Friday, December 23, 2005
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Aye, everyone either goes for either the Pogues 'Fairytale of New York' or Noddy Holder shouting and bawling 'Merry Xmas Everybody', but the best Crimbo song bar none has to be this one. Christ, I even like the Spice Girls version
Hat tip to Spiked Candy
Monday, December 19, 2005
This is my 300th post to this blog (473, if you were to also include the posts I've started, only to delete), and rather than try and attach any significance to that
milestone landmark figure, I will instead just post a link to a quiz that Kara has already done.
I'm not as interesting as Kara, so instead of a quiz solely about myself, I've instead concocted a daft political quiz that intersperses personal political trivia, ultra leftism and an unhealthy interest in 1980s pop culture. I've typecast myself in this role, and nothing short of years of expensive personal therapy and retro electro-convulsive treatment will ever break me from it.Take my Quiz on QuizYourFriends.com!
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Anybody know anything about Red Shadow? There is too much wit in the lyrics for it to be straight faced. Though, saying that, the mid-seventies was a weird period for lefty politics. How else can you explain the then popularity of the WRP?
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Tonight's repeat of Seinfeld carried as good a definition of socialism as I have ever read or heard outside the pages of the Socialist Standard. Trust me, it's sowing the seeds and, with a few more repeats of that episode, I can say with assured confidence that I will see socialism in my lifetime. Kramer and Mickey, take it away lads:
KRAMER: Each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.
MICKEY: What does that mean?
KRAMER: Well, if you've got needs and abilities that's a pretty good combination.
MICKEY: So what if I want to open up a delicatessen?
KRAMER: There are no delicatessens under Communism.
MICKEY: Why not?
KRAMER: Well, because the meats are divided into a class system. You got Pastrami and Corned Beef in one class and Salami and Bologna in another. That's not right.
MICKEY: So you can't get Corned Beef?
KRAMER: Well, you know, if you're in the Politburo, maybe.
Monday, December 12, 2005
And no, it's not me. Anybody who knows me, knows that if I were to ever get a tattoo it would be this inscribed on the inside of my eyelids in gothic script.
At the time of posting, Walter Crane was unavailable for comment.
Not as cheeky as that washing powder ad on British TV a few years back that called upon you to Demand The Impeccable,** but just as brazen nonetheless.
Hat tip to Histomat.
*Ask Reidski, he'll sing you the line.
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Another WSMer with a blog has been added to the sidebar.
That's the easy bit; the hard bit is that it is in Italian and my crash course in learning Italian isn't pencilled in until 2009 (same year Livorno is scheduled to win the Scuddetto). Nevertheless, I want to extend a warm welcome to Movimento Socialista Mondiale, which is written and maintained by a comrade from
Friday, December 09, 2005
John at A Revolutionary Act has finally got his *cough* act together in updating his blog in recent days.
Click on the day-glo link for recent - and not so recent - posts on Chavez and the Venezualean Revolution; the Bush Administration's use of "rendition to torture" and a post where he sticks a well aimed boot into Blair and his threadbare claim of a commitment to an open government.
A Revolutionary Act does the hard sell on the cheap commercial tat advertised in the post below. Downloaded thirty thousand times in the space of five months is an impressive figure and, yes, I can say I was there when an ordinary punter recognised its star, Paddy Shannon, just off the Royal Mile in Edinburgh one Sunday late last summer. First time I've ever witnessed the bloke speechless in the 15 years I've known him.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Friday, December 02, 2005
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Monday, November 07, 2005
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Friday, October 21, 2005
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Curious to see who else blogs about Planet ICC, I found this blog post from a Singaporean tourist who, visiting London in the aftermath of the terrorist bombings in London on July 7th, bought a copy of the ICC journal, 'World Revolution', at Camden Market, and decided to mention the event in her blog. Being of a skeptical bent, I was a tad suspicious that it may be a spoof and/or pisstake of the ICC - it happens only because they are such a threat to global capital, and because they represent the genuine revolutionary current amongst the proletariat - but this quote below was a dead giveaway to the authenticity of the piece:
" . . . I saw an elderly couple selling this just outside the station. I wanted to take a picture with the old lady but she refused. This mild-mannered lady then asked me to buy a copy of the paper from her for 75p. She's from the International Communist Current. Then, 少爷 and I decided that we should have beer, while I read the paper. I was trying to make sense of who's exploiting who in this encounter."
The insistence on anonymity on the part of the ICC members; the blog's physical description of those ICC members (they look like everyone's favourite aunt and uncle) and that final scene in the pub when you are drinking a beer, trying to plow through the inpenetrable jargon of ICC-speak and, being a wee bit embarrassed, mumbling to your drinking companion sitting next to you: "Maybe if I get drunk enough, I'll be able to understand it better . . ." (but he's not listening to you, 'cos he's giving himself a headache trying to understand a footnote in the latest issue of Aufheben) all point to the authenticity of the encounter.
I await with baited breath the future two page write up in the ICC press of this historic meeting of Left Communism and the proletariat of the Asian Tiger economies. I'll even get the beers in so that I can properly understand the article.
Though I'm loathe to admit it - what with my long held opinion that he is a humourless git - Andy Kershaw is probably right when he writes of the inaugural John Peel Day being something that Peel himself would have found "maudlin" and "nostalgia-driven" but sod it, even if only for this one year, we can all indulge in a Peel fest.
Nice interview in the Telegraph with John Peel's widow, Sheila Ravenscroft, on the complexity of a man most of us thought of as that genial bloke off the radio who had a tendency to play ungenial records.
Today's Guardian carries a piece by Ryan Gilbey about the process undertook to piece together a biography of Peel from fragments of diaries, letters and reminiscinces.
Alister tips us the wink about The Perfumed Garden, an audio blog dedicated to posting Peel Sessions gratis on the net (. . . though truth be known I've not been too impressed so far with the selections); and The Scottish Patient who, as mark of respect to Mr Peel, offers up a wee mini compilation of mp3 tracks that have sprang forth from that place in the East.
But what about a Flowers track, Kev? 'After Dark' should have been included.;-)
Friday, October 07, 2005
A meme snaffled from Bertram Online
The title of my twenty-third post was They Are Reprinting Oz Articles In The Pages Of The Socialist Standard, Man!.
The fifth sentence was:
Christ, there was no fifth sentence. There was me kidding myself on that my blog posts of yesteryear were super-sized, and it transpires that I was doing the old 'link to an article', with a wee garnish of self-deprecation on the side, shennanigans even back then. I need to write more blogs under the influence. Everyone says I'm too gobby when I've been scoffing the winegums.
- Go into your archive.
- Find your 23rd post (or closest to).
- Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
I'm passing this meme on to Normski. He can either do his 23rd post ever, or his 23rd post of the day. I'm not fussed. ;-)
Brilliant, absolutely brilliant; that musical moment when you discover a new song and you just have to listen to it over and over and over again.
Step forward that song . . . The Fall's Midnight Aspen, off the new album. Absolutely no idea what Smiffy is havering on about, but the music is pure dead class. I told you Hak. It's the tunes everytime.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
"Marx was definitely a blogger. The Paris manuscripts read just like a blog. (NIck Dyer-Witherford pointed this out to me once). Hegel was a newspaper editor for a while -- back when newspapers were more like blogs than newspapers. Adorno reviewed all the music performed in Frankfurt for who ever would publish him. I think its only graduate school that produces this odd notion that there is some infinite chasm between occasional writing and Big Theory. Even Kant wrote his 'enlightenment' essay for a newspaper competiton.
Hat tip to
Apparently I'm the only blogger out there who has Gordon Legge listed as one of their favourite authors on their blogger profile. That either qualifies me as a sad bastard (another four or five authors listed by me also draw a blank), or you tasteless sods out there are missing out.
What do you think?
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Monday, October 03, 2005
". . . which I actually wrote for my daughter's punk band, and they turned it down"
Everyone's banging on about Bob Dylan at the moment, 'cos of the Scorcese documentary the other night but the best songwriter of the sixties, bar none, is interviewed in today's Guardian on the subject of his new album, moving back to London and dealing with ungrateful children.
Friday, September 30, 2005
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Monday, September 26, 2005
“Actions that aim only at securing peace between employers and men are not only of no value in the fight for freedom, but are actually a serious hindrance and a menace to the interests of workers. Political and industrial action direct must at all times be inspired by revolutionary principles. That is, the aim must ever be to change from capitalism to socialism as speedily as possible. Anything less than this means continued domination by the capitalist class.”
Tom Mann (1856-1941) quoted by Trevor Griffiths in his screenplay Such Impossibilities about the 1911 Liverpool dock-strike
Saturday, September 24, 2005
Thanks for the kind comments in response to my previous post announcing that Kara and myself tied the knot last Friday. They are all very much appreciated.
However, I do want to here and now place on record the statement that there is no truth in the scurrilous rumour doing the rounds, that by placing a PDF of the marriage certificate on my blog, that was my none too subtle hint for cards and prezzies to be sent to the address listed on the certificate. As if I could be that shameless.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Friday, August 26, 2005
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Of course he was small beer - or should that be small Pimms? - but I would hate an article on posho post stars to go past without any mention of Chris Dean of The Redskins fame. The fake Yorkshire accent, coupled with the membership of the SWP means that he ticks all the requisite boxes, but unlike the likes of Dido and the rest, The Redskins did put out some absolutely brilliant singles.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
As Jim bought me a drink last Sunday, the least I can do is give a plug for his political webpage.
From sitting in on the business meeting of the New York Branch of the IWW that same day, it does like that they are doing more than just celebrating their hundredth anniversary this year. Fair play to them.
On the New York subway* the other night, and I think I spotted my first hipster.** Wearing the tattiest jeans and trainers you've ever seen in your life outside of a Lancaster Branch meeting, what sealed the deal for identification purposes was the so hip it hurts haircut and an Adam Ant Friend or Foe T shirt that looked so washed out and old that you just knew that the bloke had to sell a kidney to put a down payment down on buying it outright.
More snotty outsider observations about New York at a later date.
*Similar to the London Underground, only grottier.
**I don't think the person I spotted a few days previously, wearing a Stranglers T shirt, qualifies. Surely that qualifies as a subtle protest against hipsterism?
Monday, August 08, 2005
OK, so technically the image is not about the travails of finding stuff to blog about but I thought the image was apt . . . and now that I think about, it is a true depiction of May Day 2000 - that weekend when Winston got his makeover - and when I tried to write a 10,000 word essay in the space of 12 hours.
Of course, I fell on my arse.
Saturday, July 30, 2005
This may be my first New York exclusive but going by this mural featured on a wall in the East Village, I'm guessing that Sean Penn is going to be playing Joe Strummer in a forthcoming bio-pic. The suggestion that Mick Jones will be played by Steve Buscemi didn't come from me - right?
Thanks to Kara for taking the pic on her camera phone.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Saturday, July 16, 2005
"A penniless asylum seeker in London was vilified across two pages of the Daily Mail last week. No surprises there, perhaps - except that the villain in question has been dead since 1883."
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
"Roza Javan continues to talk about her father and says that he always used to come home and curse the company. Since the company was owned by the state, his curses would also be directed against the state and the “Imam” which was Khomeini’s honorary nickname. “When I heard him swear, I used to tear out pages from my notebook and use them to make leaflets bearing the slogan “marg bar Jomhourie Islamie Iran”: down with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Then I would put them under the neighbours’ doors, ring the doorbell and run away. I have been political since I was a child. Here in Iran, children of the poor always talk about politics in school and at home, watch and follow the news and try to read the newspapers.”
Friday, July 01, 2005
Thursday, June 30, 2005
"Mao killed more people than Hitler. Mao killed more people than Hitler. Mao killed more people than Hitler. Mao killed more people than Hitler."
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Sunday, June 26, 2005
Saturday, June 25, 2005
"Stefani was tilting at windmills. Sexism just isn't that blatant anymore. Sexists bury their opinions in socially acceptable forms of discourse--talk about how feminists are stonewalling scientific exploration of women's inferiority, bullshit theories about how women can't play instruments or simply pulling the Standard Issue Music Critic act and judging women harshly where you'd judge men favorably."
"I have trouble swallowing the idea that the supposed feminist anthem "You Outta Know", a pissy rant at an ex-boyfriend, has shit to do with feminism and is much closer to the myth that feminism is about individual women's anger towards men for personal reasons instead of a political movement."
. . . The reality was that MTV and the mainstream could not handle the real deal of Bikini Kill and Sleater Kinney, with the former " . . . kick[ing] ass because Hanna did more than make a couple boys squirm over how they'd mistreated a girlfriend--she made all men squirm about their attachment to male privilege and she challenged them to make absolute asses of themselves to defend it."
Hat tip to Kara at Radio Active.
Thursday, June 23, 2005
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
"Alex was also active in the trade union movement and was a member of the machinists’ Local that triggered the Winnipeg general strike. He became a member of the strike committee, whose authority started and stopped activity in the area, earning for themselves the hatred of those whose exclusive right to issue orders had been for the moment usurped."
"Newcastle midfielder Lee Bowyer turned down a move to Birmingham because he was concerned for his physical safety, according to David Sullivan. "Steve Bruce, we thought, had talked him round," Blues co-owner Sullivan told the Birmingham Evening Mail. "But he was genuinely worried that one night there would be 10 Asians waiting outside his house ready to kick seven bells out of him."
Monday, June 20, 2005
Looks like Double-Booked is getting a double mention. As I mentioned in that post, the last book I had re-read was 'The Other Britain', and one of the writers featured in that book, Ian Walker, was the author of one of my favourite books, 'The Zoo Station'.
In truth, I was spoilt for choice in terms of which of Walker's articles I could have chosen to copy from the book - and I still might write others up if I have the time - with other subjects covered in the book including: 'Skinheads: the cult of trouble'; 'The most abused and pilloried community in the world' [about the Protestant community in Northern Ireland]; 'The Jews of Cheetham Hill'; 'A quiet day out at the match' [about football hooliganism, amongst other things.], but my reasons for plumping for 'Anarchy In The UK' is simply because it is more in keeping with other subjects covered on this blog, and there is the obligatory left trainspotting thrown in for good measure.
There are a few mistakes that I spotted in the article, and I decided to leave them in. Just for the record, the ones I spotted:
- Freedom first appeared in 1886 rather than the 1866 quoted in the article.
- IWW stands for Industrial Workers of the World, rather than the International Workers of the World. Amazing the amount of people who get that wrong.
- 'Anarchy In The UK' was never a top ten hit for the Sex Pistols, and I'm sure that it was released '76 rather than '77.
- It was 'Dr Robert' rather than 'Dr Roberts'.
At the end of Angel Alley in Whitechapel, the name of Kropotkin is written in whitewashed capitals. In a small room on the first floor of this building, eight men are collating the latest issue of Freedom, the anarchist paper founded by Kropotkin himself. An adjoining room is stacked with back numbers of Freedom, going back to 1866, in brown envelopes. There are pictures of heroes on the walls, and a poster: 'All excercise of authority perverts. All subordination to authority humiliates.'
An A in a circle, spraypainted on walls in city streets, is the nearest most citizens come into contact with anarchism. The media spectacle that the anarchists themselves find comic and tragic, has no room in its schedules for the ideas and actions of the anarchists. But they have chosen to live on the margins, in a kind of political exile, and that is the way it must be. The support group set up on behalf of the five anarchists now facing conspiracy charges at the Old Bailey is called, appropriately, Persons Unknown. Marxists say that anarchists don't live in the real world. But a lighthouse is as real as a supermarket.
Some of those who shop in the supermarket of ideas are attracted to anarchy, but most aren't. It does not have the academic respectability of Marxism. (Students, after all, answer questions on alienation under examination conditions.) Yet the anarchists have always had an influence, even in Britain, out of all proportion to their numbers. William Morris, Shelley, Oscar Wilde, Edward Carpenter, Herbert Read, Augustus John, were all anarchists of sorts. Over the last 15 years, anarchist ideasand methods of organisation have had an impact particularly on the 'alternative society' of lifestyle politicos, on the women's movement, on squatting and other forms of community activism, on punk.
I have been speaking to different kinds of anarchists. Orthodox ones like members of the Freedom and Black Flag editorial groups. Unorthodox ones like a punk band called Crass, and an electrician who produces a libertarian motorcycling magazine, On Yer Bike, in his spare time. I went along to a meeting organised by a libertarian group called Solidarity, and to the Persons Unknown trial.
The weight of ideology and history hangs as mustily in the atmosphere at the Old Bailey as it does, in a different way, at Freedom's HQ.
'I said, "Are you denying you're an anarchist?" "No!" he said.' A Policeman is giving evidence. He has a working class accent - unlike the barrister questioning him, who possesses the voice which seems to fit the oak and wigs and the motto on the crest which says DIEU ET MON DROIT.
Two of the defendants, Iris Mills and Ronan Bennett, were active in Black Flag, I am told by two members of Black Flag I meet in a pub. This is the 'organ of the Anarchist Black Cross'. It is a paper set up by Stuart Christie after his release from a Spanish jail, where he was serving time for an alleged attempt on Franco's life. Christie is now up in the Orkneys, running a publishing house called Cienfuegos Press.
Rob is 28, and Kate 31. They speak with pride of two anarchist veterans still active in Black Flag: Albert Meltzer and Miguel Garcia. Garcia fought in the Spanish civil war (always called the Spanish Revolution by anarchists) and was imprisoned for 20 years. 'Black Flag has got people throughout the world, helping political prisoners where they can,' says Kate, who has not lost her Australian accent. She is a friend of Iris Mills. 'I met Iris in Australia. She stayed in the same house. That's how I first got involved in anarchism.'
Ronan Bennett was in Long Kesh, awaiting trial, when he first came across Black Flag, which is sent out free to prisoners who request it. 'He wrote to Black Flag,' Kate says, 'and Iris wrote back to him about anarchism. That is how they first made contact.' Mills and Bennett were subsequently charged with 'conspiring with persons known and unknown.'
Rob and Kate seem unaffected by recent movements in libertarian politics. Kate brushes aside feminist critiques of language: 'I think it's a load of shit myself. I call people "chairman".' They cling to the anarchist eternities.
Marxists and Trotskyists are every bit as much their enemy as capitalists. 'Even groups like the IWW [International Workers of the World] in Oldham,' Rob says. 'They're trying to revive syndicalism, but we couldn't work with them due to the corruption of international socialism.'
They proceed to list the atrocities committed by socialists against anarchists: the suppression of the Krondstadt revolt and the execution of anarchists after the October revolution, Communist Party manipulation of the war in Spain. Here in this saloon bar, too: the weight of history. Showing in Kate's face as she rages about these events which occurred before her birth.
Another night, another pub, and another anarchist view of life from Michael, who says he gets less outraged and more cynical as he gets older. He is only 29, but has been through a number of things, including the Harrogate Anarchist Group, the Stoke Newington 8 defence committee and the Organisation of Revolutionary Anarchists. Michael has been up at the Old Bailey himself, charged with 'conspiracy to effect a public mischief'; but these days he has withdrawn from what he calls ' official anarchist politics'. He now works for On Yer Bike, is an electrician for a housing co-op in north London, and an active trade unionist.
Michael started out in politics in 1968 with the Young Communist League. 'They were still living in the cold war,' he says. 'Read your Lenin, be a good boy, live cleanly.' But it was not just the YCL's ascetism which turned Michael off. 'I alsocame to believe that being a socialist entailed notions of equality which all hierarchical structures contradicted. That's what led me to anarchism.'
Michael rolls his own cigarettes, has one ear-ring and a skinhead haircut. He says he got his haor cropped because he was working on a co-op that was full of 'squatters-army types', with hair down to their shoulders. 'They think I'm strange. Last job I had was a straight job; those people thought I was strange, too. Blokes I used to work with, when they stuck up tit-and-bum pics I used to tear them down.'
He says that most ordinary life is about observing conventions, and he enjoys flouting them. 'I ignore hierarchies. say you get some cretin of a supervisor who wants to be called Mr Blah - you call him "Squire".'
The capitalist, in Marxist cartoons, is a fat man with a fat cigar; the workers are puppets in his pudgy fingers. The anarchist has more sense of the comic absurdity of those who crave wealth and power. The anarchist, too, has confidence in his/her personal ability to resist the diktats of the leaders. 'Ain't no fucker going to grind me down.' The anarchist must be an egoist of sorts.
Two of the people Michael has tagged 'suatters army types' come into the pub, sit at our table. One has hair down to his waist. The other speaks very slowly, this slowness as a result of ECT treatment he received ina mental hospital. 'I worked down t' pit, in Wakefield, for six month,' he says. 'Fucking murder, man. I'm not doing that again.'
Six punks walk into the pub, and the landlord refuses to serve them. One of the women, bleached hair and black leathers, jumps up and down singing, 'We're too dirty. We're too dirty.' They leave and are followed out by another dozen who quickly quaff their drinks and walk out in solidarity. Michael takes the piss out of the man with long hair. 'Didn't refuse you a drink did they? See, it's respectable now.'
For Michael, anarchy is 'a way of living your life'. He lives in a squat, is not married, and says that he never will get married. The feminist message that 'the personal is political' has led Michael, like many anarchists, to experiment with life: anarchists are to be found these days around whole-food co-ops, housing co-ops and squatting groups, libertarian cafes, anti-nuke protest, animal liberation, cmmunity newspapers, women's aid centres.
Hundreds of thousands of words produced for publication by this libertarian movement have been typeset by Ramsey, a worker at the Bread 'n Roses co-op in Camden Town which, he says, is 'the premier left typesetter'. But Ramsey, after a long involvement in anarchism, has now turned his back on it. 'It's the politics of individual paranoia.'
He now believes what most Marxists believe, that anarchism is an idealist philosophy. 'It's rooted in ideas of wouldn't it be nice if . . . Instead of saying, this is the present, this is how we got here, this is how things change, the whole materialist approach. On the continent, anarchy is a more collectivist, class-based politics. Here anarchy was to do with the youth revolution, and the consumer society of the fifties and sixties.'
The most imaginative of the critics of consumerism, as Ramsay prints it, were the Situationists (who were the catalyst for the events of May '68 in France). 'They turned Marx on his head. Instead of saying that consciousness was determined at the point of production, the Situationists said it occurred at the point of consumption: this is the consumer society, the society of spectacles, spectacular commodity production. But there's not many Situationists left. It fizzled out when the boom ended, and there was no longer any scope for talking about never-ending commodity production.'
Nicholas Walter, whose grandfather was a middle-class dropout who met Kropotkin at an 'at home', disagrees with the idea that the Situationists are burned out: 'I think we're much more Situationist now. This new book on poverty [Peter Townsend's] shows how definitions of poverty have changed to include anyone who doesn't have a television. Give them the dole and put lots of crap on the telly . . . And that lovely American cartoon showing a bombed-out landscape and a man walking across it with a TV set trying to plug it in. Of course, the Situationists themselves were part of the spectacle. Especially in France in '68, there were TV cameras all over the place.'
Respected authority on anarchy (?), Nicholas Walter is now editor of the New Humanist and still a prolific writer for anarchist newspapers and magazines. He was introduced to the Freedom group by his grandfather. 'I haven't changed my mind in 20 years. I'm just more pessimistic now.'
What are the highlights of his anarchist career?
'Spies for Peace in 1963. And the Brighton church demonstration in 1966, when I was one of the members of the group which carried out the interruption of the church service before the Labour Party annual conference. Also, the reproduction of James Kirkup's poem, "The love that dares to speak its name", when Mary Whitehouse prosecuted Gay News in 1976. I reckon I circulated more copies than anyone - even though I think it is a silly poem - on the libertarian ground that anything anyone wants to ban should be criticised.'
Anarchy in the UK was a Top Ten hit for the Sex Pistols in 1977. It introduced the word 'anarchy' to a new generation. It became fashionable again, for a time, to say you were an anarchist, to spit in the face of the normaloids. But most punk bands who attached themselves to anarchy were merely boarding the gravy train. That is why I went over to a cottage in Essexto talk to one punk band, Crass, who seemed to have thought more seriously about their anarchism.
A man in black with dyed blond hair - his name is Pete - pours tea for an old farm worker in the living room. Someone upstairs has Dr Roberts, by the Beatles, at high volume. We're waiting for the rest of the band to come back from wherever it is they are; and when the farm worker has gone, Pete explains the various activities they have going here at Dial House. One of the women, he says, is away in New York, printing the latest issue of their magazine, International Anthem. Two other publications produced here are called The Eclectic and Existencil Press. A film maker lives and works in the cottage.
There is, too, what Pete calls a 'graffiti operation'. He says they have taken over a section of the Underground. 'We don't just rip the posters down or spray them. We use stencils, neatly, to qualify them. Especially sexist posters, war posters and the sort of posters for sterile things like Milton Keynes.' He spits those two words out.
'A few of us going round and spraying with stencils reaches more people than the band ever could. It gives the people the feeling that something is going on; that there's a possibility of something happening; that things aren't all sewn up. You're bombarded with media which you don't ask for when you go from A to B and a lot of it is insulting and corrupt.'
'But what have you got against Milton Keynes? What's wrong with it?' I asked.
'I was actually working on the plans for the place. I started discovering what a complete shithole the place is. Cardboard houses, no facilities. It's just a work camp, totally sterile, offers nothing.'
It was Steve who was playing the Beatles. He cpmes downstairs, runs his fingers through his Vaseline-spiked hair as he tells me he ran away from home seven years ago, and has lived in this cottage for two years. A woman who drifts in says that her name is Eve and that she sings in the band.
We talk about the various gigs that Crass have done - for Person's Unknown, the Leveller, Peace News, Birmingham Women's Aid - and the violence that has plagued their gigs of late. The band, it seems, has developed a following among British Movement skinheads. But Crass blame this on Rock Against Racism which, they allege, has polarised youth. 'If you're not in RAR then you're a Nazi. Now we're sandwiched between left-wing violence and right-wing violence.'
The rest of Crass show up: Andy, Phil and a man called Penny Rimbaud. Two children appear at the door and look around with interest. 'Racism and mohair suits,' says Steve, who has not said much up to now. 'That's the difference in punk music. Two years ago, you had Johnny Rotten standing on stage saying, "I am a lazy sod." So where's it all gone?'
What's wrong with mohair suits, and anyway why is everyone in this room clothed in black? 'Lots of reasons,' Pete says. 'Convenience. Anonymity. I'm doing the washing at the moment; it's very convenient.'
We're drinking tea in his room, which is filled with books, and I'm wondering which writers have influenced . . . 'Zen and all its offsprings,' interrupts Penny. 'Existentialism.'
'Zen and punk,' smiles Andy.
'The American beat movement,' continues Penny. 'Kerouac or Ginsberg.' Pete says he hasn't read Kerouac or Ginsberg. Andy goes off to make another pot of tea and when he comes back announces that, 'Anarchy to me means living my own life, having respect for other people, respecting their right to do what they want to do.'
This is a long way from Black Flag, Freedom and anarcho-syndicalism. I doubt if Andy has read many books on anarchism, but he speaks of the kind of anarchy which has always been at the heart of rock'n'roll. It's my party. Do anything you want to do. I can go anywhere, cha-chang, way I choose. I can live anyhow, cha-chang, win or lose. Anyway, anyhow, anywhere I choose . . . Take your desires for reality and make your reality your desires was, I think, one of the slogans of the Situationists.
One man who has remained true to himself through war resistance, two prison sentences, public-speaking campaigns on a long trail of causes, is Justin. Now, at 63, he is still active in Freedom. I met him over the road from the British Museum.
'For me it all started with the Spanish revolution, grew with war resistance. And then you realise that war grows out of certain things in capitalist society. So you have to oppose the whole bloody lot. Nothing that's happened since has made me change view.' Justin is bearded, wears a black peaked cap, and a cord jacket. He drinks whisky.
'A lot of intellectuals supported the movement in those days. People like Herbert Read, Alex Comfort, Ethel Mannin, all rallied round marvellously when Freedom was attacked in 1945 by the Special Branch. We were charged with disaffection of the forces; mustn't tell the soldiers the truth about the war.' He got nine months, and served six.
'When I came out, the Special Branch tried to do me again for refusing to serve in the forces, tried to make me take a medical. I refused that and got a further six months, of which I did only six weeks because quite powerful papers like the New Statesman started to huff and puff.'
Justin remembers the days in the 1950s when he used to speak three times a week: once at Tower Hill, once at Hyde Park Corner and once at Manet Street in Soho. He remembers demonstrating at the Shaftesbury theatre when a dance troupe came over from Francoist Spain and he remembers occupying the Cuban embassy. 'We just wanted to show everyone we were as opposed to the communist regime in Cuba as we were to the Americans in Vietnam. Plus the fact that Castro, as soon as he'd gone into power, had begun to lock up all dissident leftists. Same old story: use all the anarchists and libertarians to make the revolution; then get rid of them.'
He remembers a libertarian literary quarterly called Now, edited by George Woodcock and contributed to by George Orwell, who also wrote occasionally for Freedom when he came back from the Spanish civil war. 'Orwell didn't really agree with the anarchists, 'says Justin. 'But when we were attacked, by God, he came out and supported us; spoke at Conway Hall in 1944, a meeting on free speech. I chaired it. He was a straight man, straight as a bloody die. He respected the anarchists, because of what he'd seen in Spain.'
He remembers Spies For Peace too, and the campaign for the abolition of the death penalty ('The anarchists kicked off that campaign and I'm particularly proud of that').
Justin remembers enough things to fill a book, which is why he's going to write one, when he retires in three years' time. But most fondly of all, it seems, he remembers the Malatesta Club in Soho, which was run by the London Anarchist Group from 1954-8, seven nights a week. Habitues used to write songs and poetry and perform them at the club, which also had a resident jazz band. 'I used to make up songs - sort of sing and shout, to a drum. Couldn't play anything used to hammer away on the drum . . . it was really something, all run completely voluntarily.'
The anarchists' coffee house (it never had a licence) was called the Malatesta because he was the only anarchist writer the group could agree on. 'Some were Kropotkinists and some were Bakuninists, but we all agreed Malatesta was a good guy.'
'There's a man used to be in the anarchist movement in wartime.' Justin is pointing at a man who's just walked in, a woman on his arm. 'Hello,' says Justin to this old comrade, who smiles back briefly but doesn't pause to chat.
I ask Justin if he's ever doubted his views? 'Towards the end of the war, when we saw the pictures of the Nazi camps, we wondered whether, after all, we had been right to oppose the war. But then the war ended with an atrocity from our side, Hiroshima. You can't choose between any of those bastards.'
Sitting over a pint next to a man who has fought good causes for a good few years - against bombs and hanging, against spies and censorship, torture - you feel humble, and you wonder if you'll have anything to say for yourself when you're 60 and in a pub with someone 30-odd years younger? But there is one last question: does he still, deep deep down, believe that some of what he has fought for and dreamed about will ever come true?
'You've got to think your ideals have got a chance before you'll give your life to it.'
Two days later in the Drill Hall, just off Tottenham Court Road, the question under discussion is not so much about whether the ideals have a chance, but more what are the ideals? The meeting was organised by Solidarity, a libertarian group who draw on themes first developed by the 'Socialisme ou Barbarie' group in France. About 50 people are sitting on the floor, listening to a man called Akiva Orr, who says he is an 'ex-Israeli'. He has no notes and uses his hands theatrically as he speaks. His cigarette, too, he holds as if he is on the stage.
The emphasis has shifted from the exterior to the interior, that's it. Suddenly there's an awareness that life, reality, meaning, dadadada, it's all in there.' His finger a gun to his head. 'Used to be a time when meaning was all up there,' he points to the ceiling. 'Or out there,' he gestures to the streets below the windows. 'Now it's shifting, it's in here . . . There's a jungle out there,' he pauses for dramatic effect. 'I mean in here,' putting his hand to head again.
'All I can say is that we've got to develop answers in this battle for the interpretation about what is real. We are the meaning-making animals.'
Someone sprawled on the floor drawls that he needs a coffee break. On the stairs leading down to the cafe a woman wearing a yellow T-shirt which says I AM A HUMOURLESS FEMINIST tells someone that her father-in-law is a judge.
Outside these windows, people are buying new stereos on the Tottenham Court Road; people are standing on football terraces; watching the TV; cleaning the car; knocking up shelves, watering the plants - whatever the hell it is people do in an attempt to relax on a Saturday afternoon. 'The central human question,' says a man in a black leather jacket, 'is how to be happy without hurting people.'
The various critiques are over. Time for Akiva's reply. He has great style, and he knows it. He has this audience in his hands. 'We could expend a lot of time and energy discussing Marx. We want to discuss ourselves,' he says, his hands pointing elaborately at his chest. 'What do you want to smash when you say you want to smash capitalism? The police stations? Parliament?'
'Yeah,' someone shouts from the floor.
'You must smash structures which are abstract, too,' Akiva continues. 'You won't find them. They aren't lying around. You have to construct them. Fuck the historical process. I want to construct a model which is enjoyable for me.' He lowers his voice now to say, 'But it's not an easy task.'
The anarchist who wanted to smash up the police stations interrupts again. He is, someone tells me, a postman. There is a heated exchange between him and Akiva: the young activist versus the older intellectual. 'I have a friend,' says Akiva. 'He spent the first half of his life constructing socialism in Czechoslovakia, the second half of his life dismantling that structure he spent the first half of his life building. The system has smuggled itself into your mind.Your own system will be a mutant of that system you set out to smash.'
Discussion over. Some will stay in the Drill Hall for the social tonight. There will be a real ale. I go out to watch Alien, and remember a drawing by an artist called Cliff Harper. It shows a spaceship landing in London. The Houses of Parliament have toppled from the impact of the laser beam attack. A woman holding a ray gun steps out of spaceship. 'Take me to your anarchists,' she says.
Martin Smith: "This is not a court and I won’t have this minuted."
Sunday, June 19, 2005
make a date with the brassy brides of britainthe altogether ruder readers' wiveswho put down their needles and their knittingat the doorway to our dismal daily livesthe fablon top scenarios of passionnipples peep through holes in leatherettethey seem to be saying in their fashion'I'm freezing charlie - haven't ya finished yet?'cold flesh the colour of potatoesin an instamatic living room of sinall the required apparatustoo bad they couldn't fit her head inin latex pyjamas with bananas going apetheir identities are cunningly disguisedby a six-inch strip of insulation tapestrategically stuck across their eyeswives from inverness to inner londonprettiness and pimples co-existpictorially wife-swapping with someonewho's happily married to his wrist
- Socialism or Your Money Back - articles from the Socialist Standard 1904-2004. The book published by the SPGB to mark its centenary last year. Review copies still available. Every bookshelf should have one, and we need to shift some copies big time to create some space in the Head Office basement.
- London Day School (which won't be of any use for the person who has just clicked on the blog from Cuba, but hola nonetheless.)
Saturday, June 18, 2005
"The problem was not with the lease on their building, but with the Arnold Leese in their building . . . "
About 30 activists turned out to protest the talk by Gilad Atzmon at Bookmarks bookshop, significantly outnumbering those who actually went in tothe meeting. Several of these had attended for the express purpose of denouncing Atzmon and his views, and it is clear that very few attended in order to listen to and learn from him. Numbers of attendees were further restricted by the (unannounced) decision to make the meeting ticket only,those preventing even some of their own members from attending. Of course, none of the pickets was allowed to attend.Although some of the audience took our leaflets, and a few engaged in debate with us, the SWP's leadership treated us with arrogant contempt, refusing even to acknowledge, let alone touch, the leaflets; and, in some cases, aggressively pushing us aside without even asking us to move.Despite earlier attacks by the SWP that, by calling the picket, we were"lining up with the AWL", they, and other sectarians and Zionist apologists were totally absent, and the protesters were all clearly opposed to Israel and its Zionist practices. We were further admonished that "reasionable people" like Hilary Rose and Moshe Machover opposed the picket. In fact,Hilary turned up and stood with us in the protest, while Moshe, who was unable to come, sent the SWP a letter strongly supporting and endorsing the picket.It's clear that the SWP had no idea of the extent and depth of revulsion atAtzmon's ideas, and the anger at them for giving him a platform. They have been given something to think about.After the picket, most of us went for a drink, and were later joined by sympathisers who had attended the meeting. We learned from them that Atzmon had not been received well, that no-one had sppoken in his defence, and that several SWP members were apparently in dismay at the views they heard, and the damage they have done to the party's image. Our shouts, and the many speeches through the megaphone, were heard clearly throught the meeting. Apparently, Atzmon devoted a large part of his talk to discussing the highly controversial theories of Otto Weininger (who, as Atzmon himself admitted, was Hitler's favourite Jew), who, in his work Sex and Character, characterised the Jew as "feminine, and thus profoundly irreligious, without true individuality (soul), and without a sense of good and evil . . . The decay of modern (ie early twentieth century) times was due to feminine, and thus Jewish, influences - see here. Atzmonalso propounded his own highly sexist theory of gender, before giving a rambling account of his own views, and expressing his bemusement at the picket. In the ensuing discussion, he was roundly denounced by several speakers; John Rose of the SWP reportedly made a particularly powerful and effective response.Members of the SWP who did not know at the beginning of the meeting, certainly realised by the end what an error they had made. However, we must still marvel at their stupidity in even inviting Atzmon in the first place, as well as expressing our anger at the contempt we faced from some SWP leaders, notablty their national secretary Martin Smith, who refused (unlike most of his comrades) to exchange even one civil word with us.All in all, we are pleased with our efforts, which in a short time mobilised a large and vocal protest, and which confronted the SWP with a reality they wished to ignore -- that they cannot hold a meeting with a racist and expect it to pass quietly, and that you cannot defend Palestinian rights if you accept the Zionist paradigm which identifies all Jews with Zionism.Roland Rance