books

Radical Perth, Militant Fremantle
Edited by Charlie Fox, Bobbie Oliver & Lenore Layman
Black Swan Press
Curtin University, 2017
283 pages, $30.00

When we think of Western Australia, we generally do not think about left-wing politics or radical actions. WA’s unique history, demographic, natural resources and generally prosperous economic conditions had always shaped a strong sense of a place not especially inclined to serious challenges to the status quo.

Two decades ago, barely anyone called themselves an ecosocialist. Yet today the term is widespread on the left.

This comes from an awareness that any viable alternative to capitalism must do away with the current destructive relationship between human society and the wider natural world. It also stems from a recognition that too many socialists in the 20th century failed to take environmental issues seriously.

Adam Mayer’s book on Marxist currents in Nigeria is what it says on the cover — a rich history of Marxist and revolutionary thought and struggles that are little known outside the West African nation.

Margaret Atwood is blessed and/or cursed with the credit for this year’s go-to feminist analogy. Any time an old white man makes it clear that women are best kept silent and pregnant, someone says that it’s “just like The Handmaid’s Tale”.

In 1960, trainee priest Thomas Keneally abandoned the seminary at Manly on Sydney’s North Shore without any qualifications other than a Bachelor of Theology and with no skills other than medieval Latin.

His escape from his crisis of confidence in the Catholic Church, says Stephany Steggall in her biography of the Australian novelist, was through writing. This was both Keneally’s attempt to understand, and keep at bay, the “madness and melancholia” of the human lot, and his own course of personal therapy for exorcising the mental demons that haunted him for six years in an uncaring, dogmatic institution with its “anti-human moral code”.

Malign Velocities: Accelerationism & Capitalism
Benjamin Noys
Zero Books, 117 pages

Benjamin Noys’ Malign Velocities is an attempt to catalogue and describe an intellectual movement within capitalism that’s gaining a new and disturbing influence lately.

Ian Parker has a track record as an ecosocialist political activist in Britain. He is a committed but non-dogmatic Marxist and a psychoanalyst so, unsurprisingly, anything he writes is likely to be serious and challenging.

Despite a strong theoretical and academic background, however, Parker writes in a very engaging and interesting fashion.

Ian Angus takes a look at five new books of interest to ecosocialists, looking at urban climate change, past mass extinctions, tropical rainforests, religious anti-science, and the end of Arctic ice. Angus is the editor of Climate and Capitalism, where this list first appeared, and author of the new book A Redder Shade of Green.

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.”

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