This quarter’s selection

Issue: 117

The 2008 Socialist Register is the best buy of the quarter. In previous years reviewers in International Socialism have often balked at recommending something of book length which might contain one or two good articles and a dozen poor or mediocre ones. This issue is different.

It begins with an excellent piece, “Islam, Islamism and the West” by Aijaz Ahmed, which begins by challenging the notion held by both Islamophobes and Islamists that there is a single Islamic culture and identity. It goes on to analyse how this notion has been encouraged by the machinations of imperialism over the past three decades, and then infected not only liberals but also sections of the left. Its only weakness is that it misses how the rise of Islamism was in part a product of the failures of official Communism (particularly its support for the foundation of Israel in 1947-8) and the secular nationalist regimes in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Other excellent pieces (by William Robinson, Margerita Lopez Maya and Wes Enzinna) solidarise with the struggles in Venezuela and Bolivia without falling into the trap of so much of the international left of ascribing them to “saviours from on high” who are immune to any criticism. Even the much less critical piece on Venezuela by Marta Harnecker recognises the problems of corruption and bureaucratisation which have to be fought.

If that is not enough, the account of the peaceful uprising in the city of Oaxaca in Mexico—the “Oaxaca Commune”—by Richard Roman and Edur Velasco Arregui deserves to be on everyone’s bookshelf. The article by Emilia Castorina on Argentina six years after its uprising, while not in the same league, is very useful. So too are GM Tamás on Eastern Europe, Kim Moody on US immigrant workers’ struggles and Sabah Alnasseri on Iraq.

For more than a decade Chile has been the toast of those who claim letting the market loose can create economic growth and prosperity in Latin America. The September_October issue of New Left Review (which did not arrive until November) contains a valuable piece by Manuel Riesco, “Is Pinochet Dead?”, which takes a serious look at economic and political developments in the country, including the school students’ protests and workers’ strikes of the past 18 months

The most interesting article in last summer’s issue of New Politics was an analysis by Sam Farber of current developments in Cuba, including an unpublicised protest by some of its leading intellectuals (also in Spanish:

Two issues ago we tried to unpick New Labour’s economic record over the past ten years and point to likely problems ahead. If the November issue of the Cambridge Journal of Economics had come out a few months earlier it would have saved us a lot of research. It contains in-depth analyses of the record by a range of Keynesian and left economists, including Ken Coates, Andrew Glyn, Bob Rowthorn, Malcolm Sawyer and Frank Wilkinson. Themes covered include not only general economic policy, but also the patterns of unemployment, the real reasons so many people are on invalidity benefits and the scale of poverty. Unfortunately, most of our readers won’t get a chance to see this journal, since online access is restricted to subscribers, but it should be available in most university libraries.

Work, Organisation, Labour and Globalisation is a new journal edited by Ursula Huws and published by Merlin Press at £14.95. The second issue contains more than a dozen articles analysing the degree to which firms and the workforces they employ have been fragmented or concentrated by international economic and technological changes in recent years. It is a valuable resource for anyone interested in what is really happening to the working class.

The Marxist Internet Archive now contains a growing number of pieces from the first series of International Socialism, starting nearly half a century ago. Five full issues from the early 1960s (issues 4, 10, 12, 13 and 19) are now online ( Apart from the major articles, there is an amazing array of book reviewers (Michael Kidron, Nigel Harris, Tony Cliff, Alasdair MacIntyre, Ken Coates, Sam Farber, Ray Challinor, Hilary Rose, Barry Hindness, John Palmer and Peter Sedgwick, as well as people such as Ian Birchall and Colin Barker who still write for us)—and they all managed to do their reviews in about a fifth of the word count that our present reviewers do!

Another treat in the archive is the classic Marxist study of the 1930s slump, The Decline of American Capitalism, by Lewis Corey (aka Fraina):