Tuesday, June 06, 2023

N.K.Jemisin - The Obelisk Gate

Having quite enjoyed the first book of this trilogy, The Fifth Season, I struggled with the second volume. The book follows the first's non-linear story line, jumping back to events that take place right at the start of the first book and then following up with events immediately after the end of that book. 

Much of the book takes place during the Season that began near the end of volume one. This catastrophic era sees the Earth plunged into a chaotic, freezing time when for centuries humanity will have to survive on stored foods, meagre resources and, eventually, cannibalism. Jemisin sets up the ecological context well - there are some great bits about how plants and animals change to adapt to the new conditions, and we see how humans try to survive too. Our hero, the orogene Essum, breaks off her quest to find her missing daughter Nassun. Essum finds shelter in an underground Commune, and quickly finds the society riven by factional disagreements and a simmering fear of magical users like herself. 

Nassun has travelled with her father who also hates orogenes, but hopes in his daughter's case to find a way to cure her. She makes it to a different form of shelter, a commune where people like her are trained in their powers. 

Inevitably with middle volumes of trilogies there is an element of the author setting up plots to tie up in the final book. The book ends, after a decent enough climatic battle, with Nassun and Essum learning of each other's survival. But the best part of the book is actually the bleak world created for the context. Jemisin explores how the crisis raises internal tensions in the communes and external threats create an atmosphere of lynch mobs which seek to scapegoat the magic users.

But I found that this was not enough to hold my attention. The book felt plodding and I didn't care much for any of the characters. The world building of the first volume left me still confused about events and people, but after a while I found myself slightly bored. It probably needed a more immersed reader (that's my fault not the authors!) and the pluses (strong female and black characters being an important one) were not enough to pull me in.

Related Reviews

Jemisin - The Fifth Season

Saturday, June 03, 2023

Kallis, Paulson, D'Alisa & Demaria - The Case for Degrowth

The Case for Degrowth is an attempt at an engaging and straightforward, no nonsense, guide to "degrowth" for the environmentalist and left movements. Unfortunately, among the plethora of books about degrowth that have been published recently, it is the least convincing and offers little that is new to the reader. As a first look at degrowth it would probably be of use, particularly for readers who want something accessible, but even here I think it is limited because it doesn't offer a believable strategy for challenging capitalism.

In the preface the authors highlight that the book has come together in its final stages during the Covid pandemic and the reality of Covid shines through the book - not just because it is another demonstration of the failure of a capitalist system, but because Covid also offered a myriad of examples of how people around the world offered support, solidarity and community organising to protect themselves and their health. The authors then make the case for degrowth which they say means:

facing the fundamental challenge of managing political economies without growth during and after the pandemic: how to demobilise parts of the capitalist economy while securing the provisioning of basic goods and services, experimenting with resource-light ways of enjoying ourselves and finding positive meanings in life. 


takes organising and a confluence of alliances and circumstances to ensure that it won't be the environment and workers who pay the bill [for degrowth] but those who profited most from the growth that preceded this disaster.

I will return to these words later in this review, as I think they are indicative of the problem with the book's approach. Capitalism is a system based on endless growth. This growth arises out of the two great rifts in capitalist society - that between the exploiters and exploited and the competition between the capitalists themselves. The exploitation of labour by the capitalists results in surplus value, which the capitalists must reinvest in their production process, because they need to constantly stay ahead of their competitors. This drive for growth sees the constant accumulation of wealth: "Moses and the Prophets" as Marx said. I emphasise this, because it is also the understanding of growth used by the authors of this piece:

Unlike other human economies, capitalist ones depend on growth. In order to thrive amid market competition, those who have money must invest it, make more money, and expand production. Capitalism without growth is plausible; in a stagnant, even shrinking, economy, some companies and individuals could continue to profit. But this is hardly a desirable or stable scenario. 

Thus capitalism is a system based on growth, and the problem for activists is that the system itself organises to protect this ambition. Challenges to the capitalist desire for accumulation either within sectors (eg attempts to reduce the fossil fuel industry), across the whole thing - eg by the revolutionary transformation of society or even to reduce profits (such as by increasing taxes) are met by resistance. The capitalist state is not a neutral force, rather it is a set of institutions and organisations dedicated to protecting the interests of the capitalists. Thus the challenge for degrowth proponents is not demonstrating the threat from a system based on endless growth, or evening winning the argument (as the authors here do well) that we need to degrow parts of the economy. It is actually that we have to show how we can build social forces that can win the changes we need while defeating the counter-forces that protect capitalism. 

The strategy outlined by the authors here is essentially to create spaces of communal relations that are not based on growth and by doing so win wider and wider parts of the economy to a degrowth principle. But the capitalists do not like growth simply because they are greedy. They are compelled to do so, because of the nature of their system. Take the example of Allende's reforming government in Chile in 1973. There mild reforms provoked Chile's capitalists to support a military coup against the regime. The mild reforms on offer threatened very little of Chile's growth, but they were enough of a danger to see General Pinochet, with the tacit backing of the CIA and Margaret Thatcher, slaughter Allende and thousands of his supporters and introduce a neoliberal regime designed to maximise growth in the interests of the rich. How do the authors' propose to deal with such threats - we are not really offered strategies. Instead we are told to "demobilise parts of the economy" by building networks of solidarity and communal living - I've nothing against that. But it will not be enough to defeat capitalism and its destruction of our world. In fact the vision offered here feels distinctly Utopian:

As collective bodies and minds change, the personal becomes political. An individual's voluntary shift from a weekend spent shopping abroad to one picking olives with friends in a community grove, from an evening watching TV to one playing with neighborhood children, may not directly slow the global growth machine, nor revert climate change. However, new habits alter the ways we develop human potential day by day, thereby influencing environments through which family, neighbors, students, colleagues and others continually develop their potentials. Producing new kinds of people and relationships is fundamental to any cultural transformation and great transition.

Socialists argue for revolution not for the sake of revolution, but because a socialist society will be based on networks of workplace and community democratic organisations that will arise out of the struggle itself. In doing so, those mass revolutionary movements create the social and economic forces that are capable of defeating the capitalist state. The authors' recognise that the strategy of degrowth they outline is not necessarily attratcive to those with the least. They quote Beatriz Rodriguez-Labajos, "In parts of Africa, Latin American and many other regions of the Global South, including poor and marginalised communities in Northern countries, the term degrowth is not appealing and does not match people's demands." 

This is because those with very little urgently need more - and that requires a strategy of working out how to rest wealth and power from the rich and equally distribute and control it democratically. That can only come from mass movements based on the power of organised workers. This essentially is the argument I put in my book Socialism or Extinction. Arguing for revolutionary may seem hard work - but it is the concrete strategy needed to defeat capitalism and create a sustainable, just world.

Related Reviews

Hickel - Less is More: How Degrowth will save the World
Foster - Capitalism in the Anthropocene: Ecological Ruin or Ecological Revolution
Schmelzer, Vetter & Vansintjan - The Future is Degrowth: A Guide to a World beyond Capitalism

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Janos Bak (ed) - The German Peasant War of 1525

This book originated as a special issue of the Journal of Peasant Studies marking the 450th anniversary of the German Peasant War of 1525. This edition was republished in 2013 and, despite the expense, remains an important collection of essays offering insight into 1525. Many of the authors were outstanding figures in historical studies of the period, and their work repays reading.

In his introduction to the book, František Graus notes the importance of the 1525 rebellion as an example of a late medieval rebellion in response to the "agrarian crisis". A feature of these later revolts was that the peasantry began to understand that their "servile status was not... the result of 'divine will'," which meant the peasants' demands went "beyond fighting for the special grievances of their particular communities and start a struggle for a new order established according to God's will and justice". 

Such demands are, of course, reflected in the famous "Twelve Articles" that were produced during the rebellion, which as Henry J. Cohn argues in his piece on the Peasants of Swabia, would have seen a "fundamental shift in economic power and social status in favour of the lower orders and at the expense of the lords" had they been won. But Cohn notes the way these, and similar, demands ran through the German Peasantry. Hundreds of local grievances were "generalised" as the Twelve Articles, but they were demanded from hundreds of local villages assemblies and meetings. The process by which these written demands were generated is shown in some of the documents that Cohn translates for this collection - reports that show the gathering of peasants in secret, their networking and their election of leaflets. Reading these brings a medieval peasant revolt to life, showing the process that took place and perhaps reminding one of how activists continue to organise today below the radar of management and oppressive regimes. These original documents are real gems, but as Cohn argues the problem was that these natural networks of rebellious peasants did not break out into the sort of organisation that could seriously win their demands:

The sense of class solidarity among peasants which these and similar documents exhibited did not usually extend beyond the province in which they originated; nor did peasant unity and organisation prove sufficient in the end to overcome the superior military resources and the greater degree of cooperation which prevailed among the members of the Swabian League and other German rulers.

Adolf Laube provides a fascinating study of "precursor" revolts to 1525, again arguing that with the start of the 16th century the "antifeudal movement became revolutionary". Peter Blickle's article on the background to the Twelve Articles shows how this manifested itself through specific demands. He emphasises how "revolutionary" demands like the abolition of serfdom were extremely popular and that "90 percent of peasants whose complaints are known to us singled it out", and he concludes with the revolutionary nature of the demands:

The Twelve Articles indicate a fundamental crisis in the system of reference between peasant and lord. Feudalism of this mould became obviously petrified, unresponsive, rigid; in brief, it was unable to solve the problems otherwise than at the expense of the peasants. The peasants believed that the Twelve Articles might at least defuse this crisis. They even expected to overcome feudalism with the help of the Gospel and Divine Justice, which promised them an entirely open, fresh start for building a new society and authority.

In marking the anniversary of the revolt in 1975/6 the Journal of Peasant Studies could not ignore two other aspects of the epoch. The first was the extensive debate that had taken place about the nature of the Peasants War, and its context. This was shaped fundamentally by the existence of the two German nations. In East Germany, in the Soviet sphere of influence and ideologically (if not socially and economically) committed to a "Communism" allegedly standing in the tradition of Marx and Engels, the understanding of 1525 was fundamentally shaped by a dogmatic adherence to the outline presented by Engels in his own work. Here, the idea that 1525 was an "early" bourgeois revolution dominated historiography. In the West, historians tended to completely dismiss this approach. Several essays are centred on this discussion and while the context is the antagonistic relationships between West and East, reading them today offers some insights. East German historian Ernst Engelberg's article is a bad-tempered and dogmatic response to criticism. Gunter Vogler's on the other hand is a more nuanced response to criticisms of a Marxist approach.

A second aspect to the studies are the exploration of how peasant revolts of the 20th century compared to those of the 16th century. Unfortunately I found these less useful, as they had dated a great deal, though the article exploring parallels between the driving forces of 1525, as explored by Engels, and "capitalist" developments in Iran was definitely interesting, showing how "land reform" was pushing revolt. These are probably articles for the more specialist historian, though they do demonstrate that Engels' approach to 1525 retains lasting value. The collection itself remains a insightful and indispensible book for those writing histories for the 500th anniversary.

Related Reviews

Blickle - The Revolution of 1525: The German Peasants' War from a new perspective
Stayer - The German Peasants' War and the Anabaptist Community of Goods
Bax - The Peasants War in Germany
Engels - The Peasant War in Germany
Baylor - The German Reformation & the Peasants' War: A Brief History with Documents

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Suzanne Heywood - Wavewalker: Breaking Free

In 1975, when Suzanne Heywood was six, her parents announced that they were going to follow in the path of Captain Cook's third voyage and travel around the world by sailing boat. To Suzanne and her younger brother this was a bolt from the blue. It would be, her father said, a three year trip. The youngsters thought it was a tremendous adventure. The idea of a young family making such an epic journey captured the minds of many. Journalists and camera crews followed preparations, and the ship, Wavewalker, was sent off by an appropriately large group of the great and the good, and many curious onlookers.

The youngsters found it thrilling, but quickly things began to be a lot more confused. In the eyes of Suzanne, her father was a brilliant explorer, a worthy person to follow Captain Cook. But problems began to develop. Inevitably, the trips was not as easy as expected. Tensions developed among those on board, and as days, became weeks and then months, things were not quite so clear.

Wavewalker is a fascinating book, because it uses the medium of Heywood's memoires to explore something far beyond the voyage itself. The three years, became four, then five. Eventually Wavewalker and Heywood's family spent a decade sailing 47,000 miles. The reminiscences are often what you might expect from such a voyage. Suzanne remembers whales, adventure and exotic ports. But when, in the Indian ocean in the midst of an enormous storm, a giant wave smashed into Wavewalker and badly injured Suzanne, we begin to see the real tensions in the project.

For this book is not really about Wavewalker's voyage. It is really about how the obsessions of adults impact upon their children. Suzanne's father could not see beyond the voyage. Her mother, despite her professed hatred of sailing, could not break from him. Suzanne has recreated the experiences from her own diaries, recollections and interviews with the crew that come and go. She also has her father's logbooks and own writings, that paint a different picture - one of family unity and enjoyment. But, Suzanne increasingly, and desperately, wants to return home, but her parents won't allow anything to get in the way of their dreams. They see the voyage as a the best education young children could have. The intergenerational tensions become simmering hatred.  

The readers follow Suzanne as she becomes forced increasingly to rely on her own devices. Self reliant and wary of forming friendships because these are only ever temporary - it is not hard to see that Suzanne is actually depressed, and suffering enormously. She is desperate to learn, yet her parents see education as a irrelevant to the voyage. Her mother, in particular, blocks Suzanne - playing loud music while the girl studies, mocking her and only supporting her father's goals. 

This leads to some shocking moments. When Suzanne is having emergency surgery on a remote island for injuries sustained in the storm, her mother can barely be with her. Eventually, as a teenager, Suzanne is left in charge of her brother, while her parents voyage onward. Later we learn that her mother has told her father, that either Suzanne leaves the ship or she does. Suzanne is left to fend for herself, in a situation that frankly is shocking. Eventually she phones Childline, the counsellor telling her "None of this is your fault... You’re coping with far more than is fair."

What is shocking about Suzanne's account is her parent's seeming lack on interest in their children's own needs. They seemed to see them as extensions of their own selves - sharing interests, beliefs and so on. Suzanne is expected to take on the traditional female roles of kitchen work, while her brother works on deck. When she asks questions about religion, beginning to develop her own ideas about the world, her father mocks her as the "token Christian" rather than engaging with her and encouraging her to think. 

Suzanne shines through however as a independent, brave and clever girl. As she grows older on the endless voyage, she fights for space to learn and educate. In the most deplorable of circumstances she passes exams via correspondence courses, having to beg her parents to make sure she gets to the exams. While she never gets the dress she craves - her parents essentially take her money - she does eventually break free and get to university.

This book is very unlike those I would normally read, and this review is not easy to write. I got it after reading Suzanne Heywood's article in the Guardian, a selection of extracts, because the book spoke to me about relationships and family. While I cannot claim to have shared her experiences, I felt that Suzanne spoke to me about some of what I have experienced in my own life. Reading Wavewalker was then a deeply moving personal experience as well as a sad insight into another's life. 

When her family learn that Suzanne is writing this book, they react with shock and anger. It is clear that the tensions and fissures within the family that were created in the 1970s and 1980s are never resolved, because her parents can never admit their failure. Wavewalker then, is a one on level a tragic tail of parental failure. But on the other it is a tremendous story of a young woman who refused to give up on her dream, and overcame incredible odds to do that. My heart was with her on every page, though my mind was often elsewhere. 

Monday, May 22, 2023

Christina Thompson - Sea People

The Pacific Ocean is the largest body of water on Earth. It huge area is larger than the planet's entire landmass, and its possible to look at the Pacific on a globe and almost imagine a planet completely devoid of land. Yet zooming in from such a view, it quickly becomes apparent that this massive area of water has land, tiny volcanic islands that poke out of the water, sometimes separated by thousands of kilometres. When Europeans first arrived at these islands they were amazed to find most of them inhabited. To the European's this seemed amazing. The islanders had what seemed to be very rudimentary boats. How could this have taken place? 

Christina Thompson's book is a history of the "Polynesian Triangle", an

area of ten million square miles in the middle of the Pacific Ocean defined by the three points of Hawai'i, New Zealand and Easter Island. All the islands inside this triangle were originally settled by a clearly identifiable group of voyagers: a people with a single language and set of customs, a particular body of myths, a distinctive arsenal of tools and skills, and a "portmanteau biota" of plants and animals that they carried with them wherever they went. 

Without compasses, sextants or maps, they colonized the Ocean and did so in a remarkably short period of time., creating what was "until the modern era, the largest single culture area in the world".

The Europeans, of course, could not believe the Polynesian's did this on their own, and a significant part of the book is the story of how Europeans misunderstood the history of the Pacific. Believing that navigation over such distances was impossible without European technology, those that came after Captain Cook, came up with a variety of ideas about what happened. These ranged from the racist - that the Polynesians were actually descendants of white tribes, to the improbable - the Polynesians were actually South American. Much discussion took place about how the navigation took place - whether it was accidental (as most people believed until very recently) or planned.

In exploring the European approach to the Polynesians, Thompson draws out the real story - which is an incredible account of brilliant exploration, genius navigation and completely different ways of understanding the world. She shows how different understanding of the relations between currents, waves, land and water, allowed the first navigators to move around the Ocean with incredible accuracy, and how this was proved by some startlingly brilliant experimental voyages in the 1970s and 1980s. These trips both proved the impossible possible and gave new renewed identities to the Polynesians themselves, rescuing their own history from the condescending ideas of many European scientists. There are fascinating accounts of archaeology, navigation and oral history - and I was particularly struck by Thompson's brilliant account of Cook's relationship to the Tahitian Tupaia who produced a famous chart. Thompson shows how this is actually an incredible accurate map of the Pacific, but one almost incomprehensible to a 17th century European sailor.

I picked up Sea People on a whim in a bookshop and I am very glad I did. It seems like it might be a specialist topic, but its a brilliant exploration of the different "ways of seeing" that different human cultures develop, and how such knowledge has been lost because of the way European colonialism remade everything in its own image. I highly recommend it. As Thompson points out, there are still questions about the origin of the Polynesians, it is "unlikely that we will ever know how some of the remotest archipelagos were initially discovered or how many canoes were lost in the course of this long and arduous colonising process", but

To the extent that this history has been disentangled... it has been thanks to input of radically different kinds. At one end of the spectrum are the mathematical models: the computer simulations, chemical analyses, statistical inferences - science with all its promise of objectivity and its period lapses into error. At the other, the stories and songs passed from memory to memory: the layered, subtle, difficult oral traditions, endlessly open to interpretation, but unique in their capacity to speak to us, more or less directly, out of a pre-contact Polynesian past.

Related Reviews

Poskett - Horizons: A Global History of Science
Cushman - Guano and the Opening of the Pacific World: A Global Ecological History
Moorehead - The Fatal Impact
Hunt & Lipo - The Statues that Walked: Unravelling the Mystery of Easter Island

Friday, May 19, 2023

N.K.Jemisin - The Fifth Season

This innovative fantasy novel is far from the "high fantasy" and world-building of the Tolkien clones that proliferate in this genre. It is set on a highly active geological planet, where humans live constantly in fear of the end of their age, as giant earth movements wreck their civilisations. Knowledge, passed down from eons before, warns them of their history and urges them to prepare for the end of a season, when things go to hell and everyone is left to fend for themselves, particularly those outside the Communes. The orogenes however, are hated humans who can control the earth, using its energy to move, change and direct power. Their ability to use this power, and lack of control unless highly trained, makes them feared by other humans - but their powers to stop tremors makes them necessary.

The Fifth Season takes some getting into, but once the reader gets their head around the non-linear plot and the various seasons and reference points, there's a lot here. The central story, of an orogene struggling to find and hide themselves in a hateful and dangerous world, is well plotted to show off the author's worldbuilding. Looking forward to the second volume.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Ian Angus - The War Against the Commons: Dispossession and Resistance in the Making of Capitalism

In his latest book, Ian Angus answers a question that apologists for the capitalist system would like to pretend does not exist. How is it that humans came to live in a world were a tiny minority own and control huge amounts of wealth, and the vast majority of us have to work for them? Angus writes that "even sharp critics of injustice and inequality rarely question the division between owners and workers, employers and employees". Yet almost every aspect of our world is defined by such inequality. About 50 percent of England is owned by one percent of the population. A staggering inequality for a country supposedly defined by its "green and pleasant land". Indeed it is England were Angus' history is mostly focused, for here it was that the process went "furthest" according to Marx. But the transformation of society that saw the total destruction of "the traditional economy" was neither automatic nor benign. Rather:

wage-labour has only become universal in the past few hundred years - and the change was forced on us by 'the most merciless barbarism, and under the stimulus of the most infamous, the most sordid, the most petty and the most odious of passions'.

The quote here comes from Marx, and Angus skilfully uses Marx's theoretical framework to explore the development of capitalism's system of unrestrained accumulation based on exploitation. Marx was well aware that pre-capitalist society took a myriad of different forms, and Angus shows how England (and indeed the British Isles in general) saw a number of different ways of organising agricultural production. The peasantry, under the respective lords, farmed land in ways that were much more communal and depended, in significant part, on the use of communal land. These commons were used according to democratic and egalitarian principles, sharing fields and carefully managing access to essential resources.

The developing capitalist interests however saw the commons as a barrier to further profit. The destruction of the commons, the key theme of this book, took place not out of individual malice, but out of the logic of capital. The need, by the capitalists to expand into every available space and to transform the very world into their own image. Land, animals, wood, forests and space itself was converted into a commodity that could be bought and sold. Fields were engrossed, land was enclosed, commons were privatised. The peasants who lived from the land, were expelled or turned into wage labourers - their old traditions and histories erased. As Angus says, "The twin transformations of original expropriation - stolen land becoming capital and landless producers becoming wage workers - were well underway". These people became a new social group:

A new class of wage-labourers was born in England when 'great masses of men [were] suddenly and forcibly torn from their means of subsistence, and hurled onto the labour-market as free, unprotected and right-less proletarians.'

The quote is, again, from Marx, whose book Capital is filled with rage at what happened to the peasantry. Angus continues by highlighting the sweep of this process:

It was sudden for those who lost their land, but the social transformation took centuries. In the early 1700s, two hundred years after Thomas More condemned enclosures and depopulation in Utopia, about a third of England and almost all of Scotland was still unenclosed, and most people still lived and worked on the land. it took another great wave of assaults on commons and commoners, after 1750, to complete the transition to industrial capitalism... Looking back, that transition appears inevitable but it did not seem so to commoners at the time... some argued eloquently for a commons-based alternative to both feudalism and capitalism.

Contrary to what some followers of Marx tell us, he did not believe that this process was inevitable or indeed desirable. Marx took inspiration from contemporary movements to protect the commons in his own time, but he was also aware of historic struggles. A great strength of Angus' book is his celebration of these forgotten struggles. One key event is Kett's Rebellion of 1549, about which I have written elsewhere. But Angus also notes other struggles, such as the great battles between poachers and gamekeepers - representing resistance to the idea that game should be a commodity, private property for the sole use of the local landowner. A significant chapter also looks at the work of Gerrard Winstanley whose writings during the English Revolution raised the possibility of a new way of ordering society - though interestingly Angus frames' Winstanley's vision not as a future Utopia, but as a transitional society to it.

Angus' conclusions about the laws introduced to protect private property make an important point:

The very existence of the Bloody Code refutes the common claim that capitalism triumphed because it better reflected the dictates of human nature than previous social orders. The poor were not easily reconciled to a system that expelled them from the land. England's ruling class tried to terrorise them into submission.

This terror and the process of destruction of the commons was not limited to England. Angus demonstrates how the colonial project for English capitalism arose directly from the processes begun in the English countryside. The slave trade, the destruction of commons in the Americas, Africa and Asia were part of a process that subverted the world into the interests of English capital. These sections are among the book's most insightful and moving, dealing as they do with the destruction of entire peoples and their worlds. 

Angus also gives several important theoretical insights. He notes, for instance, how apologists for capitalism can argue that the process was painful and violent, but it was necessary. They suggest that enclosure was important because it was only in this way that crop yields could rise to the levels needed to support industrial capitalism. Angus shows the wealth of evidence that this is incorrect and that yields were not significantly improved. But he also makes an important point that peasants themselves were innovative and clever - far from the dumb backward looking yokels of legend. Common field farming was not "inherently conservative" it was actually dynamic and incredibly successful. But such propaganda was important to the landowning class who wanted theoretical justification for their actions. It is notable that similar points are frequently made today. We are told that large scale industrial farming is the only way to feed the world. But such farming invariably has lower yields, is more polluting and highly vulnerable to environmental disaster. Then, as now, the "claim that peasants resisted improved methods reflects anti-peasant prejudice, not the real activity of working farmers".

The skilful linking of historical processes to contemporary political and ecological struggles is a great strength of Angus' book. This is not specifically a work of history, but rather a framing of the current ecological crisis within the wider historic development of capitalism and the destruction of the commons. For Angus it is capitalism's transformation of the commons that is emblematic of the system's method of operation. But looking backward can only tell us so much, the alternative has to be a new way of organising society based on the creation of a new society with the idea of common, democratic ownership at its heart. As Angus writes, "Today's movements of the oppressed and dispossessed to steal back the commons offer real hope that capitalism's five-century war against the commons can be defeated and reversed in our time." It is an inspiring vision and Ian Angus' War Against the Commons is a brilliant account that ought to be read by every activist who wants to see an end to capitalism and "another world".

I am looking forward to speaking with Ian Angus via Zoom for the London launch of The War Against the Commons at Marxism 2023. More information on the whole event here.

Related Reviews

Angus - A Redder Shade of Green: Intersections of Science and Socialism
Angus - Facing the Anthropocene
Angus & Butler - Too Many People? Population, Immigration & the Environmental Crisis

Yerby - The English Revolution and the Roots of Environmental Change
Wood - The 1549 Rebellions and the Making of Early Modern England
Wood - Riot, Rebellion and Popular Politics in Early Modern England
Thompson - The Making of the English Working Class
Thompson - Customs in Common
Linebaugh - Stop Thief!
Sharpe - In Contempt of All Authority
Hill - Liberty Against the Law