Published by SchNEWS, c/o PO Box 2600, Brighton BN2 2DX, UK
Paperback / 266pp / £8.50 including postage / ISBN 0-9529748-3-5
Emerging out of the Brighton wing of the anti-Criminal Justice Bill campaign, the first issue of the witty, direct action focused newsletter SchNEWS hit the streets in late 1994. Over six years later and the impressive weekly production schedule continues - with no sign of the creeping stagnation and irrelevance so common with some of the more theory-based publications.
Every year or so some of the SchNEWS crew publish a book. Primarily a compilation of the previous year's 50 or so issues, they're also filled with cartoons, photos and articles - as well as comprehensive contact listings. This most recent book contains re-prints of issues 201-250, covering the events from mid-February 1999 through to early March 2000. To fill in some of the gaps between these, this edition has been a collaborative effort with Squall, a newspaper-style publication started in 1992 that mutated into a web site and occasional pamphlet producer a few years ago.
Rather horribly boasting that if "SchNEWS is yer tabloid, Squall is yer broadsheet", Squall seems to reject the personal and political anonymity that SchNEWS has so admirably stuck with over the years, and nearly all of their pieces are credited. All the better for their CVs when they go for that job with The Guardian I suppose.
Despite being an average of only a couple of pages the articles are billed as providing "in-depth analysis", and some are completely fucking shit and read like something you'd find in any mainstream newspaper. One of the worst is the eyewitness account of the N30 demo/riot at Euston station in London. It lauds the police for defending themselves "without force" and then blames one "masked man who started the whole thing". It then suggests that more people should speak out to "defend their right to protest... without interference from destructive elements". It continues by saying that there "is a difference between civil disobedience and violence directed against symbols of authority" and blames the latter for diverting attention away from the focus of the 'protests' - with the reaction of the corporate/state media used as a touchstone for judging this.
This article is followed by another N30 related piece entitled 'K.O. the WTO'. This is a based on a liberal interpretation of globalisation, with the complaint that it is "costing people their jobs" whilst ruining "healthy local economies" and "eroding democracy". Later on the article manages to get even worse. Plugging LETS (locally run currency/work schemes) as an 'alternative' model, it then goes on to approvingly quote statist David Korten, whose mission seems to be to "restore democracy" with "radical finance reform", even pushing the idea that we "establish mechanisms under the United Nations to regulate transnational finance and trade".
Maybe the writer of the Euston report would approve of the Cuban National Revolutionary Police to keep the peace at our actions and demos. The author of the article 'Sun, Salsa and Socialismo' probably would, as he seems so impressed with Cuba I wouldn't be suprised if he had run off to join them. Just how he can justify calling any nation state (no matter how 'socialist' it calls itself) a "successful alternative to capitalism" is quite beyond me. It is also slightly worrying that the author of this article managed to sound pleased when he reported that Fidel recently announced "20 to 30 year prison sentences" for "pimps, drug sellers and thieves", and "reform centres" for "repeat offender" prostitutes.
Although there is just too much politically horrible stuff to trawl through in this one short review a final mention must be made of the piece on the UK arms trade. Moaning that the "keenest scientific and engineering minds... from the nation's top universities" would be better finding ways to "revive British industry" the writer seems to miss the point about the arms trade somewhat. A touch of nationalism even creeps in when the author seems unimpressed that the manufacturing license for flat screen TVs went to a Japanese company because "there are no British-owned TV manufacturers"!
In conclusion then, this book is essentially two publications combined. The SchNEWS re-prints, some of the photos, cartoons and a few other pieces, are excellent - but most of the Squall pieces vary from politically weak, through to being reactionary and dangerous. A friend even went so far as to call it "the worst collection of political essays that our movement has yet produced". Despite this, it's still worth getting hold of as a reference guide to some of the past fun in our lives - a book to bring down off the bookshelves to refresh story-telling memories for our grandchildren. Just remember to cut the Squall bits out.