Sunday, July 30, 2006

Aide Memoire

  • Celtic 4-1 Kilmarnock
  • My memory being what is, I think I should use the blog to keep track of Celtic's results this coming season. (It will also mean that the blog keeps ticking over.) A couple of goals from Magic - which will probably have pissed off the Polish Deli down the road, as he didn't take his shooting boots with him when he went to Germany in the summer - and a goal apiece from Jarosik and Nakamura, means that the season starts off on the right note with a 4-1 mauling of Kilmarnock yesterday.

    Looking at the other results, I note that Rangers salvaged a 2-1 victory away to Motherwell today. Not exactly a roaring start for the dark side, but I still think that Rangers are the favourites for the title this year. I know that my opinion boils down to the fact that I don't have enough faith in Strachan as a manager, and me being dazzled by the fact that Le Guen was such a successful manager in France, but the jury is still out on Strachan's signings this summer. I love the fact that he got Riordan, who has always looked like a classy player, and Sno is a sport headline writer's dream but ***football cliche warning*** I think Strachan's best signing, in a it's not actually a signing kind of way, is if he can hold onto Petrov. (The latter's desire to sign for Portsmouth suggests that he has never visited the place.) I also think this season is probably the best opportunity for a number of years for a few of the homegrown players to firmly establish themselves in the starting line up. I know that McManus, McGeady and Maloney have done the business, but once their injuries have cleared up perhaps Kennedy and Beattie will also fall into place. I'm especially pinning my hopes on Beattie 'cos we Celtic need a robust, direct striker to rattle a few defences.

    Getting back to the other results, noted that the younger Sutton scored the winner for St Mirren against Inverness Caley Thistle, and that Hearts and Hibs had mixed fortunes. I'm not convinced that Hearts will stay the course as well this year as they did the last, and I feel sorry for Hibs; producing good players year on year, only for them to be picked up on the cheap by Rangers and Celtic. It's going to be a long season for them.


    Just saw the goals via You Tube. I don't want to be too blase about Nakamura's free kick, but it was par for the course for him. However, I do have to mention Jarosik's debut goal. I loved the way he ghosted into the box to place the header into the corner. Hitherto, I had pegged Jarosik as one of those squad players that Chelski had bought as an afterthought with Abramovich's plundered billions, but from reading up on him on the internet he looks like a quality player who had unfortnately fallen amongst high wages and low sub benches. I'm starting to be a wee bit more optimistic about Celtic's coming season, which is always a bad sign.

    Friday, July 28, 2006

    Coyne a Phrase

    What is your favourite piece of political wisdom?
    Power Corrupts, and Absolute Power is a shite movie by Clint Eastwood.

    Congrats to John from Counago and Spaves for getting the Normski Hall of Fame treatment this Friday morning.

    Do They Mean Us? #4

    VP at Shiraz Socialist has apparently mislaid his copy of 'How to Win Friends and Influence People', as he has taken it upon himself to ask the question that no one else is asking: Why can't the AWL and the Political Artists Formerly Known as the Millies not be in the same political organisation? That guffaw of laughter you can hear emanating from East London is the sound of Peter Taaffe and Sean Nom de Plume pissing themselves laughing at the very notion. They both agree that the chap is relying too much on the shiraz to inform his socialism. Apparently it is the first time the two have agreed on a political question, since that fateful July afternoon in 1966 when they both agreed that Sean and his mates had no place in the Revolutionary Socialist League.

    I shouldn't scoff too much - and VP knows I'm only teasing him, anyway - as I'm sure he could be the first to shoot back with the riposte of: 'What about the farce of the two SPGBs? You're in no position to sneer at any talk of socialist unity . . .' Well, as I've patiently explained a 1001 times down the years, there aren't two SPGBs. There is one SPGB, and one group of expelled members passing themselves off as the SPGB, and who have dismissed the rest of as a mish mash of anarchists, reformists, feminists, careerists - yes, you read me right - CAREERISTS and, if they could pin it on us, the bastards who shot cock robin.

    The following quote from the latest issue of their journal, the Socialist Studies, confirms my hunch that they won't be proposing unity talks any time soon in the future:

    "The Clapham-based Socialist Party has a three-tiered structure. At the top are the godfathers who run the party, make the decisions and plot the strategy. The second tier are the students who usually last until they graduate or find a safe academic job. Then there is the lower tier - those who have buried their heads in the sand for the best part of 20 years, thinking that the political struggle in the old SPGB and the split into two separate organisations was just a bad dream."

    What a delightful poison-penned paragraph. Though they (and us) usually argue that there are only two classes in capitalism, apparently there are three classes in Clapham. I also love the image of the SPGB as a hotbed of student radicalism. Don't quote me on this, as I may be woefully wrong, but I understand that the last time the SPGB had more than a handful of students in its ranks, Sir Keith Joseph was Education Secretary and Ben Elton was still considered funny.

    Thursday, July 27, 2006

    (N)ew (H)eadline (S)oon

    This one should really be for the Leftist Trainspotters List, but I just noticed that up until the most recent issue of The Socialist, weekly newspaper of 'The Political Artists Formerly Known as the Millies', the previous SIXTEEN ISSUES of the paper had carried stories relating to the National Health Service as its lead headline story. Could this be a record?

    There must be a petition in amongst all this to funnel in the donations and hoover up the punters for their 2006 Recruitathon. Oh, here it is.

    Wednesday, July 26, 2006

    Stephen Colbert's the Word on Solidarity, Supervisors and Labour Unions

    American tv satirist, Stephen Colbert's, take on the forthcoming decision by the National Labor Relations Board on the matter of whether or not 'supervisors' can also be eligible for union membership. (I kid you not.)

    More info and hat tip on the whole business to the American Rights at Work website.

    Tuesday, July 25, 2006

    Boro Park, Brooklyn 5.36am

    According to Kara they are everywhere in Indiana, but it is still a bit of a shock to be confronted by a possum at half five in the morning in urban Brooklyn when you are nipping down the high street to buy a couple of bagels.

    I'm sure if this was Harry's Place, this would be the point where I would mention George Galloway for some obscure reason. But as this blog doesn't have the traffic or the job lot of Little Green Football season ticket holders squatting in the comments box, I'll just get back to eating my bagel and drinking my lukewarm tea.

    Monday, July 24, 2006

    Spaced Out

    That unnerving noise you can hear in the middle distance when you open your windows 'cos of the continuing incessant heatwave - whether you are in Brooklyn, San Jose or Motherwell - is not the rippled sound of incredulous gasps at the news that Celtic have actually won a pre-season friendly, but the collective wail of a two million unsigned bands discovering the news* that the MySpace website has been down these last few days because of a power outage in the state of California.

    I shouldn't crow too much about it, 'cos it was the case that the next 25 5 posts for this blog were going to be MySpace related. It also means that the unofficial** myspace page for the Socialist Standard is also out of action, and currently can't be accessed and updated by my good self. That's put world domination back at least four weeks, and also means that when I am finally able to access the page again I'll be met by 400 messages that have totted up in the intervening period, denouncing me as commie scumbag who should get back to Little Moscow Cowdenbeath***. All that repetition on the delete button can play havoc with the RSI.

    What will I do with my time? It's a toss up between downloading some episodes of Why Don't You? or finally getting round to re-reading this short story. Decisions, decisions, so many decisions on top of the ham-fisted attempt at irony.

    * In every documented case, it was the bass player who broke the news to the rest of the band. It had to be them, as condition of membership of the band, is that they do the band laundry and be in charge of making the friend requests on MySpace whilst the rest of the band write music and generally be artistically creative. What did bass players do with their time before MySpace and 24 hour laundromats?

    ** I always have to insert 'unofficial' into the title when writing of the unofficial Socialist Standard MySpace page. How else can I explain away the fact that the Socialist Standard on myspace is a Glasgow Celtic supporter, and has excellent taste in music? If some Party members had their way, the page would be supporting Fulham and have the James Last Orchestra playing 'The Girl From Ipanema' as the page's profile song.

    *** A sophistcated form of political abuse on MySpace.

    Friday, July 21, 2006

    The Red Devils

    Martin at Counago & Spaves has posted a colourful account of last night's pre-season friendly between Altrincham and FC United. (You know, that footie club that was set up by disgruntled Man Utd fans after the Glazer family won the club in a tombola draw.)

    I know I shouldn't make light of it, but the mental image of the ". . . 70-year-old and his 8-year-old grandson . . ." had me in stitches. I'm guessing that they won't be asked to be the stars of the next Werthers Originals ad campaign.

    More Slaughter in the Middle East

    The editorial from the forthcoming August issue of the Socialist Standard:

    More Slaughter in the Middle East

    Thursday, July 20, 2006

    "Your name is not on the list, you are not coming in"

    Dear SPGB

    As is the case every year, you are not eligible for a stall at the Anarchist bookfair. this is due to a fundamental incompatibility with your politics.


    D. Chatterton*

    It must be late July as the yearly ritual of the Party applying for a stall at the London Anarchist Bookfair, and getting the usual reply has cropped up again. I'm not sure why the Party puts itself through this scenario every year. Maybe there is a spare stamp lying around the office? No, maybe it's because when you look at the some of the stalls and workshops that will be at the event, perhaps there is a feeling of: "Well, if they can get a stall, maybe we should chance our arm?"

    I mean, when there are groups and campaigns as diverse as Aufheben, the IWW, No Sweat, Hobgoblin Magazine, the Wages For Housework Campaign, Verso and Notes from the Borderland having stalls and/or workshops at the event, it's the easiest mistake in the world to think that perhaps there is now a broadminded approach to what consitutes anarchism in EC1. I remember a few years back at an Anarchist Bookfair hearing the most reformist drivel issuing forth from the mouth of Jello Biafra, whilst he was on stage addressing the teeming hordes of stall holders, political malcontents and weekend anarchists at the fag end of a Saturday afternoon. The funniest thing about the speech was when a member of the audience, seven sheets to the wind, decided to make his own impromptu stage with a spare table and decided to give a counter speech whilst Jello was in full flow. It wasn't a Jarvis Cocker versus Michael Jackson type political intervention, more a Special Brew inspired poetry intervention. If memory serves me right, no one in audience raised their voice in opposition to either Jello's reformism or to the poet's piss-poor performance.

    For all my snottiness, like the Recruitathon in July, the Bookfair was always an event that was pencilled into my political diary, and I would have definitely attended if I was in London this year. I'm especially gutted at missing it this year, as it means that I won't be able to see that classic anarchist documentary, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, which is about - and I'm quoting here from the Anarchist Bookfair website - Hugo Chavez, elected President of Venezuela in 1998, [who] is a colourful, unpredictable folk hero beloved by his nation's working class and a tough-as-nails, quixotic opponent to the power structure that would see him deposed." [Meeting Room 1/2: 11:30-12.45]

    *Nice to see that the old "communistic, atheistic scorcher" D. Chatterton is still active in the anarchist movement.

    July 20th

  • 1877 - Rioting in Baltimore, Maryland by Baltimore and Ohio Railroad workers is put down by the state militia, resulting in nine deaths.
  • 1917 - Alexander Kerensky becomes Prime Minister and President of the Russian provisional government and survives an assassination attempt.
  • 1933 - In London, 500,000 march against anti-Semitism.
  • 1934 - Labor unrest in the United States, as police in Minneapolis fire upon striking truck drivers, wounding fifty; Seattle police led by the mayor police fire tear gas on and club 2,000 striking longshoremen, and the governor of Oregon calls out the National Guard to break a strike on the Portland docks.
  • 1944 - World War II: Adolf Hitler survives an assassination attempt (known as the July 20 Plot) led by German Army Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg.
  • 1969 - Apollo Program: Apollo 11 lands on the Moon.
  • 1975 - Don Estelle and Windsor Davies number one in the charts with 'Whispering Grass'
  • 2001 - Italy: The 27th Annual G8 summit opens in Genoa. An Italian protester in Genoa, Carlo Giuliani, is shot by police.
  • 2006 - The one year anniversary of me living in the States, and in that time I've swapped Project Runway for Big Brother UK, sunscreen for a heavy coat, chicken enchiladas for cornish pasties and UK Nova for Supernova. Everybody still thinks I'm Irish - except those people who might think I'm Polish - and I'm still very much happy and in love with Kara.
  • Here's to July 20th 2007.


    Not sure if it should be "Project Runway for Big Brother UK" or "Big Brother UK for Project Runway" etc etc. I can be a bit thick like that, and it does perhaps explain why I never did get my head around the whole concept of Saturday Morning Swap Shop.

    "A Good Lad"

    Despite it supposedly being in the small print of being a revolutionary socialist, one of the reasons that I never fell into the knuckle-headedness of casual anti-americanism was because I was lucky enough to discover the wonderful books of Studs Terkel a few years back. A popular Chicago disc jockey of the last sixty years, Terkel is best known for his oral histories that he produced over the last thirty years.

    In these books, themed around such subjects as the Second World War - in Terkel's title, 'the Good War' - the depression of the thirties and race, he unobstrusively sat back and allowed people from all walks of American life talk about both their memories and their everyday lives. Very much like his British counterpart, the late Tony Parker, in giving people who would otherwise not be seen in public life or whose opinions would not be sought by tv and print journalists the opportunity to give expression to their intelligence, compassion and humour Terkel performed such a public service in knocking down those all too easy stereotypes that people fall back on when thinking about people in the States.

    So, it was nice to see the reports that he won the first ever Dayton Literary Peace Prize yesterday. No, I hadn't heard of the award either but I'm hoping that in winning the award, and receiving the attendant plaudits and coverage, more people will check out his books and discover what I discovered: the essential decency and humanism of the people within its pages.

    Wednesday, July 19, 2006

    With Your Tea And Lemon Ice

    You know when you've got an mp3 on iTunes and it has been there for an absolutely age but you've never listened to it, and you wonder why you downloaded purchased it legally in the first place? I had that feeling the other day with a particular track, and I was just about to banish it to the trash can when I thought I would give it a wee listen before saying goodbye to it forever.

    And guess what? The track was absolutely shite and I should have deleted it months before. No, I'm lying. The song is absolutely brilliant: a bluesy boogie woogie number with electrifying guitar work, and a vocal that is both warm and distant at the same time. It sounds like the singer and the musicians are performing in a different part of the studio (No, I don't know what I'm havering on about either, but if you heard the song you wouldn't be too quick to dismiss me as a pretentious git.) What's the track? Step forward Kevin Coyne's 'Eastbourne Ladies' off the Marjory Razor Blade album. Genius, sheer genius.

    I fear if I don't doff my cap to John at Counago and Spaves for bringing the late Kevin Coyne to my attention, he'll probably batter me senseless with Kevin Coyne's back catalogue and, as that amounts to over forty albums, that would be a sore yin.

    The Primitive Accumulation of Cadre

    "Honestly, I was that close joining the SWP when I was 14 or 15 (lurked around the SWP stall by B'ham New Street station) and nobody tried to recruit me. Darnation, I say! Joined the LP instead and became an entryist."

    Despite claims to the contrary from earnest Central Committee members - with the requisite quotes from Lenin, Trotsky and Taaffe Cliff Woods/Grant Conrad and Fischer Sean what's-he-calling-himself-this-week whoever is their proletarian hero of choice to back them up - the throwaway comment above from Louisefeminista on her blog, Stroppyblog, hits the nail on the head when it comes to how the left - all the left -recruit 97% of their membership. For all the pisstake stereotypes about the Trot student with the petition and the paper harassing the shoppers outside Sainsburys on a Saturday morning, you take that scenario out of the equation and you have membership figures that resemble the size of the French branch of the Marco Materazzi fan club. And in truth, if there was a local branch of the Spartacist League peddling their wares outside Our Price in the Marlowes when I was an impressionable youth, who knows I might now be a member of an obscure political sect.

    Now, if only the left could admit that for all their bluster, it is the spotty fifteen year old who comes to them, not the other way round then there might have been a purpose for this post.

    Rant over.

    Tuesday, July 18, 2006

    "If Lev can advertise KFC . . . "

    "Leaping from the sealed train at the Finland Station, the only thing on Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov mind was that he could murder a Chicken Burrito". [From Jimmy Carr's forthcoming book, 'The Alternative Comedian's History of the Russian Revolution'.]

    For the real story behind how a statue of Lenin turned up in Seattle, Washington, click on the link.

    Hat tip to David W. at the Leftist Trainspotters list.


    A reader from Seattle writes:

    "Someone once rigged that statue's finger once so if you 'pulled lenin's finger' it signalled a tiny device near the ground that made a flatulent noise and then apologised in Russian."

    Monday, July 17, 2006


    They got the title of the event wrong - see above please - 'cos I always understood that "Socialist Butlins" was the beanfeast that the SWP held at Skegness every year: twelve to a room, pinning the tailism on Bambery the donkey, cheap Lincolnshire potato wine and Lindsay German waking the comrades up every morning with the words "Morning Cadre, Hi De Hi" over the tannoy, but for all that the Nicky Wire and James Dean Bradfield of the ultra-left have provided an entertaining account of their time at this year's SWP Recruitathon.

    Of the two meetings on Modernism that they attended, they make the interesting point that:

    " . . . These meetings proved to be the equivalent of last year's Sartre meeting . . . In other words, because they are about relatively safe, peripheral issues, where there is no rigid party line, it is where real debate goes on and SWPers can really get stuck into each other. It's like a safety valve for internal dissent, and great fun to watch. Naturally, a debate over Iraq would be beyond the pale as all the questions have already been answered by the Central Committee. We look forward to next year's row about reclaiming Ezra Pound for the left."

    It's a point I'd never considered before but it does make sense. How is that otherwise argumentative and cantankerous politicos suddenly turn into a cloned collective version of that bloke from the late Fast Show, with their exclaimations of "brilliant", "super" and "The workers united will be defeated" for those few hot days in July? This use of the safety valve of the cultural meeting is not something that only applies to the SWP. I still maintain that the most hotly debated meeting I ever participated in, in the SPGB, was the: 'Grateful Dead: shit or not?' debate that took place amongst party members after an Autumn Delegate Meeting one time. I thought it was going to come to blows at some point, until half the combatants in the room were quickly dispersed with the threat by one comrade on the opposing side that he would start singing the lyrics to 'Till The Morning Comes' a capella style.

    Sadly, there is no mention of them tangling with the Sparts or an update on Dave's impersonation of Paul F. of Revolutionary History fame, and there also isn't any mention of the Party doing a stall at the event but I hope that isn't because they didn't do a stall this year. In the words of that black and white film whose title I don't remember because I never knew its name in the first place: "Say it isn't so, Joe. Say it isn't so."


    No doubt there are a few people amongst the Leith literati who are choking on their sugar puffs at the report from the Sunday Telegraph that Irvine Welsh has stepped forward as a Tory supporter, but if it happens to be true, and it's not some elaborate wind-up on Welsh's part, I have to admit there is a certain logic in his reasoning:

    "I'm a product of Thatcherism in many ways and I've benefited from everything I detested. I've had to come to terms with it. My whole family background was a socialist one. I didn't consciously embrace those changes in the 1980s, but they did help me personally.

    "My dislike of Thatcherism is very much a class-based thing. I really had a problem with the middle and upper class. Basically, I thought how can a Tory be nice? Now, some of the nicest people I have met have been middle and upper-middle class and some of them, I suppose, must be Tories."

    As the article later goes on to state, Welsh's plans are to buy a home in California so that he can concentrate on his work in more conducive surroundings, which indicates that he must have made a mint from the books and tv/film tie-ins depicting the poverty, violence and drug addiction that blighted the schemes of Edinburgh and its surroundings areas in the eighties and the nineties. Nice of him to acknowledge that he has made a literary killing from the effects of Thatcherism in all its shape and forms.

    As you can probably tell from the heavy handed sarcasm, I've not really got the highest opinion of Mr Welsh's fiction. Even if it turns out that the story is some well constructed hoax on Welsh's part to wind up the Torygraph, I'm not shy in admitting that I thought that Trainspotting was overrated when I first read it many moons ago, and I much preferred writers who appeared on the scene at the same time and later, such as Gordon Legge, Duncan McLean and Laura Hird. From reading various interviews of Welsh on the net that date from down the years, he returns again and again to the statement that when he first began to seriously write fiction in the eighties, he wanted to move away from the themes that were prevalent in contemporary Scottish fiction at the time that served to give the blanket impression that Scotland was uniformly male, industrial working class, unionised, sectarian and seemingly always geographically located in the West of Scotland.

    I don't knock him for railing against those writers who, in raking over the immediate past and perhaps trying to make sense of what had, in their eyes, gone wrong with the post-war consensus of welfare capitalism, had their heads and their typewriters still rooted in the sixties and seventies. That period has all too often been mythologised then and now by writers who, in wanting to grab hold of a pre-Thatcher golden age, are too quick to skate over the problems that were all too real for the working class during that period, but it's kind of ironic that as someone who started out wanting to challenge the misplaced romanticism of the "Glasgow Mafia"* Welsh has profited so handsomely from playing out the role of a literary tour guide, indulging those who don't live in schemes in Edinburgh and Glasgow and everywhere in between, but who still want to dip their toes into that other misplaced romanticism of drug addiction, casual violence and the fuck you mentality that is always so much more exciting and alluring when it's viewed from the safe distance of a bookshelf or a tv screen.

    *Welsh's term for those Scottish writers who, in the late eighties, were all about writing about the "industrial working class experience".

    If Only This Had Happened At The World Cup . . .

    I wonder if this incident had anything to do with the fact that the nickname for Falkirk is the Bairns?

    A reader of the blog has sent in the following exclusive pic of the incident.

    Sunday, July 16, 2006

    By the time I get to Phoenix . .

    . . . I will write another proper blog, but in the meantime: is it just me, or does the new Manchester United strip look like an old Bristol City jersey?

    I can't date the Bristol City top I'm thinking of, but it definitely rings a bell. Could we have reached that point in history where football strip manufacturers have run out of ideas in applying rejigs to the same kit again and again, so they can sell yet another XXL replica top for forty five quid - that has been made by sweated labour in the third world - to balding blokes called Nigel and Wayne living in cul de sacs in Redhill and Stourbridge?

    On matters relating to United, it appears that Ferguson is seeking to offload Liam Miller and is listening to offers. Gordon, if you are reading this (and I know you have been known to look in every once in a while for updates on the Microdisney reunion tour): sell Stan and ask Liam to come back. You know it makes sense.

    Friday, July 14, 2006

    Our Favourite Quote

    As the 14th July is Bastille Day, I've used that as an excuse to post the following old Socialist Standard article: 1789: France's Bourgeois Revolution on the unofficial Socialist Standard page on MySpace. You are more than welcome to check it out.

    For some reason, I was originally going to entitle this post 'Abstract Barricadists'*. I've no idea why, other than the fact that it tickled me. I'm sure that I will use that title at a later date in connection to a rant against any vanguardist anarchist bastard who doesn't have a copy of the November 2003 Socialist Standard sticking out their back pocket, but I have instead fallen back on the title 'Our Favourite Quote'. Why that title? Glad you asked. Simply 'cos any mention of the French Revolution reminds me of the following quote from Jean-Paul Marat that was in the sleevenotes of the underrated 1985 Style Council album, Our Favourite Shop**:

    "Don't be taken in when they paternally pat you on the shoulder and say that there's no inequality worth speaking of and no more reason to fight because if you believe them they will be completely in charge in their marble homes and granite banks from which they rob the people of the world under the pretence of bringing them culture. Watch out, for as soon as it pleases them they'll send you out to protect their gold in wars whose weapons, rapidly developed by servile scientists, will become more and more deadly until they can with a flick of the finger tear a million of you to pieces."

    As a callow youth I was always impressed by that quote, so it was a bit of a choker to discover that he also penned the words:

    "Five or six hundred heads cut off would have assured your repose, freedom, and happiness. A false humanity has held your arms and suspended your blows; because of this millions of your brothers will lose their lives". (Quoted from L'Ami du Peuple, July 1790)

    I guess it's the Menshevik in me that ensures that that quote will always send a chill down my spine. Sad thing is that there are 'r-r-r-revolutionaries' today who would probably agree with the sentiment of Marat's quote in a *cough* revolutionary situation. As an antidote to such reactionary fervour, it's a tonic to check out the closing words to Martov's 1918 article, Down With The Death Penalty!:

    "The [Bolshevik] party of death sentences is as much an enemy of the working class as the party of pogroms.

    Let all those ignorant, blinded, and debauched sons of the working class who have been bought see, that the family of the proletariat will never forgive them their participation in the business of execution!

    Let all those who have not yet lost their socialist outlook make haste to distance themselves from the Medvedevs and Stuchkas, the Krylenkos and Trotskies, Dzerzhinskies and Sverdlovs, from all those who are in charge of wholesale and individual murder!

    We must not remain silent! For the honour of the working class, for the honour of socialism and the revolution, for our duty to our motherland and the Workers’ International, for the principles of humanity, for our hatred of autocracy’s gallows, for the beloved memory of our martyred fighters for freedom – let the mighty call of the working class resound across all Russia:

    Down with the death penalty! Let the people judge the executioner-cannibals!

    Maybe I should have titled this post, 'Armchair Barricadists'?

    *I think I should give the clever clever titles a rest for a while. I bet no one got that the 'Twenty Pages in July' title was my nod to Mike Leigh's drama, 'Four Days in July'?

    **Don't quote me on this, but I think Style Council's 'Our Favourite Shop' might have been the last album to ever be reviewed in the Socialist Standard. Christ, for all I know, it might have been the first and last album ever to be reviewed in its hallowed pages. Wait up, no, a brain cell is telling me that someone might have reviewed the Tom Robinson Band's 'Power in the Darkness' in the Standard a few years before that. I should dig the reviews out, and post them up on the blog. Such sterling commitment to regular and ongoing cultural commentary by the SPGB should be celebrated on the internet. I wonder if the greybeards at the MIA would accept the reviews for inclusion on their website?

    Thursday, July 13, 2006

    Twenty Pages in July

    Just to let you know that the July 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard is online, and can be either read in its entirety as a PDF here or as individual articles at the links provided below. Pik Smeet's love letter to George Galloway has already been talked up a storm by the good people at the Shiraz Socialist blog, but I have to be honest in stating that I'm not too impressed with the article on Woody Guthrie in the July issue. Not so much on the matter of the author's take on Guthrie himself - the jury is still out for me on Woody, so I'll stick with Bragg for now - but more on the misrepresentation of the IWW in the body of the article. I think the author gets the IWW wrong, but I guess you'll have to read the article yourself to draw your own conclusions. What I will say is that you should also check out this article on the Wobs that I have posted before on the blog. The article originally appeared in the Socialist View, a fine socialist publication that used to be produced out of Belfast in the late eighties and early nineties in difficult circumstances, and I think it does a good job of giving an alternative take on the IWW.


  • The Way The World Is
  • Regular Columns

  • Pathfinders Whales, genes, and why low status is bad for your health.
  • Cooking the Books The Nutty Professor & Baron Rothschild Rides Again.
  • Greasy Pole John Prescott finds grace and favour.
  • Main Articles

  • What Price Democracy? Recent scandals about donations to political parties confirm that under capitalism some - those with money - are more equal than others.
  • A So-Called Socialist in Parliament Respect MP George Galloway, backed by the SWP, is a counter-example of how a lone Socialist MP should behave.
  • Exploding the Human Nature Myth If humans are warlike, why do they desert in droves? If selfish, why do they put money in charity boxes? John Bissett discusses one of the most common, and most bizarre, objections people make to a society of common ownership.
  • Asylum: From Pillar To Post And Back. Take a woman, threaten her with death so that she runs half-way across the world, then give her nothing and force her into crime, then put her in jail. A story of how capitalism gives some people no options, then punishes them for it.
  • Time For Capitalism To Go Just what is the nub of the case against capitalism, and for socialism? Richard Montague lays it all out in brief.
  • Woody Guthrie Resonant Voice for the Downtrodden: Woolly-Eyed Lefty
  • Reviews

  • Book review of Jonathan Porritt's 'Capitalism as if the World Matters
  • Voice From The Back

  • Turning wine into disinfectant, and why the Lord remains silent.
  • Deja Vu

    Wasn't this how last year started as well? With Le Guen doing the new broom routine on the dark south side, it doesn't bode well for the coming season.

    I had to chuckle at this quote from Adu:

    "I mean, this is one of the best teams in Europe. And we came out here and we just took it to them."

    Don't be too harsh on the kid. He's only seventeen and it's evident from the quote above that DC United don't pay him enough. How else can you explain the fact that he can't afford to subscribe to Setanta?

    I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For But I Did Find This Instead

    Amazing what you will stumble across on the net when you aren't even looking for it. Found this fifty year old Socialist Standard May Day editorial that some bloke in San Francisco had posted on his blog a few months back.

    No idea how he got a hold of it, short of him being on MySpace and perhaps seeing it posted on the unofficial page for the Socialist Standard at some point. I'm not complaining.

    Wednesday, July 12, 2006

    That Elvis Costello Song

    To the person in Tokyo who periodically looks at my blog after accessing it via a google search for Robert Barltrop's 'The Monument'? Say hello for christ sake. I won't bite.

    Must dash - the new season of Project Runway is just about to start. It's the best reality show on TV.


    The fourth member of the British Electronic Foundation has turned up on Project Runway after being missing - feared dead - for 25 years. Now going by the name of Malan Breton, he claims to have been born in Taiwan and has an English accent that appears to have been cribbed from an Evelyn Waugh novel. He went by the name of Terry Curran in his B.E.F days, and was known to have hailed from the not so posh part of Attercliffe in Sheffield. Prior to appearing on tonight's opening episode of the third series of Project Runway, he had last been seen on the windswept night of October 11th 1981, at around 10.17pm, nipping out of the Leeds Cosmo Club to go buy a pickled onion and chips at the chippie next door. Up until tonight's startling reappearance he had been viewed as the Richey Manic of his lost generation.

    Quote of the Day

    "It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets."

    Sprouts and Socialism

    I'll put my hands up now and admit that I'm a meat-eater. What can I say - I'm Scottish: It comes with the kilts, alcoholism and the bad Sean Connery impersonations.*

    Nonetheless, I thought I'd post a link to a blog on Vegetarianism and Socialism from the WSPUS MySpace page, 'cos I sort of know the bloke who wrote it, and 'cos it's food for thought - christ I can't use that pun, I'll get battered senseless with a rolled up copy of the latest Rachael Ray cookbook - it's an interesting take on consumption in today's world and the way we can perhaps live in a post-capitalist world.

    Suggested Further Reading:

  • Animals For Profit
  • Beasts of Burden: Capitalism, Animals and Communism
  • *Lazy stereotypes employed for the purposes of blogging.

    Tuesday, July 11, 2006

    The Boy About Town*

    WARNING: Please don't click on the link if your are easily offended by cuss words and limited dialogue.

    Despite the fact that it stars one of her favourite actors - Phillip Seymour Hoffman - for some inexplicable reason Kara thinks that the Coen Brothers classic, The Big Lebowski, is overrated, which means that any time it's on TV she won't listen to reason when I suggest that we watch it together.

    However, via the good people at YouTube, I think I've found a solution to this knotty problem. The following link will lead you to The Big Lewbowski - the Short Version.

    Clocking in at 2 minutes 14 seconds, it captures the essence of the Chandleresque story** without losing any of its emotional power. I still choke up when I see that scene with John Turturro at the bowling alley.

    And just to scotch the rumour before it spreads like wildfire across the blogosphere: there is no truth in the rumour that Will Rubbish had a hand in writing the script for the short version, though the jury is still out on whether or not he assisted Richard Curtis with the opening scene to Four Weddings and a Funeral.

    *Why the title? Well the short version of the BL is the same length as the Jam classic 'Boy About Town', and I thought for a nano-second that it was clever to tie in the song with the notion of Lebowski stumbling around 1991 Los Angeles in search of an explanation as to why someone would want to piss on his rug. I did say it was a nano-second, and that nano-second seems such a long time ago now. Sob.

    **That piece of cod-intellectualism was borrowed from the wikipedia entry on the film. Like I know anything about Chandler - esque or otherwise. Wasn't he the fat one who ended up marrying Monica?

    Ann Coulter meets Adam Carolla

    Whenever I've seen Adam Carolla on the TV he has usually irritated the hell out of me, but there is something to be said for his boorish behaviour every once in a while:

    So rude, but funny all the same.

    I guess the British equivalent would be Chris Moyles breaking bread with Melanie Phillips. Maybe not.

    Hat tip to Fetch Me My Axe Blog and the Drink Soaked Trots Blog comments box.

    Monday, July 10, 2006

    Famine In The Midst Of Plenty

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

    A Grand British Holiday

    It turns out that Channel 4 is currently repeating Alan Bleasdale's drama GBH on its More4 channel. Best known for his earlier TV drama Boys From The Blackstuff, which by common consent is considered one of the most important and best loved dramas in the history of British television, Bleasdale was lauded and condemned in equal measure for GBH because so many people thought it was little more than a knockabout attack on the local politics of his hometown, Liverpool, and the then Militant Tendency's domination of its Labour council. Reproduced at the following link is a review of the drama that appeared in the Socialist Standard at the time of its original showing, which delves deeper and goes beyond the notion that Bleasdale was doing little more than writing ten hours of television drama so that he could stick the metaphorical boot into Derek Hatton.

    The Off the Telly website carries an interesting article on GBH, as part of a series of articles on Bleasdale and his work.

    Further Reading: From the January 1986 Socialist Standard - Leftist Wonderland: Militant in Liverpool

    Hat-tip to the Millie member on the UK Left Network discussion list who brought the repeating of GBH to my attention with his denunciation of its ". . . reactionary and anti-working class plot."

    Sunday, July 09, 2006


    There was Kara (no link - she decided to delete her blog) and myself watching Rachael Ray's $40 dollars a day this morning, which was coming from Milwaukee, and for only the 17th time in our relationship any time Milwaukee is mentioned, I pointed out: "Did you know that Milwaukee had a reformist socialist mayor in the fifties? Yeah, that is why that show was called 'Happy Days', and why the Fonz was so cool." And for the 17th time in our relationship, she rolled her eyes and replied: "That joke is so bad that Marty had to leave the room in embarrassment." And for the fifth time in our relationship, I attempt to save face by adding: "And do you remember that scene in 'Wayne's World' where Wayne and Garth met Alice Cooper backstage at his concert and he mentioned the business of Milwaukee having a socialist mayor?" Unfortunately, that never works as a saving grace. Kara either replies that she didn't know that 'Wayne's World' was set in Milwaukee (it wasn't - they just went there for the concert), or we start talking about other Mike Myers films and we both agree that 'So I Married An Axe-Murderer' is a pile of crap, and I do my fake rant about Mike Myers being anti-Scottish, but that isn't the spooky bit - remember the title, dear reader? The spooky bit is that I click on the yahoo homepage to be met by this story, which is buried somewhere halfway down the page.

    Is it a sign? No, it's a coincidence and therefore the title of the blog is inappropriate but I'm too busy to change it 'cos I'm emailing this bloke with the news, so he can include it for future reference in that special place on the blogosphere.

    What He Said*

    The worst World Cup ever in my honest opinion. No, not the quality of the football, the quality of my predictions. I thought Spain would do it this time, but they tripped over themselves against France after demolishing the Ukraine so convincingly in the group stages. And then I thought Trevorland would get a result against Portugal. Again, not so close, no Churchillian cigar. My heart ruled my head in wanting Germany win the semi final against Italy, but as the game went on today I genuinely thought that France would and should win - I wanted France to win. Not just 'cos I still love the French midfield of '82 and '84 after all these years, not just because Henry plays so effortlessly that it is a beauty to behold or even the fact that Sagnol looks like that bloke out of 'City of God' but because they had grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and they deserved it. And it helped that I held a grudge against Italy ever since that moment Grosso cheated to win that penalty against Australia. It still sticks in my throat when I think about it, but I knew that as soon as it went to penalties today that Italy would win. I was only half right, 'cos I thought it would be down to Buffon saving at least one penalty and I couldn't see Barthez saving a penalty. What with him being more concerned in pulling his bastard shorts up every two minutes, I thought the bloke looked resigned to the fact that he would never get near an Italian penalty. I was 100% right.

    But as gutted as I am at Italy winning the 2006 World Cup, the only thing that is racing through my mind at this moment is what was it that Materazzi said to Zidane that prompted the latter to head butt him in the chest? More than anything else, that is what I want to know in the here and now. I know that Zidane has a temper but he usually keeps it in check. I fear the worst, though I'm loath to spell out what I mean by that but I'm hope I'm wrong in thinking that way. I don't need another reason at this point to begrudge Italy winning the World Cup.

    *Apologies to messers Morrissey & Marr

    That Pre-Match World Cup Final Coverage in Full

    Gattuso used to play for Glasgow R*ngers and Perrotta was born in Ashton-Under-Lyne; the same town as Geoff Hurst. That means, that if Italy were to win, a thousand articles on the '66 & '06 connection will bloom and I will wilt.


    Saturday, July 08, 2006

    Durham Miners' Gala 2006

    John from A Revolutionary Act bears witness to actual SPGB activity.

    "Members who manned the Party stall at The Miners' Gala today 8.10am - 5.00pm sold £58.00 of Party wares and gave away a few dozen back issues of the Standard free. We had a couple of ex-members attending the stall, one of whom is keen to rejoin, and a few sympathisers who we've known for years and who said they'll come to meetings if we can kick start the meetings up here again. A friend of Cde Alan J's (Dek?) stopped by for a chat and bought a book. We might have sold more but for the added fairground attractions they have there and the competition from the myriad leftist, anarchist and campaign groups in attendance. Even the IWW had a stall there this year.

    The Organisers (NUM Durham area) reckon there was 70,000 there, but I guess they get their crowd counters from the SWP - maybe half that. The usual suspects spoke from the stage, again pushing their reformist pro-Labour cant (it's in the NUM Durham area constitution that only speakers who support Labour can speak).

    A woman came to the stall and said she was retiring to Spain and wondered what she could do with her late father's collection of old marxist books. I told her we'll (the Party) have them and gave her our details (turns out she only lives about two miles from me).

    Amusing highpoint - ten minutes after we erected it, the friggin' Gazebo took off in a gust of wind - due in no small part to the sizeable banner atached to it and sailed through the air and crashed into a prize draw trailer. The old guy at the next stall - selling mining memorabilia - gave us a hammer and some large pegs to steak the gazebo down and remarked "I can't believe I'm actually helping the Socialist Party - my grandfather was Keir Hardie's election agent.""

    Thursday, July 06, 2006

    "You're The Reason Our Kids Don't Have Trade Unions"

    Apart from the majestic Patsy Cline, I usually hate country music but I've got a soft spot for the tune accompanying this superb flash animation skit on the subject of Wal-Mart's notorious union busting practices that skewers both Wal-Mart and Garth Brooks simultaneously.

    Love the disclaimer at the bottom of the page that states that: "The cartoon and its message are not sponsored or endorsed by or affiliated with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. or Garth Brooks."

    As if Garth Brooks could write a tune that catchy.

    Hat tip to Dave's Part.

    Do They Mean Us? #3

    As Michael Foot's nephew, Paul Foot, has been mentioned in the comments section of the previous post, I thought I would dig out the excerpt from the letter that Paul Foot wrote to a comrade, where he writes of his memories of the SPGB in Glasgow in the early sixties, when he was living and working there as a journalist:

    "I went to Glasgow for my first job (a reporter on the Daily Record) in September 1961. I joined the Young Socialists and the Woodside Labour party. A highly influential figure in the Woodside YS at the time was Vic Vanni, a big, very good-looking and persuausive bloke, a sheet metal worker, whose father had come to Glasgow from Italy, and ran a fish and chip shop. I became friendly with Vic and liked his sense of humour. He was greatly influenced by the SPGB, and many times I went with him and others to hear the SPGB lecturers in St Andrews Hall (I think). We also heard SPGB speakers like Dick Donnelly speak at open air meetings off Sauchiehall St.

    "Before I left Glasgow in 1964, Vic joined the SPGB and I think he is still a member, probably a very senior one. . .

    "These SPGB speakers had a wonderful, proletarian, down-to-earth way of conveying Marxist ideas. They were all, without exception, sardonic and witty speakers, and they made a profound impression on me. In particular, they scornfully rejected the idea - prevalent at the time, that Russia etc were Socialist countries . . ."

    I'm cutting and pasting the excerpt from another place that I had previously posted it. Unfortunately, I don't have the original letter in front of me, otherwise I would have also included the passage where Paul Foot writes of his disagreements with the SPGB both then and at the time of writing the letter. (15th January 2003.) I don't want to give out the mistaken impression that Foot was a closet SPGBer. He wasn't, but he was a wonderful writer.

    Wednesday, July 05, 2006

    Do They Mean Us? #2

    " “Of all the sights and sounds which attracted me on my first arrival to live in London in the mid-thirties, one combined operation left a lingering, individual spell. I naturally went to Hyde Park to hear the orators, the best of the many free entertainments on offer in the capital. I heard the purest milk of the world flowing, then as now, from the platform of the Socialist Party of Great Britain.”
    Michael Foot, Debts of Honour, 1980.

    Politics Goes Pop

    I still maintain that Pulp's 'Common People' and 'Cocaine Socialism' are two of the best political pop songs of the last ten years or so. Employing a lacerating wit where others would just be shouty fuckers, Jarvis Cocker has that knack in his lyrics for spot on acidic observations about everyday life that have always been so much more politically relevant than those other musicians who, in trying to angle an invite to be on the bottom of the bill at the Love Music, Hate Racism festival at the Weasel and Duck pub in Dunstable, try to wrap a borrowed Ruts riff around a lyric that is the equivalent of a mimeographed manifesto written by an anarcho-trot expelled from the Alliance of Workers' Spartacist Federation for being too politically incoherent.

    That is why I was buzzed to read in the comments section of Lenny's Blog that Jarvis Cocker has debuted a new old song, 'Running The World', on his recently launched MySpace page. According to the blurb on his profile page he's uploaded the song now 'cos it's a year to the day that he wrote the song on the night of Live8 last year, and in his own words:

    "I wanted you to hear it now cos It's exactly 1 year since that Live-8 thing & it was the night of that event that I wrote this song. I apologise for all the swearing but sometimes that's the only thing that seems appropriate. It's in no way a criticism of Geldof & co. but I remember thinking at the time: "Where does engaging with these politicians/businessmen really get you?" - ( 12 months on & the cunts still haven't paid up as far as I can make out) - maybe the problem is something more ..... fundamental. Anyway, what do I know? I'm just a pampered rock star - but at least I think it's good to discuss this stuff. Don't you?"

    With the opening lines of 'Well did you hear that there is a natural order, those most deserving will end up with the most, that the cream can't help but always rise to the top, well I say: shit floats', and a chorus that the whole family can sing along to, I think we've found the soundtrack to the summer; especially now that Trevorland have been dumped out of the World Cup, and Baddiel and Skinner have put the acetate of 'Three Lions' in Ian Broudie's vault for another two years.

    The boy done good.

    Tuesday, July 04, 2006

    Quotes of the Day #1 & #2

    "Okay guys, one more thing, this summer when you're being inundated with all this American bicentennial Fourth Of July brouhaha, don't forget what you're celebrating, and that's the fact that a bunch of slave-owning, aristocratic, white males didn't want to pay their taxes."

    From Richard Linklater's 'Dazed and Confused'.

    "Today's the fourth of July/ Another June has gone by/ And when they light up our town I just think/ What a waste of gunpowder and sky"

    From Aimee Mann's '4th of July'

    Monday, July 03, 2006

    Do They Mean Us? #1

    The start of an irregular series on the blog where, in lieu of actual blogs of substance to post, I cut and paste a quote on the SPGB from someone who is either famous, infamous or facetious in the rarefied atmosphere of fringe politics. It serves the purpose of keeping the blog ticking over and also, in light of their being more urban myths out there on the SPGB than there are members of the 5th International that still get a retelling to this day - see recent comments on the blog - it also gives the bogus impression that an SPGBer can laugh at both himself and the 'Party'. First up is the bloke who is still, 42 years after the event, Britain's most famous anarchist, Stuart Christie:

    [Writing of the Workers Open Forum that existed in Glasgow in the 50s and 60s] "Robert Lynn revelled in the forums, which he called the University of Life. They certainly had their moments. I remember one exemplary SPGB graduate speaker mounting the platform, drawing a ten-shilling note from his pocket and holding it dangling from his thumb and forefinger for a quarter of an hour or so while delivering a devastatingly witty attack on money. The audience of thirty or so were spellbound. There was not a single heckler, until he set fire to it”. My Granny Made Me An Anarchist: 1946-1964, 2003, p. 157.

    More to follow when blogging block kicks in.

    Sunday, July 02, 2006

    Pages From The Party Press

    As mentioned in a previous post, I'm currently trying to raise the profile of the SPGB on MySpace, and part of that involves me occasionally transcribing the odd occasional article from the Party's archive for inclusion on the profile. At the moment, I'm primarily focussing on historical articles that touch on the history of the American labour labor movement. It makes sense as I know bugger all about the history of American radicalism save watching Matewan and Reds a couple of times on the TV, and borrowing a comrade's Barbara Dane's CDs one time.

    So, for your pleasure - and my sitemeter - here's the links to those articles:

  • From the August-September 1986 issue of the now sadly discontinued Socialist View, the journal of the World Socialist Party of Ireland - The Wobblies
  • From the August 1986 issue* of the Socialist Standard - Jewish Anarchists
  • From the July 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard, a report on a debate between the late Michael Harrington and Fletcher Byrom, the former head honcho at the Kopper Corporation - A Better Form Of Capitalism
  • And previously unpublished, and to tie in with this year marking the 90th anniversary of the formation of the World Socialist Party of the United States - Issac Rabinowich and the World Socialist Party of the United States
  • More to follow when my touch typing gets above 15wpm.

    *The August 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard was the first issue of the magazine I ever read. Fuck, if I hadn't replied to that wee ad in the back of the NME all those years ago I could have been a careerist contender.

    Made Me Laugh

    Incidentally, what does a Scotland fan do after he sees his team win a major tournament? He puts his Playstation away.

    Barbed wit from someone called 'fimani la' in the comments section of Harry's Place.

    It's Official

    We're all British, again.

    Saturday, July 01, 2006

    World Cup Sayings #6

    Tory leader David Cameron paid tribute to the England team's spirit: 'I watched the match at home with my family and I feel very sad for the team because they tried so hard and after all that effort they deserved to win. But we can all be proud of what they've achieved.'

    Why do I think this is a particularly significant World Cup saying? 'Cos when I read it, the image that immediately sprang to my mind was of that photo op of Tony Blair and Kevin Keegan at the Labour Party Conference back in '95, when they played *cough* heady uppy, and thus confirmed the impression of the time that the everyman Blair was a shoe in as the next Prime Minister.

    So, when journalists are looking for a cliched soundbite from the opposition leader on the matter of a footie result, you just know that it suggests that a lot of the media thinks that Britain is ready for its first Smiths loving Prime Minister.

    World Cup Sayings #5

    "I've taken a penalty against Paul Robinson and I can tell you he's a big unit." Alan Shearer, BBC Sport TV

    Alan Shearer maintains footballing grudges even in retirement and carries them with him into the pundit chair.

    I know that I'm supposed to gloat about Trevorland getting knocked out by Portugal, but Rooney was unfairly dismissed, Hargreaves was outstanding and I had set my heart on them getting beat on penalties in the final.

    A France/Germany final, please.

    Trevorland 3 Portugal 1 . . .

    . . . is my predicted scoreline for today's game between Portugal and the other lot. But win or lose, some fans will celebrate mark it in the same fashion.