Labour Book Club
Many of us read about history, economics or politics, and there are many famous novelists with social or political themes. It can be good to have a place to discuss what we read with others.
Historically the Labour party has a tradition of members educating themselves and the book club was started partly with that aim so that people who were interested could learn together, as well as being a pleasurable occasion for those who enjoy discussing books. This is a short reflection on how this has gone over the last year.
The group is informal and anyone interested is welcome. The discussions have been lively and interesting, not everyone always managed to finish the books, which was fine. The, fairly loose, program was that at each meeting, a member chooses the next book, and so far the group has read:
- How to Dismantle the NHS (Yousef El-Gingihy, an NHS doctor): a clear and powerful summary of insidious nature of the reforms and modernisation program, which in essence have been about enabling private firms to make money from the NHS.
- 23 Things they don’t tell you about Capitalism (Ha-Joon Chang, a Cambridge academic): a survey of twenty three current economic beliefs and prejudices about capitalism, and how virtually everyone of them is false, with arguments often supported by quantitative and statistical data.
- Down and out in Paris and London (George Orwell): a classic recording of the author’s experience of poverty in Paris and London in the early 1920s
- This changes everything (Naomi Klien, author, critic of global corporatism): on climate change and the urgency of addressing this most vital environmental issue
- Talking Anarchy (Colin Ward, author and anarchist): a very surprising and interesting book, countering limited views of what is meant by anarchists, which is often about decisions being made bottom up rather than as now, where it is top down. A lot of the ideas link to empowering democracy.
- A Common Treasury (Winstanley, 17th century organiser of the Diggers): The various declarations and Testaments of the Diggers, a post English Civil War group who tried to establish a commune run on Communist ideals – no property, no employers, no profit/exploitation oriented companies etc.. Their declarations set out their justification, often based on the bible and fundamental ideas of justice and fairness. A very interesting and neglected period of English history.
The current book is Why Marx Was Right (Terry Eagleton, notable British academic), the first half led to a lively discussion, the second half is for December’s meeting.
Going forward the group is reviewing how the club should operate: whether the current format is working well, whether the reading is too heavy and books should be spread over more sessions. The timing of the meetings is being changed on a trial basis to around mid-month from November 2018.
Frank Chacko, Political Education Officer, 2017-2018 Cheltenham CLP