Monday, February 28, 2005

"Does The Tomato Ketchup Cost Extra?"

His ears must have been burning, 'cos he has got round to posting about that expensive fish supper that I mentioned in a previous post.

The Empty Taxi

No, this blog isn't turning into poetry corner but I spotted the poem below in a collection entitled Bricklight: Poems from the Labour Movement in East London edited and introduced by Chris Searle (Pluto Press 1980), and I thought I would cut and paste it on my blog if for no other reason than the fact that it's author would be the last person you would assume it to be. (Though in fairness, anyone with a passing knowledge of the author's background history - his hinterland, so to speak - would get an inkling.)
I'm afraid I don't have the lit crit skills to determine whether it's a good poem or not. It doesn't really do anything for me, but what do I know? My favourite poem is that one recited in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral by that actor who should never have been cast as Inspector Rebus.
In Limehouse
In Limehouse, in Limehouse, before the break of day,
I hear the feet of many men who go upon their way,
Who wander through the City.
The grey and cruel City.
Through streets that have no pity,
The streets where men decay.
In Limehouse, in Limehouse, by night as well as day,
I hear the feet of children who go to work or play,
Of children born to sorrow,
The workers of tomorrow,
How shall they work tomorrow
Who get no bread today.
In Limehouse, in Limehouse, today and every day
I see the weary mothers who sweat their souls away:
Poor, tired mothers, trying
To hush the feeble crying
Of little babies dying
For want of bread today.
In Limehouse, in Limehouse, I'm dreaming of the day
When evil time shall perish and be driven clean away.
When father, child and mother
Shall live and love each other,
And brother help his brother
In happy work and play.
I guess the clue to the identity of the author is in the title of the poem itself, but if you can't guess who it is then click on the link.

The Missing Page

Error 404 Hat tip to Total Jim

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Procrastination and Idleness - A Comparison

As a compliment to this previous post, an old article from The Idler magazine profiling Paul Lafargue as part of its Idle Idols series.

Humility - Stay In Front Of Me Where I Can See You

Damn, there's me just gone and posted a blog where I do the whole humility/purple prose bit of my blog being nothing more than: " . . . leaving footprints in the snow" (I bet I cringed more writing that than you did reading it ;-), and then I receive a message from Chris Brooke of Virtual Stoa to the effect that he has now included Bill Hicks as part of his Dead Socialist Watch after reading my post earlier today.
I'm away to polish my ego.

"The Opposite of Being Dead"

I've been blogging more than usual last couple of days, for no other reason that I have the time on my hands and I guess I would sooner type something - anything - as opposed to just mooning about looking into space. However, any time I have any pretensions about this blogging lark, I take on board the wise words that Hak Mao recently wrote:
"I have previously stated (can't be bothered looking for the links) my opinion that far from regarding blogging as a new frontier of journalism, for the majority of bloggers, resident in one or other of the bourgeois democracies, blogging amounts to nothing more than vanity publishing. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing - small volume publishing in the form of specialist magazines, fanzines, electronic bulletin boards and so on, has been with us since the requisite technologies have been available - but there is tendency for bloggers to overstate their own influence."
For must of us, a blog is nothing more than that - a vanity publishing project to let ourselves know that we are actually leaving footprints in the snow. Contrast that with the words of someone who has to write:
"I've always had this epithet "art is the opposite of death", and I still think about that whenever I feel really black about anything. I get in front of my typewriter. The function of writing is the opposite of being dead. You're living. This is the thing that always motivates me, because I hate the process of writing. I find it hard and hateful to do. But at the end of the day, if I write a couple of good lines, or I write a page that I think is good work, I feel justified in being alive. I feel I've got the right to be, in a shoddy way, pleased – I don't want to say, happy. "
Bruce Robinson interview in The Idler magazine, 12th November 1995.
Aye, it's a tad pretentious but you know he means it.

Come In Number Six

For some reason when I originally read the post excerpted below from the UK Left Network Yahoo Discussion group, I immediately associated it with the comedic daftness of the underrated Fairly Secret Army but a quick read of the article on the sitcom on the Off The Telly website revealed that I had misremembered David Nobbs comedy big time.*
No matter, I still can't get my head round the fascination for Party names, false names and all the rest of it.** Groups like the CPGB, the ICC and the RCG seem to indulge in this sort of stuff more than most. I take on board that there will be occasions when people will sometimes have to use false names to protect themselves from possible victimisation in the workplace, when undergoing political work and such like, but the stuff and nonesense below is nothing more than the self-delusion of people living in Palmers Green kidding themselves on it's Petrograd 1917. Of course, they wish it was the latter.
"I wonder how Mark Fischer's writing under the name 'Ian Mahoney' assists the CPGB in promoting its agenda. Or Peter Manson writing under names like 'Alan Fox', 'Simon Harvey' and 'Jim Blackstock'? Or John Bridge also writing under names like 'Jack Conrad' and 'James Marshall'.
Or how about 'S.L Kenning' and 'S.W. Kenning', who respectively claimed to know much about the SLP and the SWP respectively.
In the case of 'S.W. Kenning' they probably could have got done under the trade descriptions act, since when Peter Manson was writing under the former, pre-Simon Harvey name, he at least had some real knowledge of what he was writing about from the inside. 'S.W.Kenning' 'kenned' fuck all about the SWP.
I could go on.... But then the CPGB are the most amazing bunch of hypocrites."
Of course the guy who wrote the above had got the arse because as an ex-member of the CPGB he had been uncovered by his ex-comrades as someone who had also written articles and letters under a series of different names. A funny postscipt to all this is that in the very next issue of Weekly Worker, following the post above, the letters page carries a letter from a 'Ian Mahoney' followed immediately by a letter from a 'Mark Fischer'.
If that's the vanguard, what does it say about the rest of us?
* Like I say, memory plays tricks at time and I can only guess the reason that I remembered Fairly Secret Army so wrongly was because I can still, in my mind's eye, remember the scene from the series where Geoffrey Palmer's character, in infiltrating a far left organisation, tells his local cadre: "That I will get round to brushing up on the works of Lenin after I finish this Dick Francis novel I've been reading." I also remember Citizen Smith being funny - I was wrong on that score as well.
** Aye, confession time. When I once had pretentions to maybe writing an article or a book review for the Socialist Standard, I even came up with a nom-de-plume to write it under: mel stead, an abbreviation of Hemel Hempstead. Naturally, I thought it was terribly witty and clever, and of course never did get round to writing anything for the Standard.

"Chomsky With . . . " Yeah, you know the rest.

Bill Hicks
December 16th 1961 - February 26th 1994
I thought there was a half-chance that the anniversary of Bill Hicks death would be acknowledged on Virtual Stoa via it's long running Dead Socialist Watch series*, but as no mention is given at the time of writing I thought I would just post ablog to say that today is the 11th anniversary of Hick's premature death.
The quotation as a footnote reproduced below aside, I won't bog you down with lots of cut and paste of his best jokes and routines. Type 'Bill Hicks quotes' into the google search engine and you will be deluged with them to your heart's content. Failing that, go into any Student Union Bar round about elevenish any Friday night during term time, sit within earshot of any group of four half cut males (the more goth the better), and the more hammered they get, the greater the propensity for them to regale each other with Bill Hicks routines till chucking out time. Play your cards right, and they may throw in whole gobbets of quotes and excerpts from Withnail and I, The League of Gentlemen and The Day Today as well. It would be my own idea of personal hell but if it gets you away from sitting in front of a computer screen, then why complain? (It is also the case that I can't find my favourite routine of his on the net anyway to easily copy into this post but if and when I do, I'll be sure to add it as an addendum. )
A nice wee bio of Bill Hicks is here on his official website, and I thought the pic above of him in Glasgow Celtic strip would go down well. The barrel chested midfield general look, after the fashion of Bobby Murdoch, kind of suited him.
*No, I'm not claiming Hicks as a back dated fellow traveller of World Socialism. If anything, going by some of his routines, he could have been the celebrity Posadist (tongue firmly embedded in cheek there, btw), but going by Virtual Stoa's elasticated definition of what constitutes a socialist in its Dead Socialist Watch series, then the following famous quote from Hicks wouldn't look out of place next to the mutterings of some of the other worthies Chris Brooke has listed in the past:
"I'm gonna share with you a vision that I had, cause I love you. And you feel it. You know all that money we spend on nuclear weapons and defense each year, trillions of dollars, correct? Instead -- just play with this -- if we spent that money feeding and clothing the poor of the world -- and it would pay for it many times over, not one human being excluded -- we can explore space together, both inner and outer, forever in peace. Thank you very much. You've been great, I hope you enjoyed it."

A Revolutionary Act

He's not getting a proper link on the sidebar until he does something other than cut and paste old articles of his from the Socialist Standard into his blog (Who does he think he is? Noam Chomsky?) but I thought I would take the time to mention that yet another SPGBer has decided to jump on board the blog train with the blog, A Revolutionary Act.
I hope he does go beyond just being a cut and paste merchant (should I be blushing at this point?), 'cos he is one of the best writers in the Socialist Party, and has a wicked line in anecdotes and one-liners. If he is looking for suggestions for future blogs, could I suggest that he writes up any or all of the following?
  • The story of the mankiest pub in Sunderland.
  • The most expensive fish supper in history.
  • General Election hustings and the pros and cons of cannabis.

That will be enough to be going on with.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Sitcom Tendency*

A new blog for your delectation - so fresh from the oven that you can still feel the heat in its opening post. I'll say heat rather than warmth because From Despair To Where start as they mean to go on with their commitment to asking "Cuntish Questions" (always handy when you can swear and quote dead situationists at the same time**), and though they state: "The trouble is, we think we might have taken Marx's advice to "doubt everything" a bit literally, and gone a bit potty. So the blog is also an attempt to figure out a road from political despair to… where? We're not at all sure . . . " I can't help feeling from past experience that they will still take on the role of intellectual skinheads whilst figuring out that road.
I must declare an interest of sorts with the blog; Stuart and Dave are two ex-members of the SPGB, and I've had many a *cough* heated political debate with both of them down the years. They always have something interesting and stimulating to say in debate, even when we disagree with each other vehemently, and I'm sure that the blog will become a must read. Stuart also blogs at Ready Steady Book, so fingers crossed he will come up with that definitive autodidact marxist review of The Master and Margarita . It's about bloody time.
I'm already learning from their blog, and it's only one post old. I'd never read the Brecht poem cut and pasted below before. Glad that I found it.
Questions From a Worker Who Reads Who built Thebes of the seven gates?
In the books you will find the names of kings.
Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock?
And Babylon, many times demolished
Who raised it up so many times? In what houses
of gold-glittering Lima did the builders live?
Where, the evening that the Wall of China was finished
Did the masons go? Great Rome
Is full of triumphal arches. Who erected them? Over whom
Did the Caesars triumph? Had Byzantium, much praised in song
Only palaces for its inhabitants? Even in fabled Atlantis
The night the ocean engulfed it
The drowning still bawled for their slaves.
The young Alexander conquered India.
Was he alone?
Caesar beat the Gauls.
Did he not have even a cook with him?
Philip of Spain wept when his armada
Went down. Was he the only one to weep?
Frederick the Second won the Seven Year's War. Who
Else won it?
Every page a victory.
Who cooked the feast for the victors?
Every ten years a great man?
Who paid the bill?
So many reports.
So many questions.
Bertolt Brecht
* This in-joke will now be retired to the Old Jokes Home.
** It doesn't always work so smoothly. I still remember the big Conference Event in North London, organised by Reclaim the Streets and others, back in either 1999 or 2000. 'Anti-Capitalism' was the new buzzword following J18 and Seattle and, coupled with the press scaremongering about all these strange anarchists and other assorted misfits creating havoc, the place was absolutely jam packed and buzzing with people eager to find out about these ideas and strategies seemingly not tainted by the vanguardism or reformism. Sitting in on a meeting on Situationism where there must have been 400-500 young people in attendance, a terribly nice Scottish guy from Aufheben gave the talk on the subject only at the end to be asked by way of a opening question from the floor: "What exactly is Situationism?" He quoted Debord but didn't storm out, only to leave three quarters of the room mumbling for the next fifteen minutes: "What did he just call us?"

You and Whose Army?

I always liked the old quote from Jimmy Reid when talking about how small the capitalist class actually was in real terms: "We are so many, and they are so few, that if we spat on them, they would drown . . . ", but Reasons To Be Impossible has an interesting take on matters from reading the latest issue of the SLP paper, The People.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Novel Approach To History

Via Early Days of A Better Nation, notice of an excellent couple of essays by Ellis Sharp from his blog, Barbaric Documents, on the politics of the novels Slaughterhouse Five and Ian McEwan's latest novel Saturday, the latter of which has been the subject of much debate in the blogging chamber because of McEwan's decision to set the novel in and around the day of February 15th 2003.
On the matter of Vonnegut's classic, and as McLeod himself notes, Sharp looks afresh at Slaughterhous-Five in light of Frederick Taylor’s Dresden: Tuesday 13 February 1945, a revisionist account of the bombing by Allied Planes of Dresden published last year, and which takes issue with David Irving's The Destruction of Dresden: a book published in the early sixties and which Vonnegut drew upon whilst interweaving his own personal experiences as a prisoner of war in Dresden on the night of the 13th February, when writing his classic.
Sharp on his other blog, The Sharp Side, recounts a recent interview of Vonnegut where no mention of Taylor's book is given, so there is no indication as to whether or not Vonnegut has himself revised in his own mind passages and sentiments from his novel.

Vaux Populi

If you can just glance to your right on the screen, you will see in the 'Worth A Gander' section that I have added Vaux Populi, the campaigning blog set up by Socialist Party members as part of their (our) commitment to contesting the Vauxhall Parliamentary Constituency in the forthcoming General Election.
It's early stages but it's hoped that as the phoney war of the impending General Election transforms itself into those four weeks in Spring when Blockbuster does a roaring trade in video rentals and every second house has a sign in its window with the words: 'Hawkers, Double Glazing Salesmen and Religious Fundamentalists Welcome: Political Canvassers Piss Off, and Close The Gate Behind You Whilst You Are Doing It', that the blog will be able to build up a head of steam* to the point where people reading it day on day can get some sense of the impossibilist socialist tradition and how it can actually relate to the politics of everyday life.
That is the nub of the problem for all those ideologies that fall within the description of 'non-market socialism.' I've lost count of the number of occasions where people have mouthed the words: "It's a nice idea but . . . ." (I have a habit of finishing the sentences for them nowadays.), and in age when there is such a high level of cynicism about politics and politicians in general, then perhaps - just perhaps - there is a space opening up for such politics and leftfield thinking to gain an audience. I say perhaps because if politics has taught me anything it is that I should temper any preconceived notion of what might happen with the realisation that something completely contrary will sneak up and throw you a curve ball. It's a good lesson for life also.
What do I expect myself from the Election Campaign? Well, I got to be candid I'm not really looking forward to it. The election campaigns of the past when an SPGBer pidgeonholed Winston Churchill to tell him why he should be a socialist, and George Orwell popped into the Election Office (is that me showing my age or the Party's?) are long gone. Sadly most members share the apathy and cycnicsm of so many workers today about politics and will vote with their feet this coming election by switching off, but christ how many Adam Sandler comedies can you borrow from Blockbuster before the fire in the belly starts up again?
Watch this space.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

"You Drive Me Crazy . . . . Wish You Were Here"

No, I don't understand it either but for some reason I have recently been getting a fair few visits to my blog via people looking for images on google search of Shakin' Stevens and Emily Lloyd.
Okay, at a push I may know the Emily Lloyd connection - she tried to sign a petition once when we were doing a stall somewhere in East London, and I may have mentioned it in a blog. What is it with people and petitions? If I thought that was all it took to salve a troubled conscience, I would be on six a day years ago. It is definitely time to put the plan into action of turning up at Marxism this year with a roll of bog roll, and ask people to sign our petition. Now that would be a petition that would actually be put to use for a change.*
What's the hell with Shakin' Stevens connection though? Somebody once told me that he used to be a member of the Communist Party as a youth in South Wales, but maybe I've got him confused with Green Gartside of Scritti Politti fame? In a certain light, they do look kind of similar.
Of course this rush of traffic never results in people staying for longer than a nano-second.
Tasteless sods.
* Yes, I have the nefarious past as the seasoned petitioner. It's a great way to sell papers. Place the pre-paid for magazines behind the petition board, put on your most pained and ingratiating expression (sounds contradictory, but try it), and then do your spiel like you are doing a karaoke version of Del Boy in an old episode of 'Fools and Horses.' Once a person signs the petition, with a deftness of hand that would put Jerry Sadowitz to shame, slowly reveal the papers and the cut down price.
You'd be surprised how successful you can be.

Gods and Monsters

He's not a writer I would usually read - in fact, I will go out of my way to avoid him at the best of times - but there was an interesting piece in yesterday's Guardian from Jonathan Freedland where an excerpt is reproduced from his latest book, Jacob's Gift - A Journey Into the Heart of Belonging.
Though I'm sure that the book touches on larger themes - I'm speaking blind of course - the excerpt reproduced is dealing with the subject of the Jewish East End in the interwar years when the Communist Party was a mass movement in the area. The article is no great shakes in itself but can serve as a companion piece to such memoirs/histories as Joe Jacobs 'Out of the Ghetto', Phil Piratin's 'Our Flag Stays Red' and the Wesker Trilogy.
The other book that should be mentioned and which I have always considered a minor classic is Emmanuel Litvinoff's 'Journey Through A Small Planet' which tells us of him growing up in Whitechapel during the same period. A truly wonderful and funny book that was reprinted a few years back and has a section devoted to his brief flirtation with the Communist Party in a chapter entitled 'The God I Failed'.
I remember reading a pre-online Guardian interview with him - probably around the time of the reprinting of 'Journey Through A Small Planet' - where he recollected his early steps as a young poet and novelist in post-war London and where it nearly came abruptly to a halt when he challenged T.S Eliot for his perceived anti-semitism. I've had a look through google and there is is headline reference to it, unfortunately there is no in depth reference to the incident on the web. I can hazily recollect that, according to Litvinoff, it did very much halt his career in his tracks but from reading his memoir I cant help feeling that it very much was part of what made him.
A sadness when thinking of Litvinoff, and when reading through Freedland's piec,e is that so much faith and hope was set in the Communist Party of the time. They were the ones leading the way in mobilising the opposition to Mosley's Blackshirts in the East End during this period, especially in those areas such as Shoreditch and Stepney where the BUF had real local support (with, of course, Piratin being one of only two Communist Party candidates elected to Parliament in the 1945 election in Mile End), and yet Litvinoff spent nearly twenty years of his life aiding and publicising the Refusenik campaign in the Soviet Union.
This is a blog entry of fragmented recollections, and I must end it with one. I remember reading in Robert Barltrop's 'The Monument' the conversation that he had with an old political friend, where the friend, when explaining his 'down days', explains that he had set so much hope and optimism in the Russian Revolution - a whole generation had. And staring into the fire in his living room, he explained to Barltrop that this supreme dissapointment of his life had had to be locked away from friends and family. They couldn't and wouldn't understand why he felt so bad about matters.
I wonder if our generation will even have something like that to look back on with regrets?

Monday, February 07, 2005

Little Palaces

When Paul Abbott was at his mother's wake, two of his brothers had a fight at the buffet. "Tables and chairs are flying, the beige buffet is flying," he recalls. Love that writerly touch, that beige of pies, cake and crisps. "They kicked the shit out of each other. It was magnificent. It was so funny."
Sorry, I still think that the second series of Shameless is a major dissapointment but that's no reason not to signpost an interview with its creator, Paul Abbott, in today's Guardian.
For the rest of the interview, click on the link.

A Sea With Three Stars

I've just finished re-reading Sheila Rowbothams's memoir of the sixties, Promise Of A Dream, originally published in 2000.
A wonderful book that is well recommended and which, like Jonathan Green's 'Days In Our Lives' before it, is so able in deftly drawing out the thread of continuity that existed from the original green shoots of radicalism in the so-called 'You've Never Had It So Good Era' of the late fifties, with the Aldermaston Marches and the beatnik subculture, right through to the late sixties of the student sit ins, punch ups at Grovesnor Square and tie dye shirts (that only ever looked good on Mick Jagger).
Names and faces from the time like EP and Dorothy Thompson; David Widgery; Bob Rowthorn; Tariq Ali; Clive Goodwin and Sally Alexander pepper the text, and experiences are related from Rowbotham's time in Paris to her time as student at Oxford through to radical politics and her experience of teaching working class adult education students in Tower Hamlets whilst also working on the publication of the Black Dwarf in the late sixties.
Green's book is wonderful as a public memoir, whereby various individuals from that period (a few of whom also crop up in Rowbotham's memoir) reminisce about the history of the time in the best tradition of oral history*, but Rowbotham's is the more satisfying read for its emphasis on the personal and the political, and her growing realisation as the sixties wore on that they intersected in a fashion that the orthodox left were yet unable to properly understand.
As I say, it's a book I read a few years ago but rereading it again, I couldn't help but notice the parallels between Rowbotham's experience within the radical movement in Britain - the short shrift that issues relating specifically to women at the time were given by the men in the movement because they did not conform to the stereotype of the age old schema of socialist revolution at the point of production - with the experience of women in the American radical and anti-war movement during the same period that bell hooks relates in her book Feminism is For Everybody. In fact, reading Rowbotham account, there appears to be a very genuine link between American and British feminist movements during this time, with a number of American feminists living and working in Britain at the time taking up the same struggles in Britain, whilst relating their own previous experience in radical circles in America.
The purpose of this entry is not an attempt at a review - the wonderful review by Jenny Diski that I have already linked, and which appeared in the London Review of Books will more than amply suffice - but I thought I would take the opportunity just to relate a brilliant anecdote that Rowbotham ends her book with. It relates to the increasingly fractious relationship she had with other members of the editorial board of Black Dwarf, when she was moving in a more inclusive and multi-faceted approach to radical politics which came into conflict with other editorial members attempts to 'harden up'** the politics of the paper. The fallout came to a head with an article that she had written entitled for the issue, 'Women's Liberation and the New Politics':
"A week or so later, on the way back from the dentist's, I sat in a cafe and wrote two letters. In one I resigned from the IS*** before they got round to expelling me. In the other I announced I was leaving Black Dwarf, suggesting they [fellow members of the Editorial Board] sit round imagining they had cunts for two minutes in silence so they could understand why it was hard for me to discuss what I had written on women."
* "Best tradition of oral history" - anecdote, one upmanship and scurrilous gossip.
** "harden up" relates to attempts by Tariq Ali, Fred Halliday and others to *cough* bolshevise the paper and its purpose.
*** IS was the initials of the International Socialists, forerunners of the present day Socialist Workers Party. They had also rediscovered democratic centralism as the key to revolution around this time. Rumour has it, it was on an A4 sheet of paper that fell out of Tony Cliff's briefcase.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

The Apprentice

Jim latest post at timesnewroman had me in stitches when I read it. Let's hope this thread runs and runs.

Canny Lad

No, I don't know that much about Hebburn either, except that a good comrade lives there but Wikipedia gives notice of its red menace.
I wonder who wrote that?

Friday, February 04, 2005

With a Q from Mojo

Courtesy of John at Counago and Spaves comes the news that Normski has got round to publishing the results of his latest Normblog poll.

As Normski himself notes his greatest songs of rock n' roll poll has met with the highest turn out of all his music and film polls so far. Over 230 people voted (97 of us are bloggers, apparently) and looking at the list, I can't help but draw the conclusion that it looks like someone has scanned in the latest top 100 songs survey from either Mojo or Q magazine. I mean. Layla at number nine? The only thing that stops me from hating that song with an absolute passion is the knowledge that I need to reserve some bile for my loathing for Clapton singing Wonderful Tonight.

The top fifty is the usual suspects, though I'm surprised the Stones polled so highly and that Imagine polled so far down the list. Maybe the latter's poor showing reflects the changing politics of Norm's readership. I wonder if it would have polled so low ten years ago with the same pollsters?

I remember the late great John Peel saying one year when unveiling his Festive Fifty that he wished sometimes that he would play 51-100 rather than the top fifty, 'cos he already knew what songs would be listed in the top fifty before he even called the poll. Without labouring the point too much - of course there are bona fide classics in Normski's top fifty - but I can see the same point with regards to this poll.

Joy Division, Jeff Buckley, The Ramones and Television are a few of the more eclectic artists that feature in the 50-100 section and given the choice if I was doing a mixtape I would take more songs from that section as opposed to the top fifty. Of course I just may be being all bitter and twisted 'cos out of my top ten songs the highest placed only came in at 62, with three others only placed at numbers =71; =71; and 98.

And me whose usually so gracious in defeat.

Small Ads - Part Two

Blogger has been kind enough to offer a two for one deal on the small ads business, so it's only fitting that my chutzpah gets the better of me and I mention the second reprint that has recently been produced by the 'small party of good boys'.
Printed by the Socialist Party as part of its socialist classic series* that includes John Keracher's How the Gods were Made and Anton Pannokoek's Marxism and Darwinism, Paul Lafargue's Right to be Lazy is one of those long list of socialist classics that everyone has heard of but very few have actually read. You can tell that by the fact that even now, over one hundred and twenty years after it was originally written, the left wing of capitalism are still brazen enough to undertake their 'Right to Wage Slavery' campaigns every once in a while when petitions and quick fix recruiting permits.
I read the pamphlet a few years ago and it is a wonderfully acerbic read - well recommended, and to the best of my knowledge since the last Charles H. Kerr edition has been long out of print. The Socialist Party's pamphlet has the added extras** of reprints of articles by Lafargue that insome cases were originally translated for, and published in the Socialist Standard, in the period of 1904-1915.
As it's not a case of me doing the 'turning rebellion into money' schtick - like people are really breaking out their cheque books whilst they read this - I thought I would just let you know that an online text of Right to be Lazy is available here, and the articles that appeared in the Socialist Standard all those years ago - when socialists thought revolution was still a living breathing possibility, rather than just an overpriced trendy vodka bar in Central London - are available here.
However, if you do want the tactile feeling of the pamphlet in your sweatly palms then it is available for £2 from the usual stockists.
* What did small bands of revolutionaries do before the advent of the photocopier?
** And you thought it was only your favourite DVDs that had the added extras. Welcome to the 21st century.

Small Ads

Thanks again to John at Counago and Spaves and Reidski of Big Blowdown fame for the kind words in the comments section of my last blog. Muchos gracias, much appreciated and all that.
One of those blips that hit me every once in a while. The off the cuff remarks were sincere enough but it has always been the case that I have examined my politics afresh from time to time - even spent 18 months in exile in a vanguardist organisation back in the nineties as a consequence* - but the old 'what are you actually doing it for' blues kicked in big time after me sitting on it for far too many months and 'cos of personal matters unrelated to the politics that have brought a lot of things to a head.
I have met the occasional SPGB member whose politics seemed to consist of little more than having the Object and Declaration of Principles tattoed in the inside of their eyelids, happy to politically sleepwalk through life and events for the next forty years, but they are few and far between and I'd like to think I've never fallen into that category. ;-)
OK, mumbled apology over. The blog in future will be more of a combination of the political and the personal. If I take nothing else from the last post, it is that but in the meantime I may as well earn my keep by publicising a reprint of a the Socialist Party pamphlet, Marxism Revisited.
The pamphlet series of transcribed talks from the 1998 Socialist Party Summer School, and the lectures include:
  • Who the hell was Karl Marx?
  • Was Marx ever a Leninist? (Did Lenin really distort Marx?)
  • Is The Socialist Party Marxist?

There are other lectures included in the pamphlet but the ones mentioned above are the best of the bunch in my humble opinion. Available from all good stockists** for the bargain price of £2, including postage and packaging. If you are too tight to stump up for a pamphlet that costs less than a pint of Murphys in Central London, then be patient and it will probably be included at some point in the download section of the Socialist Party Website.

*Aye, for a period I was a member of the AWL back in the mid-nineties. I guess I fell into the category of 'candidate member' for the duration of my membership. No, I didn't suddenly transform into a vanguardist overnight, just wrestled a bit with the whole reform/revolution bit, on wondering how to get from here to there. I thought in the circumstances that it was better to do something in the here and now. The motto of reformists down the ages. (On balance, I've always been more impressed by the minimum/maximum programme over the transitional programme, but that is another story.)

No cautionary tales from my time in the AWL. Of course, it's overly obsessed by what the SWP is doing at any given point, and by the machinations of student politics, but they all seemed to decent enough people. Even the ones I disagreed with.

I sort of realised that my politics hadn't really changed that fundamentally and I still considered myself an SPGBer ideologically when canvassing for an AWL member who had been selected as the Labour Party PPC in a parliamentary seat that even in the electoral meltdown of 1997 the Tories still retained. I found myself falling back on my old socialist positions when arguing on the doorstep with the local electorate. Strange but true, and Tony Blair has never spoken to me since as a consequence.

** "All good stockists" consists of: The Socialist Party, 52 Clapham High Street, London SW4 7UN. Cheques made payable to the 'Socialist Party of Great Britain'.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

No Links, No Puns and No Lame Jokes

I should have mentioned it before but a passage from Reidski's recent blog on the Gang of Four got me thinking big time:
"Well, I came to my keyboard and came to my computer a few times up til now to write something about it, but I just couldn't. Not cos it was so totally mindblowing or that I went into some sort of weird psychotic episode about this being the "gig of my life" or anything like that. But, rather, I just didn't know what to write."
Maybe I'm reading too much into it but it is what I've been increasingly thinking about when trying to update this blog. The original reason for starting this blog was to get in the habit of writing regularly, to develop a discipline for it and it was also supposed to be specifically about politics but as time has gone on, and it is self evident from anyone who reads more that a few pages of this stuff, that the political commentary has become increasingly rare of late and has been much too frivilous and shallow in nature.
What does this all mean? It can be interpreted in a number of ways, and I'm not sure at this point myself to properly pinpoint it exactly. There are times when I talk about nothing but politics - sometimes hours on end - that will touch on current affairs, history, economics and philosophy but you would never glean that from reading this blog recently. Am I burn out politically? Have I just become too jaded by it all? I think about this increasingly, examining why I got into politics in the first place and whether or not I've just reached the stage where I am now just going through the motions, mouthing the old platitudes and falling back on stuff that I had read in the past, old verities and secondhand rhetoric (even the language in this post is an expression of that).
And then I think: of course I feel this way. It's understandable. I've placed myself in a rut these last few years and those things that first got me interested in politics, that got my impassioned, angry and motivated to do what small part I could do to contribute to the popularisation of socialist ideas were put to one side for the bullshit of attending meetings that no one is interested in attending, writing reports and minutes that are nothing more than sawdust prose on the page and just a case of going through the motions. Half recognising that people coming into contact with our ideas can smell that stench of political defeat and failure a mile off, and knowing that in the short turn there is fuck all one can do about it. It doesn't matter how many leaflets are delivered, how many meetings are attended and how many marches are gone on that sense of impotence pervades at every turn. Becoming a sad karaoke version of some vanguardist who waits patiently for the upturn whilst thumbing through their old copy of State and Revolution. Impossibilists don't have the false succour of failing back of the self-delusion of the Generals Without Armies who kid themselves on that their dance card will soon be full with the working class wanting them to engage in the revolutionary two step.
I'm all too aware that the political burn out is coupled with my personal burn out. A friend recently perceptively noted that there was little about myself on this blog, and getting back to Reidski (you owe me a pint for everytime I've mentioned you today ;-), I replied that they were right and that the best blogs like Reidski were able to couple the personal and the public. In my usual lame arse way, I mentioned that I would seek to shift the blog in that direction but part of me knew that I couldn't at this point because I knew that it would result in a blog that would be a variation on this post. Pissed off, wondering what to do and where to go next with things.
I just know that I have to break out this rut, to stop being bored with myself and that means many changes. Does that mean I junk the politics? No, fuck that would be the equivalent of amputating a limb. I still have the same anger in my belly from the time that first made me a socialist but I know that I have been my own worse enemy these last few years. But I also know my politics are all in the air at the moment: Not a rejection of the politics I hold, just a realisation that they have become too stale, and if you want to become all pretentious about it, it has resulted in me being one of those types that Vanneigm was referring to when he wrote: "Those who speak of revolution without everyday life have a corpse in their mouth."
I need to sort things out.
Sorry if anyone reading this has reached that the conclusion that this is let more than a self-piting whinge. I hold my hands up to the solipcism but that is characterstic of the rut I'm in. This is just a rant to get this shit out of my system - there are no links, no puns and no lame jokes in place in this post. It's been written off the cuff, and I'm not backtracking to check for spelling mistakes, repetition or the clumsily constructed phrase. I know that they will be there.
Keep smiling ;-)

Next Door Neighbours - Part Two

I wasn't meaning to return to this theme so soon after the last post on the same theme, but a quick swatch of my sitemeter revealed that somehow has just this second accessed my blog via the netsexmuseum blog.
Don't mistake this post as another descent into paranoic solipcism on my part. It's just that after reading this post on the Apostate Windbag blog, I cottoned on to the fact that mention of this blog may mean a spike in visitors to my blog.
Yeah, I'm both shameless and unrepentant.

That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore

There was me in the comments section of a recent blog of mine , when writing about Hemel Hempstead, saying that if it gets mentioned at all on television, it is usually as the punchline of some joke and then a couple of days later I decide to watch the dvd of the brilliant Beiderbecke Tapes. Yeah, you've guessed it:
In a pub in West Yorkshire with less ambience than a Star Trek Fan Club Convention:
Trevor Chaplin (The crumpled everyman: Half corduroy, half old Playfair Football Annuals) - 'Listen?'
Jill Swinburne (You've got a blacklist, I want to be on it.) - 'It's only Muzak. They probably pipe it in from a computer in Hemel Hempstead.'
Hemel Hempstead as depicted on TV Watch will now be a regular feature of this blog. Yes, I'm that short of material.

My Mate Went To A Gang Of Four Gig And All I Got Was This Lousy Postcard

Reidski has finally got round to blogging about the Gang of Four gig he attended last Friday. Good man, I was minutes away from writing a blog to tell the lazy sod to pull his finger out on the matter, and I had even scanned the image above to post as a reminder to Reidski that we had a one sided deal on the matter.
The image is from a comrade who also attended the gig last Friday and as his loose change didn't extend to him being able to bring me back an 'Entertainment' T shirt* as a commemorative memento from the gig, he thought the postcard would suffice as suitable compensation. Socialists and their sense of humour, eh? I think I would sooner get jokes that did include the words 'People, Front and Judea' instead in future.
The comrade - shut it with that lefty crap - friend is a longstanding fan of the Gang of Four, but had never seen them in concert before and it was one of those once in a lifetime opportunities. Especially as it was the original line up who were playing the Shepherd's Bush. "Darren, you could tell the drummer wasn't as posh as the other three."** Of course as soon as he came back from the gig, I was pumping him full of questions: Who supported them?*** Don't fucking tell me that there were ticket touts outside the gig selling tickets for a fiver.**** Did they play 'I Found That Essence Rare?' Is it as brilliant as it is on the album and the Peel Session recording?***** What was the make up of the crowd like?******
Of course he loved it - pogoing like the old punk that he is - and made special mention of his favourite Gang of Four track 'We Live As We Dream, Alone' . I was left smarting from missing out on the gig the week before, and living vicariously through his experience at the gig, and now Reidski's report of it, passively observing from a distance rather than actively particpating in an event. If that isn't a distillation of the theme of alienation characterestic of an archetypal Gang of Four lyric, then I don't know what is. *******
* Sixteen quid? The ghost of Joe Strummer is whispering 'Turning Rebellion into Money' into my ear whilst I type this blog.
** No, I'm not sure what he meant either, but I think I get his point.
*** A group called The Departure. Never heard of them but my mate said that they sounded very much like the Gang of Four themselves. Just part of that current crop of bands like The Killers, The Rapture, Radio 4 and Franz Ferdinand who wear part of their influences on their sleeves. For some reason, when he mentioned they were called The Departure I couldn't get Department S singing 'Is Vic There?' out of my head. I really must get out more. When he described what they look like, the support band I mean, I said "Aye, that's the style these days. The description sounds like the spitting image of Franz Ferdinand and the gear they wear." "Who? Never heard of them", was the reply. and remembering that as an old punk he would sooner listen to a Fast Product compilation as opposed to music written and performed this century, I just replied: "Think of Josef K." "Aye, right. Know what you mean now."
**** He rushed right in, so he has no idea. Thankfully that means that this is one of those rare blog posts where I don't have to link to a picture of Munch's The Scream.
***** He didn't rant and rave about the brilliance of 'I Found The Essence Rare' like Reidski did because he was too busy saying that they didn't play enough tracks off the Mall and Shrinkwrapped - the two albums from the mid nineties that everyone has forgotten about. He's a serious muso, my colleague, makes me look like an amateur.
****** A mixture of the young hipsters like Jon King's daughter and the oldster's like Reidski himself, who can even remember Old Grey Whistle Test, never mind who performed on it.
******* This post is written with tongue firmly embedded in check, but if I have played on your sympathy in any way then rip off t shirts or rare mp3s of the band can be sent to the usual address. You will be acknowledged and thanked at a later date. ;-)

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

A Mid-Season Banker

Here's a tip. I would follow it up myself but I'm a bit low on capital at the moment. Nip down the bookies and see what odds you can get on Craig Bellamy getting sent off in the next Auld Firm game. Maybe even chance your arm with a double header of him and Alex Rae both getting sent off. It's a banker.
Then send me a postcard from some Sunny Clime that you paid for out of your winnings.
I'm not sure O'Neill done the right thing in signing Bellamy. I'm not bleating on about the fact that Bellamy, though a very talented footballer, seems a sandwich short of a picnic hamper. Just the fact that in signing him it pushes Shaun Maloney further down the pecking order. When will Celtic stop selling its best young players who have emerged from the ranks, but can't get a decent run in the team.
If I had one criticism of O'Neill - and he is undoubtedly Celtic's best manager since Jock Stein - it is that he has never been able to blood young players properly. I don't think this shortcoming is specific to his time at Celtic. I think he was guilty of the same at Leicester City.
We'll see how he gets on at Man Utd when he goes there next.