Thursday, March 31, 2005

Vodka and Voting Patterns

Via Alister at Perspective, an article from this week's New Statesman that takes in Glaswegian first time voters drinking Vodka and Irn Bru, Le Tigre and partial confirmation of the old political observation that if you want to know how someone is going to vote in the West of Scotland, ask them who their grandparents vote for.
I say "partial" because slowly but surely there are wee small indications that things are finally moving. Just don't expect it this side of Dundee Utd qualifying for the Champions League.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Stop Me If You've Read This Link Before

Before there were bloggers there were Smiths fans, and it was going to happen eventually that, according to today's Guardian, plans are now afoot for an Academic Conference devoted to the study and dissection of the Smiths back catalogue and its impact on the cultural landscape. The Conference Organisers are quoted as saying:
"The music of the Smiths contained an emotional depth and a technical virtuosity that moved people in a way that almost no other band has managed before or since. In spite of their enormous cultural significance and personal resonance, the Smiths have yet to receive sustained academic attention. To date, there have been remarkably few serious examinations of the band. The purpose of this symposium is to put that right . . ."
Which, roughly translated, means: "We are Smiths fans with PhDs, and we know how to score a cushy academic junket when we want to."
David Lodge, eat your heart out.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Return To Sender

"He's living in one of those big massive tower blocks in the Sandyhills area. It's where all the husbands kicked out of the house end up after spending a couple of weeks in the hostel. They call the tower block Heartbreak Hotel."

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Capitalism & Other Kids Stuff

Four Socialists came together in a wee church hall in Hebburn one Saturday a few weeks back, and made the film Capitalism and Other Kids Stuff. OK, it's more 1980s Open University than Kevin Smith's Clerks but watch this space. Capitalism is ready for its close up.

Book Survey Meme Update

Stuart of From Despair To Where fame has kept his side of the bargain and completed the Book Survey Meme mentioned in a previous post. We are definitely kindred spirits with our mutual admiration for Patrick Hamilton and Charles Bukowski.
I've always meant to read Confederacy of Dunces, and Stuart's strong recommendation means that it gets bumped up the list of books that I should read in the immediate future. Mention of Disaffection is also an interesting choice. I read the novel about 13 years ago, when I jumped headlong into all things Kelman, but I have to be honest and admit that my memory of the novel today is at best sketchy. However, all these years on, I remember enough of the novel to understand where Stuart is coming from when he writes: "This novel makes for very uncomfortable reading. Too close to the bone. But bloody brilliant. The last book to make me cry."
Maybe it's time for me to re-read it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Fray Bentos

The BBC's report of the mixed reviews for the American version of The Office allows me to bring to your attention this old post from August of last year.
Come back bit torrent: I miss you.

Marx Without Engels On A Street Corner

Any Street Corner has posted an excellent post on the subject of The Victims of the Metropolis, and it gives me the opportunity to mention that I have added his excellent blog to the sidebar.
I've also taken the opportunity, whilst benefiting from this sudden burst of energy, to add the Marx Myths & Legends blog and website to the respective sidebars.
Now, if I could only have a volunteer to put all the links in alphabetical order then that would be champion.

Phil Evans

Picasa is playing silly buggers again so I have to write a separate post to accompany the wonderful Phil Evans cartoon that I have just uploaded below.
It's amazing the amount of crap that you accumulate over a number of years. The bloke who spoke of the paperless office all those years ago should be taken outside and battered senseless with a rolled up copy of a Viking Catalogue*, but you do occasionally stumble across a wee gem and lucky enough this cartoon that had been cut out of an old copy of Tribune from March 1994 - when I still pretended to read Tribune - fell out from amongst some papers I was sifting through this morning.
I've always loved Phil Evans cartoons. I will still try and root out old International Socialist/Socialist Workers Party pamphlets in dusty secondhand lefty bookshops (otherwise known as Porcupine) to see if any of his cartoons are included within, when he was their leading cadre-toonist**, and however much I love the acerbic wit of Jim Higgins in his More Years For The Locust, I know I love the book just as much because of the wonderfully funny cartoons from Phil Evans that accompany the text.
My admiration for Evans is such that I made myself look a bit of an arse when I attended a Free Speech special event late last year to celebrate an anniversary held at Conway Hall in honour of the South Place Ethical Society. A friend who also attended the event briefly introduced me to Martin Rowson, who he knew in some professional capacity, and rather than me making pleasant noises about how much I admired his work in the Guardian and elsewhere, and that his Scenes From The Lives of Great Socialists is arguable the greatest collection of bad socialist puns*** this side of a Socialist Standard Editorial Committee meeting, I instead became all manic and enthused: "Do you know Phil Evans? Do you, do you? Whatever happened to him? Where can I see his work?" in a manner that would have made Robin Williams in his manic cocaine fuelled days look like the human equivalent of a sloth. Rowson**** just looked at me with lofty disdain - in doing this, it helps that he looks a bit like Peter Hitchens - probably thinking something along the lines of who is this idiot, and why are we sharing the same air and I beat a hasty exit stage left to snaffle some more of the wee posh sandwiches you get at these sort of dos.
Though you will stumble across his cartoons occasionally on the net, lifted from the aforementioned IS pamphlets and old copies of Socialist Worker and elsewhere, it seems a crying shame that there doesn't appear to be a webpage anywhere specifically devoted to his work. I think he is up there with Steve Bell in the political cartoon stakes and if me scanning this one brilliant pic in so that it now appears in the google search engine when someone types in the words 'Phil Evans', then it wouldn't have been too bad a day.
* Before anyone says anything, I will flog varitations of that hackneyed joke until the ravens finally leave the Tower of London.
** That particularly bad pun is especially dedicated to Hak Mao.
*** I refuse to elaborate for reasons of not wishing to inflict too much bad humour in my footnotes (see ** for what I'm referring to) but if I was to mention the phrases "trained seal" and "Proper tea is theft" I think you can get the gist. If you can't, think yourself fortunate. I wish I was in your Chuck Taylors.
**** Before I get stabbed with a blunt ink nib one dark night by a bloke who looks like - or was it sounds like? - Peter Hitchens, it has to be said that Martin Rowson gave an absolutely brilliant speech from the platform. One of the funniest and most incisive speakers I have ever seen at a public meeting. And bearing in mind, I've seen this guy speak, that is no mean feat. I'm glad my social faux pas earlier on in the evening helped gee him up for his speech. He had a point to prove.

Phil Evans - The Man who decided to redefine Socialism

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Desert Island Risks

Found this via the always excellent Any Street Corner blog, and apparently it is what is known as a Book Survey Meme. I'm never one to pass up the opportunity to pad out the blog by trying to pass off a survey as a bona fide post, so here goes:
You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?
An obvious choice but it would have to be Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita. I've read it now at least four times (not counting the times I dip into it), and even dragged myself out to see a stage adaptation, and no matter how many times I've read it I always find something different within its pages. Who wouldn't want to be a novel that can in turn make you laugh out loud and then within a few pages make you stare with awe that such a moving and profound book could have been written at the height of one of the monster regimes of the twentieth century? Bulgakov was right, manuscripts don't burn. People will be reading this novel 100 years from now, and I wish I could read it again for the first time.
Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
Mmm, that is a hard question. At a push, and after racking my brains I would have to say Scully from Alan Bleasdale's book of the same name. I loved that character when I first read the book twenty years ago.
The last book you bought is:
The last book you read:
The Return of Karl Marx by Grey Lynn (Novel published during the Second World War, with an introduction by Herbert Read.)
What are you currently reading?
Rereading both Voltaire's Candide and Jaroslav Hasek's The Good Soldier Schweik.
Five books you would take to a deserted island
Don Quioxte by Miguel De Cervantes (Never read it, and I've always meant to.)
The Dance of the Apprentices by Edward Gaitens (A book that I will always reread.)
Collected Short Stories of Grace Paley (Insight, wit and politics packed into stories shorter than it takes me to write a note to the milkman.)
Conspiracy of Hope by Michael Cannon (A neglected gem, and the Amazon review gets it all wrong.)
Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell (Another obvious choice, but it did strongly affect me on reading it for the first time when I was 15 years old. Despite what some people might say, its strength is that it is in itself a good novel, irrespective of whether or not you agree with its politics.)
Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?
Stuart at From Despair To Where because he is an even bigger bibliomaniac than myself, and I know that he will be sure to serve up a good list of books, and the reasons why I should read or re-read them. (I was tempted to instead nominate his fellow depairado, Dave, but do I really need to hear or read once again why the novelisation of Braveheart is his favourite novel of all time?)
Kara at Radio Active because it was through Kara that I finally got round to reading the wonderful To Kill A Mockingbird; because she has been known to stick the boot into Chuck Palahnuik on occasion, and because she will be sure to write of novels that don't include the words 'News' 'From' 'Nowhere' in the title.
John at A Revolutionary Act because he will tell me once again why I should read Emile Zola's Germinal.
John at A Revolutionary Act has picked up the baton and posted his version of events, revealing in the process that he is looking at the Fahrenheit 451 question through the wrong end of the telescope, and reminding me - in an echo of his answer to the question - that I could have opted for Julie Christie's character in Truffaut's film version of Fahrenheit 451 as my answer rather than a fictional scally from the backstreets of Liverpool. Only drawback to that option is that I haven't read the novel and have no idea of her character's name. Just minor complications, but I'm working on it.

Charlie Bubbled

Found via Harry's Place, Marx Myths and Legends looks a fascinating website and blog that I will definitely have to bookmark for future reference and self-education.
As Andy Blunden - who has already done a lot of excellent work on the Marxist Internet Archive - and Rob Lucas explain in their introduction to the website, part of the purpose of the project is to get people to read and study: " . . . Marx just as you would read anyone else: critically and for yourself, not uncritically or secondhand. Marx Myths & Legends will have succeeded as a project if it at least helps some to begin to study Marx with a strong mistrust for the prejudices, preconceptions and layers of congealed misinterpretation that surround his life and work."
The serious heavyweight writers whose essays are included on the website include Harry Cleaver, Cyril Smith and Hal Draper, but I'm especially pleased to see that the late Maximilien Rubel has an essay posted that has been newly translated from the French* by Rob Lucas.
Rubel, perhaps best known on this blog as co-editor with John Crump of Non-Market Socialism in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century, was part of that "thin red line" of revolutionaries who rejected both Leninism and Social Democracy. From reading an obituary of Rubel that appeared in the Socialist Standard a few years back - unfortunately not online - I remember getting the impression that Rubel was almost a throwback to the extreme left of the Second International era (the same was said of Lucien Laurat); someone who came to reject the post 1917 orthodoxy that 'Marxism' (yeah, I know, sort of goes against the grain of the website and blog advertised in this post) was somehow incomplete if it was not hyphenated with 'Leninism'.
The following articles from the Socialist Party of Great Britain website can be read in conjunction with the articles listed in the website above: Marx In His Time and Karl Marx's Declaration of Principles.
* There appears to be an excellent webpage devoted to Rubel's work. I say 'appears to be' because it is all in French, and five years of sleeping through French in school means that I can't go much beyond: 'Je m'appelle Darren'. Merde.

Counting Down: 9456, 9455, 9454, 9453, 9452 . . . .

It's a funny and inventive read, but I think Gordon Legge done it better with his 'Life on A Scottish Council Estate' short stories.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Ramsay McCover-Versions

Somebody's ears must have been burning, 'cos there was me only just the other day taking the opportunity to pour scorn on Chris Dean of Redskins fame, and now John from Counago and Spaves mentions that a Redskins tribute album is just about to be released.
John's mention of the Three Johns reminded me that I hadn't listened to the Mekons 'Ghosts of American Astronauts' in absolute ages, so this post is dedicated to the good man himself for prompting me to listen to that beautiful song once again.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

I'm Your Number One Fan

A Blogger writes: Off on a tangent, this post was supposed to be about something else - the original content will probably turn up in the next post - but a throwaway line in the original post mutates it into something completely different so I may as well post it for the sake of it. I'm getting paid by the word.
Confession time folks, sad bastard that I am, I can only hold my hands up to writing two fan letters in my life. The part I play up to on this blog, where every second post relates to eighties pop music suggests that at least one, if not both, fan letters must be to one of the pop stars beaming forth from the old Smash Hits covers that I had specially laminated and tacked to my bedroom ceiling but the truth of the matter is that both letters were politically related and written around about the same time - when I was 16 or 17.
One was to Robert Barltrop, the author of, amongst other things, an excellent biography of Jack London but also of The Monument: The Story of the Socialist Party of Great Britain. Both titles are recommended reads as Barltrop has an effortless writing style, and in the case of the latter book he wrote an endearing book that can only warm you to the Socialist Party, warts and all. Two quick points do have to be made about the book:
Firstly, it is surprising just how many people have read it down the years and will discuss it with you at length when they discover your political loyalties. Published originally in the mid-seventies by Pluto Press, it does point to a time when both the Party and the interest in its tradition and history had a far wider reach than it does today.
Secondly, it has to be said that the emphasis on the title of the book should be 'Story'. By all accounts, Barltrop, as someone who himself was a member of the Socialist Party on and off for over 25 years, did take the opportunity when writing the book to settle a few inner Party scores, emphasising those aspects of the tradition that he was more in tune with and giving short shrift to those ideas that emerged within the Party in the late sixties and early seventies. He also played up to a certain image of the Party that is best understood in its age old nickname: that of 'The Small Party of Good Boys'. Originally conjured up as a nickname to gently mock the Socialist Party for its emphasis on its call for peaceful democratic socialist revolution which can only be brought about by a majority of the working class with socialist consciousness, it has become over the years a nickname that the Party has taken to heart. The book, like the nickname, conjured up an image of an organisation that is quintessentially English, and is both eccentric and harmless. It's a characterisation that only has one foot in the truth, and neglects an alternative history that was far spikier, class conscious and politically combative than most friends and foes have given it credit for down the years.
Well this post started off as a tangent, and I'm now off on a tangent of a tangent, so to drag it back to some sort of conclusion, the letter to Barltrop was a gushing fan letter (as much for the Jack London book as for the Monument) masquerading as a serious enquiry about questions raised from the both the content of the latter book and its publishing history. Feeling a bit embarrassed about writing such a letter, I couched it in self-deprecating terms and mentioned at the end of the letter that I hoped I wasn't wasting his time unnecessarily.
I still have his handwritten reply somewhere. Written in beautiful copperplate that only the old folk can do nowadays, he wrote back gently admonishing me that he hoped I wasn't "writing a letter for the sake of it" and answered my query at length and in depth. Not sure if there was a Japanese translation of the Monument like he said in his letter, but it was nice that he replied. Let's be honest, if I had written to Pete Wylie I would have been lucky to get a 10 x 8 blurred black and white photo with his signature forged by his Auntie back in Bootle. Sinful.

More Posh Than Mosh

The only thing more pointless to the actual article itself in today's Observer is the fact that I am linking to it. My only excuse - a threadbare one at that - is that it allows me to ask: Whatever did happen to Chris Dean, and why isn't he included on the list?* *This post was written whilst humming the song 'Common People'.


Remember that brilliant America sitcom from the last century, Soap? No? Here, have a link to refresh yours and my memory.
Well I sort of remember that at the start of every episode there would be the dulcet tones of a voiceoverguy giving a reprise of what had been happening in recent episodes along the lines of: "Chuck's seeing Audrey whose just discovered she is the half-sister of Kenny's chiropodist who is in love with Stella who was gun running for Cletus who got mixed up with the PRFMLA* after visiting the Priest he had the passionate affair with that time he went to Mexico with Sylvia for that partial exorcism by way of joining the Peace Corps to avoid paying taxes on his jumping bean crop."** Confused? Not as much as Billy Crystal*** was twenty years later, when he decided to co-write and star in My Giant.
Erm, so that is my roundabout way of saying that this post is about me mentioning an excellent blog that Rullsenberg Rules found after she was sifting through the web because she read a wee throwaway piece about Lloyd Cole that I posted after Hak Mao mentioned a couple of the lines off one of his songs, 'Perfect Skin', that she happened to hear on a radio that had been switched on by Will Rubbish (whatever happened to him?) to drown out the noise of Cuthbert Peterson getting into an argy-bargy row with Meaders at Dead Men Left whilst Lenny was thumbing through his dog eared copy of Lenny Bruce's 'Suitable Profanities On Four Different Street Corners'**** for more choice insults and brickbats at that same time as Mark of Charlotte Street fame was battering PB Deb sensible with a rolled up copy of the London Review Books (you know, that issue with the 6000 word essay by Benji of Harry's Place comments box fame: 'Playing Good Soldier Svejk In The Blogosphere In The 21st Century') Throw in a carefree namecheck of Virtual Stoa, Normski and Apostate Windbag for good measure and before I can spell out extreme tracking and technocrati on my etch-a-sketch pad, I'll get a few visits along the lines of: "Mmm, wonder what this blogger is saying about me", and I'll pass a wee figure (see post passim) to round off the weekend. This post would not have been necessary if another blogger had helped me out by artificially inflating the blog's viewing figues but she knocked me back.
Any blogger this side of Bratislava not mentioned in this post, apologies. I'm sure I will get round to you next time I've an attack of the sitemeter magic number finishing tape in sight, and I need to boost the viewing figures for the blog. I could have just typed in "Johnny Depp + chocolate spread" and got the passing viewers that way, but I'm not that shameless.
*Popular Radical Front of Marxist Leninist Anarchists
** Mental note to self - totally rip out this section of the post, and cut and paste something that bears some resemblance to the sitcom under discussion. A few jokes wouldn't go amiss either.
*** Further mental note to self. Drag back to the sitcom itself, by mentioning Billy Crystal who happened to be one of the ensemble cast of Soap.
**** Don't try and find it on Amazon, I bought the last copy. Check out Gravy Train instead; Lenny, Bill and Dennis would have been blushing down to their white cotton socks.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Tupped Full Of Vitamins

Hak Mao gives me a wee name check when taking Lloyd Cole to task for having an attack of the "Did he really write that line?" on the classic eighties pop single Perfect Skin.
All I can say to HM is that she should try and avoid the album Rattlesnakes at all costs. If she thinks that line cited is particularly painful she will have hours of agony listening to all the tracks on the album. The lyrics can only be described as the product of a bright but particularly pretentious English Lit undergrad student taking his first year reading list and crowbarring it into whose cited in that particular week's issue of Blitz magazine, circa 1983.
Naturally, I think it's one of the best albums of the eighties.

Catching Up - Part Two

Papillion at A Revolutionary Act continues to find ABC's of Socialism gobbets down the back of his sofa. Who would have thought you could squeeze so much material out of a tea stained back issue of Socialist View(RIP)?
Reasons To Be Impossible gives notice of the recent passing of two members of "thin red line": John Crump and Chris Pallis. As Bill mentions in relation to himself in his post, one really cannot underestimate the impact that Pallis's The Bolsheviks and Workers Control 1917 - 1921: The State and Counter-Revolution - written under the pen name of Maurice Brinton - had on the thinking of a lot of people when it came to the issue of the October Revolution and its "proletarian content", if you want to use the jargon.
Pallis was a leading member of Solidarity, the libertarian socialist group inspired by the French group Socialisme ou Barbarie, which had emerged out of the Socialist Labour League, and throughout the sixties and seventies punched above their weight politically and in publishing terms by bringing the ideas of Paul Cardan/Cornelius Castoriadis to a wider audience, whilst also republishing such works as Ida Mett's The Krondstadt Uprising and Alexandria Kollontai's The Workers Opposition.
I may be wrong but I get the impression that John Crump was also a member of Solidarity for a period in the mid-seventies when, following a merger with a group that had been expelled from the SPGB, Solidarity became Solidarity for Social Revolution. His best known work from this period, 'A Contribution To A Critique Of Marx', is available online here.
From speaking to an ex-member of Solidarity last year, it appears that there is a history of the organisation in the pipeline but in the meantime ex-member Paul Anderson gives his recollections of his time in the organisation in the eighties when it was coming to the end of its life*, and Louis Robertson speaks of his time in Solidarity in the seventies here.
*It has to be said that stylistically the issues of the Solidarity journal produced from the mid-eighties onwards should be collectors items, irrespective of their content. Beautifully produced, it is one of few occasions when one can mention socialism and style in the same sentence.
In my haste to get the full take on Paul Anderson recollections of his time in Solidarity, I didn't spot in his intro to the piece that it is in fact John Quail, of 'Slow Burning Fuse' fame, who is working on the history of Solidarity. It will be a must read.

Catching Up

Just a quick one. Hopefully back to regular blogging in a matter of hours, maybe not. Added some new blogs to the sidebar: The Apostate Windbag is the blog of a Canadian operating out of Belgium. From the IST tradition but of a critical bent and likes Victor Serge enough to namecheck him more often than I mention Lubo Moravcik. Nice line in invective and wide range of blogging interests, and in one of his posts he even mentions that Canadian singer songwriter who isn't Joni Mitchell. And I was beginning to think that Hayden was the figment of one blogger's imagination.
Abstract Boy is more than just a blog, covering in the main the blogger's wide ranging interest in music that I'm terminally out of touch with. A nice line in photos from the gigs he attends as well. I've linked his blog for the extra hipster kudos, and it saves me buying the NME everyweek. I can just borrow his muso opinions and pass them off as my own, and use the money I save from not buying the NME for buying the Genesis back catalogue that I've always promised myself
Rullsenberg Rules blog was the source of the excellent Calvin & Hobbes as Fight Club link, and appears to be good pals with John from Counago and Spaves, but deserves special mention for her special pleading for Douglas Henshall, star of such excellent films as This Year's Love and the god like Orphans.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Brattbakk Backpack*

Astralwerks has a wonderful roster of acts.

You can't go wrong with artists and groups as excellent as Craig Armstrong, the Beta Band, Badly Drawn Boy, Beth Orton and Radio 4 but my reason for namechecking Astralwerks in this post is to bring to the attention of as many people as possible the wonderful song (and accompanying video), 'I'd Rather Dance With You' by the Kings of Convenience.

I know the song is over a year old but I only stumbled across it a couple of days ago, and it has been lodged in my brain ever since. The rest of the album, Riot on An Empty Street, isn't too bad either but it does have a tendency to veer into China Crisis** territory occasionally, but more often than not they drag it back in time before the flourescent fingerless gloves get an airing.

*Don't ask.

** The obligatory eighties pop music reference. I'm already well aware of this blog's limitations.

Promises Committee

Cut and pasted below in its entirety is an article from the dusty vaults of the Socialist Party. Originally published in the December 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard, and reprinted in the 75th anniversary issue of the Socialist Standard in September 1979, I have always had a soft spot for the article because of its gentle whimsy, good political sense and easy writing style.
Why do I feel the need to reprint it on the blog now? No reason other than I thought I would post it purely as a curio. It was written and published at a time when arguably the Socialist Party was at its lowest ebb organisationally. Despite having the political consistency to oppose the First World War on class terms, its membership was decimated during the 1914-1918 period, with members either going underground, abroad or to jail for class conscious objection to the war, and the years immediately after the war was given over to a period of regroupment. Taking the position it did on the October Revolution of 1917 at such an early stage also undoubtedly contributed to further isolating the Socialist Party during this period.
Of course, the "new offices" and all the rest mooted in the article was never a viable reality during this period. However, it has to be said that from the late twenties through to the forties there is an argument that the Socialist Party was able to conduct a day to day propaganda blitz in London and in the other larger cities in Britain through its outdoor speaking pitches that present day members can't properly comprehend, and contributed to it having a profile that far outstripped its membership numbers and resources during this time.
That for a lot of people down the years - friend and foe alike - is the image that the Socialist Party will always be locked into: on an outdoor platform somewhere, dispensing caustic wit and throwing political brickbats at allcomers. An image that at times it has cultivated and thrived upon, but the memories of the big crowds and the brilliant speakers fades with each passing year. I mention this not as prelude to me dusting down the Red House Painters CDs to complete the melancholic mood, but just as a wee aside because the daft thing is that the Socialist Party is better placed now than ever before to reach out to a bigger audience than ever before through the advent of the internet and the World Wide Web.
Eighty-Two years on and there could finally be that daily "Socialist News" mentioned in the article, only now as a blog on the web. It's only early days but the innovation of Vaux Populi augurs well for a daily blog that will be able to make that connection between day to day issues and revolutionary socialist politics. (A few film reviews wouldn't go amiss as well.)
O.K, I'm rambling now (how's that site meter going?) - enjoy the article and remember you heard it here first that I was arguing that the Party should have an ongoing day to day blog as long ago as a year ago. I want that Red Plaque if it comes off, or at least buy me a fitting drink by way of congratulation.
The New Offices
(December 1923 Socialist Standard)

"No, Jack! I shall not join just yet. Your Party is right, your position sound, and your arguments conclusive. I admit all that, but I don't think the time is ripe. When that time comes, Jack, 'You may count on me.”

"And when do you think the time will be ripe, as you call it?"

"I haven't a ghost of a notion. But I'd like to see the workers wake up a bit , first. I'd like to see your Party bigger, more active, you know what I mean - more prominent.”

"So would I, friend. But apparently you have not seen our new headquarters, I can hear."

"New headquarters? I -"

"Listen! It is neither a pretentious, nor a massive building. We are not building it for posterity; we shall not need it long. Immediately to the right of the entrance hall, there is a book saloon wherein any work helpful to the furtherance of Socialism may be procured or consulted. Most of the leading periodicals are represented on the reading stands. To the left are the editorial offices, where the three official journals and numbers of pamphlets are produced"

"Three official journals? I –“

"Wait a minute. There is the Socialist Standard, now enlarged to forty pages, still appearing monthly and having all the characteristics of a first-class political review. There is the Socialist Tribune, a weekly summary of a more topical character. It focuses the reader's attention upon events whilst they are still current, and picks out the thread of history whilst it is being made. The Socialist News appears daily, and, I say it without boasting, is unique in the world's journalism. Not an advertisement appears in it. It is thus entirely free from subsidised matter, and is independent of any attempt at a capitalist boycott. It is smaller in size than the usual capitalist rag, but it is all meat. Its editorial and contributory staffs are well grounded in Marxian economics and their historical application. Its daily articles are the despair of the few remaining capitalist sheets, for the latter's long reliance upon reiterated lies and mass suggestion has broken down in face of hard economic facts. You cannot convince a man who is going down for the third time that he is not drowning by bawling through a megaphone fifteen times that all is for the best. And the workers were no longer convinced that capitalism was the only possible system, when they remembered the hard times before the war, the little glimpse of better times during the war's progress, and the return to bad times again afterwards. But I am digressing. There is a dispatch department at the back, and that about completes the ground floor. Upstairs there are writing rooms, studies, classrooms and committee rooms. There is a good-sized hall for lectures and public meetings, and there is even an information bureau, where anyone with a difficulty may seek Socialist 'counsel's opinion'. The most interesting perhaps ate the organiser's room, where information, facts and figures are compiled for the use of our staff of speakers and propagandists. There are other details you would find interesting, and even stimulating, but I think I have said enough to set you wondering."

"You have, Jack! I have been wondering where these premises are situated."

"There now! If you, a convinced Socialist, were only in the movement, you would know as much as I about it."

"Yes! But tell me, Jack, where are these new headquarters?"

"Well! At the moment, they are in my mind's eye. All we are waiting for is for you, and many others like you, to leave off waiting for the time to be ripe, and to come and help ripen it. We shall get our new offices and our new journals, when we get the funds. We shall get the funds when we get the members. We shall get the rnembers when you leave off waiting, as I said just now, and start working. Then will follow, not merely new offices and journals, but, greater than all else, a new social system -Socialism. Join up!"

Insert Cigarette Paper Anecdote Here

An abstract propagandist writes:
First it was Ken at Early Days Of A Better Nation signalling his disquiet, and now Harry has been choking on his cornflakes after reading an article by Martin Kettle in today's Guardian about the prospects of the Tories surprising everyone - including themselves? - by snatching victory from the jaws of defeat at the forthcoming General Election. Harry seems particularly affected by it all 'cos it has prompted him to launch into a trip down memory lane, seemingly scripted by Colin Welland with the soundtrack provided by the Style Council.
Don't splutter too loudly, Harry, or you will get this lot panicking as well:
"According to Tony Atkinson of Oxford University, the UK's leading expert on inequality, the top 1 per cent of the population now receive more of the nation's income than at any time since the 1930s.The Office for National Statistics reports that this group of 600,000 people doubled its wealth to £797bn in Labour's first six years. The share of national wealth taken by these super-rich has grown from 20 to 23 per cent, while the share of the poorest 50 per cent shrank from 10 per cent in 1986 to 5 per cent in 2002."
From John Kampfner's cover article The Bling Bling List in this week's New Statesman.


X Marks The Spot

Hak Mao marks International Women's Day. (The picture above this post should have accompanied this one, but Picasa has decided to wind me up instead.)

The Tiananmen Mothers

"The police follow me wherever I go," said Mrs Zhang. "When I wanted to go to the shops, they even joked about running the errand for me."
As part of the BBC's China week a report on the Tiananmen Mothers 16 years on.

Doing The Rounds

The surfeit of posts in recent days can be easily explained away by the fact that I have one eye on my sitemeter, seeing it inch towards a certain round figure, and when that happens I have a tendency to churn out the posts to help shuffle it along. This post should be seen in that spirit. (That and of course me wishing to bring to people's attention some wonderous links that will gladden the heart, lighten the soul and enrich the brain.)
A Revolutionary Act finally got round to that post about a member of the master race and and an electrical appliance. If he looked at that piece in the old copy of Freedom once at the weekend, he looked at it a hundred times. I guess it should be filed under gallows humour.
The Man Who Fell Asleep is still a must read with his weekly snippet of Tube Gossip. Though he toys with the reader that it may all simply be the concoction of a "diseased mind", I want to believe that he has overheard all these gems on the Tube whilst the rest of us pretend to read yesterday's Metro for the fifth time and avoid eye contact in the same fashion as Perseus when confronted with Medusa. If it is his "feverished imaginings", then I'll be obliged to dislike him for being an overly talented swine. I prefer to think of him as some Zelig type character who just happens to be in the right place at the right time.
A thoughful post from John at Counago and Spaves in response to Will Hutton's piece in Sunday's Observer about the 84-85 Miner's Strike. I was too young at the time to understand fully the impact of the Miners Strike but there is no doubting the impact of it is still felt twenty years down the line. Only last Friday, the Guardian carried an article about the hidden legacy of the pit closures, and the cottage industry that has sprung up in the media in the form of documentaries, TV dramas and novels over the past year only serve to highlight that it is now seen as one of those symbolic fractures in the British polity on a par with Suez in '57 or the great Oasis versus Blur controversy of 1995.
I guess I gauge from John's post a similarity with the position that he held at the time about the Strike and the Strikers with that of many members of the Socialist Party of the time. He writes: "It was a commonplace that defeat was likely for the miners and that they were led by a pig-headed, stubborn, ignorant, and tactically clueless leadership . . ." Even twenty years on it's the case that Scargill is held in an esteem by many for reasons that I still can't fully understand. It's not even a case of it being a variation on the old saying: "He's a bastard, but he's one of our bastards." Delete the second part of the previous sentence.
Many happy returns to Paul Anderson for celebrating the second anniversary of his Gauche blog yesterday. As well as mentioning it for reasons of padding out this post (quick check of the sitemeter - how you doing?), my other selfish reasons for mentioning the Gauche blog in despatches is in the hope that he will finally reply to my email about his promised review of Socialism Or Your Money Back. Linking to his second ever post on his blog, it turns out he was writing about Our 'Arry. Glad to know that it's not just 'Keef' and me, then.
Though seven inches of joy has apparently now consigned itself to the bloggers yard*, I'm hoping that its death has been prematurely reported. Just looking at some of the past posts from the blog, I've encountered my 'obsessed by eighties music' doppleganger, except this guy seems to have the moxy to back it all up. It's like a Proustian moment of biting into an old copy of Record Mirror to read write ups of such half forgotten pop acts like Strawberry Switchblade, Scarlett Fantastic, Two People and Age of Chance.
A music blog dedicated purely to cover versions? Too cheesy or an ingenius niche spot in a crowded market? Well, accapella versions of old Joe Jackson classics sitting side by side with the Kronos Quartet covering Television's Marquee Moon, only to be followed by Sebadoh recording of Foreigner Cold As Ice suggests that Cover, Right? has an arched eyebrow permanently tattooed to its homepage.
I'm afraid the one downside of music blogs is their tantalus like nature. Finding a long lost track that you have always wanted to listen to, only to discover that the mp3 was taken down days before is an occupational hazard. The latest example of this is finding details of Seona Dancing at the Lost Bands of the New Wave music blog, and knowing that for the time being that I have to settle for the memory of that 15 second clip of Ricky Gervais singing his wee heart out as part of Seona Dancing on Razzmattazz as shown on an old episode of Before They Were Famous. You just know in his heart of hearts that he would give up his Golden Globes for that front cover of Smash Hits back in 1983.
*"Bloggers Yard" Copyright of Reasons To Be Impossible

Monday, March 07, 2005

A Variation On Stealing Traffic Cones

It's not his fault that the journalist writing the piece decided to describe him "madcap", so good luck in Richard Smith's endeavour to travel across America breaking arcane and bizarre laws.

Swing Voter

"We looked for his motive and we found he was displeased with the social reality." President Chen was slightly injured by a bullet as he campaigned in an open-top jeep in the southern city of Tainan. He went on to win re-election by a margin of less than 0.2%. Opposition supports say the shooting swung the vote in Mr Chen's favour.
A sad irony to a sad story.

Sitemeter Sightings

OK, it's not on a par with that time one of my emails turned up on Redwatch*, but it's comical that the following two have recently been having a read of the blog:
A livejournal type who admits to loving Oliver Kamm, voting Tory at some point in his life and liking the opinions of Richard Littlejohn. His redeeming feature is that he mentioned my blog on a live journal thread and that he supports Arsenal. There is good and bad in all of us.
Demoncratic Blunderground must have choked on his prejudices when he clicked on the 'Next Blog' button and was confronted with this blog. A ball of hate in pretty font colours. Weird thing is, I look like that nerdy bloke ready to take a pummelling in the picture on the top right hand side of the homepage. I'm sure it can't be me though - I would have fainted by that point, and I wouldn't be seen dead in white trainers.
* Sorry, no link provided. A sinister wee site run by some Nazis in the North of England. Like to intimidate political opponents by posting details of people on their website. Certainly sends a chill up the spine.
CORRECTION - It appears I was too hasty in attributing to the LVT a special penchant for Richard Liitlejohn. My apologies for that. I hope he understands that it is simply down to the fact that socialists can't do irony. Though we both come out of this laughing: He gets my fulsome apology, and I get a few more hits to the blog.

Everything Must Go

The From Despair To Where? team have posted the first part of their promised series on the political journey that they have undertaken in recent years. As the post indicates, more to follow.
A cleverer blogger than myself could have signposted their journey in MSP song titles but for the moment I'll just settle with Everything Must Go. It could have been worse; the original thought in my head was Archives of Pain.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

How Do I Know This Crap?

From today's Observer 'This Much I Know' column:
"My grandfather Tommy Douglas was the first socialist to come to power in North America. He introduced a provincial healthcare system in Saskatchewan, which was ultimately adopted as the federal healthcare system. Having grown up as part of that legacy, my choice to become an actor is quite selfish, really." Kiefer Sutherland, actor.
That, and the alcohol intake, got me to thinking about other examples of Hollywood and the left. Not the obvious ones, John Howard Lawson, Vanessa Redgrave and the rest can stay in the Green Room. I'm talking about the really obscure stuff. The ones that get you the "You sad bastard" looks when you try and crowbar these gems of useless information into conversations to show how well read and well rounded you are.
Off hand, I can think of another four - biscuit tin roll please:
  • Elsa Lanchester - Brilliant comic actress. Best known for her starring role in James Whales' Bride of Frankenstein, but also appeared in such other brilliant films as The Private Life of Henry VIII, Lassie Come Home and even had a bit part in one of my favourite films of all time - sorry Lassie - Sullivan's Travels. Why am I rambling on about her? 'Cos she was the daughter of Edith Lanchester, Social Democratic Federation Executive Committee member in the 1890s.*
  • Angela Lansbury - Star of such brilliant films as Gaslight, The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Manchurian Candidate, she is best know for twee afternoon crime mystery drama, Murder She Wrote. The double mystery was how the show lasted so long on the schedules and how someone as decent as her Grandfather ever became leader of the Labour Party in the 1930s. (Cue the Ernest Bevin quote.)
  • Gordon Warnecke - My Beautiful Laundrette star who wasn't Daniel Day Lewis, was the son of SPGB member Harry Warnecke. (Always said that the Party had the best critique of the phenomenon that was Thatcherism.) Just a shame that Gordon couldn't have done his old Dad a favour with a bit of product placement. A couple of back issues of the Socialist Standard on the table in the Laundrette would have done nicely. They would have looked nice on the big screen. He has since done his penance by going to that Actor's Hell, otherwise known as guest starring in The Bill.
  • Saffron Burrows - Aye, I choked on my cornflakes one Sunday morning when I discovered from reading the paper that she was the daughter of a couple of SWP members, and that she herself was a supporter of the Respect Coalition. I kind of like that preconceived notions of lefties being disarmed by this information, though I still wouldn't give the SWP the steam off my tea.

How do I know this crap? To paraphrase Billy Bragg: "If you've got a Pub Quiz list, I want to be on it."

* From Ken Weller's brilliant 'Don't Be A Soldier: The Radical Anti-War Movement in North London 1914-1918' (Journeymen Press 1985): "Elsa Lanchester came from a radical background. Her mother Elsa Lanchester was a member of the Executive of the SDF in the 1890s, and became a cause celebre when she lived in a free union; her family committed her to a lunatic asylum in consequence. In 1918 Elsa had founded the Children's Theatre in Soho, which seems to have had strong radical connections. Elsa Lanchester was a member of the ILP after the War."

Saturday, March 05, 2005

I Wonder Why*

Christ, what's going on? I'm scrambling around for scraps and willo the wisp blog links to post on here to give the illusion of industry and deep thought when pushing the 'publish' button on blogger, but it's hampered by the fact that I can't be arsed to knuckle down to the industry and research that will ensure that a post goes beyond a half-chewed paragraph and a "Ooh, fancy that" from the Greek Chorus looking over my shoulder whilst I'm typing this.
Then what happens, I bump into Keith - pronounced "Keef" in a piss poor imitation of Phil Cornwell doing Mick Jagger - and I do my obligatory verse from Oliver's Army and/or Alison 'cos he's the dead spit of Elvis Costello (what's a joke if it can't be hackneyed and well worn?), and we launch into a conversation on British Labour History which encompasses such subjects as the Weekly and Sunday Worker papers of the 1920s; William Rust's editorship of the Daily Worker; Grey Lynn's war novella 'The Return of Karl Marx' and my unproven contention that Lynn sought to portraythe Marx of wartime London as a Poum'ist in Palmers Green or a Trotskyist from Turnpike Lane; AE Reade, the Balham Group and early British Trotskyism; Harry Pollitt's biog, 'Serving My Time', which I discover he wrote far earlier than I had previously presumed ("Keef" reckons he wrote it after going on a wee holiday in '39 from the leadership of the CPGB for opposing the Nazi-Soviet Pact, but for some reason I presumed it was published in '55 but now that I think about it I may have confused it with John Mahon's biog of "Harry Pollute" (as the SPGB speakers used to call him) though I've only read Kevin Morgan's biog of Harry from Manchester University Press's Lives of the Left Series from a few years ago; Pollitt's time in Sylvia Pankhurst's Workers Socialist Federation and when exactly did he join the CP? 'cos "Keef" thinks that 'Arry was deliberately vague in his autobiog; the Shop Stewards Movement during the First World War; Palme Dutt - fuck, you've got to mention Palme Dutt if you are going to rant about Pollitt; Stuart McIntyre's 'Proletarian Science', which I read years ago but can only remember snatches of it; from that how "Keef" met someone - Ruth Frow - who actually met T.A Jackson and then we compare and contrast the merits and demerits of the Marx Memorial Library versus the Frow's library in Manchester and "Keef" mentions that the Frow library though smaller is good 'cos it has a nearly complete set of Justice (there is always a volume missing of Justice in any collection - Hyndman's revenge? Or Bax getting you back?); mention of a bound volume of the Socialist Standard from 1907 in the Frow collection, which apparently has a blue cover ("Keef" notices these things, I take pride in not noticing these things); and then we get on to talking about Manchester Branch of the SPGB and when it was strongest in its history - "Keef" guessing the twenties but we both agree that was a low point for Party fortunes (no sniggering at the back), and then we talk about Glasgow Branch and its better days of the fifties and sixties. Throw in a mention of J.R Campbell; some book by Alison McLeod that I read and enjoyed a few years back, but which for the life of me I can't presently remember the title of (McLeod was a member of the Daily Worker staff in the forties and fifties, and the book relates the trials and tribulations of that office environment in those days - Office Space it ain't; and somewhere in amongst all that lot talk of the 'Hands of Russia' campaign that propelled Pollitt to national prominence after the First World War and whether or not the CPB have published anything to mark the 75th anniversary of the first issue of the Daily Worker, and do I mention any of this chat on the blog? Nah, can't be arsed.
This post was written under the influence. Back to the lame arse stuff, next post. Requests on a postcard for any links for any of the above mentioned ethemera.
* I Wonder Why - The brilliant Ella Fitzgerald song that I've never heard more than thirty seconds of in an Insurance Advert on TV from last year. Winmx and Kazaa refuse to return my calls on the subject, so if anyone wants to send me the song as an email attachment you'll make me very happy ;-)
Update - Mmm, just for clarification: Why are two SPGBers seemingly obsessed by the old CP and especially 'Arry? We're not - we just like talking about Labour History up to the nineteen forties for some reason. It's our small talk, if you like. Memory serves me right - last time we ranted in a similar fashion, it was about the old De Leonist Socialist Labour Party in Britain, with special attention given to Len Cotton. On other occasions we swap anecdotes about various warehouses and factories we worked in at various times in Watford and Hemel. Close your eyes sometimes, and it's like the Algonquin Table transported to the 21st century London: only difference being, no American accents and, erm, no table.

Not The Quote Of The Day

I needed something to read for a long tube journey today so I popped into a charity shop and I picked up Ben Thompson's Sunshine On Putty: The Golden Age of British Comedy, from Vic Reeves to The Office (no, I don't know what the title is about either) for a couple of quid.
A reasonable enough read and enjoyable to dip into where my fancy took me, and I did like the fact that he sticks the boot into David Baddiel. You can never do enough of that. However, the following quotation did sort of leap out of me when fast forwarding through the pages:
"In the opening episode of 2003's Ali G in Da USAiii, for example, Baron Cohen outrages respectable US opinion by talking about the 'terrible events of 7/11'. On first hearing. this joke seems crassly obvious, but it also enables him to make a devastating satirical point in the space of five words. By mistaking the date of the attack on the World Trade Centre for the name of the grocery chain which pioneered late-night opening, he not only alludes to capitalism's capacity for making a fast buck out of unthinkable horror, but also to the ever-tightening global grip of the US military-capitalist complex which was instrumental in provoking that murderous attack in the first place." [My emphasis]
Christ, how is it when members of the chattering classes seek to intellectualise comedy they come out with pieces of doggerel like this? It doesn't matter that this crass piece of pseudo-profundity is buried on pages 337 and 338, it marks Thompson out as a card carrying tube. Spolit the rest of the book for me.

Quote of the Day

J. D. Salinger

Friday, March 04, 2005

I Don't Think He's A Morning Person

Will Makem wakes up long enough to *cough* rubbish PB Deb. He must have bought him a bad pint or something.
Mmm, five out of my last six posts have been willo the wisp links to other blogs. People may surmise from that that I have run out of things to say, and they may be right.

Arise Ye

Timid Maximalist has woken up again after a deep sleep. Welcome back.

Reform/Revolution Debate

Speaking to one of the co-conspirators of From Despair To Where? blog last night and, as is his fashion, he came up with a really thought provoking analogy of the Reform/Revolution debate - the thorny issue that more than anything else divides the ultra left from everybody else:
"The Reform/Revolution issue should be seen in the same fashion as a boxer and how he fights. The ultra-left is always going all out for the knock out punch, whereas as with the reform/revolution issue it's always best to jab - to find your range - so that the knockout punch is all the more effective."
I've paraphrased what he said badly (me and my memory) - and hopefully he will either post to his own blog with the proper wording or correct me in the comments box - but it is definitely something to be think about.
It also explains how Chris Eubank battered Nigel Benn all those years ago.


He kept his side of the bargain with his posting about the mankiest pub in Sunderland,* so the least I can do is properly add A Revolutionary Act to the blogroll - even if it does look like his latest post is a recycling of an old article from the Socialist Standard that he done on Joe Hill a few years back.
I wish he wouldn't keep changing the font colours on his posts though - looks far too garish.
* There were a few pubs in North London, where I attended AWL Branch meetings that would give the pub a run for its money.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Take A Breath

In its next life Inveresk Street Ingrate will be an music blog, but in the meantime an excellent gratis mp3 from the Spolit Victorian Child music blog. No, I've never heard of The Capricorns either but, me being me, I can't help thinking the vocal sounds a bit like Lene Lovich. But I would say that, wouldn't I?
Better check it out quick, 'cos as is the nature of music blogs the mp3 usually gets pulled to be replaced by another, and the blogger at SVC is right: You can't just listen to it just the once.