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Review: Memoirs of a Revolutionary – by Victor Serge

memoirs of a revolutionary

This is one of the most remarkable books I have ever read, a first witness account of some of the most important world events of the first half of the twentieth century, a rich period for revolutionary events and the author, Victor Serge, a Belgian born Russian, is perfectly poised to give detailed personal encounters with many of the key protagonists. Serge is a revolutionary, who participates in the Russian Revolution from 1919 as a core Bolshevik. He meets and works with Lenin and Trotsky and his European roots make him critical to the emerging infrastructure of Soviet Russia. Serge writes often with a critical frankness of the core movements of which he is part, a fact that later endangers him as (correctly identified by the author) the Revolution seeps into Totalitarianism, culminating in the great Stalinist Purges of the 1930s. Initially the book flirts with the rising tide of working class socialism in Western Europe. Paris is a hotbed for leading international figures of the Left. Later, in Barcelona, Serge makes key contacts that will come into fruition for his analyses of the Spanish Civil War. From there he embarks for his never seen before motherland (his family were anti-Tsarist exiles). The post 1917 revolution is enduring its honeymoon, yet the whole survival of the Bolsheviks comes within a blink of an eye as the Civil War almost leads to their destruction in Petrograd as the Whites make gains. Serge, as he moves up the ranks, rapidly becomes disillusioned with the turn that the Revolution is taking. He warns against the Cheka and GPU. He is a peaceful man and holds onto the non-violent tenets of socialism. Later, when the party splits – Serge is a key figure in the alliance against the Party Centre and Politburo, which culminates in his expulsion from the Party and exile in Orenburg. His suffering in prison shows how lucky he was to retain his life, in a period where the executioner’s bullet was only ever a step away and was freely used. Serge’s fame as an author, especially in France, managed, through international outcry, to keep him and his young family away from the true harshness of life as an exile and ultimately secured his freedom back to Western Europe. The outbreak of world war was predicted by this great political visionary. His tracts against Stalinism often made him an enemy of…

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Review: Catalonia Since The Spanish Civil War – Reconstructing the Nation – by Andrew Dowling

catalonia

This book focuses on the study of the important Spanish region of Catalonia in the modern age. Catalonia has a strong claim to being an independent state, dating back to its time as the Kingdom of Aragon. There is a unique Catalan language and the region has a culture of its own, independent to that of the main Castilian Spanish national one. In wake of recent events in Catalonia, that occurred after this book was released, this book becomes ever more important to study in order for us to fully understand the political processes that are now occurring in Catalonia and their causes. Catalonia was a key thorn in the foot of Franco and the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War and during the ensuing Franco dictatorship, he never forgot the Catalan betrayal. Inherent to Francoism was oppression of regionalist identities within Spain. Under Franco, Catalanism went underground. There was suppression of the language and I found it strange how the main thrust of survival of Catalanism was to found within the Catholic church, an institution that, in particular, during the Spanish Civil War, encountered a fierce enemy in the Catalan people and experienced one of the most excessive repressions of the church by any area during its history, with many churches burnt and priests killed. Catalan liturgies and church literature ensured the survival of the language and the culture was empowered by Vatican support. Montserrat and its role in society in terms of Catalan national identity became intertwined. In the post-Franco era, there has been a resurgence in Catalanism. A degree of autonomy has been granted and widespread recovery of culture has developed, with Catalan being taught again and used in schools and an alternative centre of power to the central Madrid government has emerged in the Generalitat, its key figure in its foundation being long term president, Jordi Pujol. In the modern age, immigration of initially non-Catalan speakers from other areas of Spain, and then non-Spaniards, has created issues for integration within wider Catalan society. Catalonia is a powerful and wealthy industrial region that gives away about 10% of its GDP to Madrid with no return. Politically it tends to lean towards bourgeois values although working class organisation and unionisation has played an important role. There has been an ongoing rally for votes within Catalan politics between middle-right Nationalists and Socialists / Communists. The book’s epilogue explores the…

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Adieu Liverpool Lu!

  Well, it was just one summer of speculation too far… After a cracking year of retained services at Liverpool we finally lost our talismanic striker, Luis Suarez, to the grandeur of the Catalan giants, Barcelona. It was a difficult summer… What with the failure of the homegrown boys to get anywhere in the tournament, Luis went for one bite more than he could chew….AGAIN. His behaviour brought shame to our club for not the first time, even though his bite on the Italian, Giorgio Chiellini, was committed in his national colours of Uruguay. He was facing a lengthy ban from not just international football but would have been absent for the first few months of our domestic season. After his early World Cup bath, he started to chew on some humble pie, apologising for the shameful incident, just enough for his proposed move to Barca to go through… With all the release clause details having been clarified when he signed a new contract last year, all Barca had to do was come in with the necessary coin. Luis parted company with Liverpool to the tune of £75 million, netting us just over £50 million in profit. I was hoping he’d stay on, especially as we now have the desired Champions League football that Luis himself so desired. His goals last year were special and I cannot see how anyone can bag so many from such a varied amount of positions. He was an individual player and I feel he was ‘on the rise’ so to speak, as a professional world-beating striker…. in Liverpool colours. In four seasons at Liverpool he bagged 69 goals in 110 appearances, a strong record, making him among our most prolific ever goal-scorers. As much as I wanted him to stay, I can see exactly why Brendan Rodgers has moved on and got rid. Luis’ behaviour does no good to the reputation of Liverpool. one bad incident is provocative enough but it is clear from experience that Luis has issues which make him a liability. Could we afford the repercussions of his next misdemeanour? Is it possible to reach the heights of a football club when your star player is banned for several months each season? It could be argued that were last season’s ban not in place we would have won the league comfortably. Close season after close season of transfer speculation is just too…

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