Friday, April 30, 2004
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Oops - it seems I fed you some dud information in my last post. Summertime that was unofficially declared open last weekend has now been put on hold, as of yesterday when the skies opened up and suddenly it was hoiling it doon* At one point I thought I was an extra from the Gilgamesh, it was that bad.
Not too much of a disaster, though it was a sight to see an overweight ex-General Secretary, and an overweight current Assistant Secretary of the SPGB suddenly having to get off their arses and relocate a shed load of boxes of literature from the basement to the ground floor of the Head Office. Not too much damage was done, but there is a rumour that because we didn't first put out a call for nominations for a sub-committee, and get a resolution passed at Conference endorsing the decision before relocating the boxes, we may get charged with action detrimental for displaying sponataneist tendencies. by some of the more conservative elements within the Party.
On this blogging business, through inflicting my crap jokes and cool taste in music on an unsuspecting population, my pathfinder status is secure with the emergence (or resuscitation in one case) of other *cough* world socialist blogs.
The aforementioned Assistant Secretary's blog, Reasons to be Impossible has had a second lease of life (born again blogger?). If you have a taste for high erudition and low spelling then you won't go far wrong with this blog - and every once in a while I will poke him with a sharp pointy stick to ensure that he updates his blog more regularly in the future.
Another blog emerging from the quagmire of WSM indecision and self-induced paralysis is Skookum Talk which is jointly put out by a member of the World Socialist Party of the United States and a mate of his, and I'm not saying that they are joined at the hip but apparently they are known as the "Mick and Keef" of the radical subset in Portland, Oregon, which, I'm reliably informed, is a small shipping village on the west coast of one of our former colonies. This blog not only has politics and wit, but also has a keen eye for all things cultural and easy to remember piss takes of the left wing of capitalism. What more would you want from a blog?
Both blogs are wittier and more politically informed than my own wee blog, but I am suitably magnimous enough in welcoming the talented bastards to the small still voice of revolutionary blogs. If nothing else, if both of them get their fingers out and blog regularly, at least I have some politics to link to my blog rather than me just sending posts of me going through my record collection.
There is - possibly - another World Socialist blog. This one is in Italian, but as my knowledge of the Italian language goes no further than Scuddeto, Serie A and gooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaallll-ha, the jury is still out on the matter. Check it out for yourself at the following link
* I was under the mistaken impression that hoiling it doon was local Geordie dialect, but from searching the online Geordie slang dictionary it now appears it was a phrase I made up myself. It sounds canny, like ;-)
Monday, April 26, 2004
Not posted for a couple of days, what with the weather conspiring against me by shining gloriously all weekend.
Everyone was out and about, and you could tell that everyone had collectively decided that summer had officially started; the summer clothes on show and everyone was smiling.
It may be just a case of me getting old, but I used to be able to tell when Summer was unofficially declared: everybody and their mother would break out with the shades and designer sunglasses to pose about in. However it is now the case that so many people wear shades all year round irrespective of the seasons, the weather, or even if they are sitting indoors at night with the lights off.
The anthropological reason behind this phenomenon could be explained away in two conflicting ways: 1) Further evidence of the alienated class-divided commodity driven - To consume is To Be - style society we all now live in, where it is no longer the case that it is enough to employ the thousand yard stare* in urban life to shut out the unwanted outside world when walking down the street; or 2) Alternatively, we have all become a bunch of posey bastards. The jury is still out on the matter.**
Well, employing my own thousand yard stare ,whilst waking down the street on Saturday, I got to thinking what could now be considered as the first unofficial sign of summer? And then it struck me: the various tanning shops with the offers of ninety second instant tan for only fifteen quid, which up to now when the sun wasn't shining always seem more devoid of human life than a cross between the Marie Celeste and one of our Autumn Delegate Meetings now seemed to be bustling with life, and looked busier than a queue for an NHS dentist. Lets be honest there is only so much of suntan socialist Tommy Sheridan to go around in the winter months for all the tanning shops out there to get his business, but they all now seemed to be doing a roaring trade. Aye go figure - the sun is suddenly absolutely scorching and everyone and their mother now steams into the tanning shops to get a fake tan so they can put on their summer gear of shorts, sleeveless t shirts and crop tops, so that they can get a real tan without showing themselves up with by exposing their pale untanned bits hitherto covered up for the last seven months. Aye, the world is a madhouse at times but you've got to love it. ;-)
Of course in the parallel universe of the Small Party of Good Boys, summer is unofficially declared when the more sedate middle aged members shed the Val Doonican style cardigans that they usually wear over their Pringle jumpers in the colder seasons; the fan at Head Office is switched on to cool down the photocopier at Head Office***, and the annual email is received from Birmingham Branch panicking 'cos the numbers signing up for our Summer School are down on last year and will people quickly book their tickets.
In typical West of Scotland born and bred fashion, I myself enjoy the start of summer for about ten minutes and then start panicking that my usual skin tones will suddenly transform from milk bottle white to lobster red in the space of twenty minutes and resolve to quickly shuffle back indoors away from the sun - also realising that whilst I can get away with wearing the seventies retro Barcelona football top, I can't get with the retro seventies lack of haircut**** in this sort of heat - next stop the barbers.
*Thousand Yard Stare A popular expression for that 'stare into the distance, avoiding eye contact at all costs in case of reaction from other people, adverse or otherwise' look that your average city dweller will employ when either walking down the street or whilst sitting on public transport. Thought by some commentators (i.e Me) to have been replaced in the 21st century by the mobile phone being clamped to one's ear - whether it is switched on or not - when walking down the street. This gives out the 'stay away! - don't interact with me as I am busy' vibe, whilst still fostering the illusion that your are interacting with another member of the human race. Also the name for a crap eighties indie band.
** On the matter of Nicky Campbell, the jury returned from careful considered deliberation twenty years ago and passed the unanimous verdict that the bloke is a 24 carat wanker - no allowance for appeal against the verdict.
*** The photocopier of course being the second hardest working part of the WSM organisation after the kettle in the Head Office kitchen.
**** Word to the wise: Next time Cosmo' tells you that the seventies style feather cut haircut is coming back into fashion - don't believe it.
Friday, April 23, 2004
Being a member of the Small Party of Good Boys* means that more often than not we do get a bad press from our opponents.
To be honest, a hundred years - birthday this June 12th, just send a card with a Borders book token in it - of playing intellectual skinheads who like nothing more than battering senseless all those who make up that broadest of broad churches, the Capitalist Party - whose current bookends in Britain are Michael Howard and Tommy Sheridan** - with a rolled up copy of the Lafargue's Right To Be Lazy means that we can't be too surprised when someone takes our hostility clause literally and tries to get in their own rabbit punch in retaliation for some half-remembered heckle from twenty five years ago.
The latest in a long line to misrepresent/misundertand/misquote and ultimately misfire (delete as appropriate) against the SPGB is Corin Redgrave of the Redgrave acting clan and WaRP fame. A Diary entry in the New Statesman dating from January the 12th of this year, written by Redgrave, has him, in amongst talking about the honours system and how his father, Michael Redgrave, was a Commander of the British Empire, aims a few barbs in our direction, and the apparent utopian nature of our politics. It appears that Redgrave considers himself a bit of an expert on the SPGB 'cos the old WRP had their headquarters around the corner from our Head Office, in Clapham Old Town, and who knows, perhaps that knowledge of us was further bolstered when he used to occasionally travel past our office when getting a lift in Gerry Healy's WRP paid for beamer on the way to dress rehearsals at the Old Vic?
Such choice fictional events in Redgrave's piece include the following: " . . . on the only occasion I remember when they themselves organised a public meeting, their call was: "For a moneyless society in Lambeth!" In short, they were utopians." Mmm - "moneyless society in Lambeth" that's a new yin on me though ironic that he should spout such bollocks when Ted Knight, ex-member of the same organisation as Redgrave, and someone who still had a close relationship with Healy and co whilst Labour leader of Lambeth Council in the early eighties, indulged in the gesture politics beloved of the Labour Left councils at the time - 'in trying to bring down the (wo)man, man, Mrs Thatch'*** in overspending to the point where his administration was far closer to bringing a moneyless society to Lambeth than we ever had in fifty years of having our office on the High Street. ;-)
I loved the wee gibe about the front of our Head Office being bricked up apart from a small aperture of two square feet. The front was bricked up because of the window smashing as a pastime which was the regular substitute for political debate that took place between the far left and far right of capitalism during the seventies. In the political illiterate period of the time the front window of our office was regularly caught in the crossfire of the time, and after the glass was broken for the nth occasion, it was decided to brick it up as a safety measure.
The WRP, and the Socialist Labour League before it, were notorious for their zealous security measures against friends and foes alike. A comrade recounted a story once where he and another comrade went to one of the SLL's Young Socialist events in the late sixties which were held regularly in Morecambe and other assorted towns which would later only be known for being mentioned in Morrissey song lyrics.
They done the usual politico's day's work of selling the paper and distributing leaflets outside the meeting whilst the punters were going in, and then decided to pop in to sit in on the start of the meeting, to suss what it was all about. After listening to a smattering of the usual bombast from the platform, they then decided to leave the meeting to go have a drink and were suddenly barred at the door by the stewards from leaving the meeting:
"What's the deal? We want to leave and go have a drink."
"Sorry - you can't leave. The meeting has started"
"What? We don't want to listen to the rest of the speeches."
"It don't matter. These doors don't open again until the end of the meeting."
Two pissed off comrades shuffling back to their seats to hear that season's version of "We must build the revolutionary party. We are the revolutionary party. The revolution is just round the corner, comrades." for the next four hours, until two exceptionally unhappy SPGB bunnies finally get out the door to go drink a few pints of heavy. (I wish I could insert a piss myself laughing emoticon here. You could tell when the comrade was recounting the story thirty years after the event that he was still smarting from that lost four hours of drinking time. Aye, before you ask, he is Scottish. ;-)
I could spend the rest of post recounting all the weird and wonderful urban myths heard about the SPGB down the years, but I'll save them for another day - especially as this sort of misrepresentation will no doubt come up again. More chance with the Centenary in two months time - we may well be the recipient of a curio piece from some journo with a contemporary eye for the quirky (guilty as charged) and four month membership of the Socialist Worker Student Society whilst an undergraduate in their dim distant past. I'll keep the blog informed no doubt. (If it lasts that long.)
Aye, before I forget, the reason a four month old piece in the Staggers is only now being discussed by members by SPGBers as a burning issue can be explained in two simple words: cheapness and google.
Cheapness, 'cos obviously nae bugger in the Party is prepared to pay for the New Statesman regularly, and thus never caught the jibe from Redgrave fresh, and google 'cos some members have a tendency to type 'SPGB' into search engines to see if we get a passing mention somewhere, anywhere**** with the same regularity that (half of) the rest of the world will type Nude pictures of Johnny Depp into a search engine.
I will end this (too long) post with a partial cut and paste from a post I sent to our email discussion list on the matter. Any old excuse to bash the vanguard (our elders and betters) and mention Trevor Griffith's brilliant play, The Party, in the same post:
when I first became aware of Corin Redgrave's comments in the New Statesman - a couple of weeks after it appeared - I sent an email to the letters page of the New Statesman on the matter but it wasn't published. For the record a member of the Ashbourne Court Group,***** Richard Lloyd, had a letter published in the New Statesman in response to Corin Redgrave's comments about the Party.
I guess the lesson learned is that some of us should spend less time scanning the pages of the Weekly Worker for the latest policy statement from the Revolutionary Democratic Group (don't ask ;-) and a bit more time keeping track of what appears in the New Statesman, which unfortunately has never been a choice of reading for me.
I think Adam is right when he mentions previously that Corin Redgrave was being deliberately disingenuous in his comments about us. As someone so steeped in the theatre, Redgrave knows how to use a stage prop when he needs to - and I think that is the role we were assigned in his piece.
To be semi-serious for a minute, it has to be said that Corin Redgrave was a leading member of the Workers Revolutionary Party - and the Socialist Labour League before it - for nigh on twenty years. Though you could cynically argue that his sister Vanessa was more of a figure head for the organisation, using her much higher profile for propaganda purposes, Corin was always much more than a poster boy for the Workers Revolutionary Party. To remind members, this was an organisation that:
*Used violence against opponents of its leadership both within and outside its organisation.
*Suggested that Britain was both moving towards a fascist dictatorship and on the brink of a Socialist Revolution in the mid-seventies.
*Took money from Arab dictatorships in the seventies and eighties as its anti-Zionist propaganda in the pages of its press chimed in with the policy of these various dictatorships, and there was perhaps an even more sinister role played by the WRP, suggested by Robin Blick in the pages of the since defunct Libertarian Socialist journal, Solidarity, in the eighties, of the WRP's relationship with these Arab regimes and that perhaps on occasion they took on the role in this country of sometimes collecting evidence on political opponents and dissidents of the regimes active in this country. (Blick himself being a former member of the WRP in the mid-seventies and later the author of the book, 'Seeds of Evil'.)
*Had as its leader for nigh on thirty years - from 'the Club' of the fifties through to the WRP in the mid-eighties, until a palace coup, Gerry Healy. The personification of all that was thuggish, cultish and authoritarian in the WRP - the Pope expelled from his own Vatican when it was disclosed by his former allies (who were aware of the allegations for over twenty years)of his use of physical violence against both male and female members of the WRP and the use of sexual violence against a number of female WRP members.
*The Marxist Party that Adam mentions was one of the shards of political groupings that emerged from the implosion that took place in the WRP soon after the expulsion of Healy. Rather than Redgrave condemning the practice of Healy, the Marxist Party was the grouping around Healy and the Redgraves that appeared in this period. Apparently, the revelations against Healy were all a state plot to destabilise the one true revolutionary party that could challenge the capitalist state (mmm - that sounds familar.)
I must correct Adam's impression that I am the only left anorak geek in the Party who has heard of the Marxist Party. I remember Dave Flynn mentioning that the Marxist Party had a branch in Lancaster connected to the Dukes Theatre in the town, when he was a member of Lancaster Branch in the mid-nineties. I get the impression that Branches of the Marxist Party seems to spring up in any town that Corin Redgrave happens to be doing Rep or Panto that particular season.
The WRP and the Marxist Party have always had a disprortionately large number of actors and other assorted television bods within its ranks, and with the exception of Alan Thornett at the Cowley Car Factory in the mid-seventies (until he and those around him were summarily expelled by Healy and co in the mid-seventies for getting too big for his boots), Equity, the Actors union, was the the only Trade Union where the WRP had any serious influence. Writer, directors and actors such as Tony Garnett, Ken Loach,David Mercer, Jim Allen, Roy Battersby, Francis De La Tour, Timothy West, Prunella Scales, Kika Markham - as well as the Redgraves - all had varying relationships of sorts with the SLL/WRP to a lesser or greater extent.
On the acting profession, Healy and the left, if anyone has the opportunity, check out the text of Trevor Griffiths brilliant play from the early seventies, 'The Party'.
This is a fictionalised account of lefty types having a political discussion/party in the sitting room of a succesful TV producer's flat. The TV producer is on the fringes of the fictionalised SLL/WRP and wants to be a player on the left. (I think the TV producer is a thinly veiled Tony Garnett).
The play is set at the time of Paris'68, (nice line from one of characters: "Ernest Mandel has been seen on the streets of Paris cheering the burning of an overturned car and shouting: ' La Revolution - C'est belle, c'est belle'" - half remembered line from the play - apologies if the line and the french is garbled) and the play has such stock characters as the two Internationalist Socialist LSE student types; the New Left academic spouting jargon of how class struggle as a motor for revolution in the *cough* advanced industrialised world has been been supplanted by struggles in to the third world, and the role of the first world left intellectuals now is to lend support to these struggles (echoes of Regis Debray?); a pissed up playwright disllusioned by his experience of the left, stumbling around the Producer's flat in varying states of drunkeness whilst the rest of them are playing 'Generals without Armies' games, acting as the conscience and comic foil for the play (supposedly based on the sixties playwright David Mercer); and a character called 'Jock Tagg', supposedly based on Healy and originally played by Laurence Olivier when the play premiered at the National Theatre in the early seventies. (It would have been good if the ads for the play at the time had been along the lines of 'From Heathcliff to Healy!';-)
There was a TV version of the play that I saw in the late eighties but if you get the chance, check out Griffiths text - any of Griffiths plays are recommended.
Erm - I think I've gone off the topic a bit - aye, the Marxist Party, Bill claims to have seen the villain from the old tv series, 'Lovejoy', selling their journal, 'The Marxist' outside a Globalise Resistance event a year back.
* Other nicknames include Simon Pure's Good Brand and the Small Party of Glesga' Bookies ( Glasgow Branch in the thirties had a few street bookies in its ranks - aye, we were petty bourgeois even back then ;-)
** Tommy ain't that bad, despite the reformist politics. A couple of comrades who knew him in Militant Labour in Pollock in the late eighties, early nineties, despite now disagreeing with him politically said he was an ok bloke.. The link to a pic of John MacLean is my wee joke:
Matthew Kelly: "Tommy, who are you going to be tonight."
Tommy Sheridan: "Tonight, tomorrow and yesterday, Matthew, I want to be John Maclean."
(From a future series of 'R-r-revolutionary Stardust In Their Eyes' Channel 1904)
*** When saying this line, it is important that you say it with a heavy duty fake prole accent, fist and arm upturned in a 'Do You Want to smell our new range of perfume, madam?' kind of way. To top it off it is preferable to be wearing a beret and afghan coat.
**** Philosophy 101 - If someone slags off the SPGB and an SPGBer is not around to hear it, does the insult make a sound?
***** Look the link up yourself you cheeky bastard! ;-)
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
Aye, I know, I've not posted for a couple of days and it looks like the best laid plans and all that, of doing a regular blog to jot things down, have already fallen at first hurdle.
However, the last couple of days have been spent trying to get my head round adding links, a comment section and even trying to rejig the look and colour of the template for the blog, as part of my semi-commitment to get some working knowledge of web/blog design to help out with the Party's website.
All I can say on the matter is how do the computer geeks - *cough*, sorry, computer programmers and webmasters - actually get themselves through a working day without wanting to take an axe to the computer monitor and keyboard in a fit of rage? Jeez - just sorting out the few changes to the blog did my head in. If I do persevere with this commitment to trying to acquire some web design skills to help out with the internet side of the website, I will have to put myself down for that laser treatment to remove the Homer Simpson quote tattoed on the inside of my eyelids.**
As you will note - erm, who the fuck am I talking to? - the colour scheme for the blog has been changed. I didn't mind the previous colour scheme - very nice and in keeping in mentioning Celtic winning its 39th Scottish League title - but I thought I would use the excuse of getting my head round using the paint pallete board.
Before someone from the back heckles: 'Yes, very nice - very New Labour. Have you paid Peter Mandelson a royalty cheque for nicking the colour scheme?', I just like to point out that the colour scheme has been ripped off wholescale from Parma Violets Roll Unfortunately, the only picture of parma violets is a bit crap, and it looks sod all like the mental image I have of the sweeties and the colour of the packaging from younger days.***
On the matter of the links that I have put up on blog, it was only when I had to rack my brains to put some up that I realised how few websites there are out there that I thought worthwhile putting up. I have yet to been browse the millions of blogs out there to see if there was any worth linking to, but I guess I will have a look in future weeks and months to see if there any worth sticking up. I'll probably desist with placing links for political blogs on the page. I'll need to wait and see.
With regards to the links already put up, there are the obvious political links of *cough* 'The Party' (apologies to Trevor Griffiths), and to the Marxist Internet Archive and the John Gray - For Communism. The last two are excellent sources of information for any left trainspotters out there who want to know the difference between the CWO and the ICC ****
I have also placed the Resistance MP3 website on the site as one of my links. Despite, in the main, being made up of audio files from members of the Socialist Workers Party from various Marxism events***** down the years, and despite very obvious political differences, it is an excellent resource; if only to hear what it from the horse's vanguardist mouth. Despite it is being the case that the sound quality of the cassettes of the meetings at Marxism that are sold at the event are usually excellent, unfortunately the sound quality of some of the audio files on the Resistance aren't really up to scratch. Shame that - nothing should be too good for the working class, comrade ;-)
The other links?
New Internationalist is there 'cos it will remind to look at it every once in a while. I used to subscribe to the magazine ten years ago - read on average one article and the review section in each issue and placed it in my 'worthy things to read' pile. A pile since obscured by the scaffolding constructed around it to ensure that it don't collapse suddenly, killing innocent by-standers in the process.
In Sound is an excellent MP3 site with the various indie tracks from around the world freely available to download. I had the good fortune to discover both Denise James and the Swedish group Cinnamon on there - both excellent artists who can't be found anywhere else on the internet - even on my trusty winmx. Another example of the tantalus reality that makes up most of the internet experience, and which I'm sure I will rant and rage about again some time in the future.
Off The Telly is an excellent website devoted to discussion of both television programme today and of yesteryear. Thankfully, it stays away from that kitsch style of discussing television programmes of yesteryear that seem to infect the rest of us, and has served as a sanity restorer for me 'cos there are TV programmes that I had convinced myself over the years had never really existed because no other bugger had heard of them when I used to wax lyrical over them, and then one day I discovered this website and realised there were other sad bastards out there who remembered the Swedish comedy drama Xerxes, Willy Russell's One Summer and Alan Bleadale's Scully.
The George Orwell link is there 'cos at the end of the day - whatever a person may think of his multiple contradictory political and personal positions - Orwell was the guvnor when it came to clear and concise political essay writing. Getting interested in politics in the mid-eighties meant that because of the media's interest in all things 1984ish there was always a couple of Orwell books in even the crappest bookshop in a town not known for its interest in all things literary.
Orwell is a writer that has never really dissapeared out of public discourse and even now, through political commentators such as Christopher Hitchens, David Aaranovitch, Francis Wheen and Nick Cohen, to name but a few, invoking Orwell's name and legacy when coming to support US/GB intervention in Kosova, Afghanistan and now Iraq (delete as appropriate) in the last few years, he is all the more there in the political arena with his opinions and political positions being dissected for all to see.
As mentioned above, Orwell was a writer and activist of many political contradictions and this only lends itself all the more to people who have came after him grabbing hold of some part of his memory in their contemporary political disputes.
I've finished off with a couple of band/music websites and an online music magazine. (Can't be arsed to list them - scroll up yerself ye' bugger.) Just thought I would put them there to give off the illusion of being a well rounded person - though my choice of bands may have you thinking otherwise.
The Redskins site is there purely because the bloke who put it together -*cough* - Bazza, kindly sent me a CD of Redskins rarities that included their early single on CNT Records, Lev Bronstein; a track that I have wanted to hear for years. It is not one of their better tracks but the energy is there in spades to see it through to the end of its four minutes ten seconds duration. The lyrics are absolutely bonkers, not that X Moore/Chris Dean was ever that good a lyricist - too much Cliff and Lenin as opposed to Costello and Lennon for my liking - and it looks like Jon Langford of The Mekons fame, who produced the single made use of his anarchist politics to mix the vocals down so low in the production that you can't make out most of what Chris Moore sings.
Either that or he was too kind hearted to let Moore's 'Socialist Worker Student Society chant on a march' style lyric, mixed in with the breathlessness of a 16 year old fanzine writer and put through a post punk blender to reach Dean's middle aged ears twenty years down the line and thus causing him maximum embarrassment.
I think Dean owes Langford a pint for the foresight.
The Smiths site is there as much 'cos I am jealous of the site's actual design as much as anything else. It's also handy for giving you the tracklisting of all the tracks on the various albums and compilations, for when you bite the bullet and download the full Smiths discography from the music section of the Suprnova website.
Last, but not least, is the Tangents Magazine. Again, high jealousy at such a funky looking website: a Ozwald Boateng handmade suit in comparison to the SPGB's moth eaten cardigan but also 'cos it has a nice wee article on Sharon Tandy. Check out Tandy's single 'Hold On' if you get the chance: A wee lost treasure of sixties pop.
Thank christ - that is another entry to the blog eked out. It's like getting blood out of stone, or worse a straight answer from the Standing Orders Committee.
* Yeah, I know it's a crap play on the name of the Diane Keaton film from the mid-seventies, but it was either this one or The Not So Weakest Links.
** Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.
***I'll try and keep the sub-Proustian/Maconie reminiscing moments to a bare minimum but in this post modern time is it a promise I can truly keep?
**** Those of you not brave enough or too busy to put on the water wings and dive into the alphabet spaghetti soup of ultra-left politics, all you initially need to know about the CWO and ICC is that the former still has one foot on planet earth while the latter left on the Spaceship Bordiga many moons ago. Unlike the ICC, the CWO, when you stumble across them at national demos, will try and chat to you though they share with ICC members the conviction that humour and good naturedness are counter revoultionary until an otherwise unknown corrspondence between the Marx and Kugelmann gives the green light from the old man himself that it is not a contradiction to be both pleasant and be politically committed at the same time.
*****'Marxism' is the week long propaganda event that the SWP has been holding in the centre of London for nigh on 25 years. Both the main recruiting event for the SWP annually (apparently they throw three months of intense activity in getting people to attend) but also one of the few occasions annually when Central London Branch of the SPGB - we are a very pallid bunch - get the opportunity to get some fresh air whilst doing a literaure stall outside the event on the Saturday and Sunday.
I have been helping on the Branch stall for over five years now and wouldn't miss it for the world. Where else can you get the chance to be blanked by the active membership of the SWP; see the collective strength of the British ultra left - which would have the average Milton Keynes-Wimbledon FC fan pissing themselves laughing at the small numbers; and study in anthropological fascination the selling techniques of the Sparts and hope to christ that you don't come across like that when you are arguing the toss with a half-interested passer-by.
Monday, April 19, 2004
First things first, the clock on the blog is well out of sync. According to me - at this moment in time, it is 8.31am on a Monday morning but the clock still has me placed in Sunday. I'll get the clock sorted later rather than sooner.
The political party I am a member of, The Socialist Party, has always been split into two wings: One wing who consider that William Morris was the greatest ever socialist to emerge from British society, who through his revolutionary political activity coupled with his lifetime commitment to the arts and crafts movement was the personification of all that women and men could become once we class consciously use political action to end the current pre-history of class divided society; and then there are the rest of us who couldn't get past the second chapter of News From Nowhere cos it's a bastard of a dull read.*
I've always felt a bit guilty for being in the non-Morris wing of the Party, so when browsing through the TV section of TV Quick in the queue for the till in Sainsbury's on Saturday I saw that there would be a one hour programme on William Morris on Sunday night on BBC1 at 7pm as part of the 'Brilliantly British' series - no, I hadn't heard of it either - I promised myself that I would check it out to see what the fuss was all about.
The blurb on the Beeb website for the programme stated: "William Morris was one of Britain's most influential designers and a truly great Victorian. Best known for his exquisite wallpapers and textiles, he revolutionised the way we think about design.
His passion for Nature, for medieval craftsmanship and for Arthurian legend, drove his creative life but also shaped his hatred of industrialisation. He believed that by making art available to all he could stem the tide of raw progress and create a better world.
In the third of this new docudrama series exploring the lives and work of Britain's greatest craftsmen, Antiques Roadshow expert Hilary Kay explores Morris's epic struggle to find the perfect outlet for his creative genius and fulfil his romantic vision.
With the help of new evidence and computer generated graphics we recreate the lost interior that inspired him to become a designer. Using drama reconstruction we trace the public triumphs of his creative life and the private pain of his shattered domestic dreams."
To put it bluntly, the show was shite. I knew that the main focus would be on Morris's Blue Peter moments and the politics would be relegated to the back, but a major part of the programme was focused - and seemed to suggest a large part of his artistic motivation - on Morris being a cuckold in a three way relationship between himself, his wife and Rossetti.
His political commitment, when it finally did get a mention - was reduced to wrongly stating Morris was politicised in 1883 with him joining the Socialist League (the programme makers seemingly being ignorant of the fact that Morris broke from bourgeois politics as early as the late 1870s over the Eastern Question); failing to mention that the Socialist League formed from a split in the Social Democratic Federation and, as well as Morris, the Socialist League's formation involved such substantial political figures as Eleanor Marx, Edward Aveling and Belfort Bax, and was encouraged by Frederich Engels himself; and the programme trying to draw a line under Morris's revolutionary socialist political commitment as early as 1887 when Morris withdrew from political life when he faced the same schisms, disputes and personal recriminations that, according to the programme, seemed to echo episodes from his creative life.
In the thick headed shorthand of TV journalism, a full life was truncated and reduced to join-the-dots cod psychology which was employed to put Morris safe and secure in a box marked 'Nice wallpaper, shame about the politics and the messy domestic arrangements.' I'm probably being a bit harsh on the programme makers and their intentions, with my hyperbole temporarily getting the upper hand but it is like-with-like with their piss poor attempts at making a programme on someone who led a fuller life than Warren Beatty's fingertips.**
Sorry if I coming across too much like a Disgusted of Spart Central type. My reason for this stream of consciousness angry man rant is because it actually still shocks me when you find out that the bods that make the news in both print and in television can get it so spectacularly wrong. Despite bluffing my way through many a conversation on Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent, I still have this naive notion that programme makers and journalists know what they are talking about. I'll file this one under I'll know better next time.
Poor old Morris, if it's not the case of one his better known quotations*** being used by New Labour when first coming into power to sell it's wageslave seeker allowance policy, his wallpaper designs are being bought by a Middle England who gets its interior design tips from the Changing Rooms and its politics of fear and hatred from the leader columns of the Daily Mail and Daily Express. I still won't be able to get past the second chapter of his novel but I will look upon him more kindly in the future.
* There is further minor-constituency in the anti-Morris wing of the Socialist Party: Those members permanently tramautised for having to use William Morris style wallpaper to cover their text books at school and thus getting the pissed ripped out of them for being soft as shite for the rest of their schooldays.
** A royalty cheque is winging its way to Woody Allen for the use of his joke.
*** "One man with an idea in his head is in danger of being considered a madman; two men with the same idea in common may be foolish, but can hardly be mad; ten men sharing an idea begin to act, a hundred draw attention as fanatics, a thousand and society begins to tremble, a hundred thousand and there is war abroad, and why only a hundred thousand? Why not a hundred million and peace upon the earth? You and I agree together, it is we who have to answer that question." For the Blairite version. click on the link.
I promised myself when I started this blog that I would try and make the entries as anonymous as possible. Mentioning no names of friends and family (the rest of you are fair game) and no attempt at sixth form poetry or diary like soul searching: I did all that crap in my first year at Uni and the repetitious rantings and promises bored even myself . . . eventually.
However, if I am to keep using this blog and if it is to be a bit more than a daily list of favourite current tunes, crisp flavours and colours* then I need to bleed on the page a bit more. Don't worry - not to excess. Too much blood, snot and tears and the words get blurred and unreadable. Just a snippet here and there to give some context and place to what I am doing at this moment in time.
Yesterday I pushed the boat out and sent out shedloads of emails to advertise that a colleague would be featured on a roundtable discussion meeting at midnight on Richard Bacon's Radio 5 show on the legacy of Thatcher, since next month's is 25 years since she was first elected Prime Minister.
It was the usual sort of round robin email that I have sent in the past. Inartfully written, overly self-deprecating (comedy as a defence mechanism, anyone?) and sent to every bugger I could think of - whether they would be interested or not.
Come nine o'clock yesterday evening, I decided to put my head down for a couple of hours to make sure I was suitably refreshed to hear him sucker punch all and sundry on the show. Eleven o'clock I wake up and go downstairs only to meet him, and for him to inform me that we were bumped off the show by the Radio 5 producers 'cos they already have someone else in place. I can tell he is a bit gutted so I shrug it off, and just mouth platitudes along the lines of "maybe next time?"
I then go into a nano-second panic, knowing that I will have to email all those buggers and discussion lists again to mention that our name was not on the list, we are not getting on. Too much self-deprecation in one day is bad for the soul, but it has to be done. Later hear from a couple of colleagues that we have been bumped for a member of the SWP**, and take the plunge of listening to the playback of the discussion on the internet.
The bod from the SWP was Roger Cox - a longstanding leading cadre of that organisation whose membership dates back to the late fifties when the SWP was still known as the Socialist Review Group. He was up against a clown, called Andre Walker, from a Conservative Party right wing think tank organisation. Andre is centrally cast from the 'Tory Boy Agency'. Also sitting in on the discussion a piece of eye candy called Anna Boulter - eye candy ain't much use on radio but for research purposes I looked her pic up on the internet ;-) - who is apparently a journalist and came out with the classic line in repsonse to Roger Cox's subBenEltonroutinefromtheeightiesofwhyitsallThatch'sfault***: "If you hated Margaret Thatcher so much - why didn't you leave the country?" **** And there was you a sentence ago thinking I was a sexist arsehole for referring to her as 'eye candy'. ;-)
The discussion was suitably depressing. Cox couldn't bring himself to mention the C word - capitalism for those of you slow on the uptake, and you just knew that if he had been on in his Respect Coalition guise, he probably wouldn't have mentioned the S word either.
Forty years a politico and it pissed me off how inept Cox was in debate, failing miserably in even dishing out a few low blows to his opponents. He was easily flustered, talked over and was quickly pigeonholed into the role of simply opposing anything his opponents were saying. (And vice versa). It was the usual left versus right type word-fest, and in truth they could have got anyone in, to the left of Peter Mandelson, to play out the role of the token lefty and they wouldn't have said anything much different on the issues from what Cox said during the debate.
I'll need to keep my eye on the SWP press and website next couple of days to see if they mention it and what their take was on the discussion. However, the discussion was small beer, so I'd be surprised if I see any reference to it.
Walker, who sounded like - and was in fact - someone fresh from student politics brayed in capital letters and his debating technique was to speak very LOUD over his opponent and to speak in generalities. My colleague would have eaten him alive. Radioland missed the chance of some bloodsports last night.
It says something when after the show, and its fragmented and bitty discussion which shone no light on the subject, that I felt a modicum of sympathy for the Swoppie - despite his piss poor performance and politics, and thought that Richard Bacon - a bloke I usually loathe - was the most sympathetic person in the studio.
* For the record, Cinnamon's 'World Of Crime' . An old tune from Swedish Cardigan's wannabes, who do it better than the Cardies; Golden Wonder's Sausage and Tomato. It's their scarcity but occasional availability that pushes them up my crisp chart past Marmite and Steak 'n' Onion (which are scarce to the point of invisibility); favourite colour? Who in truth has a favourite colour? Except Barbara Cartland who was as soppy as a box of frogs.
**Socialist Workers Party, otherwise known as Students Waving Placards or the Sad Wankers Posse.
*** Said in a strangulated and fake cockernee accent. The words are deliberately bunched together. The blog is sub-titled 'out of breath' after all. ;-)
**** Loved the comeback from an American comedian to a heckler that I recently read on another blog:
To American Stand Up Comedian
Heckler: "If you hate America so much, why don't you leave the country?"
Comic: "What . . . And become a victim of our Foreign Policy?"
Sunday, April 18, 2004
Mmm, what can I write about today?
Things of note include that Celtic - my team - won the Scottish Championship today after beating Kilmarnock 1-0 with a goal from Stillian Petrov. It has been on the cards for some months that Celtic were going to win the title so there is no feeling of elation or Cheshire Cat style grin. Just an acceptance and an acknowledgement that from now on it may be downhill.
Henrik Larsson is going to sunnier climes (didn't know that Saltcoats had a team but there you go) and the Martin O'Neill is just marking time until Alex Ferguson gets shunted into some sort of honorary position at Man Utd, and he takes on the role of next Man Utd manager.
It would be so passe if Ferguson got the role of Honorary President of Man Utd (like Matt Busby before him) or even 'chief meeter and greeter' for the chablis and prawn sandwich set who congratulate each other on their good fortune in the David Blaine style exec boxes at Old Trafford. A far more creative role for Fergie would be for him to be a human art exhibit cum human hands dryer in the bogs at Old Trafford.
Once the Man Utd fan has washed his hands after a piss - aye, I know, I'm stretching credibility here - instead of using paper towels or one of those electric hand driers they could toddle over to Fergie who would be sitting in the corner of the bogs, and fire a question at him along the lines of: "OK - Prune face how much did you get bunged for using your son as the agent for all those transfers to and from United?" Fergie would crank into life with vituperative rage and give the fan the 'hairdryer treatment' of popular dressing room fame. The fan's hands would be dried in an eco-friendly fashion and they would have something to tell the grandkids when going back home to Surrey/Cornwall/Hong Kong/North Wales (delete as appropriate).
It's the usual story - start up a blog and come down with a bad case of the writer's block. I've got a feeling it stems from me making a mistake on my very first entry - writing googling instead of goggling: very 21st century.
Tried to have a look on the blogger list at other blogs to see if I can see what other people do, but the best I could come up with is one of those silly quizzes that you only seem to find on blogs and old John Hughes movies. I guess I'll give it a go just to keep the *cough* momentum of the blog, but I'll need to hustle up* for future reference to make sure I actually have something to write in this thing.
As Lennon once said: "Life is what you do when you are otherwise making plans." Or he should have said that if my memory was better. Funny, looking at that quote makes me think it was the other Lenin - the 'What Is To Be Done?' anti-socialist who would have been better served coming up with that quote, though his version would have been more in the nature of: "Negating the essential nature of socialism - self emanicpation - in the name of socialist revolution is what you do. It's dialectical, innit."
*hustle up - no, I don't know what it means either.
1. Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, find line 4. Write down what it says
"Although the Knights attempted to organize workers by industry rather than craft, craft unions of skilled workers were being formed as a rival force within the union movement." Damn, and line 5 was much more interesting. No - not the much needed definitive history of the Barron Knights but Eric Thomas Chester's 'True Mission: Socialists and the Labour Party Question in the U.S.' Yeah, you've guessed it, a book written by an academic with a Victorian era style beard.
What is it with those beards and what do they hide? Double chins? No chins? Bad teeth? Acne scars? or The smug satisfied grin of an academic churning out another pot boiling history to secure next year's tenure? Probably a combination of point 1 and 5.
Mental note to self: Don't leave Proust's 'Rememberance of Things Past' in the bog next time - already lost important intellectual kudos points and its only question 1.
2.Stretch your left arm out as far as you can. What do you touch first?
Nothing, but it's good to do a bit of callisthenics every once in a while.
3.What is the last thing you watched on TV?
Reports of yesterday's Premiership games on the early morning news. 'Cos I had the sound down, I missed the goals and now I have to stay awake to see a repeat of the 'Big Match' or whatever its called now this morning.
4.WITHOUT LOOKING, guess what time it is:
5.Now look at the clock, what is the actual time?
6.43am - which just goes to show how time consuming this blogging business actually is (tsk, tsk, moaning on your second date), especially when putting in the italics and bold.
6.With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?:
Absolutely sod all - it's too late for the late night revellers and too early for the 24/7 piss heads. A true sabbath moment.
7.When did you last step outside? what were you doing?
Last night - about 9pm - to buy a bag of chips 'cos I was too lazy to open a tin. (One of those cheaper home brand tins that don't come with the ring pull.) It was the usual Saturday night of twentysomethings doing the Lambeth Walk up and down the high street. My main train of thought however was: "Result! I haven't got the scabby chips for a change."
8.Before you came to this website, what did you look at?
BBC news website - just to check if a comment I had posted on 40 years of the BBC had been included in the comments section. I just want to reassure myself - who else would be reading this? - that I don't usually send emails to such comments boxes, but I just wanted to maintain my one man campaign of talking up John Byrne's 'Tutti Frutti' - a comedy/drama of absolute genuis that no other swine seems to wax lyrical about, so it has got to the stage where sometimes I just think I must have imagined the whole thing. This thread of thought is not so paranoic as it first appears: a drama series in which Emma Thompson is both fanciable and likeable? Yeah - it's hard to believe, but its true. I was truly gutted when I later realised that it wasn't her real accent.
I do confess to occasionally looking at comments I've posted to email discussion lists, however. No - not narcissism, just a game I like to play when I get to spot how many typo and grammatical mistakes I can make in one post. If it's below ten, I consider it a result. I really must learn to proof read what I write before posting it in future. (Googling versus goggling is a minor footnote in comparison.)
9.What are you wearing?
Oh christ - I promised myself it wouldn't be that sort of blog. OK working from the ground floor up: A pair of black boots - my only pair of shoes/boots - that have seen better days. I think it is the dirt that is keeping them together.
A pair of dark blue jeans that were bought when I was slimmer than I am now. The top button is gone so I therefore have to wear something over them to 'mind the gap'.
An old grey T shirt with Joe Hill of IWW fame on the front and the IWW logo on the back. Bought it at the Respect Anti-Racism festival in Finsbury Park at least four years ago - (I suspect longer). It was bought from the IWW stall - if you read their literature, you would be buying their T shirts also.
I used to wear the T shirt in various places of work in the hope that it may strike up a political conversation - of course it fucking didn't ;-)
The T shirts has seen better days but it's got a few more years in it - can the same be said for the IWW? (<--- Does that qualify as political satire or sectarian bitchiness? Erm, I'll let you decide.)
A green sweat top. A Crimbo present from a few years back. Very plain and very comfortable.
My one *cough* good coat, cos it's a wee bit nippy. Describing it as good could get me done under the Trades Description Act - dear reader, it never saw better days and the right sleeve looks even more scabby as the rest of the coat cos of an incident with some spilt white spirit. I won't mention by name the guilty but they know who they are.
10.Did you dream last night?
My sleeping pattern is too shit at the moment - it has been for too long to remember. I'm sure I had a dream during my last deep sleep - a day and a half ago? - and it was one of those bastard dreams where you are replaying a real life event in your head but with a different outcome and a different cast of characters. It was a re-edited replay of a political conference I recently attended. I can only remember fragments of the dream and not enough to recount sensibly here. Only goes to highlight that the event was still rattling around at the back of my mind a week after the event - either that or I must definitely get out more.
11.When did you last laugh?
Mmm, a hard yin. Not 'cos I don't laugh - but because I don't want to say: 'Watching some sitcom on the TV, last night'.
Last real belly laugh I had was on Friday - a colleague had left his MSN messenger on and I pretended to be him when chatting with another colleague who suddenly logged on. Couldn't keep the pretence up for too long 'cos the other colleague was far too good natured to take offence at my attempts to wind him up.
12.What is on the walls of the room you are in?
It's a working office, so not a lot. To my left - behind my shoulder - is an activity calender which is a bit too sparse for my liking; and next to it one of those noticeboards that people stick things to and then the stuff is left up there for far too long. A waste of fucking space in my opinion, and Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen is prepared to back me up on the matter.
13.Seen anything weird lately?
Yeah, a picture of myself from the Conference mentioned above. I have a tendency to avoid getting my picture taken, so it was a bit of a surprise to see it. I didn't really recognise myself, which only serves to further highlight how rarely I pop into happy snaps.
It was a black and white photo and I am in profile which may explain a fair bit, but I need a shave, a haircut and to lose a few pounds. I refuse to say any more on the matter ;-)
14.What do you think of this quiz?
My fingers are starting to go numb - this is not a good sign. I guess I've seen worse quizzes.
15.What is the last film you saw?
Pirates of the Carribbean, courtesy of Suprnova. I enjoyed it - a no-brainer that once you get into the spirit of it is better than most films. I say a no-brainer because if you started to analyse it, or *cough* deconstruct it, it would fall to pieces in your hand. Johnny Depp getting an Oscar nomination for his part? Bollocks - doing a Keith Richards impersonation is hardly top of the actorly range.
In September of every year, you get a fresh cast of thousands of middle class wankers up and down the universities of Britain doing the drugged up muso impersonation with the fake 'cockernee' accent thrown in for free. If they had given an Oscar to Depp for that performance, they would also have had to have given out mini oscars to all those chancers mentioned above when they collect their own copy of the Bob Marley taking a toke poster at the various University Fresher Fairs up and down the country every autumn.
16.If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy first?
Erm, world peace? Nah - KFC family bucket. No, I'm not joking - the lady bountiful act can only happen after I've had some fried chicken.
17.Tell me something about you that I don't know:
I wouldn't know where to start, or where to finish. I think I will duck that question. Any confessionals on this blog will only be alcohol induced - and not from answering some pop quiz to fill up my second ever post.
18.If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or politics, what would you do?
Sorry, this is one of those crappy Miss World type questions. I can't shrill at the top of my voice "Establish world socialism!", cos that negates the whole idea of what socialism is about and how we go about establishing it.
The answer to the question has to be solipcistic, so I will say: Tutti Frutti gets repeated on prime time television and I have a video recorder to record it for posterity. Selfish but simple.
19.Do you like to dance?
In these shoes? Nah - far too painful. In a crowd of strangers, in the dark and with live music playing, I could push myself to pogo but that is all I can say at the moment.
20.George Bush: is he a power-crazy nutcase or some one who is finally doing something that has needed to be done for years?
Nah - he is nothing more than a poster boy for capitalism, and if he fell off the earth tomorrow he would soon forgotten.
I accept that he is a muppet and a gimp (guppet anybody?) but that fucker ain't the problem, just a pain in the arse for a few years and some other guppet or mimp will come along to fill his Italian loafers.
21.Imagine your first child is a girl, what do you call her?
22.Imagine your first child is a boy, what do you call him?
23.Would you ever consider living abroad?
I'm already living abroad ;-)
Christ these things are hard work - filling in this questionnaire made me feel like one of those politicians that have to get the permanently fixed rictus grin in place during an election campaign - you just want to throw your hands up and run out the room screaming but now its over I can get back to my sloth.
Saturday, April 17, 2004
As is my fashion, with the last blogger bus gone months ago, I've decided to join the blogger phenomenon. (The counter-revolution starts here.)
I don't promise any google eyed revelations, intellectual musings or any particular great insights. I'm just going to use this blog to post items of interest that six months down the line I will be able to look at it and think: "I was thinking what!"
Nothing more, nothing less.