Friday 7 December 2007

In praise of Democratiya

The winter issue of the online review Democratiya is now available here. As always, it's packed with good things. So far, I've only had time to skim through a few of the articles, but among the highlights is Nick Cohen's new postscript to What's Left, which includes an attempt to understand the causes of the Left's current deformations (rather than simply catalogue them) in a way that the book itself didn't quite manage.

Also worth looking at is Ophelia Benson's review of Ibn Warraq's new book on the perils of 'leaving Islam', which Norm links to here: as he says, 'to insist on fixity of belief is, indeed, a most appalling betrayal of the human spirit, of the genius that belongs to our species.'

Fred Siegel's review of new books on religious extremism is also interesting: it's made me want to seek out one of them, Matthias Kunzel's Jihad and Jew-Hatred, which joins the dots between Nazism and Islamism (but which doesn't seem to be available via Amazon UK at the moment).

And finally, thanks to Democratiya for reproducing the whole of Tony Blair's recent speech to the Al Smith Dinner in New York. Among the many reasons for being disappointed with Gordon Brown is the realisation that it's impossible to imagine him making a speech as direct, impassioned and downright eloquent as this.

As Norm notes, Democratiya's 'record of quality and consistency' is remarkable. Since launching in 2005 it's become required reading for the anti-totalitarian social-democratic Left on this side of the Atlantic - in much the same way that Dissent is across the pond. But much as I love the ease of access that the review's free, online format allows, I sometimes wonder whether it renders it less than visible in wider UK political discourse. There's something about having a physical presence on the shelves that means your views get noticed by the mainstream media. Or maybe it's just that I'm nostalgic for the sense of excitement I used to feel when my weekly copy of the (now unreadable) New Statesman dropped through the letterbox, or more recently when the latest London Review of Books (increasingly going the same way, politically at least) arrived.

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