On Friday 23rd December the UN passed a resolution demanding a stop to Israeli settlement in the occupied territories as, in a shock move, the US refused to veto the resolution. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exploded, calling it a 'declaration of war' (having recently been granted a $38 billion military aid package by the US), and Secretary of State John Kerry criticised Israel's approach to the peace process. But with Trump tweeting that Israel should 'stay strong' until his inauguration, progress still seems unlikely.
Verso presents a list of books from Israeli, Palestinian, and anti-imperialist authors, to explain the conflict and provide some perspectives on the future.
Muhammad Ali died earlier this month on 3rd June, aged 74. In tribute to his fearless courage, in the ring and in politics, we publish this adapted excerpt from Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties by Mike Marqusee.
(Muhammad Ali at the 1960 Summer Olympics. Via Wikimedia Commons.)
On 25 February 1964, Cassius Clay defeated Sonny Liston to become heavyweight champion of the world. This against-the-odds victory was one of the shocking upheavals characteristic of the era, a surprise that compelled people to reconsider their assumptions. The triumph of the underdog, and with it the confounding of bookmakers and experts, is one of the most visceral thrills sports have to offer; it brings with it a combined sense of disorientation and unsuspected possibility, feelings which were to be intensified by Clay’s actions outside the ring in the days that followed.
Soccer vs. the State — Gabriel Kuhn (PM Press)
A political perspective on the world’s most popular sport. Ex semi-professional footballer Gabriel Kuhn explores both the criticisms of soccer as a vehicle for right-wing agendas and its potential for radical activists providing an enlightening take on our notions about sport in general.
AAP 030 Anarchist Football (Soccer) Manual — AAP Collective (AAP Collective)
Published by Alpine Anarchist productions (AAP), Kuhn’s own publishing enterprise, this handbook explores the history of football from a uniquely radical angle. Arguing that the game is now a hotbed of commercialism, this bestselling pamphlet aims to enable anarchist fans to reconcile themselves to enjoyment of the game beyond the capitalist agenda of its modern-day manifestation.
Passion of the People?: Football in South America — Tony Mason
An analysis of the political role of football in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay that examines its positive and negative uses as an instrument of social control. Published in 1994, Mason's book examines the place of sport within the social fabric of these societies after Brazil’s World Cup win of that year. Passion of the People is an indispensable companion during the confluence of nations of widely varying degrees of wealth and political stability that is the Olympic Games.
Those Damn Yankees: The Secret Life of America’s Greatest Franchise — Dean Chadwin
Dean Chadwin’s investigation into America’s most famous baseball team reveals the discrepancies between the commercial and competitive aspects of the sport and its benign media image. This unflinching investigation into the hidden realities of professional sports is particularly relevant during Olympic season inviting the reader to question what lies beneath the wholesome veneer of the Olympic spectacle.
Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties—Mike Marqusee
Muhammad Ali’s appearance at the Olympics opening ceremony reflected his legendary status in the sporting world. Marqusee’s book highlights Ali’s political role as a radical and stresses his importance as a voice of dissent in the turbulent decade of the 60s. Marqusee assesses Ali’s biography within an international context explaining his appeal to the wider global community as represented in London this summer.
Theatres of Memory: Past and Present in Contemporary Culture— Raphael Samuel
Director Danny Boyle presented his personal stance on a broad sweep of British history in the Olympics opening ceremony to a world audience of billions. Samuel’s imaginative and original argument that history is a living practice, forged and mutated across generations, enables a critical evaluation of the implications of this kind of creative interpretation of history.
Anyone But England: Cricket and the National Malaise — Mike Marqusee
American author Mike Marqusee reassesses the quintessentially English game of cricket. From his unique perspective Marqusee brings fresh insight to recounting its history and dares to probe into some of its controversies such as racism and sexism. As the world focuses on Britain during the Olympics, this book invites analysis of how this national and imperial pastime can illuminate the nation’s relationship with sport.
Critique of Everyday Life: Volume One — Henri Lefebvre
As a social, political and certainly consumerist event for the masses, how do the Olympic Games affect and reflect the ‘everyday life’ of contemporary society? Lefebvre’s seminal critique provides an intellectual framework by which to judge the Olympic phenomenon.
Soccer in Sun and Shadow — Eduardo Galeano
Galeano’s book charts the passionate highs and desperate lows of soccer in this compelling snapshot of the human side of the sport. With anecdotes and accounts from across the world, this memoir of the game is a refreshing and idiosyncratic insight into the intensity of the sporting life.
Peasant-Citizen & Slave: the Foundations of Athenian Democracy — Ellen Meiskins Wood
This radical re-reading of Athenian democracy seeks to and succeeds in fundamentally altering our perceptions of slavery and citizenship in ancient Greece, the birthplace of the Olympic Games.
The London Hanged: Crime and Civil Society in the Eighteenth Century— Peter Linebaugh
Peter Linebaugh’s bottom-up history of hanging in 18th Century London explores the complex political and economic contexts of criminalization and punishment in society. This history sheds light on the low-tolerance policing of the Olympics, which kicked off with the mass arrest of almost 200 cyclists during the opening ceremony.
Night Haunts: A Journey Through the London Night — Sukdhev Sandhu
Taking H.V. Morton’s 1926, The Nights of London as his inspiration and companion, Sandhu presents a series of memoirs of London’s nocturnal life as recalled by the ordinary people who inhabit it; from cabbies to cleaners. A world away from the manicured sterility of the Olympic Park, Sandhu’s book offers a rich and personal compendium of a side of the city that most tourists will miss.
Fanaticism: On the Uses of an Idea — Alberto Toscano
The phrase ‘sports fanatic’ will be used liberally this summer by media commentators. London’s hosting of the event may even turn the usually uninterested into sports fanatics in the name of patriotism but is our understanding of the notion of fanaticism accurate or even fair? Toscano argues that our associations with the word require re-evaluation and stresses the important role that forms of fanaticism have played in political history.