Issue 191 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published November 1995 Copyright Socialist Review

REVIEWS

BOOKS

Smooth ride to the top

Tony Blair the Moderniser
Jon Sopel
Bantam 5.99

Ayes to the Left
Peter Hain
Lawrence and Wishart 10.99

Tony Blair the Moderniser

'Blair is not hewn from the rock of previous leaders... he wears none of the Labour movement's medals, nor bears its battlescars.' That's how BBC political correspondent Jon Sopel describes the Labour leader in his updated biography which has just been released.
He goes on to write, 'As he stands before the audience of Labour activists and union-fixers, the pre-eminent feeling is that he is not one of them.'
It would be a mistake for socialists to assess the Labour Party purely on the basis of its leader's personality. Nevertheless, some of the facts dredged up in this grotesquely sympathetic book do throw light on where Blair is taking New Labour.
Blair's father Leo went from being a member of the Young Communist League in Glasgow to become a leading light in the Tory Party in the north east of England. His political conversion went hand in hand with his promotion to the academic law establishment.
So Blair grew up in comfortable surroundings and was sent to the private choristers' school where he stood as a Tory in the school's mock election in 1966. From there it was on to Fettes College in Edinburgh--'Eton in kilts' and then to study law at St John's College, Oxford.
The early 1970s were an extremely political time yet Blair did not become active in student politics or in the Oxford Labour Party (although his friend Geoff Gallop was a member of the International Marxist Group). Instead he joined a dining club and became a practising Christian.
He joined the Labour Party in 1975 while training to be a barrister. Colin Fawcett, a friend of his fathers, persuaded Alexander Irvine QC to take him on. A word from Irvine in 1982 put Blair in touch with John Smith who helped him fight the by-election in safe Tory Beaconsfield.
An old boys' network had got him so far. Now he relied on underhand manouevering. He won the nomination for the safe seat of Sedgefield in 1983 after his agent John Burton waved a piece of paper at the selection meeting which he claimed said that Labour leader Michael Foot endorsed Blair as candidate for Sedgefield. In fact the letter merely said that 'Blair would make a major contribution to British politics.'
He went on to put his barrister's training to good use in the Parliamentary Labour Party, advising the leadership on how to expel supporters of Militant.
The book portrays Blair's career as a Labour front bencher and his bid for the Labour leadership as a heroic campaign against the 'trade union barons' and other vested interests. In fact most trade union leaders and, more significantly, the whole of the press backed Blair for Labour leader.
In short Blair has not had to fight for anything in his whole life. His fight to get rid of Clause Four relied on press backing, the Labour Party machine and bullying any opposition.
Nowhere in the book does the huge shift in opinion against the Tories and its manifestation in struggles like the anti poll tax campaign figure. The book reinforces the myth that Labour is up in the opinion polls because it has moved right rather than millions of voters having moved left.
Sopel's attempts to present Blair as a thinker dedicated to intellectually reinvigorating the left don't ring true either. What comes across is his opportunism in adapting to Tory orthodoxy.
An attempt to challenge that orthodoxy has come from left wing Labour MP Peter Hain in his book Ayes to the Left. He attempts to cling on to the idea of redistributing wealth and promoting equality.
While critical of some of the policies Blair and the modernisers have pushed through, he tends to accept their overall argument. Hain argues that the historic division between reformists and revolutionaries has obscured another division between 'statism' and 'libertarianism'. So old style labour and 'Marxism/Leninism' both shared a belief in centralising power in the hands of the state. He claims that globalisation and integration into Europe now make these traditions unworkable.
Hain argues that Britain's decline is rooted in its archaic constitution. He says it wouldn't be possible to totally overhaul the House of Lords or the voting system during the lifetime of one Labour government. Instead he suggests gradual reform.
Many of the same buzzwords used by the modernisers appear in Hain's book too. Hain wants a more radical list of reforms than them and has a feel for mass movements outside parliament. But he accepts that an incoming labour government must prioritise jobs over public sector pay rises. He accepts that this is very similar to the Social Contract under the last Labour government. He points out that the bosses didn't stick to their end of the bargain then but provides no convincing reasons as to how they can be made to now.
Kevin Ovenden


Eastern eye

Notes from Another India
Jeremy Seabrook
Pluto 10

Notes from Another India

Seabrook gives us a kind of travelogue of encounters with real people struggling in every sense, from the highly personal to the collective, to maintain their humanity and to defend their livelihoods in the most adverse circumstances.
We meet Ramesh, a cycle rickshaw rider in Delhi, who works to send money home to the three children he rarely sees, and who says, 'Only when we get a government that is run by the poor will we be free.' Then there is Mohammed, who has been a heroin addict on the streets of Bihar for three years. Mohammed says that the birth of his daughter has given him the motivation to kick the 'brown sugar'. We also meet the people of the Save Chilika Movement, fighting to defend the lake that they fish and farm around from the destructive effects of large scale fishing for export. These people talk not only of the effects of siltation on the lake, but also of the GATT talks and of the World Trade Agreement.
In all of these examples, and many, many more, Seabrook spells out the hypocrisy of the West. In a brilliant passage he compares the plight of the weavers, driven out of the market by large scale manufacture, with the experience of weavers in Britain during the industrial revolution. He describes the way in which the British imposed opium production for export to China. We read of how the prawns which are fished find their way onto the tables of the most expensive Western restaurants at massively inflated prices. Neither does Seabrook spare India's home grown elite. He shows the lavish lifestyles of the rich, the extravagance of their homes contrasting starkly with the lives of the servants they employ--the janitor who shivers against the cold in a blanket, the gardener who never has a day off the whole year round, the security guards who have not been home for three years.
The book is at its best when describing the collective struggles of the poor. In Bangalore, for instance, where one fifth of the population live in slums, the women slum dwellers have organised themselves into a community movement, Women's Voice, which fights for decent amenities and against the government's slum clearances. In 1993 they initiated a rally of 100,000 of the urban poor. In the same city there are the domestic workers who, ignored by the traditional trade unions, have organised themselves.
The most powerful example Seabrook gives is of the miners and steel workers of Chattisgarh. The workers of this region cherish the memory of Shankar Guha Niyogi who began the movement to organise those sectors previously thought impossible to bring into the trade unions. His success led directly to his murder in 1991. Since then the Chattisgarh Liberation Front has become a powerful popular movement which agitates around social questions. The movement has unnerved the Indian government and it has come to be seen as a beacon of hope and a model of organisation for the most exploited workers.
The examples Seabrook gives of the struggles of industrial workers are actually few and far between. Where he does describe such struggles, although exciting in themselves, he fails to convey their political significance. There is no sense in the book of the huge Indian working class representing a social force which might overthrow both the Indian ruling class and the imperialist powers with which they cooperate. This means that in the end Seabrook does not spell out any real solutions beyond a rather vacuous appeal for a change of 'faith'--from that of the market to one based more on traditional belief and humanity.
Aside from this, there are plenty of insights you're probably not going to find elsewhere. The history and culture of the Zoroastrian religion, for example, were new to me!
Mark O'Brien


Screen tested

Hollywood's Other Blacklist: Union Struggles in the Studio System
Mike Nielsen and Gene Mailes
BFI Publishing 13.99

Hollywood's Other Blacklist: Union Struggles in the Studio System

When people talk about blacklisting in Hollywood and the film industry, you always automatically think of the McCarthy era, of writers and screen stars being questioned in senate hearings and being asked, 'Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?' However, Nielsen and Mailes's book looks back earlier than that to the 1930s and 1940s and attempts by studio workers to form democratic unions in Hollywood.
The early history of trade unionism in Hollywood was one of bitter fighting between different unions and guilds for members--indeed, in attempts to gain a foothold in the industry, many of the American Federation of Labour craft unions made deals with the producers to cut wages. In the 1920s, which was one of the first boom periods for the film industry, wages in the studios were lower than those of construction workers in Los Angeles.
Nielsen and Mailes concentrate on the history of one union in particular, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IA), of which Mailes was a member in the 1930s and 1940s. They show how AI Capone's 'Chicago gang' managed to gain control of the union, established a protection racket to extort money from cinema owners, took a cut from union members' wages and signed no-strike deals to get money out of the studio bosses.
In fact, the story of the IA through most of the 1930s was one of organised corruption from the gangster leaders and deals with the studio bosses. The gangsters had seized control of many local union branches. However, some of the union members were not happy with this, and Gene Mailes, along with a handful of others, began a fight which was to last over a decade to set up open democratic trade unions in Hollywood.
Whilst describing a number of disputes organised by rank and file workers, Mailes gives an excellent outline of how they built up support in the studios, contacting union members in each department, organising meetings, and producing newsletters. He goes through how strikes were organised, with strike committees, organising picketing, fundraising and negotiations. All these groups were 'usually elected from the floor by the general membership... The important thing is that they are run by the membership, out in the open and subject to a vote on any action.'
But whenever Mailes and his supporters, known as the IA Progressives, organised strikes, they faced the opposition not only of the bosses, but of the leaders of their own union, even after the end of the gangster era. These leaders went so far as organising scabbing so that they could retain control over the union. Thus began the first round of Hollywood blacklisting. Many of the Progressives were expelled from the IA, with the union leaders handing their names over to the studio bosses. Some of those who organised strikes in the mid-1940s were never employed in the film industry again.
This book contains inspiring examples of workers fighting back, with thousands involved in mass picketing and closing down studios, often in the face of extreme violence from the police. It also gives a glimpse of how the Communist Party went along with no-strike agreements during the Second World War in the 'national interest'. Despite this most of the rank and file organisers were denounced as 'Communist' (in fact very few of them were CP members) and were witch hunted in the press and courts.
As Gene Mailes explains, 'The blacklisting of union and political activists in the studios ended a whole era... [and] made it easier to get at the leftist intellectuals.' It also opened the door to the McCarthy trials and blacklists throughout the 1950s.
Liz Wheatley


Rule of the rope

Lynchings--Extralegal Violence In Florida during the 1930s
Walter T Howard
Associated University Press 32.50

Lynchings--Extralegal Violence In Florida during the 1930s

In 1907 the governor of Florida asked how the white man could control the government pass laws 'to fit the white man' and subordinate the blacks. If necessary, 'every Negro in the state will be lynched.' Lynch law was a continuation of the terror campaign carried out, particularly by Southern planters, after the Civil War. To reassert their domination over poor tenant farmers, both black and white, they supported the Ku Klux Klan and other vigilante organisations. Howard describes the lynching of two black Republican Party activists in Florida in 1882.
Having defeated Radical Reconstruction, (the attempt to rebuild the South on an egalitarian basis), and then the populist movement (which for a while threatened to unite poor black and white farmers), lynching became one method of maintaining Jim Crow and white domination. Between 1882 and 1968 some 3,500 blacks were lynched in the Southern states.
Howard's book concentrates on the period from 1930 onwards, when lynching was in decline. The question he asks is why that decline took place. However, he fails to explain the previous heyday of lynchings. For him 'illegal executions' maintain white power ('caste solidarity') rather than create racial divisions in order to perpetuate class rule. Much of the book is taken up with studying the 12 lynchings in Florida during the 1930s.
Most were concentrated in the economically backward north west of the state in rural areas' Black labourers suffered from low pay, poor housing and perpetual debt. White bosses and coworkers victimised them 'through brutal disciplinary violence'. In agriculture most blacks were tenants and sharecroppers. However, whites suffered many of the same economic conditions, hence the need for that white 'caste solidarity' to maintain divisions.
In this atmosphere lynchings were often public events. The author describes the scene before Claude Neal was lynched for alleged murder of a poor white farmer's daughter. The lynch mob notified the sheriff and the local press of the timing of the lynching. A crowd of several thousand 'waited in a good humoured and orderly way' for hours.
Howard suggests one reason for the decline in lynching is that violence towards blacks became increasingly unacceptable. However, not one lyncher served a day in prison. Even more significantly, nearly all the victims were 'kdnapped' from police custody. In Washington an anti-lynching law was consistently filibustered by Southern Democrats and opposed by the then president, Roosevelt.
Key to the decline was the growth of urban industrialised areas and the increasing role of the police and courts in the repression of blacks. The extralegal was replaced by legal methods. The case of the Scottsboro boys highlights the shift. Nine young blacks were convicted in Alabama of raping two white women on the flimsiest of evidence. The National Guard was called out to prevent a lynching. Within two weeks the defendants had been indicted, tried and sentenced to death. They were only saved by an international campaign mounted by the Communist Party.
In Florida Robert Hinds, a 16 year old black youth, was tried and convicted in a single day of raping a white woman. National Guardsmen again prevented the threat of lynching. Within four weeks Hinds was executed.
Vigilantism became increasingly subordinated to the courts and police. Its resurgence in the 1950s against the Civil Rights Movement met with a very different response. The growth of an urbanised black working class meant that resistance spread to every corner of the South. Unfortunately, though the book is a useful case study of lynchings and their decline, Howard completely misses the role played by black workers.
Pete Waters


Rumbles and grumbles

The Picador Book of Blues and Jazz
Ed: James Campbell
Picador 16.99

The Picador Book of Blues and Jazz

This is a fascinating collection of anecdotes and observations, but it doesn't work as an overview of the subject or an introduction to the music.
The straight musical essays on Miles Davies, Louis Armstrong or Charles Mingus are all beautifully written and compelling for anyone who likes their music.
One or two pieces help us grasp where the music comes from. A handful of 19th century excerpts show blues emerging from the worksongs of slavery, an interplay of remembered African rhythms, European folk traditions and the white man's gospel.
More recent excerpts from Nat Hentoff and Art Pepper capture the tensions that kept jazz at the cutting edge through to the 1960s--the intense racism suffered by black entertainers, but also the unique chance jazz offered for black self expression, and the opportunity it afforded for black and white performers and fans to come together for the first time. Billie Holliday's piece--as dead pan emotional as her music--is as good an insight as you'll get into the miseries of city life for blacks.
But James Campbell has left out the more serious investigations of the origin and significance of the music--there's nothing from LeRoi Jones or Franz Kofsky for example--and concentrated by and large on atmospheric or unusual anecdotes.
He particularly stresses the music's reach beyond America. There are accounts of the first jazz band to play Russia and an unsettling piece on the Czech band Killer Dille that played in Auschwitz.
Josef Svorecky gives a first hand account of how jazz was driven underground in Eastern Europe, first by the Nazis and then by the Stalinists: 'Totalitarian ideologists don't like real life... because it cannot be totally controlled; they loathe art, the product of a yearning for life, because that too evades control.'
The book is unbalanced by its stress on the music's global appeal and its search for the quirky or ironic. There's no real attempt to link the music with wider social or historical developments, and there's no discussion of why jazz has run out of steam in the last 20 years.
Worse still, two essays, one by Ralph Ellison and one by James Lincoln Collier, try to rubbish any connection between 'black consciousness' and the development of the music. Well, the connection is not a straightforward one. Of course there have been a number of white jazz and blues greats, and of course it's right to celebrate the fact that the music has been taken up and developed (as well as debased) all around the world. But no one can begin to understand the great power and widespread appeal of jazz and blues unless they recognise that it developed first as the voice of the most oppressed in the greatest capitalist power. Any other interpretation depolitisises what Langston Hughes calls the 'boogie woogie rumble of a dream deferred'.
Chris Nineham


The illusion of democracy

Ruling Britannia
Andrew Marr
Michael Joseph 16.99

Ruling Britannia

The current sickness at the heart of British politics is the subject of this book. Marr describes the cynicism and disillusion with mainstream politics, quoting the 1994 ICM poll among voters aged 18 to 35, in which 71 percent agreed that 'the voting system produces governments which do not represent the views of most ordinary people'. This mood has developed against the background of increasing corruption, the rise of unaccountable quangos, the decline of parliament as a check on the executive, and the growing concentration of power at the helm of both main parties.
Policy is made at the top, influenced much more by private polling, national pressure groups and 'think tanks' than by backbench MPs, party conference or grassroots activists. And with the first past the post voting system, winning the 'floaters' in the marginal seats assumes a decisive importance. Party strategists become obsessed with targeting the Midlands middle classes and the southern aspiring working class voter. They tailor their agendas to what the pollsters tell them such groups want. In elections the huge range of issues bundled together in party manifestos forces voters to make bulk purchases of policy. Marr argues that, increasingly, we have less control as voters than as consumers.
Under the Tories we have witnessed the rise of what he calls the 'patronage state', the transfer of power from local councillors to unelected quangos, the privatisation of state monopolies resulting in the enrichment of their top directors.
At the same time as the concentration of power at the upper levels of the state, we see the decline of the national state in relation to supranational bodies such as the global market, multinationals or the European Union bureaucracy. Marr argues that governments used to have an array of tools with which they could determine national economic policy: exchange controls, currency rates, interest rates, levels of bank lending, hire purchase controls.
That independence has gone. Today markets will penalise governments that seem soft on inflation or politically unstable. Multinationals will shift production or investment abroad if they dislike government policies. But the decline of the national state doesn't mean its policies are irrelevant to private capital. Companies depend on states for the provision of law, an efficient transport system, healthy and educated workers.
Many of the current complaints against parties and politicians are not new. In the 1940s and 1950s people railed against excessive power in the hands of the cabinet and party whips at the expense of backbench MPs and an arrogant top civil service. But what is new is a sense of these as part of a general political decay.
Marr is at his weakest in the proposals he suggests as a means of reviving our political system. Democracy can be strengthened, he argues, by a kind of proportional representation--multimember constituencies in which MPs are elected according to the number of votes in a constituency, retaining a link with the locality and avoiding the impersonality of the national list of candidates.
He also argues that parliament could regain some of its sovereignty through making the appointment of ministers subject to a Commons vote. The House of Lords could begin to be reformed by removing speaking and voting rights from hereditary peers. Legislation could be improved through MPs consulting the whole range of interested parties. Local communities could be empowered by the use of referendums on local issues. He argues for proper Scottish devolution and for the European Union to be democratised by regular national referendums.
Marr fails to grasp the real separation between economic and political power in capitalist society. Despite universal franchise, key areas of workers' lives are determined by the unelected controllers of the leading companies and financial institutions. Historically, as parliament became more representative through a series of reforms between 1832 and 1928, so its power shifted to the controllers of the state and the major economic institutions. And, more often than not, MPs elected by workers become absorbed into the establishment. But parliament serves a useful ideological purpose in preserving an illusion of democracy.
If Marr's remedies are so much weaker than his diagnosis, it is because he fails to grasp the nature of the state under capitalism: it is not neutral between classes, but developed as an adjunct to private capital and must in the end always serve the latter's purposes. Though the economic power and scope of the state may have diminished recently, it remains of crucial importance to the system. In the end, a state serving the interests of the majority can only be created through the overthrow of the existing one and the establishment of one based on workers' democracy.
Sabby Sagall


Religious experience

Whit
Iain Banks
Little Brown 15.99

Whit

Iain Banks is surely one of the most talented contemporary British writers. From The Wasp Factory to the excellent Conspiracy, his novels have entertained, shocked and amused a large readership. That goes to make Whit a bit disappointing.
It's not the uncharacteristic lack of a body count, or the absence of severe sexual hang ups. It's not the setting of the story or even the plot. The disappointment lies in the flow of the story and a climax that leaves you wanting.
Politically, Whit shows Banks's disgust with the way society is run, and those who run it. The real venom, however, is reserved for religion. Set in a cult's Scottish commune, the book uncovers the sordid origins of the Luskentyre Order and its mysterious founder, Salvador.
The central character, Isis, is the future leader of the cult, being the granddaughter of Salvador and having been born on 29 February. Isis is a devout follower of the faith and has a tremendous naivety about the outside world, having spent her entire life as a member of the crackpot religious order. This naivety, paired with a good idea and a sense of irony, gives Banks the perfect opportunity to view Britain through the eyes of an outsider with no language difficulties. It's almost as if she's travelled through time from the 19th century.
The cult members seem to live an idyllic simple life in their community. They proudly shun every technological breakthrough, denying themselves the use of electricity, telephones and transport. They even refuse to allow themselves the comfort of soft furnishings, carrying wooden 'sitting boards' to punish their backsides whilst sitting down in the outside world. Any former Catholic can identify with this strange practice of self denial and unnecessary suffering. This cult, however, has no sign of the sexual hang ups of Catholicism, and holds a four yearly 'festival of love' in May to increase the likelihood of members bearing children on the holy day of 29 February.
The festival really serves as an opportunity for the lecherous Salvador to have whoever he wants every four years. Every strange ritual, whim and custom is justified in the orthography which Isis is helping to write, under Salvador's guidance. This offers a good theory on the thinking of cult leaders such as David Koresh. It also sheds an amusing light on what the conversations could be like in the policy making sessions they have in the Vatican!
Isis sets out from the community to track down her errant cousin, Morag. On her way she is exposed to some of the more ugly aspects of life outside the religious cocoon. She meets a gang of BNP boneheads, confronts a vicious squad of West Country police enforcing the Criminal Justice Act, and comes face to face with a rottweiler owning porn merchant. The quest for her cousin unfolds at the same time as the history of the cult and a vicious power struggle raging behind her back.
As deceptions and distortions surface, Isis questions the doctrine of the cult and the integrity of certain followers. I found myself urging Isis to expose the whole rotten set up and bring it crashing down around her. I wanted her to learn from her experiences that you can't live outside the system. I ended up cursing Banks for missing a great opportunity to really stick the boot in.
Banks has a talent for making the slower parts of his books compulsive reading. He rather overuses this talent in Whit. The twists in his previous novels have explained and enhanced the plot. In Whit, however, the twist is the plot and it's that which leaves this one lacking.
The scene of the humiliation of the Nazi boneheads is enjoyable (if a bit far fetched), but it's a sideline, not an integral part of the story. The more subtle digs at London's transport system and the cynicism he doles out to religion have a far more devastating effect.
Fans of Iain Banks will read this book and find many of the hallmarks of the author. However, if you're looking for a first taste of this excellent author, I'd advise getting your hands on a copy of Complicity, The Wasp Factory or The Crow Road.
Guy Taylor


Taste of rebellion

Children of Rebecca
Vivien Annis Bailey
Honno 6.95

Children of Rebecca

Children of Rebecca is the tale of Bethan and Sion whose travels take them through the class conflicts thrown up by the industrial revolution. It is set in the period of the Rebecca Riots and the Chartist led fight for the vote and against tyranny.
If, like me, you find it difficult to wade through historical text and at the same time remember what you've just read, then this is an excellent book to give you a well researched and very believable account of what life must have been like just after the birth of capitalism.
Through the story it explains the brutal conditions that drove labourers to the large industrial centres like Merthyr Tydfil only to find equal squalor. The book pays particular attention to what Victorian values were really like for the poorest women and the stark choices they faced.
I found the story gripping, making it a difficult book to put down. The novel rattles on at a cracking pace and fits a lot in without losing the sense of the story that it is telling.
The descriptions of the brutality of life are powerfully written, and are well balanced with the sense of rage that explodes when workers are fighting back. For instance, a passage where the anger is turned against a workhouse makes you want to be there.
The novel is not an analysis of the Chartist movement and does not attempt to argue whether the Chartists were revolutionary or reformist. It does, however, include an accurate account of the debates that occurred within the movement such as the moral force versus physical force arguments.
The reader is left with the clear picture that it was entirely justifiable that the Newport Rising took place and that an alliance with the Liberals would have achieved nothing. If you're looking for an enjoyable read and want to get a taste for what it must have been like to live through the rebellious 1830s and 40s, then you wouldn't go far wrong with this.
Dave Barnes


No shelter from the storm

The Struggle for Hearts and Minds
Raymond Challinor
Bewick Press 5.95

The Struggle for Hearts and Minds

We had the spectacle this summer of the Tory government's celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. This camouflaged the real history of the war. The Tories and the ruling class have hidden behind the myths about the war years, such as the one that we all suffered together. This little book debunks much of that.
Those soldiers who paraded on television night after night about the treatment they suffered under the Japanese army should spare a thought for our ruling class. In June 1942 a manager of a Shanghai branch of a British export house smuggled a letter home to relatives saying, 'We are doing good business with our Japanese customers... we are being exceedingly well treated here--no restrictions whatever and we have no complaints.'
An engineering worker in Huddersfield accidentally uncovered a piece of machinery, only to find stamped on it 'For the inspection of the Japanese army'. Only after the engineering union raised it nationally did Churchill intervene. He gave his personal assurance that the trade would be terminated.
The blitz united the classes--well, that's the myth. Take air raid shelters. Many people dossed down under railway arches or in warehouses. One notorious place was the Tilbury shelter, where up to 14,000 people slept regularly. The ruling class had to squash into luxury shelters under the Dorchester Hotel.
In London, which took much of the bombing, particularly the East End, there were no appropriate air raid shelters until the workers forced the government to open the underground stations. At Bethnal Green underground 173 people were killed. The government blamed 'panic' for this disaster. The survivors blamed the narrow entrance.
In Portsmouth they suffered regular night time bombing, but sometimes they also suffered daytime bombing. So the authorities locked the shelters in the daytime. When one aircraft appeared one day, workers rushed to the shelters, only to find them locked. When they tried to break the locks open, the police baton-charged. A riot ensued. Many were injured. Two were killed.
This book is good for stories like these but is too simplistic when dealing with the more general politics of the war. Also there is a conspiratorial feel about some sections of the book but otherwise it's a good introduction.
Steve Bassindale


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