This quarter's selection

Issue: 118
Posted: 31 March 08

Two years ago Nepal went through a classic revolutionary experience. A mass urban uprising combined with the struggle waged by revolutionary guerrillas, who had been operating in the countryside, to bring down the royalist government. In recent months, the non-revolutionary parties that dominate the government have been trying to marginalise the Communist Party (Maoist) that organised the guerrillas and played a key part in the uprising. Achin Vanaik provides an indispensable account of the background to the rising and the situation today in the most recent New Left Review (January-February 2008).

Liberal imperialism is not something new, John Newsinger argues in January’s Race and Class. He provides a very readable and still relevant account of how the Grand Old Man of British liberalism, William Gladstone, seized control of Egypt for the British crown in 1882, only two years after winning an election by denouncing the imperialism of the Tories.

February’s issue of Monthly Review contains a superb article by three scientists on the future of nuclear power. They set out the scientific principles with admirable clarity, consider issues of safety and economic viability, and conclude that “any building of new plants would be a serious mistake”. Interestingly, they argue that, while the process of nuclear fission used today is “a flawed concept”, nuclear fusion, which occurs naturally in the core of the sun, could one day be a viable form of safe energy generation. They call for more research into fusion. But, because this is only likely to be viable some decades hence (if at all), they also call for the rapid development of other renewable sources of energy.

In the same issue is an interesting, but brief, article by Peter Dickens and James Ormrod on the latest stage in the “space race” based on their recent book Cosmic Society. They give a useful survey of the latest abuses of space by profit-hungry corporations and the US military. Less convincing is their attempt to extend Marxist geographer David Harvey’s analysis of capitalism out into the cosmos.

Viren Swami challenges the myths of “evolutionary psychology” in the winter 2007 issue of Historical Materialism (volume 15, number 4), using his own research on the psychology of physical attraction.

Also in the issue is Jim Kincaid’s critical review of the work of Ben Fine and Alfredo Saad-Filho. Their account of Marxist political economy stresses the production process in which surplus value is pumped out of workers. Kincaid acknowledges the very positive aspects of this approach, but argues it can lead to blind spots when it comes to assessing the role of money, the effects of competition and the processes of capital circulation.

JC and CH