Saturday, February 26, 2022

Kevin Murphy - Revolution and Counterrevolution: Class Struggle in a Moscow Metal Factory

In the aftermath of the disintegration of the Soviet Union archives opened up allowing historians much easier access to a mass of material that had been collected during the Revolution and post-Revolutionary eras. Kevin Murphy's fascinating book is the result of a close study of the material pertaining to a single metalworking factory in Moscow in the 20th century. The detail is based on reports from police spies, radical newspapers, factory bulletins and personal memoires. It's a rich study of how the process of revolution, and then counterrevolution, was experienced by ordinary working people.

For revolutionary socialists the most fascinating part of the book will undoubtedly be the sections dealing with the factory workers during 1917, the year of the revolution. Due to weaknesses in organisation the Bolsheviks were less strong in Moscow than in Petrograd, and this is reflected in the politics and allegiance of the workers in the factory. In particular the Social Revolutionaries [SR] are elected as delegates from the factory. Nonetheless the workers take a full part in the revolution, striking, joining protests and forcing massive demands from their management. Murphy reproduces a 16 point list of workers' demands that demonstrate both the confidence of the workers and how economic and political issues are coming to the fore for ordinary people. The first demands if for a "permanent space" for factory meetings, lectures and "cultural-educational activities". The second is for the night-shift to only do a seven hour shift, but be paid for an eight hour day. There are demands that cover health issues - baths and steam rooms, ventilation, toilets and so on, sick pay, maternity leave and pay, and holidays. 

As Murphy comments:

The variety, clarity and force of demands demonstrate workers' increased confidence and organisation. The need for a regular meeting place shows that the employees' top priority was the strengthening of their own organisation and the special demands raised in the interest of women illustrate workers' willingness to be more inclusive. While revolutionary egalitarianism was an important factor in this process, a practical consideration also drove such demands: the prerevolutionary demographic trend toward a more diverse workforce continued, and by May 1917, the concerns of 439 women simply could not be ignored.

As the revolution progressed there were intense political arguments with Bolshevik workers' fighting to win the support of the wider factory. We get a glimpse of the intensity of some of these debates. In late June, SR leaders spoke on "War until Victory". A Bolshevik Rosa Zemliachka, responded "Comrades! Many voices have rung out for continuing the war. Therefore whoever wants war should immediately sign up as a volunteer for the front lines." Murphy says that "after prolonged silence, the SR leaders left the tribune in defeat." Such political principals and systematic attempts to win workers in the factory led to success for the Bolsheviks, as Murphy explains:

The Bolsheviks did not just react to events: instead the party provided leadership for the movement. After sending in several talented organisers, the Bolsheviks fought for - and won - the ideological argument for revolution and Soviet power, as they did among workers throughout the empire.

But Murphy's meticulous study of the source material also demonstrates how, as the international revolution failed to materialise and Russia was isolated the rise of a Stalinist bureaucracy led to a break with the revolutionary ideals of the past. The Civil War decimated the factory both in terms of workforce and its ability to work. For most workers it became a case of "personal survival", and as the counterrevolution triumphed workers were unable to fight for their own collective interests. During the NEP era workers did manage to keep up pressure over pay and conditions, but by 1927/1928 Stalin's solid grip of power meant that workers' were once again being driven solely for the surplus value their labour could create and dissent was crushed. There are two markers for this that I'll note. Firstly the position of women was forced backward into an subordinate one and most of the gains of the revolution were destroyed. 

Murphy documents this process:

By mid-NEP, however, party leaders at the factory level perceived the special emphasis on women's issues as an obstacle to the pursuit of their main priority. Pressured from above to meet production quotas, management and the party apparatus started to view the female workforce strictly in productivist terms and, therefore, as as problem.

But Murphy is careful to emphasis the way the women in the factory played an active role in the revolution movement that is "hidden from history" and celebrates that this took place "in a society devastated by seven years of war and foreign intervention". 

The second marker is the repression of dissent, both within the Communist party and the systematic destruction of the norms of democracy in factory meetings. The participatory (if frequently raucous) meetings of the revolutionary era are replaced by shouting down and demonization of opponents. By the late 1920s, "personal survival... had eclipsed the politics of collective action". By the 1930s the ability to collectively organise had been destroyed. The accounts from this era - of hunger, coercion and so on are painful to read, contrasting as they do with the hope of the revolutionary epoch.

By 1932 the relationship between rulers and ruled had become firmly entrenched and there would be no return to workers' militancy. The dull drone of uninterrupted productivity drives and the seemingly endless demands for more sacrifice and austerity were not ephemeral phenomena, but now comprised the basic features of the Stalinist system. The revolutionary era, during which workers had repeatedly and confidently asserted their collective power, had now come to a decisive end.

By placing the experience of workers at the point of production at the heart of the story Kevin Murphy's book is a singular account of the highest point of workers struggle in history. It is also essential in helping understand the Stalinist counterrevolution as it felt in the factory. The archives that made is possible must hold endless more fascinating material. As I write, Putin's war machine drives Russian imperialism further into Ukraine. In the run up to that war Putin made clear that he saw the Lenin era as the origins of the Ukraine problem - this work shows how different the ideas and hopes of ordinary Russians in the Revolutionary era were far from the interests of Putin and his regime. Let's hope the spirit revives.

Related Reviews

Sherry - Russia 1917: Workers' Revolution and the Festival of the Oppressed
Smith - Red Petrograd
Serge - Year One of the Russian Revolution
Trotsky - The History of the Russian Revolution

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Paul Howarth - Only Killers and Thieves

In Queensland 1885, two boys Tommy and Billy McBride return home to find their family slaughtered. Their farm life had been precarious. Drought had practically wiped out their father's heard, and their mother could no longer get credit in the nearby town shops. Their local neighbour, John Sullivan, a ruthless, greedy man, hates Tommy and Billy's father - but it is to him they must turn when it looks like an aboriginal group has killed their family. 

The boys are pulled into a hunt by the Queensland Native Police, led by the violent Noone. As they, with Noone and Sullivan trek into the desert to find the aboriginal's responsible, the reader follows them deep into Australia, and a dark, racist past were all native people are "killers and thieves" and their only punishment in murder.

This is a difficult read. In places it's description of the treatment of aboriginal people at the hands of the militia is sickening - there is murder and rape. The boys are pulled into culpability for these crimes of revenge, even as Noone (and wider white society) gives them a gloss of legality.

Despite the difficult subject matter, this is a powerful novel about the racist genocide of the aboriginal people. The strength of the book is to put the tragic story of Tommy and Billy into this wider context. I came away from it feeling like I'd received physical blows, and at times had to rest from reading it. But this is a story that tells us a great deal about how colonial Australia developed and I was thinking about it many days after finally putting it down.

Related Reviews

Shute - A Town Like Alice

Saturday, February 12, 2022

James Boyce - Van Diemen's Land

The arrival of British colonists in Van Diemen's Land had dramatic consequences for the people that lived their, the land and the region's ecology. In this compelling history James Boyce explores what took place, putting the experience of ordinary people at the forefront of the story. He opens by arguing that the "common apprehension that 'almost everything the settler did was a re-creation of the world which had been left behind' reflects the experience of a relatively small elite." In fact, precisely because there was "more than one Britain" those who came to Van Diemen's Land brought with them a multitude of ideas, experiences and ideas. The country needs, he argues, to be understood as a "convict society" not an extension of Britain, but one shaped by the experiences of those who arrived and a society made anew. 

While Boyce never forgets the impact of European arrival on the aboriginal people who lived in Van Diemen's Land, he explains that his book is "not an Aboriginal history", it "does not pretend to describe Aboriginal culture, strategy or political organisation", the focus is on the convicts and the society they created. Of course this does mean talking about relations with the Aboriginal people and their later systematic destruction. Boyce suggest his work is really a "environmental history", because it's "primary interest is how the environment changed" the settlers. Wary that this summary could be interpreted as me saying Boyce doesn't devote enough time to the Aboriginal people, I should emphasise that the author's extensive appendices describe the genocide in detail and how it arose out of the interests of the new ruling class in Van Diemen's Land / Tasmania and the interests of British colonial rule. 

The early, convict, years in Van Diemen's Land are fascinating insight into the world that the convicts, settlers and guards had left behind. Boyce notes that the health of the new outpost was better than that of the class the convicts came from. There was plenty of food and game, land and space. But it didn't remain like this for long. Right from the start England's vile game laws were imposed on the new colony. Boyce summarises the reasons for this:

[T]he main challenge for the authorities was how to restrict food supply. Control of the island's abundant natural resources was recognised as essential to the maintenance o social order and penal discipline. The native animals of the new land were... assumed to be the property of the Crown...The game laws were seen as integral to a stable social order. In Van Diemen's Land during 1804, convicts ate emu and kangaroo, but they had to work for it.

The officers had a monopoly on hunting and thus fresh meat, and this meant they could employ convicts to work for them outside their normal working hours. Thus the game laws helped create both a market for game and strengthened particular social relations.

Simultaneously, outside the lands formally under British control, convicts were able to live a surprisingly free life:

Under the "thirds" system, the Van Diemonian elite offered their convict workers economic independence and social freedom in return for free, motivated labour and guaranteed returns. Stock owners, often resident in the towns, handed over a flock or herd to a worker prepared to risk frontier life and payed him a portion (usually a third) of the natural increase in lieu of wages. The custodian took the animals to the leased or granted land.. while he watched over the animals... while making extra money for flour, tea, sugar, tobacco and run by selling kangaroo skins. 
Indeed the inability of the authorities to control the convicts and the sheer amount of land meant that many simply slipped into the bush. There some created their own lives and space, and Boyce notes that as the colonial developed the escape to the bush, and the "bushranging" mode of life was particularly associated with a concept of freedom that went far beyond simply not being a convict. In fact the scale of this was, in Boyce's words, nothing less than a "collective convict uprising that would pose a potent challenge to imperial power". Such was the scale of this, that it would be a generation before the situation was brought under control. 

There is one further aspect to the story that should be emphasised in this review. This was, what might be called, a reassertion of power by the British authorities. In part this was physical. A new generation of settlers who had nothing to do with the convict system arrived. They parcelled up the land and wrested it back from those who had farmed it before - these were usually convicts who had served their time, but also those working in the "thirds" system. There's an irony here, that this was, in effect a new version of enclosure - land was taken by the wealthy and powerful, and transformed - Boyce emphasises - into a copy of pastoral England. Boyce describes this as a "mass eviction". He also notes that the language used to describe "ordinary Van Diemonian life" by the new arrivals and the authorities was "strikingly similar to the judgements passed on the highland Scvots and rural Irish" at similar times. These were savages who had to be kicked off the land in the interest of a modern (capitalist) agriculture. As one new immigrant said in a letter home "we all came here to make money".

Alongside the redistribution of land from the convict era settlers came a transformation of relations with the indigenous people. While the earlier relations with the Aboriginal people had never been easy -they were often violent. But a balance had been achieved, mostly because the colonial areas were relatively geographically contained. Now, however the aboriginal people posed a threat to the expansion of the colonies, and they had to be eradicated. Boyce's descriptions of the way this was done - systematic lies, violence, rape and murder are difficult, but essential reading. There was no real economic justification for this, Boyce points out that aboriginal resistance had been stopped by military action. But nontheless there was no place in the new country for its original inhabitants. Van Diemen's Land was renamed as Tasmania, in part to sever the mental link with the convict society, but also as a means to forget the original inhabitants. Tasmania though was built on the blood and violent dispersal of the Aborigines.

Its worth noting that Boyce argues that the policy of forced removal of the Aboriginal people was never "presented to, let alone sanctioned by, the Colonial Office in London". It was, he argues, "primarily a local affair". While organisationally this is no doubt true, I think the genocidal behaviour towards the indigenous people can only be understood in the context of a "mindset" created by British colonial policy. As Tom Lawson says in his book on the Tasmanian genocide, The Last Man:

[The authorities in Van Dieman's Land were] trapped within a mindset that they could not recognise made little sense even on its own terms. They were committed to a path that continually sanctioned a greater and greater degree of force, while arguing that force should be avoided. With every approval they opened up new possibilities for violence even while they continued to condemn violence itself. The British government preached protection [of the aboriginal people], while contrarily approving of measure after measure that would escalate violence. It was, at the very least, a form of self-deception.
While the British government may not have been explicitly clear on what was happening on the ground, (indeed they were actively deceived by the authorities) what took place fitted a wider, colonial, pattern. I am sure that Boyce wouldn't particularly disagree with this, but I felt it needed to be more explicit. 

Nonetheless this is a remarkable history. Boyce concludes:

The black hole of Tasmanian history is not the violence between white settlers and the Aborigines -a well-record and much-discussed aspect of the British conquest - but the government-sponsored ethnic clearances which followed it.

By placing the story of what happened to the Aboriginal people in the wider context of the transformations wrought upon Van Diemen's Land by the original "convict society" and then the further tragedies that took place, James Boyce has exposed the dirty, violent, underbelly to colonial conquest in this part of the world. It is a story that must be understood and this book is an excellent account.

Related Reviews

Boyce - Imperial Mud: The Fight for the Fens
Lawson - The Last Man: A British Genocide in Tasmania
Gammage - The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia
Pascoe - Dark Emu: Aboriginal Australia and the Birth of Agriculture
Moorehead - The Fatal Impact

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

Neil Dahlstrom - Tractor Wars: John Deere, Henry Ford, International Harvester & the Birth of Modern Agriculture

The name of John Deere probably means very little to many households, despite its enormous importance as a manufacturer of agricultural equipment and tractors. In October 2021, a major strike by its trade union work force which secured a significant victory defending pay, pensions and conditions. The strike brought John Deere's name to public awareness in a way that the current board of directors would certainly have preferred to avoid. Deere is a major corporation and was, as Neil Dahlstrom's history shows, one of the few early agricultural companies to have successfully made the transition from horse to motorised farming.

The other two companies this book focuses on, Ford and International Harvester, both also had interesting relations with their workforce. When Cyrus McCormick Jr became the president of McCormick Harvesting (later part of International Harvester) in 1884, he drove down wages provoking a major strike by its 1,400 workers. Henry Ford was also notorious for his management style. But Dahlstrom tells a different story here that relates Ford's development of a tractor to the agricultural workforce. 

Ford came from a farming background, and having made a fortune in car manufacturing, he wanted to branch out into tractor production. Opposition from shareholders forced him to create a company with his son, Fordson, the eponymous name of the tractor they produced. But its interesting to see what motivated Ford. A New York Times interview reported that Ford "has always wanted to advance the agricultural conditions of the world so that they would keep pace with those of manufacturing and transportation". On a more altruistic level, Dahlstrom reports that Ford hoped his tractor "would finally separate farmers from their land, allowing them to tend to their fields for only a short time each year, freeing them to work in his network of factories the rest of the time".

While the early development of motorised tractors in the United States was frequently described in terms of labour saving work that would improve the efficiency and cost of food production, these two anecdotes show that the real driving interest was profit. In Dahlstrom's history it becomes clear that the Tractor Wars he describes are a classic example of the way that capitalism creates new markets, then concentrates production and profit. In 1917, he tells us, there were 100 different manufacturers of tractors. A decade later there were a handful left, and Ford in particular played a major role in driving many of those out of business.

Key to the adoption of the tractor was the First World War. Dahlstrom shows how the needs of production in the period helped shift farming technology. Ford's first tractors were shipped immediately to Europe to help avert the food crisis caused by the German submarine blockade and labour shortages. The War and government subsidies allowed manufacturers to perfect technology and build plant. It helped make tractors mainstream - though interestingly, particularly in Europe, it did not break dependence on the horse. The Second World War saw to that in England, and the post-war Marshall Plan drove it forward into mainland Europe. Again the US government placed US manufacturing at the centre of the transformation.

Disappointingly though these fascinating stories are all but obscured in Dahlstrom's history. He focuses on the inter-company "war" that shaped manufacturing decisions by the big companies. Frequently the book becomes an obscure list of machines made by different companies and for the non-expert there are too many terms that are left unexplained. What are "spade lugs" for instance? For the non-farmer there is too little explanation of how tractors and machinery transformed agriculture. What, and how, do the various cultivators, harvesters and ploughs actually do? I had hoped to learn a lot more about how farming was changed by the technology, but while we hear the voices of engineers and salesmen, we rarely hear the words of the farmers themselves.

In particular I had hoped that Dahlstrom might give us insights into how US agriculture became a food system utterly dependent on chemical and energy inputs. I'd have liked more on how the use of machinery like tractors helped drive the growth of farming and the creation of the huge, mono-cropped fields we see today. Unfortunately by ending the story in 1930 this is left untold, but I fear the authors over focus on corporate machinations would have obscured this important tale too.

Today agriculture remains big business. Since the Second World War a model of industrial farming has been imposed on much of the rest of the world. But that process began decades earlier in the late 19th and early 20th century. The early years of the 1900s were dominated by the struggle by big corporations to maximise market share and transform farming into a system that could feed their profits. Neil Dahlstrom's book tells part of the story but I suspect most readers will be left wanting more.

Related Reviews

Isett & Miller - The Social History of Agriculture
Mazoyer & Roudart - A History of World Agriculture
Holleman - Dust Bowls of Empire: Imperialism, Environmental Politics & the Injustice of 'Green' Capitalism

Magdoff & Tokar - Agriculture and Food in Crisis
Wise - Eating Tomorrow: Agribusiness, Family Farmers, and the Battle for the Future of Food
Smaje - A Small Farm Future

Tuesday, February 08, 2022

Art Spiegelman - The Complete Maus

A week or so ago the school board in McMinn County, Tennessee in the USA voted unanimously to remove Art Spiegelman's classic book Maus from school libraries. The board argued that this graphic novel was unsuitable because it featured objectionable language and nudity. Given that the subject of Maus is the Jewish Holocaust under the Nazis, these objections seemed strange. Whatever the motivating factors of the board, many people saw the ban as an attempt to limit teaching of the Holocaust in schools. An immediate side effect was the immediate return of Spiegelman's Maus to the bestseller lists as readers around the globe read, re-read or bought the book in a rejection of censorship.

One of those book buyers was me. Despite being aware of Maus, I'd never read it. Graphic novels do not come easy to me. But I think I was perhaps mostly put off because somehow I'd got the impression that Maus, by depicting Jewish people as mice, and their Nazi oppressors as cats, trivialised the events it covered. I was, as generations of readers before me know, completely wrong on this. There is no doubt that Maus is a work of genius that makes the story of the Holocaust accessible in all its horror. It ought to reside in every library in the world.

Maus is the story of Art Spiegelman's father and mother, Vladek and Anja. They were Polish Jews who spent much of World War Two in a Jewish Ghetto and then hiding before their capture and deportation to Auschwitz. Spiegelman's difficult relationship with his aged father, who was obsessive, miserly and prone to anger outbursts towards his second wife, forms the basis for the story. Spiegelman tells his parent's story within the framing of his own interviews with his dad. It makes the story of what happens even more human. The reader learns as Spiegelman tells the story about what happened in Holocaust, why his Dad behaves as he does, at the same time as the Spiegelman in the book learns. 
By the time the story reaches Auschwitz, we are utterly invested in the wider family - their lives, loves and relationships. In the Jewish ghetto we see how the Jews are forced to rely on dwindling amounts of money to by food - how violence is a common event and how random selections mean whole families suddenly disappear. Later in the book there are several pages where Vladek shows his son family photos. Some survive, but others don't. "Anja's parents, the grandparents, her big sister Tosha, little Bibi and our Richieu... all what is left, it's the photos." Vladek has no photos of his family: "so only my little brother, Pinek came out from the war alive.. from the rest of my family, it's nothing left, not even a snapshot".

In Auschwitz Vladek survives, in part because of his guile. He is able to teach English to a guard and work as a tinsmith and shoemaker. Spiegelman depicts his own therapist who points out to him though that it wasn't bravery or skill that Vladek and Anja survived, it was ultimately luck. Vladek's description of the death camp and its crematorium are horrific. He only saw them once, but the stories another Jew who works there removing the dead tells him sicken Vladek, even while he is in Auschwitz. But there is even more horror after they leave Auschwitz. Vladek is on a death march and he is one of a few survivors trapped in a train car, able to reach snow on the roof. His survival here is once again down to chance, not anything else.

Its a brutal book. But strangely it is also a book about humanity - the love and solidarity that can keep people going in the hardest of times. Vladek's and Anja's mutual love sustains them - though Spiegelman's mother ultimately killed herself after the war. 

It is impossible to read Maus without being moved, angered, sickened and upset. If the thing that bothers you about it is the language or a bit of nudity in a book about victims in a concentration camp, then I suggest that you have failed to understand what the book is about. I also suspect that you don't care. Preventing people reading books like Maus is a sure way to make sure that the lessons of history are not learnt. If, like me, you've never read this, then take the opportunity to do so. And then encourage others to read it as well. It will help make that old anti-fascist slogan true - "Never Again".

Related Reviews

Sunday, February 06, 2022

Henry Heller - The French Revolution and Historical Materialism

This collection of essays by Henry Heller builds, and in part incorporates, his earlier work on the French Revolution. In previous books and articles Heller has put a classical Marxist argument - that the French Revolution was a bourgeois and capitalist revolution, the "founding moment of modern history". His argument was in the face of mainstream contemporary "revisionist" thought, which argued that this was not the case. In writing his earlier works Heller explains that he had to continually reassert a Marxist position because the cause of revisionism went further than simply attacking the concept of the bourgeois revolution but its aim was to "not only to challenge the Marxist view of the revolution but to put into question its narrative of modern history, whose denouement looks toward a revolutionary transition to socialism".

The essays in this book mostly come from Heller's defence of his position and his polemic against others. Most of the chapters originate in articles in the journal Historical Materialism and as such are often more specialised than the reader with a passing interest in the Revolution will want. So while the book lacks even a short account of the French Revolution itself, the opening essay is a reprint of Heller's introduction to the most recent edition of Jean Jaurès' classic A Socialist History of the French Revolution. This was the first explicitly Marxist account and its importance to Marxist histography and Heller's own studies is abundantly clear.

Because they originate in a strident defence of Marxist thought on the Revolution, these articles are highly academic and detailed. As such they are somewhat inaccessible, though close reading will find important insights. For instance, Heller places the French Revolution in a much wider context, arguing for instance that:

West European advance came directly at the expense of Eastern Europe and Asia, Africa and Latin America. The process of West European transition throughout its early history entailed turning other areas into dependence economies and colonies. Seizing resources from less advanced areas or later on from colonised regions became an intrinsic feature of West European development. In other words, the emergence of capitalism has to be understood in terms of an ongoing world-wide process of appropriation based on uneven development both within and outside Europe.

Elsewhere Heller continues the critique of other Marxist historians such as Robert Brenner, that he developed in his book on the Birth of Capitalism. Here he notes that their failure to identify an early capitalist class in France in the Early Modern era, has "greatly reinforced the currently popular revisionist" views that argues the Revolution wasn't bourgeois. In contrast to Brenner, Heller argues:

[Brenner] overestimated the durability of the victory of the French peasantry at the end of the Middle Ages. By the latter half of the sixteenth century, most of this class in northern France was clearly placed on the defensive by both the nobility and the emerging bourgeoisie. In this context, what proved structurally determinant was the redistribution of properly among the commoners themselves at the expense of the lesser peasants and to the benefit of the bourgeoisie, both urban and rural. Brenner rejects the importance of the process of peasant social differentiation to capitalist origins in the case of English agriculture. Single-mindedly insisting on the importance of class struggle, he rejects the idea that social differentiation among peasants might have been important to the establishment of capitalist social relations.

Thus Heller argues for the centrality of the Marxist concept of primitive accumulation - the changes to land ownership which fuelled early capitalist accumulation. He sees the emergence of a manufacturing class in the cities alongside the rural capitalists. Capitalism develops "within the interstices of the seventeenth-century absolutist regime". He argues for a dynamic process of change - "the notion that contradictory economic and political processes could be at work within a given social system". This process, which culminates in the Revolution, helps create the capitalist class as a class-in-itself. But it was the "convulsions" of the revolution itself that would "produce the sense of the bourgeoisie as a class" for itself.

In exploring these themes Heller takes up many other issues - including arguments around the existence of a "working class" within the Revolutionary period, and the nature of the Jacobin regime and its attitude to manufacturing. In putting his argument Heller marshals much detail to bolster his case, and in places this made for heavy reading. Nonetheless Heller gives a real sense of a dynamic, developing economic system of (open and hidden) class warfare were capitalist relations are slowly developing in the period, until the Revolution allows them to break free.

While this is very much a specialist book aimed at those interested in debates about Marxism and the history of the French Revolution, and as such many readers might be put off, there is much here of interest and Heller makes an excellent defence of his central point, and the importance of Marxism to the study of the Revolution for today.

Related Reviews

Heller - The Birth of Capitalism: A Twenty-First-Century Perspective
Heller - A Marxist History of Capitalism

Jaurès - A Socialist History of the French Revolution
McGarr & Callinicos - Marxism and the Great French Revolution
Birchall - The Spectre of Babeuf