books

At Tsarskoe Selo, the Romanov monarchy’s palatial rural retreat where the former “Tsar of all Russia”, Nicholas II, was detained after being forced to abdicate by the February 1917 revolution, the once all-powerful autocrat found much to get annoyed about.

In particular, Nicholas disliked the military bands that serenaded him with rousing renditions of the anthem of liberation, The Marseillaise, and, with black humour, Chopin’s Funeral March.

Sound System: The Political Power of Music
Dave Randall
Pluto Press Left Book Club, 2017
210 pp, $38.99

As a teenager, British writer and musician Dave Randall unwittingly attended a music festival in his home town where he heard the Special AKA sing “Free Nelson Mandela”. He experienced an epiphany.

“I had no idea who Nelson Mandela was,” he writes, “but I knew by the end of the first chorus I wanted him to be free.”

Creating Freedom: Power, Control & the Fight for our Future
By Raoul Martinez
Cannongate Publishing, Edinburgh
2016, 496 pages

“Free markets, free trade, free elections, free media, free thought, free speech, free will. The language of freedom pervades our lives, framing the most urgent issues of our time and the deepest questions about who we are and wish to be.”

Miss Muriel Matters
Robert Wainwright
ABC Books, 2017
376 pages

In 1909, Muriel Matters planned to rain on the parade of King Edward VII to the ceremonial opening of parliament. She aimed to drop a shower of “Votes for Women” leaflets on his head from a chartered air balloon trailing streamers in the white, gold and green of the Women’s Freedom League (WFL).

Omnia Sunt Communia: On the Commons & the Transformation to Postcapitalism
By Massimo De Angelis
Zed, 2017
456 pp, $20.76

Massimo De Angelis, an Italian academic based at the University of East London, has produced a thought-provoking guide to “commons” as a means of transforming and ultimately displacing capitalism. Commons, referring to collective forms of ownership, are increasingly seen as a way of moving beyond both oppressive states and exploitative markets.

In the early 1970s, an unlikely alliance of builders labourers, environmentalists, residents and LGBTIQ activists united to support the Green (and Pink) bans which helped save huge swathes of Sydney, and other parts of New South Wales, from the wrecking ball.

Shashi Tharoor’s brilliant speech in 2015 to the Oxford Union on the motion “This house believes Britain owes reparations to her former colonies” went viral, receiving coverage across the world.

Tharoor, an MP for the Indian National Congress, former senior United Nations official, novelist and scholar, has now expanded the argument he made at Oxford into Inglorious Empire.

RAD Exhibition
Until August 27
Newcastle Museum
Radical Newcastle
Edited by James Bennett, Nancy Cushing & Erik Eklund
New South Publishers, 2015
$39.99

Exhibitions like RAD, now showing at the Newcastle Museum, and Radical Newcastle, the book that inspired it, help each generation of activists remember and learn the lessons of previous struggles.

The Vatican Treasurer, George Pell, could turn out to be the Lance Armstrong of the Australian Catholic Church.

Like Armstrong, the world’s former top cyclist who furiously denied being a drug cheat until he was eventually rumbled by dogged investigative journalists. Pell, Australia’s top Catholic, has maintained his innocence in the face of mounting allegations that he covered up an epidemic of sexual abuse of children by Australian Catholic priests.

He has now been charged with such crimes himself.

Song of Gulzarina
By Tariq Mehmood
Daraja Press
November 2016

Sing to the Western wind the song it understands.

Song of Gulzarina, by British-Pakistani filmmaker and author Tariq Mehmood, stands out as a unique piece of literature that intertwines personal issues such as migration, identity crisis and romance, with the impact of racism, Islamophobia and Western imperialism in the Middle East.

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