history


Tom Iljas visits his mother's grave in West Sumatra. He was stopped from visiting the grave of his father who was killed during the 1965 massacre of leftists. Photo: Yulia Evina Bhara.

Sometimes the fate of a child is written 100 years before they are born. Some will view this as a reductionist approach or fatalistic, but here we are not talking of a divine fate, we are talking of historical forces, politics, power, hegemony, economic exploitation and colonialism.

Mrs Engels
By Gavin McCrea
Scribe, 2015
352 pp, $29.99

For those hankering to know what Communist Manifesto co-author Frederick Engels’ erect penis looked like, page 37 of this novel is for you.

“In its vigours, it points up and a bit to the side,” says Lizzie Burns, the first-person narrator of the entire story.

Gavin McCrea’s Burns is a brilliant narrative voice, and his writing sparkles. Burns’s rich brogue and incisive humour are wonderful.

R&R: A Novel
By Mark Dapin
Viking, 2015, 287 pp, $32.99

Mark Dapin is a rising star of Australian writing, having first made his mark as a journalist with a string of newspapers. He is a knock-about sort of working-class bloke, who brushed up against the British socialist movement before migrating, a bit of a boxer as well as a writer.

Interviewing the light welterweight world champion Kostya Tszyu for the Sydney Morning Herald, Dapin famously persuaded Tszyu to let him spar with him in the ring. Tszyu didn’t muck about, breaking three of Dapin’s ribs.


Wallis Simpson, Edward of Windsor, Adolf Hitler (fourth, fifth and sixth from left).

17 Carnations: The Windsors, The Nazis & The Cover-Up
By Andrew Morton
Michael O’Mara Books, 2015,
327 pages


Marines join protesting German workers in Berlin during the November 1918 revolution.

The German Left & the Weimar Republic
By Ben Fowkes
Haymarket Books, 2015
399 pages, US$28.

Socialist historian Ben Fowkes has given us a unique and vivid text documentary of the German workers’ movement during the tumultuous years of its greatest influence — from November 1918 to its defeat by Nazism 15 years later.

Kokilavany is contesting in the Sri Lankan parliamentary election in 2015 on behalf of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress Party, which is part of the Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF). She spoke to Lalitha Chelliah on Community Radio 3CR's Tamil Manifest program on August 1.

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The year-long vilification of Aboriginal AFL star Adam Goodes should not be trivialised and dismissed as simply ignorance or mob mentality. This is a valuable opportunity to reflect on race relations in Australia and the ways racism is perpetuated.

After taking a brief break in the face of sustained booing that dogged him whenever he took to the field, the Sydney Swans star returned to the game for the Swans August 8 win over Geelong. The Geelong crowd warmly welcomed Goodes in a public demonstration of all that is humane and open-hearted in the Australian public.

The 70th anniversary of the United States' atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a reminder that when the United States' enemies commit crimes, they are crimes. But when the United States commits crimes, they did not happen.

In 1928, Arthur Ponsonby, a British politician, said: “When war is declared, the first casualty is the truth”. But he never specified what the distorted “truth” might be. If one were to examine all wars the US has engaged in, however, one might conclude the casualty to be civilian death counts.


Anti-government protests in Bahrain, 2011.

Sectarian Gulf: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia & the Arab Spring That Wasn’t
Toby Matthiesen
Stanford University Press, 2013

In 2011, when a wave of protest and rebellion swept the Arab world, the monarchical states making up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) were not exempt from the unrest.

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