Mark Perryman of Philosophy Football selects his reading for the 2015 General Election campaign
Veteran rebel Tariq Ali proves the durability of a countercultural idealism. Tariq’s new book Extreme Centre is a splendid denunciation of the battle for the middle ground. After Neoliberalism? and its companion volume The Neoliberal Crisis are both framed by a similar 1968-inflected politics to Tariq Ali’s.
The Establishment by Owen Jones is more than enough to convince anyone of the maxim ‘whoever we vote for the government always gets in.” Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything refreshes and renews the Climate Change movement.
Owen Hatherley’s A New Kind of Bleak could almost be a guidebook to the communities that barely merit a mention in any General Election Campaign. Two more books provide an essential politico-travelogue through this other Britain.
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in her book Exotic England. shows how a social disaster beckons without an understanding of race and nation. Norman Finkelstein graphically describes in Method and Madness the horrors that Israel has successively inflicted on Palestine.
Dave Smith and Phil Chamberlain’s astonishing book Blacklisted combines investigative journalism with campaigning politics to reveal where an absence of campaigning trade unionism will leave us.
Handily republished just in time for Ed’s campaign Ralph Miliband’s Class War Conservatism reminds us of the superbly polemical analysis Ed’s father once provided. It is most welcome that a new collection of freshly translated and interpreted work by Gramsci has been published, The Pre-Prison Letters, 1908-1926.
David Graeber in his new book The Utopia of Rules furiously yet effectively critiques the culture of top-heavy bureaucracy. Read the superb History on Our Side by Hywel Francis for a mix of labour history and political theory in the context of the 1984-85 Miners Strike.
Clive Bloom’s Riot City provides a much-needed theoretical backdrop to the upsurge in inner-city direct action. Sroja Popovic and Matthew Miller’s Blueprint for Revolution has a more internationalist flavour combined with a practical methodology for revolutionary change.
The appeal of Woody Guthrie, revisited in the splendidly illustrated Woody Guthrie and the Dustbowl Ballads has a certain timelessness which means it is never entirely extinguished.
But it is Banksy, a graffiti artist who has single-handedly reinvented the radical appeal of the situationists with a popular reach few traditional political figures come anywhere close to matching. Banksy’s work has been superbly chronicled in a new collection This is not a Photo Opportunity.
The wonderfully titled CCCP (Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed is the perfect coffee table book for unrepentant Marxists. The very well-edited journal Twentieth Century Communism is the best single source of an up-to-date historiography of a social movement that so decisively shaped the last century. Or for another episode from the margins of history read a new account of American Maoism and its peculiar impact on the protest movements of the USA in the 1970s and 1980s, Heavy Radicals.
In 2015 the centenary of Gallipoli will be marked, the 1915 campaign most represented by the contribution of Australian and New Zealand troops (ANZAC). From Australia a brilliant effort by left wing scholars to understand the impact of this era on today, What’s Wrong with ANZAC? Chris Bambery’s The Second World War does something similar in explaining the meaning of WW2.
David Rosenberg’s East End Walls take a tour round London’s social history which he has now compiled into a guidebook, Rebel Footprints. Meera Sodha’s Made in India Cooked in Britain is full of beautiful food photography and splendidly scrumptious recipes that help us defy the xenophobia and racism of UKiP as we eat.
It Runs in The Family by Frida Berrigan is a powerful testament to both the strengths and weaknesses of a radicalised, liberatarian-socialist politics that puts the conduct of relationships, parenting and children at its very core. Lydia Syson is the author of hugely popular teen novels, Lydia’s latest Liberty’s Fire combines the Paris Commune, love and friendship for a thrilling and passionate plot.Pushkin Press are past masters at finding classic childrens tales of an earlier era and repackaging them for today’s teen audience, their latest releases include Eric Kastner and his 1931 classic tale of Berlin Dot & Anton.
Nick Hornby’s Funny Girl continues his rich mix of wry humour, neat period observational detail and an unravelling of the predicaments of British masculinity. Mikhail Elizarov’s The Librarian features Soviet era propaganda versus dissent from below. Or for an an absolute classic read Victor Serge’s recently republished Midnight in the Century is a tale of revolutionary ideals perverted by absolute power. Chris Brookmyre fulfils Val McDermid’s recent claim that most crime fiction is left-wing. Val’s excellent piece helps validate the thrilling twist and turns of Chris’s latest, Dead Girl Walking.
And our book of the quarter? The effortlessly common sense feminism of Get it Together by Zoe Williams. In easily digestible chapters Zoe dismantles the consensus politics of the same-old-same with a blistering dissection of the hypocrisy and ineffectiveness that holds it together. This is the book to treat ourselves to as we prepare for the great reckoning to come and the shape of whatever might follow.
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Mark Perryman is the co-founder of the self-styled ‘sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction’, aka Philosophy Football.
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