Monday, June 28, 2004

Fifty Not Out

Bloody hell, this is my fiftieth post to this blog and as a few people have been kind enough to add this blog to their links section - acknowledgement and reciprocation to follow - which hopefully means that people other than myself and my parole officer are reading it, I thought I would take the opportunity to once again shamelessly plug the book just published by The Socialist Party, 'Socialism Or Your Money Back', (click on the link you buggers) which *cough*, give or take a few years, is as good a brief history of the twentieth century you are going to get this side of the Gang of Four.

As it is the fiftieth post, I thought I would for once put to one side the naff jokes and the obsession with pop music (Gang of Four excepted) and post a proper piece of writing on the blog for once. And of course it wasn't written by me.

The following article, 'Building The Future', which is included in 'Socialism or Your Money Back' originally appeared in the July 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard. To the best of my knowledge, it was the first article the author ever wrote for the Standard and he has not written another article since, which is crying shame cos it is a cracking piece of writing. It's from the heart, and as cheesy as it sounds, I don't think there is enough political writing out there which is written from the heart.(The write in campaign to get the bugger to pick up his pen again starts here and now).

I will never get within a sniff of writing anything a tenth as good as this, but that's no matter; it's just a pleasure to post it on the blog. Put up your feet and enjoy:

Building The Future

"I am one of the many tens of thousands of construction workers who are currently unemployed. Disunited, we must be patient and wait. Surviving on the State-prescribed pittance as pliant trapeze artistes on the unravelling "safety net" which so enchants reformers. Turning useful people into beggars is a historical, and inevitable, principle of the capitalist system. Perhaps this time, we have got to be extremely patient before capitalist investors decide that the opportunity of making profits from our labour power is a distinct possibility. Until then we must needlessly hang on, suffer quietly, await our masters' call.

Twenty-eight years ago, when I started working as a hod-carrier on the buildings, the economic circumstances were quite different from today. The demand for labour was high, consequently wages and degrees of freedom had been rising. Capitalism was in the boom phase of its cycle, and the construction industry anticipating even larger profits was in the process of restructuring itself. The design of buildings was slowly beginning to change, as were materials. Every aspect of what is a labour-intensive industry had to be cost effective.

Cash-in-the-hand wages were starting to become the norm for bricklayers and hoddies in London. No sick pay, holiday money or wet time for us, after all we were screwing the State, weren't we? Being a nomadic trade—I have had well over 100 jobs—where being a realist is forced on you, the majority took full advantage of the economic situation. It was quite usual for men to jack because there was no crack on the job, tea-breaks were too short, or, because you couldn't get a sub when you wanted it. The sub was very important, its availability was one indicator of an employer's liquidity. It was a simple case of once bitten twice shy. Nearly everyone who has worked for sub-contractors for some time gets bumped, at the first sign the realists abandoned ship before it sank.

The Monday Club was in full swing at this time. If 50 percent of the workforce turned up on a Monday the subbie was in raptures all day about how loyal his "boys" were. Building trades unions at this time were generally recognised as the niche of opportunists, liars, and the bribeable. Consequently, negotiations over wages took the form of "we want another shilling an hour". If it wasn't forthcoming, then the tools were immediately thrown into the bag and the ladder descended. A new start was just a phone call away.

It was fully understood that what we built during a working week was worth more than what we were paid, it was wholly transparent. The remainder being shared by the layers of pimps that thrived through our labours, this too was understood and despised. Creating profits, through the unremitting appropriation of surplus value from its workers, is the sole function of the construction industry. Building homes, etc is purely incidental to the process.

No boom lasts forever. The speculative jamboree of overproduction ended abruptly and inevitably. A few capitalists went bust. The shrewd, and well-connected ones are still there, conniving their way out of their latest short-lived binge. The long boom was over, and those few freedoms have never returned. The barbed-wire around the sites was in the process of being re-erected, and a new reality was beginning, one that over the coming years would increasingly subjugate the realists.

New income tax laws had been imposed, and were strengthening. Tax was being deducted at source which meant a _œ“) percent reduction in wages for those without exemption certificates. We were now self-employed--small businessmen no less. A great many workers, inspired by media reports of large sums of money to be earned, had travelled to London. These were among the first to taste the dole. Realists understand that they are disposable. Skint, most of the smaller and more liberal subbies were back on the scaffold with their "boys". The illusion that they had been more than just intermediary workers in the production of profits was still obstinately imprinted on their thwarted minds.

A small elite of subbies were now in a position to more effectively exploit for their masters those who were still in work. Afternoon tea-breaks disappeared and have never returned. Apprenticeships, which had been declining rapidly amongst firms since the rise of the subbie in the early sixties, were now just a source for contrite prattle by reformers. The derisively-paid, and deftly-worked improvers became their replacement. The week in hand was introduced, and the sub became extinct.

Competition between workers became more ferocious than ever. It was common practice when starting a new job to be put to work with the fastest bricklayer on the job; if you didn't keep up, you were down the road before breakfast. Few workers now questioned this, and some gained pleasure from it. Guilt, if you thought you hadn't done enough, and fear of what might happen, became as inseparable from your being as the trowel was from your hand.

A brutal system can create brutes, and the surviving subbies seemed to be in agreement on the type of foreman that they needed to run their jobs. Only the thug would do, no knowledge of bricklaying was necessary. A bully with a watch and few scruples replaced the tradesman. The old boys said that they'd seen it all before, no-one really believed them.

Semi-literacy, and a knowledge of various state institutions, form the background for many bricklayers and labourers. Alcohol, and latterly drugs, are an integral part of the everyday working life for most. When the sack can arrive at any moment, to anyone, regardless of ability, just "to keep 'em on their toes"; where working conditions can vary from working in shin-high mud, to ramshackle scaffolds; where names and faces over the years become a blur, simply because of their frequency. And forming friendships is fraught with problems, then escapism becomes a necessity. And callousness a shield.

It's an upside-down world under capitalism. Those who are most useful suffer the lowest social esteem. But, laze in a masterfully-built mansion, and devise ways of turning human sweat into profit and you are to be admired, knighted even. After all, how would we cope without them, once the plans had been drawn and the footing dug and concreted, the walls built and then plastered, the joist and trusses nailed into place, and the roof battened and slated. Surely, we would be lost without a parasite to then sell the building?

A common dream, voiced amongst many workers that I came into contact with through the years was to build one's own home. A few achieved it. Some of those have now lost it. The possibility for all to achieve this dream can become a reality. By uniting, together we can begin the work of tearing down the barbed-wire than surrounds our lives, and bring nearer the day when we can establish socialism, and with it our freedom".

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Reviving Manufacturing . . . One Cheeseburger at a Time

The article below caught my eye from the Spring 2004 issue of Internationalism, the American publication of the International Communist Current.

For some reason, this short article is not on their website - though 'What Bordiga Ate For BreakFast: A Symposium In Ten Parts' probably is - so I had to type the bugger out, but I thought it was worthwhile for the wee snacktoids of information of how the American Capitalist Class has gone about massaging its unemployment figures down the years.

In the early eighties in Britain, when the number of people out of work started to rise to post-war record levels, the powers at be came up with the ploy of obscuring the true level of those unemployed by putting a whole generation of men and women in the old manufacturing regions of the North East of England, South Wales, Merseyside and the West of Scotland, where the recession hit hardest, on sickness and incapacity benefit. By doing this, they could vanish them from the real unemployment figures in Britain. (In London, to massage the unemployment figures, they did not go for the same option. They chose that age old alternative for hiding the true level of unemployment in London, best known as 'mini-cabbing'.)

As a member of The Socialist Party, the ICC see me as someone in "the swamp", "a parliamentary cretin" and having a "fetish for democracy" amongst other inelegantly phrased political insults but its a good article, and I hope they don't mind too much me posting it up. They will probably interpret it as a fiendish ploy on the part of the bourgeoisie to catch the revolutionary proletarian current off its guard with sweet words - they are only half right.

But to be honest, insults from the ICC are water off a duck's back: there is something comical in being savaged by a political organisation whose members look like refugees from a 1970s London Comprehensive School Staff Room, 'cos I choose not to share their liking for that armchair barricadist karaoke classic, 'Let's Smash the State'.

'Reviving Manufacturing . . . One Cheeseburger at a Time'

"American capitalism has long had a knack for creativity in its use of statistics to put a positive spin on an otherwise dismal reality. For example, the US government calculates unemployment by counting only those workers without a job who have actively applied for work during the previous 30 days. The so-called “discouraged workers,” those who have given up looking for non-existent jobs, are not considered unemployed - they are considered to have dropped out of the workforce. According to the government they are no longer workers. In another example, up until the early 1980s, the unemployment rate used to be calculated on the basis of the civilian workforce. But then the federal government decided that nearly 3 million members of the armed forces would thereafter be considered as employed workers (previously they had been considered as outside the civilian workforce). It proved to be a very effective means of lowering the unemployment rate. When the Department of Labor estimates the number of jobs in the economy, any job employing a worker for a minimum of 10 hours a week counts the same as a fulltime job – this explains all those outlandish claims about millions of jobs being created all the time. In this twisted way of “counting” joblessness and jobs, it is quite possible that a worker who lost his fulltime job and then scrambled to find three low-paying part-time jobs in order to survive, would be counted as one unemployed worker in the unemployment statistics, and as three jobs in the tally of new jobs created in the new economy!

In February, in the annual Economic Report of the President, Pres. Bush floated an innovative idea, suggesting that fast-food workers at places like McDonalds should no longer be considered service workers, but should be reclassified as manufacturing employees. Bush’s chief economic advisor, Gregory Mankiw wondered, “When a fast-food restaurant sells a hamburger, for example, is it providing a ‘service’ or is it combining inputs to ‘manufacture’ a product?” Having lost 2.6 million manufacturing jobs in the economy since January 2001, government economists have finally come up with a plan to revive the manufacturing sector workforce – one cheeseburger at a time! Of course, the Democrats and the talk show comedians had a field day poking fun at this absurdity. There hadn’t been such a blatantly clumsy manoeuvre since the 1981 Reagan administration suggestion that ketchup should be considered a vegetable in calculating the nutritional value of school lunch." - JG

I'm Grateful That They Are Dead

Thinking about my recent choice of Top Ten British Albums, I realised that it reeks of someone locked in a eighties timewarp where his life revolves around burgundy tank tops, sta press trousers and wedge haircuts (no, wait up, that's Franz Ferdinand), so conscious of that I thought I would scotch that myth once and for all, and show that I am up with the current hit parade by checking out the Grateful Dead *cough* classic album, 'American Beauty'.

For years, I have studiously avoided listening to the Grateful Dead for the obvious reasons that their songs have never been played on Radio One (when it was good - the eighties again); the reverential devotion of their fans, 'the deadheads', who remind me too much of a run in I had with Spart paper sellers one time; and 'cos the group itself looked like a collection of the Geography teachers who bored me senseless through five years of Secondary School.

However chastened by the seeming narrowness of my musical taste, and following the recommendation for the Grateful Dead from a comrade who otherwise only seems to listen to Wobbly songs, and mention of the 'American Beauty' album on the excellent American drama series 'Freaks and Geeks' (how is that for product placement?), I thought I would check out the Grateful Dead to see what the fuss was about.

What can I say? The first track on the album, 'Box of Rain', is a nice track until the vocals kick in and then you suddenly realise that they are a poor man's Byrds. Christ - I must have a sixth sense to have avoided them all these years. And this is supposed to be their best studio album? I had to listen to some Gene Clark albums to get the bad taste of 'American Beauty' out of my ears. And to think of all those 'Deadheads' opting for that crap over the real deal from Gene Clark. Weird.

Friday, June 25, 2004

"They Made Me An Offer I Couldn't Refuse."

Just a quick post to mention that I have updated my 'Worth A Gander' section in my sidebar, adding three blogs that I regularly check out to see if I can nick any jokes or meaningful insights to try and pass off as my own on this blog.

Normblog is the blog of Norman Geras, one of the daddy's of the blogsphere. Academic, cricket buff and jazz fan, and yet despite all that I still enjoy reading his blog! The good man kindly added my blog to his link list when I asked him impolitely and he even suffered with good grace my crap jokes sent via email.

As Norman is the author of 'The Legacy of Rosa Luxemburg' (available at an extortionate price from secondhand booksellers who claim to be socialists), it gives me the gratuitious excuse to post the links to a couple of Rosa Luxemburg articles that were published in the Socialist Standard in 1907 and 1915, and which are in the translation section of The Socialist Party website alongside articles by Lafargue, Guesde, Bebel and Kautsky from the same period of 1904-1915. And some people think that there isn't enough politics on this blog.

timesnewroman blogs from Scotland, and he concerns himself mostly with music, football and slagging off leading Scottish SWP member Roddy Slorach. All of which in themself would make it a recommended link, but it gets a special thumbs up for the banter in the comments section between 'TNR', 'Reidski' and 'The Radical Postman'. Imagine The Three Stooges relocated to deepest Ayrshire and whose physical comedic violence has been transformed into cutting putdowns via cyberspace and you will get some sense of why I enjoy reading the trio mentioned above ripping the pish out of each other. I guess the bitter disappointment of being a Kilmarnock supporter lends itself to being expert at mindless physical violence and verbal punch ups. Does that mean The Three Stooges were Killie supporters, also?

Also added to the blogroll and worth a gander is A General Theory Of Rubbish which has a nice line in graphics and a skewed leftfield look at the world that can only come from listening to Captain Beefheart's 'Trout Mask Replica' one too many times.

O.K, I've given you all a plug - can I have my puppy back now?

Shutting Out Subtitles

Alex Cox points out something out in his article in today's Guardian Review which has been bugging me for a while: how come little or no subtitled films are shown on British TV nowadays? While I'm having a justfiable hissy fit, what about all this brilliant black and white films from a hundred years of cinema? You just know that if the buggers thought they could get away with it, we would be drip-fed colourisations of black and white films and dubbed versions of foreign films in between our dose of reality tv and watching England getting beat in various sporting events on mainstream TV.

I still get the piss ripped out of me in some quarters for admitting that I once went to see an Iranian film at the ICA - going against the grain of the chip on the shoulder workerism and inverted snobbery that I wear as a badge of honour - after doing a shift at a Warehouse I was working at ('Look at me, Ma - I'm Jude the Obscurantist') but there are so many great films out there that I can (just about) remember watching on late night BBC2 and Channel 4 years ago. Films that I know - this side of my lottery numbers coming up, and me being able to afford the collection of Tartan videos - I will never get the chance to see again. I mean films like Emir Kustirica's 'When Father Was Away On Business'; Louis Malle's 'Au Revoir Les Enfants'; Truffaut's '400 Blows'; Bertolucci's '1900' and Jean Vigo's 'Zero De Conduite' amongst many others. Brilliant, brilliant films that every bugger should get to watch just after the Weakest Link and just before Eastenders every weekday night on BBC1.

Okay that's enough pretentiousness from me, where did I put that Tom Clancy novel?

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

"A Design Classic"

New batch reprinted - impress your friends and confuse ticket collectors with the Socialist Party spoof railcard. Available in batches of 100 for a quid from 52 Clapham High Street, London SW4 7UN. Revolutionary propaganda was never meant to look this good.

'A design classic.' - Terence Conran

'It won't get you on a train, but it might get you to the future.' - Danny L. at various demos last year.

'Are you trying to muscle in on my business?' - Menacing Ticket Tout at Clapham North Tube Station

'Can I have few more? They make excellent roaches.' Trustafarian at Glastonbury 2003

'Can I use this ticket to get home? HA, HA, HA!' - Unfunny Trot at a demo last year.

'Ha Ha Ha. That's a good one, Joshua.' - His unequally unfunny Trot mate at the same demo.

'Mike F. stole the idea from myself. Inspired by the key situationist texts of Debord, Vanegeim and Milligan I had the same idea in the summer of '75 just after I finished managing the New York Dolls in their 'communist chic' phase and before I invented punk rock. I believe I left the proofs of the idea at a Sparks concert at Hammersmith Palais I attended as a VIP guest. Never did know what happened to the designs until someone thrust the card into my hand with the punk jubilee issue of the Socialist Standard outside the ICA in the autumn of 2003. I will obviously require recompense.' - Malcolm McLaren

'This is far too cool to come from the SPGB.' - A cheeky bastard with acute insight at a demo in London last year.

'I love this card - Mike F. is really talented' - Danny L.

'I guess so' - Darren O. (green with envy)

The Flip Side

Wearing An Anorak In This Weather?

What is it with middle-aged blokes and their need for lists? Give me a couple of days, and I will be able to come up with a top ten list of reasons for why blokes need them, but in the meantime I confine this post to last Sunday's Observer list of the Top 100 Greatest Albums of all time. The latest in a long line of meaningless lists concocted for no other reason than to get me to shell out some money to see what's in the Top 100.

I can't find a link to a single page that will give you the low down on what white middle aged blokes from the suburbs are listening to these days (pretty much what they were listening to in yesterdays) but if you want the general page with the full lists, the token female pop singer's top ten (who happens to be plugging a new single as we speak), Emma Bunton, plus the smart arse comments by numbers views of Stuart Maconie and Paul Morley, then click on the following link.

The list has the usual suspects included but its a bit of a shocker that the Stone Roses debut album has made the number one slot. Don't misunderstand me, it is a good album but it is not even in the top twenty in a just world. I'll hazard a guess and suggest that a disproportionate number of the one hundred great, the good and the mates of the Observer music magazine editor asked for their top tens are confusing a particular good time in their lives - circa 1989/91 - with an all time great album. A bad case of the 'soundtrack of our youth' syndrome. I'm sure if pushed they would regale you with stories of the Hacienda, Spike Island and a rave in a warehouse off the M25 during this period as high points in their life. (That's the press release version issued by their PR Company - their reality was more along the lines of studying for their A Levels in the suburbs of Middle England; catching the tail end of the Mock Turtles singing 'Can You Dig It' on Top of the Pops and buying an Inspiral Carpets' 'Cool As Fuck' T shirt but wearing it under their hooded tops after reading in the NME about the bloke who got arrested by the police for wearing his in public.)

Not that surprised to find that at some point in my life I have had in my possession 48 of the 100 albums listed, which indicates either an excellent taste in music or a gullibility on my part for buying 'classic' albums as recommended by the music press down the years. 'Revolver', at number two, is the top listed Beatles album but I've always thought it overrated - though I'm well versed in the muso's dissertations on why that is such a seminal album. For me, 'Rubber Soul' is the better album.

Looking through the list, there are a couple of albums missing that I am surprised at by their ommission (for more info see numbers 3 and 6 in the top ten below), and I'm also a bit pissed off that on the whole the albums selected are predominately white boy bands with guitars; that is until I compiled my own top ten and saw that I had gone down the same road. Oops.

Another surprise is that the clutch of brilliant albums that the Kinks made in the mid-60s onwards didn't make charts at the time of their release, which makes me wonder if the sixties were more minging than swinging.

As I say above, I've done my own top ten. I've limited it to one album per artist in the top ten, though there are few of the groups listed who could have had two or three albums in ten on a different day. Top ten lists are daft 'cos there are hundreds of great albums out there. Or rather there were, with the advent of mp3s and downloads from the internet, the album is dead and not a moment too soon. A few decent tracks with some fillers is the best you can get today, and those albums where every track is a killer is rarer today than a saved Socialist Party election deposit.

I know already that I want to take some albums listed out and put some other albums in, and also that I want to switch the positions of the albums around. I also know that I will want to change the list again and again, but that is just an indication of my changing taste in music.

At least of the six albums listed in the ten I discovered after they were released so I'm afraid you cannot pin the sub-Proustian 'Rememberance of Things Past' tag on me. I've already previously posted the cover of the number one album on the blog before - giving the game away - so I have included in this post the cover of the most obscure of the albums listed. All recommended listens, with barely a duff track amongst them, and if I have the time in the future, or the inclination, I may clog up the blog with my reasons for why the albums are - to quote George Martin himself - the dogs bollocks.

That's all for now pop pickers.

1. ABC - 'Lexicon of Love'

2. The Smiths - 'The Smiths'

3. Prefab Sprout - 'Steve McQueen'

4. The Kinks - 'Village Green Preservation Society'

5. The Jam - 'All Mod Cons'

6. Aztec Camera - 'High Land, High Rain'

7. Cocteau Twins - 'Heaven or Las Vegas'

8. Human League - 'Dare'

9. The The - 'Soul Mining'

10. Colourbox - 'Colourbox'

Monday, June 21, 2004

A Lady With Class

In an otherwise so so feature on the American writer, Erica Kennedy, where she plugs her novel, 'Bling', an 'insider/outsider fictionalised account of the world of hip hop, Kennedy makes the following acute observation: 'I think a lot of the issues we talk about in terms of race are really issues of class,' she suggests. 'We might not necessarily feel comfortable talking about issues of race, but we're used to it. And all these people in the hip-hop world, yeah, they all came from the ghetto, they all came up the hard way, but you know what? Russell and Jay-Z and Puffy have a lot more in common with Donald Trump than they have with the average black man living in America. Because it's an issue of class, it's Have and Have-not - and now they're all Haves, in a major way.'

For rest of the article, click here.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Delusions of Grandeur - Volume Two

A conversation that may or may not have taken place recently between two WSM'ers:

First Abstract Propagandist: "I think the Party should consider starting up its own blog which could be directly linked to the existing website.

The beauty of the Party having a blog would be that it would mean that there could be much more topical items on the net, posted much more frequently. Rather than people visiting the Party website once a month, for when the latest Socialist Standard comes out, they would be visiting it every couple of days to see what The Socialist Party, and other members of the WSM, were saying about the issues in the news.

I tried to raise the issue as a Branch item for discussion at the last Party Conference but you could tell that most members didn't really know what a blog was, and its potential for Party propaganda."

Second Abstract Propagandist: "I'd sooner we didn't call it a blog - it should be called a News Group. The word 'blog' conjures up an image of a thirteen year old writing an online diary."

First Abstract Propagandist: . . . . . [Stands up and walks away]

Second Abstract Propagandist: "Where are you going?"

First Abstract Propagandist: "Just nipping off to write up this conversation for my News Group."

Friday, June 11, 2004

Alternative titles for the book 'Socialism or Your Money Back'

A post otherwise known as, 'I Could Have Been A Contender'.

Suggested alternative titles for The Socialist Party's bumper book, 'Socialism or Your Money Back', but which never got beyond the "What the fuck . . . ." stage.

  • "A Plague On All Your Houses" (self-explanatory and self- deprecating)
  • 'Impossibilist Dreamers' (play on 'Impossible Dreamers')
  • 'A Snail's Progress' (play on 'A Rake's Progress')
  • 'From the Boer war to the Bore wars'
  • 'It's the case not the face'
  • "More Cold Water" (in homage to the phrase from Glasgow Branch delegates - and less be honest we have been the cold water brigade by sticking to revolutionary socialist principle this last hundred years.)
  • 'No Compromise!'
  • 'Abolish the Money and Run' (Play on well known phrase.)
  • 'REMAINDER THIS BOOK!' (A take on Abbie Hoffman's Yippie classic 'Steal This Book')
  • 'Four Splits, Ten Expulsions and One Hundred Years For Socialism'
  • 'Dude, Wheres My Quorum?'
  • 'No One Likes Us, We Don't Care' (Millwall supporters stole that phrase off us, we are stealing it back. If you haven't seen the U2 film 'Rattle And Hum', you won't get that joke.)
  • "Who'll Do The Dirty Work?"
  • "This Time Next Year, We Will Have Socialism . . . ." (Apologies to Only Fools and Horse)
  • 'From Battersea to Clapham' (The Party was formed in Battersea - a hundred years of propaganda and it has progressed to, erm, Clapham. A mile and a half away - self deprecation, etc Also a piss take of all them biogs of Labour Leaders who pulled themselves up from dirt poverty, ect on the backs of the working class from the first half of the twentieth century i.e: 'From poverty row to pall mall' and/or 'From labourer to labor fakir' sic.)
  • 'Are We Prisoners Of Our Means' (Just a play on the name of the new pamphlet and the old majority versus minority revolution debate.)
  • 'What Did The Romans Ever Do For Us?' (Python)
  • "SPLITTERS!" (More Python)
  • "No, We Are Not The Fucking SWP!"
  • 'A Small Still Voice' (A description of Tony Turner speaking in Hyde Park at the outbreak of World War Two from an article I once read.
  • 'Bigmouth's Strike Again' (Hat tip to The Smiths.)
  • 'Searching For The Young Soul Rebels' (Hat tip to Dexys Midnight Runners.)
  • 'So Tired of Waiting For You' (Picture of the collective working class on front cover and the title is addressed to them. Hat tip to The Kinks.)
  • 'We Are Only In It To Abolish The Money' (Like the one above - plays on this myth and self-deprecates against the idea that we are obsessed with chanting abolishing money and nothing else)
  • 'A Stuck Record' (Consistency of our record.)
  • 'One Chord Wonders' (see above)
  • 'The Final Paragraph' (see above)
  • " Only Under Socialism . . . ." (See above with bells on - just in case you still haven't got the joke ;-)
  • "Either This System Goes Or I Do"
  • "If You Knew The History . . ." (Had to get a Glasgow Celtic reference in there somewhere ;-)
  • 'Publish and Be Ignored' (Play on the well known phrase, and well it is a history of the Socialist Standard.)
  • 'No Sleep 'Til Socialism' (For the Motorhead fans out there and does get a flavour of the sense of urgency the Party members had of the immediacy of socialism in the early articles of the Socialist Standard.)
  • 'Six Branch Members In Search of A Delegate'( After Pirandello's 'Six Characters in Search of an Author')
  • Tuesday, June 08, 2004

    Just Out! 'Socialism or Your Money Back'

    Published by The Socialist Party to mark the centenary of its formation, 'Socialism or Your Money Back' presents a " . . .running commentary from a socialist perspective of the key events of the last hundred years as they happened. Two world wars, the Russian Revolution, the General Strike and the rise of Hitler are covered, as are the civil war in Spain, Hiroshima, the politics of pop, democracy and the silicon chip, and much more. The book will be of interest to those wanting to study the political, economic and social history of the twentieth century, as well as to those committed to the interests of the majority class of wage and salary workers and who want a different society to replace the profit-wages-money system that is capitalism." Also a must for leftist trainspotters, ex-Tankies, the Joshuas and Jemimas who have made up the Trotskyist movement in Britain since the first Redbrick University was built and for the New Labour types with the William Morris wallpaper and the Dick Morris principles. Available inland for £9.95 (plus £2 postage) from The Socialist Party, 52 Clapham High Street, London SW4 7UN. Review copies are also available for journals and newspapers. For details of postage overseas, bulk discounts and review copies contact As the title of the book says: 'Socialism or Your Money Back' The World For The Workers!

    'Socialism or Your Money Back'

    The blurb on the back.

    Monday, June 07, 2004

    An Obituary for Harry Morrison (Harmo) of the World Socialist Party of the United States

    Born in 1912, Harry Morrison became convinced of the case for socialism as a young man, having been influenced by an older brother who had heard the case for socialism in Toronto, Ontario. Morrison first visited Boston around 1937 but soon traveled west to California.

    He returned to Boston in 1939 where he met his future wife Sally Kligman at the Boston Local Headquarters. The couple married in the fall of 1939 and lived in Boston for a couple of years. In 1941 they moved to Los Angeles and made contact with the comrades there. They had a daughter, Anita, in 1942. The family moved back to Boston in 1947, and both Harry and Sally were active members of Boston Local from then on.

    Morrison wrote voluminously for the organization, sometimes anonymously but usually under the pen name 'Harmo.' He was a very frequent contributor to The Western Socialist, and, as a member of the WS's Editorial Committee, he also edited many articles submitted by others. He had a real gift for articulating the socialist analysis.

    He enjoyed debating, and was a frequent member of the WSP group who engaged in debates with various local university debaters. He was a fine outdoor speaker as well. He was a soap box orator on Boston Common during the 1940s and 50s, and even after the WSP stopped soap boxing as an organization, Morrison continued to speak less formally to small groups along the paths near the Tremont Street side of the Common; he continued this into the 1960s, putting the case for socialism tirelessly and articulately.

    For about 10 years during the 1960s and 70s, the WSP had a radio program on WCRB Boston. Morrison was among the comrades who wrote scripts for this program, He also was one of the on air readers. When the Party decided, in 1974, to publish a pamphlet in commemoration of the 300th consecutive issue of The Western Socialist, thirty or so of Morrison's radio essays became The Perspective for World Socialism -- a pamphlet which is still being distributed today. Also during this period he was a guest on another AM radio show hosted by the late Haywood Vincent and on the Adam Burak show on an FM station as well.

    Morrison served for many years on the NAC, as well as on the Editorial Committee. It would be hard to overestimate his contribution to the socialist movement.

    Harry Morrison developed heart problems when he was in late middle age, and, at the suggestion of his doctor, 'retired' from active work in the WSP. After this, he used his time to write three books, The Socialism of Bernard Shaw (published by McFarland & Co. in 1989 and which we still distribute), and two others for which he was unable to find a publisher, one about Jack London and the other about the Soviet Union. Sally Morrison died in 1987. Harry continued to live in his apartment but no longer participated in Party activities during this period, concentrating, instead, on research for his books and on enjoying his family which now included two grandchildren. He would always accept an invitation to a social gathering, however, and liked to visit with comrades visiting the area, most recently with SPGB Comrades Vic Vanni and Tony McNeil who spent some time in Boston in 2002.

    After another heart attack in December of 2002 Cde Morrison moved to a nursing home. A socialist to the end, he gave several talks on Marxism to his fellow residents, which Cdes Fenton and Elbert as well as members of Morrison's family also attended. His death on May 13, 2004 is a great loss to the World Socialist Movement.

    He will be long remembered and sorely missed.

    One of My Most Listened to Albums

    It's cheesy I know, and I could have laid a false trail by putting something pretentious - 'Trout Mask Replica', anyone? - as one of my favourite albums of all time but 'Lexicon of Love' is an album I have listened to again and again. I just think it was a great time for music - '81/82 - despite the fact that I can remember sod all about it. (Hence being in a postion to blank out all the crap stuff from that period that always clogged up the charts.)

    Favourite Authors

    I may as well indulge in the new gizmo for the blog, and post a few images before the novelty wears off.

    The image is self-explanatory - the front cover of Gordon Legge's novel, 'I Love Me (Who Do You Love)'. I had wanted to feature the front cover of his novel, 'The Shoe', which is my personal favourite novel of his but there wasn't the original Polygon Press cover online on the net and I didn't fancy going for the explosion in a paint shop cover that adorns the reprint. Handy thing is, I couldn't find an image of the front cover 'I Love Me (Who Do You Love)' on the net so it looks like I've performed a public service by scanning it in.

    Though I was not too impressed with Legge's last collection of short stories, 'Near Neighbours', I would happily recommend both of his novels 'The Shoe' and 'I Love Me (Who Do You Love)', and his first collection of short stories, 'In Between Talking About Football'. Legge's characters, their environment and non-happenings, I imagine, aren't that far removed from the lifestyle of himself and his own immediate circle. To read Legge's fiction is to get an impression of what the characters in Gregory's Girl would have been doing after they left school, where work wasn't the centre of ones existence, but friendship, football, good music and herbal medication played a far more central role in life.

    Maybe that means that Legge is a one trick pony when it comes to fiction writing - hence the fact that his last collection wasn't as good as his previous work - but if that is the case, then it was and is a good one trick and people will be rediscovering Legge's writings in future years. Let there be no mistake about that.

    Sunday, June 06, 2004

    Department Logos

    Just thought I would try and post a pic to the blog. It has to be this one of proposed logos for Socialist Party Depts. Images and wit courtesy of John Bissett. The proposed Enquiries Dept logo still cracks me up now after all these months.

    Ronnie Raygun

    Interesting post on the legacy of the late Ronald Reagan, who died yesterday, by 'Billmon' on his blog,Whiskey Bar. Read it here.

    The Truth is Out There

    Science Fiction, in all its forms, just isn't my cup of tea (put it down to a lack of imagination on my part): My favourite Philip K. Dick novel is the unsci-fi 'The Man in the High Castle'; Star Wars is overrated for anyone over the age of 10 and the theme music from Star Trek brings me out in a cold sweat, but putting personal prejudices aside I have to tip my hat to the Sci-Fi writer Ken MacLeod for giving the SPGB a namecheck recently on his blog, The Early Days of a Better Nation.

    As he mentions in his post, Ken has an article included in the Centenary issue of the Socialist Standard but, payola scandals aside, it's always nice to read some comments from a friendly critic. (It took one hundred years but the SPGB is finally softening in its old age.)

    I've reproduced Ken's comments below 'cos I can't find a link for the specific post. And by the way, check out his novels; he is an excellent writer - I know, I've read the non sci-fi bits in The Stone Canal - I just have a prejudice against all things sci-fi following an unfortunate incident involving me and a plastic Stars Wars stormtrooper action figure when I was eight years old. I still have nightmares about it.


    Saturday, June 05, 2004

    Posted 11:02 PM by Ken

    A Socialist Centenary

    "Britain might not seem a hotbed of ultra-leftism, but it is. In no other country is there an ultra-left organization with hundreds of members, and many more supporters. Its members are for the most part disturbingly normal people. Even more surprisingly, this party is a hundred years old this month.

    A couple of days ago the centenary issue of the monthly Socialist Standard dropped through my letterbox. It's an informative and often entertaining read, and I don't just say that because it includes an article by me. The party has, as John Sullivan perceptively noted in 1988, outlived the socialist pretensions of most of its rivals. Having cast a cold eye on everything from the founding of the Labour Party, through the Bolshevik Revolution, to the Welfare State, the End of History and the New Economy, it faces the future with quiet confidence, and looks back on its first century with a forgiveable tincture of Ivor Cutler's 'Scottish education': 'Ah telt ye! Ah telt ye!'

    A highlight of the centenary issue is 'Smash Cash', a legendary Oz article from 1968, which tried to put the party's case for socialism across to a largely stoned readership. Its author, David Ramsay Steele, went on to become one of the most entertaining and erudite free-market libertarian polemicists of our time, and to write the definitive work on the economic calculation argument against the possibility of socialism, From Marx to Mises.

    Discovering that the SPGB was ultra-left - or to put it more technically, part of the non-market socialist political sector - was for me an intellectual turning point. Reading Steele's article on the economic calculation argument was another. They happened at about the same time, in the late eighties, and around about the time I began seriously writing SF, and have influenced all that I've written."

    Saturday, June 05, 2004

    The Ingrate Reads a David Aaranovitch Article All the Way Through Shocker

    The Berlin wall may have come down 15 years ago; Leningrad has been renamed St Petersburg; and Russia are now performing (badly) in the Eurovision Song Contest but little things like ex-Communist Party members taking the opportunity to stick the boot into Trots will always be with us.

    David Aaranovitch laces up his bovver boots to do a number on the Respect Unity Coalition. I had smiles of recognition when I read it, which makes a nice change from the developing ulcer I usually get when reading anything by Aaranovitch.

    Worth A Gander

    I do like my films. Not saying that I can pontificate at length about them, or give you a 'Film Critical Theory 101' monologue at the drop of a hat - just saying I like a good flick. Some of my favourite films - and in no particular order, and I will have forgotten a few no doubt that I would later wish to add - include Orphans; In This World; Singing In The Rain; Au Revoir Les Enfants; Hobson's Choice; Gregory's Girl; Lone Star and High Hopes.

    The above are just a drop in the ocean - could have mentioned, but can't be arsed to put the links: 'Dr Strangelove'; 'The Apartment'; 'Destry Rides Again'; Hitchcock's 'The Lady Vanishes' and 'Thirty-Nine Steps'; Fritz Lang's 'M'; 'Casablanca'; 'Withnail and I';'Ghost World'etc etc. No prejudices, no hang ups against Hollywood, etc - just a case of if I like a film, that's it.

    What's the above in aid of? Just my wee preamble for mentioning that I have put a new link on my sidebar. Drew's Blog-O-Rama is an excellent blog that specialises on commenting on films, pop culture and all the other candy floss stuff that we spend so much time over.

    Drew's blog has everything mine doesn't - style, colour, funny jokes, pictures, a special mention in the weblog section of the Guardian, funny jokes; original material; gossip and scoops; quotes from Dostoevsky; did I mention that the bastard actually has laugh out loud jokes on his blog? That's cheating!

    Well, petty spite and jealousy aside, it is well worth a gander. One thought though, the picture Drew has of Tom Selleck playing General Dwight Eisenhower on his blog. At first glance, I could have sworn it was a picture of the Geordie actor, Alun Armstrong? Weird.

    Friday, June 04, 2004

    Delusions of Grandeur

    "And he came down to earth with a bump . . ."

    And there was me getting to be too pleased with myself. The blog got a positive name check from Harry's Place a few days back, albeit a 'nice jokes, shame about the politics' type recommendation, and I was pleased to note that as a consequence of that hat tip there was a wee increase in traffic of visitors to the blog.

    Being as I am, the old imagination went into overdrive (Walter Mitty, Billy Liar and Peter Mandelson are amateurs in comparison), with me thinking: 'Brilliant - this word has been used with the kind permission of the Respect Unity Coalition who have copyrighted the word for the duration of their election campaign - people will be visiting the blog, either finding out about the SPGB for the first time or at least it will help shatter a few myths about the Party from people already aware of us, and will mean they will look on the Party more favourably and the case for revolutionary socialism more seriously.'

    Well that flight of fantasy has now gone right out the window after I had a wee scout of the site meter 'recent referrals' section. Noticing that a bloke - and it must be a bloke - visited the blog via a google search, I clicked on the meta data bit to see what brought him to the blog: Was it my mention of Clement Attlee and the SPGB? No. Reference to Anton Pannekoek - maybe a web surfing Council Communist stumbling across the blog? No. Okay - not politics. A culture vulture maybe? A Smiths fan? No. My long lost twin trying to find out why Tutti Frutti had not been on the telly in nearly twenty years? Alas, no.

    No, it was someone typing in the words 'Kika Markham Nude' into the google search engine, and yes, if you do that, it appears this blog is the first link that appears on the page. Poor sod - instead of what he wanted he got a rant about Kika's husband, Corin Redgrave.

    I guess i should look on the bright side. I'll keep a lookout for membership applications coming in where, to the question: 'How did you come into contact with the Socialist Party?' Someone replies: 'Looking for nude pictures of Kika Markham on the internet.' I can also use it as my opening line in my selling pitch next time I'm selling the Socialist Standard at a demo and I see Kika Markham selling copies of The Marxist, magazine of the Marxist Party.*

    * I'm afraid I can't find an internet link for the Marxist Party. So, in keeping with the profile of its membership, I found the next best thing.

    Wednesday, June 02, 2004

    Consigned To The Footnote Of History . . .

    In a bogus attempt to give the illusion that there is actually more politics on this blog than there is in reality, I thought I would kick off an irregular series entitled 'Consigned To The Footnote Of History'*

    When I can be arsed I will from time to time ocasionally cut and paste some of the more choice quotes, misquotes, misrepresentations and downright libel chucked at the SPGB down the years by friends and foe alike. Celebrities can bleat all they want when appearing on the 'Richard and Judy' show, about how they are misrepresented and misunderstood by the press and tv media but that's all a sodding cake walk in comparison to the brickbats chucked at the SPGB down the years. What other political organisation issues crash helmets with membership cards to new members to protect against unwelcome debris?

    I have previously touched upon this theme in a post to the blog, when I commented on a reference that the part time actor and one time full time trot, Corin Redgrave**, made to us in a piece he wrote for the New Statesman earlier in the year.

    The series will serve three purposes: 1) As mentioned above it will save me the hassle of actually thinking of something original to write - just a bit of cut and paste, sprinkle on a wee of leftist trainspotting anecdotary, garnish with some phoney self-deprecation and then I'm ready for my close up Mr Rusbridger. 2) "The emancipation of the working class is the work of the working class itself" and all that, coupled with all socialist adage of "No leaders need apply", but some of us are just as starstruck as the man and woman on the Clapham omnibus when some micro-celebrity throws a comment our way, even if it is libellous or just bastard cheeky.*** 3)It satiates the monomania that all politicos have whether they are the type to have a Karl Marx paperback in their backpocket or the type with a copy of the latest policy statement from the Demos Thinktank. The old maxim of 'any publicity is good publicity' shamelessly applies.

    After all that verbiage, if you don't want to take the scenic route for a moment longer but just want to read the list of quotes and sarky digs without the piss poor jokes and references to obscure New Wave singles from the late seventies (what do you mean, you didn't spot them?), then just click on the following link which will lead you to an article in this month's Socialist Standard on the subject.

    For you one or two still left, not succumbing to the instant gratification of the link listed above, I may as well start at the top of the tree with a quote about us from the former Labour Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, when referring to goings on in Russia in 1917: “The Russian debacle is rather appalling but quite explicable. Lenin and Trotsky appear to me to be of the SPGB type or the wilder types of the SDP.”Clement Attlee in a letter to his brother Tom, 20 March 1918 (quoted in Clem Attlee. A Biography by Francis Beckett, 2001).

    The quote is top of the tree 'cos it was my good self that spotted it in Beckett's biography who, incidentally, also wrote a very readable history of the British Communist Party called 'The Enemy Within'. It is also top notch because Attlee, Labour Party leader for twenty years and Labour Prime Minister for six years in the post war years is the one Labour Party leader/Prime Minister in its history who is met with approval from all wings of the Labour Party. For the left of the Labour Party he was leader of the great reforming Labour Government of 1945-51, which founded the National Health Service and took into Public Ownership so much of the national economy. The right wing of the Labour Party and that strange bird going by the name of 'New Labour' - which is on no wing of the Labour Party, preferring to hang on to the tail feathers of Blair - eulogise him because he was leader of a radically reforming Labour Government, and radical shake up - any shake up - seems to be at the centre of their core beliefs. I shouldn't forget to mention the largest constituency within the Labour Party and that is those tens of thousands who wouldn't describe themselves of being on the right or the left wings of Labour, but just as 'Labour'. They loved Attlee 'cos he delivered that long awaited election victory with a working Parliamentary majority, and because he wasn't Herbert Morrison. (Of course, for a contrary view on Attlee's Government, and the Labour Party in general at that time, click on the following link. May as well have this one as well.

    The passing reference to the SPGB in Attlee's correspondence with his brother, Tom, is fascinating for a couple of reasons. First and foremost because this was private correspondence written at a time - 1918 - when times were difficult for both Attlee and his brother. Both Public School and University educated they had thrown their lot in with the Labour movement and the Independent Labour Party through both of them witnessing at first hand the extensive poverty that existed amongst the working class at the time, whilst they were doing voluntary work in the East End of London. From reading Beckett's autobiography there is no doubt that there was a deep friendship and love between the brothers and this meant it must have been especially difficult during the First World War for them, with the two brothers having differing views on the war: Tom deciding to be a conscientious objector whilst Clement Attlee enlisted and fought in France, attaining the rank of Major before the war ended in 1918. The excerpt is taken from Attlee's correspondence with Tom, when his brother was was still in jail during this period for his opposition to the war.

    I guess the second interesting aspect to the comments in the letter is the reference to the Russian Revolution when in fact it was the case that the SPGB were one of the first political organisations in the country to criticise what existed in Russia/Soviet Union post 1917 from a socialist perspective. I guess it is not so surprising at first sight - even the most ardent supporters of the Bolsheviks and their coup d'etat in 1917 were arguing blind, and perhaps the reporting of the Bolsheviks rhetoric of the time from friend and foe alike would have given the impression of Lenin and his cadre working towards building a revolutionary socialist society. I also happen to think - and I guess this viewpoint makes me a bit of a heretic within some SPGB circles - that there was an overlapping of sorts in the formation of the Socialist Labour Party and the SPGB in 1903/04 respectively, with the other radical currents that were agitating for change within their respective parties in the Second International of the pre-1914 period. These currents would includ people and tendencies such as Luxemburg in the German SPD; Pannekoek in the Dutch SaPD; De Leon and chums in America; the Guesdists in France; and the Talmud like debates that took place within Russian SDLP in this same period. (I guess one called also mention the formation of the IWW during the same period - it all pointed to an era when it was all kicking off, and such fierce political debates within the various Parties and organisations were all the more heated because they considered revolution was on the agenda at that moment in time.)

    Attlee, I guess, wouldn't have been immune to those debates and that is why he was all too aware of the existence of the SPGB during his crash course in working class poverty in the East End of London. Mention those initials today to a New Labour type, living in N1 with his or her subscription to Prospect magazine and their capped teeth and forward facing haircuts and they would think you were referring to this SPGB. "Absolutely delish, darling, Tansy cooked us the dish at the little soiree we had earlier this year to celebrate Rup getting his promotion at the IPPR."

    It was nice to discover that wee snippet in Beckett's book 'cos it was the icing on the cake to an anecdote that appeared in Robert Barltrop's story of the SPGB, The Monument, where Barltrop recounts an anecdote where a journalist, attending a press conference given by Prime Minister Attlee, happened to ask a question of the Government's performance which was similar to criticism expressed by the SPGB to the actions of the Labour Party in Government. Attlee apparently swung round and replied: "I know you, SPGB!" Barltrop records that the journalist nipped at knew nothing of the SPGB prior to Attlee's comeback, but was more than interested later on to know more about an organisation which could prompt such a reaction. Nice to know that the bloke who Churchill referred to once when stating: "An empty Black cab drew up to Parliament Square, and Mr Attlee got out . . ." had enough hackles to rise when the 'abstract propagandists - speakers' corner branch' came into conversation.

    *(Lev Bronstein, you don't have to cross your legs in a huff and look away from me. I fully acknowledge that it paraphrases what you apparently said about the Mensheviks, in response to them steaming out of a meeting of the Council of the Soviets 'cos of the stitch up undertaken by the Bolsheviks, that they were: ". . being consigned to the dustbin of history . . .")

    ** Corin Redgrave photographed at the annual meeting of the Gerry Healey Appreciation Society.

    *** I'm not immune myself to the odd bit of *cough* star gazing when doing my revolutionary duty. Noticeable mentions include: John McCririck blowing smoke in my face from his cigar when I attempted to give him a 'Right To Hunt Landowners' leaflet at the late Countryside Alliance march in London; me being a bit sniffy with Emily Lloyd by saying "We don't do petitions." when she had set her heart on signing something, anything. (WTF is it with some people and petitions? Sign this and it will salve your conscience.); and selling a couple of Socialist Standards to a Geordie actor I half recognised, impressing him no end when I said: "Erm - aren't you off the telly?" (It'll be no surprise when I mention that he hasn't been seen within a hundred miles of the SPGB since that particular faux pas.)

    They Are Reprinting Oz Articles In The Pages Of The Socialist Standard, Man!*

    From the special commemorative June issue of the Socialist Standard , which has been published to mark the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, is the following article: Smash Cash, which was written by David Ramsay Steele when he was a member of the SPGB, originally appeared in the pages of the underground magazine, OZ, in the late sixties. I wonder what David Ramsay Steele is doing these days? * In reference to the line uttered by Danny the Drug Dealer in the film, Withnail and I: "They are selling hippy wigs in Woolworth's, Man."

    If You Will Insist In Trying To Quote William Morris This Is How You Should Do It

    I think I have already set my stall out on what I think about William Morris in a previous post, but I thought I would reproduce the following 'cos if you are going to try and win special kudos by quoting one of the old beards I think the following exchange of dialogue between Tony Wilson and Peter Saville from Michael Winterbottom's 24 Hour Party People is the right way to go about it:

    [Peter Saville eventually turns up towards the end of the launch of the Factory music night, and approaches Tony Wilson to hand him the finished posters that were supposed to advertise this self-same Factory music's night launch.]

    Peter Saville (Enzo Cilenti): "The posters."

    Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan): "You've got the posters? It's the fucking gig!"

    Peter Saville: "Yeah, I know - it just took ages to get the right yellow."

    Tony Wilson: "The gig's over."

    Peter Saville: "I know."

    Tony Wilson: "It looks fucking great actually - yeah, really nice. It's beautiful - but useless. And as William Morris once said: "Nothing useless can be truly beautiful."'

    A nice wee slice of dialogue courtesy of Frank Cottrell-Boyce (who I can just about excuse for writing episodes of Brookside - however, the jury is still out on whether or not he can be forgiven for writing a column for the Revolutionary Communist Party magazine, Living Marxism. ) but you imagine Tony Wilson saying something as Pseud Cornerish as that in real life.

    From what I saw of the film it looks like another gem from Michael Winterbottom, who with In This World and Wonderland has made two of my favourite films of recent years.

    Admittedly, I could only ever seem to download the first half of 24 Hour Party People from the internet, but the first half does includes scene of the Sex Pistols playing a gig at the Manchester Free Trade Hall in 1976, organised by the blokes who later became the original line up of the Buzzcocks.It is also the half of the film that includes the formation of Joy Division; the death by suicide of Joy Division lead singer, Ian Curtis, and the launch of the Hacienda club amongst other things, and there are nice wee cameos from Peter Kay, Howard Devoto and Mark E. Smith.

    Funnily enough, it appears to be nigh on impossible to download the second half of the film.

    I guess the story of how New Order got John Barnes to do the World In Motion rap; the Happy Mondays banrupting Factory Records financially when recording the follow up to 'Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches' whilst Northside were bankrupting Factory Records critically isn't that alluring a second half.

    Erm, this post has mutated from being about the use and abuse of William Morris's legacy to being about Michael Winterbottom's brilliance of moving from one genre of film to another time after time, Tony Wilson's ego, and the exasperation at tight wad Joy Division fans who won't put the second half of 24 Hour Party People on Winmx for the rest of the unwashed to download. Further confirmation that Morris is never exactly uppermost in my mind even when I'm supposed to be writing a post about the poor sod.

    Tuesday, June 01, 2004

    "Two Hooses, Diver! Not Even Elvis Had Two Hooses"

    I was starting to believe I was living in one of those Twilight Zone episodes that I never used to watch when they were re-run on TV a few years back: The bloke who claims to have seen a 'happening' that no one else appears to have seen. The bloke (it's always a bloke) brings the subject up at every opportunity - repeating himself ad nauseum - to anyone who will stand still long enough to be at the receiving end of his rambling rant. After each consecutive quizzical reaction and shuffled embarrassment from people not being able to put the bloke's mind at rest by saying that they also witnessed the 'happening', he becomes increasingly hyper and as a consequence threatening until the final scene in the episode is a juxtaposition of the image of the bloke in a padded cell in a hospital upstate - its always upstate - doing a variation on the Ian Curtis dancing routine whilst the Doctors and Nurses who have just drop kicked him into the cell, sit down to watch a re-run of the 'happening' on TV, smiling knowingly at one another.

    I am - or rather I was - that bloke, and the 'happening' was John Byrne's 'Tutti Frutti'. A six part comedy drama made by BBC Scotland in 1987 about the fictional Glaswegian rock n' roll band, The Majestics, who having one top ten record back in the mid-sixties return to the obscurity from whence they came in double quick time to spend the next twenty odd years gigging around the toilets of Scotland and all their energy channelled into raising families and into intra-band mutual recrimination and violence that makes the Gallagher Brothers look like the Corr sisters, only for them to occasionally declare a temporary truce when facing the greater external threat from their long standing manager, Eddie Clockerty. (A manager who mixes the charm of Eric 'Monster' Hall with the business scruples of the former Executives at Enron.)

    I won't ruin it by trying to recount the whole six episodes of this brilliant drama - which would be near impossible 'cos so much was packed into six fifty minute episodes, and it would be the equivalent of that tin eared dick, Dr Fox, trying to put into words the indescribable brilliance of Rufus and Chaka Khan's 'Ain't Nobody' - but the scene is set at the start with Robbie Coltrane, in an electric blue suit, and playing the part of Danny McGlone, returning home to Glasgow from New York to attend the funeral of his big brother, Jazza McGlone. Jazza, the lead singer of the Majestics (and also played by Coltrane in flashback sequences), has met a premature death by crashing his car into a bus shelter whilst trying to negotiate a corner half pissed and eating a kebab at the wheel of his car. (A death that mixes Marc Bolan with Mama Cass.)

    Danny McGlone, telling anyone who will listen that he is currently a working artist in New York, is asked by Eddie Clockerty (played by Richard Wilson) to step into his dead brother's shoes by performing lead vocals and playing keyboards on the already planned Majestics Silver Jubilee tour. The media is once again interested in the Majestics - 25 years on since that one hit wonder - in a Where Are They Now? type angle, and Danny throws up his burgeoning art career in New York(in reality, sharing a garret in New York with a "funny shoe salesman", living a precarious existance by playing the piano in bars because he can't get a proper job without a Green Card.) to play the top musical venues in Scotland, which just happen to be places like Methil, Ardrossan and Buckie.

    Along the way, Danny McGlone runs into Suzy Kettles (played by Emma Thompson), rekindling a romance that never was from their student days at the Glasgow School of Art, getting her in to play rhythm guitar and sing vocals on the tour after Vincent Diver (lead guitarist, half Alvin Stardust/half Gene Vincent, and would be leader of the Majestics) gets stabbed in the vitals by way of a hello from his long lost daughter who was the product of a knee trembler from the last time The Majestics played Buckie twenty odd years before.

    Throw into this mix, the TV journalist doing a documentary on The Majestics deciding to do a hatchet job on them; Eddie Clockerty's relationship with his personal assistant, Miss Toner (played by the brilliant Katy Murphy); Vincent Diver (the best role Maurice Roeves has ever done) trying to keep intact his twenty five year old marriage to the sister of the drummer of The Majestics, Bomba (played by that that shouty Scottish bloke out of the seventies sitcom 'It Ain't Half Racist, Mum', who you can tell he's the drummer by the fact that when in doubt he clouts someone), whilst having a relationship with a nineteen year old girl ("Sawn off page three chick", according to Katy Murphy's character), who has a trust fund and a penchant for knitting cardigans (with toggles)for Vincent as a expression of her devotion for him that would have Val Doonican reaching for the smelling salts. Not forgetting the bass player - always the last to be noticed and to know - Fudd O'Donnell played by Jake D'Arcy (the P.E teacher in Gregory's Girl), not the sharpest knife in the drawer but the conscience of the story with his eight kids and stories of his holidays in "socialist Poland". But even the bass player gets more notice than the Chief (only) Roadie aka sound engineer aka security aka driver aka eyes and ears of Eddie Clockerty, Dennis Sproul (played by Ron Donachie), who has more light under his bushel than the rest of them put together but he is like a fictional version of Ian Stewart who,until his death, was the sixth member of the Rolling Stones who didn't appear in the press pics 'cos he didn't fit the image of the Band. That's if the Stones were a one trick pony cranking out the same cod R'n'B for decades on end anchored around a narcissistic front man with his head up his arse and a lead guitarist who really thinks it's HIS band . . . oops, scratch that thought.

    As I said, before the rambling stream of consciousness by way of a fanzine scribblings above got the better of me, Tutti Frutti was a show that won universal plaudits when it appeared on the telly back in 1987, Baftas for the mantelpiece if you are into that sort of thing - and yet it drifted out of people's memory within a couple of years, and my attempts at convincing people of its existence - it's not just politics I proselytise about - fell on deaf ears despite my vain attempts at providing concrete evidence of its existence: "What - Robbie Coltrane playing a part on television where both his arse cheeks are in the same postcode? Bollocks, what are you going to tell me next - Ben Elton has integrity?" "What - Emma Thompson playing a part where she is both likeable and funny? That you faking feeble mindedness to claim sickness benefit?"

    What's the point of this post again? (Quick scroll up for a clue.) Aye, a couple of weeks back I discovered the independent verification to prove that Tutti Frutti does in fact exist, and better still the (disputed) explanation for why it disappeared off the face of the earth these past seventeen years. The Sunday Herald carried an article by Jenifer Johnston on the 18th April, entitled 'Pressure grows for Tutti Frutti revival … after 17 years on shelf' , where in less words, and more clarity than my clumsy self, explains the continued appeal for a drama that appeared twice on TV in the space of nine months all them years back then done a better disappearing act than the Labour Govt's ethical foreign policy.

    From Johnston's article there are mixed messages for why 'Tutti Frutti' went awol: Byrne claims that another writer alleged plagiarism against his idea for the drama, and the BBC, in order to placate this unnamed accuser, had to promise that it wouldn't repeat the series again or ever release it on video. The alternative explanation is that there was problem with copyright on a few of the songs covered in the series, and that has resulted in it being put in cold storage all these years.

    What has happened in the intervening years? After the triumph of Tutti Frutti, Byrne followed it up with Your Cheatin' Heart, staring Tilda Swinton and John Gordon Sinclair, which no bugger can remember for the simple reason that it wasn't that good. Byrne - also known as a well respected painter and artist* - has written little for the small screen though he continues to do a lot of work on the stage, and the last time I spotted him was in a 'glance or you will miss it' cameo in a dire Scottish comedy called American Cousins. If he is seen at all now, he is seen on the arm of his wife, Tilda Swinton.**

    What about the actors? As I mentioned Maurice Roeves will never have another part as good as Vincent Diver again. I did see him in Gagarin's Way at the National Theatre a few years back where he did the biz, but last seen doing a Geordie accent by way of Kilmarnock as Kate's police inspector father in Eastenders. Jake D'Arcy - absolutely brilliant as the P.E teacher in the black tracksuit in Gregory's Girl. He turns up in every other series of Taggart as either a murderer or the husband of a victim. Too talented an actor to be bogged down in such shite, but as there are in fact only 17 jobbing actors in the whole of Scotland there has been a crap rotation system in place for actors since the time of John Laurie. Who am I to argue? Katy Murphy, since 'Tutti Frutti' has been in the brilliant Donna Franceschild written dramas 'Taking Over The Asylum' and 'Donovan Quick' but was also appeared in the Franceschild penned 'The Key' which was so bad I thought it had been written by a member of the Socialist Worker Platform of the Scottish Socialist Party. She also appeared in a sitcom with David Essex a few years back, but I understand that this was connected with the crap rotational system (see above), in an exchange capacity. Richard Wilson is best known for One Foot in Grave - what more can be written apart from him being a New Labour luvvie. Robbie Coltrane will never appear in anything so good again - Cracker was overrated (apart from the one storyline with Robert Carlyle), and Coltrane's career has floundered in cameo acting hell in recent years but I am sure he is hoping that with the recent death of Peter Ustinov he will now be considered for the 'fat raconteur on chat show' gig. Emma Thompson was played by Suzy Kettles. Little has been heard from Suzy Kettles since that excellent piece of acting. Shame.

    Either way - can the bastards now just and hurry up and put the thing on the telly and/or release it on video/DVD so I can d/l it from suprnova. The mental anguish I have been put under all these years - first, the pain of knowing that all this time I was gushing to people about a programme that no bugger could remember enough to give a damn about; secondly, one of the few times I've ever wanted to be one of those tossers who quote lines of dialogue at people to show how witty they are - yes, I'm speaking to all the Withnail and I/League of Gentlemen/Monty Python fans out there - it so happens it is in connection with an obscure series that no bastard has heard of so to attempt to spout the lines of dialogue marks you down as an obscurantist git or the local village idiot. Either way, people are looking at you sideways.

    In celebration of the future reappearance of Tutti Frutti, and to also piss myself off that I can remember dialogue from something I watched over fifteen years ago but can't remember what I had for my breakfast yesterday, a quick burst of Tutti Frutti Tourette Syndrome to show how witty I am:

    Bomba: "Two hooses, Diver! Not even Elvis had two hooses."

    In the middle of Danny McGlone fighting and brawling with Bomba, after he switched off a Delia Smith cookery programme Bomba was watching.

    Danny McGlone: "If it means that much to you, I'll give you the recipe."

    On a train travelling from shortbread biscuit tin country to the city that is all fur coat and no knickers.

    Miss Toner [to Eddie Clockerty]: "You think Roy Castle's funny."

    Same train journey - different mood

    Eddie Clockerty: "I sometimes wonder about you. What is it? That's right, your gallus" [Smug grin on his face as he takes a puff of his cigar.]

    Miss Toner: [hackles rising] "Well, its better than being a sawn off page three chick or someone who thinks high society is a prawn cocktail in the lounge bar. I like being gallus, alright?"

    [Clockerty looking out the window - trying to avoid the blowback.]

    Miss Toner: "That's right - look out the window. Pretend you're not here." [Suddenly shouting to the crowded train] "That's right - I'm no with him. He's with me." [Clockerty continues to look out the window, realising he bit off more than he could chew.]

    Breakfast time in a Guest House in Teuchtar country. Danny has just declared his undying love/lust for Suzy.

    Danny McGlone: "Where you off to?"

    Suzy Kettles: "I'm off to get some toothpaste."

    Danny McGlone: "A guy declares his undying love for you and that is all you can say? I'm off to get some toothpaste?"

    Suzy Kettles: "We need some toothpaste."

    Danny McGlone:"Is that the royal we? Because you obviously don't include me in your plans."

    Suzy Kettles:"What - you've got your own toothpaste?"

    Danny McGlone: [Slamming his fist on the dining room table and suddenly shouting] "No, I haven't got my own damn toothpaste."

    Suzy Kettles: [Not liking the sudden mood swing] "Well there you are then." [Walking rapidly out the door.]

    Danny McGlone: [Shouting and bawling] "Come back here, dammit!"

    Suzy Kettles: [Puts her head round the door, replies quietly] "What is it?"

    Danny McGlone: [Voice lowered] "Don't get the stripey stuff. It stings mae gums."

    Still not convinced? Pearls before swine.

    * John Byrne's portrait of Tommy Sheridan is not one of his better likeness. For a true likeness of Tommy, click on the link.

    ** It's a bit harsh on my part to give the impression that in recent years Byrne is little more than arm candy for his better known partner. A very succesful painter and playwright, he is the nearest you will get to a renaissance man from Paisley. Doing a bit research on the web for this guff, I noted that the 1983 New York production of his autobiographical play, 'Slab Boys', had as its three main actors Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon and Val Kilmer! Two out of three ain't bad.

    Off A Cliff

    I don't wish to give the impression that this blog is overly concerned with ripping the piss out of the Respect Unity Coalition, and its leading lights George Galloway and the SWP. If it was, it would be a short lived blog, 'cos there will be a bit fall out from within the Respect camp come June 11th when their election results come puffing and wheezing in. However, I thought I would reproduce below a post written By Paul Flewers, which originally appears on the UK Left Network which I think hits the nail on the head on why today's opportunism becomes tomorrow's recriminations. I've had to reproduce Paul Flewer's post rather than just posting a link to it because the UK Left Network archiver is closed to non-members. A quick disclaimer - Paul is not, never has been and will never be a member of the SPGB. The disclaimer is for Paul's benefit, not ours. From: "paul_f_rh" Date: Tue Jun 1, 2004 1:57 pm Subject: Re: [UK Left Network] lindsay on tour "I find that Respect's touting after the Muslim vote very worrying. Chasing after a religious group's vote, as an undifferentiated mass, is quite alien to socialist thinking. It contradicts the essence of class politics, that a person's class position and attitude is the key factor. It must also mean orienting to the more conservative and backward elements, as the more modern-thinking people holding religious beliefs usually do not see those beliefs as the determining factor in their identity and in their lives. If we look at the left and Muslims, who are we most likely to attract to our ranks? The Muslims who are starting to question the tenets of the mosque and mullahs, who are not particularly observant of Islamic norms (and who may like the occasional pint or pork banger), and are largely secular in their day-to-day life -- or the devout types utterly convinced of the rightness of the Quran and their imam, and who are extremely observant of Islamic norms, and who like the idea of Islamic states? So what does Respect do? In South London, it leaves two places vacant on its committee to be filled by South London Mosque, thereby allowing religious affiliation to be the determining factor, and opening up the committee to infiltration from reactionary religious elements. In East London, the local Respect branch tags onto a Muslim march -- a church parade to be precise, marking the birth of Mohammed. Whether the Respect folk chanted 'Allah Akhbar' as some leftists did in Teheran in 1979, I do not know. A Respect flyer aimed at Muslims emphasises that Galloway is a tee- totaller. Sheer opportunism, every bit of it. The whole orientation towards Muslims is based on a momentary convergence between them and the left over the war in Iraq. It will evaporate as soon as the crisis in Iraq settles down. It is acceptable to work with religious organisations in single-issue campaigns and organising for demonstrations. An intervention in an election, where one has an extensive political programme and a clear political vision, is quite different. Lash-ups with religious organisations in this sort of situation lead directly to confusion, opportunism and the downplaying of important political tenets. Say what you like about Tony Cliff, but he knew enough about organised religion not to get into this sort of pickle. Paul F"