“A hell of a performance”—Warren Ellis reviews No Less Than Mystic

We were delighted to discover this wonderful review of John Medhurst’s No Less Than Mystic in the newsletter of  Warren Ellis (graphic novelist, writer, author of Normal, Gun Machine, Transmetropolitan, Red and much more). He’s kindly given us permission to reprint the section here. You can sign up to his newsletter, Orbital Operations, hereNo Less Than Mystic is out now. 

 

I have many fine-looking books by many excellent authors waiting to be read, and I’m desperate to read them, but I have a confession. When NO LESS THAN MYSTIC by John Medhurst arrived, I dropped everything to start it. And it hasn’t let go.

It’s a history of Lenin, the Bolsheviks and the Russian Revolution.

I feel like I need to yell HEAR ME OUT.

The brilliance of Medhurst’s political histories — and some of you will remember me praising his previous THAT OPTION NO LONGER EXISTS — is his sharp eye for the pivot points and the alternative routes history could have taken. Or, put another way – alternate histories are buried in his actual histories. He will lead you to fly off into fascinating could-have-beens, big ones that start with small corrected missteps or slightly different arrangements of personalities. There are wonders compressed in his books.

The additional pleasure of NO LESS THAN MYSTIC is that he looks back from a 21st Century perspective, with no interest in being chained to the previous moment. From the blurb, in fact, he:

continually examines the Leninist experiment through the lens of a 21st century, de-centralised, ecological, anti-productivist and feminist socialism. Throughout its narrative it interweaves and draws parallels with contemporary anti-capitalist struggles such as those of the Zapatistas, the Kurds, the Argentinean “Recovered Factories”, Occupy, the Arab Spring, the Indignados and Intersectional feminists, attempting to open up the past to the present and points in between.

This fills out the book in remarkable ways, and, frankly, allows Medhurst to put the boot into Lenin from a number of different angles.

(It could be usefully read in tandem with Catherine Merridale’s LENIN ON THE TRAIN, which was not nearly as soft and romantic a book as some idiot reviewers would have you believe.)

This is a big, energetic, ambitious book that deserves every success. A hell of a performance.

NO LESS THAN MYSTIC, John Medhurst (UK) (US)

(Nice to see Repeater Books building out its list so skilfully, too.)

Warren Ellis is the award-winning writer of graphic novels like TRANSMETROPOLITAN, FELL, MINISTRY OF SPACE and PLANETARY, and the author of the NYT-bestselling GUN MACHINE and the “underground classic” novel CROOKED LITTLE VEIN. The movie RED is based on his graphic novel of the same name.

A new novella, NORMAL is released November 29 2016.

“How the fuck is that even possible?”

Reflections on the last few weeks in UK politics, by John Medhurst, author of the forthcoming No Less Than Mystic: A History of the Russian Revolution for a 21st Century Left (out August 2017). 

This is a British revolution.

As I write, the last few weeks have seen:

  • An apparently secure and unassailable Tory Prime Minister, Theresa May, call a General Election that looked set to produce a Tory landslide and the annihilation of the Labour Party.
  • The Labour Party respond with a bold, radical manifesto that promised nationalisation of privatised services such as the Royal Mail, energy companies, the buses and railways; a 50% tax rate for the top 5% of earners allied to increased Corporation tax to fund the NHS; scrapping of student Tuition Fees, the re-introduction of Grants and the cancellation of all existing student debt; a ban on Fracking; and state-led public investment to grow the economy, including a million new homes and the capping of rent increases.
  • A response from young people that exceeded even the most optimistic expectations, as this historically under-registered and under-engaged group turned out to vote for Labour in record numbers.
  • The belated emergence of a solidly oppositional, reactive and effective social media presence into the British political arena, so much so that where the Sun once boasted it won elections for the Tories, that same media now looks a paper tiger, shouting splenetic hate in an echo chamber.
  • The visible, palpable collapse of Tory swagger and energy after losing its majority and coming within a whisker of being defeated by a confident socialist opposition.
  • That same party’s desperate and unprincipled willingness to endanger the Good Friday Agreement and peace in Northern Ireland in order to prop itself up with a handful of votes from a fringe Unionist party renowned for vicious homophobia.
  • The Brexit process thrown into utter chaos, as the government struggles to construct a coherent negotiating strategy, with a cross-party majority in the new Parliament pushing for a “soft Brexit” that retains access to the European Single Market.
  • A terrible fire ripping through a local council tower block in a poor area of the richest borough in the country, Kensington and Chelsea. A fire that could have been contained had not the council and the arms-length body to which it outsourced estate management used the cheapest and most flammable material to clad the building.
  • A horrific (and still rising) death toll of mostly ethnic minority, poor and disabled tenants.
  • A brief visit to the scene by Theresa May in which she met senior fire and police officials but failed to meet survivors and volunteer workers, in stark contrast to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
  • A tsunami of outrage and bad publicity descending on May’s head, a massive, irrecoverable political blunder that will define her and her premiership.
  • Corbyn’s call for the requisitioning of the many vacant properties in the borough, left empty as investments by rich or non-domiciled residents, and wide-spread popular support for this policy.
  • The cold, indifferent response from the council to survivors, leaving them for days on the floor of local churches and sports centres, failing to co-ordinate emergency collections, failing to inform those put into hotels of other relief, or provide food beyond a free breakfast.
  • Massive anger sweeping the local community, resulting in the storming and occupation of Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall. At the same time, a spontaneous mass march on Downing St to demand May resign and justice be done for the survivors.
  • Labour calling for a million-person march to overturn a failing and bankrupt government. Labour now six points ahead in the polls, with Corbyn vastly more popular than May.
  • Corbyn’s astonishing appearance at Glastonbury as thousands of festival goers chant his name and he delivers a blast of pure socialist passion, concluding with Shelley’s “Masque of Anarchy” to rapturous applause.

Continue reading “How the fuck is that even possible?”

Regulating capitalism in Marvel’s Civil War

Guest post by John Medhurst 

The central concern of modern politics is the extent to which the destructive, anti-social effects of neoliberal capitalism – most obviously those produced by the financial sector and fossil fuel industry – should be subject to public regulation. The most life-threatening activity within modern America—wide-spread and easily accessible gun ownership—is a relic of rampant free-market individualism. The results are grim.

The superhero genre (comics or film) cannot avoid the issues raised. Most superheroes, after all, are vigilantes. They have no legal sanction to do what they do, yet because the rules of the superhero story function in their favour they are seldom hunted down and arrested. The threats they respond to are always real, the actions they take avert a far worse injustice or disaster (sometimes genocidal), they never accidentally kill someone, and thus their actions are justified in the terms of the world they inhabit.

civilwar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Continue reading Regulating capitalism in Marvel’s Civil War

What do Lenin & the Russian Revolution mean to the 21st century left?—John Medhurst

This is an extract from a work-in-progress – No Less than Mystic: What do Lenin and the Russian Revolution mean to the 21st Century left? by John Medhurst. The book will be published by Repeater in late 2016/early 2017 

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 13.02.12

The aim of this book is to present a new history of Lenin and the Russian Revolution that has a direct relevance for those today who oppose and resist neo-liberal capitalism. It broadly covers the period 1903 to 1921 in Russia and seeks to explain why the Bolshevik Revolution degenerated so quickly into its apparent opposite. Yet it is not only and exactly a work of history. It examines the issues and events of the Russian Revolution through the lens of a 21st century, non-Marxist libertarian socialism. It suggests that corporate capitalism must be opposed not with a set of “revolutionary” formulations which were questionable one hundred years ago and have even less relevance now, but with popular, pluralistic and democratic movements built on people’s needs and experience. As a result it is kinder to Russia’s non-Leninist socialists than are most histories. Although not blind to the many flaws of the Russian Mensheviks, Socialist Revolutionaries and Jewish Bundists I seek to rescue them from a century of misrepresentation. I do not automatically assume the knowledge of the subject that many Russian Revolution hobbyists take for granted, nor show much deference to those icons of Bolshevism, Lenin and Trotsky, still common today on the left. I suggest that socialist thinkers and activists such as Noam Chomsky, Michael Albert, Owen Jones, Naomi Klein and Arundahti Roy have more constructive and positive options to offer the anti-capitalist left today than do the sages of Bolshevism. Continue reading What do Lenin & the Russian Revolution mean to the 21st century left?—John Medhurst