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Review: Atatürk – The Rebirth of a Nation – by Patrick Kinross

Atatürk

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was from humble beginnings. He lived through a critical period of Turkish history, witnessing the decline and fall of the Ottoman Empire and making it possible for the modern secular, Western-focused nation state of Turkey to phoenix itself from the Ashes. Atatürk was a military man and although very lucky, his innovative and dedicated intellect assisted in him being Turkeys only undefeated senior commander during World War 1 and their last bastion of defence as plunderers tried to savage the imperial remnants of the Ottomans. A weak caliph and a corrupted government, led for quite some time by leaders of the Young Turks, were features that led to Atatürk’s politicisation. Eventually, after a civil war, he would set up a new Anatolian capital in Ankara and slowly tried to seep away power and influence from the decadence of Constantinople or Istanbul. Atatürk, was a workaholic. It left him little time for family. He was dependent on alcohol and this would eventually cause his premature death. As power grew within him he could often display treachery towards his old friends and allies, and it was in Atatürk a certain sense of ego that caused some of the more irrational yet adventurous moves in both his career as a soldier and later as a global politician. The man was undoubtedly remarkable and is one of the most colourful and indeed successful people from the early twentieth century. To this day in modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s legacy lives on.

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Review: Mao Tse-tung on Guerrilla Warfare

mao tse-tung on guerrilla warfare

Having covered Che Guevara’s thoughts on Guerrilla Warfare I was keen to visit those of Chairman Mao. After guiding the Communist Party on its 6000 mile Long March across China, Mao Tse-tung united with Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist forces in order to repel the Imperial Japanese invader that had set up in the North and East of China, a China that was semi-feudal and semi-colonial. Mao emphasises the need of self discipline within Guerrilla bands and lays clear in this treatise the necessity of political indoctrination and unity within Guerrilla forces. The emphasis is constantly on attack, often to the enemy’s rear and withdrawal and dispersal of small Guerrilla bands is encouraged. The rules of Guerrilla warfare are quite laid out clearly and concisely and it is apparent how Maoist thought inspired later guerrilla movements across the globe including, for example, the Senderoso Luminoso or “Shining Path” of Peru. In terms of revolutionary ideology this is an essential text for the practical application of revolutionary warfare. The appendices at the conclusion of the text contains some very neat diagrammatic representations of the structure of Guerrilla forces and is a useful reference tool.

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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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Seminar Presentation: A History of French Labour – 29.11.17

Today I gave a seminar presentation on the History of French Labour and below is the 15 slide presentation I prepared on Powerpoint for the seminar.   History of French Labour – Seminar 29.11.17   The history, present and future of the French labour movement: continued division, contestation and weakness?   History 1789 Revolution creates a strong Jacobin State, characteristic of the French government until the present day. (An archetypical dirigiste state) Original Revolution plus three subsequent 19th century revolutions (July Monarchy, Second Empire, Third Republic) all tend to use the working class / masses to ignite the fire of revolution but ultimately all favour bourgeois ideals. Industrialization France is relatively late in comparison with its European neighbours to undergo the industrial revolution. When it does industrialize, it maintains a large peasant element in rural areas and the emerging working class are concentrated in certain northern regions and in the big cities The Nature of the French People Due to the Jacobin structure of government, intermediary bodies between the state and the people are not encouraged. Also, the French people have a genuine disinterest in ‘signing-up’ to large groups / organizations although they do have Nationalistic tendencies when it comes to State interests. This leads to the small membership numbers of Trade Unions. Trade Unions 1791 Le Chapelier Law – Outlaws Trade Unions Trade Unions eventually legalized in 1884 Right to strike recognized in 1864, before Unions were legal. Working class solidarity not encouraged at all and there has always been conflict in any attempts for the Labour movement to organize itself. Trade Unions Union membership always been traditionally low, rising to a peak of about a third of employees following 1968 Strikes. Today’s membership figures are only around 7% of workforce. Union membership, however not essential to the way they work in France and their core members are good at propelling the workforce into strike action. Lowest Union density in Western World Collective Bargaining coverage, however, is very high at 95%, much higher than international economic competitors. Trade Unions CGT Confédération Générale du Travail CFTC Confédération Française des Travailleurs Chrétiens CFDT Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail CFE-CGC Confédération Française de l’Encadrement – Confédération Générale des Cadres FO – Force Ouvrière Others – SUD – Solitaires Unitaires Démocratiques –CNT – Confédération Nationale du Travail –FSU – Fédération Syndicale Unitaire   Employers There is a Paternalistic approach to employees Many of…

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Review: A Social History of France in the 19th Century – by Christophe Charle

This is a translation from the original French and as such I feel that sometimes reads a little strangely as an academic study in that it sometimes has an unusual technique for presenting ideas. It is quite rich in statistics and sometimes the data can be overwhelming. The book is neatly broken down into chapters which focus on the different effects during multiple time periods on the individual classes which compromised 19th century French society. It is clear that each of the revolutions that occurred during this period, even though often initially driven by the lower classes, all had a tendency to ultimately favour the bourgeois status quo among society’s political elite. Even though peasants and working class often bore the brunt of society’s effects, it is also apparent from the study that by the end of the century, in particular during the Belle Epoque, living conditions and standards had actually risen. France caught up with the rest of the Western world in terms of its industrialisation and a more cohesive labour movement gradually improved the lot of wage earners. France moved during three major periods during the nineteenth century. We have the July Monarchy, the Second Empire and the Third Republic. There are good regional examples of the different events that form the country’s social history. I particularly enjoyed the details about various industrial regions such as the mining districts and also the variations across the land from North and South. It is a worthy read, even if sometimes this book does get bogged down in detail.

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Review: A Social History of France in the 19th Century – by Christophe Charle

a social history of france

This is a translation from the original French and as such I feel that sometimes reads a little strangely as an academic study in that it sometimes has an unusual technique for presenting ideas. It is quite rich in statistics and sometimes the data can be overwhelming. The book is neatly broken down into chapters which focus on the different effects during multiple time periods on the individual classes which compromised 19th century French society. It is clear that each of the revolutions that occurred during this period, even though often initially driven by the lower classes, all had a tendency to ultimately favour the bourgeois status quo among society’s political elite. Even though peasants and working class often bore the brunt of society’s effects, it is also apparent from the study that by the end of the century, in particular during the Belle Epoque, living conditions and standards had actually risen. France caught up with the rest of the Western world in terms of its industrialisation and a more cohesive labour movement gradually improved the lot of wage earners. France moved during three major periods during the nineteenth century. We have the July Monarchy, the Second Empire and the Third Republic. There are good regional examples of the different events that form the country’s social history. I particularly enjoyed the details about various industrial regions such as the mining districts and also the variations across the land from North and South. It is a worthy read, even if sometimes this book does get bogged down in detail.

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