PositiveThe Guardian (UK)Tremlett has chosen a chronological narrative, foregrounding the voices of the fighters themselves. Inevitably, that means treating the political, diplomatic and military history of the war as background. This approach makes it difficult, at times, for the reader to judge the significance of a specific tactical engagement against the strategic situation ... In its focus on the Soviet generals and commissars, the book provides a valuable addition to the postwar accounts based on individual memoirs ... The book is at its best when telling the unvarnished stories of the individuals drawn to the republican cause ... Tremlett’s book marks a heroic episode in the history of the left. At a time when real fascists with real guns are patrolling the streets of American cities, and when far-right violence is on the rise in Spain, the sacrifice of the International Brigaders deserves to be remembered. In doing so, Tremlett reminds us that even just wars are dirty and chaotic, breeding grounds of sadism and injustice, and that the selfless often die first.
Thomas Piketty, trans. by Arthur Goldhammer
RaveThe Guardian (UK)That capitalism is unfair has been said before. But it is the way Thomas Piketty says it – subtly but with relentless logic – that has sent rightwing economics into a frenzy, both here and in the US ... Many of the book\'s 700 pages are spent marshalling the evidence that 21st-century capitalism is on a one-way journey towards inequality – unless we do something ... If Piketty is right, there are big political implications, and the beauty of the book is that he never refrains from drawing them ... The book\'s terms and explanations are utterly simple; with a myriad of historical data, Piketty reduces the story of capitalism to a clear narrative arc. To challenge his argument you have to reject the premises of it, not the working out ... Piketty has...placed an unexploded bomb within mainstream, classical economics ... You would expect the Wall Street Journal to dissent, but the power of Piketty\'s work is that it also challenges the narrative of the centre-left under globalisation, which believed upskilling the workforce, combined with mild redistribution, would promote social justice. This, Piketty demonstrates, is mistaken. All that social democracy and liberalism can produce, with their current policies, is the oligarch\'s yacht co-existing with the food bank for ever.
RaveThe GuardianVaroufakis gives one of the most accurate and detailed descriptions of modern power ever written – an achievement that outweighs his desire for self-justification during the Greek crisis. He explains, with a weariness born of nights in soulless hotels and harsh-lit briefing rooms, how the modern power network is built ... Varoufakis built a reputation, but not a party. Indeed the world of parties – of activists huddled against the rainy windows of suburban cafes, of leaflet drops, of strikes and anti-fascist demos – is absent from this memoir. If the global left – which was on a roll during 2011-2013 – is to regain momentum, it needs leaders like Tsipras to find thinkers and doers like Varoufakis, and to nurture them. But above all it needs to talk to the mass of people in language born out of the years of toil it takes to build a party and a movement.