The word “socialist” first appeared in print in Italy in 1803. In the early 19th century there appeared to be two alternative roads to socialism: violent revolution or establishing cooperative communities separate from the state and capitalist social relations. Towards the latter part of the century, a third possibility opened up: the working class could take control of the state through the ballot-box and reconstruct it on a socialist basis.
The Greatest Traitor: The Secret Lives of Agent George Blake Roger Hermiston Aurum, 2013 362 pages, $39.99 (hb) George Blake was smart, resourceful and committed. A teenage courier with the Dutch anti-Nazi resistance during the war and a British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) spy after it, Blake then picked the wrong cause, says Roger Hermiston in The Greatest Traitor, converting to Marxism and becoming a Soviet mole in the SIS.
An incredible political transformation has been taking shape in the “Land of the Upright or Incorruptible People”, Burkina Faso. Twenty-seven years after the assassination of revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara, Burkinabes turned out in their hundreds of thousands, for several days of protest. Chanting “enough is enough”, it echoed a long history of trade union activism against political repression in the country, as well as protests staged through the Balai Citoyen collective. After four days of the popular anger, president Blaise Compaore vacated his post.
About 1700 people packed Sydney Town Hall, and an overflow crowd of thousands filled the adjacent square, for the official memorial service for former Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam on November 5. Sprinkled through the crowd were people who still had their iconic “It's Time” T-shirts and badges from the 1972 election that brought the Whitlam government to power. It was a memorable gathering not just because of the passing of this former PM, but because Whitlam has come to symbolise a long-lost era of progressive reform in this country.
The Making of English Social Democracy By Peter Cockcroft. Australian Ebook Publisher Kindle edition 236 pages, $1.05 It may seem a strange ask to encourage socialists to examine the politics of late Victorian Britain when there is so much else to be done. But Peter Cockcroft makes a significant case that understanding this aspect of the past can help us to make some sense of where we are now.
Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore finally stepped down on October 31, ending his 27-year rule and handing over to joint chief of staff General Honore Traore. Campaore first came to power in a coup that overthrow the revolutionary government headed by Thomas Sankara, which was leading a profound transformation of the west African nation. The president was forced out of office by a burst of violent protests in which parliament was set ablaze. Protesters refused to accept anything short of his immediate resignation.
Pirates, Punks & Politics, FC St. Pauli: Falling in Love With a Radical Football Club By Nick Davidson Sports Books, 2014 251 pp., $16.50 I must admit that I don’t know one end of a soccer ball from another, but having read this book I don’t care. I’m now passionately interested in this extraordinary German football club, FC St Pauli, with its skull-and-cross-bones emblem.
Marx on Gender & the Family: A Critical Study By Heather A. Brown Haymarket, 2013 US socialist Heather Brown has performed a great service in this short, yet detailed survey of all of Karl Marx’s writings on women and gender ― including some that have never been published in any language. Brown shows how Marx did not just analyse economics and history, he interrogated all forms of literature (even police files) to tease out the threads of social oppression.
Gough Whitlam has passed away aged 98. Green Left will run more detailed analysis of his significance and legacy, but for now here is Sydney-based Celtic punk band Roaring Jack, fronted by Scottish socialist Alistair Hulett, with "The Ballad of '75" about the coup that removed the Whitlam government from power. See also: Uncovering the real Gough Whitlam
Richard Avedon People Exhibition, Art Gallery of Western Australia Until November 17. More than ever, we live in the “society of the spectacle” that Guy Debord theorised in 1967. Bourgeois commodification is augmented by reducing reality to a shallow image of itself. However, the spectacle itself “is the historical movement in which we are caught”.