The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
ENO's production of La Boheme is a triumph,
This book is a selection of contributions made at a conference of socialists in Canada in 2009.
As such it represents a valuable and thought-provoking discussion both of what has gone wrong with previous attempts to build socialism and how we can best reinvent the project for the 21st-century.
It is essential reading for all on the left who wish to gain a deeper understanding of the problems facing any attempt to realise that aim.
These are people who know what they are talking about - theirs is not an abstract academic exercise nor do they indulge in highly theoretical discussion.
James Petras provides a welcome and sober examination of developments in Latin America and, while full of admiration at what has been achieved, he underlines that none of the present progressive regimes on that subcontinent is actually building socialism.
What they have achieved, he argues, is little more than what a number of European social-democratic governments did in the immediate post war era.
They could be best characterised as progressive nationalist governments - none have espoused Marxism.
Errol Sharp comments on how, despite widespread discussion of socialism and social justice in universities, little of this has filtered down to the grass roots.
He argues that academics, by the very nature of the system, often become incorporated and are obliged to use a language that only their peers comprehend.
But in doing so, they separate themselves off from those who would benefit from their research - the poor and dispossessed.
Even the unions, Sharp says, now invariably fight only for incremental material gains but do not raise the central question of changing the system.
The Chilean political scientist Marta Harnecker offers perhaps the most perceptive contribution.
She experienced Allende's Popular Unity government first hand, then carried out research in Cuba and currently in Venezuela, so is well placed to offer a unique insight into political developmental potential.
Harnecker argues forcibly that socialism cannot be imposed by a single party or organisation.
She is clear that it has to be based on a mass popular movement.
But she underlines that despite a plethora of worthwhile social movements, campaigns and organisations, fundamental social change will not be achieved without a central organising force or focus.
But, as Harnecker stresses, such a force has to work within the broadest spectrum of grass-roots movements.
It has both to learn from them and work with them, while at the same time providing leadership and focus.