Chris Harman


Christmas Crackers

(December 1993)

From Socialist Review, No. 170, December 1993, p. 18.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

First two golden oldies – books I reread which had been standing on my shelf for years.

Eleanor Leacock, who died a couple of years ago, was an anthropologist driven out of academic life by McCarthyism. She fought back and worked with a younger generation of radicals like Richard Lee to revolutionise the whole study of pre-class societies and reinstate the notion of ‘primitive communism’. Myths of Male Dominance brings together some of her most important articles and is a brilliant challenge to the view – held by male supremacists and by many feminists alike – that men have dominated women in all societies.

George Dangerfield’s The Damnable Question is an account of the events leading up to the partition of Ireland. It is better at telling of the machinations and confusions of the British ruling class than of the conditions of the mass of Irish workers and peasants. But like Dangerfield’s history of British politics in the same period, The Strange Death of Liberal England, it is a delight to read.

Finally, a novel about the Indian subcontinent which could almost be about former Yugoslavia. Bapsi Sidhwa’s Ice Candy Man is set in Lahore in 1947, and tells of the horror as partition leads former friends to line up behind the communal armies from either side which are slaughtering each other. You can’t read it without feeling there must be an alternative, and it must be worth fighting for.

Last updated on 24 February 2017