Saturday, May 28, 2005

"But surely there's got to be more to all this success than Irn-Bru and working-class credibility?"

I've always had a soft spot for West Ham because of the great team that they had in the early eighties which included such excellent players as Phil Parkes, Ray Stewart, Alvin Martin, Alan Devonshire and Trevor Brooking but, for all that, I really hope Preston turn them over this bank holiday weekend to win promotion to the Premiership.
Not sure why I want Preston to win; maybe sentiment is getting the better of me - first double winners and all that - or maybe I'm just a sucker for a team that has an O'Neil (one L, mind) in the first eleven. Whatever, it would be nice to see the lilywhites in the top flight next year - of course they will only be there for one season as whipping boys - and, if nothing else, it will add to the myth stoked up in this article about the atavistic nature of mediocre Scottish footballers turning into brilliant managers. This article, if read aloud, should be done in the voice and mannerisms of Hugh McIlvanney for full effect.

But Flies Are Not Human

If it's good enough for the triumverate at SIAW Towers, then it should be good enough for me. What am I wittering on about? Just the notion of having an irregular feature of reproducing material on this blog from that period otherwise known as 'before the net'.
The following critical article on William Golding's novel, Lord of the Flies, originally appeared in the August 1993 Socialist Standard, and was written by Steve Coleman. A very able and lucid writer and speaker for the SPGB for over 25 years before he sadly dropped out of the Party a few years back.
I'll put my hands up now and admit that I have never read the book (we were supposed to read it in English, but I was going through my 'catching up with my sleep in class' phase at the time), but I do remember having to watch Peter Brook's film adaptation of the book in my English class whilst at secondary school. Now that I think about it, I only ever saw three films in school: the aforementioned Lord of the Flies, 1984 and Zefferelli's Romeo and Juliet. I wonder what our teachers' were trying to tell us in their choice of films. I guess Straw Dogs, Driller Killer and Clockwork Orange weren't in the school video library that week.
Any spelling mistakes or typos in the text are courtesy of my good self, 'cos it was me who scanned the article in. As the editorial team of an esteemed Anarchist journal once noted in their editorial notes: 'We leave in spelling mistakes and typos deliberately for the benefit of those readers' who like to spot such things!'
But Flies Are Not Human
There is an American university of some academic esteem where it is the regular practice for the Professor of Political Ideas to begin his first class of the semester by showing his students a film of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. After eyewitnessing the portrayed depravity of the public school boys who are Golding’s model of human nature, the students sit silently to await the oracular words of their teacher: "Okay, now we know what human beings are like. If we propose to talk about politics let us never forget that these humans are our human material". There commenceth the lecture and, all too often, locketh the impressionable minds. Few novels have so eloquently served the cause of capitalist ideology which contends that humans are inherently aggressive, gullible, self-serving, easily led and un-cooperative than Golding’s Lord of the Flies which was first published in 1954. What is the novel about? Its plot is the conventional stuff of schoolboy adventure yarns. An aeroplane crashes and the survivors find themselves on a coral island, there to survive until they are rescued. It soon becomes clear that the personalities of the boys will determine their functions: the leaders, the followers, the outcasts. Soon they are organized hierarchically and, soon after, divided tribally. The adventure is provided by the boys’ growing fear of The Beast, an apparently natural danger which threatens to destroy them. Life adapts to a chain of ordered survivalism in defence against the Beast. There are those who think The Beast an invention and others who seek to hunt and kill it. But the reader, guided by Golding, comes soon to see The Beast is neither an infantile invention of self-torment nor a conquerable enemy from without. The Beast is the metaphor of the natural darkness which is within all of the children - all humans - our inborn nature, no less. And in fighting the dark enemy, as the children proceed to do, it is the evil within themselves which becomes manifest. Encountered by Simon, one of the boys, this symbolic role of The Beast is articulated: "Fancy thinking The Beast was something you could hunt and kill!", it says, "I’m part of you. Close, close, close . . . Why things are what they are". In the final struggle against The Beast the full brutality of the children is exposed in an orgy of betrayal, mass hysteria, leader-worship and death. Golding has taken his little specimens of human nature and left them on an island exposed for all to see; how quickly the veneer of civilized behaviour turns into barbarism and boys become flies. Original Sin So what are we to make of this parable? If we were the students of the above-mentioned professor, how should we be expected to think? That when left to ourselves we humans will survive as beasts of the jungle. For beasts constrained by Bibles is all we can aspire to be. Indeed, Leighton Hodson, in his students’ handbook on Golding, states explicitly, lest any be in doubt, that The Beast "is only an external device for referring to the evil that is within people" (Golding, p.26). No writer comes to a novel with only a story in mind. The trite romances of Barbara Cartland are never divorced from the aristocratic respect for parasitism which is her obsessive faith, just as Noonan’s Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is intimately linked to his experience as a skilled painter and a socialist (and, moreover, a socialist building worker amongst the crass conservatism of Tory wage-slaves in stultifying Hastings). So it was with Golding. He did not write the most powerful and popular literary defence of innate human depravity by accident. And we can prove this. Despite having at one time paid some sort of lip-service to some sort of socialism, Golding was essentially an ardent anti-socialist. He referred to Marx, Darwin and Freud as "the three most crushing bores of the Western world". Having dispensed summarily with the thought of those who might have saved him from his blinkered outlook, where did he turn? On that point there is no need for doubt: Golding scraped the very bottom of the barrel of ideas in defence of property relationships and therein discovered an abundant supply of long-fermented Original Sin, a doctrine upon which he remained intoxicated throughout his life. Here is how he put it in an interview with Biles published in 1970:
"Man is a fallen being. He is gripped by original sin. His nature is sinful and his state perilous."
Fifteen years later, in conversation with Professor Carey, the Merton Professor of English at Oxford, Golding was peddling the same old tripe:
"Original sin - I’ve been really rather lumbered with original sin . . . I suppose that . . . both by intellect and emotion - intellectually after emotionally - I’m convinced of original sin. I’m convinced of it in the Augustinian way . . . the root of our sin is there, in the child. As soon as it has any capacity of acting on the world outside it will be selfish; and, of course, original sin and selfishness - the words could be interchangeable . . . You can only learn unselfishness by liking and by loving" (William Golding, the Man and his Books - A Tribute on His 75th Birthday, p. 174)
So, Golding’s little boys on their island are not just any kids: they are sinners, born selfish and bound to fight their inner evil. Augustine was made a saint for advancing this kind of ideological child abuse and Golding was given a Nobel price (worth more than a sainthood in the current market). Born Human Socialists are historical materialists and contend that humans are born neither good nor evil. We are born human and therefore possess the unique capacity to adapt culturally in accordance with the environmental conditions which surround us. In opposing this, Golding’s plot includes some highly convenient ideological weights which serve to tilt the story’s conclusion his way. Firstly, the boys we meet are not any boys, but public school boys: members of that privileged minority who are bred for tribalistic division. Would children who were the products of a caring community, not abandoned to the threatening rituals of the incarcerating dorm, have behaved differently, we may ask. And in Golding’s story here are children as abandoned survivalists in a hostile environment. In short, Golding takes unrepresentative children in a highly untypical situation and then, with the dogmatic wisdom of one who can with one breath dismiss Marx, Darwin and Freud, throws up his arms and says "Look, this is what children are like. And because children are humans, this is what humans are like. Case proven". It convinces the American professor. Anthony Storr, the psychiatrist, wrote of how Golding’s literary theme is confirmed by experiments in which children are taken to holiday camps, put into hostile gangs and only parted on the point when they are about to murder one another. It is quite remarkable how men with degrees in pure ignorance can express themselves freely upon matters which are routinely contradicted by experimental results. No, children do not rush with enthusiasm towards violent situations, but enter into them only under enormous pressure: extreme frustration, upbringing in a culture of routinized violence or, as in Storr’s evidence, monetary payment by psychological experimenters whose aim is to encourage children to behave anti-socially. As the more serious social psychologist, Herman Kelman, has written, "we can learn more by looking not at the motives for violence, but at the conditions under which the usual moral inhibitions against violence become weakened" (Journal of Social Issues, 1973, p. 38). Given that wise advice, would it not make more sense to ask why a group of isolated, frightened and strangely bred children should behave like beasts than to assume that their beastliness is within them - and within us? Golding died recently and, unsurprisingly, the sort of people who praise great rogues praised him. By all accounts he was a decent enough fellow. The issue is not the virtue of the man - or even the skill of his pen or the power of his plots. The novel, in a time of war, can no more be neutral than can the military band or the cook in the arms factory canteen. And when there is a war of ideas between those of us who refuse to submit to the self-hating conception of human sin and inherent selfishness, and those who blast out such ideology with the weight of a mighty publishing and cinema industry behind them, novels are weapons. Read as it is intended, Lord of the Flies is a literary shot against the reader’s consciousness of human power; it is disarming and enervating and, for the present writer, one of the most anti-human novels of our age.
(Socialist Standard August 1993)

Move On . . . .

They made hard work of it - that shot from Archibald hitting the bar in injury time had me cursing: "Here we bastard go again" under my breath - but Celtic finished the season with a trophy at least. A bitty first half where there was little or no real quality in the game, was enlivened in the second half when Bellamy came into his own and showed what a class act he is as a footballer, and by his moaning greeting face, what a first class muppet he is. (This opinion may be revised at a later date if he does decide to sign for Celtic permanently).
The seventh trophy for O'Neill since his time at Celtic, and the fans were tremendous in their send off for him, Robertson and Walford on the day but, albeit the unfortunate circumstances which prompted his decision to step down, like Reidski I've come to the conclusion that O'Neill's team is past its best and as he never looked like undertaking the radical overhaul of the squad necessary to strengthen Celtic, it is for the best that a new manager is coming in. Time will tell whether or not Strachan is the right man for the job.
Early indications are that Douglas will go to Leicester City, and Strachan's looking to sign Niemi as a replacement. If it comes off, that is a good way to be going on with.

Friday, May 27, 2005

The Scabs From Auntie

It's a late link but Meaders has the low down on those who crossed the picket line during Monday's 24 hour strike at the BBC. Looking at the list of those who crossed the class line, I'm not surprsied that muppets like Chris Moyles, Sarah Kennedy, Nicholas Witchell and Evan Davis are on the list of shame but I'm a wee bit shocked and disappointed to see Jo Whiley, Steve Lamacq and, for some inexplicable reason, Mark Goodier on the list. It is telling that it is DJs who have somehow let me down, and the likes of Alan Tichmarsh and Lowri Turner pass me by. It's all too apparent that I am still a Radio One pop kid at heart, despite the Captain Beefheart box set sitting to the left of me.
From reading the list of those who did us wrong, it's kind of funny 'cos I'm still reading John Harris's The Last Party at the moment, and one of the themes of the book is the parallels to be drawn between indie music becoming part of the mainstream through the guise of Britpop, and how this coincided with one time Ugly Rumour, Tony Blair, becoming leader of the Labour Party in the mid-nineties. As is the nature of these books that have to hang their purpose on a particular hook, for Harris the two overlap not just because of the NME poll winners lining up behind the Labour Party in the run up to the '97 election, but also because it signified a break with the immediate past of the Labour Party as being a permanent ineffective opposition, and the shadow of Thatcherism - and the polarisation that it engendered in society - somehow finally being put to rest.*
Harris documents how part and parcel of Britpop breaking out of the musical ghetto was the mini-revolution that took place when Matthew Bannister took over as controller of Radio One, with some of the old guard being gently wheeled away in their pyjamas to a placer more fitting to their musical taste, to be replaced by bright young things better placed to know what music was being listened to by people who couldn't remember the last time there was a Labour Government. Part of the vanguard brought in to shake things up musically - and by extension, according to Harris's stretched out thesis, Britain, and how it saw itself - were, you've guessed it, Steve Lamacq and Jo Whiley. From the NME to the Enemy** in just over ten years. Someone should put this to music and send a copy to the pair of them.
On another point, I'm torn by the fact that one of those who didn't cross the line was Nicky Campbell. Does this mean that I must bury once and for all my long held view that he is a smug, preening pretentious 24 carat wanker? Sorry, I can't do it. Solidarity can only go so far.
*I've said it before but I remember May 2nd 1997; the sun was shining and everybody had these big massive grins on their faces. It was likea promotional video for the mormons, but everybody genuinely thought things were going to change for the better. Even this ultra-leftist who had temprarily decamped to the Third Camp for the duration.
** Yeah yeah yeah, you were groaning when you read this hackneyed cliche but I was blushing to my roots when typing it.

Sitemeter Smut

Someone's checked out my blog after typing the words 'Kika Markham + nude' into the google search engine. That is about the fourth or fifth time that has happened since I installed the site meter, and it always seems to happen on a Friday for some reason.
Nice to know that my readership are coming to the blog via word of mouth noises about how this is the place to be for that nice blend of revolutionary politics, revolutionary music and non-existent nude pics of Trotskyist reactionaries (who also happen to be an excellent actor, I hasten to add.)

Solipcism and Scousers

One of those blogs that started off as a stream of consciousness ramble half an hour after the end of the final itself, but in my laziness I have only now got round to finishing . . .
An absolutely enthralling cup final. One of those games that if it landed on your desk as a script, you would dismiss it out of hand as too far fetched. (Mind you, weren't they 3-0 down at half time in Escape to Victory. But the only penalty shoot outs in them days was the Gestapo firing squad.)
A goal down after a minute from a Paolo Maldini goal, for christ sake!!! The only time he is usually in his opponent's half is if he thinks that there is a GQ photo shoot in the offing. Then a couple of goals from the Chelsea reject, Crespo, to make it 3-0 to Milan at half time. (The way Crespo dinked his second goal in, from that brilliant pass from Kaka, without even looking up at Dudek closing down the space was absolutely wonderful.) Milan were totally bossing the game, and when you consider a defence of Cafu, Maldini, Staam (nice to see him get that warm reception from the Liverpool fans every time he touched the ball) and Nesta, with ex-R*ngers player, Gattuso,* mopping up any loose balls as Milan's holding midfield player, it didn't even look as if Liverpool would get a consolation corner, never mind a consolation goal.
A Liverpool side that was completely listless in the first half, with Kewell that ineffective that I thought he was going to take a lap of honour out of gratitude to Benitez when he had the good sense to subsitute him after Kewell tripped over his alice-band and got injured. (The rumour currently doing the rounds at Anfield is that there is a clamour for the Kop End to petition Channel Four for a new reality tv show called 'Job Swap', in which Harry will swap careers with his wife for the whole of next season. Him pulling the pints in the Woolpack, and Trish playing as an inside forward. The Liverpool midfield was totally anonymous first half, and when half time came I made a point of sitting down in front of the computer to compose some lame gags for an email to the UK Left Network Discussion list, rather than listen to Terry Venables do his cheeky chappy analysis routine, whilst Steve MacMadrid, through gritted teeth alongside him, stopped himself leaping out of his chair to exclaim: "It should have been me. Me and my mate Robbie Fowler should be out on the pitch right now." That's how resigned I was to the second half being a total calamity, with thoughts of Liverpool being at the receiving end of a hammering all too reminiscent of Real Madrid 7-3 demolition of Eintracht Frankfurt in the 1960 European Cup Final.**
There I was in the front of the computer, trying once again of thinking of a way to rip the piss out of Ted Grant - high fallutin' political stuff - when a yelp is heard from the next room: "Darren, Liverpool have just scored. Gerrard with a header." I nip in to catch the replay of the goal, and see a brilliant looping header going into the top corner. A goal that the goalkeeper had no chance of saving, but he looked like a chump anyway 'cos he didn't do the obligatory: "I know I can't save this, but I will fall over in its general direction anyway" style saving face maneouvre, so beloved of goalies from twenty a side games in council parks in Glasgow to Real Madrid-Barcelona grudge matches in the Nou Camp stadium.
I do my usual routine of: "Typical, I walk out the room and they score. If I walk out again, they'll probably score again." I walk back to the computer, only half interested in the footie but more concerned with thinking of something to say about Ted Grant that didn't involve me having a pop at his comb over haircut. (As I said, high fallutin' political stuff), and then a couple of minutes later another unnatural noise from the front room: "It's 3-2 - I can't believe it." Do my 0-60 dash in 2.4 seconds to see the replay of Smicer hitting a rasper (Copyright Football Cliche, Tiger Annual 1979) of a shot into the bottom right hand corner. Baros makes his most telling contribution of the evening - aside from his impersonation of a man who can go into an empty six yard box and start an argument - by not getting into the way of the shot as it goes goalwards.
By this point, my solipcism is really kicking in big time. I'm thinking: "If I stay in the room, I'll only jinx them. I better leave the room again, finish this email to Kara, and that way Liverpool can score an equaliser." My nephew looks at me strangely as I'm mumbling to myself, as if I'm a 2002-2004 Socialist Standard bound volume short of the November 2003 issue, and I correct - or at least mask - my madness by saying: "Don't worry Kerr, this same scene of a person thinking they are pivotal to the success or failure of Liverpool is going on in twenty thousand living rooms as we speak". He doesn't believe me, but I use the opportunity of him edging away from me in a frightened manner, to leave the room again to sit in front of the computer.
I'm just parking my bum down on the chair in front of the computer when it's that strangulated voice exclaiming from the living room again: "Christ, Milan nearly scored." I'm thinking: "I can live with that. They didn't score. It has no bearing on my solipcism." Thirty seconds later, the same voice from the living room, but this time three octaves higher, shouts out that line from the best football song of all time - bugger 'World in Motion' and the 'Three Laddos' crap from '96, I'm talking about the 1982 Scottish World Cup song, 'We Have A Dream' - that immortal line crooned by BA Robertson: "It's a Penalty." I rush in to see a replay - there's a pattern developing here and in my solipcism I'm thinking: "If this was a scene from a film, they would be playing The The's 'Slow Emotion Replay' at this point." A bit literal, mind, but a brilliant song nonetheless - of Gattuso committing GBH on Gerrard (did Gattuso and Hurlock play at the same time at Ibrox), and lip reading Carragher doing his impersonation of a Corinthian Casual to the referee, by shouting at him at point blank range: "Send the wanker off, Ref".
The Ref, as part and parcel of a generally woeful performance all night, allows Gattuso to stay on the pitch (I make a mental note that Gattuso will now probably score the winner), and I face my solipcism head on by opting to stay in the room to watch the penalty actually being taken. I notice that the Milan keeper is a giant, and that Liverpool's penalty taker, Alonso, looks nervous walking up with the ball to the penalty spot. I'm thinking this doesn't look good, and right enough a poorly placed penalty kick is saved by the keeper, but before I can turn to my nephew, and with an evil grin, intone: "I telt ye", Alonso follows up the parried save and hits the rebound into the net. 3-3, and Milan fans in the stadium are hiding their faces in their silk scarves, Everton fans are throwing themselves in the Mersey and I'm thinking: "Where's that bugger, Berlusconi. He must be in the stadium. Please zoom the camera in on his face this very minute so I can revel in his misery. (I told you - I'm all about high fallutin' political stuff.)
I have to watch the game full on now. Where the Liverpool midfield in the first half were using the centre of the park to re-enact a scene from the Marie Celeste, Gerrard, Hamman and Riise are now covering every blade of grass (Copyright Football Cliche, Shoot Annual 1981), chasing down the Milan players everytime they have the ball, coming out tops in every tackle and winning every loose ball that pings round the pitch.
The Milan manager, Ancelotti, is at this point on the touchline thumbing his Fifa identification tag as if it is a crystal from Carole Caplin with promised special properties, and wondering where he put his receipt so he can get a refund, and ex-Rangers man Alex Miller, now part of Benitez's coaching staff, is in a daze looking around the stadium in Istanbul and muttering to himself: "So this is what Europe looks life after Christmas, I always wondered. I must give Big Derek Johnstone a call when I get back home to tell him all about it."
I sit down in the armchair and the solipicism kicks in again. Liverpool, though in control of the game now, now don't look like scoring again and, as in the first half, are starting to sit too deep again, allowing Milan to recover some sort of composure, and relying on hitting and hoping with fifty yard punts up field to the general vicinity of Baros, where sometimes he gets a toe poke of the ball, sometimes he gets a toe poke of his marker, but always it finishes with the camera focussing on his moany 'greetin' face whilst he is mouthing to the referee in Czech: "You're off my Christmas Card list, you bastard."
Within a few minutes I know that both sides are too tentative now, too scared of committing that one fatal error that will ensure that the miscreant, depending on who messes up, will be getting letters of thanks from Everton or Internazionale fans for the next twelve months. The director of the tv footage can also sense that a lot of the momentum has now gone out of the game, 'cos s/he now spends the last quarter of normal playing time, spending an inordinate amount of time picking out drop dead gorgeous but disconsolate Milan fans in the crowd to zoom in on for a close up. By way of contrast, we also get lots of shots of 18 stone Liverpool fans who think it's a sign of devotion to their team to remove their replica football tops and re-enact the belly-dancing bit from U2's Mysterious Ways video. When in Istanbul and all that . . . And the nation viewers, whilst simultaneously averting their eyes as they cough and splutter as their tea goes down the wrong way, are also able to breathe a wee sigh of relief with the thought that their hub caps are safe tonight.
The only thing of note towards the end of normal time - apart from the realisation of what a great player Schevchenko is; the only player on the pitch going for that winning goal as the match winner he undoubtedly is - is the introduction of Ciisse for Baros, for Liverpool. Ciisse is an absolute enigma to me. For everytime I see him on the telly, a pattern has developed - I first spot the new haircut, and wonder What the fuck has he on his head!! (tonight it looks like the road map of the M11), and I then once again hear the match commnetator telling anyone that will listen that Ciisse is only 70% match fit, but that he has a lovely burst of pace and that he will be able to capitalise on the tiredness of the opponents defence in the last few minutes of the game. Every time I go through this ritual, and everytime I kid myself on that he will come good and that £12 million quid - or whatever the exact figure they shook out of the Moores family - was money well spent (in football terms), and he is not just the 21st century equivalent of Gary Birtles: Too busy deceiving to actually flatter.
What actually happens is that when Ciisse gets the ball he does an excellent impersonation of that ball-hog that inhabited every school playground during dinner time. That wee guy who takes the ball, thinking he can beat 27 opponents, but whose plans are stymied by the fact that he trips over his Clarks shoes after moving no more than two feet with the ball.
To everyone's relief, extra time comes and Gerrard measures up to all the hype by going to the right side of defence to snuff out the danger of Milan's Serginho. Every tackle he goes into he comes out with the ball and bad haircut intact, and a defanged Liverpool in the middle of the park with Gerrard elsewhere just goes to highlight how integral he is to their team, and how much they will miss him when he is at Chelsea next year sitting on the bench next to Geremi and Scottie Parker.
Extra time for the most part is an anti-climax. Liverpool refuse to throw their players forward in any serious numbers, and increasingly they have to rely on Ciisse repaying Liverpool's faith in him by trying to win corners. (He must have missed the meeting where they explained what a match-winner was.) Liverpool defend deep and my heart is in my mouth fighting for space with a Cornish Pastie every time Schevchenko gets the ball and tries to dribble it into the net. Carragher is playing brilliant but looks absolutely knackered. After the game, when he was being interviewed I looked on with awe, thinking: 'Christ, he is that exhausted that his voice has gone all high pitched and squeaky, and then I realised he was a scouser and he always talked like that.' Traore has apparently signed a Faustian pact with the devil whilst on the pitch which allows him to look like he is going to make that fatal defensive mistake - otherwise known as 'doing a Hansen' - but recovering in time for the ball to punted to safety, or at least to Ciisse so he can lose the ball again.
By this point I'm doing what I always do when getting anxious watching a live game on the telly - I start moaning at length: 'Look at Dudek - I'm not happy with the way he distributes the ball. He takes too long dithering over the ball, and then promptly punts it to a Milan player. If this goes to penalties, Milan are going to win. The Milan keeper, Didi, is far more imposing in the penalty box.' If I'm going to get it wrong, why do things by halves?
I know something is afoot - and I should have sussed it earlier when Dudek made a brilliant save from a piledriving free kick - when in the last few minutes of extra time he pulls off an astonshing double save from Schevchenko. My brother in law thinks Banks, I'm thinking Montgomery but on fifth viewing I reach the conclusion that the second save is more Stallone. Dudek does what every goalie does after pulling off a brilliant save, he looks about nonchalantly whilst defenders pat him on the head, and Schevchenko looks skywards for the GoodYear blimp, in the hope that a charitable soul will lower down a rope ladder for him so he can escape his embarassment.
The whistle blows for the end of extra time, and it's all going to rest on who bottles it first. Both teams are in the centre of the pitch, and whilst Gerrard, Maldini and the referee swap tips on moisturising creams, the camera zooms in on Carragher gesticulating wildly at Dudek, and I'm thinking that they are trying to relieve the tension by having an impromptu game of charades. I guess wrongly - it wasn't Carragher miming Condorman, but in fact him reminding Dudek of the 1984 final, which had also gone to penalties and where Grobbelaar done the wobbly legs routine (which he was to involuntary re-enact many years later when he opened up the News of the World one Sunday morning to see photo stills of himself accepting bribes for throwing matches.)
I have no idea who won the toss, but it falls to Serginho of Milan to take the first penalty. Dudek moves along his line waving his arms in a passable impression of Grobbellar circa 1984, and Sergenhio skies a penalty that is part career suicide, part homage to Chris Waddle circa 1990. Liverpool score their penalty then Pirlo steps up to take the second penalty for Milan. For some reason all through the game, whenever Pirlo's name is mentioned, I think of a wine mentioned in Sideways, which lets you know all you need about the damage I have done to my ears down the years from listening to excellent music on personal stereos and my piss poor knowledge of overpriced vinegar. By this stage, I realise that Dudek has the upper hand in the mind games with the Milan players - not just with the st vitus dance routine on the goal line but the wee trick of handing the ball to his opponent before every penalty whilst eyeballing them. Dudek's routine follows the pattern of the first penalty, except for one minor change: this time, he moves so far off his line before the ball is kicked by Pirlo that he is in a different Istanbul postcode from that of the stadium. He promptly saves the penalty, and the ref is consistent in his performance by having a ricket (copyright Big Ron circa 1993), and not having the bottle to insist that the penalty is retaken.
A couple of other penalties are taken - Brett Anderson finally scoring a penalty for Milan - and then Ciisse goes up to take a penalty for Liverpool. I need to watch this one - this could be a scene to tell someone's Grandkids - Ciisse in the penalty box. Sure enough, after he establishes with the ref that he can't play the ball for a corner, he is yet another one who turns my world upside down whilst watching this game, by calmly dispatching the penalty without a second glance.
Schevchenko then turns up on the tv screen, looking calm and collected, as if he knows what to do, and by the being the best player on the pitch by a country mile he duly misses his penalty. (An attempt at one of those cheeky chipped penalties down the middle of the goal that always worked for Di Canio, which when they go right makes the scorer look like a boy genius but when they go wrong . . . .) Liverpool have won the Cup, and there is a melee on the pitch with that weird scene that always accompanies such occasions when twenty players show their appreciation of the match-winning player by dive bombing on him at speed. "We love you Jerzy - let's show you how much by fracturing a couple of your ribs."
Absolutely amazing scenes then follow with tens of thousands of Liverpool fans in the stadium belting out an inspired rendition of 'Walk On', whilst Gerry Marsden is sitting somewhere making a mental note to cash in by re-releasing it with a commemmorative cover. The Liverpool players are totally ecstatic and do the old 'kiss the badge' routine, which fans fall for every time and I say a silent prayer of thanks that I am not watching this game on BBC, so I don't have to sit through the cringing sight of Garth Crooks grabbing players and then asking them the most stupid questions, which leaves you having to look away from the screen out of some sense of sympathy for the player at the receiving end.
Who we do get with the roving microphone is the excellent Gabriel Clarke. As befits someone who was named after an Everton player, he duly grabs Gerrard and asks him if he will be at Liverpool next season. Gerrard sidesteps the question with a deftness of movement that suggests a future career in politics.
Whilst all this is going on, the worker-ants at Fifa are setting up the temporary stage in the centre of the stage for the awarding of the trinkets and trophy. The Milan players are up first, and they look like they have just attended a Leonard Cohen/Red House Painters double bill. as they collect their medals. The ref then steps up to collect his cards, and finally we have the Liverpool players going up one by one to collect their medals from Lennart Johannson (who looks like he is on day release from sleeping on the House of Lords back benches), and more than one Liverpool player take the opportunity of kissing the trophy before lining up behind it. Ciisse has to do it a little differently, however, by somehow managing that the trophy resembles a pole to which he proceeds to gyrate around like he is re-enacting a scene from Showgirls. Benitez notes that Ciisse shows more movement in the next thirty seconds than he has in the last 12 months.
Gerrard, as captain, is the last man to collect his medal and whilst he is standing there to receive the trophy, Johannson shows what a knowledgable guy he is about who has been playing tonight, and who are their respective captains, by promptly turning his back on Gerrard and trying to pass the trophy to Jamie Carragher to lift (he is last heard mumbling to himself: 'All scousers look the same to me without their shellsuits on' as he is led back to his bathchair). An apparatchik from UEFA quickly defuses this situation by spinning Johannson around 180 degrees and Gerrard gets to duly lift the trophy whilst a nation watching on tv decides to either go for a piss, put the kettle on or switch over to UK Gold to count the double entendres in an old episode of The Thin Blue Line.
I decide to continue to watch the celebrations realising that the sight of Harry Kewell celebrating the win as if he played a part in it is far funnier than any clapped out old sitcom from the pen of that old phoney Ben Elton.
As a spectacle the match was up there with the best of them. The football wasn't that pretty - come on, reality check, we aren't talking France-West Germany '82 here - but it was a game that will be talked about years from now, and even as I write, there will be kids - and quite a few adults, too - in Surrey, Cornwall and Trondheim taking down their bedroom Man Utd posters and replacing them with Liverpool4Ever pennants. It's like the early eighties all over again - I'm away to listen to the greatest hits of The Jam.
* At one point during the game, I spot a Liverpool fan with a Liverpool/R*ngers scarf. My Brother in Law and I agree that the fan must be from Northern Ireland.
** Everybody from Glasgow over the age of 50 claims to have been at this game. I know at least one of my Grandads was at Hampden Park that day to witness Puskas, Di Stefano and Gento in full pomp. A shame they were Franco's team.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

If This Was An MP3 Blog . . .

. . . Mommy and Daddy's 'Confection' would be the sort of song I would be uploading to this blog, and urging you to listen to, so you can share in my excellent taste in music. (I'll get a slap for that outburst of self-aggrandisement.)
The blurb on the InSound website describes them as: " . . . .a tag team steel cage match between Le Tigre, Motörhead, B-52s and The Misfits. " I'm not sure if I can hear that myself, but I defintely think there is a bit of the Glitter Band on 'Confection', and from what I've heard of their other material on their excellent website here, I can hear a bit of early Pil on some of their tracks. Yeah yeah yeah, I know it's a bit lazy saying: 'They are great 'cos they sound like such and such . . .' but bearing in mind they are girl/boy duo from out of the States, at least I haven't fallen back on the lazy White Stripes/Fiery Furnaces comparisons.
From having a quick scan of their band bio on the website, they have been around for a few years, and it looks like, if nothing else, they are moving in the right circles: "The duo has supported such post-punk luminaries as Suicide, James Chance and the Contortions, Thurston Moore and ESG, as well as their contemporaries - Hot Hot Heat, The Rogers Sisters, TV on the Radio, The Walkmen, Ted Leo, Daniel Johnston, and Gogogo Airheart."
OK, I can't provide a direct link to the song but if you click on this page, it's the second song at the top of the page and all you have to do is right click and save it on your hard drive. It's so easy and straightforward that even a Rangers supporter could follow the instructions.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Having a (Brit) Pop

I'm trying to read five or six books at the moment, which is always a mistake with me because I end up just letting matters drift and invariably a few books fall by the wayside never to be picked up again. Those books I am reading include this,* this, this and this** (sneaky of me not to mention them by name, which means that people will have to click on the links and give me more page views ;-)
Another book that I am also currently reading at the moment is John Harris's The Last Party: Britpop, Blair and the Demise of English Rock. Yeah I know it was published a few years back and I missed the zeitgeist and all that palaver from when it was originally published (which roughly translates as the fact that it is only now that I have been able to afford to buy it and only 'cos it was being sold for a couple of quid in a record shop in Edinburgh) but from the hundred or so pages I have read of it so far, it is an intriguing enough account of that period in the early nineties when groups such as Blur, Suede and Pulp kicked back against what they considered the drugged out apathy and drone of grunge.
I never made it to the Good Mixer but I do remember reading what Harris in his book now views as the seminal issue of Select magazine, which had Brett Anderson on the front cover wrapped in the union jack, and the provocative headline emblazoned across its cover of 'Yanks Go Home'. It's strange now to think how important Suede were in the great scheme of britpop things - what with the Art School versus the Arseholes rivalry of Blur and Oasis that followed - but they were a brilliant band in their day, and seeing them perform the incendiary Animal Nitrate live on the Brits on the TV all those years ago was definitely one of those hairs rising on the back of the neck moments in life.
It's funny to read in the book that by all accounts Brett Anderson was a sweet guy who only adopted the cool and distant persona that he was notorious for in his heyday after getting his ego bruised when Justiine Frischmann went off with Damon Albarn, and that Alex James initial impression of Albarn when he first met him was of someone who was: "A pompous big-headed fucking moron with a shit band . . . He can come across as a total cunt."
But my reason for blogging on the book is for a couple of choice quotes that made me laugh out loud, that I thought I would share with my three readers - hello Mo, Curly and Reidski - and, though I don't have any particular antipathy against Suede it is the case that they are aimed against Brett and the other three haircuts in the band:
Alex James again, from when Blur returned from a disastrous tour in America, when they thought that there time had been and gone, and revealing that before the Damon vs Liam homo-erotic bunfight, there was the Goldsmith versus UCL London University inter-college dust up:
'When we got back, Suede were on all the front covers,' says Alex James. 'Those little pricks from fucking UCL.'
The second quote is from Morrissey, who Brett Anderson made the mistake of verbally sparring with in the music press. There was only ever going to be one faux English Fop left standing in the ring after that particular mismatch:
'Suede are . . . a group with all reference points so tightly packed that it consequently leaves no room whatsoever for originality, should any be lurking,' he wrote. 'Despite his claims to the contrary, I have never met Brett and wouldn't wish to; he seems like a deeply boring man with Mr Kipling crumbs in his bed. He'll never forgive God for not making him Angie Bowie.'
Absolute classic! Ten years later, and Mozzer last album is a corker and it has all ended in tears for Brett. Last time I think I spotted him was when he was fronting this video.
* The book on Owell edited by Paul Flewers.
** The one on the Russian Communist Left. Anybody who wants to buy me the British Communist Left one for my birthday, feel free. My birthday is next week, btw ;-)

Sunday, May 22, 2005

" . . . it's more important than that"

I knew it was going to happen . . . listening to the radio I just felt it in my bones that with Celtic being unable to score that crucial second goal Motherwell would equalise. What I didn't expect was that the 'Well would go up for the park and score a winner. Three bastard minutes from winning the League Title for the fourth time in five years. The tin lid on it all is that Scott McDonald is a Celtic fan. I wonder how he will feel when he starts getting the Albert Kidd* treatment from the Rangers fans?
It was disquieting to hear that apparently Rangers and Hibs did a Germany/Austria circa 1982 lash up for the last twenty minutes of the game after Novo scored. I hope I was misinformed on that one. I really like Hibs and they play some brilliant football.
It looks like this blogger reeled in straight from the pub and planked himself down in front of the computer to write his updated obituary for Martin O'Neill's team. I can't agree with him that this is the worst side since Brady's time, but it is pretty damn obvious that this is an aging team whose best has been and gone, and O'Neill is reluctant to dismantle the team and start afresh in the same fashion that Ferguson has been prepared to do on more than one occasion at Man Utd.
I don't know if this reluctance owes to the fact that he doesn't seem himself at Celtic Park long term; it's a simple case of Desmond refusing to open the biscuit tin to release the funds to buy some new players; or more disquietingly (mmm, is that a proper word) does it owe more to the fact that O'Neill being a creature of habit, in his long succesful career as a manager, he has yet to go through the experience of having to rebuild a team after being at a club for a number of years? Maybe my memory is playing tricks on me but I'm sure that it was the case that he left an ageing, albeit succesful, team at Leicester City.
I'm O'Neill's number one fan but I wonder, what with the recent speculation about him considering stepping down as manager of Celtic, if it isn't for the best that he moves on if he doesn't see himself being at Celtic long term. Let's be honest, he is a shoe in as the next manager of Man Utd if he wants the job, and that could be sooner rather than later depending how brassy Glazer's balls are. Could he take Celtic any further than he already has? He's a very intelligent bloke, and short of Celtic ever getting accepted into the English Premiership (more chance of Britain getting twelve points off Spain in the Eurovision), he knows he is never going to have the transfer funds made available to him from the board for new players to allow the club to go to the next level in European football.
I'm gutted - not as gutted as I would have been if I had been watching the game on the TV but for all that I still sooo glad that I didn't go over to the dark side** and support Glasgow R*ngers as a young boy first getting into football. That would have resulted in a degree of self-loathing that would make Robbie Williams seem like he is popping Es like smarties in comparison.
* Albert Kidd was the Dundee player who scored both goals in a 2-0 victory over Hearts on the last day of the '85-86 season, and thus deprived Hearts of the League Title. A number of Hibs supporter's clubs duly voted Kidd the Hibs Player of the Year ;-)
** The obligatory Star Wars reference for those geeks out there.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Chips With Gravy Train!!!

There's me getting lumps torn out of me by Will Mackem in Hak Mao's comments box over that doctored picture of myself* published on Perspective a few weeks back - [Doesn't he know that: 1) As an SSP Press Officer, Alister is a sworn enemy of the SPGB?** 2) The retro Barcelona football top comes with extra padding in tribute to Maradona's time there as a player all those years ago?] - and I then click on the BBC website and read one of those stories that has me gnashing my teeth, in between gnashing a mutton pie, at being born 18 years too early.***
Though I can't believe it myself, apparently there is a longstanding concern about health and diet in the West of Scotland and, short of making Carol Vorderman books and videos compulsory on the National Curriculum in Secondary Schools there, they have come up with Plan B - outright barefaced bribery. (In officialese, "incentify".) By being rewarded points for forgoing the chips with gravy and opting for that exotica otherwise known as fruit and vegetables, a Glasgow Secondary School pupil can build up over a term a tally of points which means that at some point in the future they can redeem the points for a selection of goodies that even includes an iPod. (Granted you will need to eat a lot of tofu to be able to claim that top prize.)
Naturally being one of life's trailblazers, whilst I was a student at Secondary School I hit upon a similar idea of combining a love for music with the swearing off of junk food. It involved me bunking off school dinners the day The Redskins released their debut album Neither Washington, Nor Moscow . . . going down the town centre to buy it when the ink of the empty rhetoric was still wet on the sleevenotes. Unfortunately, that was just the one time and for the rest of my schooldays I settled every dinner time for the burgers and chips, and the two helpings of apple pie and custard for dessert. It's not my fault music was so shite in the mid-eighties that I had no other times when I had the excuse to bunk off.
But I really want that ipod, and I think that if I shave the beard off and talk in a loud voice about my love for Blink 182, Green Day and Lord of the Rings, I might be able to do a Brian MacKinnon. Watch this space - or Crimewatch UK - for further updates.
* That doctored picture of me on the net resulted in one of my family voting SSP on May 5th! And the SSP claim that they are after principled socialist votes ;-)
** That's me in paranoid ultra-left 'everybody is out to get us' mode. Think of it as my audition piece for getting that space shuttle ticket for my one way trip to Planet ICC
*** Situation Vacant - Chief sub-editor for the Inveresk Street Ingrate blog. Must be able to break down long rambling sentences that go on for ages into digestable chunks. Must also be able to recognise that the bad jokes on the blog have been placed there deliberately, and should not be tampered with.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

For The Good Of The Soul - Tonight 7pm BBC2

A must see, and many thanks towards John of Counago & Spaves fame, otherwise I wouldn't have known it was on:
Tonight 7pm on BBC 2 - The Culture Show
"Verity Sharp catches up with Kathy Burke, known most famously as the female half of the slobs Wayne and Waynetta. She’s moved on from acting to become one of the most sought after theatre directors, and is currently working on a revival of her Tricycle Theatre production of Brendan Behan’s play 'A Quare Fellow'. Kathy talks about why she chose to end her acting career, her Irish roots, her fascination with Behan’s work and her future directing plans."
I hope to hell that she hasn't decided to end her acting career, 'cos she is an absolutely marvellous actress. If it weren't for all this abolition the wages system business, I'd be petitioning right now for her image to replace that of the Queen's on all pound coins. She's bloody marvellous - full stop.
Of course she was absolutely wonderful on the Culture Show (my head was ready to burst from all that culture), and I'm crestfallen that she is so adamant that she won't act in the future but I consoled myself later that evening by watching a couple of old episodes of Gimme Gimme Gimme on UK Gold.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Pure Dead Brilliant

Just a short one - still tired from a couple of long coach trips to and from London last couple of days.
I had an excellent weekend back down in London. Met up with Kara of Radio Active fame who was over from New York for a couple of days. Sorry if it sounds daft and soppy but I'm totally in love with her. So glad I finally met you, Kara. Hope you enjoyed your time in London as much as I did.
Last night before travelling back, met up with Reidski of Big Blowdown fame in a Wetherspoon's in Central London, and had a great laugh having a few drinks and telling bad jokes, and in general having a good rant about football, music and obscure lefty politics.
Back to regular blogging in the next couple of days. Cheers.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Death Of The Sitcom

Damn, I knew them when they were so ultra-left the daleks from Planet ICC weren't prepared to meet their gaze for fear of being accused of centrism, but all great things must come to pass and May 9th 2005 will be forever associated in my mind with the news that the From Despair To Where team capitulated to "Parliamentary Cretinism", by way of wading through the "swamp" on their way to the polling booths on May 5th. (Sorry lads, couldn't resist.)
It's akin to when Mo Johnston signed for Rangers; or when the Manic Street Preachers didn't split up like they said they would after releasing Generation Terrorists; or even when I discovered that Emma Thompson wasn't Suzy Kettles in real life. Something inside me has died.
PS - You know I love you guys really. It's just that I didn't expect it so soon. Looks like Dave never will write that final chapter of his political autobiography.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Maurice Brinton and the SPGB (Sort Of)

Following on from the recent death of Maurice Brinton that was blogged about here, here and here , and John from C & S not so recent post about a collection of his writings, cut and pasted below is a review of the selected writings of Maurice Brinton that will appear in a future issue of the Socialist Standard. Many thanks to the author of the piece for allowing me to reprint it here first. [POI: The links contained within the article have been added by myself.]

For Workers’ Power. The Selected Writings of Maurice Brinton. Edited by David Goodway. AK Press. 2004. £12.

One of the features of the radical political scene in the 1960s and 70s was a magazine called Solidarity which used to publish long and rather boring accounts of factory life and of particular and now long-forgotten industrial disputes. There were also translations of equally long articles by someone identified as "Paul Cardan" (later revealed to be the French intellectual Cornelius Castoriadis) offering a replacement critique of capitalism to that of Marx judged outdated and wrong.
Those behind it had been in the Communist Party and, though for a short while only, in the Trotskyist Socialist Labour League. One of them was Maurice Brinton (also known as Martin Grainger and Chris Pallis) who, from this selection of his articles over the period 1960 to 1985, appears to have been its leading theoretician. Born in 1923 he died earlier this year.

What characterised Solidarity was its complete rejection of Leninism and the concept of the Vanguard Party and its advocacy of Workers Councils (as opposed to parliament as well as the vanguard party) as the way to socialism. In their view, a revolutionary organisation should not seek to lead the working class but simply to be an instrument that workers could use to transform society; at the same time it should try to prefigure in its organisation and decision-making what future society should be like, practising "self-management" and encouraging workers to rely on their own efforts rather than trust in leaders. So, some of what Solidarity was saying was more or less the same as we were. For example:
"If the working class cannot come to understand socialism - and want it - there can be no socialist perspective. There can only be the replacement of one ruling elite by another" (March 1969).
"For us, revolutionaries are not an isolated elite, destined to any vanguard role. They are a product (albeit the most lucid one) of the disintegration of existing society and of the growing awareness of what it will have to be replaced by" (February 1972).
"We consider irrational (and/or dishonest) that those who talk most of the masses (and of the capacity of the working class to create a new society) should have the least confidence in people’s ability to dispense with leaders" ("As We Don’t See It", 1972).
Like us, they mercilessly denounced Leninism, Trotskyism and Vanguardism as not only mistaken but as positively dangerous, as the ideology of a new would-be ruling class based on state capitalism.
There were differences of course, particularly over Workers Councils as opposed to Parliament as well as over the continuing relevance of Marx’s analyses and over the content of a socialist society. Because we saw the basic division in capitalist society as being between owners and non-owners we saw common ownership, and the consequent disappearance of buying and selling, money and the market, as a necessary feature of socialism. Solidarity was not so clear on this. Following Castoriadis it saw the basic division in capitalist society as being between order-givers and order-takers and so the basic feature of future society as being "self-management" (which would of course be one such feature, what we call "democratic control"). From this angle, the disappearance of money and the market was regarded as secondary: whether or not to use them being a mere policy option open to those around at the time. This became clear in the translation published in 1972 under the title Workers’ Councils and the Economics of a Self-Managed Society of a long article by Castoriadis, written in 1957, which was basically a blueprint for the workers self-management of a market economy.

Brinton was aware that this was controversial and in the introduction (reproduced in this book) he wrote (in a thinly disguised reference to us) that "some will see the text as a major contribution to the perpetuation of wage slavery - because it still talks of ‘wages’ and doesn’t call for the immediate abolition of ‘money’".

He was right. Some did, and not only us. Such "councilism" (management of a market economic by workers’ councils, which we denounced as "workers’ self-exploitation") led to the breakaway of groups which later became the "left communist" CWO and ICC of today, which despite their partial return to Leninism, at least adhered to the view that socialism/communism had to be a moneyless, wageless society.

This, in fact, is not the only place where Brinton looked over his shoulder at us. As early as 1961 he was explaining that "whilst rejecting the substitutionism of both reformism and Bolshevism, we also reject the essentially propagandist approach of the Socialist Party of Great Britain", a theme he returned to in 1974 in a review of a book on the sexual revolution which advocated achieving this through education: "to confine oneself to such an attitude would be to restrict oneself to the role of a sort of SPGBer of the sexual revolution".

In fact, in his two main writings, both published in 1970, The Irrational in Politics and The Bolsheviks and Workers’ Control he felt the need to have a go at us. In the former he suggested that the Socialist Standard only discussed economic and political topics and ignored the problems of everyday life (not true as a look through the issues of the time will show). In the latter he wrote that we, like some anarchists, took the view that nothing particularly significant had happened in 1917: "The SPGB (Socialist Party of Great Britain) draw much the same conclusion, although they attribute it to the fact that the wages system was not abolished", adding in a wild caricature of our position "the majority of the Russian population not having had the benefit of the SPGB viewpoint (as put by spokesmen duly sanctioned by their Executive Committee) and not having then sought to win a Parliamentary majority in the existing Russian institutions". Of course, our analysis was much deeper than that.

To be quite honest such criticisms did find some echo amongst some of our members in the 1970s who eventually got themselves expelled for publishing material advocating workers’ councils rather than parliament as the way to socialism. But this was later to cause a problem for Brinton and Solidarity since the ex-SPGBers in question became the "Social Revolution" group which, as Goodway records in his introduction, merged with Solidarity to become "Solidarity for Social Revolution". For all their other disagreements with us, these ex-members still retained the conception of socialism as a moneyless and wageless as well as a classless and stateless society, and insisted on the new merged group adopting this position. Brinton eventually went along with this, though reluctantly, and afterwards revealed (see his 1982 article "Making A Fresh Start") that he regarded this merger - which didn’t last - as bringing to an end Solidarity’s golden age of 1959 to 1977. Ironically, something seems to have rubbed off on him, as the last-dated article in this collection (from 1985) ends:
"A socialist society would therefore abolish not only social classes, hierarchies and other structures of domination, but also wage labour and production for the purpose of sale or exchange on the market".
Brinton is a good writer, so this book reads well and stands as a record of one strand of radical thinking in the 1960s and 70s. It goes well with our own centenary publication Socialism Or Your Money Back which also reproduces articles from this period.


Courtesy of an old post from Skookum Talk comes the following link to a website that devotes a large part of its bandwidth to the subversive art of stencil graffitti. However much I can admire someone who can stencil a lifelike image of Alice Cooper or Audrey Hepburn on a slab of concrete, like Skooks, my real preference is for the politically subverting stencil; an image that can raise a wry chuckle by way of making a political point. The image above is one such politically directed stencil and allows me the opportunity to go into one of my 'We Could Have Been A Contender' style rambles.
A couple of years back, after finishing a twilight shift at a factory I was temping at - when I should have really been studying the footnotes of the Grundrisse in the original German - I opted instead to veg out in front of the TV and watch a bit of late night telly. Flicking the remote control over to Channel Four I chanced upon one of those 'Alt-TV' programmes that Channel Four likes to make, and I usually like to snore through, but on this occasion I was intrigued by a feature on the graffitti artist Banksy, an "Urban Stencilist,"* who at that time was just starting to make a name for himself through his imaginative and subversive graffiti that he was peppering the London landscape with on the sly.
Having one of those all too rare momentary glimpses of political optimism - I think being knackered weakened my usual resolve of cynicism and despair - I decided to try and track 'Banksy' down and ask if he would be interested in doing one of his political subversive stencils on a wall in South West London that in times gone past has been variously described as: "Karl Marx's bunker"; "The House of Lost Election Deposits"; and "You mean that bricked up dirty bookshop on Clapham High Street? It sells political magazines as well? That's perverse."
I realised that this was a bit of a step up from the usual business of contacting someone on behalf of the Socialist Party for a political favour when, after finding his contact address on his website, and giving him my spiel via email, I received an email from an associate of his a couple of days later informing me that Banksy would be getting back to me on the matter of my request once he returned from an exhibition he was doing in New York. "Getting back to me" meant that he had my mobile number, and whilst he was totting up on his air miles and duty free, I would be standing on an assembly line that: ". . . under no circumstances should someone leave this line whilst it is in operation, and stop the flow of production . . . " waiting for a phone call from him and which resulted in it not going down too well with my line supervisor when I twice steamed off the line in my best impersonation of Billy Whizz when my phone rang only to find that the first time it was a wrong number, and the second time it was a comrade ringing up to ask if I could remember what name the Alliance for Workers Liberty went under before they became Socialist Organiser. He had got into a political argument in the pub the other night and there was a pint riding on it.
A few weeks passed and hearing nothing back from him, I thought no more about the matter and got down to the serious business of contemplating those life inponderables that always keep me awake at night: What happened to Texan Bars? What . . . erm, that's it - it's a recurring thought of mine. Then one day the phone rang - of course, you knew that was going to happen - and at the other end of the line was this thick west country accent that owed more to a Laurie Lee novel than to the Late Review, and it was Banksy telling me that he had been by the office, had a read of the literature in the window and it had given him some graffitti ideas that would look the biz' on the wall, and that he was really keen on the idea of doing the mural. I was enthusiastic but initially a wee bit cautious in my reply, explaining that I would have to first run the idea by our administrative committee to get the green light on him being able to do it [had I not mentioned that this flight of fancy of mine had come totally leftfield and I had yet to mention it to the other comrades? I can be like that sometimes] but I was sure that they would be up for the idea, and started getting ahead of myself by sounding off to him: "Yeah, if you are happy with the arrangement, you could do a new image every six months or so. Think of the tens of thouands of people who go by the building either on foot or in transport every day?"**
After committing the script of Tony Hancock's 12 Angry Men to memory, and studying the body language of Spencer Tracey in Inherit The Wind, I deployed my best advocacy skills and made a convincing case for the admin committee giving the green light to the idea of Banksy doing a suitably *cough* anti-capitalist mural on the front wall of the Head Office. It must have been a particularly strong argument that I put forward that balmy Saturday in late October 'cos the last thing I heard was this wee snippet of dialogue from two colleagues both to me and themselves:
"Darren, jutting out your bottom lip and bursting into tears with the words 'But I've already told him he can do it' is not becoming in a grown man. If you promise to come down from the roof, we will let him do the mural, but if we aren't happy with the end result we will be painting over it with your brains."
"Comrade Chair, in that eventuality, I don't think that there will be enough material to cover up a tenth of the mural. Therefore, I propose that we also get in a five litre tin of dulux emulsion as back up."***
So how come when I had got my way by employing the best Socratic method of argument in getting the go ahead for the mural for our Office, there isn't a Bansky special on Clapham High Street with attendant camera happy Japanese tourists posing in front of it alongside a life size paper mache model of Karl Marx made out of old back issues of the Socialist Standard? Well, in the best fashion of the SPGB of losing a revolution, and finding a lost election deposit to replace it with, we blew it. It's not a good idea to try and lay down too many ground rules with these creative types, and after we had second thoughts about the method by which he would go about doing the mural, he obviously thought it was more trouble than it was worth, and didn't get back to us. He's a difficult man to get hold of at the best of times, never being photographed without first obscuring his face, and it now means that I have more chance of bumping into Beth Orton after she slapped that restraining order on me than getting Bansky to have second thoughts about doing that mural.
What's happened to Banksy since our parting of the ways? Well, aside from blowing the best gig he could have ever got (with a few back issues of the Socialist Standard thrown in for good measure), he has - amongst other things - since designed the cover of this Blur album ; been part of a major Greenpeace sticker campaign; got so many big write ups in the Guardian and elsewhere in the Mediarati that I keep half expecting to pick up a copy of Hello magazine someday and see a 12 page feature on 'Banksy does interior design for Europe's Minor Royalty'; and the last time I read about him in the media was only last month after he done a bit "culture jamming" in and around the museums of New York.
And that mural he was thinking of doing for Clapham High Street? I saw it a few months later in Kings Cross spray painted on the steel shutters of a Sex Shop that had been shut down as part of the regeneration of Kings Cross. And the bricked up building in Clapham still gets knocks on the door from middle aged men in dirty macs asking for the November 2003 issue of Spick and Span.
Does that qualify as irony?
* No, I don't know what it means either.
** In obscure lefty terms this is a well known phenomenon, otherwise known as "This time next year, we will be Morrisonians" syndrome. Mark Steel recounted in his wonderfully funny political memoir Reasons To Be Cheerful that he suffered from the same delusional syndrome when he first became politicised and thought that by handing out a do it yourself propaganda leaflet outside his local job centre in Swanage that the ripple effect of his revolutionary prose would make Petrograd 1917 and Paris 1968 pale into comparison with the revolutionary upheaval in Penge 1981.
*** Motion carried 6-1, with two abstentions.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Extremist Makeover

Just a few notices in connection with the Socialist Party of Great Britain:
  • Report of the final days of the election campaign in the Vauxhall Parliamentary Constituency is currently available at the Vaux Populi blog. (Including someone doing their best Ivor Crewe impersonation.)
  • Newly designed homepage for the World Socialist Movement website. Feedback appreciated, but realise that it is part of an ongoing overhaul.
  • That's Entertainment!: Details of the 2005 Socialist Party Summer School which will once again be held in Birmingham.
  • Glasgow/Edinburgh Branches Joint Day School Saturday 14th May 1pm-5pm 'Socialism: Dream or Reality? ' For more details of the meeting, click on the link.
  • The latest issue of Imagine, the journal of the Socialist Party of Canada, Companion Party of the World Socialist Movement.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Mutha' Glasgow

Reidski is giving me earache in my comments section to write more blogs, so this wee snippet is for the benefit for my favourite Morning Star reader. It's just to let him know that I'm still alive, despite going to the gym and doing myself a mischief after seeing my belly being outed in Perspective. (I'm having to write this blog from a bath chair, my legs being that sore four days after going to the gym. Who knows, I might even go inside the gym next time.)
Of course, being a wee snippet, it has to be a lift from someone else's blog, but I loved this post from Kevin Williamson's The Scottish Patient blog from a few day's back. In the back of taxis in London you are subjected to rants from the physical embodiment of Daily Mail editorials about the impending fall of civilisation; in the back of taxis in Glasgow, you get riffs from taxi drivers on The Fall's contribution to civilisation-aah.*
There is definitely something different about Glasgow that means it is always out of step with other places. Visiting it for only the second time in a number of years a few weeks back, I realised I was experiencing something a tad different from London when the busker on Sauchiehall Street prefaced his song with the words: "This next song's about the Highland Clearances."
It beats a tin eared version of 'Year of the Cat' at the bottom of Oxford Circus tube escalator any day of the week.
* My Mark E. Smith impersonation.