Gramsci’s advice to revolutionaries was to maintain “pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will”. For the first decade of the new millennium, however, much of the left seemed to pay heed to only the first part of this injunction. In an editorial to mark the relaunch of New Left Review in 2000, Perry Anderson wrote: “The only starting point for a realistic left today is a lucid registration of historical defeat. Capital has comprehensively beaten back all threats to its rule.”

Near the opening of his account of “the new global revolutions”, Paul Mason launches an impassioned j’accuse against such fatalism. He denounces the “zeitgeist of impotence” that led the left to believe that City banks were no less immutable than Arab dictatorships. Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere is a rapid-fire attempt to make some sense of the tumultuous events of the past two years. “This book makes no claim to be a ‘theory of everything’,” Mason writes. “And don’t file it under ‘social science’: it’s journalism.” Journalism it is, a finely executed example of what John Reed, author of Ten Days That Shook the World, called “intensified history”.

Mason, economics editor of the BBC’s Newsnight, has emerged as possibly the most engaged mainstream journalist of our age. He was there when anti-austerity protesters stormed the Greek parliament, when students occupied Millbank Tower and when Cairo cast off the shackles of tyranny. He has reported from the slums of Manila and, retracing the route of John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, from the new dust bowl of Oklahoma. Mason draws on all these experiences to support his thesis that several factors – the growth of social media, “the graduate with no future”, the collapse of the neoliberal consensus – have combined to form a global rebellion without parallel.

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