May 1968: the revolution retains its magnetic allure

A Stone Roses album, a Hari Kunzru novel, a Gucci ad campaign ... 50 years after the events of May 1968, our writer reflects on how the ideas and energy of that moment live on today

We are now as far from the events of 1968 as the people involved were from the end of the first world war. Cliche has long since reduced much of what occurred to “student revolt”, but that hardly does these happenings justice, partly because it ignores the workers’ strikes that were just as central to what occurred during ’68 and the years that followed, but also because the phrase gets nowhere near the depth and breadth of what young people were rebelling against, not least in France.

This was the last time that a developed western society glimpsed the possibility of revolution focused not just on institutions, but the contestation of everyday reality, which is ...

Rise by Liam Young review – how Jeremy Corbyn inspired the young

A Corbyn aide sets out to explain the ‘youth surge’ on the left, but though the surge is real, and important, the book is uninspiring

Every few years, an event hits the radical bookshops. A clutch of new writers appear, telling you the story and how it will change everything. A typical book might have a cover with a clenched fist, and it might be called, for instance, Rise. Then the movements fail, and the books join each other in the bargain basements. For the British left, the snap election of June 2017 really was an event, and an ecstatic one – a sudden, thumping statement that enthusiasm and anger mattered more than media and received opinion. Helped by a massive youth swing leftwards, 40% of those who voted supported Jeremy Corbyn’s bid to become prime minister – 10% more than for Gordon Brown or Ed Miliband, and only 2% ...

A Party with Socialists in It review – Labour’s left from the 19th century to Corbyn

Simon Hannah’s survey of the left of the party is unsparing and more about unfulfilled promise than Corbynistas may like

In writing about a party as muddled together and misrepresented as Labour, clarity is a powerful weapon. Authors who accurately describe the party’s competing factions and traditions, and the ever shifting balance between them, are relatively rare. They are also a threat to Labour’s many enemies, who have often relied on portraying the party, and the left of it in particular, as a vast but hazy conspiracy.

This pithy book, “intended mainly for those who have been drawn into politics” since Jeremy Corbyn stood for leader, aims to “introduce the major historical struggles” of the Labour left and “explain what was at stake”. Simon Hannah is a young leftwing Labour activist, and there is an avuncular foreword from the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell. Yet Hannah’s approach to the Labour left, ...

Mary Wollstonecraft must finally have her statue | Letters

Please join our call to break the ‘bronze ceiling’ and celebrate the extraordinary life and legacy of Mary Wollstonecraft, write men including Jeremy Corbyn, Andrew Adonis, Tom Watson and Vince Cable, actors Jason Isaacs and Sam West and John Hannett of Usdaw

We are joining the call made last International Women’s Day, by over 80 female politicians, academics and public figures, for the pioneering human rights champion Mary Wollstonecraft to be memorialised. Wollstonecraft was the first to call for gender equality, over 250 years ago, when she challenged the male philosophers and politicians of the time, including Burke and Rousseau. She called for women not “to have power over men but over themselves”.

As a key Enlightenment philosopher, her ideas on justice and education have become core values here in Britain and beyond. Her words directly informed Gladstone’s plans for state education in 1870. Mary Wollstonecraft was neither ...

Corbyn by Richard Seymour review – the strange rebirth of radical politics

Seymour investigates how the Labour leader proved doubters wrong – and a collection of essays, The Corbyn Effect, asks what might his government look like?

In these febrile times, writing books about current British politics – and even reviewing them – is a risky business. Richard Seymour’s highly opinionated study of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership, and the circumstances that gave rise to it, was first published in April 2016. Labour were in the low 30s in the polls, a middling-to-mediocre position, and Corbyn’s tenure seemed a bold experiment that was not that likely to succeed. Seymour gave his book, “written in sympathy with Corbyn”, an upbeat subtitle, but his predictions were largely pessimistic. A prolific polemicist in the small but prickly space to the left of the Labour left, and pointedly not a party member, Seymour argued that Corbyn’s leadership would be both too radical for the establishment to tolerate, and ...

The Rise of the Outsiders by Steve Richards – how politicians brought populism on themselves

Although alive to politicians’ mistakes, the author fails to understand why people are seeking an alternative. His heroes are the same old insidersFollowing the surprise result of the general election, a discussion began regarding the failure of political journalists, pundits and pollsters to sense the shifting mood of the electorate. In some respects, this echoed the discussion about the economics profession following the banking crisis of 2008, but there were some key differences. Economists and regulators are expected to make accurate predictions, partly to protect us from catastrophic events. Despite the fun and games of predicting election results, it is silly to place the identical expectation on political analysts. Politics is by nature a deeply uncertain process. What was less forgivable was the acute arrogance of some commentators, who dismissed Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters out of hand – they didn’t even bother to try to understand what might ...

This election is impoverishing language as well as the country

Whether it’s Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn, ‘deals’ or ‘hypothetical questions’, words and meanings are being mangled as polling day looms The most exciting thing about this general election is that it has been as much about the impoverishment of political language as the impoverishment of the country. The Conservatives in particular have been ruthless in deploying only a miraculously stunted vocabulary of emotionally laden but deliberately vague terms. There is “strong and stable leadership”, of course, but there is also “no deal is better than a bad deal”, which Theresa May repeated four times on the Paxman TV non-debate, to audience applause. The line is obviously false, since no deal is the worst possible economic outcome. (“No air is better than bad air,” says mad astronaut.) But the nonsensical, ringing defiance of “no deal is better than a bad deal” seems to resonate with Little Englanders, stoking ...

Terry Eagleton: a lit crit of the party manifestos

‘For the Posh and Powerful, Not For Riff-Raff Like You’ … the critic deconstructs the party promises The title of the Conservative party manifesto is “Forward, Together”, presumably because “Backward, Apart” isn’t much of a vote catcher. The prime minister’s mind-numbing mantra, “strong and stable government” (anyone for the weak and turbulent kind?) crops up twice in consecutive lines on the first page, suggesting that the authors have a rather dim-witted audience in mind. Less blandly, Labour calls its manifesto “For the Many, Not the Few”, cunningly calculating that this might have a wider appeal than “For the Posh and Powerful, Not For Riff-Raff Like You”. Writing these things can’t be easy. You need to talk about the British Coal superannuation scheme surplus while still managing to sound a high moral tone. Party manifestos are part sermon, part technical guide. They must be morally uplifting but down to earth, ...

Making a mess of the iambic pentameter | Letters

A reader’s suggestion that ‘The mess we inherited from Labour’ is an iambic pentameter draws howls of protestHarold Mozley (Letters, 29 April) is wrong. “The mess we inherited from Labour” is an iambic tetrameter, not pentameter = three iambic beats, not five, on three second syllables. “Strong and stable leadership in the national interest” has six trochees = six beats on six first syllables. “Corbyn: the courage of his convictions” has four trochees. Shakespeare used iambic pentameter and everything else he could find and not just for rhetorical effect either.
Chris Hardy
London • “The mess we inherited from Labour” may have 10 syllables, but is far from being an iambic pentameter. In terms of its prosody it’s decidedly messy, with a single iamb followed by a couple of anapaests and a weak final syllable. “Strong and stable leadership” may have only six syllables, but its strength ...

Mugwumps: a wizard way to beat the Tories | Brief letters

Venezuela’s regime | Osprey cam | Mugwumps v Tories | Tees Valley mayor | Grandparental namesThe brief letter on Venezuela from John Pilger et al (Letters, 29 April) refers to widespread fear in the region about a highly improbable US intervention. That is nonsense. If anything related to Venezuela is widespread in Latin America it is concern about how the country is going to rid itself of a dictatorial and corrupt regime that is inflicting great damage and suffering on its people.
Malcolm Deas
St Antony’s College, Oxford • The 128 hours of deer migration being screened on Norwegian TV sounds wonderful (Report, 27 April), but my own personal slow-footage fix is closer to home: the osprey nest on the Dyfi estuary will, all being well, be providing live 24-hour entertainment between now and late August.
Margaret Farnworth
Liverpool Continue reading...

How modern power works: less Game of Thrones, more Black Lives Matter

Social psychologist Dacher Keltner, author of The Power Paradox, says the key to success is changing. The Machiavellian rule of the Lannisters is less effective than ground-up collaboration If you drive a Prius, Dacher Keltner believes, there is an above-average chance that you are not an especially pleasant person. As congenially as he can, he explains how he came to this conclusion as congenially as he can. It is not a hunch. One day, near the Greater Good Science Center that he runs in Berkeley, California, Keltner was riding his bicycle, minding his own business, when a black Mercedes almost hit him. Afterwards, he thought about that moment – the indomitable motorcar paying no heed to the fragile two-wheeler – as a miniature of the power dynamics in daily life, a subject that has occupied his attention for years. “It’s morality and it’s deadly – and there are laws,” he ...

Militant by Michael Crick review – Britain’s successful leftwing sect

The press and the Labour’s right wing are often in a froth about the party being taken over by radical leftists. So is this addictive study of Militant a gift for Corbyn-bashers? Panics about infiltrators are a Labour tradition. In a party made up of disparate elements from the start, in a country where the legitimacy of leftwing radicalism is rarely accepted by the media and wider establishment, it is hardly surprising that subversives, real and imagined, have regularly been spotted burrowing their way into Labour’s loose structures. During the 20s, the party struggled to purge itself of communists, whom Lenin instructed to support Labour “as a rope supports the hanged”. Nowadays, the party’s right wing and its many press allies are in an almost perpetual froth about Labour being “taken over” by left-wingers, whether they are activists of the large new pressure group Momentum or even Jeremy Corbyn himself. ...

Alexei Sayle: ‘Why I’ve decided to join the Labour party then immediately resign’

If Jeremy Corbyn is going to reform the party in his own kindly image, my next act is going to have to be about sandwiches My firmly held conviction had always been that those standup comedians who seek to talk about subject matter outside of the banal observational Live at the Apollo-style nonsense should have absolutely nothing to do with any political party, no matter how much they might support that party’s policies. I am aware that others might not agree. I seem to remember that Eddie Izzard once had plans to run as Labour’s candidate for mayor of London, or maybe he was planning to run as mayor of 11 different cities on 11 different consecutive days in aid of Children in Need, I don’t now recall. Either way, that scheme seems to have gone away while Jimmy Carr sits in the Storting, the Norwegian parliament as ...

Book reviews roundup: Comrade Corbyn; In Other Words; My Name Is Lucy Barton

What the critics thought of Comrade Corbyn by Rosa Prince, In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahrir and My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout Critics from across the political spectrum agreed that there was one fundamental problem with Comrade Corbyn, Rosa Prince’s biography of the Labour leader: a lack of character development. “It is almost as though when young Jeremy first popped his little head out of his mother’s womb he was already sporting a peaked cap and a beard,” wrote Craig Brown in the Mail on Sunday. Though the book was, he thought, “a clear, well researched and fair-minded account of a steadfastly monotone life … As thrillers go, it lacks something. Ah, yes, that’s it: thrills.” Robert Colville, in the Daily Telegraph, also concluded that “Labour’s new leader has always been as he is now”. But Prince’s account was revealing in that “the figure that emerges ...

Comrade Corbyn: A Very Unlikely Coup by Rosa Prince review – a prissy and spiteful analysis with no understanding of the left

Ex-girlfriends, the state of his flat and very little ideological insight … a flawed account of how Jeremy Corbyn stormed to the Labour leadership Rosa Prince, the online political editor for the Telegraph, was an interesting choice for Jeremy Corbyn’s biographer, and when I say “interesting”, of course I mean “perverse”. It is a bit like asking Owen Jones to write a biography of David Cameron: no one would doubt his gusto, but there would be the wrong circle, wrong age, wrong hinterland, no friends of friends of aunts of friends and, crucially, Cameron’s associates would be immensely suspicious of Jones, as Corbyn’s are of Prince. It would avert the danger of a hagiography, but at the cost of any close-quartered insights. All the reminiscence is hacked from articles that have already been published, mostly in the Daily Mail. Prince pores over an incident when Diane Abbott, then Corbyn’s girlfriend, was sighted by ...

How Waterstones thrives minus the sound of muzak | Letters

Your article about the extraordinary turnaround in the fortunes of Waterstones (21 November) omits to mention another reason why so many of us have returned to shop in the store. Soon after he took over, James Daunt reversed the policy of his predecessor and dropped the playing of background music in a large number of Waterstones branches. This meant his customers were able to browse again in peace, stay longer and purchase more books as a result.
Dorothy Lewis
Edinburgh

• I agree that live broadcasts of theatre productions are a very good idea (Letters, 20 November); we even have them in Tiverton. What I like about them is the lack of irritating and inappropriate background music which TV programmes seem to have all the time, even on the news. This music is usually drums or someone drowning out the voices with pop tunes which somebody thinks fit ...

Is Martin Amis right? Or will Jeremy Corbyn have the last laugh?

Martin Amis has accused Jeremy Corbyn of lacking a sense of humour. The jury’s out on that one. Either way, a good joke is more than just a political skill, it is also humanity’s last line of defence

In his recent, rather surprising ad hominem attack on Jeremy Corbyn, Martin Amis ranged a number of charges against the current Labour leader. Among them were his lack of education (two Es at A level!), his evident lack of “the slightest grasp of the national character” and his allegiance to the “encysted dogmas” of the old left. I suspect these probably look like more significant charges to a resident of bohemian Brooklyn than they do to beleaguered low-income Brits gearing themselves up to face another round of ideologically driven benefits cuts. One of Amis’s accusations, however, is more telling than the rest, and this is that Corbyn is “humourless”.

“Many journalists ...

Jeremy Corbyn is ‘undereducated’ and ‘humourless’, says Martin Amis

The bestselling novelist picked out the new Labour leader’s two E-grade A-levels, describing him as ‘slow-minded’ and ‘incurious’ in a Sunday Times article

Martin Amis has described Jeremy Corbyn as “undereducated”, “incurious” and “humourless” in a scathing condemnation of the new Labour leader.

Writing for the Sunday Times yesterday, Amis said that Corbyn, who won the Labour leadership race last month, was the “fluky beneficiary of a drastic elevation”. Highlighting the politician’s two E-grade A-levels, Amis called him “undereducated”, adding: “In general, his intellectual CV gives an impression of slow-minded rigidity; and he seems essentially incurious about anything beyond his immediate sphere.”

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