books

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

Lady Constance Lytton: Aristocrat, Suffragette, Martyr
Lyndsey Jenkins
Biteback Publishing, 2015
282 pages

When Lady Constance Bulwer-Lytton was arrested in 1909 for protesting outside British parliament, and went on prison hunger-strike, for demanding women’s right to vote, she was, to prevent an embarrassing political fuss, released early.

This avoided the spectacle of one of Britain’s best-connected aristocrats being subjected to the government’s policy of force-feeding hunger-striking suffragettes.

Eleanor Marx
By Rachel Holmes
Bloomsbury, 2015
508 pages

“Is it not wonderful when you come to look at things squarely in the face, how rarely we seem to practise all the fine things we preach to others?” lamented Eleanor Marx in 1892. 

Karl Marx’s youngest daughter was to be the tragic victim of this truism, as Rachel Holmes explores in her biography that extricates this pioneering revolutionary socialist feminist from the giant shadow of her father.

Having come back from a much needed break with much time spent curled up with books, here are some notes on seven of interest to ecosocialists.

I particularly enjoyed two excellent accounts of the role of trees and other plants in Earth System. The Emerald Planet, by David Beerling, (Oxford University Press, 2007) covers the 500 million years since plants migrated from the oceans.

Nazis In Our Midst: German-Australians, Internment and the Second World War
David Henderson
Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2016
197 pages

When World Word II began, Australia’s then Prime Minister Robert Menzies said that it would be “absurd to intern refugees and anti-fascists when they were on the Allies’ side”.

Yet, writes La Trobe University historian, David Henderson, in his case-study history, Nazis in our Midst, this is exactly what happened in Australia during the war.

The Business Affairs of Mr Julius Caesar
By Bertolt Brecht
Bloomsbury, 2016
216 pages, $31.99

Like Karl Marx before him, the great German writer Bertolt Brecht had a passion for Roman history — and it shines through in the sadly incomplete text of The Business Affairs of Mr Julius Caesar. He researched it for years before first attempting to write it as a play and then turning to the novel form.

Australian soldiers during the Boer war.

Unnecessary Wars
Henry Reynolds
Newsouth, 2016
266 pages

Australia’s first war — the Boer War in South Africa, 1899-1902 — notes historian Henry Reynolds in Unnecessary Wars, was closely bound up with the uniting of the six Australian colonies into a single nation within the British empire.

This conjunction of militarism, nationalism and imperialism was ominous. Australia has never broken the habit of being at the military beck and call of its imperial managers.

Ink In Her Veins: The Troubled Life of Aileen Palmer
Sylvia Martin
University of Western Australia Publishing, 2016
328 pages

In 1939, a young Australian woman grabbed the international headlines when she threw red paint onto the doorsteps of 10 Downing Street, whilst distributing leaflets hidden in copies of the Ladies Home Journal.

The action by Aileen Palmer was to protest the blood that then-British prime minister Neville Chamberlain had on his hands for selling out Spain and Czechoslovakia to European fascism.

Building the Commune
By George Ciccariello-Maher
Verso Books, 2016

Every commune is different, George Ciccariello-Maher says in Building the Commune, but “the coffee is always too sweet, and the process is always difficult, endlessly messy and unpredictable in its inescapable creativity”.

Pitched Battle: In the Frontline of the 1971 Springbok Tour of Australia By Larry Writer Scribe Melbourne, 2016 336pp, $35.00

“Sport and politics don’t mix” is often heard from politicians and media commentators when people target sporting events in acts of protest or athletes use their chosen sports to make political statement — for example Muhammad Ali and, more recently, US NFL star Colin Kaepernick. However, sport is often politicised in many different ways by the ruling class to reinforce the status quo.

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