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The old rocker who owns the local music store has a t-shirt on display that reads: “When words fail ... music speaks.” One could also say that when speech fails, David Rovics sings. As Wally Brooker recently noted about the US folk singer: “What's striking about Rovics is his ability to bring first-hand reports of local struggles from around the world to each community that he visits.”

Les Miserables Now playing in Melbourne www.lesmis.com.au Les Miserables tells two stories: one of personal love, the other of revolutionary passion. It is no surprise that most Western adaptations of Victor Hugo's novel have, when deciding what to cut and what to leave in, favoured the clasped hands of romance over the clenched fist of insurrection. The story we all know -- the one that is left after adaptation pares away everything else -- is that of Jean Valjean, the ex-convict who redeems himself through acts of charity.

In the Shadow of Gallipoli By Robert Bollard NewSouth, Sydney 2013 On April 25, 1915, Australian troops landed at Gallipoli on Turkey’s coast. They were part of a British imperial force aiming to capture Constantinople (now called Istanbul) and the land alongside the narrow waterway linking the Mediterranean to the Black Sea. It was hoped this would enable British ships to enter the Black Sea and bring supplies to allied Russia.
In the 18th and 19th century, scientists often used themselves as guinea pigs in the course of conducting experiments to determine the causes of disease and test the efficacy of new drugs. One of the earlier and more heroic examples comes from the Scottish physiologist and surgeon John Hunter (1728-93). Hunter was investigating syphilis, a disease surrounded by secrecy and shame whose origins were unlikely to be acknowledged at any level. The French called it the Italian disease and the Italians called it the French disease.
Revolutionary Activism in the 1950s & '60s Volumes I By Ernest Tate Resistance Books, 2014 www.resistancebooks.org “A police cruiser with two uniformed officers pulled up alongside me,” recalls Ernest Tate in his newly published memoir Revolutionary Activism. “They jumped out and asked me for identification. I gave it to them. ‘What’s in your suitcase?’ Dirty underwear, I said. ‘Open it,” they ordered. I told them it was none of their business. They almost went berserk …”
A Spy in the Archives By Sheila Fitzpatrick Melbourne University Press, 2013 346 pages, $32.99 (pb) When Sydney University Professor Sheila Fitzpatrick was doing some crafty archival sleuthing as a British PhD student in the late 1960s in Moscow, it was not unexpected that any state guardians might suspect a female spy at work. Fitzpatrick could see some justification. “Any suspicious archives director who thought I was trying to find out the secrets of Narkompros was dead right”, she notes in Spy in the Archives.
Forgotten Voices of Mao's Great Famine, 1958-1962, An Oral History By Zhou Xun Yale University Press, 2013 336 pp, $35.00 In his excellent history book Timelines, John Rees has a graph, which in one image sums up the people’s history contained in Zhou Xun’s Forgotten Voices. The line showing improvements in life expectancy in China suddenly shows a total reversal, a deep plunge into an abyss and then a quick return to the original curve. This abyss was Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward.
New documentary film Radical Wollongong, produced by Green Left TV, will premiere in Wollongong May 18, followed by screenings in other cities and regional centres. The film features activists who took part in Wollongong's radical history of strikes and community rallies, from miners’ struggles to Aboriginal justice and environmental protection. Co-producer John Rainford writes about Wollongong's transition from making steel to looking after the environment. ***
One of the greatest novelists and writers of the 20th century has died. Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez passed away on April 17 in Mexico at the age of 87. Commemorating the author, US-based progressive TV and radio show Democracy Now! said on April 18: “It has been reported that only the Bible has sold more copies in the Spanish language than the works of Garcia Marquez, who was affectionately known at 'Gabo' throughout Latin America.”
April marks the 50th anniversary of the US-backed military coup d’etat in Brazil. The coup kicked off a brutal 20 military dictatorship. Military coups followed in Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina. With the support of the US government and Paraguay, under dictator General Alfredo Stroessner, the region's regimes organised Operation Condor, a political repression and terror campaign to suppress opposition.

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