Archive for the 'Book Reviews' Category

Zugzwang a review

Zugzwang

by Ronan Bennett 2007
Bloomsbury

Zugzwang

Set around the great chess tournament held in St.Petersburg, in April/May 1914 (annotated) where the winner was to become endowed as the first chess Grand Master by the Tsar,Bennett takes the reader on a journey through plots within plots, revolution and chess. A thrilling, novel novel as a game is played throughout the story that challenges the reader to play along. (I skipped that but it will intrigue players I’ve no doubt) Bennett states of the main character, Rozental, “chess enthusiasts will have their opinion on the identity of the man on whom they think it is based.” The game played when the characters have time to play it is the Spethmann-Kopelzon game, (not the championship game) which it is said “bears a remarkable similarity” to King-A.Sokolov, the Swiss team Championship played in 2000.

Spethgame

I am not giving anything away the cover does not, to say “zugzwang is a chess term derived from the German, Zug (move) and Zwang (compulsion,obligation). It is used to describe a position in which a player is reduced to a state of utter helplessness. he is obliged to move, but every move only makes his position even worse.” I have never heard of this concept before but it strikes me that there is a lot in the way of general explanation of world events that can be understood through applying this idea. Hence this review.

Add a touch of spice, a psychoanalyst, (Otto Spethmann) and a few Anna K’s, police, spies, double agents and concert pianists (Kopelzon) and you have as the cover says, “A riveting story of treachery,murder,intrigue and passion” in a mere 274 pages and with an excellent Biblio of political background of late Tsarist Russia. Such big characters and ideas in succinct style. It is not surprising to learn Bennett is a regular chess journalist for the Guardian.
Bennett states in Acknowledgements that “Similarities may also be observed between Zugzang’s Gregory Petrov and the real-life Bolshevik militant Roman Malinowski.”

A can’t put down and informative read. Enjoy it from the bargain tables as I did.
Other reviews

Abolish Prisons?

Pussy Riot Disown Freed Bandmates in Open Letter

From

Six members of Russian punk rock activist group Pussy Riot have signed an open letter, published on their Livejournal page, insisting the recently released Maria Alyokhina (Masha) and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (Nadia) are no longer members of the Pussy Riot collective.

The authors of the letter claim the two had forgotten about the “aspirations and ideals of our group” because “they are being so carried away with the problems in Russian prisons.” The letter was published just after Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were introduced onstage by Madonna at an Amnesty International concert in New York.

“It is no secret that Masha and Nadia are no longer members of the group, and will no longer take part in radical actionism,” read the letter. “Now they are engaged in a new project, as institutionalised advocates of prisoners’ rights.”

Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova started the non-governmental human rights group Zona Prava (Justice Zone) after being released from prison last year. According to the open letter the pair have repeatedly told the media that they no longer belong to Pussy Riot, but their statements have so far been ignored.

“In almost every interview they repeat that they have left the group,” said the letter. “However, headlines are still full of the group’s name, all their public appearances are declared as performances of Pussy Riot.”

“Thus ignoring the fact that, at the pulpit of Christ the Saviour Cathedral, there were not two but five women in balaclavas, and that the performance in Red Square had eight participants,” they continued referencing the staged performances that landed Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova in prison.

The statement, which also suggests that Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova are refusing to communicate with them, also expressed frustration with the way the pair were presented the Amnesty concert. They took particular offence with the event’s poster which showed a man in a balaclava with an electric guitar, under the name Pussy Riot, “while the organisers smartly called for people to buy expensive tickets,” they explained.

“The mixing of the rebel feminist punk image with the image of institutionalised defenders of prisoners’ rights, is harmful for us as [a] collective, as well as it is harmful for the new role that Nadia and Masha have taken on,” continued the letter.

The six members elected to stay anonymous, signing the letter as Garadja, Fara, Shaiba, Cat, Seraphima and Schumacher. They wished their former bandmates luck for the future. “Yes, we lost two friends, two ideological fellow members, but the world has acquired two brave, interesting, controversial human rights defenders.”

“We appreciate their choice and sincerely wish them well in their new career,” they insisted. Adding, “since Nadia and Masha have chosen not to be with us, please, respect their choice. Remember, we are no longer Nadia and Masha. They are no longer Pussy Riot.”
END

Debbie Kilroy

Seemingly an honourable if not amicable divorce over at Pussy Riot. Coincidentally, I have just read ‘Kilroy Was Here’ by Kris Olsson. (Bantam 2005) A story very similar to Masha and Nadia’s of ex-prisoners becoming prison reformers. They could do well to look at this biography and learn how Sisters Inside evolved and flourished under Kilroy’s strong leadership. Especially between the women inside the prison who she promised not to leave behind.

The Kilroy’s had fallen victim to Queensland’s Premier Bjelke Petersen’s ‘war on drugs’. Debbie had married the famous Aboriginal rugby player Joe Kilroy and both were targeted by Qld.Police in an entrapment sting linked to heroin trafficking. Both doing prison time in the 1980s, Debbie has since become renowned as a prison reformer, being awarded the OAM and working with people such as Aboriginal historian Jackie Huggins; Angela Davis; (Davis wrote the Foreword) and Rubin Hurricane Carter in their quest for justice and rehabilitation in prisons in Queensland and internationally.

Shortly after her incarceration, Kilroy was to witness the death of her best mate in a prison stabbing that saw Kilroy herself injured. Now Kilroy’s life was really on a knife edge as she rejoined the prison group with her attackers inside. Revenge hard on her tracks. Compassion prevailed and with a twist …or two along the way. I really recommend this story of forgiveness and redemption and political smarts.

America in Iraq: Dialectics of Occupation and Liberation

Saddam statue topples

Ed.note I republish this because of the recent theme of discussing dialectical perspectives and opinions of Iraqis just after the ‘occupation’. This not so new book, by Kurdish author Kamal Mirawdeli is nevertheless relevant today because of the examination of the ‘motives’ of the U.S. for undertaking to ‘liberate’ Iraq, and concludes despite the misgivings that we all understand, that the chance at ‘freedom’ was worth it. I think he uses the term ideology erroneously, but the insights such as of the Dinosaur left (pseudoleft) and nationalistic right achieving unity in their wrongness over this issue is a point correctly observed. Also, his observation that opponents of the task ‘merely play with words’ as opposed to having a care to bring about the best possible outcomes is largely correct imv.

America in Iraq: Dialectics of Occupation and Liberation

Kamal Mirawdeli

Book Review by keza 2005

From authorhouse (inexpensive electronic version available)

A collection of his articles spanning three years (May 2002 – November 2004). Many of these can be read at Kurdish Media by clicking here.

Here is a sample chapter (scroll below it to see the Table of Contents) :

US’s military forces should stay in Iraq

20 April 2003

KurdishMedia.com

Step by step, brick after brick, idea after idea, and institution after institution: the US should never leave Iraq until a new fully democratic modern society is well-established and the process of democratisation in the Middle East is well under way!!

It is too normal, vulgarly expected: Iraq’s neighbours, including Turkey, ask the US to leave Iraq. They are worried about Iraq’s independence. They want Iraqi people to choose their own rulers and govern themselves. Yes, only few weeks ago the same people did not want the US and Britain to intervene. They said the Iraqi people were happy with Saddam and if they wanted change they would change the regime themselves.

These people do not ever feel shame. They never learn. They never see and hear. They can never feel that the carpet under their feet has been pulled. The earth under their feet has shaken. The warm sun they are used to, does not shine on the same world.

They are worried about one thing and one thing only: Freedom. This word has been omitted from their pocket dictionary. It has been tabooed on their policy agenda. It could only appear from time to time in their nightmares. But it always existed in people’s dreams, hopes and aspirations. And these all came true. Thanks to the US.

No one in this age can be so ignorant or ideologically prejudiced as to claim that the US liberated Iraq as an act of charity to Iraqi peoples’. Of course the US has its own vital, yes imperial, interests in Iraq and the region. But what age in human history has been free of empires and empire-building? Why is Islam a religion in Indonesia, Morocco, Bosnia, and Malaysia as well as in Pakistan and Middle East? How did Christianity reach Europe and North and South America? Why is English a predominant international language? Why is globalisation an unstoppable historical process?

But it is wrong scientifically, logically and morally to measure the present with the yardsticks of the past, to let ideological prejudice corrupt pragmatic sense, to see the world with dark glasses and then claim that darkness covers the four corners of the world because the US is spreading its tyranny all over the world.

The prophets of doom and gloom, the messengers of distortion and deception, the forces of conservatism and old Europeanism, the dinosaurian Left and nationalistic Right, the selective hypocrites of peace causes – all those who, for one reason or another, are detached from reality, ignorant of the operation of history, incapable of understanding universal relativity of issues and inherent deficiency of ideas, filled the world with hue and cry: Don’t attack Iraq! Minimum 500,000 people will be killed. Two million children will die. Four million refugees will need to be supported. There will be a Third World War. There will be a repetition of Vietnam. There will be rage, wrath and revolution in Arab streets. Fundamental Islamism will sweep the Middle East and vengeful Islamist terrorism will visit every home in US and Britain. Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera.

No one of this motley mix ever said some people in Iraq would be happy. Some tyrannical structures would be dismantled. Some hope would be regained to 25 million enslaved souls. Hope of freedom and democracy would afflict and affect the slavery system of the Middle East.

I was reading all this rubbish coming from famous Middle East experts, revitalised retired politicians, visionary Leftist imams, reactionary Islamic ideologues, Middle East rulers, think tank analysts- with pain, anger and often contempt. These people had learnt nothing from Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. They had refused to move to the 21st century: the age of technological liberation, the age of globalisation of information and universalization of the values of freedom, democracy, human rights and individualism. They wanted UN to be the saviour of fascists in the name of sovereignty and be an absurd undertaker for the denied funerals of millions of the victims of genocide in the name of international law. They were to coin a word: ideo-fascists.

At this moment when I am writing this, I see and hear on my TV screen a paradox. A group of Iraqis in Baghdad are demonstrating against America. Some people from the same group ask the Americans for jobs! The BBC commentator finds this a strange contradiction.

It is not. It is only superficially contradictory. Ordinary people are NOT demonstrating against the US. If they do it is because they do not have jobs and opportunities now. If the US can create an Iraq in which there will be jobs, opportunities for self development and freedom, then there will be no demonstrations by ordinary people.

But still, like the die-hard Leftists of Europe who are still operated by the 19th century Marx’s Manifesto of the Communist Party, there will be people who will be ideologically exploited and operated by interest groups inside and outside Iraq, who will be demonstrating against the Americans because of ideological indoctrination not moral conviction. This act of protest will be facilitated by the very prospect of emerging democracy but also will eventually be neutralized and marginalized by the process and practice of democracy. Once people know that ideologies like Ba’ath or its factional fictional religious alternatives have nothing to offer but death and destruction, in the name of independence and martyrdom, then people will be able to choose rationally and determine their lives as individuals freed from all shackles of totalitarianism, dogma and demagogy.

I also heard and read a lot about the phenomenon of looting in post-Saddam Iraq?

Some people asked: why do Iraqis destroy their own country?

Sorry, mate! Wrong question. Faulty language.

If the questions are wrong, what hope are there for correct answers?

Iraqis do not destroy their country. This has never been their country, their government, their institutions, their wealth, their resources and their opportunities.

peshmerga01woman

Everything belongs to the sole leader and his clique. The rest are dispossessed underclass: deprived, degraded, dehumanised, exploited, abused, and indoctrinated. They are the Leaders’ people. The party’s people. They do not own anything. They do not own themselves, either. They do not own their bodies, their dignity, and their freedom.

But like all other human beings in the world, the Iraqis have basic human needs. They also have hopes and dreams.

Iraqi girl U.S. flag

Their basic needs have necessarily been materialistic. They always knew, thanks to globalisation, that they lived in a materialistic world. The Iraqi people also wished to have good homes, food, fashion dresses, beautiful furniture, new cars, TVs and fridges. They also wanted to have good jobs, happy families, and well-educated children. Then they had dreams: to be a part of this globalised world. To have access to information. To have mobile phones, satellite TVs and computers. To have opportunity to learn languages, to travel and enter international labour market. Above all to be free individuals. To think freely and express themselves freely. But all these basic and higher human needs were denied and suppressed by the apparatuses of the despotic regime.

That is why there was this wide-spread looting spree: as expression of alienation from what supposed to be their country, heritage and culture. As a revenge from a system and a culture which enslaved them. And as expression of their long-suppressed desire to be part of the modern materialistic world. That is why taking a vase, a chair, a piece of wood, a window handle, a useless piece of metal, a double-deck bus, etc all had the same psychological and historical effect. It was a show to allow the Iraqis to see each other, feel each other, loot together to feel that what the end of slavery and dictatorship was not a dream. It was really the end of the nightmare, of tyranny, of despotism. This deep-rooted frustration for lack of material needs was important to find an outlet even if it took criminal proportions. Obviously there were also organised criminal gangs. But this will be a short-lived phenomenon. It will soon be over. Every thing wills settle down. Sorry again, the prophets of doom!

However, the satisfaction of the higher need of understanding freedom and how to achieve it democratically will come much later and need a long time. It should not be rushed. The US should stay put in Iraq until Iraq would really and practically join the front of free democratic nations. This can only be done if the US stays in Iraq and pursue its agenda of liberation and democratisation in the Middle East for the following reasons:

1. Reconstruction of Iraq and reconstruction of Iraqi peoples’ psyche and culture:

It needs a lot of time for Iraqi people to realize who they are, what world they live in, what have they gone through, what has happened to them and to what extent they can be themselves. Iraq throughout its history has known nothing but the culture of violence, despotism and killing. Saddam is only a duplication of Iraq’s various Hajajs. It is the whole culture which needs to change and the psyches of Iraqi individuals, which have been conditioned to fear democracy and freedom and worship oppressors and tyrants, need to be reconstructed. Without achieving this there will be no hope for democracy and real freedoms. And to achieve this Iraq needs decades not years.

2. Stability and conflict in Iraq and the region: Anti-freedom fascists lament destabilisation in Iraq and Middle East if the US stays. Do you remember Arab League’s claim that the gates of hell would open if the US attacked Iraq? But is there a grain of truth in this?

In fact without the presence of US’s forces, Iraq will degenerate into anarchy and civil war. Already Saudi-backed Wahabiis are attacking the Shi’a in Baghdad. Syrian-backed Saddam’s non-Iraqi Fedayeen are doing the same. Iran will definitely support Badr Shiite army. This will draw other countries into the conflict. These developments will cause destabilisation of Iraq and the region and not the presence of US forces. Perhaps some cynics say: But it is the presence of US in the first place which has created this chaotic situation. This situation, first, is not chaotic. It is a natural process of readjustment after thirty years of a fascist minority Sunni rule in Iraq and the brutal oppression and enslavement of the Shiite and other non-Baathi Iraqis. Second: Was the region safe with Saddam? Does any one imagine that there will be genocide of Kurds, eight years of Iraq-Iran war and the invasion of Kuwait with the presence of Americans? But why didn’t Arab League and Arab and Islamic states intervene to stop the carnage of eight years of the Iraq-Iran war? Why did all Arab states especially Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states pour billions of dollars to support Saddam’s racist Qadissiya war against Iran? Was this for the stabilisation of the region and the progress and prosperity of Iraqi people?

In fact what the tribal dictatorial regimes of the Middle East are afraid of is freedom and democracy. These words will sooner or later enter the daily usage of Arab street language and this will be more dangerous to the regimes than Saddam’s Scud missiles or American bombs.

3. The protection of Kurdish people: The Kurdish leaders took a great risk by allying themselves unequivocally and courageously with the US and putting their army under the American command. There was always the risk of Saddam’s retribution including the use of weapons of mass destruction. But it seems that there was a secret agreement between Turkey and Saddam by which Saddam’s regime left Kurdistan and the Kurds to Turkey to deal with. Information published by the Sunday Times (13 April 2003) from secret papers of Iraq’s general security in Baghdad indicate that Iraqi authorities were certain that Turkey would invade Kurdistan “as soon as the US attacks Iraq.” Also Iraqi information minister comic Sahhaf in reply to a question about the Kurds said, “We are not worried about the North. We have a special plan for the North.”. It seems that the special plan was a secret coordination with Turkey.

However, the Kurds now are in a very sensitive and serious position. They remain in a great danger as long as the dictatorial anti-Kurd regional governments stay in power. Pan-Arab nationalistic media are already conducting an ongoing campaign of racial hatred and aggressive disinformation against the Kurds. Iran has “sleeping” armed Islamic groups in Kurdistan which it can provoke, arm and use to destabilise and undermine Kurdish administration in Kurdistan. Without the US’s presence Turkey will find no difficulty in creating a crisis and find an excuse to attack liberated Kurdistan. Even within Iraq, Kurdish secular government will be greatly suspected, despised and even threatened even by Shiite groups calling for an Islamic state or at least a great role for religion in the running of the affairs of the state which, in the last analysis, means abolishing democracy, human rights, free thoughts and rights of women.

In fact the new situation and the role of Kurds in overthrowing dictatorship in Iraq has mapped out the reality and size of the Kurdish nation in the Middle East. Worried about the impact of Kurdish freedom in South Kurdistan on their colonised and enslaved Kurds, the states of Turkey, Syria and Iran will use any means at their disposal individually and collectively to undermine Kurdish freedom and roll back the wheel of history. But this is no longer the history of Kurdish people alone. It is also the history of the US’s project of liberation and democratisation in the Middle East. Will the US betray the Kurdish people and thus belie its own ideas and ideals? Will it leave alone the people who with great courage, commitment and dignity fight side by side with American soldiers for liberation of their land and democracy in the Middle East? The US should be true to its mission of liberation and democracy. Then it will find in the Kurdish nation, not only the six millions of South Kurdistan but also the whole 40 million Kurdish people in the Middle East as well as Kurds in Diaspora, the most reliable and courageous long-term allies and friends.

4. Protecting Iraqi democracy from regional intervention and influence:

Would it have been possible to liberate Germany alone from Nazism if the rest of Europe had been already Nazi states? Wouldn’t these states do everything in their power to undermine Germany’s freedom again? This is a hypothetical question for the benefit of comparison. The US’s project of liberation and democracy in Iraq will collapse as soon as its forces leave Iraq. Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, other Arab countries as well as Iran and Turkey will do everything in their power to influence, buy, blackmail and undermine any democratic government not protected by foreign forces. It would not be impossible to cook a coup and reverse the wheels of history to the Saddamite old order. There were supposedly seven million Baathist members. Even if ten per cent of these were really indoctrinated and committed, it would be possible with outside support to regroup them. Perhaps Saddam or his sons, if they are still alive, would have another chance to be this time resistance fighters with the help of Arab regimes!

In short it would be extremely foolish for the Americans not only to leave Iraq but not to pursue their democratisation project in the Middle East.

5. Political correctness and realpolitik: Many people still out of residual ideological anti-imperialism and fashionable anti-Americanism call irresponsibly, without understanding historical reality and globalisation process, for the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq claiming that the existence of US’s forces will harm Iraqi people and their independence, self-government and progress.

Of course the Americans are not so naïve as to listen to preachers of doom. Realpolitik means the American army will stay. If some people think this means endangering Iraq’s independence, they should not just play with words. We should analyse and understand essences and realities. What is independence? What did Iraqi independence under Saddam and previous dictatorial Arab regimes mean? Whose independence was that? Was Iraq really independent of world imperialism? Who installed Saddam and transformed him into a monster?

On the other hand the concept of independence on a small planet crowded with interdependent states has always been a relative one and never a real one for any country including the US. Is Britain an independent country? Aren’t there US military bases here unapproved by British parliament? Aren’t there US bases in Japan, Germany, Italy, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, etc.? Does this mean these countries are not independent? So why shouldn’t there be US’s bases in Iraq. Definitely there should be US’s military bases in Kurdistan. That is the only hope of survival and freedom for Kurdish people.

Iraq’s real independence and prospect of progress and prosperity depend on the long-term existence of US’s military forces. An additional positive outcome of this will be ensuring peace and stability associated with prospects of democracy and freedom in the whole Middle East.

6. The national security and interests of the US: The US cannot afford to start all this process and military operations all over again as a tragic farce once, for example, Syria will act as a rogue state seeking weapons of mass destruction and indulging in the oppression and genocide of Kurdish people, or when Iran joins North Korea in the production of nuclear weapons and oppression of non-Persian nations or when Saudi’s Wahabism continues to supply ideology, money, weapons and training to terrorists such as Ansar al-Islam all over the world.

Mr Donald Rumsfeld called France and Germany old Europe. This, in a sense, is true. But there is also old America and new America. There was old America of Kissinger, Ford and Reagan who supported fascism, dictatorship and persecution and genocide of minorities all over the world in a way that contradicted all the values of freedom, human rights and democracy which US is proud of and aims to propagate in the world. In this article I mean new US: a great superpower that does not hesitate to topple dictatorships and fight fascists and terrorists for a world in which the values of freedom and democracy will be universal and non-compromising.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION ……………………………………………………………….. vii

PART ONE THE UNITED STATES AND THE KURDS ………………1

The US and the Kurdish nation in the Middle East: Old games

or new horizons? 1 ………………………………………………………….3

The US and the Kurdish nation in the Middle East: Old games

or new horizons? 2 ………………………………………………………..11

PART TWO AFTER SEPTEMBER 11 ……………………………………23

Is there really a war in Afghanistan? What is it for? …………….25

Who is Bin Laden? And what is Mr Blair’s Mission? ………….. 29

Tony Come Home, the kids need you and America is kidding

you? …………………………………………………………………………… 38

The New War Order ……………………………………………………….42

The tale of two Talibans: Afghanistan & Turkey ………………… 46

The moment of truth: Who rules the world? …………………….. 50

US after September 11: Towards a workable international

doctrine for a new world order! ………………………………………. 54

US after September 11: Towards a workable international

doctrine for a new world order! ………………………………………..59

US after September 11: Towards a workable international

doctrine for a new world order! Part III ……………………………..62

Do you really want to stop the war? ………………………………….72

Culture and Repression: the case of the Middle East sociopolitical

order ………………………………………………………………..78

PART THREE AMERICA IN IRAQ ………………………………………..87

The real Kurdish view! ………………………………………………….. 89

The story of a war dictated by foe friends: the spoiled child

who stabbed America in the back! …………………………………102

There is nothing wrong with a prolonged war of liberation! .. 113

No to the United Nations! Yes to the United Democratic

Nations! …………………………………………………………………….. 115

With friends like these, will anyone need enemies? ………….. 118

Tip of the iceberg, but will the pro-Saddam mob ever feel

ashamed? …………………………………………………………………..120

US’s military forces should stay in Iraq …………………………..122

American policy in Iraq: the dialectics of occupation and

liberation – I …………………………………………………………………131

American policy in Iraq: Dialectics of occupation and liberation

– II ……………………………………………………………………………..141

American policy in Iraq: Dialectics of occupation and liberation

– III …………………………………………………………………………….150

American policy in Iraq: Dialectics of occupation and liberation

– V ……………………………………………………………………………..163

Did BBC kill David Kelly on behalf of Saddam? ………………..167

Paul Bremer’s Interview with Asharq Al-Awsat 31 January

2004. …………………………………………………………………………172

Will Paul Bremer be allowed to turn Bush’s liberation mission in

the Middle East ……………………………………………………………178

From massacre in Madrid to carnage in Qamishli: Fact and

fiction …………………………………………………………………………183

President Bush should not leave Iraq an unfinished business

again! …………………………………………………………………………188

The two state solution: Divide and democratize! ………………195

Paul Bremer: A man living in a cloud-cuckoo-land ……………202

Death in Darfur, Decadence in Democracies! ………………… 209

De-liberation: Bremer’s legacy and post-Bremer choices ….217

President Bush and the World War Four of liberation? …….. 225

Book Review: Bright Future: Abundance and Progress in the 21st century – From Outside the Box, a Positive Vision for the Planet

REVIEW Canberra Times (Saturday 3 February 2007, Panorama supplement, p. 17)

Author: David McMullen
Publisher: brightfuture publications http://www.lastsuperpower.net/bright-future/
240 pp $20

Reviewer: Barry York

As a young long-haired student radical in the late 1960s, I used to gain inspiration from a cartoon that appeared in my university newspaper. The multi-panelled strip commenced with two characters crouched tightly in a sparse door-less little room. One of the characters stretches out his arms, accidentally damaging a wall. He becomes curious and starts making a hole in the wall but his companion is distressed and urges him to desist, lest he damage the room. The final panel shows an aerial view of the scene: both figures are actually confined in a tiny box but outside the box is a beautiful big sunny world. The message was and is clear: creativity requires destruction, a better world only comes from overturning the familiar safe one.

David McMullen’s book is refreshing in that it revives that spirit in consideration of the future. His analysis will jar anyone who uncritically accepts the prevailing ethos of ‘doom and gloom’. He reclaims rational optimism and rebelliousness, rejecting the inherent conservatism of opposition to globalisation and modern industrial society – which he characterises as pseudo-left.

Bright Future is no mere polemic. McMullen’s training in economics informs his view as much as his decades of involvement in left-wing movements. His analysis is essentially a Marxist one, though this is not stated in the book. The text is meticulously researched and there are nearly 700 endnotes to lead the critical reader into sources of substantiation for claims made. The book will either be ignored or, hopefully, will have an influence in promoting debate about the issues canvassed, including, controversially, the author’s support for ‘collective ownership’ as an alternative to capitalism.

The content is wide-ranging but focuses strongly on the question of food production and world hunger, affluence and resource exploitation. Specific issues discussed include GM foods, soil degradation, water, fisheries, non-renewable resources, fossil fuels, global warming, alternative energies, nuclear power, pollution, deforestation and species extinction. He shows how food production can be increased through technological and scientific advance and better management practices.

It is possible he argues, to eliminate hunger by the end of the century ‘The planet’s capacity to comfortably accommodate us’, he says, ‘is limited only by the application of human ingenuity, something we are never going to run out of’.

While not downplaying environmental problems, McMullen’s take is that Nature is remarkably resilient and human impact is minor compared to the planet’s ‘battering on a regular basis from super volcanoes, meteors and ice ages’. Moreover, the affluence of modern industrial societies is what allows for environmental awareness and protection. For example, the best way to save the tropical forests is to integrate the children of subsistence farmers into the modern economy rather than to idealize their way of life.

The author sees capitalism as playing a continuing progressive role in those places still emerging from pre-industrial feudalistic systems and a section of the text dealing with the problem of kleptocracy in Africa is particularly informative and cogently argued. What makes McMullen’s book unusual and important however is that it does not reach the conclusion of those who argue from the Right that material progress under capitalism is our benefactor and that this system is therefore the ‘end of history’.

McMullen points out that affluence under capitalism continues to mask gross inequality and is only achieved through the alienation of wage slavery which chokes personal development and human initiative.

He argues that the continuing industrial revolution creates the conditions necessary for capitalism’s demise. As technological change progressively does away with the old back-breaking, dangerous and boring jobs, making work more complex, interesting and challenging, the need for a capitalist ruling class becomes less and less. More than half the workforce in the most advanced industrial societies now requires post-secondary education. With the automation of the most unpleasant jobs, who needs the profit motive? And who needs what McMullen calls “the master class”?

Collective ownership, he argues, will be ‘the obvious way to go’ and would unleash the creative energies of the individual, ‘freeing the economy from the distorting effects of sectional interest’. This, he says, is ‘real free enterprise’.

The obvious challenge to McMullen’s thesis is that socialism, when attempted under Communist governments, has failed. To this he responds that the experience of such socialism has been limited to places that had barely emerged from feudalism and had not yet developed advanced forms of industrial capitalism. ‘Bright Future’ is a scintillatingly dangerous book; a threat to the stability of walls and boxed thinking everywhere.