Books

Of Mice & Men
By John Steinbeck
First published 1937

This year marks the 80th anniversary of John Steinbeck’s great mythic novel of alienation under US capitalism, Of Mice and Men.

On Google Earth, you can see where the Salinas River “drops in close to the hillside bank and runs deep and green”, a few miles “south of Soledad”, the novella’s opening lines.  Clearly, John Steinbeck knew this area intimately to be able to describe it so strikingly.

The Cuban Revolution has created international ripples ever since its military victory on January 1, 1959. The United States was quick to recognise the threats to its dominance in Latin America and set out to crush the rebel regime.

In response, the revolution’s leaders took the process rapidly leftwards, socialising property and seeking to help revolutionaries in other countries. The moral and political weight of Cuba’s revolutionaries remains far out of proportion to their economic and military strength.

Cuban moral authority within the Third World of super-exploited countries is absolute. However, the Cuban Revolution has proven a litmus test for the intellectual and moral fibre of socialist currents in the advanced capitalist countries — a test that some have failed.

No is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics & Winning the World We Need
By Naomi Klein
Haymarket Books, 2017

A new book by Naomi Klein, one of the leading left journalists in North America and author of such important treatises as No LogoThe Shock Doctrine and This Changes Everything, is not something you wants to miss — especially when it is on the 2016 US election and the rise of Donald Trump.

“How does it aid the revolution, you trying to be funny?” The left-wing Liverpudlian Alexei Sayle, future star of the BBC’s comically demented The Young Ones, was flummoxed by this question posed to him by an exiled Arab revolutionary in Sayle’s London flat in 1971, in which the General Congress of the deadly serious Popular Front for the Liberation of the Occupied Arab Gulf was being held.

Sayle, the son of working-class communists, was a “practising communist” himself. But he also loved clowning around, he writes in Thatcher Sole My Trousers, his follow-up memoir to his childhood reminiscences in Stalin Ate My Homework.

The year 1917 offered an extraordinary course in political literacy for the people of Russia.

In the February anti-Tsarist revolution, which “dispensed breakneck with a half millennium of autocratic rule”, and then in the October socialist revolution, eager workers and peasants stumbled over and then mastered a new way to speak of economic and political democracy, writes China Mieville in October, his narrative of the Russian Revolution.

Below are five new books for the bookshelves of ecosocialists. They cover climate change, the Anthropocene, water and food — plus an inspiring account of the Russian Revolution by award-winning science fiction writer China Mieville.

Any book on the modern urban heritage movement would at least make mention of Jack Mundey and the 1960s Green Bans, but for Sydney-based architect James Colman, Mundey’s figure continues to loom large over his city.

A look at three important new books on the growing global environmental crisis and two that mark the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.

Lenin on the Train
Catherine Merridale
Allen Lane, 2016, 354 pages

The German “sealed train” that gave Vladimir I Lenin safe passage from exile in Switzerland through wartime Germany to Russia in April 1917, in the aftermath of the overthrow of Russia’s monarchy that had exiled the Russian revolutionary leader, was historically pivotal.

Eight short months ago, much of the population celebrated Malcolm Turnbull's ascension to power. Small-l liberals were drunk with joy and rumour has it that even some self-styled socialists joined the love-in. Turnbull was the Great White Knight who had slain the Abbott Dragon. He would turn the political rudder to the left, so we were told, and we would all live happily ever after.

Many writers, no doubt, were also sucked in by this master of spin and his chorus of sycophants. Eight months on, the illusions of those spring days pile up like dead leaves.

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