Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Launching ‘Echoes of Isolation’ in Gaza

Echoes of Chains is the new book by imprisoned Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) general-secretary Comrade Ahmad Sa’adat and printed by Dar al-Farabi in Lebanon.  The book was launched in the Gaza Strip with a large event on November 13.

Comrade Allam Kaabi, a member of the Central Committee of the PFLP, delivered a speech on behalf of the Front. He was joined by the long-time struggler Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, and Abdel-Nasser Ferwana, a researcher on prisoners’ affairs.

Comrade Kaabi began his speech by saluting the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, the martyrs of the prisoners’ movement and the families of the prisoners, especially the family of Comrade Sa’adat.  He noted that the importance of the book stems from its basis in the reality of isolation experienced by Sa’adat from 2009 to 2012, and reviews the history of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement as well as methods of torture and policies of isolation.  Furthermore, he said, the book is distinguished because (more…)

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This is the cover of the paperback edition which is being published on November 14 – ie 2 weeks time – by Historical Materialism

François Chesnais, Finance Capital Today: Corporations and Banks in the Lasting Global Slump, Brill, Leiden, 2016; reviewed by Tony Norfield

This book is well worth reading. It is written in a clear and accessible style and discusses key points about the limitations of capitalism and the role of contemporary finance. Perhaps its most important point is how the financial system has accumulated vast claims on the current and future output of the world economy – in the form of interest payments on loans and bonds, dividend payments on equities, etc.

These claims have outgrown the ability of the capitalist system to meet them, but government policy has so far managed to prevent a collapse of financial markets with zero interest rate policies, quantitative easing, huge deficits in government spending over taxation, and so forth. The result is an unresolved crisis, a ‘lasting global slump’, in which economic growth remains very weak and vast debts remain in place.

Distinguishing points

There are two related points in his approach to the world economy and finance that distinguish Chesnais from many other writers, and for which he deserves to be commended. Firstly, he states clearly that we are in a crisis of capitalism tout court (pp1-2), not a crisis of ‘financialised’ capitalism – the latter being one that could presumably be fixed if only the evil financiers were dealt with by a (capitalist) reforming government. Secondly, he takes ‘the world economy as the point of departure’ for his analysis, although that is ‘easier said than done’ (p11). While he shows the central role of the US, he avoids the wholly US-centred analysis common to radical critics of contemporary capitalism, and instead highlights how the other powers also play a key part in the imperial machine.

Finance Capital Today helps the reader’s understanding of the realities of contemporary global capitalism by providing a wealth of material evidence. It also helps one to clarify views about what is going on by discussing the theoretical context. In this review I will highlight the key points raised in the book and also discuss where I have a number of differences with Chesnais. These differences are sometimes merely of emphasis, or what may look like simply an alternative definition of a commonly used term. However, poor formulation of an argument can also lead to theoretical problems.

Origins of GFC

Chesnais begins by outlining the origins of the 2008 crisis, arguing that this had been postponed since 1998 by the growth of debt in the US and elsewhere, and by the surge of growth in China. In 2008, ‘the brutality of financial crisis was accounted for by the amount of fictitious capital accumulated and the degree of vulnerability of the credit system following securitisation’. The backdrop to the latest phase of crisis was also one that has made this crisis a (more…)

51qPsB+E2aL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_John Smith, A review of imperialism in the 21st century: the globalisation of production, super-exploitation and the crisis of capitalism, New York: Monthly Review Press, 2016, 384pp.  Reviewed by Michael Roberts.

John Smith’s book is a powerful and searing indictment of the exploitation of billions of people in what used to be called the Third World and is now called the ‘emerging’ or ‘developing’ economies by mainstream economics (and is called ‘the South’ by Smith).  But the book is much, much more than that.  After years of research including a PhD thesis, John has made an important and original contribution to our understanding of modern imperialism, both theoretically and empirically.  In this sense, his Imperialism is a complement to Tony Norfield’s The City, reviewed previously in this blog – or should I say Tony’s is a complement to John Smith’s.  While Tony Norfield’s book shows the development of finance capital in the modern imperialist countries and the dominance of the financial powers of ‘the North’ (US and UK etc), John Smith shows how it is the ‘super-exploitation’ of wage workers in the ‘South’ that is the foundation of modern imperialism in the 21st century.

Super-exploitation

The book starts with some examples of how wage workers in the South are (more…)

51fQv6-t5VL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy, Spiegel & Grau, New York, 2015 (paperback), 368pp,  reviewed by The Spark

Just Mercy is a showcase for the U.S. injustice system, particularly but not only, toward poor black people. His book looks back over some incredible cases he took during the past 30 years.

Stevenson, near retirement, has spent his entire career helping people on death row, particularly in Alabama, which has no public defenders! He quickly understood the U.S. system of incarceration, with the highest rate in the world.

Eventually he and others created the Equal Justice Initiative as a way to fight the death penalty, especially as it is applied to poor black prisoners in the U.S. If a victim of murder is white, most states give the death penalty five times more often to a black person convicted in the crime, even ten times more often, than a white person convicted of a similar crime.

And it would be his organization that finally got the Supreme Court to end life imprisonment without parole for (more…)

Reviewed by Daphna Whitmore

The slim contours of this paperback are deceptive. Although at just a hundred pages it is more of an essay than a book, every sentence is laden with content. Arundhati Roy has produced a weighty work.

Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy

Since winning the Booker prize for her novel the The God of Small Things in 1997, Roy has lent her voice to the cause of the poor, the dispossessed and the environment. In Capitalism a Ghost Story she focuses her poetic prose on the grotesqueness of corporate India. ” “In the drive to beautify Delhi for the Commonwealth Games, laws were passed that made the poor vanish, like laundry stains.” The numbers are staggering: India’s new middle class, who have reached 300 million, are still dwarfed by the country’s 800 million impoverished. Then there are the ghosts of 250,000 debt-ridden farmers who have killed themselves.

In this work she returns again to the government’s war, Operation Greenhunt,  being waged against the people living in the forests of central India which she introduced the world to in Walking with the Comrades, in 2011.

She has a challenge for the feminists: “Why is it that the dispossession and eviction of millions of women from land that they owned and worked is not seen as a feminist problem?” (more…)

Dirty PoliticsHow attack politics is poisoning New Zealand’s political environment by Nicky Hagerdirtypolitics

Reviewed by Daphna Whitmore

For over a week Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics has been in the news. With its promise of a tell-all about the links between the political right and their bloggers revealed in hacked emails, the first print run was sold out in a day.

At just over 100 pages Hager’s book is an easy, though not pleasant, read. Delving into the thoughts and motives of blogger Cameron Slater, and others around him who specialise in attack style political campaigning, is a putrid business.

Most of Dirty Politics confirms what we already knew from reading Slater’s Whale Oil blog. His style of politics is vicious and crude. What Hager adds to the picture is Slater as a PR agent for hire. (more…)

nakedgirlsby Don Franks 

A new hot thing in town is Naked Girls Reading.

Work your computer button a bit and you’ll see what I mean.

Ok, as you now know, we’ve apparently come back to books. The required reading material can be anything, even up there literary stuff like Shakespeare.

It could even be all three volumes of Capital – long and lots of difficult words does not matter and can even be an advantage because in this case we are not primarily hearing the words but looking at the reader. In fact the longer the text, the better, that’s the more the reader has to shift and shuffle and recompose her tiring young muscles. (more…)