The Men Who Lost America by Andrew O`Shaughnessy:Book Review

LeftCentral Book Reviews

Image © Mr d`Aprix

When it comes to the American War of Independence, the UK and the USA are two nations divided by a common history, although a general consensus has emerged regarding British incompetence.   Professor Andrew O`Shaughnessy has attempted to address this and in doing so has written a beautifully balanced book.  It contains ten biographical subjects, George III, Lord North, Sir William Howe, Admiral Lord Richard Howe, John Burgoyne, Lord George Germain, Sir Henry Clinton, Lord Cornwallis, Admiral George Rodney and John Montague.  There is significant interplay but remarkably no repetition of detail, in a well crafted and riveting book.   Read more of this post

What Price Justice – The demise of Probation?

Mike Guilfoyle 

Image©Mummelgrummel

It was a piquant moment for me, reading that the prominent Human Rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC had been broached to consider instigating legal action.  This in response to the ill-considered and mean spirited move by the ‘ Hard line’ Justice Secretary Chris Grayling MP, prohibiting the sending into prisons of books by families and friends under recently imposed restrictions introduced last November via a Ministry of Justice edict, with the Orwellian prefix PSI 30/2013 (Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme). This policy recalled for me, the redoubtable prison reformer Sir Alexander Paterson, who coined the famous adage `that men (sic) come to prison as a punishment, not for punishment’.  Read more of this post

Book Review: The Russian Revolution by Abraham Ascher

LeftCentral Book Review  

This is short book with a long reach; it begins by outlining developments before October 1917, ending with the demise of the Soviet Union.  There is even a contemporary reference to Vladimir Putin – all achieved in less than 200 pages. Of course what is important is not what is covered but what is discovered by the reader and there is much to learn in this beginners guide.

The Russian revolution of October 1917 took place in a country that had not yet reached the appropriate stage of economic development, necessary for such a Marxist transformation.  This lacuna in economic development, required a Leninist push in a revolutionary direction encapsulated in his promise of Bread, Land and Peace and all power to the Soviets. Russia was an autocracy, with a tiny (though emerging) industrial working class, in a predominately agrarian peasant country.  Read more of this post

Bread and Roses Book Award 2014

LeftCentral Political Book Club 

Image © The Bread and Roses Heritage Comm

The Bread and Roses book award shortlist has been announced the winner to be named in May 2014.  The seven titles are: `Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police` by Rob Evans and Paul Lewis (Faber and Faber, 2013), `Soldier Box: Why I Won`t Return to the War on Terror` by Joe Glenton (Verso, 2013), `Story of a Death Foretold: The Coup against Salvador Allende, 11 September 1973` by Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, (Bloomsbury), `Who Needs the Cuts?: Myths of the Economic Crisis` by Barry Kushner and Saville Kushner (Hesperus Press, 2013), `No Place to Call Home: Inside the Real Lives of Gypsies and Travellers by Katherine Quarmby (Oneworld, 2013), `Cancel the Apocalypse: The New Path to Prosperity` by Andrew Simms (Little, Brown, 2013) and Revolting Subjects: Social Abjection and Resistance in Neoliberal Britain by Imogen Tyler (Zed Books, 2013).  The winning title must meet the following criteria:

Read more of this post

A Review: The Culture Show – The Art of Boxing

LeftCentral Review

Image © National Library of Ireland on The Commons

“Where did that thread of steel come from?…it came from the way you learnt to bite down on your gum shield and stick out your weary jab.  In your darkest hour, you will discover that you are better than you ever knew and it would be because you boxed”.  Tony Parsons

An economic downturn unfortunately tends to coincide with an interest in professional boxing.  And in this the era of food banks and retrenchment, the cliché of the `hungry fighter` is a haggard though apt one.  And the distinction between the amateur and the professional code is a crucial one – although this issue was not explored by Tony Parsons in his review of the noble art.  The economic and ideological features of boxing evident when one looks at Cuba, the world`s leading amateur boxing nation and a country where professional boxing is banned.  Read more of this post

LeftCentral interview with Professor Jonathan Rose

LeftCentral 

“I do not want to impair the vigour of competition, but we can do much to mitigate the causes of failure.  We want to draw a line below which we will not allow persons to live and labour, yet above which they may compete with all their strength of their manhood.  We do not want to pull down the structure of science and civilisation – but to spread a net above the abyss.”  Winston Churchill, January 1906

Jonathan Rose is William R. Kenan Jr Professor of History at Drew University. His 2001 book for Yale, The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, was winner of many prizes including the Jacques Barzun Prize in Cultural History and was named a Book of the Year by The Economist magazine. Professor Jonathan Rose has kindly agreed to answer a few questions about his forthcoming publication, The Literary Churchill: Author, Reader, ActorRead more of this post

You can`t be neutral on a moving train…

Nora Connolly 

Image © Jim from Steven Point WI, USA

…In graduate school you get basically the same point of view you get in elementary school, only with footnotes…Howard Zinn

Ed Miliband`s recent endorsement of Professor Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book on Theodore Roosevelt, signals that his policy focus is regulation, regulation, regulation.  The Labour leader’s interest in Teddy Roosevelt appears a continuation of the `One Nation` theme, dressed in the star spangled banner of the Republican Party, albeit with a progressive tint. Read more of this post

Radio 4 Review: Acts of Union and Disunion by Professor Linda Colley: Episode 14: Constitutions

LeftCentral Review 

Bickerstaff`s Boston Almanack 1789

We have the machinery of democracy, the structure and we have representative government but it was never a democracy and it never intended to be a democracy, it was founded by a small group of people who wanted independence from Englandthe motive was not democracy Howard Zinn  

Professor Linda Colley`s short talk on the British Constitution, allowed her to contrast constitutional developments in Britain; with that of the fledgling American Republic, then in the process of moving from Articles of Confederation towards a Federal government.  The `Constitution of the United States` is described by Colley as something; “widely viewed as sacred”, the sacrosanct words are then uttered by the anointed President Elect Obama.  Professor Colley then explains that the founding fathers were influenced by the British notion of a separation of powers; she doesn’t point out that the American version has teeth and while the founding fathers wanted a more democratic system than monarchical Britain, they didn’t aim for a genuinely democratic structure.  But rather designed a system of government that would allow power to rest in the hands of an elite group of rich men.  Her talk missed an opportunity to outline the real significance of Britain’s unwritten Constitution on the framers of the American Constitution.   Read more of this post

The Snows of Kilimanjaro (Les Neiges du Kilimandjaro) – a Review

Lincoln Green 23 Jan 2014

Image © Raidarmax

[The review contains plot details]

The film was released in 2011, its title connected more with the hugely popular song of that name first released in the 1960s and sung by Pascal Danel than with the Henry King’s 1952 film based on the Hemingway short story.  Directed and part written by Robert Guédiguian, recently described by the chair of a local Film Club as “a French Ken Loach”, left-wing sympathies are apparent as the film explores the dilemmas of a mature trade union activist when his principles are confronted by his emotional responses to a violent robbery.

The film begins with Michel (played by Jean-Pierre Darroussin) organising a lottery of dock workers in Marseille which determines those who will be made redundant.  He himself is one of the twenty selected and one of the film’s minor themes is an exploration of “an old man coming to terms with his weaknesses” at the end of full-time employment when there is a profound change in the role which has determined his life to date.  In his intimations of mortality he effectively sees the snows within which Gregory Peck’s earlier character reviews his life, and which the song claims “will make you a white coat, where soon you can sleep”.  Read more of this post

‘Truth’, immigration and the BBC

Image © Felix-felix

Robin Richardson

The Truth about Immigration was broadcast by the BBC on Tuesday 7 January, having been trailed in advance both widely and deeply. Viewers were promised it would be full of new clarity and insight, based on new and powerful facts and figures. Further, it would be imbued with unusual honesty from politicians and senior civil servants, and – even – from the BBC itself. In the event the programme was a shoddy and shameful shambles. Visually, technically, conceptually, ethically, politically and emotionally, it was the very worst kind of tabloid TV, an hour of bias against understanding, totally unworthy to be described as public service broadcasting. Read more of this post

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