Issue 194 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published February 1996 Copyright © Socialist Review

REVIEWS

BOOKS

The art of revolution

Political Writings: Contributions to Justice and Commonweal 1883-1890
William Morris
Thoemmes Press £19

Political Writings: Contributions to Justice and Commonweal 1883-1890

According to Tony Blair, William Morris is one of his great inspirations. Presumably he is thinking of Morris's wallpaper designs because as far as politics are concerned we can be absolutely certain that Morris would have regarded the likes of Blair as a traitor and a renegade, as an enemy of the working class and the socialist cause, to be fought without compromise.
Morris, for example, had no time for any kind of parliamentary road. As far as he was concerned parliament existed for the, 'upholding of privilege; the society of rich and poor, the society of inequality, and the constant misery of the workers and the degradation of all classes.' The full extent of his contempt for the parliamentary road is shown in News From Nowhere: in the future socialist Britain, parliament has been converted into a dung market!
This year marks the centenary of Morris's death, and will undoubtedly see many celebrations of his art and commemorations of his life. There is certain to be a determined attempt to marginalise, exclude or dismiss as hopelessly out of date his revolutionary politics. This tremendous volume, one of the publishing events of the decade, is a powerful, indeed essential, corrective to such efforts.
As volume one of its William Morris Library, Thoemmes Press has published the contributions he made as editor and correspondent to the socialist newspapers Justice and Commonweal between 1883 and 1890. This makes available the journalism of arguably the greatest advocate and propagandist for the socialist cause ever seen in Britain.
The volume includes articles on art, Ireland, the organisation of work under socialism, parliamentarianism, the free speech campaigns of the mid-1880s, the Paris Commune, unemployed struggles, Bloody Sunday in London and the Haymarket executions in Chicago, the founding of the Second International, socialist theory and much more. It reprints the whole of Socialism From The Root Up, Morris's major theoretical work, which was serialised in Commonweal between 1886 and 1888.
Morris's great concern was always to 'make socialists'. To this end, between 1883 and 1890 he wrote over 500 articles and editorials for the socialist press and spoke at over 1,000 meetings up and down the country. Some quarter of a million people actually heard him speak during these years.
Why then is his importance and contribution so often neglected? First of all because the organisation to which he was committed, the Socialist League, ignominiously collapsed in 1891. And second, and related to this, because while he was a great propagandist in the socialist cause, his judgement with regard to revolutionary strategy was seriously faulty. Instead of throwing itself into the struggles of the late 1880s, the Socialist League tended towards abstention. It concentrated on propaganda and neglected agitation, failing to see the connection between the day-to-day struggles of the working class and the socialist objective.
Most famously, in October 1889, the Socialist League actually felt it necessary to advise its members that taking part in strikes did 'not in any way compromise their principles' but reminded them 'not to let the revolutionary propaganda suffer'. The Socialist League was too often irrelevant as far as the class struggle was concerned. Morris won thousands of men and women over to socialism, but not to a revolutionary strategy for achieving it. This was his great tragedy.
John Newsinger


A time to remember

Voices of Freedom
Henry Hampton and Steve Fayer
Vintage £9.99

Voices of Freedom

'In their rememberings are their truths. The precise fact or precise date is of small consequence.' This quote from Studs Terkel is the starting point of this fascinating work of oral history. The aim of the book is to present the experiences of the people who were directly engaged in the struggles for civil rights for blacks in America--not to gather 'life histories' but to recapture what people 'saw, heard, did or felt at specific moments in history'. This it does admirably through literally hundreds of interviews and years of research (the project started in the late 1970s).
The book begins with an interview with James Hicks, a black officer who served in the Second World War and was later to become a leading journalist among the black press. Over a million blacks fought for the army in the Second World War. Not only did this have an effect on those blacks who fought but also on the communities to which they came back. There was a new mood among blacks: 'No more of this Jim Crow... I paid my dues over there and I'm not going to take this any more.'
It is of no surprise that when the black struggle revived after the war its initial focus was in the South. Here blacks were still subject to the whole apparatus of 'Jim Crow' racism and segregation erected in the 1870s. What this meant is captured in the gruesome death in 1955 of Emmett Till. Emmett was a 14 year old from Chicago visiting relatives in Mississippi. He was part of a community that like many others moved up from the South in the search for jobs and a better way of life.
Having shown some friends pictures of his white friends back in Chicago, he was dared to go into a local store and talk to a white girl, which he did. For this he was to pay with his life. One night he was taken out of his bed at his grandfather's house by two white men. Not long after his body was discovered. So mutilated was the body it was only by the ring on his finger that he could be identified.
The case of Emmett Till received a lot of attention in the black press and also in the national media. It had a profound effect on blacks everywhere. Muhammad Ali recalls that he was so enraged that he and a friend went out one night and derailed a diesel engine locomotive in revenge.
The great thing about the book is that you get a feeling of how people make history in very unfavourable circumstances and in doing so change themselves. Indeed there is a constant battle of ideas. For instance the strategy of non-violent direct action was inspiring and required an enormous amount of dedication and courage. Martin Luther King said, 'if you use the law "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" you end up with everyone blind and toothless.' Diane Nash recalls, 'A contingent of students left Nashville to pick up the Freedom Ride where it had been stopped. Some of the students gave me sealed letters to be mailed in case they were killed. That's how prepared they were for death.'
Yet after ferocious attacks on the Freedom Rides, it was the armed and very violent Northern state that would be looked upon for protection. James Farmer, one of the founders of CORE (Congress for Racial Equality), says, 'That ride from Montgomery to Jackson was like a military operation... there were Alabama National Guardsmen with us, about six of them with bayonets fixed on their rifles. There were helicopters chopping around overhead. There were police cars screaming up and down the highway with their sirens blaring. There were federal state and county police.' He adds, 'That did not ease our fear. If anything, it increased it. We didn't know which way the National Guardsmen would point their guns in the event of a showdown.'
In the North, though inspired by the struggles in the South, conditions made blacks receptive to a movement independent of and quite different from King's. Here we have chapters on Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam, the Black Panthers and Muhammad Ali. Here we have the very same Northern state confronted head on with an increasingly militant movement of which the Panthers and DRUM (Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement) are probably the most significant development (although, unfortunately, DRUM does not even get a mention in this book).
There is also a very interesting chapter on King and Vietnam. The experiences of the Vietnam War and the increasing militancy in the black struggle not only produced new leaders as those mentioned above but also caught leaders such as King in between personal hostility to the war and a desire to stay friends with influential politicians.
This book offers first hand accounts of the events that shook America in the 1960s. It ends with accounts of 'affirmative action' and you get a feeling that this is what the authors look to, though they never make their position clear. There are weaknesses in this book, but you cannot help feeling frustrated, angered and inspired all at once as you read it. It deserves to be read.
Unjum Mirza


Northern star

The Life of Adam Smith
Ian Simpson Ross
Oxford University Press £25

The Life of Adam Smith

In the last 20 years Adam Smith has become the idol of people who claim that Karl Marx is 'out of date'. The simple fact that Smith died 30 years before Marx was even born has never worried them. Nor has their own meagre knowledge of who he was and what he stood for.
In fact, Marx himself was a great admirer of Smith, seeing him as a trailblazer in understanding the workings of capitalism, and contrasting him with those who simply wanted to apologise for the ruling class, like Malthus, Say, Senior and the 'vulgar economists' who followed them. Smith, together with David Hume and Adarn Ferguson, was part of the 'Scottish Enlightenment', a mid-18th century intellectual current that sought a rational understanding of the world and society along very similar lines to French thinkers like Diderot, Helvetius, Voltaire and Rousseau, with whom they corresponded and discussed.
What such thinkers did, in fact, was to identify the major features of the new, capitalist organisation of society which was emerging and contrast it with the 'irrationality' of the dying feudal order. This old order still held political power in France and had made last desperate attempts to reimpose itself on Scotland with the Stuart 'Jacobite' rebellions of 1715 and 1745. But they did more than just apologise for capitalism. They also began to lay the basis for a materialist and scientific explanation of all social phenomena.
So Smith's friend Hume wrote scathing attacks on religious superstition, while Smith himself tried to use the model of Newton's physics to develop a theory of morals and language. In the process he began to recognise that society was not some fixed thing governed by an ahistorical 'human nature', but changed as human beings changed the ways in which they made their livelihood.
But it was his economic writings which had the greatest impact. For in them he identified, as no one had before, the main features of the new capitalist form of economic organisation, pointing to measures which would accelerate its advance. As a pioneer he often made mistakes. He identified labour as the measure of value, suggesting that profit was a deduction from labour, laying the ground for the development of scientific political economy by Ricardo and Marx. But he then confused the output of labour with the wage paid to the labourer, so mixing with his labour theory of value a different theory in which profit and rent contributed to the creation of value.
What is more, writing at a time when industrial capitalism was only just beginning to take hold of society, Smith had little chance to grasp what a contradictory, crisis ridden system it would be. All that concerned him was that it was a much more dynamic and productive way of producing wealth than the remnants of feudalism it was replacing, and he wanted this replacement to happen as quickly as possible. So his ideas laid the basis for Ricardo and then, above all, Marx, to develop a fuller account of capitalism, but he himself could not possibly have produced one. That is why it is so intellectually dishonest for bodies like the Adam Smith Foundation today to claim he shows capitalism is a system without faults.
This book is a useful, but pedestrian, account of his life. It brings out the continuity between his ideas and those of other Enlightenment thinkers in France, Scotland and even occasionally England. It also shows how his ideas took shape against the background of the growth of capitalist business methods in Scotland and the reorganisation of the state after the defeat of the Jacobite uprisings. It was this which led to a larger opening for critical ideas in Scotland than in England--although the opening was shut just as firmly shortly after Smith's death in 1790, when revolution in France sent a shiver of fear among new as well as old exploiters in Britain.
From that point onwards, the critical approach which characterised Smith became an increasing embarrassment to the class with which he had identified. Only opponents of capitalism could finish the work of the Enlightenment thinkers who had helped the system clear away the remnants of feudalism.
Chris Harman


Production line prose

Pulp Culture-Hard Boiled Fiction and the Cold War
Woody Haut
Serpent's Tail £9.99

Pulp Culture-Hard Boiled Fiction and the Cold War

'I killed more people tonight than I have fingers on my hands. I shot them in cold blood and enjoyed every minute of it... They were Commies... Red sons of bitches who should have died long ago.' Such sentiments as these from Mickey Spillane's character Mike Hammer seem at first sight to perfectly convey the right wing mood of McCarthyite America. In many ways American 1950s pulp fiction, with its concentration on the crime fighting detective as hero, and its casting of strong independent women as double dealing and dangerous to know, seems to encapsulate the worst of the conservatism that swept across the postwar US.
This well researched and highly readable study suggests that this is only one side of the picture. Haut argues that the work of the best writers in the genre, and their attendant popularity, reveals much more about the general unease felt by many Americans about where their country was going. On the one hand, there was the general increase in living standards, coupled with the expansion of the consumer society. American workers at the time though could be forgiven for thinking there was a catch; there was. It was the same period that saw the founding of the CIA, the atom bomb tests, the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, US intervention in Guatemala, Lebanon and Korea, and the anti-union Taft Hartley Act.
Citing the work of ex-Communists and liberals such as Jim Thompson, Chester Himes and David Goodis, and right wingers like Spillane, Haut makes the case that the collection of characters inhabiting the pulp world was largely formed by a society riven and driven by paranoia, be it the valid paranoia of blacks and the left or the insane paranoia of the witch hunters. In fact, despite Spillane's fevered ramblings, paperback books themselves were soon to become a target for the right. In 1952 a Select Committee reported that pocket books 'have degenerated into media for the dissemination of artful appeals to sensuality, immorality, filth, perversion and degeneracy'.
Other sections of the book examine the politics of private detection, the crime novel as social critique and the hitherto neglected women pulp writers such as Leigh Bracket (who went on to write film scripts for Howard Hawks' The Big Sleep and Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye), and Dolores Hitchens.
The strength of the book is that the writer does locate his subject in a historical, political and cultural context. Informed by what appears to be an American far left background (his sources include Harry Braverman, Ernest Mandel and Mike Davis), he navigates well the tricky area of the 'literary' status of these 'jobbing writers'. These writers were paid by the word for producing formula work which demanded requisite amounts of sex and violence, in what was effectively industrialised literary production.
Aware of these constraints, he argues convincingly that the best were still able to display real insight into the times about which they wrote. In addition he argues importantly that pulp fiction themes owe a debt to an earlier 'hard boiled' proletarian literary tradition that explored the experiences of those either marginal or hostile to US society. On the downside, the book is really an accompaniment to the novels under discussion and becomes somewhat hard going without a knowledge of the texts themselves.
What also might have been useful would have been a discussion of the artwork of the book covers. This though is a minor quibble about what remains a useful Marxist inspired contribution to, debates on popular culture.
Eamonn Kelly


The enemy within

The Hollow Years
Eugen Weber
Sinclair Stevenson £20

The Hollow Years

The death of François Mitterrand seems to have ended a generation of French politicians whose careers and beliefs were forged in the years prior to and during the Second World War. Today France seems to have moved a long way from that period. Yet the revival of a mass fascist movement round Jean-Marie Le Pen and the mass strikes which brought 1995 to an end, carry echoes of the 1930s.
Eugen Weber's The Hollow Years examines the France of the 1930s. In doing so it is very good at showing how France was one of the least developed industrialised powers. The book also provides a good survey of cultural, religious and home life of the time plus the extent to which France was affected by the Great Depression.
Yet in looking at the political events of the time Weber is at his weakest. The hinge event of this stormy decade occurred at the start of 1934. On 6 February a series of political and financial scandals rocked the main ruling party, the Radicals, to such an extent that Action Française and other fascist groups mounted what looked to most observers like a putsch. A demonstration in central Paris turned into a full scale assault on the National Assembly. In its wake the Radical prime minister Daladier resigned and a new 'strong', right wing government was formed under Gaston Doumergue with Marshal Pétain as minister of war. This government looked like a stepping stone to fascism.
It was against this threat that the working class erupted onto centre stage. This was despite a low level of struggle previously and despite the near civil war between the Communists and Socialists which divided the unions. Such was the pressure from the rank and file that the main union federation, the CGT, called a demonstration against fascism during working hours. This quickly mushroomed into an effective general strike and on the day Communists and Socialists were forced to stand side by side against the common enemy.
From that moment in time the French ruling class ruled out a seizure of power by native fascism. For the next three years its chief concern was riding the rising storm of working class insurgency. The fascists could still rally tens of thousands of supporters, as on Bastille Day 1935 when 30,000 marched in western Paris. But this was dwarfed by the 500,000 left wingers who marched in eastern Paris.
For Weber the conclusion is that 'a fascist menace in France was slight'. Accordingly he devotes little space to February 1934. He does, however, record that between February 1934 and May 1936 there were '1,063 riotous assemblies. processions or demonstrations', more than one a day, the bulk of which were clashes between the fascists and the left.
The spur to working class confidence meant a revival in struggle which peaked in June 1936 with a virtual general strike across France accompanied by mass factory occupations. This strike wave coincided with the election of a Socialist-Radical government allied to the Communist Party. Yet the Communists and the trade union leaders were able to diffuse the situation by negotiating higher wages, better conditions and holidays for all.
By 1938 the situation in France was one of a ruling class which had suffered a crisis of confidence and remained scared, a demoralised fascist right which was fragmenting and a working class which was bitter but increasingly demoralised after the elected left wing government had brought little change.
This was the state in which France drifted into the Second World War, and explains why the bulk of the French ruling class and military establishment were so ready to accept Nazi occupation in 1940. Weber can offer many explanations as to the poor performance of the French military in 1940 but the bottom line was that the French ruling class were defeatists and saw Hitler as an external saviour.
The Hollow Years provides an interesting overview of France in the depression years but there's something missing because of the way it underplays the bitter class struggle of those same years.
Chris Bambery


On Europe's margins

Bury Me Standing
Isabel Fonseca
Chatto & Windus £18.99

Bury Me Standing

In a 1993 Czech beauty pageant a contestant, Magdalena Babicka, was asked what job she would like to have. Her response won an ovation when she described her dream of being a public prosecutor in order to cleanse her town of gypsies. Earlier this year in a town close to Vienna, four gypsies were murdered in a bomb attack and Istuan Varga, a three year old boy, was burnt to death in Transylvania. Such incidents are commonplace in parts of eastern and central Europe, and while the violent repression of gypsies is nothing new, since the 1989 revolutions there has been a sharp escalation.
In the midst of this Isabel Fonseca spent many months living with various gypsy groups throughout the former Eastern bloc and this book is a testimony to their spirit and tenacity. In one Albanian community she vividly describes the daily struggle of the women to keep their families fed and their homes clean in the most grinding poverty. These women, 'old girls', as Fonseca calls them, start to decline even before reaching maturity.
In Bulgaria, in more comfortable surroundings, she stays with Antoinette and Gyorgy, who delight in singing Tom Jones songs, and elsewhere she meets a gypsy who is a member of the Romanian parliament while also being a second hand car salesman.
What unites these disparate people is their self identity as gypsies, and the hostility aimed towards them, often with the open connivance of the authorities, nowhere more so than in Romania.
In 1993 Romania was deemed fit to join the Council of Europe which, we are assured, demands a sound human rights record. That same year the government published a report on the attacks suffered by gypsies which blamed 'the horrible situation created by this ethnic minority'. Later on Fonseca's anger at the official treatment of gypsies prevented from entering Western Europe for being 'economic' refugees is palpable. Yet at no time are the gypsies just victims. They have recovered themselves and fought back after every attack, and it has been the same throughout history.
Fonseca traces the oppression of the gypsies back through forced settlement under the old Communist regimes. Before that was the Holocaust or 'Devouring' as it is referred to in the Romany language when up to 500,000 gypsies were massacred by the Nazis. Gypsies were even chattel slaves in parts of Europe until the late 19th century.
Every aspect of the book is meticulously researched and it is written with great respect and sympathy for gypsies. Fonseca's analysis of the racism towards gypsies is occasionally sharp and convincing. Comparing them to Jews in medieval Europe, she explains how gypsies were marginal to society and yet were relied upon for their particular skills leading to friction. According to Fonseca the recent upsurge of violence is not due to the temporary suppression of ancient ethnic hatred being lifted, but is the inevitable consequence of the failed Communist policy of forced assimilation which created false communities.
Unfortunately these insights are all but lost in a mass of whimsy, anecdote and self indulgence. A potentially fascinating section on the possible origins of gypsies meanders for a few pages before coming to a faltering stop, and throughout Fonseca insists on reporting her every move and meeting, however irrelevant. Clearly this book is written for the enjoyment of the author, not the reader. It cries out for an editor to give it a structure.
That said, the persistence of the gypsies in the face of brutal oppression remains an inspiration and Bury Me Standing bears witness to that, albeit inadequately.
Kevin Orr


The meat market

No More Heroines?
Sue Bridger, Rebecca Kay and Kathryn Pinnick
Routledge, £12.99

No More Heroines?

Russia's history of women's oppression is long, harsh and unbroken, except for the exhilarating period immediately after the Russian Revolution of 1917 when liberation looked possible.
No More Heroines? deals with a specific bit of history, the transition of women's economic situation from the Soviet state-controlled perestroika period of the late 1980s through the collapse in August 1991 and into the introduction of the open market economy. It emphasises the continuity of the economic, sociological and ideological position of women through the transition--which should not surprise those who characterised Russia as bureaucratic state capitalist.
Perestroika had already made a mockery of any pretence at women's liberation--80 percent of women were segregated in 'female sector' jobs, and their pay was 70 percent of men's. Women, particularly those with children, were the first to be made redundant, the official trade unions always supported management, the media shied away from discussing women's working conditions and women spent double the time men did in domestic work.
With the collapse of the economy, the closure of vast tracts of industry, huge cuts in welfare and privatisation, with its drive to shed labour, the media cry became thunderous: 'Woman is destined by nature to be a mother, a wife, the custodian of the family hearth.' Yeltsin backed this up, remarking, 'Mother, child and family have always come first for the peoples of Russia.'
On this basis the labour market squeezed women out in droves, both by actual redundancy or by creating hidden unemployment in the form of a three day week or a two week month. Employers also use long term unpaid layoffs. Currently open unemployment is 10 percent, hidden unemployment over a third (24 million people) and 70 percent of these are women.
The results for women are catastrophic, forcing millions into 'homeworking' or subsistence 'farming' on tiny allotments outside towns.
Vast numbers of women line city steps, streets and market places with an item or two of food or clothing to sell, or provide services, like the one time economist now 'dog sitting, child minding and cleaning'. For women, on the whole well educated (in 1989 women were 59 percent of engineers, 70 percent of technicians), the transition has been from 'flower of the nation' to 'bimbo with a coffee tray'.
The book gives a good description of the continuity of women's economic concerns and hardships during the transition period from perestroika to today. It also has a very good but horrifying section on what so many young women look to as a way out--the glamour industry with its modelling, beauty contests and prostitution ('the most attractive profession' to 60 percent of Moscow school leavers when asked).
It has, however, noteworthy shortcomings. The longest chapter in the book, dealing with strategies for survival, is 'Women and Business', in which a mere 13 percent of women are actually active as entrepreneurs. This ties in with the fact that all the book's interviewees are professional women. There is seen to be no alternative through social and political organisation on a collective basis.
Such an inquiry might have inspired the authors to question why the final Soviet period was so similar to its successor--bureaucratic state capitalism to private capitalism. And the gloom and fatalism of the book--that women will survive, but not be liberated--might have been lifted by a flashback to when the future for women was potentially the very opposite--the period after the revolution of 1917. That was an inspiring period when the revolutionary government, and women and men, conspired with all their might against all the odds to lift women's double burden and achieve equality and liberation. It was a time when hope and optimism abounded.
Chanie Rosenberg


They've had their chips

The Aachen Memorandum
Andrew Roberts
Weidenfeld & Nicholson £8.99

The Aachen Memorandum

Andrew Roberts is a right wing Thatcherite historian whose previous work, Eminent Churchillians, was a scathing attack on the appeasers in the Tory Party during the Second World War. He has followed up his historical work with a piece of fiction, The Aachen Memorandum, described as the first Eurosceptic thriller.
It is set in May 2045. England has become one of the minor regions of a future European superstate.
The plot centres around a freelance journalist, Dr Horatio Lestoq, a fellow of All Souls. He investigates the strange death of the returning officer for the referendum which sanctioned the end of the United Kingdom. In the process Lestoq comes across a potential scandal and is framed by the police for murder, pursued by the secret police, and joins up with the underground resistance.
Roberts has used the novel to set out a nightmare future for Britain if European Union is carried through. So all things British, including fish and chips, have been taken over by a German run European superstate. The European Commission is in the process of revising history--putting up statues to Hitler, Pétain and Charlemagne as great Europeans, while denigrating Churchill and sending the rightful king of Britain to New Zealand.
The book is terrible. Its only redeeming feature is, like an Ed Wood film, that it is funny due to its awfulness. So Buckingham Palace has been renamed Attali House, people have to sign consent forms before having sex, books by authors like Martin Amis are banned and agriculture in the Home Counties is directed by the commission in Brussels.
All of which is highly, if unintentionally, amusing. But central to Roberts's notion of Europe is that it will be some super-nanny welfare state with 100 percent taxation and politically correct thought police everywhere. John Redwood is described in the book as the grand old man of anti-European Union, the implication being that if we follow the Eurosceptics now we can the stop the nightmare of Europe. The truth is somewhat different. Events in France show that behind the jargon of convergence criteria and the fast and slow lane Europe, is an attempt by the bosses in Europe to get together to further exploit workers. The real tragedy behind The Aachen Memorandum is any European superstate in 2045 will be built on the backs of slashing welfare provision and attacking workers' organisation and will be run by the Thatcherites Roberts so much admires.
Seth Harman


Self defence classes

How to Defend Yourself in Court
Michael Randle
Liberty £4.99

How to Defend Yourself in Court

Should you defend yourself in court when you are more likely not only to be convicted but face a harsher sentence if you do? Michael Randle's book puts the arguments for and against defending yourself. This is relevant today as more people are unable to get full legal aid.
The British court system is built to intimidate you. It can be quite terrifying speaking in front of a judge or magistrate. Yet Randle points out that people can and do successfully defend themselves.
Randle aims to steer you through the labyrinth of the British criminal justice system and cut through all the pomp of wigs, gowns, Latin and ceremony.
The court system, magistrates, crown court and what happens from arrest through to trial, is set out. It is vital that people do know the powers the police have--for example, the police often arrest unnecessarily in order to intimidate.
The trial process is explained fully, who gets to speak when, and what to expect right up to sentencing and appeal. Advice is given on preparing a defence and the right to see the prosecution documents. The section covers the free legal advice available, law centres and what to expect from legal aid. Even knowing when you are allowed into court and that you can have friends in the public gallery help.
More importantly, it also covers what to expect from your legal adviser. It is important that you get the service you want and are not bamboozled into pleading guilty when you want to fight your case. Some defendants in the Welling trials thought they would be found guilty as they did not realise that you have a legal right to defend yourself by throwing bricks at police if it is in self defence and to repel their attacks. It was only because they got good legal advice that they fought their cases and many were acquitted.
The final chapter gives examples of political cases that have been fought. Randle also says that, although you obviously want to get acquitted, if it is a political issue you should fight the case even if you risk getting convicted, even if just to publicise the case to a wider audience.
The weakness of this book is that, as Randle points out, 'innocence itself is no guarantee of an acquittal.' We may get limited successes and anything that empowers us to fight is good, but there will be no real justice until the whole corrupt system of judges, courts and police is swept away.
Claire Dissington


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