Labour: Verso's Essential Reading List

Since storming to victory on September 14th 2015 with 59.5% of the vote in Labour's leadership election, Jeremy Corbyn has faced many challenges; including from within his own party.

On Saturday he dealt with the most significant threat to his leadership to date. He increased his win to 61.8% in the leadership election, an unarguable mandate from his party members. 
The results of this weekend will have an overwhelming effect on the landscape of British politics. But will the PLP now unify behind their leader?

In the build up to the Labour Party Conference, the Leadership Election 2016, as well as the World Transformed festival (hosted by a coalition of grassroots groups and powered by Momentum), Verso has put together an essential reading list. Download our free eBook on
Corbyn and the Future of Labour to get 40% off all of the books below until September 30th (click on the discount link within the ebook).



Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics by Richard Seymour
Seymour tells the story of how Corbyn’s rise was made possible by the long decline of Labour and a deep crisis in British democracy. It surveys the makeshift coalition of trade unionists, young and precarious workers, and students who rallied to Corbyn. It shows how a novel social media campaign turned the media’s “Project Fear” on its head, making a virtue of every accusation thrown at him. And finally it asks, with all the artillery that is still ranged against Corbyn, and given the crisis-ridden Labour Party that he has inherited, what it would mean for him to succeed.

Working Class Politics in Crisis: Essays on Labour and the State by Leo Panitch
Panitch examines the British Labour Party in the 1960s and 70s as a classic example of social democracy in power. He also considers the genesis and development of corporatism in such liberal democracies as Sweden and West Germany. Throughout, the author develops a non-corporatist socialist alternative, sensitive to the necessary institutional forms of a democratic socialist state.

Politics in a Time of Crisis: Podemos and the Future of Democracy in Europe by Pablo Iglesias
Since 2011, Pablo Iglesias has led Podemos, a new radical left party in Spain that is reframing the nature of modern politics. Under his guidance, the party has unmasked the ideological motives behind European austerity, revealing the true nature of this power grab conducted on behalf of elites intent on dismantling the welfare state. Here, Iglesias delineates his political vision. He skewers not only the Spanish establishment, but also the anti-democratic bloc comprising the Troika, corporate interests, and the “Wall Street Party.”

Politics in a Time of Crisis is a manifesto for a new, democratic left: a political programme poised to transform Europe.

The Ministry of Nostalgia: Consuming Austerity by Owen Hatherley
Owen Hatherley explodes the creation of a false history: a rewriting of the austerity of the 1940s and 1950s, which saw the development of a welfare state while the nation crawled out of the devastations of war. This period has been recast to explain and offer consolation for the violence of neoliberalism, an ideology dedicated to the privatisation of our common wealth.

In a brilliant polemical rampage, with subjects ranging from Ken Loach’s documentaries, London vernacular architecture, and Jamie Oliver’s cooking—Hatherley issues a passionate challenge to the injunction to keep calm and carry on.

Cultural Capital: The Rise and Fall of Creative Britain by Robert Hewison
Tony Blair heralded the New Labour era a “golden age” of creativity. Yet despite huge investment, the audience for the arts remained a privileged minority. So what went wrong?

Leading historian Robert Hewison gives an in-depth account of how creative Britain lost its way. From Cool Britannia and the Millennium Dome to the Olympics and beyond, he shows how culture became a commodity, and how target-obsessed managerialism stifled creativity. In response to the failures of New Labour and the austerity measures of the Coalition government, Hewison argues for a new relationship between politics and the arts.

The End of Parliamentary Socialism: From New Left to New Labour by Colin Leys and Leo Panitch
This trenchant account of the last twenty-five years of the British Labour Party argues that Tony Blair's modernizing tendency was profoundly mistaken in asserting that the only alternative to traditional social democracy and narrow parliamentarianism was an acceptance of neo-liberalism. In blaming the Labour left, rather than the social-democratic right for the party's years in the electoral wilderness, the modernizers rejected the creativity and energy which the party's New Left had mobilized, and without which their own professed aim of democratic renewal was unlikely to be realized. In this new edition, the authors, in collaboration with David Coates, review the debate in light of the Blair government's first three years in office.

Outsider in the White House by Bernie Sanders with Huck Gutman
Bernie Sanders’s 2016 campaign for the presidency of the United States galvanized people all over the country, putting economic, racial, and social justice into the spotlight, and raising hopes that Americans can take their country back from the billionaires and change the course of history.

In this book, Sanders tells the story of a passionate and principled political life. He describes how, after cutting his teeth in the Civil Rights movement, he helped build a grassroots political movement in Vermont, making it possible for him to become the first independent elected to the US House of Representatives in forty years. The story continues into the US Senate and through the dramatic launch of his presidential campaign.

The Revenge of History: The Battle for the 21st Century by Seumas Milne
From 9/11 to the Arab Spring and beyond – encompassing the economic crisis, the rise of China, and conflicts in the Middle East – The Revenge of Historyturns the orthodoxies of the past generation on their head.

In this coruscating account of the first decade of the twenty-first century, Seumas Milne presents a powerful indictment of the United States, a global and corporate empire in decline. Milne also examines the causes of the credit crisis and the Great Recession, reveals the policy of humanitarian military intervention to be a failed land grab, explains the dynamo behind the roaring Chinese economy and discovers new models of society flourishing in Latin America. Brilliant, bold and always incisive, The Revenge of History is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand what has gone wrong.

The ABCs of Socialism
edited by Bhaskar Sunkara
This book steps into this moment to offer a clear, accessible, informative, and irreverent guide to socialism for the uninitiated. Written by young writers from the dynamic magazine Jacobin, alongside several distinguished scholars, The ABCs of Socialism answers basic questions, including ones that many want to know but might be afraid to ask (“Doesn’t socialism always end up in dictatorship?”, “Will socialists take my Kenny Loggins records?”). Disarming and pitched to a general readership without sacrificing intellectual depth, this will be the best introduction an idea whose time seems to have come again.

Contributors include Nicole Aschoff, Alyssa Battistoni, Jonah Birch, Vivek Chibber, Danny Katch, Chris Maisano, Nivedita Majumdar, Michael A. McCarthy, Joseph M. Schwartz, Bhaskar Sunkara, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Adaner Usmani and Erik Olin Wright.

The Hard Road to Renewal: Thatcherism and the Crisis of the Left by Stuart Hall
Stuart Hall's writings on the political impact of Margaret Thatcher have established him as the most prescient and insightful analyst of contemporary Conservatism.

Collected here for the first time with a new introduction, these essays show how Thatcher has exploited discontent with Labour's record in office and with aspects of the welfare state to devise a potent authoritarian, populist ideology. Hall's critical approach is elaborated here in essays on the formation of the SDP, inner city riots, the Falklands War and the signficance of Antonio Gramsci. He suggests that Thatcherism is skillfully employing the restless and individualistic dynamic of consumer capitalism to promote a swingeing programme of 'regressive modernization'.

NHS plc: The Privatisation of Our Health Care by Allyson M. Pollock
Universal, comprehensive health care, equally available to all and disconnected from income and the ability to pay, was the goal of the founders of the National Health Service. This book, by one of the NHS’s most eloquent and passionate defenders, tells the story of how that ideal has been progressively eroded, and how the clock is being turned back to pre-NHS days, when health care was a commodity, fully available only to those with money.

The NHS remains popular, Pollock argues, precisely because it created the “freedom from fear” that its founders promised, and because its integrated, non-commercial character meant low costs and good medical practice. Restoring these values in today’s health service has become an urgent necessity, and this book will be a key resource for everyone wishing to to bring this about.

A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain by Owen Hatherley
Back in 1997, New Labour came to power amid much talk of regenerating the inner cities left to rot under successive Conservative governments. Over the next decade, British cities became the laboratories of the new enterprise economy: glowing monuments to finance, property speculation, and the service industry—until the crash.

Owen Hatherley sets out to explore the wreckage—the buildings that epitomized an age of greed and aspiration. From Greenwich to Glasgow, Milton Keynes to Manchester, Hatherley maps the derelict Britain of the 2010s: from riverside apartment complexes, art galleries and amorphous interactive "centers," to shopping malls, call centers and factories turned into expensive lofts. In doing so, he provides a mordant commentary on the urban environment in which we live, work and consume. Scathing, forensic, bleakly humorous, A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain is a coruscating autopsy of a get-rich-quick, aspirational politics, a brilliant, architectural "state we're in."

The Enemy Within: The Secret War Against the Miners by Seumas Milne"The best book on the Thatcher era", according to Naomi Klein, The Enemy Within reveals the astonishing lengths to which her government and its intelligence machine were prepared to go to destroy the power of Britain’s miners’ union. In this 30th anniversary edition new material brings the story up to date with further revelations about the secret war against organized labour and political dissent, and the devastating price paid for the Thatcher administration's onslaught by communities across Britain.

The Extreme Centre: A Warning by Tariq Ali
The 2015 general election may well be looked-back on as the defining moment for the politics of the "Extreme Centre," that indistinguishable middle ground fought over by all the main parties. Tariq Ali's prescient account of the school of TINA ('there is no alternative') looks at the people and the events that have informed this moment of political suicide: corruption in Westminster; the failures of the EU and NATO; and the soft power of the American Empire that dominates the world stage uncontested.



Ruling the Void: The Hollowing of Western Democracy by Peter Mair
Mair's Ruling the Void, released posthumously in 2013, diagnoses the malaise at the heart of contemporary democracy. Parties less and less act in their traditional role as mediators between the people who elect them and political power and more for financial and corporate interests.

As Henry Farrell in the Washington Post points out, this 'hollowing out' of political parties has ocurred nowhere more so than in traditionally left-of-centre parties like Labour. Mair's analysis is an indispensable guide for assessing the rise of Corbyn and the new breed of left-populism across Europe.

Inequality and the 1% by Danny Dorling
Since the great recession hit in 2008, the 1% has only grown richer while the rest find life increasingly tough. The gap between the haves and the have-nots has turned into a chasm. In Inequality and the 1% leading social thinker Danny Dorling lays bare the extent and true cost of the division in our society and asks what have the superrich ever done for us.

Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class by Owen Jones
The book that made his name, Chavs is an acclaimed investigation into the class structure of contemporary Britain through the lens of the "Chav". Exposing the ignorance and prejudice at the heart of the caricature, Jones portrays a far more complex reality. The chav stereotype, he argues, is used by governments as a convenient figleaf to avoid genuine engagement with social and economic problems and to justify widening inequality.



The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the new Sunni Revolution by Patrick Cockburn 
In The Rise of Islamic State, Patrick Cockburn describes the conflicts behind a dramatic unraveling of US foreign policy. He shows how the West created the conditions for ISIS’s explosive success by stoking the war in Syria. The West—the US and NATO in particular—underestimated the militants’ potential until it was too late and failed to act against jihadi sponsors in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Pakistan. 



English Questions by Perry Anderson
This collection of classic essays from Britain's leading Marxist historian is one of the best sources we have to understand "The Origins of the Present Crisis." Perry's seminal essay, written in 1964, traces the lack of a revolutionary opposition in British politics to England's premature revolutions of the 1640s and its constitutional establishment in 1688. The problem of the English has never been more thoroughly analysed, and the Nairn-Anderson thesis feels as relevant as ever in our crisis prone national landscape. 

Meltdown: The End of the Age of Greed by Paul Mason
Covering the development of the crisis from the economic front line, BBC Newsnight journalist Paul Mason explores the roots of the US and UK’s financial hubris, documenting the real-world causes and consequences from the Ford factory, to Wall Street, to the City of London. In this fully updated edition, he recounts how the credit crunch became a full-blown financial crisis, and explores its impact on capitalist ideology and politics in our new age of austerity.

A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain by Owen Hatherley
A bleak drift through the contemporary ruinscape of Britain's cities. Includes a fascinating account of Blair's disastrous PFI scheme.

Against the Troika: Crisis and Austerity in the Eurozone by Heiner Flassback and Costas Lapavitsas
The Eurozone is in a deep and prolonged crisis. It is now clear that monetary union is a historic failure, beyond repair—and certainly not in the interests of Europe’s working people. The final three chapters offer a detailed postmortem of the Greek catastrophe, explain what can be learned from it—and provide a possible alternative.

Private Island: Why Britain now Belongs to Someone Else by James Meek
Orwell Award winning account of New Labour's slash 'n' burn of publicly-owned services. In a little over a generation the bones and sinews of the British economy – rail, energy, water, postal services, municipal housing – have been sold to remote, unaccountable private owners, often from overseas. In a series of brilliant portraits the award-winning novelist and journalist James Meek shows how Britain's commonwealth became private, and the impact it has had on us all: from the growing shortage of housing to spiralling energy bills.

Class War Conservatism and Other Essays by Ralph Miliband


Labour would be unwise to ignore the words of parliamentary socialism's most trenchant critic Ralph Miliband. This classic collection of essays from "The Man Who Hated Britain," recently republished with a new introduction by Tariq Ali, covers Miliband's most famous pronouncements on the state, socialism and the Labour party.

"The last General Election has had at least one beneficial result: it has shocked many more people into a recognition of the fact that the Labour Party is a sick party. And it has also helped many more people within it to realise that the sickness is not a surface ailment, a temporary indisposition, but a deep organic disorder, of which repeated electoral defeats are not the cause but the symptom. What this means is that the sickness would have been as serious if Labour had won the last election. Victory at the polls, given Labour’s recent history, policies and leadership, would only have delayed the crisis, for a while, and given the Labour Party an altogether deceptive appearance of health. This is why a proper diagnosis must take electoral defeat into account, but only as one element of Labour’s condition.” Ralph Miliband in the very first New Left Review in 1960.

The Party Conference takes place in Liverpool from 25-28 September, preceded by the National Women’s Conference on the 24th. The World Transformed runs from 24-27 September @ The Black-E, Liverpool