Sarah Helm’s If This is A Woman: Inside Ravensbruck: Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women is the most important and best history book I have read in a long while. It is a gruelling read full of horror and evil, redeemed in part by extraordinary acts of courage, compassion, heroism, solidarity and generosity. But it would be foolish to pretend that it is anything other than tragic both in its detail and in its overall effect. Quite apart from the strengths of the book’s narrative however, there is the central vital fact that what matters most is that at long last, and just in time, the extraordinary story of these women is being told in English.

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This short essay is an attempt to answer the question ‘what can be done to make it easier for people with mental distress to get involved in left-wing politics?’. As such it needs to be stated at the start that the essay is a complete failure; it raises a lot of questions and issues but is conspicuously short on answers. However, it is important to be clear at the outset about what I am not discussing – the involvement of the Left in campaigning for better Mental Health provision, and a left-wing perspective on mental health issues. Both of these will be touched on in passing but they have been, and are being, discussed and considered by better minds than mine. In contrast I have never seen much, if any, discussion of the questions I am raising (which is not to say this has not occurred – it may be that I have missed it, but I have seen little practical evidence of any application). Continue Reading »

Broadchurch has been a television programme of quite exceptional brilliance and importance. Any proper analysis would need at least one repeated viewing and so will have to wait for the box set. However a few of the more obvious features can be noted at this point. Continue Reading »

Top Telly

I am again indebted to HarpyMarx (http://harpymarx.wordpress.com/2011/01/31/guardians-top-50-television-dramas-of-all-time/) for this list from The Guardian of their Top 50 TV Dramas. Like many others I love a list as long as it is not patently absurd, and this one, although one might disagree with it, is certainly not that. Here is the list… Continue Reading »

Shostakovich 10

A wonderful performance of Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony by the CBSO under the mesmerising Andris Nelsons. Shostakovich is a site of ideological battle, his music fiercely contested and debated, with every sort of hidden meaning detected which might make it acceptable to anti-communist listeners. Continue Reading »

A Collation of Links

This entry is somewhat remarkable in that consists solely of links to other people’s blog entries with almost no discussion or intervention. I do most heartily commend all of the pieces, but admit that it also functions as an easy historical record for me of a period in which I have not blogged. Continue Reading »

A Sick Society

The attack on sickness benefits has been going on for a number of years but has been vastly accelerated by the LibCons. This attack is both a personal and political matter for me. It has been brilliantly covered in a number of articles by HarpyMarx which I link to below. I wanted however to both produce a brief guide to the way in which the attacks have proceeded and my own encounters with the system. Continue Reading »


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