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Jack London

Book Review: 'The Iron Heel'

A Future With No Future

'The Iron Heel', by Jack London. (Journeyman Press; paperback 75p., hardback £2.50)

This is the first of a series of reissues of working-class and radical "classics". The Iron Heel was last published in Britain in 1947 and — apart from more sumptuous American editions — is generally available only in second-hand copies from the old Mills & Boon shilling edition of all Jack London's works. A new French edition (Le Talon de Fer) appeared in 1972.

About Books

Some old-timers in the Trade Unions together with a few in the rebel fringe of the Labour Party, even a few of the older members of the S.P.G.B. have been heard to claim that certain novels read in their younger days were the means of guiding their steps in the direction of Socialism.

Foremost amongst the books which are accorded this honour is Robert Tressall's 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists." We have been asked a number of times to draw this book to the attention of younger readers of the SOCIALIST STANDARD, although, if a person is already a reader of the SOCIALIST STANDARD he will not glean much education from Tressall's book. But he will get a world of fun and a clear insight into conditions in the building and house decorating trades during the first decade of this century.

More Union Bashing

In July the government published details of its Trade Union Bill which is expected to have its second reading in the House of Commons in September or October. The Bill contains wide-ranging measures designed to restrict the organised working class acting collectively and taking industrial action.

The main proposals are thresholds for turnouts in strike ballots, restrictions on the right to picket and the removal of the ban on the use of agency workers to replace striking workers. The government is also extending the role and powers of the Certification Officer who is responsible for regulating trade unions, including providing this official with a new power to impose financial penalties on unions.

The Scene of the Crime (1): 'The People of the Abyss'

A series of articles recalling famous books about working-class conditions in particular areas of Britain and viewing those areas today.

In 1902 Jack London, already established as a writer in America, went to stay for seven weeks in the East End of London and write a book about it. He rented a room in a shabby quiet street, bought old clothes and a dirty cap in Petticoat Lane, and walked the streets as a sailor down on his luck. On 22nd August he wrote to his friend Sterling in California: "I've read of misery, and seen a bit, but this beats anything I could even have imagined." In later years he said: "Of all my books, I love most The People of the Abyss. No other book of mine took so much of my young heart and tears as that study of the economic degradation of the poor."

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