In this week's New Statesman: The last Tsar

Vladimir Putin's lust for power | Is it ever okay to write about your divorce? | Michael Rosen on ch


This week's cover story profiles Vladimir Putin and his lust for power. Putin has stifled dissent throughout his political life, says Oliver Bullough. But as he prepares for another presidential term, Russia's disaffected middle class are no longer willing to stay silent. Also in the mix is Evgeny Lebedev, who writes this week's Diary, on Russia, the Guardian's struggles, and why he loves Blackpool. Elsewhere, Sophie Elmhirst interviews the Russian property magnate Sergei Polonsky.

The magazine also contains a profile of Rachel Cusk, whose new book Aftermath: on Marriage and Separation has caused a stir with its exposition of personal pain. In the Critics section, the book is reviewed by Jane Shilling. We pose the question: is it ever okay to write about your divorce? Meanwhile, Rob Brown discusses Scotland's Irish question. During the years of the Troubles, Catholics looked up to Labour as their protector. But all that has now changed, to the advantage of the SNP.

Elsewhere, Rafael Behr says that Ed Miliband needs to show us what he believes, Mehdi Hasan argues against western intervention, and Norman Lamont explains why the west's policy on Iran has failed. In the Critics lead, Michael Rosen asks why children's authors are rarely asked for their opinion on how to get children reading -- a serious oversight, since they know far more than politicians.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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John McDonnell's Mao zinger spectacularly backfires

The shadow chancellor quoted from Mao's Little Red Book in his response to George Osborne's autumn statement.

John McDonnell's response to George Osborne's autumn spending review has quoted from a surprising source: Mao's Little Red Book.

The Little Red Book is the name commonly given to Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, a book that collected together the - you guessed it - quotations of the former Chairman of the Communist Party of China. It was widely distributed after the cultural revolution during the personality cult of Mao, alongside Lenin's The Three Sources and Three Components of Marxism and Engel's Socialism: Utopian and Scientific. 

In response, George Osborne opened the copy of the book and said "it's his [McDonnell's] personal signed copy".

Aside from chapters on labour, women and the army, the book also collects quotations on topics like "Imperialism and All Reactionaries Are Paper Tigers". Mao's legacy as a political theorist is somewhat contested given the approximately 18 to 45 million people who died during China's "Great Leap Forward", a process of rapid industrialisation instigated by the Communist Party in the late 1950s. The death toll from Mao's cultural cleansing program is hotly debated, but sources generally agree over half a million people died as a direct result.

There has been some suggestion that in terms of "not offering obvious spin opportunities to your opponents", the decision to quote Mao may not have been McDonnell's finest.

I'm a mole, innit.