Saturday, September 30, 2006

Father Jed Burroughs

Following on from the article on Ted Grant that appeared in last month's Socialist Standard, reproduced below are a couple of fascinating letters from this month's Standard from a couple of old timers that caught my eye:

Dear Editors,

Following on from your obituary of Ted Grant, the Trotskyist founder of the “entryist” Militant Tendency (September Socialist Standard), I agree that he was never a revolutionary; but just another reformer masquerading as a revolutionary.

I first heard Ted Grant speak at a meeting in High Holborn, of the so-called Revolutionary Communist Party, just before its demise probably in 1947. At this meeting, I heard for the first time the claim that the Soviet Union was not socialist, or even a "degenerated workers' state", but in fact a dictatorial form of state capitalism. A member of the audience (of about 100) got up and forcefully, as well as persistently, much to the annoyance of Grant and the other Trotskyist speakers, and argued that the economy of the USSR was state capitalist, and that the workers and peasants there were exploited in much the same way as elsewhere. Shortly after, two of the leaders who were at the meeting, Jock Haston and Tony Cliff, both accepted the claim that Soviet Russia was state capitalist.

And who was the speaker from the audience? I learned later, when I knew the SPGB (from meetings on Clapham Common), that it was a man named Sammy Cash, a well-known and active member of the Socialist Party.

As you noted, Ted Grant was ousted from the Militant Tendency by a man called Peter Taaffe, a thoroughly dishonest individual who claims that his existing group is the “socialist party”, known by the most appropriate acronym of SPEW.

PETER E. NEWELL, Colchester, Essex

Dear Editors,

The obituary on Ted Grant by DAP rather impressed me with its honesty and, even, generosity. I met Grant and Haston in 1948 at the RCP HQ on the Harrow Road. Haston was a fun fellow; Grant seemed a bit like a frustrated priest.

RICHARD MONTAGUE, Ballymena, Co. Antrim.

A couple of points on the first letter: though the Revolutionary Communist Party actually split in '47 over the issue of entryism into the Labour Party, I don't think it gave up the organisational ghost until '49 or '50. It is perhaps understandable that the RCP fell off the writer's political radar post '47. From my fragmented memory of reading Bornstein and Richardson's two volume history of British Trotskyism a few years back, it definitely appears to be the case that the RCP - the first and last time there has been a unified Trotskyist party in Britain - started tearing each other to factional bits towards the end of its life, leaving that poisoned little monster Gerry Healy the last man standing.

The other interesting point from the letter is the mention of Jock Haston and Tony Cliff coming out as State Caps at a later date. As I understand it, Haston was the first person to raise the issue of state capitalism within the ranks of the RCP but rather than Haston and Cliff coming to that position at the same time, according to the late Al Richardson, "Cliff's remit from [Ernest] Mandel when he first came to Britain was specifically to argue against these incipient `state capitalist' heresies, and what happened was that in the course of the dispute the contestants changed sides." (The quote is from Richardson's review of Alex Callinicos's 'Trotskyism' that appeared in the journal, Revolutionary History.)

The same review makes mention of the fact that whilst Haston was never a member of the SPGB, he was heavily influenced by the Party before becoming a Trotskyist in the mid-1930s. There's a passage in Bornstein and Richardson's 'Against the Stream', where Haston, in an interview conducted many years later, mentions that he had gone along to an SPGB meeting to give them an intellectual kicking only to be put on his arse politically by a well versed SPGB member by the name of Adolph Kohn. Going back that the next night he was put on the canvas again. After that, Haston attended SPGB meetings for nine or ten months, arguing and absorbing the revolutionary socialist case without ever joining the SPGB itself. By all accounts that I've read of that period, he was the outstanding member of the Revolutionary Communist Party. He was its parliamentary candidate in the by-election in Neath, South Wales in 1945, and its General Secretary. And, without wishing to appear too cruel or cheeky to the memory of the dead, you can tell from these pictures that Ted Grant always had a soft spot for him. perhaps he was Ted's rosebud?

The second letter just makes me smile 'cos it captures the humour of the writer, and if I shut my eyes I can hear him saying those words in his strong Belfast accent. He's one of the best.

Another Shankly Quote

To my shame, I nearly missed marking the 25th anniversary of the death of Bill Shankly on the blog. A truly great man whose stock in football seems to grow with each passing year that the pigs at the sponsored trough get fatter and fatter.

I was actually surprised to read in the linked article from the BBC Sports the number of trophies that he won in his time as Liverpool manager.

I guess it's a measure and force of his personality that I somehow presumed that he had would have won more than the seven trophies that he did during his 15 year reign at Liverpool - which obviously pales into comparison with the number of trophies that his successor, Bob Paisley, went on to win for Liverpool in a shorter period of time - but rather than that giving off the impression that he was a blowhard, it has to be acknowledged that the Liverpool football club that ruled the roost for about twenty odd years between the mid seventies and early nineties was languishing in the old second division when he took over in '59, and - sparing the jumpers for goalposts Ron Managerisms - whilst Shankly was laying the foundations of the great club that Liverpool was to become he also had to duke it out week in week out with such great managers as Matt Busby, Bill Nicholson, Don Revie, Harry Catterick, Bertie Mee and Joe Mercer. Who did Paisley have to cross swords with? Dave Sexton. Keith Burkenshaw, Gordon Lee, Terry Neill and John Bond. It's not really the same, is it?

As I've probably already my exhausted my stock of Bill Shankly as populist socialist quotes on the blog, I'll settle for this witty Shankly quote from the aforementioned BBC article:

"At the funeral of Everton legend Dixie Dean, he said: "I know this is a sad occasion, but I think Dixie would be amazed to know that even in death he could draw a bigger crowd than Everton can on a Saturday afternoon"."

I think you'll agree that wit like that is a cut above the mean-spirited blandness of Mourinho, Ferguson, Wenger and co?

Sitemeter Sightings - an ongoing series and other stuff

According to my sitemeter, the blog from time to time gets visits from an ISP address at the Houses of Parliament. So, following on from this story, if in the coming months a candidate in the forthcoming Labour Party leadership election starts namechecking The Sound Team, The Saturday Night Things or Julius Martov and the Sexy Mistakes, then there is a pretty good chance that they have outed themselves as the reader of the blog. And, if in their attempt to appeal to the left-wing constituency in the Party - Reginald and Doris Simpkins of the Mole Valley CLP - they make a major speech where they decry the fact that "The cunts are still running the world", then that will be cast iron proof that they are the mystery reader. My hunch is that the secret admirer is John Reid. He looks like a bloke who would secretly hanker after "crunchy guitar music"©.

On other stuff:

  • I've been totally slacking when it comes to my week by week reports of Celtic's results and form. After a steady start, I've been totally daft with the inactivity on my part as I have seen the highlights of all their league games thus far this season, courtesy of the good people at UK Nova. I'll definitely need to get back on track with this as it's my best means of remembering the season as it progresses. What I will say in the meantime is that number 46, Mr Aiden McGeady, was absolutely immense against the forces of darkness last week, and if I was a R*ngers fan I would be mightily pissed off by Kenny Miller's exuberant goal celebration against them during the same game. At least he didn't kiss the jersey.
    And, I feel I mention it every time I do actually get round to writing up my musings on Scottish footie, but it has to be reiterated nonetheless: When Hibs are firing on all cylinders, there is no better team to watch in the SPL. There is a Sports Science PhD out there for the grad student who can come up with the explanaton as to why it is that blokes who were absolute cloggers during their own playing careers, can carve out teams with skill and finesses once they don the manager's blazer. Special mention to Tony Mowbray, Jock Stein, Alex Ferguson and Kenny Dalglish Kevin Keegan when writing up their thesis.
  • In a nice piece of symmetry, Thursday not only saw the blog hit the 60,000 visits mark but it was also the same day that the combined visits to the profile and blog pages of the unofficial Socialist Standard page on MySpace also burst through the 60,000 visitor mark. The only difference being that my blog has been up and punning since April 2004, whilst the Socialist Standard page on MySpace only saw the light of day in February of this year. I'm not bitter: I've just been chewing on lemons for breakfast.
  • Though I always hate myself in the morning, I got into yet another nasty blogging spat at Harry Pollute's blog the other day when I got seriously pissed off when HP regular, Gene, linked to a particularly offensive website in a post about the recent anti-Blair demonstration in Manchester. As is the nature of these rows, I was denounced as a stupid moron by the assortment of anonymouse 9 to 5 keyboard warriors that hang round the HP comments box, but it was a relief to note that I wasn't the only one who took exception to the link.
    I mean it when I write that it was a relief to see that post from Will. It seemed such an obvious point that I was making in my original - admittedly intemperate - comment at HP that when I was met with a barrage of abuse and scorn by Peter, Paul and Mary, I did wonder if I had totally blown things out of proportion and invited the response upon myself. But I still think I was in the right. Even now, thinking about that nasty link masquerading behind the bullshit label of 'citizen journalism' makes my blood boil. There are some bastards out there.
  • On a happier/sadder note, I finished Resolution late Thursday night, the final novel in Denise Mina's Garnethill Trilogy. What can I say except that all three novels were wonderful, and it was so nice to get back into the habit of voraciously reading a series of books one after the other, greedy to read more whilst simulatneously anticipating the regret that I would have once I reached the end of the series. I really recommend these books to anyone who loves character driven fiction. In Maureen O'Donnell, Denise Mina created such a vivid and memorable character that you end ruing the genre of crime fiction with its rules of closure and finality, 'cos you so desperately want the characters of the novels, Maureen, her brother Liam, their dipso mum Winnie and Maureen's best friend, Leslie, to appear again and again in future novels. I know I'm being greedy, but if you read the novels you'll come to understand why. I guess I'll have to settle for Denise Mina's Paddy Meehan's series of novels, if and when I can locate them in New York.
    One special plea, though. Please don't let the novels get the 'Rankinised'. I absolutely love the Rebus novels, but it has to be said that the TV adaptions of the novels have been absolute mince and tatties. I kidded myself on that it was first time failings with the original casting of John Hannah as Rebus, but second time round, with Ken Stott cast in the title role, the adaptations have been equally dire. They best resemble also-ran episodes of Taggart, but without the Maggie Bell theme music and Jake D'Arcy playing the murderer for the fourth time.
  • Thursday, September 28, 2006

    Menshevik Misprint

    Further to my recent post on Julius Martov and the Sexy Mistakes, Daniel from the band has got in touch to thank me for the kind words, but also to politely decline my offer to manage the band.

    I think I may have scuppered my chances of becoming the next Simon Fuller when I sent them ten sheets of blank paper in an email attachment, and asked the band members to sign and initial at the bottom of each page. It was either that or my inisistence that, if they signed with me, the debut album had to be entitled 'Pavel Axelrod's Coming Home', and that the sleeve notes for the album were to be written by the editorial committee of the Socialist Standard.

    Daniel also had to break the news to me that I had totally misheard the lyric to their song 'Frometa', thus rendering my deciphering of the lyric as totally meaningless. (My words, not his.)

    It turns out that it isn't Salma Hayek who is their favourite actress in the lyric, but Zelda Harris of Spike Lee's Crooklyn. Therefore, the following excerpt from my original post: "I'm guessing that with mention of Hayek, who played Frida Kahlo, and the cryptic references in the lyric to Bauhaus and Cubism that the Frometa of the title is this painter. Looks like somebody's doing an Art History course in college . . . " is total bollocks*. However, I will say in mitigation that the lovely Ms Hayek had appeared on Oprah just a couple of days before, and this may have contributed to her being in the *cough* forefront of my mind at the time of listening to the song. And how was I to know that there's an actress called Zelda Harris? Every time I suggest to Kara that we watch Crooklyn when it plays on the IFC Channel, she does her best Roger Ebert impersonation, with the words: "I've seen it; it's crap".

    If only I had gone with my original instincts, I wouldn't now be left with egg on my face and my credibility shot to bits. When I first heard the song, I was confused by what I thought was the line: "Salma Hayek, my favourite actress, a lot younger than us." I mean, according to imdb, Salma Hayek has just turned forty this month. How could she be a "lot younger than us"? But I pushed the doubt aside with the rationalisation that the bass player must be the lyricist for the band. I won't make that mistake again, I won't be fooled again.

    *I was half right with the suggestion that was someone in the band must be doing an Art History course at college. The half being, Daniel is studying History at college.

    I'm Actually Embarrassed For the Guy

    On Tony Blair's final speech as Prime Minister to a Labour Party Conference:

    “I’m sorry,” he said, trying to pull himself together. “I feel like a girl who’s just been to her first rock concert.”" [Quoted from here.]

    David Miliband, who, in all probability, will be the next but one Labour Prime Minister in Britain.

    From the Frontline of the "Anarchist Capital of North Carolina"

    From Geeklog:

    "On Friday, September 22nd, two people wearing camo fatigues, combat boots, and black ski masks rushed into the Internationalist Bookstore of Chapel Hill, NC and kidnapped an audience member during the beginning of a presentation by members of the Marxist-Leninist Freedom Road Socialist Organization. The presentation was primarily directed at encouraging support and loyalty to the FARC-EP, a "marxist" paramilitary organization that has claimed thousands of indigenous and civilian deaths, extorts money through civilian kidnappings, and profits from the massive cocaine trafficking industry." [READ MORE]

    Hat tip to a tankie on the Leftist Trainspotters List . . . who didn't find the report nearly as funny as I did.

    Wednesday, September 27, 2006

    Poetry Corner

    Just stumbled across these couple of lines on his wikipedia page, and I liked them.

    No hay lado colombiano

    No hay lado peruano

    Solo hay lado humano

    You have to scroll down the wikipedia page for the english translation. More of his poetry is here.

    Tuesday, September 26, 2006

    That's When I Reach For My Beryl Bainbridge

    There is the witty and the comical and then there is the unfunny and heavy-handed. No doubt 9/11 is considered Bush's burning of the Reichstag, but who does that make his Van Der Lubbe?

    I'm too jaded and bored by all this conspiracy bollocks to give a toss.

    Cynic's Corner #2

    This is not so recent news but as I'm doing a pretty good impersonation of that " . . . rehashed variation of the cynical SPGBer playing out the role of the one bloke and his leaflet "cold-water brigade", I note that Arminius has cited an old post of mine at Spaces of Hope, where, in keeping with someone who is a member of the World in Common group, he takes both the SPGB and the Anarchist Bookfair - by way of the Anarchist Federation - to task for the ". . . squabbling nature of even the tiny slice of the left that makes up our anti-capitalist, anti-reformist, and anti-statist sector". Jools and Arminius himself make valid comments to the post, whilst I do my usual 'Nine out of ten anarchists annoy the fuck out of me' rant, but that isn't the reason for part two of Cynic's Corner.

    Having another look at the programme for the Anarchist Bookfair, I note that there are a number of excellent meetings and discussions being held during the bookfair, on everything from 'Is the Class Struggle Dead, or Just Resting?' to 'The Story of Solidarity 1960 – 1990', but what's that meeting I can spot half way down the programme?

    'The Case For Solidarity'

    No Sweat

    Showing of new No Sweat film and discussion. The film looks at the worldwide exploitation of workers in sweatshops and the response of the anti-capitalist movement.

    Who are No Sweat? Well, you can always ask VP and Jim Denham at Shiraz Socialist but, better still, you can always go direct to the source here. Btw, I'm no expert on these matters but don't you think that the websites for No Sweat and the AWL look kinda similar? Almost like they have the same webmaster?

    No worries, I already expressed my view on the whole business of the SPGB applying for a stall in my original post, and fair play to the AWL for one of the better front campaigns and for gatecrashing the *cough* party, but it does suggest to this jaded cynic that either 'Dan Chatterton' is not a very good gatekeeper to the anarchist purity of the event or it's a case of one rule for you lot, and the SPGB can go swivel.

    Guess what my opinion is on the matter?

    Cynic's Corner #1

    I was actually in two minds about publishing this post about the 'Time To Go' demo in Manchester that has just passed, 'cos I'm self-aware enough to know that it was little more than a rehashed variation of the cynical SPGBer playing out the role of the one bloke and his leaflet "cold-water brigade"*, so it was kind of heartening to read this post from VP at Shiraz Socialist , where he has a hissy fit about the roll call for Saturday's demo . . . and most other demonstrations in Britain, for that matter. It turns out his oppo at Shiraz Socialist, Jim Denham, wasn't best pleased about the demo either.

    And that's coming from two blokes who flog the papers, hawk the bogus petitions and seek to recreate the spirit of the sixties on marches and demos, by chanting:

    'Rees, Ridley and Galloway, what do you say?

    How many tickets for Marxism did you sell today?'

    *Copyrighted to Glasgow Branch of the SPGB.

    Monday, September 25, 2006

    "Consigned to the bargain bin of iTunes?"*

    Cheeky wee bastards.

    What with them taking in vain the name of one of my few political heroes I'm perfectly within my rights to actively dislike this group, but I think I'm mellowing with age. Or at least I calmed down a bit after listening to their music.

    Julius Martov and the Sexy Mistakes hail from either Widnes or Runcorn, which means that if and when they get the twenty questions treatment on Pop World, they'll claim they are from Liverpool, and from what I can gauge from their MySpace page as a band they are ridiculously young**, playing their debut gig only four weeks ago - in Runcorn - but that's good. No need for a panic attack just yet. A band should only start worrying when Runcorn's the last place they will ever play. No sleep 'til Huyton and all that.

    From scanning the set list of their first ever gig, and the fact that it' takes pride of place on their profile page, I'll hazard a guess that 'Sexy Mistake' is the song they'd release as a single tomorrow if some bloke chomping a cigar popped by and offered to bankroll their first record . . . but only if they first signed these ten sheets of blank paper he is carrying in his briefcase, of course.

    This blogger's ears detected the influence of The Rapture when the music kicked in but though I liked the humour of the lyric, I think the vocal actually detracted from the music. It's almost as if it was inserted into the middle of the song as an afterthought, though I take on board the band's explanation that they " . . . recorded the music live as a band and then recorded the vocals shortly after, so although it means a few mistakes and that, it is a true indication as to how we sound . . . "

    'Hogarth' and 'Frometa' are the strongest two songs out of the four. Yes, the lyric of the first song of the two indicates that it is about that 'Hogarth', and whilst I have no idea what 'Frometa' means, I get the gist of what the lead singer truly thinks about Salma Hayek. Yeah, she's my favourite actress as well. I'm guessing that with mention of Hayek, who played Frida Kahlo, and the cryptic references in the lyric to Bauhaus and Cubism that the Frometa of the title is this painter. Looks like somebody's doing an Art History course in college.

    I really like these songs. The vocals and the music gel and, though you won't believe me, I did cotton onto the Mark E. Smith influence in the vocal and music before I scrolled down the page, and saw that the Fall were mentioned as a major influence. (That's the downside of the MySpace music pages. You can't fall back on saying, 'Well, this sounds like such and such', 'cos more often than not the band under the microscope has namechecked the other group before you have the chance to.)

    'Baby, I Will Even Buy You Ice-Cream' is the last song of the four, and the most poppy of the bunch. It screamed C86 to me, but they probably don't know their Stump from their Close Lobsters, so I'll just put that observation down to me being an old fart locked in my dotage.

    As I mentioned above, my stumbling across a band named after Martov could have exploded into an *cough* incident and an incandescent rant but, on further reflection, I think this is good news for the criminally unknown Menshevik Internationalist. 'Cos, though the General Without Armies will deny it, who had really heard of Trotsky before Hugh Cornwell sang that song?, and don't get me started on the one weekend-a-year smash the staters.Vini Reilly did more to popularise anarchist-communism in Britain than a thousand Clifford Harper woodcuts or the image of a shaggy haired Tony Wilson introducing the Sex Pistols on 'So It Goes'.

    The Publications Dept of the SPGB should finally get round to giving the green light to reprinting 'The State and the Socialist Revolution' before the band hits the heights and the publishing arm of AK Press Warner Bros smell the cash, and get in on the act.

    *Once again I find an excuse to paraphrase that bullshit quote from Lev.

    ** Except the bass player, of course - they are born looking old. Think about it, Bruce Foxton, John Deacon, Bill Wyman, Tina Weymouth, John Entwhistle, Andy Rourke, the nameless blokes from Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand? They all look like they could also be in the tribute bands for the aformentioned bands.


    The image of Martov that is on the band's myspace page is nicked from this famous photograph. The legs in the picture may or may not belong to Vera Zasulich. As this post went to publish, it has yet to be confirmed.


    Feeling decidely peckish, I eat some humble pie here.

    Lost in the Post


    That can only mean that he didn't receive the November 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard that I sent him by recorded delivery a few months back.

    I wonder if Alan Woods was pissed off when he heard the news? I bet he muttered under his breath: "It should have been 'Reason in Revolt' that he was holding up on that podium".

    Thin Red Line

    I'm terrible when it comes to properly marking anniversaries. I mean it's only just now that I'm mentioning on the blog that Kara and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary on Saturday. So, in keeping with that tardiness, and to mark the seventieth anniversary of the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War/Revolution, I'm finally getting round to posting the following article, 'Spain Turns', that dates from 1937 and which originally appeared in the political magazine, International Review:

    Spain Turns

    To the best of my knowledge, this is first time that the article has appeared on the web, and the following blurb probably best explains why I have an especial interest in both the article and the magazine:

    "From 1936 to 1939 a magazine called International Review was published in New York, with contributions from exiles from Germany and other European countries. It was responsible for the first English translation, from the German, of Rosa Luxemburg's 'Reform or Revolution' and Julius Martov's 'The State and the Socialist Revolution'. Its general political line can be best described as "Anti-Bolshevik Marxism", rejecting Lenin and Trotsky's vanguardism and arguing that the socialist revolution, to be successful, required the conscious understanding and active participation of the working class."

    I'm genuinely surprised that there is so little information about the International Review* on the web. The translations of the Luxemburg and Martov pamphlets by 'Integer', that originally appeared in the pages of the magazine, can be found at the Marxist Internet Archive, and there are also a couple of pieces by Paul Mattick from the magazine that can also be found on the web, but further searches about the magazine and its editor, Jonathan Ayres, brought up little or no information. I do have another article from its pages that I will post at some point on MySpace, but fingers crossed that the undertaking of publishing further articles from the magazine on the web can be a project for the greybeards at the MIA to realise.

    *I only know of the magazine because there is a near complete run of the it in the SPGB archive. Though there were no formal links between the International Review and the SPGB - how could there be with the Party's hostility clause in place - it was the case that the Party placed advertisements for the Socialist Standard and Party pamphlets in the pages of the magazine, and the magazine did publish an article on the abdication crisis of 1936 that originally appeared in the Socialist Standard, and wrote of the SPGB in approving terms.

    Marxism and Social Class - Part Two

    Christ, I really am slow on the uptake. Turns out that the Marxism and Social Class quiz was even more closely linked to my politics than I originally realised.

    The test is meant to be taken by Sociology students but only after they first read the following two articles from the WSM website:

  • Who Owns The World?
  • Labour Theory of Value
  • And yet I still only got 74%? It's official: I'm a dunderheid.

    Saturday, September 23, 2006

    Serves Me Right

    I downloaded the file from UK Nova sight unseen: the highlights of the Celtic v Rangers* 1994 New Year's Day game at Parkhead, as I was tantalised by the prospect of seeing such Celtic greats as Nicholas, Collins, McStay on view . . . plus it was canny to note that there was some bloke called O'Neil who was playing centre forward for Celtic that day, though he was only mentioned twice during the game and the second time was when he was being substituted.

    What did I get for my downloading endeavour? Hateley slotting the ball past a lonesome Paddy Bonner within a minute of the start of play at the Celtic fans end then, bang, Rangers two up after only eight minutes. Cue a Celtic collapse and the half time score reading 3-0** to Rangers and the TV cameras zooming in on Lou Macari's face, who looked like he was sucking a lemon before having to go into the dressing room to dish out the half-time kool aid oranges. At this point in the video nasty, I stopped myself from googling the result, kidding myself on that whoever uploaded the game had picked one of the Auld Firm classics to put on the website, and whatever the end result, it would have involved a spirited Celtic comeback and eight or nine goals in the mix.

    How wrong I was. Turns out that the someone concerned would make Donald Findlay seem like an ecumenical sort of chap. On the eve of the first Celtic Rangers game of the season, this guy must have thought he would be a Fun-Hun by letting the rest of us in, in seeing Celtic get a 4-2 mauling by a Rangers side who weren't actually that good themselves. (Don't kid yourself, the scoreline flatters Celtic.)

    Granted there was a wee bit of magic from Charlie Nicholas in the second half where, with his back to the goal, he swivelled and shot a half volley that hit the woodwork and Collins's goal was the best piece of skill in the whole game, but it has to be said that the Celtic team on the field that day didn't measure up and it served as a good corrective to those nostalgia-mongers who will insist that football in all its guises was so much better in the past: from the quality of the football, the relationship between the fans and the players, and even the lyrical content of the Cup Final songs. Trust me on this one, it was dark days for Celtic in '94, what with it being bang in the middle of Rangers 9 in the row shenanigans, and however much I wince at times when I watch the highlights of the current Celtic team, I think I can say unreservedly that there is a better quality of football being played at Celtic Park today than there was back then.

    Celtic to win a tight game today 2-1.

    * The teams that day were as follows: CELTIC: Bonner, Gillespie, Boyd, Grant, Wdwoczyk, McGinlay, Byrne, McStay (Capt), O'Neil, Nicholas, Collins RANGERS: Maxwell, Stevens, Murray, Gough (Capt), Pressley, Brown, Steven, McCall, Durie, Hateley, Mikhailitchenko

    **At 3-0, like clockwork, a drunken Celtic fan attempted to attack the Rangers goalkeeper.

    Time To Go To Another Demo

    Manchester Branch of the SPGB, and other Socialist Party members, will be in attendance at today's national demonstration in Manchester, which has been called by the Stop the War Coalition to coincide with the start of the Labour Party Conference.

    Entitled 'Time To Go', the demos organizers are agitating around the slogan 'Drive out Blair… and all he stands for!'

    Papers will be sold, bogus petitions will be signed, a little bit of the sixties will be recreated with a "die-in", and the aforementioned SPGBers will be giving out the following leaflet. (The text of the leaflet being their very own recreation of the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s . . .you get the drifted self-deprecation.)

    The American equivalent of the StW Coalition, the RCP dominated The World Can't Wait, have their plans in place for their very own day of action on October 5th where "papers will be sold, bogus petitions will be signed, a little bit of the sixties will be recreated with a "die-in"", and at the New York demo an SPGBer will be giving out leaflets . . . erm, excuse the cynicism. Demos are much of a muchness for me these days, whether they be in the States or in Britain, though it should be stated for the record that the radical drummer and samba bands in New York have a much better repertoire than their counterparts back in Britain.

    Today will be a sad day for many of the demonstrators, as it will be their final opportunity to sing at a national demo that song that has been ringing in my ears these last nine years 'cos I always seemed to find myself behind, in front of or alongside a Citizen Smith version of a barbershop quartet at these demos, who thought it was a jolly wheeze to sing over and over and OVER again:

    Tony Bliar, Tony Bliar

    He's a right-wing wanker.

    I bet they will miss him when he finally leaves office next year.

    Friday, September 22, 2006

    To the tune of 'Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty'

    Why was Russell Brand giving it laldy in the YouTube footage? 'Cos the alternative was a spanking from his fellow West Ham fans.

    Salt of the bleedin' earth. Salt of the bleedin' earth . . .

    Testing Times

    Marxism and Social Class

    Shit, I only got 74%. Conclusive proof for the renegades, wreckers and PhD footnoted revolutionaries that the average SPGBer doesn't have a class analysis of capitalism. Utopian socialism, here I come.

    What would Saint- Simple-Simon say?

    Pulsing Through My Brain

    There he goes. Only the other day Lisa wrote a post singing the praises of the musical era best known for its T shirts - 1989-1991 - and, surprised by their omission from the tracklistings, I posted a comment about the group whose T Shirt I was wearing in the summer 1990.

    Well on cue, in a seven days later kind of way, today's Film and Music Weekly section of the Guardian carries a snapshot of the La's from 1987. Granted the photo accompanying the piece doesn't date from Lisa's era but, as the article explains, Lee Mavers had issues with deadlines even back then, and the album and the acclaim didn't arrive on the scene until 1990. I just know that I played the album over and over again, to the point where the cassette committed hari-kari on me within months of its release, resulting in me having to replace it with a CD version of the album.

    As the opening line from article states: "Rarely has such fresh-faced vitality given way to such disenchantment", and sadly it all ended in tears: Mavers, in his search for musical perfection*, never could properly follow up an album that he always dismissed anyway as a Steve Lillywhite (the producer) hack job; I played the album far too often, to the point where I wanted the track 'Timeless Melody' to be prosecuted under the Trades Description Act; and the other bloke in the photo, John Power, went on to form Cast, arguably** the worst guitar band of the 1990s, and who then proceeded to inflict FOUR albums of shite music on a public labouring under the misapprehension that 'cos he was in a brilliant band for a couple of years, the musical gold would somehow rub off on his own compositions. He was the bass player for fucks sake. It doesn't work like that, 'la.

    Now, when is the world going to get round to rediscovering that other misunderstood sixties fixated scouse musical genius from the same period, Edgar Summertyme?

    *A quote from Mavers from the article, from an earlier interview, seeks to explain his seeming creative paralysis: "The closer you get to perfection the closer you get to imperfection. Simple as." I'm the same with this blog.

    **I say "arguably", 'cos somedays I reserve that special contempt for John Squire's band, the Seahorses.

    False Advertising

    According to this report, it appears that the cause of death cited on my not-so-distant death certificate will be "He over-indulged in Smiths bovril crisp consumption as a youth".

    Wednesday, September 20, 2006

    Marxism Reprinted

    "Who are you? Who are you?"

    Your name is Karl Marx, and the following is a link to a paper that was given at the 1998 SPGB Summer School:

    Who the Hell was Karl Marx?

    The paper is reproduced from the SPGB pamphlet, 'Marxism Revisited', and I think this might be its first appearance on the t'internet.

    Now, jog on.

    My Favourite Waste of a Post - I'll Get My Coat

    OK, I've done the music and politics blog post already this hour, so duty calls that it's now time for the football and music blog post. If you've thought the previous blog was a piece of fluff, this one's so light that you'd have to weigh it down with Ashley Cole's wallet for fear that it will float away into the distance.

    As you know, Rod the Mod would trade in all his platinum records for a chance to play in the green and white hoops*; and as everyone and their kid brother in an anorak will tell you, Gil Scott-Heron's dad, Gil Heron, played a few games for Celtic in 1951, but please don't forget that this summer marks the twentieth anniversary of former Celtic apprentice, Owen Paul, scoring** a top three hit single with 'My Favourite Waste of Time'. A song so annoyingly catchy and sugary sweet that playing the 12" version would result in your gums bleeding.

    However, that all pales into insignificance with last night's news from Parkhead that Gordan Strachan gave a debut to longstanding West End music sensation and all round ladies man, Darren O'Dea.

    O'Dea was not quoted as saying:

    "I know that I have previously said that after wearing the Butlin's redcoat so early on in my career, I wouldn't feel comfortable wearing any other team's colours but at this point in my life it seems right that I now choose to wear the green and white of such a great team as Celtic.

    I feel that if my good friend and colleague, Tommy Twogoalsthrown, can play a pantomime villain with the aplomb that he did last week at Old Trafford, I can reciprocate the gesture by providing cover in the Celtic squad as a left-sided defender. The thought of Paul Telfer playing week in week out has Tommy so exasperated that he is tearing his eyebrows out."

    *This picture currently doing the rounds on the internet is obviously a fake.

    **Yellow card for that piss poor pun, and a second yellow card for that alliteration. Off you bastard.

    Excuses Have Their Uses

    Spotted this wee snippet in amongst the Yahoo News Headlines.

    Ordinarily, I wouldn't have thought of mentioning it on the blog but, courtesy of the good people at UK Nova, I've been wallowing in a nostalgia that's not even mine these last few days by watching various programmes from the Stiff Weekend that were recently shown on BBC 4. Wonderful anecdotes and footage of the awkward squad that made up of the Stiff Records roster and, if I wasn't such a lazy bastard, I'd write a skittish review of the programmes I watched.

    However, that's not why I'm here - here in the here and now - instead I'm making use of the news of the planned exhibition to fall back on the excuse of posting a link (once again) to this wonderful article that appeared in the June 2002 Socialist Standard:

    Punk Rock's Silver Jubilee

    I'm a sucker for an article that combines music and politics - unless Bono or Chris Martin are involved - and this one ticks all of the necessary boxes. I should also take this opportunity to mention that the author of the piece, Danny, fronts his own band and you can check out their music, lyrics and politics here.

    Tuesday, September 19, 2006

    Interesting Quote

    From an online interview with Joe Bageant that dates from a couple of years back:

    AP: In "The Covert Kingdom" you illustrate the mentality of the Christian Fundamentalists that the progressive left is up against, a mentality that is only matched by Muslim Fundamentalism. How can we, in a democratic system, keep such destructive segments of society from harming the less vocal majority (assuming that they are not a majority!)?

    Bageant: It can't. Until the progressive left gets out there on the street and recruits every ignorant piece of white trash and person of colour it ain't gonna happen. But here in the US, the so-called left is comfortable being in the catering class of college professors, managers, journalists, school teachers and others required to keep the capitalist system humming, they ain't gonna take any risks. They just don't get it that if they do not love their labouring brothers, beer belly, ignorance, crack habit and all, their ass is grass too. It's only a matter of time. But they simply do not believe these people are their brothers, or even human, for that matter. America is a class system first and foremost.

    Monday, September 18, 2006

    Army of None

    I like this. I like this a lot.

    This illustration by David Hollenbach, which originally appeared in The Indypendent, is being made into a poster "due to popular demand". Details on how you can get your greasy wee mitts on one copy for your bedroom wall - or five hundred copies for your local neighbourhood walls - are available here

    No news yet on plans for the T shirt but, if it is in the pipeline, remember to reserve me an XXXL.

    Sunday, September 17, 2006

    The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

    I remember Richard Headicar giving an excellent talk on Sinclair's novel as part of the 'Novel Approach to History' series of meetings that the SPGB put on a few years back and, as it's 100 years since its publication, it goes without saying that there would be an article in the Socialist Standard to mark its centenary. Here's a sneak preview.


    It turns out that Paul Thomas Anderson of 'Boogie Nights' and 'Magnolia' fame is currently in post-production with the film, 'There Will Be Blood', a loose adaptation of Upton Sinclair's 1927 novel Oil! Daniel Day-Lewis is playing the lead, so fingers crossed it's better than the vastly overrated 'Gangs of New York'.

    Saturday, September 16, 2006

    The Caniggia Effect Lives On

    ""Leeds United, Leeds reserves, Leeds youth team, Leeds Permanent Building Society pub team, Leeds and Holbeck pub team, Leeds ice-hockey team, East Leeds chess under-19s, South Leeds over-19s poker team, anyone with Leeds in their name. And Middlesbrough."

    For a man known as Village, as in idiot, Jonathan Woodgate is responsible for one of the best-ever responses to a routine questionnaire about which teams' results he looks out for first. For the purpose of clarification Woodgate now disputes that he mentioned East Leeds chess under-19s, just as he disputes that it was he who was known as Village at Elland Road.

    "Ask David Batty, ask anyone," Woodgate pleaded, "it wasn't my nickname, it was Nigel Martyn's. We used to call him the Village Idiot. I was called The Llama - me, Alan Smith and Dominic Matteo were called The Three Llamas, I don't know why. But I wasn't the Village Idiot, Nigel was the Village Idiot. Nigel was 35 and we were all 18, 19 and he wanted to be like us. Which is fair enough." [From an article in today's Guardian: Woodgate Living The Dream.]

    OK, Jonathan. we believe you; but what's the business with THAT haircut?

    Friday, September 15, 2006


    In Love With Somebody Else's . . . Blog

    I've been meaning to post a link to this bloke's music blog for absolutely ages now, but for some reason I never got round to it. (Unless I'm having an amnesic episode.)

    Lost in the 80s, with its particular penchant for obscure electro, new wave and new romantic tracks - I mean, Alice Cooper doing new wave? - from the early to mid eighties is right up my street, and with his latest post being about the sadly underrated post-Buzzcocks solo career of Pete Shelley, I can't hold back the kudos any longer.

    Check him out, and if you get the chance also check out such brilliant Pete Shelley tracks as 'Yesterday's Not Here', 'Qu'est-Ce Que C'est Que Ca' and *cough* 'In Love with Somebody Else'.

    Wednesday, September 13, 2006

    Howard Zinn's 'Je Ne Suis Pas Marxiste'

    Does this qualify as an internet exclusive?

    John at A Revolutionary Act produced the much missed 'Socialist View', bi-monthly journal of the North East Branch of the SPGB, a few years back and in amongst the canny jokes, sharp socialist commentary and any cartoon or Private Eye style photo that took the piss out of Bush, Prescott or any passing stray Mackem, he also sought - and got - permission from Howard Zinn to reproduce his famous essay 'Je Ne Suis Pas Marxiste' within its pages. Those of us who have the back issues of the 'Socialist View' in amongst our tea stained pamphlets and leaflets in the back of our cupboards or the Zinn Reader on our bookshelves have had ready access to the essay for a number of years, but a not so exhaustive google search suggests that the essay is not online.

    As John has kindly given me permission to reproduce material from the back issues of the 'Socialist View', I'll take him up on his offer by reproducing Zinn's essay that appeared in issue 12 of the branch journal. I hope that Zinn's delightful essay is of interest to people.

    The following is reprinted from The Zinn Reader (1997, Seven Stories Press, pp 574-578) and with the permission of the author.

    For a long time I thought that there were important and useful ideas in Marxist philosophy and political economy that should be protected from the self-righteous cries on the right that "Marxism is dead,” as well as from the arrogant assumptions of the commissars of various dictatorships that their monstrous regimes represented “Marxism.” This piece was written for Z Magazine, and reprinted in my book Failure To Quit (Common Courage Press, 1993).

    Not long ago, someone referred to me publicly as a "Marxist professor.” In fact, two people did. One was a spokesman for “Accuracy in Academia,” worried that there were “five thousand Marxist faculty members” in the United States (which diminished my importance, but also my loneliness). The other was a former student I encountered on a shuttle to New York, a fellow traveller. I felt a bit honoured. A “Marxist” means a tough guy (making up for the pillowy connotation of the “professor”), a person of formidable politics, someone not to be trifled with, someone who knows the difference between absolute and relative surplus value, and what is commodity fetishism, and refuses to buy it.

    I was also a bit taken aback (a position which yoga practitioners understand well, and which is good for you about once a day). Did “Marxist” suggest that I kept a tiny stature of Lenin in my drawer and rubbed his head to discover what policy to follow to intensify the contradictions o the imperialist camp, or what songs to sing if we were sent away to such a camp?

    Also, I remembered that famous statement of Marx: “Je ne suis pas Marxiste.” I always wondered why Marx, an English-speaking German who had studied Greek for his doctoral dissertation, would make such an important statement in French. But I am confident that he did make it, and I think I know what brought it on. After Marx and his wife Jenny had moved to London, where they lost three of their six children to illness and lived in squalor for many years, they were often visited by a young German refugee named Pieper. This guy was a total “noodnik” (there are “noodniks” all along the political spectrum stationed ten feet apart, but there is a special Left Noodnik, hired by the police, to drive revolutionaries batty). Pieper (I swear, I did not make him up) hovered around Marx gasping with admiration, once offered to translate Das Kapital into English, which he could barely speak, and kept organising Karl Marx Clubs, exasperating Marx more and more by insisting that every word Marx uttered was holy. And one day Marx caused Pieper to have a severe abdominal cramp when he said to him: “Thanks for inviting me to speak at your Karl Marx Club. But I can’t. I’m not a Marxist.”

    That was a high point in Marx’s life, and also a good starting point for considering Marx’s ideas seriously without becoming a Pieper (or a Stalin, or Kim Il Sung, or any born-again Marxist who argues that every word in Volume One, Two and Three, and especially in the Grundrisse, is unquestionably true). Because it seems to me (risking that this may lead to my inclusion in the second edition of Norman Podhoretz’s Register of Marxists, Living or Dead), Marx had some very useful thoughts.

    For instance, we find in Marx’s short but powerful Theses on Feuerbach the idea that philosophers, who always considered their job was to interpret the world, should now set about changing it, in their writings, and in their lives.

    Marx set a good example himself. While history has treated him as a secondary scholar, spending all his time in the library of the British Museum, Marx was a tireless activist all his life. He was expelled from Germany, from Belgium, from France, was arrested and put on trial in Cologne.

    Exiled to London, he kept his ties with revolutionary movements all over the world. The poverty-ridden flats that he and Jenny Marx and their children occupied became busy centres of political activity, gathering places for political refugees from the continent.

    True, many of his writings were impossibly abstract (especially those on political economy; my poor head at the age of nineteen swam, or rather drowned, with ground rent and differential rent, the falling rate of profit and the organic composition of capital). But he departed from that constantly to confront the events of 1848, the Paris Commune, rebellion in India, the Civil War in the United States.

    The manuscripts he wrote at the age of twenty-five while an exile in Paris (where he hung out in cafes with Engels, Proudhon, Bakunin, Heine, Stirner), often dismissed by hard-line fundamentalists as “immature”, contain some of the most profound ideas. His critique of capitalism in those Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts did not need any mathematical proofs of “surplus value.” It simply stated (but did not state it simply) that the capitalist system violates whatever it means to be a human. The industrial system Marx saw developing in Europe not only robbed them of the products of their work, it estranged working people from their own creative responsibilities, from one another as human beings, from the beauties of nature, from their own true selves. They lived out their lives not according to their own inner needs, but according to the necessities of survival.

    This estrangement from self and others, this alienation from all that was human, could not be overcome by an intellectual effort, by something in the mind. What was needed was a fundamental, revolutionary change in society, to create the conditions – a short workday, a rational use of the earth’s natural wealth and people’s natural talents, a just distribution of the fruits of human labour, a new social consciousness – for the flowering of human potential, for a leap into freedom as it had never been experienced in history.

    Marx understood how difficult it was to achieve this, because, no matter how “revolutionary” we are, the weight of tradition, habit, the accumulated mis-education of generations, “weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living.”

    Marx understood politics. He saw that behind political conflicts were questions of class: who gets what. Behind benign bubbles of togetherness (We the people…our country…national security), the powerful and the wealthy would legislate on their own behalf. He noted (in The Eighteenth Brumaire, a biting, brilliant, analysis of the Napoleonic seizure of power after the 1848 Revolution in France) how a modern constitution could proclaim absolute rights, which were then limited by marginal notes (he might have been predicting the tortured constructions of the First Amendment in our own Constitution), reflecting the reality of domination by one class over another regardless of the written word.

    He saw religion, not just negatively as “the opium of the people,” but positively as the “sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, the soul of soulless conditions.” This helps us understand the mass appeal of the religious charlatans of the television screen, as well as the work of Liberation Theology in joining the soulfulness of religion to the energy of revolutionary movements in miserably poor countries.

    Marx was often wrong, often dogmatic, often a “Marxist.” He was sometimes too accepting of imperial domination as “progressive,” a way of bringing capitalism faster to the third world, and therefore hastening, he thought, the road to socialism. (But he staunchly supported the rebellions of the Irish, the Poles, the Indians, the Chinese, against colonial control.)

    He was too insistent that the industrial working class must be the agent of revolution, and that this must happen first in the advanced capitalist countries. He was unnecessarily dense in his economic analysis (too much education in German universities, maybe) when his clear, simple insight into exploitation was enough: that no matter how valuable were the things workers produced, those who controlled the economy could pay them as little as they liked, and enrich themselves with the difference.

    Personally, Marx was sometimes charming, generous, self-sacrificing; at other times arrogant, obnoxious, abusive. He loved his wife and children, and they clearly adored him, but he also may have fathered the son of their German housekeeper, Lenchen.

    The anarchist, Bakunin, his rival in the International Workingmen’s Association, said of Marx: “I very much admired him for his knowledge and for his passionate and earnest devotion to the cause of the proletariat. But…our temperaments did not harmonize. He called me a sentimental idealist, and he was right. I called him vain, treacherous, and morose, and I was right.” Marx’s daughter Eleanor, on the other hand, called her father “…the cheeriest, gayest soul that ever breathed, a man brimming over with humour".

    He epitomised his own warning, that people, however advanced in their thinking, were weighted down by the limitations of their time. Still, Marx gave us acute insights, inspiring visions. I can’t imagine Marx being pleased with the “socialism” of the Soviet Union. He would have been a dissident in Moscow, I like to think. His idea of the “dictatorship of the proletariat” was the Paris Commune of 1871, where endless arguments in the streets and halls of the city gave it the vitality of a grass roots democracy, where overbearing officials could be immediately booted out of office by popular vote, where the wages of government leaders could not exceed that of ordinary workers, where the guillotine was destroyed as a symbol of capital punishment. Marx once wrote in the New York Times that he did not see how capital punishment could be justified “in a society glorifying in its civilisation.”

    Perhaps the most precious heritage of Marx’s thought is his internationalism, his hostility to the nation state, his insistence that ordinary people have no nation they must obey and give their lives for in war, that we are all linked to one another across the globe as human beings. This is not only a direct challenge to modern capitalist nationalism, with its ugly evocations of hatred for “the enemy” abroad, and its false creation of a common interest for all within certain artificial borders. It is also a rejection of the narrow nationalism of contemporary “Marxist” states, whether the Soviet Union, or China, or any of the others.

    Marx had something important to say not only as a critic of capitalism, but as a warning to revolutionaries, who, he wrote in The German Ideology, had better revolutionise themselves if they intend to do that to society. He offered an antidote to the dogmatists, the hard-liners, the Piepers, the Stalins, the commissars, the “Marxists.” He said: “Nothing human is alien to me.”

    That seems a good beginning for changing the world.

    Howard Zinn

    Revisionist Literature

    [Doing my best Frank Sinatra impersonation.] "What a difference a month makes."

    Swine: A month on from knocking out one of those blog book memes that I love to do - even if I do always end up repeating myself with my choice of books and phraseology - and which even resulted in a few comments and a special mention on the matter of whether or not books can make you cry, and what ends up happening? I get to pages 356-357 of Denise Mina's excellent novel 'Exile' and I start choking up.

    It must have been my delayed reaction to tonight's result.

    Descending into petit-bourgeois menshevism

    Indian Bolshevik comes up with a feeble excuse to try and get out of doing his Saturday morning paper sale.

    Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

    The Old Trafford Meet 'n' Greet Lounge's verdict is in. According to such luminaries as Tommy Docherty, Pat Crerand, Roy Keane and the little old lady that puts out the serviettes on matchday, Celtic will be at the receiving end of a gubbing tonight when they play Man Utd in their first game of the Champions League. The newspapers and sports pages on the net have been gleefully reporting this doomsday scenario, whilst they also play up the 'Battle of Britain' angle to the match but no one knows if they are referring to the game itself, or to the on/off feud between Fergie and Strachan.

    Playing out the role of the impartial football pundit for the purposes of this paragraph, of course it looks like a difficult game for Celtic: Man Utd are sitting atop the EPL with four wins from four games, Rooney is back in Fergie's team plans for tonight's game after yet another enforced absence and Celtic's defence looks that shaky and inexperienced at the minute that Bobo Balde's postman is scoring a bit of overtime with all the 'Get Fit Well Soon, Son' cards he's having to deliver.

    However, for all that, I'm going to stick my neck out and predict a good result for Celtic tonight. McGeady has been excellent so far this season, Gravesen had a storming debut against Aberdeen at the weekend and, if Celtic can nick any free kicks around the edge of Man Utd's penalty box, I can see Nakamura coming up with the goods. Couple with that the odds that Miller has to come good sometime, and that the 'Dietmar Hamman on steroids lookalike' Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink looks like he can unsettle even the most cultured of defences, I know that Celtic will score goals tonight. I'll be watching it live on ESPN, and my prediction - for you to take the piss out of at a later point - is a 2-2 draw.

    It's A Mystery . . .

    . . . the sort of blogs you will stumble across via your sitemeter.

    The Old Jokes Brigade

    "The last speaker from the platform was Alan Woods, a close collaborator of Ted Grant for more than forty years . . . He opened his speech with a joke: "Do you know what the biggest political party in Britain is? It is the party of ex-Militant members", referring to the sizeable amount of old comrades from the Militant days present at the meeting". [Quoted from a report of the Ted Grant Memorial Meeting held in London this past weekend.]

    Christ, I first heard read a variation on that joke about twenty years ago in a scaremongering book about the far left in Britain by some bloke called Blake Baker. Except, in the original version, it was not the Millies but the old Communist Party of Great Britain, and - I think, but don't quote me on this - the bloke telling the joke was Denis Healey.

    Surely the SWP have the *cough* bragging rights to using up and spitting out more activists down the years?

    UPDATE #1

    I failed in my revolutionary duty by neglecting to mention that there is an article on Ted Grant in this month's Socialist Standard.

    UPDATE #2

    Best joke I ever heard about the SPGB was the first joke I ever heard about the SPGB. As a callow youth - same taste in music as now, same haircut as now but I now fall into the category of calloused middle age - I was a member of the Labour Party. Attending a Young Socialists branch meeting in Watford, I got to chatting to a couple of Millies who controlled the branch, and getting around to the subject of political reading I mentioned that I had recently read some SPGB literature:

    "The SPGB? The only meetings they attend are each other's funerals."

    Tuesday, September 12, 2006

    Blogger's Trouble Again

    I know I'm in danger of inviting unkind comments from the Grateful Dead faction of the SPGB, but I just had to add this as the profile song to the Unofficial Socialist Standard MySpace page.

    What's not to like? The vocal is reminiscent of that Joan Jett song which was used as the theme song to Freaks and Geeks, the guitars are crunchy*, the lyrics are suitably snotty and like all good garage-rock songs it bows out just under the two minute thirty second mark. Add in a few yelps - there aren't enough yelps in songs, IMHO - male backing vocals that sound like the O'Neill brothers in their Undertones heyday and you're laughing.

    According to their MySpace page, the various members of the Saturday Night Things have been in 1001 bands before this one, operate out of Brooklyn, and that means I've probably passed the bass player on Seventh Avenue in Park Slope and secretly sneered at him for being a hipster.

    But that is enough about my psychological shortcomings; check out 'Female Trouble', strike up a grin and the Deadheads amongst you can find the mute buttons on your computers.

    *Yes, I know I have an annoying tendency to describe any and all guitar based songs that I like as "crunchy", but what do you fucking expect? I'm not the love child of Lester Bangs and Charles Shaar Murray for Chrissakes!

    Monday, September 11, 2006

    Marxist Misprint

    Erm, I thought the political label 'libertarian socialist' was another way of calling someone an anarchist?

    (Hat tip to Magnus at Leftist Trainspotters.)

    Banksy Punks Disneyland Bush The War On Terror Everybody

    None of that Paris Hilton shenanigans - driving Ms Hilton to drink, who in turn drank herself to drive - this is Banksy back to the good stuff by placing a life-size replica of a Guantanamo Bay detainee inside the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland in California at the weekend, resulting in a situation whereby [the] "security staff shut down the ride and removed it amid fears over public safety."

    Yep, that's right, they would have had a riot on their hands, with all the wee kids stamping their feet and wailing at their parents that they weren't interested in Mickey, Donald and the motley crew of dwarves. They would much rather have their picture taken with the stoic guy in the orange boiler suit. (Excuse the cynicism, I've been contaminated by Carl Hiassen's Native Tongue.)

    More on the story at The Wooster Collective

    Hat tip to Alan J. at Mailstrom for the link.

    Currently Reading

    "The night bus to London is a Glaswegian rite of passage. Most people try it once, attracted by the twenty-quid ticket, the comfortable seating and the promise of arriving in London as fresh as a daisy early in the morning. Only the poor or desperate do it twice. Maureen had done it many times. She always forgot how bad the journey was until she got to the station but her experience had given her a number of tips. The upstairs deck was the most comfortable because it was far from the smell of the chemical toilet and was usually warmer, which made it possible to sleep. It tended to attract the crazies but it filled up more slowly, making it easier to get and keep a double seat to herself. The double seat was the big prize: it meant she could stretch out and leave the bus without aching everywhere."

    [p. 187 of Denise Mina's 'Exile']

    The Best War Ever

    Excellent wee film to trail the book, The Best War Ever: Lies, Damned Lies, and the Mess in Iraq. It's been said before but with the advent of YouTube and its like, it's a whole new landscape for politics and countering propaganda.

    Btw, whatever happened to that bloke on the film who spoke of America being a "super-duper power"?

    9/11 - Five Years On

    The following statement was issued by the World Socialist Party of the United States in the immediate aftermath of the horrific terrorist attacks on 9/11/01.

    Terrorism, and the greater terrorism

    The World Socialist Party of the United States condemns the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. We offer our condolences to those who lost family or friends in these attacks. We do not believe that violence is an effective or acceptable means for social change, or change of any kind. We condemn all acts of violence, regardless of who carries them out.

    As much as we disavow the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, we also denounce the military strikes against Afghanistan, and any other attacks that follow. No capitalist war is worth the shedding of a single drop of blood, on either side.

    We urge the people of the United States, that is to say, the working class, to recognize their common interests, and common plight with the people of all other countries, including Afghanistan. These people are not our enemies. The enemy is the capitalist system.

    In addition, we urge the workers of America to recognize that fellow workers of Arab or Middle-eastern descent who live in America are not the enemy either. They are trapped in the same anti-human capitalist system as all other workers, both in America and the rest of the world. The workers of America must not take out their anger over the attacks on fellow workers of Arab descent.

    We also wish to make it clear that the picture on the cover of our journal, the World Socialist Review, was printed before the September 11 attack on the Pentagon. The picture has nothing to do with the attack.

    We are working to abolish the system which allowed and is responsible for these attacks and invite all who wish to permanently end terrorism and all forms of war to join us.

    National Administrative Committee. WSPUS

    Articles from Socialist Standard on 9/11 and its aftermath:

  • From the September 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard - 'September 11, 2001: Reflections on a Somewhat Unusual Act of War'
  • From the October 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard - 'Terrorism versus Terrorism'
  • From the October 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard - 'Reactions'
  • From the October 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard - 'The Middle East Connection'
  • From the November 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard - 'More Reactions'
  • From the December 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard - Redefining War
  • From the April 2003 issue of the Socialist Standard - The War: Capitalism Does it Again
  • Thursday, September 07, 2006

    Time Gentleman, Please

    'Things Can Only Get Better'

    The non-event has been announced. Blair, forced into a political corner by the dissension of once loyal cabinet members and backbenchers fearful of losing their Parliamentary salaries come the next election, has finally stated what everyone already knew: that he would be gone from office within the year. I'll hazard a guess that May 2007 - marking the tenth anniversary of his Premiership - will be a nice round figure for him to bow out on.

    It was always a given that he would bow out midway through his term of office, to allow the incoming Labour Leader to make his or her mark on the electorate in time for the election in 2009 or 2010, but no politician consumed by so much self-regard likes to be forced to play his hand.

    Will it be Brown, Milburn, Clarke, Straw, Reid, Milburn, Beckett or *bless* McDonnell to replace him as Labour Leader and PM? Well, a lot is going to happen between now and next year, and who can guess who will ascent the political greasy pole come next year. Question is, will they be playing out the role of a 21st century Jim Callaghan or will they do a Paul Keating? (Don't ask.)

    The link above is to an article from the November 1998 Socialist Standard. I've posted it because, apart from being an excellent example of political invective, it serves a reminder to the buzzwords so beloved of the Labour Government - long since disappeared from it's lexicon - in its early years, when it considered itself fearless and unstoppable, and it also serves as a reminder that all political careers ultimately end in failure.

    That's reassuring for a dyed in the wool SPGBer.

    Wednesday, September 06, 2006

    Two Goals in Two Games*

    In the words of Rich, from the best sitcom on the TV right now:

    "Louie, what the fuck just happened?"

    And Christian Dailly scored as well!

    *Alternative title for this post is 'Ninety Minute Nationalist'.

    Just Me And My Monkey*

    According to blogger, this is the 500th post to the blog. To mark this momentous occasion, I could do something similar to what I did for the fiftieth post to the blog but that would require a modicum of thought and the brain is just a bit too frazzled at the moment. Instead, I will just point you in the direction of the first ever post to the blog.

    Looking back at the early days of the blog, I used to indulge in the gargantuan-in-length style post. Thank christ YouTube turned up when it did; Otherwise, I would still only be writing the footnotes for my fourteenth post.

    *Mouthed in a 'Cockernee' accent for those of you who are too slow at the back. I refuse to spell out the meaning of the title. So, instead, I've settled for a footnote to sow further confusion.

    Tuesday, September 05, 2006

    Apologies to Mr Benn

    The loyal rank and file SWPer wakes up Monday morning, looks in the mirror, and wonders what political colour he will be today: "Today I will claim to be in favour of an independent Socialist Scotland. Mmm, I wonder what political colour I will be tomorrow? Maybe I should ring the London office and ask in advance?"

    Banksy Punks Paris

    In the 21st century of multimedia, of course there had to be a video to accompany the prank, and courtesy of the good people of YouTube this above clip of banksy and friends doing the 'How To Bit' is currently doing the rounds on the internet.

    Maybe it's just me, but when watching the footage, I couldn't help but associate it with this current series of ads. Perhaps the advertising agency for HP could approach Banksy to be the next down with the kids 'maverick' in their 'We're corporate but also a little bit werrrr, a little bit weyyyyyy, a little bit arrrrgggh. We're's geezers. Give us your bastard money' campaign. (Catchphrase courtesy of this bloke.)

    Monday, September 04, 2006

    The Light at the End of the Tunnel

    "Few socialists are rash enough to attempt to describe with any precision what socialist society will look like, since it is the democratic decisions of the members of each community that will ultimately give it shape. But we can infer from what exists in the world today, what will at least be possible in the future based on basic socialist tenets. . . READ MORE.

    The September issue of News From Nowhere, the newsletter of the Socialist Party of Canada and the World Socialist Party of the United States, is now online.

    Paris Hilton and Banksy (continued)

    You didn't leave me comments, but at least give me kudos.

    What am I havering about? My prediction that Banksy's stunt will turn golden for some lucky chancer . . . and I'm not talking about Paris Hilton.

    However, it should be pointed out that the attendant publicity that Ms Hilton has received via Banksy's creative act of musical criticism has rewritten the story of an album whose greatest talking point, up until now, was the fact that it hadn't done that well sales-wise in the States.

    Now it's all about who is the real life Charlie Bucket: Paris or 'loveishell2005' (who happens to be one of the happy-chappies selling the CD on eBay)?

    Do They Mean Us? #5

    " . . . a weird little left-communist sect"

    Probably the same SSY cadre who constructed the fifty foot effigy on wheels of my personal hero, Jock Tamson Tommy Sheridan, and who then chose to pour four cans of kerosene over that magnificent chiselled monument to the tribune of the people, before setting it alight and pushing it downhill from atop a Munro into the sleeping Potemkin Village of Bambery. What a fiendish cartoon villain.

    But as he has mentioned Left Communism, it would be amiss of of me if I didn't point you in the direction of this interesting introductory article on Amadeo Bordiga that originally appeared in the Rubel and Crump book, 'Non-Market Socialism in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century'.

    Before you ask, this excuse of a post is Desperate But Not Serious.

    Go Figure #2

    A spokesperson for the Scottish-Italian community, Lou Macari, has given notice that he will be complaining in the strongest terms to the people at YeTubeYe YouTube.

    Reformist Jukebox

    Perhaps in a variation on the old BBC show, 'The Rock and Roll Years', VP of Shiraz Socialist blog provides Gorgeous George* and a few others on the left with suggested theme songs, after Mr Galloway asked for listener input for a new theme song for his radio show on TalkSport. My suggestions are in the comments box.

    *Hat tip to Edwyn Collins of Orange Juice fame.

    Sunday, September 03, 2006

    Go Figure

    I'm listening to a Ian Rankin podcast, scouring the web for reports of the launch of the SVP*, looking out for the delivery of Denise Mina novels in the post and scoffing over that scuffed penalty from Kenny Miller that nearly never went in against the Faroe Islands, whilst Alan J. has produced a couple of excellent posts here and here at Mailstrom, giving the facts and figures on America's Labor Day Holiday, the increased exploitation of the working class in the States and, in short, giving echo of that Warren Buffett famous quote that there is only one side who are currently winning the class war. Guess who?

    Alan lives in Livingston, I live in Brooklyn and the WSPUS are currently thinking at this point that they got sent the wrong Scottish socialist.

    *Sheridan's Vanity Project

    Turning Rebellion Into Funny Money

    I love it . . . honest, I do. Banksy is a hero of sorts, and it gives me an excuse to link to that post once again, in my attempt in lever in an ever so tenuous six hundred and sixty six degrees of separation link between Paris Hilton and the SPGB, but I also can't help but stifle a metaphorical yawn.

    Ridiculing Paris Hilton for being talentless and not being worthy of fame? Obviously, Banksy hasn't been tivo'ing the Simple Life. Paris has been in on the joke for a long time now and, being the shrewd self-publicist that she is, will recognise that this qualifies as excellent publicity. Not even a subversive as talented as Bansky can parody self-parody.

    And what will be the probable outcome of his attempt in making some stinging rebuke about the banality of capitalism and its tawdry consumerism? The doctored CDs fetching a few hundred quid on eBay.


    Banksy's doctored artwork can be seen on Flickr here.

    Saturday, September 02, 2006

    The Image of the Novelist

    "What I start with is a theme. I start with a big question that I want to ask myself, and I can ask it through Rebus. And in this book it was - it was double edged - who are the Scots? 'Cos we had this new Parliament, and we are starting to say, 'have we an identity that is separate from anybody else'? . . . And are the Scots racist? For years we had this huge blockage that said we've got no time for racism; we are too busy with religious bigotry."

    The author of the Rebus novels, Ian Rankin, discusses with John Sutherland Fleshmarket Alley*, Anthony Powell and why it is crime fiction isn't taken seriously in an excellent Guardian book podcast.


    *I read the American edition.

    A Close Shave

    One email away from doing a Tommy Jackson.

    Friday, September 01, 2006

    Five Years On

    The September Socialist Standard is now online and can be read either as a PDF here or the individual articles and reviews can be read in html by clicking on the links provided below.

    With this month being five years since 9/11, I wasn't that surprised to see that the Editorial Committee opted for an article on that monstrous atrocity, and the resultant fall out in the world as its front page article. People might also be interested in the Socialist Standard which was produced the month following the terrorist attack in New York.

    I can't help but notice that the late Ted Grant gets a long obituary in this month's Standard, which I guess is par for the course as the late Tony Cliff also got the full length write up treatment in the May 2000 Socialist Standard. I fear the worst if Tony Benn, Michael Foot and Margaret Thatcher were to die over the same period of time - a bumper 72 page issue of the Socialist Standard the following month, made up of an editorial, the Party's object and declaration of principles, and the rest of the issue given over to sticking the political boot in.


  • War, Plots and Civil Liberties
  • Regular Columns

  • Pathfinders Odds Uneven
  • Cooking the Books Doing Business, the World Bank Way & "Mass Unemployment"
  • Greasy Pole Peter Hain - a Case of Mistaken Identity
  • 50 Years Ago What is Behind the Fight for Suez
  • Main Articles

  • September 11, 2001: reflections on a somewhat unusual act of war On the fifth anniversary of the al-Qaeda attack on New York and Washington, we reflect on this act of war and try to place it in its true political and moral context.
  • After Hezbullah, war with Iran? Was Israel's attack on Hezbullah part of preparations for a coming US attack on Iran?
  • Globalisation - what does it mean? The second part of our article analysing capitalist globalisation. Last month we looked at how this affected capital. This month we examine its impact on the world's population at large.
  • Death of a Tendency The recent death of Ted Grant at the age of 93 has been a landmark, albeit a minor one, in British political history.
  • Political Ideas in Africa A brief look at the history of leftwing ideas in Africa.
  • Desperate Lies The man who faced the choice of dropping dead while waiting on the NHS list or bluffing.
  • Reviews and Letters

  • Book Reviews Glasshouse by Charles Stross; A Rebel's Guide to Gramsci by Chris Bambery
  • Theatre Review Shakespeare's Coriolanus at the Globe
  • Letters to the Editors Nuclear Power & Asked and Answered
  • Voice From The Back

  • Blinded, Conned, Kicked, Disgusted, Abandoned and Shunned by Capitalism.