Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Books, Blogs and Journals of the Year.

with 5 comments


Now is the time for all major international intellectual publications to list their books of the year.

As one of these, we have extended this to Blogs and Journals.

Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class by Owen Jones

The political book of the year. Beginning with unpicking the ‘chav caricature’  Owen goes to the fault lines of British political and social culture. His defence of class politics, backed up by impressive on-the-spot investigation and research, has hit the mainstream. As David Cameron defends the interests of the City (and Wall Street) against ‘Europe’ it’s as well to be reminded of how life is really lived in this country.

Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore is the historical study of the year. Montefiore is now presenting a three-part series based on the book on BBC 4. He does not only describe the better known history of the ‘Holy City’, and well-known cruelties of the Roman occupies and the Crusader invaders. Montefiore also reveals the archeological doubts about ‘King David’s’ city, King Solomon’s magnificence. He does not flinch from describing  oppressive blood-stained Islamic rulers, such as Zangi the Bloody, either. Guaranteed to offend just about everyone –  an invigorating read.

Embassytown by China Miéville. Science fiction can more than the reading-matter of the cast of the Big Bang Theory . Miéville, a member of the SWP, combines high seriousness, wit and philological imagination in his story of the “polyvocal exots” , the Arieka. It’s not just enjoyable; this book actually makes you think.

La Carte Et Le Territoire by Michel Houellebecq . Houellebecq ‘s most playful and optimistic novel. It ends with France becoming a vast museum and the tired life of a cosseted pointless artist who dedicates himself to the artistic reproduction of a world nobody wants to live in, “consacra sa vie à la reproduction de représentations du monde, dans lesquelles cependant les gens ne devaient nullement vivre “.


We signal the sad discontinuation – or suspension – of A Very Public Sociologist, Splintered Sunrise,  and the irrepressible Stroppy Blog.

Dave’s Part  pursues a vigorous public debate, and very readable posts, on key political issues for the Left. Socialist Unity , while going adrift on Iran – part of its tenderness for the pious Islamist bourgeoisie, and publicising pantomime dame, George Galloway – produces useful contributions to trade union and anti-cuts politics. Harry’s Place  bores the arse off everyone with its obsession about Israel, and reheated indignation about leftist totalitarians. But it publishes worthwhile criticism of muddle-headed thinking on Islamism and the far-right and shows concern for social issues.

Rosie Bell  shows continued fineness of spirit. Delicateness is not always a feature of Shiraz Socialist but it produces informed insights into the movement, particularly the inner workings of UNITE union, and much on international issues that others ignore. Organised Rage equally brings news to our attention that we’d miss otherwise,  particularly obituaries of left figures. Harpy Marx is a significant Blog that underlines the importance of welfare issues and poverty. Anti-National Translation is well worth a regular looking at. The Spanish Prisoner has become a must-read for its film reviews – up there with Philip French and Mark Kermode, to exaggerate only slightly. Obliged to Offend is a heartening  read, as is Representing the Mambo. 


The Ipswich Blogosphere is only now developing. Ipswich Spy offers a place for Benedict Gummer MP to ingratiate himself with his Leader, and Liberal Democrat Councillors to make fools of themselves. A Riverside View  offers interesting pictures of lamp posts and  Corn Hill drains.

Entdinglichung is one of the most valuable, multilingual, left resources around. Poumista also covers many countries, bringing to our attention the often forgotten heroes and heroines of the independent left.

Bob From Brockley is the clear front-runner in the UK. Bob writes acute commentary, principally on British politics, and offers a stunning range of material and Blogging links.


New Left Review continues to publish significant material, including important articles by Perry Anderson and the much-liked Robin Blackburn. It also provides a platform for ‘m’as-tu-vu’ Tariq Ali. This year the Norfolk Squire reminisced about meeting Malcolm X in Oxford. This is perhaps an improvement on his homage to Mao-Tse-Tung in 2010. This  defence of the Chairman’s  ‘globally positive’ balance-sheet thankfully stopped short of Tariq’s recollections of when he dined with him over a bowl of chop suey.

Historical Materialism publishes Marxist research, overwhelmingly useful but sometimes ponderously academic. The review-article section is fluent and memorable. International Socialism prints a surprisingly large number of well-argued articles, amongst the perennial wishful thinking of the SWP.  Alex Callinicos  is always worth reading. Richard Seymour seems at long last to be outgrowing his slipshod ideas on the ‘new racism’ and ‘liberal murder’. New Interventions  (no Web-site) offers an independent forum for left debate, and is increasingly successful in this aim.

The Weekly Worker is essential reading for any serious leftist, with reportage on the left, serious  theory, and in-depth international coverage.  Labour Briefing has come to life with recent political upheaval. The Alliance for Workers Liberty‘s, Solidarity publishes, amongst other material, reports on areas, such as the North African left, not found elsewhere. The lesser-known The Commune offers a wide-range of reports also not found elsewhere with open-minded explorations of the politics of self-management. Country Standard is mid-Blog and Journal, and covers rural and class issues from the left. Red Pepper has finally taken up welfare campaigns.

But it is Chartist which is clearly a winner this year. Its editing has become sharper and clearer, its debates focused on the issues that matter in UK politics, from British backed military interventions, localism, the Big Society, to Europe.

Chartist is now a must-read.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm

5 Responses

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  1. I’ve just started Jerusalem – seems very good so far. Should Modernity Blog be added to your list of blogs we miss?

    Sarah AB

    December 10, 2011 at 8:32 am

    • For Modernity’s anti-Fascist material – yes.

      Sarah, hope you’ve watched the Jerusalem BBC 4 programme as well. It’s good.

      Andrew Coates

      December 10, 2011 at 10:34 am

  2. Haven’t seen that, no – I don’t tend to watch much TV (apart from some light stuff to keep the children company). By the way, I’ve noticed there’s been some more coverage recently of those Roma work camps in Hungary you blogged about a while back.

    Sarah AB

    December 10, 2011 at 1:56 pm

  3. Thanks for the mention, Coatesy, and also for the tip to watch the Jerusalem programme. I’ve just watched it and thought it very good. I’ll get hold of the book some time.


    December 11, 2011 at 1:27 am

  4. Great blog. Interesting information.

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