This quarter’s selection

Issue: 136

There are rich pickings in the two issues of Historical Materialism published since we last appeared. In the first (number 20.1) we have the Marxist classical scholar Richard Seaford exploring the parallels between the structure of ancient Greek philosophy and the money economy developing in the city states of Greece and Asia Minor during the 6th century BC. This is a thesis that he first developed in Money and the Early Greek Mind (2004), but here Seaford relates it to the earlier work of the Marxist philosopher Alfred Sohn-Rethel. Elsewhere Tony Norfield offers an analysis of financial derivatives that differs sharply from the pioneering Marxist study by Dick Bryan and Michael Rafferty. His central claim is that “derivatives did not cause the crisis; they gave it a peculiar intensity and financial form. Low growth and low profitability were the reasons for the boom in derivatives-trading and ‘financial innovation’.”

The following issue (20.2) starts with David Harvey’s 2011 Deutscher Memorial Lecture, “History versus Theory: A Commentary on Marx’s Method in Capital”. As one would expect, Harvey offers many rich insights, but his overall interpretation rests on a strained reading of a passage in the Grundrisse and ignores Marx’s effort carefully to construct and order the categories he uses to analyse capitalism. Other treats include Mariano Féliz arguing that the economic strategy pursued by Argentina under Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández represents a modification of neoliberalism, and Alex Levant on the brilliant Soviet Marxist philosopher Ewald Ilienkov (one of whose texts is also translated in this issue).

The latest New Left Review (II/76) has useful pieces on those uneasy neighbours Turkey and Greece. Cihan Tu_al dismantles the so-called “Turkish model” of neoliberal Islamism that Recep Tayyip Erdo_an’s government offers to Egypt and Tunisia but is perhaps too sympathetic to the fears of the Islamophobic wing of the Turkish left.1 Yannis Mavris focuses on Greece’s two watershed elections in May and June. He stresses “the massive campaign to intimidate the population” that contained the advance of Syriza on 17 June, but stresses that Syriza nevertheless “has emerged as the dominant political formation among the middle- and working-class strata who have been impoverished by the crisis”. Greece, he concludes, is seeing “the formation of a new large-scale party of the left” unparalleled since the late 1950s. Elsewhere Robin Blackburn remembers the radical journalist Alexander Cockburn, who died in July.

The 2012 issue of Revolutionary History is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Algerian Revolution. The journal’s guest editor (and frequent International Socialism contributor) Ian Birchall has amassed a wide range of materials on the theme of “European Revolutionaries and Algerian Independence, 1954-1962”. The journal offers the fullest account in English of the role of the revolutionary left in giving political and practical solidarity to the Algerian liberation struggle. Included are substantial extracts from Les Camarades des Frères, Sylvain Pattieu’s book about the role of Trotskyists and anarchists during the war, and other accounts which draw on documents by and interviews with participants.2

The Canadian socialist scholar John Riddell picks up from Ian Birchall’s review of of his book on the Fourth Congress of the Communist International (Comintern) in our last issue to discuss “The Comintern as a School of Socialist Strategy” on his excellent website.3 John takes up Ian’s advice that “if we study [the Comintern records] carefully, without trying to read off simple slogans or directives, they can be of great value” in order to look at how the lessons of the Comintern might inform socialist strategy today.

There are a number of interesting pieces in the September/October issue of the US socialist journal Against the Current. In the aftermath of the massacre of striking miners at Marikana, the journal collects a number of articles examining the left and social movements in South Africa. Elsewhere in the issue Kim Moody looks at the history of mass strikes in the US to examine why the Occupy movement’s call for general strikes met with only limited success.4

Finally, the summer issue of Socialism and Democracy has a symposium on the “Promise and Challenge of the Occupy Movement”. The 14 articles it collects cover topics ranging from the links between Occupy and the post-Seattle anti-capitalist movement to the role of social media in Occupy.




2: The journal can be ordered from the website


4: All articles are available at their website