2017 General Election Reading List – All books 50% off!

It is 2017 and for radicals we are finally seeing a candidate that we could vote for. Within our reach is the end of austerity, the restoration of the NHS, the improvement of the lives of underprivileged people and Britain that is not governed by Old Etonians, City boys and tax-dodgers. Vote, and Vote Corbyn! And, in case you needed convincing, here’s our selection of some of the best Pluto books on British politics.

Ahead of the 2017 General Election, all of our books are 50% off! Follow bit.ly/ELECTIONREADING to apply your discount code.

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The Violence of Austerity edited by Vickie Cooper and David Whyte

Was: £16.99 Now: £8.49

Austerity, a response to the aftermath of the financial crisis, continues to devastate contemporary Britain. Unless we vote for a change in government, it’ll continue; austerity is over in name only. COOPER T03205

In The Violence of Austerity, Vickie Cooper and David Whyte bring together the voices of campaigners and academics, including Danny Dorling, Mary O’Hara and Rizwaan Sabir, to show that rather than stimulating economic growth, austerity policies have led to a dismantling of the social systems that operated as a buffer against economic hardship, exposing austerity to be a form of systematic violence. Austerity is a class project, disproportionately targeting underprivileged and vulnerable people.

Covering a range of famous cases of institutional violence in Britain, the book argues that police attacks on the homeless, violent evictions in the rented sector, the risks faced by people on workfare schemes, community violence in Northern Ireland and cuts to the regulation of social protection, are all being driven by reductions in public sector funding. The result is a shocking exposé of the myriad ways in which austerity policies harm people in Britain.

 

Do I Belong? Reflections from Europe edited by Antony Lerman

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Was: £14.99  Now: £7.49

With a general election defined by party policies on immigration and Brexit, the notion of ‘belonging’, as both a political project and a human emotion, has never been more important. Since its foundation in 1957, the European Union has encouraged people across its member states to feel a sense of belonging to one united community, with mixed results. Today, faced with British departure from the EU, the fracturing impacts of the migration crisis, the threat of terrorism and rising tensions within countries, governments within and outside the EU seek to impose a different kind of belonging on their populations through policies of exclusion and bordering.

In this collection of original essays, a diverse group of novelists, journalists and academics reflect on their own individual senses of European belonging. In creative and disarming ways, they confront the challenges of nationalism, populism, racism and fundamentalism.

Do I Belong? offers fascinating insights into such questions as: Why fear growing diversity? Is there a European identity? Who determines who belongs? Is a single sense of ‘good’ belonging in Europe dangerous? This collection provides a unique commentary on an insufficiently understood but defining phenomenon of our age.

Authors include: Zia Haider Rahman, Goran Rosenberg, Isolde Charim, Hanno Loewy, Diana Pinto, Nira Yuval-Davis and Doron Rabinovici among others.

 

Voices from the ‘Jungle’: Stories from the Calais Refugee Camp by the Calais Writers

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Often called the ‘Jungle’, the refugee camp near Calais in Northern France epitomises for many the suffering, uncertainty and violence which characterises the situation of CalaiswritersT03221refugees in Europe today. Discussion of refugees is consumed by numbers and the media and Westminster all too often ignore the voices of the people who lived there – people who have travelled to Europe from conflict-torn countries such as Syria, Sudan, Afghanistan and Eritrea: people with astounding stories, who are looking for peace and a better future.

Voices from the ‘Jungle’ is a collection of these stories. Through its pages, the refugees speak to us in powerful, vivid language. They reveal their childhood dreams and struggles for education; the wars and persecution that drove them from their homes; their terror and strength during their extraordinary journeys. They expose the reality of living in the camp; tell of their lives after the ‘Jungle’ and their hopes for the future. Through their stories, the refugees paint a picture of a different kind of ‘Jungle’: one with a powerful sense of community despite evictions and attacks, and of a solidarity which crosses national and religious boundaries.

Illustrated with photographs and drawings by the writers, and interspersed with poems. In the midst of an election obsessed by immigration, this book must be read by everyone seeking to understand the human consequences of this world crisis.

 

Against Austerity: How we Can Fix the Crisis they Made by Richard Seymour

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Why are the rich still getting away with it? Why is protest so ephemeral? Why does the left appear to be marginal to political life? In Against Austerity, author of Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics, Richard Seymour challenges our understanding of capitalism, class and ideology, showing how ‘austerity’ is just one part of a wider elite plan to radically re-engineer society and everyday life in the interests of profit, consumerism and speculative finance.

But Against Austerity is not a gospel of despair. Seymour argues that once we turn to face the headwinds of this new reality, dispensing with reassuring dogmas, we can forge new collective resistance and alternatives to the current system.

 

Cut Out: Living Without Welfare by Jeremy SeabrookSeabrook T03123

Was: £12.99 Now: £6.49

Britain’s welfare state, one of the greatest achievements of our post-war reconstruction, was regarded as the cornerstone of modern society. Today, that cornerstone is wilfully being dismantled by a succession of governments, with horrifying consequences. The establishment paints pictures of so-called ‘benefit scroungers’; the disabled, the sickly and the old.

In Cut Out: Living Without Welfare, Jeremy Seabrook speaks to people whose support from the state – for whatever reason – is now being withdrawn, rendering their lives unsustainable. In turns disturbing, eye-opening, and ultimately humanistic, these accounts reveal the reality behind the headlines, and the true nature of British politics today.

Published in partnership with the Left Book Club.

 

How Corrupt is Britain? edited by David Whyte

Was: £16.99 Now: £8.49

A game-changing book. It should be read by everyone – George Monbiot Whyte T02913.jpg

Banks accused of rate-fixing. Members of Parliament cooking the books. Major defence contractors investigated over suspect arms deals. Police accused of being paid off by tabloids. The headlines are unrelenting these days. Perhaps it’s high time we ask: just exactly how corrupt is Britain?

David Whyte brings together a wide range of leading commentators and campaigners, offering a series of troubling answers. Unflinchingly facing the corruption in British public life, they show that it is no longer tenable to assume that corruption is something that happens elsewhere; corrupt practices are revealed across a wide range of venerated institutions, from local government to big business. These powerful exposés shine a light on the corruption fundamentally embedded in the current UK politics, police and finance.

 

 

The Rent Trap: How we Fell into It and How We Get Out of It by Rosie Walker and Samir Jeraj

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Deregulation, revenge evictions, parliamentary corruption and day-to-day instability: Walker T03066these are the realities for the eleven million people currently renting privately in the UK. At the same time, house prices are skyrocketing and the generational promise of home ownership is now an impossible dream for many. This is the rent-trap: an inescapable consequence of Tory-led market-induced inequality.

Rosie Walker and Samir Jeraj offer the first critical account of what is really going on in the private rented sector and expose the powers conspiring to oppose regulation. A quarter of British MPs are landlords, rent strike is almost impossible and snap evictions are growing, but in the light of these hurdles The Rent Trap shows how to fight back.

Drawing on inspiration from movements in the UK, Europe and further afield, The Rent Trap coheres current experiences of those fighting the financial burdens, health risks and vicious behaviour of landlords in an attempt to put an end to the dominant narratives that normalise rent extraction and undermine our fundamental rights.

Published in partnership with the Left Book Club.

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All books are available from Pluto Press and are currently 50% off RRP!

The Meaning of October by Neil Faulkner

 

Neil Faulkner’s A People’s History of the Russian Revolution argues that the Russian Revolution was an explosion of democracy and creativity, in which the the Russian people are the heroes. In this essay for the Pluto blog, Faulkner, working from historian Georges Lefebvre’s scholarship on the French Revolution, writes that in order to fully understand the vodka, blood, and gunpowder of the Russian Revolution, we must see it as a process, with October as its ‘supreme moment’.

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When Georges Lefebvre wrote his history of the French Revolution, he covered the entire period from 1789 to 1799 – that is, from the Storming of the Bastille to Napoleon Bonaparte’s 18th Brumaire coup. The chronology might, in fact, be extended further, until 1814/15, since, in a very real sense, Napoleon represented the defence and the spread of the bourgeois revolution by military means. The revolutionary epoch only came to a definitive close at Waterloo.

Three distinct periods can be identified. The revolution was in the ascendant until ‘Year II’ and the establishment of the Jacobin dictatorship (1793-94). It was in retreat following the overthrow of Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety in the 9th Thermidor coup and the subsequent establishment of the Directory (1795-99). It was then ‘fossilised’ under the rule of a military strongman – the original ‘Bonapartist’ – from 1799 to 1814/15.

Something similar might be said of the English Revolution. Its period of ascent culminated in Pride’s Purge, the trial and execution of Charles I, and the establishment of Army rule in the crisis of winter 1648/49. It then descended following the smashing of Leveller mutinies in spring 1649, and, when attempts to re-establish Parliamentary rule proved abortive, the strongman stepped in, with Cromwell becoming ‘Lord Protector of the Commonwealth’ in 1653. The revolutionary epoch, which had opened in 1640, did not really conclude until 1660.

In both of these great bourgeois revolutions, the experience of war was seminal. Counter-revolutionary war radicalised France in 1792-94 and England in 1648. Both the Jacobins and the Cromwellians were forced to reject compromise, mobilise popular forces, and enact emergency measures. The protracted and convoluted history of both revolutions was interwoven with the experience of war and a perception of mortal danger.

At first sight, the Russian Revolution october revvyappears quite different. In traditional accounts, the entire revolutionary process plays out in just eight months – between February and October 1917. Trotsky’s classic history has chiselled this framework into stone. A three-volume masterpiece, it divides the revolution into three phases: the February Revolution and the overthrow of Tsarism; the attempted counter-revolution of July/August 1917; and the October Revolution.

October becomes the earth-shaking climax of an immense eruption of elemental social forces from Russia’s depths. Red October becomes a sacred historical consummation. That which follows cannot but be anti-climax.

 

The contradictions of October

But in fact the revolutionary process had barely begun. And the grim truth is this: the workers state established by October – the most advanced political form in the world at the time – was resting on socio-economic foundations which made it an unsustainable aberration.

Lenin and Trotsky, the two principal leaders of the revolution, knew this. They knew that Russia’s small working class could maintain power only with the support of the people as a whole, that is, with the peasantry. And they knew that, because of Russia’s extreme economic backwardness, because of the poverty of Russian society, the workers state could endure, and the transition to socialism be made, only on the condition that the revolution spread to the advanced centres of European capitalism.

But the alliance with the peasants began to break down immediately. The economy had been pole-axed by Russia’s three years of war and revolution between 1914 and 1917. It was pole-axed again by a further three years of war against counter-revolutionary and foreign-interventionist armies (1918-21). By one estimate, Russian industrial output was down to about 15% of its 1914 level by the end of the Civil War.

This meant the towns had nothing to trade with the countryside. Not only was far less produced, but everything was needed for revolutionary defence – as the Red Army swelled to a force millions-strong. The peasants had supported the Bolsheviks because they wanted the land. Once they had it, they resisted the forced requisitioning of both the Red and the White armies, and when the Civil War ended, they hoarded their grain and concealed their stock, desperately clinging to the little they had, making nonsense of heady visions of ‘socialist transformation’.

octrevThe towns, starved of food and raw materials, struggled to recover. Economic growth, even after 1921, was painfully slow. The wider context, of course, was the failure of the world revolution, which had surged from 1917 until 1920, and then crashed back in a succession of defeats and finally ebbed away by the end of 1923. Isolated and impoverished, the revolutionary regime was transformed by the experience of civil war, economic collapse, peasant resistance, and the crushing deadweight of Russia’s chronic backwardness.

 

Revolution in retreat

This played out in a succession of crises and debates inside the revolutionary regime. The contradictions eventually destroyed it. In the ascendant from February 1917 to the winter of 1917/18, perhaps even to the summer of 1918, the revolution thereafter was in retreat, becoming more centralised, more bureaucratic, more authoritarian.

The milestones on this road – the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, the breakdown of the revolutionary coalition with the Left SRs, the establishment of the Cheka (the security police), the banning of factions inside the party, the suppression of the Kronstadt revolt, the elevation of the party secretariat, and so on – are as much a part of the revolutionary process as the great events of 1917.

But note a critical contrast with the experience of the French and the English Revolutions. The Civil War, instead of radicalising the revolution, had the opposite effect. The Bolsheviks, already in power, were struggling against the odds to maintain a functioning workers state based on mass participatory assemblies (‘soviets’) as the essential socio-economic foundations for this disintegrated beneath them.

Lenin had, of course, foreseen it. Again and again he had argued that the Russian working class was one contingent in the world army of socialist revolution. At the Finland Station in April 1917, in his first speech to the Petrograd workers upon his return to Russia, he had hailed ‘the victorious Russian revolution’ but concluded:

Any day, if not today or tomorrow, the crash of the whole of European imperialism may come. The Russian Revolution, made by you, has begun it and opened a new epoch. Hail the world-wide socialist revolution. 

He returned to this theme repeatedly. ‘The final victory of socialism in a single country is … impossible,’ he told the Third Soviet Congress in January 1918. ‘Our contingent of workers and peasants which is upholding Soviet power is one of the contingents of the great world army.’ Two months later, he put the matter more starkly: ‘It is the absolute truth that without a German revolution, we are doomed.’

October was the supreme moment in a revolutionary process which opened in February 1917 and closed in the winter of 1927/28, when the Stalinist party-state bureaucracy destroyed Trotsky’s Left Opposition group to establish an unchallenged counter-revolutionary dictatorship.

To understand the Russian Revolution properly, we need to think of it as a ten-year process, just as Lefebvre conceived the French Revolution.

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A People’s History of the Russian Revolution by Neil Faulkner is published by Pluto Press and the Left Book Club, it is available to buy from Pluto.

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Neil Faulkner is a leading Marxist historian. A Research Fellow at the University of Bristol, he is the author of numerous books, including A Marxist History of the World: from Neanderthals to Neoliberals (Pluto, 2013) and Lawrence of Arabia’s War (Yale, 2016). He appears regularly on TV and was a lead consultant on Sky Atlantic’s The British series.

High Culture in a ‘Bare Art’ World: The Politics of Direct Art Activism

Capitalist crisis does not begin within art, but art can reflect and amplify its effects, to positive and negative ends. Gregory Sholette, author of the new book Delirium and Resistance: Activist Art and the Crisis of Capitalism, examines the disjunct between declarations of art’s virtue and high moralism, with the political economy of the cultural sector, whilst outlining his term ‘Bare Art’: a denuding of art’s entanglement with capitalism.

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Image: The Illuminator and Global Ultra Luxury Faction (GULF) confronts the Guggenheim’s planned future museum in the autocratic kingdom of Abu Dhabi, UAE, where migrant labour exploitation has been condemned by human rights groups.

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‘Art is not a luxury, not an adornment of civilization. It is a necessity. It is one of the central purposes of civilization.’ Thus begins a recent article by David Rothkopf in the online edition of Foreign Policy magazine, a liberal-leaning policy organ of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, of which Rothkopf is both the editor and CEO.  The op-ed goes on to explain that, ‘Artists lead in ways politicians, chief executives, or generals cannot. They enable us to explore the mysterious — deep within us and all around us,’ adding that ‘diplomats have found art and culture to be invaluable tools.’ But he also cautions the profound power of art is useful for political conquests including terrorist campaigns:

‘The Taliban blew up the ancient art of Afghanistan. The Islamic State did the same in Palmyra and across Syria and Iraq. Statues are toppled during revolutions. Art and artifacts that have become symbols of nations are seized or claimed almost as talismans that bring with them legitimacy or connections.’

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Antonio Gramsci 80th Anniversary Reading List

Antonio Gramsci can be regarded as one of the most significant Marxists of the twentieth century who merits inclusion in any register of classical social theorists. A founding gramsci 1member of the Italian Communist Party, he was arrested by Mussolini’s fascist police and spent 11 years in prison, where, in spite of rapidly deteriorating health, he wrote the three volume essay collection known as The Prison Notebooks. He died 80 years ago today due to health complications he suffered during his detention.

Gramsci’s theorising of cultural hegemony continues to have a significant bearing on Marxism, but in pointing to a singular achievement we must not underestimate the impact of his writings on education, civil society, crisis, the individual and ideology. A Gramscian dialectic can be applied to disciplines across the social sciences and the humanities and the books chosen here attest to this interdisciplinarity. Each of the five titles chosen for our Gramsci Reading List recognise the need for an open-minded approach to his work, necessary to capture the multiple branching out of his thought and a practical interest in understanding the here and now of contemporary events.

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Using Gramsci: A New Approach by Michele Filippini

To quote Stuart Hall, ‘Gramsci gives us, not the tools with which to sFilippini T02985olve the puzzle, but the means with which to ask the right kinds of questions’. This book is something of a ‘how-to’ for Gramsci’s thought, to read Gramsci is not always easy, he plunges into debates now obscure and engages in a range of topics that at first seem unrelated, here, his thinking is artfully crystallised by Michele Filippini, making this book perfect for scholars, as well as those new to his work.

Working from the original Italian texts, Filippini also examines the more traditional areas of Gramsci’s thought, including hegemony, organic intellectuals and civil society, and in doing so proposes a new approach to one the most popular and relevant thinkers of the 20th Century.

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The Marikana Massacre: The government that pulled the trigger and the workers who survived it

Revivifying what are only recent memories of massacres by the state during the apartheid era, the Marikana massacre occurred on 16th August 2012, when policemen shot down 112 striking mineworkers, killing 34. Resistance by the ANC and the press to label the incident a massacre (‘Marikana shootings’ was the preferred terminology) at once exposed the easy analogy between Marikana and previous mass shootings at Sharpeville or Soweto, the fraughtness of South Africa’s difficult reckoning with its past, and how violence and the covering up of violence remains an intrinsic part of South Africa’s political structures and institutions.

Luke Sinwell, co-author of The Spirit of Marikana  a fascinating recent history of post-Apartheid South Africa, emphasising the crucial role of workers in changing history – has written here about the fight for justice by the workers that survived the massacre and the prosecution of 72 police for their role in the events.

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The recent decision taken by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) to prosecute 72 police for their role in the events related to South Africa’s Marikana massacre is welcome, but it may obscure the truth that the African National Congress (ANC) government pulled the trigger. The Sprit of Marikana: The Rise of Insurgent Trade Unionism tells the story of the agency of those workers who survived it.

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Israel, Migrants and the right to nationhood

Mya Guarnieri Jaradat’s new book, The Unchosenexamines Israel’s harsh and worsening treatment of these newcomers and in doing so presents a fresh angle on the Israel-Palestine conflict, calling into question the state’s perennial justification for mistreatment of Palestinians: ‘national security’. As we stand witness to mass deportations and charter flights, Guarnieri Jaradat’s blog forces us to confront the exclusionary and dispassionate preconditions imposed on those seeking to belong to a nation.

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The Unchosen: The Lives of Israel’s New Others, is a culmination of a decade’s worth of reporting on the lives of Southeast Asian migrant workers and African asylum seekers protest, Tel Aviv, Israel, 13.2.2014African asylum seekers in Israel. Studying these two groups of non-Jewish ‘others’ throws the Israeli claim that its treatment of Palestinians is predicated on security into harsh light; rather, it shows that Israel’s relationship with Palestinians and other non-Jews is predicated on racial separatism and couched in its overriding concern about maintaining a Jewish demographic majority. The treatment of non-Jews can be understood as a feature of Israel’s particular brand of settler
colonialism. Put best by Drs. Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini in their book, The Human Right to Dominate:

‘Not unlike other forms of settler colonialism, in the Israeli case colonial power is exerted also through the coloniser’s desire of appropriating the position of the native, of “going native.” … the coloniser’s nativeness can, so to speak, be achieved only through a twofold process, beginning with the dispossession of the colonised and followed by protecting the coloniser from a presumed invasion carried out by the colonised.’

The initial dispossession, happened in 1948 with the displacement of some 700,000 Palestinians. As for the ‘invasion’, many Israelis imagine this happening not militarily but demographically; they worry that they’ll be outnumbered. In recent years, the Israeli obsession with demographics—which Dr. Tally Kritzman-Amir, an Israeli lecturer and legal expert in immigration, refugee, and international law, refers to as the ‘fear of numbers’—has been extended beyond the indigenous population to non-Jews in general. Separation is one manifestation of this ‘fear of numbers.’

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International Women’s Day Reading List

From feminist theory, to history and contemporary politics, these are some of Pluto’s best books, old and new, that celebrate radical women.

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Revolutionary Learning: Marxism, Feminism and Knowledge by Sara Carpenter and Shahrzad Mojab Carpenter T03129

Revolutionary Learning by Sara Carpenter and Shahrzad Mojab explores the Marxist and feminist theorisation of knowledge production and learning. From an explicitly feminist perspective, the authors reconsider the contributions of Marx, Gramsci and Freire to educational theory, expanding Marxist analyses of education by considering it in relation to patriarchal and imperialist capitalism.  The reproductive nature of institutions is revealed through an ethnography of schools and pushed further by the authors who go on to examine how education and consciousness connects with the broader environment of public policy, civil society, the market, and other instruments of ‘public pedagogy.’

The book’s use of work by feminist, anti-racist and anti-colonial scholars means it will have significant implications for critical education scholarship, but its use value extends beyond educational praxis; providing the tools dissect, theorize, resist and transform capitalist social relations.

 

Captive Revolution: Palestinian Women’s Anti-Colonial Struggle within the Israeli Prison System by Nahla AbdoAbdo T02851

Throughout the world, women have played a part in struggles against colonialism, imperialism and other forms of oppression, but their vital contributions to revolutions, national liberation and anti-colonial resistance are rarely chronicled.

Nahla Abdo’s Captive Revolution seeks to break the silence on Palestinian women political detainees. Based on stories of the women themselves, as well as her own experiences as a former political prisoner, Abdo draws on a wealth of oral history and primary research in order to analyse their anti-colonial struggle, their agency and their appalling treatment as political detainees. Through crucial comparisons between the experiences of female political detainees in other conflict; a history of female activism emerges.

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