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Book Reviews

Making Plans for Nigel by Harry Paterson (Five Leaves, £7.99)

making-plans-for-nigelMeet Nigel (Farage, that is … just in case the slightly satirical Martin Rowson cover art didn’t tip you off): he’s head honcho of a political party enamoured of the tub-thumping xenophobic John Bull rhetoric so beloved of the BNP, EDL and Britain First … only he’d like you to believe that UKIP is libertarian. Farage is a privately educated millionaire ex-banker who used to be a Tory fund-raiser and is on the record as describing himself as the only politician in Britain keeping the flame of Thatcherism alive … only he’d like you to think of him as a beer-quaffing friend to the working class. His party’s ranks are tumescent with racists, misogynists, homophobes and the downright stupid (“what happens when renewable energy runs out”, anyone?) … only he’d like you to rationalise their rampant bigotry as the laughable gaffes of a few eccentrics who somehow slipped through the screening process.

Another title for Harry Paterson’s new book might have been Making Sense of Nigel. There are massive contradictions between Farage’s public persona and his background; likewise between his undoubted appeal to a largely underprivileged demographic and the entitled elitist attitudes espoused by the phalanx of ex-Tories, be they embarrassments (Neil Hamilton) or defectors (Douglas Carswell), who fill key UKIP positions. Just as there are massive inconsistencies in the grab-bag of pre-election promises that constitute the “mission statement” on UKIP’s website. As Paterson points out on more than one occasion, with less than a month and half until the general election, UKIP has yet to publish anything resembling a manifesto.

Subject Farage and UKIP to any degree of scrutiny and they’re almost beyond satire. But, as Paterson notes in the opening chapter, Farage is merely employing Boris Johnson’s deliberately bumptious self-deprecation routine, albeit on a far more populist level. Buffoonish as Johnson is, he still looks and sounds upper class; Farage tempers his version with a regular-bloke-down-the-pub immediacy. And while many of his generals are pitifully stupid (Godfrey Bloom and Julia Gasper in particular demonstrate a committed disinclination to cerebral activity), Farage himself is no fool and Paterson rightly warns that it would be disingenuous to underestimate him. However thin his chances of actually gaining Number Ten may be, there can be no doubt that Farage has almost single-handedly reshaped the contemporary political landscape; and with both mainstream parties attempting to “out-Farage Farage” instead of challenging the UKIP mindset, the dangers are self-evident.

Harry Paterson’s last book for Five Leaves, Look Back in Anger: the Miners’ Strike in Nottinghamshire, took a scalpel to three decades of lies and distortion surrounding what was arguably the most important socio-political act of resistance in post-war British history. In Making Plans for Nigel, that same scalpel cuts clean and true through spin, confusion and media hyperbole. Paterson lays bare all that is rotten in the house of UKIP (and there is plenty of rot), as well as firing a broadside against the ineffectuality of Ed Miliband’s Labour. Chances of Ed reading this book and having a “road to Damascus” epiphany? Probably slim to none, but one can hope. In just a few weeks we go to the polls. Making Plans for Nigel could not be any more timely.

Neil Fulwood

 

Fug You, an informal history of Peace Eye Bookstore, the Fuck You Press, the Fugs and Counterculture in the Lower East Side, by Ed Sanders (Da Capo, £17.99)

FugI came to adulthood just after the 1960s, at the tail end of the Vietnam War, and like many of my generation regret having just missed out on the 1960s. Though I was fined £1 in Glasgow for flyposting against the war, which still raged, the main countercultural changes in the USA, the draft resistance, the Civil Rights Movement, flower power were all over.

Not that I’d like to live through a war like Vietnam again or to have to fight segregation and there were terrible things within the counterculture – another Ed Sanders book was about The Manson Family. In this book he gives his take on the 1960s, a detailed history. Sanders was, with Tuli Kupferberg, the main character in The Fugs, a political rock’n’roll band, and a poet. He was the proprietor of the Peace Eye Bookstore, the editor of Fuck You magazine, a friend of everyone from Janis Joplin to Allen Ginsberg. And when he came to Britain he visited Stonehenge with the poet Michael Horovitz, who I know, which makes me only two steps of separation from Janis Joplin!

Ah, the 60s. This was a period, under Johnson’s Great Society when he introduced “Medicare, Medicaid, the Freedom of Information Act, the Voting Rights Act, a law setting aside millions of acres of public land as permanent wilderness, and [his] executive order on affirmative action.  … At the same time Johnson started up a ground and air war in Vietnam – with napalm, Agent Orange, fragmentation bombs… ” In response The Fugs tried to levitate the White House with the chant “Out, demons, out”.

Ed Sanders lived through it all, but more, in that he was a living link between the Beat generation of Jack Kerouac and the hippie era. Unfortunately, from this bookseller’s point of view, his promised history of the Peace Eye Bookstore is missing. Though the shop is constantly referred to we are left no wiser about what it stocked, other than at one stage he turned the shop over “to the community”. On his next visit he “noted that there were a lot of books in the garbage cans out front.” He was told that “the needed the wall space for psychedelic designs” and the floors were covered in mattresses as “what the community needed was space to crash”. Never anyone suggest Five Leaves is turned over to the community… At least he mentions a book party for the launch of Abbie Hoffman’s Revolution for the Hell of It. 

Apart from campaigning against the Vietnam War and trying to make a hit record Sanders campaigned for the legalisation of marijuana. Drugs were important to him and campaigns for legalisation took up much of his time. That had its dangers – the poet John Sinclair got ten years for supplying a couple of joints “to an undercover cop in Detroit who was pretending to be a volunteer from the Committee to Legalise Marijuana”. The drug parts of the book reminded me of the tedious parts of the counterculture, in Sanders case also hanging round with people who injected harder drugs and who used amphetamines. In my day I was partial to the odd joint (who wasn’t?) but making it the centre of your life seems pretty boring.

Having not read much about the counterculture of late, what is also striking is the awful, awful sexism of the men. Save for his comments that he would not have been so positive about the use of needles  in the Fuck You artwork – Sanders reports what happened, often in great detail and with lots of archive and fugitive material, without  judgement. I found it hard not to be judgemental. I’m glad I read the book but will not be rushing out to find his nine volume verse history of America.

Ross Bradshaw

 

Getting By: Estates, Class and Culture in Austerity Britain by Lisa McKenzie (Policy Press, £14.99)

GettingByIt is 30 years since the end of the Miners’ Strike in March and looking back, for those of us who were involved, has been a mixture of being amazed by what happened during that year and being angry when we look around at the state of Britain in 2015.

Lisa McKenzie’s family were part of that struggle. She grew up in north Nottinghamshire, part of an honourable tradition of the mining community: she is from a family where generations were miners and during the 84/5 strike her mum was chair of the Women Against Pit Closures. In her new book she tells the story of the St. Ann’s Estate where she went to live as a single parent. We get an insider’s viewpoint of what life has been like for her community over the last 20 years.

It is a story from the inside, but also one that aims to challenge the simplistic and uncomplicated way that council estate life is often represented.”

Like many working class people, including myself, she was brought up with a belief that she was just as good as anyone else; “I knew I was working class, and I had been taught that we were the backbone of the country, strong and proud, and it never occurred to me that ‘others’ did not think the same.”

Lisa left school at 16, became a single parent at 19, and later on went onto an Access course at the local college. “Like most working class women I wanted to do something more worthwhile with my life – I thought I could do more than make tights in a factory….I wanted to work in my community, to give something back.”

It was while she was at University she found out that her estate had been the subject of research in the 60s by Ken Coates and Bill Silburn (Poverty: the Forgotten Englishmen, 1970) and this led to her changing her study from social work to social policy. In 2010 she completed her PHD and in 2015 she published this book. “This book is the outcome of nine years’ academic research; it is the fruits of that labour, and the fruition of my goal, to tell my own story of council estate life.”

Today council estates are seen as the epitome of everything wrong in society and as Lisa points out: “The council estate appears to have become the symbol of the Conservative Party’s vision of what ‘Broken Britain’ looks like.”

She shows how the reality is that it is the consequences of long term disadvantage and inequality that has affected the lives of the poor and working class in neighbourhoods such as St. Ann’s. It is not just about the economic dimensions of inequality but the cultural dimensions of how people are looked down upon and the effect that this has on their lives.

The St. Ann’s estate is north of Nottingham. Nottingham has been until recently a thriving industrial city:built on the wealth of coal mining, manufacturing and engineering it attracted a new proletariat to work in the mills, factories and mines. New Town, or as it is now called St. Ann’s, was the place where these people went to live. Over the years it attracted people from all over the country, as well as immigrants from eastern Europe. Ireland, and Jamaica. Lisa says; “Very rarely is a city’s history mapped through the everyday lives of those who have gone unacknowledged for generations, and who are still barely acknowledged today, and even then only through reports showing their “lack of ” everything from education, employment, culture and morality.”

Getting By is a fascinating book because we sit with Lisa as she talks to individuals and groups of women and men about their lives on the estate. We discover what it has meant to women and men who are the descendants of Irish and Jamaican families, we learn about the lives of the men who no longer can be part of the workforce and how they deal with it, and the problems of money and drugs.

She has no problem in defining where the problem is – and it is not the people of St. Ann’s;
“What does exist here, in Nottingham, and within communities across the UK, where the poorest people live, are hardships caused by the consequences of structural inequality, a political system that does not engage those who have the least power, disenfranchisement relating to the notion of fairness regarding their families and their communities.”

Lisa is proud of her working class credentials and her academic career but she is firmly on the side of her community. In the General Election she is standing against Ian Duncan Smith, Conservative Party Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, one of the chief architects of the ongoing war against some of the poorest members of society. Let’s hope he knows what he is up against!

Bernadette Hyland (subscribe to her weekly newsletter – Lipstick Socialist)

Hope, a playscript by Jack Thorne (Nick Hern, £9.99)

I confess I did not buy this as a book, but as the £3.00 programme for the play just ended at the Royal Court in London. This relatively new form of programme is so much better than the empty and overpriced brochures full of ads for posh preparatory schools and makes publishing playscripts much more economic. And if you have a train journey home you can read the playscript of the play you saw the same day. Which I did, and was surprised how many changes were made in the play compared to the playscript – including dropping and adding some lines and entire mini-scenes. The performance was fresh in my mind so I could spot the changes. In this case, save for the very last line being missing from the play the changes were improvements. But it is still a good playscript.

The story is of how a set of councillors in a small, working-class northern town copes with the government cuts, responds to a community campaign to save a day centre before deciding whether to make a grand gesture by refusing to set a budget, and stepping out into the unknown. And the cuts are awful. Says Sanwar “Hart Council in Hampshire, the least deprived local authority – net loss of these cuts £28 per person – while in Liverpool District B, the most deprived local authority – net loss £807 per person. How does that not make you want to tear someone’s throat out?” The interlinked personal lives of the councillors form the backdrop of the story, with other characters being an adult with learning difficulties whose day centre is at risk and a former council leader who believes that “Idealism is dead. Solidarity is dead. It’s been destroyed by pragmatism and hatred and shame.” It might be in many, perhaps most, Labour councils throughout the land – other councils are barely mentioned – but here are a group of honest men and women trying to work out what to do for the best. It’s a good play, and a good playscript, and should be read by every Labour councillor or anyone, and that should be everyone, who cares about how local democracy and functioning local economies can continue to work under the onslaught.

Ross Bradshaw

Women Against Fundamentalism: stories of dissent and solidarity, edited by Sukhwant Dhaliwal and Nira Yuval-Davis (Lawrence and Wishart, £17.99)

Women_against_fundamentalismIn the mid-80s, for my sins, I joined the Labour Party in Nottingham. Several inner-city wards were riven by two competing Kashmiri factions, groups of men who voted as a block depending on what their leader said. These whipped votes were, at times, obeyed by “members” who did not speak English and who had little idea what they were voting for. I say “members” because often their membership was paid for them by their wealthy leaders. Kashmiri women were almost entirely absent. In return, Nottingham Labour parcelled out favours to these “community leaders”. Similar things were going on nationally, not just with Kashmiris, and not just with Labour. Community leaders could get some of what they wanted by packing meetings and delivering the votes come election time.

It was something of a tradition – in certain areas it used to be the Irish, now it was the Kashmiris, Bangladeshis and, in some areas, strictly Orthodox Jews.

In the outside world there were some feminist women from ethnic minorities who were less than keen on these, invariably male, community leaders. After 1989 these women came together as Women Against Fundamentalism. Many had already been in local groups such as Southhall Black Sisters or in distinct ethnic groups, but WAF brought together women of Hindi, Muslim, Jewish, Irish Catholic and other backgrounds who had a history of opposing communalism and religious orthodoxy and could see the similar patterns across different communities.

Women Against Fundamentalism waxed and waned and waxed and waned again. This book marks the end of WAF as a campaigning group, but draws together many of their members’ individual stories and revisits the many campaigns they fought.

The group was sometimes seen as “anti-Muslim”, which was convenient, but a quick look at the individual stories contained here shows how wide the group’s background was and the wide canvas on which members operated.

What marks out the stance of many members is that while many of them did work and campaign within general groups – CND, Israel/Palestine or whatever – they chose to remain within their communities rather than become outsiders. The first choice was often personal, as Sukhwant Dhaliwal puts it “On not becoming a Southall Stepford wife”.

Since the high water mark of WAF some things have changed for the better – the power of the Catholic church in Ireland has been much reduced whereas there really are UK supporters of the Islamic State and, hilariously, some people are currently boycotting the Jewish Chronicle because it is not just not right wing enough.

Just as the current wave of feminism in dominated by young women, it feels (to this male outsider) that we would all benefit for a new wave of women against fundamentalism. This book provides a fascinating and personal history on which to draw.

Ross Bradshaw

 

Britain’s Communists: the untold story by John Green (Artery, £9.99)

I71nA8qx72UL._SY600_ am not, and never have been a Communist, but some of my best friends over the years have been. At its height the Communist Party of Great Britain had 60,000 members and even at its dissolution there were over 6000. The continuing organisation – the Communist Party of Britain has around 1000 members and, beyond its good daily paper (the Morning Star) has little influence. John Green, rather than analysing the twists and turns of Party policy, looks at the influence the Party and its members had over the decades.

The author tells the story thematically, including the struggle against fascism, the peace movement, the women’s movement, internationalism, among professional workers and, “the main focus”, within trade unions. The book comes alive in looking at the Party’s influence on literature and culture, on books, the stage and film. I’m not sure whether the arts were over-represented within the CP but certainly it had active members of import ranging from the lyricist Lionel Bart , the playwright Arnold Wesker through to critics such as Raymond Williams and many fine novelists and poets. Not all stayed with the Party of course but in arts, the trade unions and elsewhere the Party had influence beyond its numbers.

Over the past few years there has been much more attention given to the history of the CP. This book is a readable and worthwhile addition.

Ross Bradshaw

The Village Against the World by Dan Hancox (Verso, £9.99)

village against the worldIt seems appropriate to have read this book on the train back from celebrating the Liverpool bookshop News from Nowhere’s fortieth birthday party, since the shop and the village of Marinaleda, the subject of this book, share a utopian vision.

In the case of Marinaleda, the residents of this Andalusian pueblo turned their despair at poverty and landlessness into anger, occupied land near them and campaigned for land reform. Eventually the regional government quietly bought the land from one of the local mega-estates and passed it to the pueblo. But having the land was just the start. The local council, under the inspired leadership of Sanchez Gordillo, planted the area with crops that were labour intensive and which needed local processing – part of the grand plan which meant that local unemployment hovers around 5% while unemployment in similar pueblos has, in the current crisis, reached 40-50%. Marinaleda – with a population of under 3,000 also has communally built sports and leisure facilities and well-built, self-built, public housing. La Lucha, the struggle, has been waged for thirty-five years, often in the public eye, with mass hunger strikes, demonstrations and occupations to further the cause.  And in turn the village supports other causes, the whole looked down on by murals of Che Guevara and socialist realist imagery.

Throughout, the council has been run by a small, local left wing party, elected and re-elected with substantial majorities. The council also organises cultural activities, rock concerts and decisions are taken by large mass meetings of the whole pueblo in which even children vote. That people are content is indicated by the consistent majority in favour of Gordillo’s party and the absence of crime in the pueblo. Indeed, the council breaks the national law by not employing police – there is no need for them.

Dan Hancox is wise enough as a writer to talk to the opposition, and there is some, though they come across as the kind of grumpy UKIP-types with chips on their shoulders. They moan that they don’t feel comfortable at community events – of course not, if they had their way there would not be any! More worrying is that the village’s progress has been based on the charismatic Gordillo, clearly now ill. Will there be a next generation of Gordillo supporters able to take the community forward? I’d like to think so, but Hancox indicates that young people, who benefit from la lucha but never lived through the hungry years, are attracted by the excitement of the cities.

I read the book in one sitting – train journeys are good for that – and have only three complaints. The first is the author’s overuse of the word unique. OK, the place is unique, and Andelusian culture is unique, and each pueblo is unique…. You get my point. The other is that Verso could have spent a little more on photographs. Elsewhere I’ve seen pictures of, for example, the housing in the pueblo and more images of the public spaces and surrounding countryside. The book gave me a feel for the place, but I wanted to see a bit more utopia while reading about it. My final point is the title, but the reverse is true in Marinaleda as the village is with the world, or at least wants a better one. 

Ross Bradshaw

North Korea: state of paranoia by Paul French (Zed, £12.99)

NorthKoreaIf I was offered a choice of two weeks in a caravan in Mablethorpe or an all expenses paid fortnight in Pyongyang it would be a hard choice, but for a tiny group of British communists Mablethorpe would face instant rejection. Surprisingly, even now, the intellectual descendants of those who checked out the weather report on Radio Moscow, pored over tractor production statistics in Ukraine, took the side of China in the Sino-Soviet split, struggled with the pronunciation of Enver Hoxha when it was time to move on to Albania believe that North Korea, run by a hereditary dictatorship, is a socialist paradise. Even after Kim Jong-un offed his uncle that’s OK by them. The number of such people – followers of the “Juche” theorie of Jong-un’s granddad – is tiny, but a lesson to us all in showing why we should avoid hitching our wagon to some foreign state about which, really, we know nothing.

Anyone reading Paul French’s book on North Korea must surely despair that anything good can come out of this. He analyses the history of the regime, its changing fortunes (prior to mass starvation, it was actually doing quite nicely), its armaments, economics, the possibilities of reform and its relationship with the outside world. The three countries that matter to it are, of course, South Korea, China and America. The big issue is nuclear. Feeling constantly under threat, and in need of a bargaining chip, North Korea has armed itself to the teeth. Most countries do, but perhaps the lesson of Iraq is that such rogue states feel that they do need weapons of mass destruction to protect themselves. Or is the nuclear option simply a bargaining chip to ensure that the hateful West continues to bail out the country by giving aid?

Paul French tells us all that we need to know about North Korea, but one line stands out: according to the Seoul government North Korea (or more correctly the Democratic Republic of People’s Korea) need only reduce their arms spend by 5% to resolve the country’s food crisis.

Ross Bradshaw

Look Back in Anger: the miners’s strike in Nottinghamshire – 30 years on by Harry Paterson (Five Leaves, £9.99)

Paterson-Harry-LookBackInAngerOn 5th March 1984, following an Area ballot, Cortonwood pit in South Yorkshire came out on strike against the government’s proposed schedule of colliery closures. A domino effect followed, with the Yorkshire, South Wales and Scotland coalfields voting locally to strike. The much-repeated assertion that NUM President Arthur Scargill called for a national strike for reasons of political hubris is the first of many fallacies that Harry Paterson’s timely and unflinchingly powerful book explodes. Likewise the incessant right-wing carping, which continues to this day, that Scargill refused a national ballot; actually, a democratic vote at Conference went against it. The fact that the majority of miners in the UK were already out on strike at this point kind of speaks for itself.

Thirty years down the line, the miners’ strike remains a raw and emotional subject. Particularly in the Midlands. Every Nottinghamshire pit, most of them by a significant majority, voted to keep working. (Leicestershire demonstrated an equally pro-management stance; read David Bell’s The Dirty Thirty: Heroes of the Miners’ Strike, also published by Five Leaves, for a stirring account of the few men who stuck to their principles and supported their union.) A generation later, communities – families, even – remain divided. That is, where communities exist at all. The aftermath of Thatcher’s deliberate offensive against trade unionism is a country stripped of industry; a country of mass unemployment, of harsh class division, where a job for life is a thing of your father’s, or even your grandfather’s, generation.

My grandfather worked at Annesley. He was born in the last years of the 1800s. He was out in the Great Strike of 1926. He obviously died before the 1984/85 strike. I don’t want to conjecture about what he would have thought of the strike-breaking Notts majority. Even now, reading Paterson’s account, a sense of shame pervades. But to Paterson’s credit Look Back in Anger is more than just Scab: The Book. The opening chapters establish a history of mining and trade unionism in Britain, contrapuntally sketching in Nottinghamshire’s gravitation towards Spencerism and trying to define the prevalent social causes for such a move. Paterson progresses to a labyrinthine tour of the complex functionality of the NUM which – as the strike progresses and the union is increasingly besieged by Thatcherism, the media and the manipulated shift in public opinion – eventually sees the Nottinghamshire Area form the breakaway Union of Democratic Mineworkers. Paterson lays bare the political manoeuvring and dirty tricks that eased the UDM into being in a series of revelations as gripping as any thriller.

It would be disingenuous to suggest that Paterson is anything but on the striking miners’ side, but the steady accretion of new evidence, accounts and documents pertaining to the strike – culminating in papers released earlier this year under the Thirty Years’ Rule – leave no cause for doubt. Thatcher secretly marked 75 more pits for closure than were publicly mooted. At the time, Scargill called her plans “the thin end of the wedge”: history vindicates him.

Look Back in Anger (the title borrowed from John Osborne) is aptly named. To read it is to get mad. Mad at what happened back then. Mad at the fact that it’s still happening now. But the book is also studded with moments which illustrate all that is good and decent in working class men and women. One particular anecdote sums up the principles of solidarity and community that the striking miners were fighting for. A Newstead miner who’d spent his entire adult life at the coalface was on the cusp of reaping well-deserved redundancy benefits. Conflicted by management threats vis-à-vis loss of benefits vs kinship with his striking workmates, the strikers backed him wholeheartedly in returning to work; he saw out his stint, and contributed all his pay pay packets to the strike fund.

Neil Fulwood 

 

Anarchists Against the Wall, edited by Uri Gordon and Ohal Grietzer (AK Press, £9)

anarchistswallSome years ago, a friend who lived in Belfast at the height of the war n Ireland said that she would see news coverage of the riots and shootings on the television and have to pinch herself to remember that she lived in the same city. She lived peacefully in an area quite untroubled by the war. I was reminded of this reading Anarchists Against the Wall as one contributor referred to those Israelis who feel no need to think about the occupation while sitting in a coffee shop or eating hummus in Jaffa. The one difference is that the man and woman in the Jaffa cafe have almost certainly been in the Israeli Defence Forces, or have children who have been, or children who will be. Yet the number of Israelis prepared to take action over “the situation” – hamatsáv – is few, especially at the cutting edge of protest against “the wall”. For many, emigration is a way out, with perhaps a million Israelis living abroad.

For a small number of Israelis, a life of permanent protest is the only option, Anarchists Against the Wall (AATW) being one of the most active organisations. In this short book AATW members outline their history and actions. The book is split between reprinting some AATW leaflets and a longer, and more interesting, section of personal accounts by activists. AATW began, formally, in 2003. The group rejects lobbying, electoral efforts and “interfaith” dialogue in favour of direct action and civil disobedience having “let go the coat-tails of the Zionist left” to work with the “popular committees” of Palestinians on the West Bank, especially at Bil’in and Ni’lin, on the weekly demonstrations against the wall. While twenty Palestinians have been killed in these types of demonstrations, AATW members have had no fatalities but share in being teargassed and being shot at by rubber bullets, and occasional live ammunition. They accept that they cannot be equal partners in resisting the occupation – Israelis can go home or drop out of activity at any time – but their solidarity actions give them “an opportunity to cross the barriers of national allegiance.”

The book is primarily about the group’s day to day activities, though demonstrations against the war in Gaza are also mentioned, with some reference to individual involvement in campaigns against gentrification within Israel, within the social movements and actions in solidarity with refugees. To the Israeli right AATW activists are traitors, more so to those who (shockingly) describe the 1967 Green Line as the “Auschwitz borders” to justify Israeli expansion. AATW has little time for groups like Peace Now, which have faded anyway after the failure of Oslo. One contributor remarks “So we give up on these people. Our statements [at general peace demonstrations] are not meant to communicate but to rage and keep us going.”

In exchange “Radical activists in Israel/Palestine run from one action to the next. It feels like everything is urgent.” Another writes “We hardly ever bother with promoting our various grand-scheme-of-things ideas. Once the occupation is behind us, we will have the luxury to discuss our diverse opinions.” A further contributor adds “Personally, I do not think I will see the end of the occupation in my lifetime — I am thirty years old.” Yet another, “’When the occupation ends. . . . ‘ How many times have we said this to ourselves, fantasizing over a future paradise, while becoming more and more cynical and disillusioned with each passing year. Today we know better. The occupation is not going to end; it is here to stay.”

Little wonder that the group is subject to burn out. One chapter is devoted to trauma, with some activists showing genuine symptoms of post-traumatic stress due their regular exposure to violence.

Some Jewish critics of Israel  will have found it difficult to speak of their views within the formal Jewish community, if involved in it, or within traditional Jewish families brought up on Zionism. For some Israelis, becoming a dissident means isolation from friends and family. “Like others, I have gradually lost contact with most of my friends from home. Some of us cannot deal with the confrontations and so we drift apart.” Whilst most Palestinians welcome Israeli Jews taking part in their struggle, others question this. “A local Palestinian farmer stopped me and bluntly asked what I was doing there. Why, for example, was I not in Tel Aviv talking to Israelis, or demonstrating outside the Knesset or prime minister’s house? I did not have a decent answer for him, but I did not go to another demonstration for three years, although I did not confront Israeli society either. I just left the country.”

I admire what AATW does, and would encourage people to read this book, yet I was left with a feeling of unease. So many of the contributors felt little hope for the future, and the weekly demonstrations clearly take their toll (exactly why the IDF comes down so hard on those taking part). Some of the writers remarked on how isolated they felt from all their fellow Israelis, how difficult it was, even, to take part in joint campaigns on other issues. Yet in the book there is only a passing reference to the International Solidarity Movement, which operates in similar territory, and no mention of, for example, Gush Shalom (the radical peace bloc), B’Tselem (the Israeli human rights organisation, active against the occupation), the soldiers’ movement Breaking the Silence, the Israeli Coalition Against House Demolitions or any other group which might not share AATW’s anarchist views but are on the same side. I wonder how much of the isolation is self-imposed. The book left me wanting to know more.

Ross Bradshaw

A version of this review will shortly appear in Jewish Socialist magazine