"There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in"
(Leonard Cohen)
"Ignore all proffered rules and create your own, suitable for what you want to say"
(Michael Moorcock)
"Look for your own. Do not do what someone else could do as well as you. Do not say, do not write what someone else could say, could write as well as you. Care for nothing in yourself but what you feel exists nowhere else. And, out of yourself create, impatiently or patiently, the most irreplaceable of beings."
(Andre Gide)
"I want my place, my own place, my true place in the world, my proper sphere, my thing which Nature intended me to perform when she fashioned me thus awry, and which I have vainly sought all my life-time."
(Nathaniel Hawthorne)
"Beyond a certain point there is no return. This point has to be reached."
(Franz Kafka)
"All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated"
(John Donne)
“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”
(Robert J. Hanlon)
"Life is beautiful, but the world is hell"
(Harold Pinter)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

First the 'red wave', then the blue

Marine Le Pen: long-term strategy

EXTRACT: More generally, Marine Le Pen appears to have something approximating a long-term strategy - unlike her father and former FN president, Jean-Marie, who would chase a prejudice, no matter where it took him. She is attempting the ‘de-demonisation’ of the FN - in that way, she hopes, it will eventually be regarded by the majority of the population as a mainstream and ‘respectable’ party. This strategy involves, for instance, distancing herself from her father’s more explicitly racist remarks and excruciating anti-Semitic puns. She still rails against the effects of “globalisation” and “financialisation”, but the anti-Jewish undertones of this are now unspoken. She claims to be hostile to the idea of French Jews moving to Israel - explaining that for the “Zionistic” FN, “the Jews of France are Frenchmen, they’re at home here and they must stay here and not emigrate”.

She wants to appear a modern and democratic politician on the side of ‘ordinary folks’, with her heavy emphasis on ‘bread and butter’ issues. At the same time, there are the very familiar FN themes - campaigning for France to quit the euro zone and indeed the European Union altogether, for example. She portrays her party as the defender - if not the incarnation - of ‘law and order’, agitating for a referendum on whether to reinstate capital punishment, which was abolished in 1981 (the electorate would be presented with a choice between restoring the death penalty and introducing life imprisonment without parole). Le Pen is resolutely opposed to same-sex marriage, euthanasia and abortion, and, of course, fulminates against ‘unchecked’ immigration and the ‘threats’ posed by multiculturalism and communitarianism. 


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Osborne's Plans for Election Victory

Buy-to-let boom?

EXTRACT: In reality, just like the ‘help to buy’ racket, Osborne’s pension reforms are centrally about keeping the housing bubble afloat and generating that warm feel-good factor by injecting a quick stimulus into the economy. He knows full well that pensioners will use their newly ‘liberated’ pension pots to buy property as a retirement income, especially buy-to-let investments - and, admit it, you would probably do the same. It would hardly mean you were a Rachman or property magnate. Property, when all is said and done, still looks the best investment in a country like the UK, with its obscenely skewed economy. Either that or watch your precious savings dwindle away under rock-bottom interest rates. Not very smart. Significantly, the average age of buy-to-let landlords is 53, which is 20 years older than the average age of their tenants. It is now set to get older still.

Margaret Thatcher talked of a ‘property-owning democracy’, where everyone has a stake in society. Our own front door which we can paint any colour we like. Osborne’s budget is like a zombie version of that dream, given that all measures in this direction have not had the desired end result. In fact, things are going into reverse. Thatcher’s property-owning democracy is in retreat, with first-time buyers having an average age of 37 and eight out of 10 only able to buy with family help. For the first time since the post-1945 building boom, more people now rent privately than live in social housing - the latter having shrunk by more than two million through the right to buy.


Thursday, April 03, 2014

West's Wounded Imperial Pride

Nato: threatening both military and diplomatic action

EXTRACT: Communists unequivocally oppose the pro-sanctions campaign mounted by the west and the attempts to more or less demonise the Russian authorities - making out that its “expansionism” is the central cause of the conflict. This is clearly nonsense. At the very least, the western-backed orange-brown ‘revolution’ in Kiev and a resurgent Ukrainian nationalism are equally to blame. A nationalism that by definition is virulently anti-Russian and to a certain extent coloured - or shit-stained - by anti-Semitism.

Though it should hardly have to be said, being the ‘A’ of Marxism - never mind about the B or C - alas we find that we have to remind some comrades of an irreducible maxim - communists are implacable foes of nationalism and national chauvinism. Therefore, we in the CPGB condemn the noxious, pro-imperialist stance of the increasingly Russophobic Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, last week’s Solidarity proudly proclaiming that the AWL is for the “Ukrainian armed forces” in any “fight against Russian domination” (March 17). Straight into the first camp without passing ‘go’.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

West and Putin Up the Ante

Pro-unity crowds

EXTRACT: Well, when it comes to Ukraine, western hypocrisy takes some beating. We do recall a certain ‘legitimate’ state called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Or how about the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia? Yet the west actively welcomed the break-up of these states - a fact referenced by Putin in his Kremlin speech, when he said it was ludicrous to claim that the recognition of Kosova by the west as an independent country did not set a precedent or had a claim to uniqueness. But, he stated, “we are being told that we are breaking the norms of international law” - western politicians, he went on, “call something white today and black tomorrow”. Only now, when it comes to Crimea, have they “remembered that international law exists”.

All sorts of states have been broken up in the past or had their borders drastically redrawn, but if it served the imperialist interests of the west it was no crime - or “land grab”. Nevertheless, communists are not worshippers of bourgeois or international law - let alone so-called national sovereignty. We are internationalists first and foremost. Nations, countries and states are not eternal and timeless - to claim otherwise would be reactionary, nationalist crap. Nations come into being under definite historical circumstances, then at some stage disappear or wither away. Communists, being consistent democrats, do not view Ukraine - or indeed any other country - as the incarnation of some sort of unbreakable unity or the ‘national spirit’. Even the sacred United Kingdom, blessed by god, will cease to exist one day.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Rotten Apples, Reviews and Flowers

To the core

EXTRACT: Communists could not agree more with Doreen Lawrence when she says, “You can’t trust the police”. After all, only a few months ago we had the scandal about the Operation Tiberius inquiry - a secret Scotland Yard report from 2003, which concluded that top criminals had “compromised” multiple agencies of the state, including HM revenue and customs, the crown prosecution service, the City of London police, the prison service, the criminal justice system, including juries and the legal profession, and so on. Crime pays.

The news about Operation Tiberius came in the same week that PC Keith Wallis admitted stitching up the Tory chief whip, Andrew Mitchell - making up a cock-and-bull story about how he had witnessed a confrontation on September 19 2012 between Mitchell and police officers outside Downing Street. This fabrication involved at least seven other police officers, who have yet not been charged with anything. Mere “rotten apples”?


Sunday, March 09, 2014

Geek Love #2

Geek Love #1


Crimea: Danger of Wider Conflict

Svoboda supporter carries portrait of Nazi ally Bandera

EXTRACT: So let us deal with the most pressing question - was there a fascist coup or Banderaite takeover? Inevitably, George Galloway has already taken to Twitter to denounce the “fascist and ultra-nationalist coup” in Kiev. It is certainly the case that the groups that ran and policed Euromaidan - such as Spilna Sprava (Common Cause), Pravy Sektor (Right Sector), Patriots of Ukraine, Svoboda, etc - clearly fit the ‘fascist’ description. That is, groups of rightwing, anti-Semitic, non-state fighting squads that exist to destroy anything that passes for leftwing politics and resolve the crisis gripping the top of Ukrainian society in a negative fashion. These were the groups or people that in the main took on the riot police, organised the demonstrations and chased off those leftwingers brave (or foolhardy) enough to turn up at Independence Square.

In which case, how do we characterise Euromaidan, etc? Well, the description that seems closest to reality is that of an orange-brown movement - one that covers a wide range of forces from pro- EU liberals and the hard right merging into the far right and fascistic milieu. What is vital to recognise when looking at the ultra-nationalistic groups is that we are not dealing with fringe groups or movements. For instance, Svoboda is the fourth largest party in parliament - it won 10.44% of the vote in the 2012 parliamentary elections and secured 37 seats (Svoboda subsequently joined a formal coalition with two centre-right parties to form the parliament’s collective opposition). In other words, Svoboda has a mass base.


Friday, March 07, 2014

Ukraine: 'Revolution' in One Square

Svoboda partisans: carrying portraits of Ukraine's Nazi ally, Stepan Bandera

EXTRACT: It is instructive to read the recent remarks of Sergei Glazyev, a senior adviser to Putin.6 He makes the point that Yanukovych, from the point of view of the ruling elite, did not act in a decisive enough manner - instead, we had a pattern of repression followed by compromise and vice versa. Of course, Machiavelli in The prince advised rulers to do one of two things in a crisis: either ruthlessly crush the opposition or come to a compromise - but do not do both, as that always leads to disaster. The obvious example is Tiananmen Square, where the Beijing regime sent the tanks in and made sure such a situation would not recur - it did what, from its perspective, had to be done. Yanukovych, on the other hand, waited three months to show the opposition who was boss - and by then it was too late - deep fissures had opened up in the regime and the army itself was obviously split. This was manifested by troops parading into the square and swearing an oath of allegiance to the speaker of the parliament.

Glazyev also argued that there was a “clear need” for the “federalisation” of Ukraine in order to avoid its bloody break-up. According to him, this would require giving the various regions “sufficient rights”, the ability to “form their budgets” and even the possibility of “partial foreign identity” - he used the example of Greenland, which is an autonomous country within Denmark. In other words, his envisaged Ukrainian ‘federation’ would be totally unlike the one to its north, where the constituent parts have no right to separate. But Glazyev’s proposed new structure would allow parts of Ukraine to be swallowed up by Russia. 


Friday, February 21, 2014

Storms, Floods and a Deluge of Crap

Winds, floods and the revenge of nature

EXTRACT: However, the real problem goes much deeper. As alluded to by Pickles, many within the EA and elsewhere are very dubious about the benefits of dredging - and rightly so. Not only will dredging make very little difference, if any: it can be positively damaging. You do not have to be a genius to work it out. A river’s capacity is tiny by comparison to the catchment from which it draws its water. Therefore, dredging is likely to cause faster and more dangerous floods downstream when the water hits - for example - the nearest urban obstacle, like a trail track or bridge.

But the problems do not end there. If you cut off a river from its flood plain by turning it into a deep trench, you run the risk of speeding up the flow of water to other areas downstream. Congratulations - you have just made a bad situation worse by creating more dangerous rivers, undermining the foundations of bridges, weirs, culverts and river walls and causing untold destruction to the natural world; removing gravel from river beds by dredging leads to the loss of spawning grounds for fish, and can cause the loss of some species, like otters and water voles. And you may have spent enormous amounts of money making this ecological disaster. Now there is real joined-up thinking.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Ukraine: Great Power Tug of War

Illusions in EU rife

EXTRACT: True, in the minds of many Ukranians [EU] associate status in theory means the free movement of labour - which, of course, is very attractive to many, especially younger citizens, looking towards Germany as a possible port of call in their hopes for a better future. Many are genuinely enthusiastic about the EU and all it appears to offer. But cruelly it is very unlikely that associate status will lead to the free movement of labour, leaving the ambitious - using that word in the best sense - trapped in a decaying and fragmenting Ukraine. A horrible situation.

After all, what is the alternative facing them? Russia has offered £14 billion in aid (cheap oil, cheap gas, etc) and some sort of ‘common market’ that also includes - wait for it - Belarus and Kazakhstan. It is almost impossible to conceive of a less appealing prospect. By comparison, Greece, Spain and Portugal are near to paradise on earth. Belarus (literally ‘white Rus’) is a truly weird and frightening place, like a cross between Putin’s and Stalin’s Russia - it still has all the old monstrous statues. Kazakhstan, another strange place, has a large Russian-speaking minority. Yet the only thing these countries have in common - or at least parts of them - is an inchoate and nostalgic Slavophilism, which would quickly break down under the cold economic winds.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Dieudonné's Calculated Anti-Semitism

Dieudonné M'bala M'bala: political ambitions
EXTRACT: Dieudonné can bleat all he wants about being “anti-Zionist”, not anti-Semitic, but the evidence is overwhelming. One of his most well-known sketches involves him giving a heroism award to Robert Faurisson. The ‘joke’ was that the award was being presented by a man in a concentration camp uniform, complete with a yellow star. You had to be there. Dieudonné told the Iranian Press TV station that the “Zionist lobby” has “taken France as hostage”, knowing how to “structure themselves into a mafia-like organisation”. Clearly this is not the anti-Zionism of someone, for example, opposed to the brutal oppression of the Palestinians by the state of Israel; more like the ‘anti-Zionism’ of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, predicated on a conspiracy theory that “the Jews” are secretly pulling all the strings. Dieudonné’s quenelle is the ‘anti-establishment’ gesture of reactionary fools.