, 2010 has perhaps a greater claim to be recorded as the moment the fightback began in earnest.
In April 1915, in the midst of a stalled military campaign on the Western Front, Britain and its allies attacked Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula in an attempt to gain control of the Dardanelles Straits and take German-allied Turkey out of World War I. This impressively researched volume, which relies extensively on unpublished first-hand accounts from soldiers of all sides of the conflict, is a detailed account of this “doomed” and “pointless” campaign.
If it is Your Life By James Kelman, Penguin Books 2010 280 pages, hardback £18.99 This is Scottish author James Kelman’s first collection of short stories since The Good Times in 1998. Right from the very first sentence you know you are back in the distinctive world of Kelman’s fiction: “When I presented myself at the Emergency section of the Social Security Office I knew things could go wrong but I was not expecting a leg amputated.”
Review: The Imperial Controversy: Challenging the Empire Apologists By Andrew Murray, Foreword by George Galloway Manifesto Press, 152 pages, paperback £12.95 In the past decade or so, politicians, journalists and academics have attempted to rehabilitate the notions of empire and imperialism. For example, in 2009 then-British PM Gordon Brown told the Daily Mail newspaper: “The days of Britain having to apologise for its colonial history are over. We should move forward. We should celebrate much of our past rather than apologise for it.”
A Short Border Handbook By Gazmend Kapllani Portobello Books 2009 159 pages Review by Alex Miller This book, which the author describes as “part autobiography, part fiction”, is hard to assess. Each chapter is divided into two parts. The first part tells the story of a man (presumably Kapllani himself) who crosses into Greece from Albania when the border between those two countries opened in 1991. The second part consists of “philosophical” ruminations on issues raised by the story of the first part.
The Idea of Communism By Tariq Ali Seagull Press 2009, 126 pages This short book is the first in a series called “What Was Communism”, which aims to explore the practice of Communism in the 20th century. Tariq Ali’s main thesis is that “The failure of official Communism in the 20th century and the restoration of capitalism in Russia and China … far from negating some of the premises that underlined the project in the first place, emphasises their continuing importance”.
‘Perish the Privileged Orders’: A Socialist History of the Chartist Movement By Mark O’Brien New Clarion Press Revised Edition 2009, 119 pages Review by Alex Miller If you believed the corporate media, you might think that the greatest threats to parliamentary democracy in a country like Britain have come from Kaiser Wilhelm’s armies in World War I or — today — from Al Qaeda and Islamic jihadists. In fact, the greatest enemies of representative democracy in Britain over the centuries have been the British ruling classes themselves.
Stalin’s Nemesis: The Exile and Murder of Leon Trotsky By Bertrand Patenaude Faber and Faber, 2009 340 pages, $50 (pb)
The Frock-Coated Communist: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels By Tristram Hunt Penguin, 2009 443 pages, $59.95 (hb)