Time for the second part of my 2010 book review…
Whilst there is a huge array of literature focussing on the Provisional IRA, very little addresses the socialist grouping from which it splintered back in 1969. This has left the Official IRA one of the least understood players in Irish Politics…until now.
The Lost Revolution gives a gripping account of the organisation and its related political branches- from their position following the Irish Civil War to their involvement as a partisan left-wing force in modern Ireland. It draws on comprehensive research, unprecedented interviews and previously unseen documents to create a story that is as enthralling as it is informative. The authors take the reader on a journey through the movement’s quest to create a communist state in Ireland- including their dealings with Kim Il Sung’s North Korea, almost unbelievable involvement with loyalist paramilitaries and of course their bloody feud with the provos. In depth pictures of individual players blend seamlessly with an objective yet detailed timeline of a force that was crucial for decades in Irish politics and that has left a lasting legacy today.
Whilst the level of analysis is slightly weighted in favour of earlier chapters in the movement’s history this only because there is more to tell about about the exploits of OIRA gunmen on the streets of Belfast compared to the ultimately futile attempts of the Democratic Left in electoral politics year later.
Overall this stands as the authoritative history of Ireland’s socialist/communist forces and unless significant new documents are uncovered or previously silent individuals come forward – looks set to remain so long into the future.
Burmese ruler Than Shwe is undeniably one of the world’s most brutal dictators – not only in recent time but throughout modern history. Over the last 20 years his attempted genocide of ethnic groups, suppression of democratic movements and criminally negligent trashing of the economy has brought a once prosperous nation to its knees. Prominent activist Benedict Rogers takes on the challenge of analysing his life and ‘leadership’ in this superb work.
Its no easy task. The secretive and patently absurd nature of Burma’s successive juntas mean little information about the Senior General is freely available – one of the reasons why he has escaped the kind of spotlight and critique that the likes of Mugabe, Suharto and Amin have been subjected to. However, Rogers has done an excellent job of unearthing facts and testimonies that chart Than Shwe’s rise from a lowly post office clarke to leader of a murderous regime. Interviews with various diplomats, former political prisoners and those who have encountered Than Shwe allow for a surprisingly in depth picture of him – both personally and professionally.
Like Roger’s previous book – a Land Without Evil (which focussed on the junta’s genocide in the Karen region), Unmasking Burma’s Tyrant does a great job of contextualising its subject matter – effectively conveying the modern history of Burma that is necessary for the reader to fully understand Than Shwe’s rise and rule. The concise yet informative way in which he does this gives the book a unique quality; the broad rich historical background means it can work as an introduction to Burmese politics for those unfamiliar with the subject matter whilst the detailed and unprecedented focus on Than Shwe makes it a must-read for those with an existing interest.
As such – I would recommend this book to anyone keen to establish or expand their knowledge of Burma and would urge everyone to look out for Roger’s new book Burma: Captive Nation which is due out next year. If A Land without Evil and Unmasking Burma’s Tyrant are anything to go on, it will be another outstanding work by the UK's leading Burma commentator.