This quarter’s selection

Issue: 153

In the latest issue of Irish Marxist Review (issue 16) Kieran Allen asks why Ireland has become one of the world’s premier tax havens, highlighted earlier this year by the political establishment’s refusal to force Apple to pay 13 billion euros of unpaid tax. As Allen sees it, Ireland’s courting of multinationals by offering tax breaks distorts politics in a whole range of ways. As well as depriving the poorest of proper public services, “a culture of tax dodging reduces political discourse to a debate about how best to ‘attract’ foreign investment. Every item from ­environmental controls to the regulation of labour standards is viewed through the prism of how it might attract or repel foreign investment.” As well as the article on abortion rights referred to by Judith Orr in this quarter’s International Socialism the issue also includes a critique of the European Union by Marnie Holborow, John Molyneux on secularism and Islamophobia, Ivanka Antova on socialists and the disability movement and an interview with Gerry Carroll, one of two members of People Before Profit elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in May 2016. Reflecting on the role revolutionaries might play in elected office, Carroll says: “we try and act like a megaphone inside Stormont for everyone outside it… Our job is to give voice to those people left behind… But in the end the important thing is what happens on the streets.” Go to

November’s Monthly Review featured a fascinating article by Rob Wallace on Christopher Caudwell, who died in the Spanish Civil War’s horrific Battle of Jarama at the age of 29. Caudwell was a polymath, writing on philosophy, biology, physics, mathematics, engineering, psychology and literature and penning detective novels as well as being actively involved in the Communist Party. As Wallace explains, Caudwell’s views on biology and his remarks on the social context of science prefigured the dialectical biology of Richard Levins, Richard Lewontin and Stephen Jay Gould writing 50 years later.

New Left Review II/101 opens with a large survey article on the Middle East by Kevan Harris. He makes the good point that the prevalence of dictatorships in the region must largely be explained by “the designation of the region’s heartlands as the world’s major war zone”. Other interesting pieces include a sympathetic but critical assessment of the radical sociologist Pierre Bourdieu by the late Eric Hobsbawm and Wanda Vrasti’s memoir of her time working for a private jobs agency, BOB Transfer, in the depressed East German town of Prenzlau. What she saw, Vrasti argues, shows how in this part of Germany “the experience of restructuring has been skillfully contained and concealed through a combination of preemptive wage austerity, a low cost of living and a seductive skills revolution of which Transfer is part”. Her account of encouraging unemployed east Germans to retrain for low-paid, low-skilled, and insecure jobs is compelling, though the theoretical references she throws in are confusing: what on earth, for example, are “alter-capitalist commons” when they’re at home?