"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)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Balkanising the Web

Keep it uncensored
EXTRACT: Of course, there is a certain truth to this - the internet is essentially free and a form of ‘real-time’ communication, obviously representing a marvellous technological advance. A tool to use. Communists would be the very last people to shun or belittle new technology, especially when it comes to the means of communication: we embrace anything which facilitates a freer and greater circulation of ideas. Alex Callinicos (‘Stalinicos’) of the Socialist Workers Party may mutter about the “dark side” of the internet, but that was just the instinctive reaction of a bureaucratic control-freak when confronted by a seemingly unstoppable flow of dissent. His equivalents throughout history have made similar complaints, whether it was about the seditious Caxton printing press, trains, paperbacks, radios or (in the case of the North Korean dictatorship) photocopiers.

Having said that, what needs to be realised is that the internet is not an astral force that floats above our base and fallen world - gloriously disconnected from the global capitalist system or governments. It is not necessarily indestructible, let alone a magical technology that bypasses the need for ‘old-fashioned’ forms of political organisation. The same old problems of class society and the cash nexus remain. There are various agents that want to tame and subvert the internet’s emancipatory potential - even start closing the gates if it comes to the crunch.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Protected by the Establishment

You scratch my back
EXTRACT: Here is the crucial point, of course. Savile had friends in high places - lots of them (maybe Harris did too, albeit on a much smaller scale). He ruthlessly milked and exploited his seemingly endless connections at the top of society. Who invited our Jimmy round for Christmas dinner year after year? Margaret Thatcher. Unbelievably, when the arranged marriage between Charles Windsor and Diana Spencer inevitably hit the rocks, Savile was called in as an intermediary - a sort of informal marriage guidance counsellor. Unsurprisingly, not even Jim could fix that farce of a marriage. Not that this prevented our future king from also asking him to help keep Sarah Ferguson (then married to Prince Andrew) “out of trouble”.

Such behaviour is not so much a condemnation of Savile himself - he was clearly a sociopath - but rather of the institutions that lauded and protected him for so long. Charles, after all, led the tributes to Savile when he died. The obituaries were fulsome. The establishments and its agents (government ministers, senior police officials, top BBC managers, etc) had determinedly refused to see the obvious: that Savile was a sexual predator of the most grotesquely immoral kind. Nobody would investigate. Everybody was in denial. Jimmy Savile was the establishment’s dirty little secret for decades.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

David Cameron and his nemesis
EXTRACTIn which case, what will happen in 2017, assuming the Tories are still in office? Ed Miliband has repeatedly asked Cameron - if you only get what suspiciously looks like European crumbs, or less, then how exactly are you going to vote in the referendum? Showing the confusion that is Cameron’s approach to Europe, Downing Street in recent days has hinted that Cameron is prepared to threaten EU leaders that he will recommend a ‘no’ vote in 2017 if Juncker gets elected or if they fail to embrace wide-ranging reforms. A No10 spokeswoman on June 23 Delphically stated that the national leaders of the European council “need to think about the fact” that if David Cameron is re-elected “clearly the decisions” taken by the EU in that period from now until the referendum “will affect British voters’ views of the EU” and is “likely to affect the way they vote in any such referendum”. 

But suddenly advocating a ‘no’ vote runs even greater dangers than his present ‘yes, but’ approach - the least of which will be White House disapproval. Hillary Clinton has made her views clear, telling the BBC on June 13 that “Europe needs Britain” and the UK “brings a perspective and an experience that is very important to Europe, especially post-economic crisis” - which you can more or less interpret as a call for a ‘yes’ vote in 2017.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Permitted Shades of Grey

Freedom of speech, freedom of the press
EXTRACT: In fact, Marx’s heroic battles as a journalist and subsequently editor of Rheinische Zeitung against the Prussian state and its iniquitous censorship laws reverberate more than ever with contemporary relevance. The first obligation of a truth-seeker, declared Marx, is to “make directly for the truth without looking right or left ... Won’t I forget the heart of the matter if it is more important that I speak in the prescribed form?” Of course, not being an idiot, Marx stressed that freedom of the press is “not a perfect thing itself” - it is not the “all-in-all” of the matter. In other words, an open and free press cannot guarantee ‘freedom’ - ie, freedom from all inaccuracies, mistakes and distortions. But the long-term interests of the workers’ movement, and human liberation, demand nothing less. “You could not enjoy the advantages of a free press without tolerating its inconveniences,” noted Marx - just as “you could not pluck the rose without its thorns!” He went on to argue: “And what do you lose in losing a free press? A free press is the omnipresent open eye of the popular spirit ... It is the merciless confessional that a people make to itself, and it is well known that confession has the power to redeem. It is the intellectual mirror in which a people beholds itself, and self-examination is the first condition of wisdom.”

Just as importantly, as Marx put it, openness activates and enhances the “public mind”. The role of the communist press is, or at least it should be, precisely to hold a mirror up to the debates within LU and everything else on the left - to make them accountable for their words and deeds, or misdeeds in this particular case. Expose the political free riders. Get people thinking. That is the Weekly Worker.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Both Campaigns are US Allies and Friends

Whatever the outcome, still US pawns.
EXTRACTFor us in the CPGB, it is naive in the extreme to think that the question on the ballot paper is the only one that needs answering - in that sense it is not an honest question, which is nearly always the case when it comes to referendums. The bourgeoisie and its bureaucrats get to decide the question, after all. In reality, there will be two questions confronting you on that ballot paper: ‘Do you want Scotland to be an independent country?’; and (implied by the ‘no’ option): ‘Do you want a continuation of the status quo, with ‘devo-max’ bolted on?’  #

The answer to both questions should be a resounding ‘no’. Scottish nationalism weakens the working class - but so does the monarchist-unionist status quo: that is surely obvious. Yes, we may have a historically constituted British working class, but, alas, we do not have a united working class. In fact, the rotten status quo continually sows disunity. Under these conditions, communists must develop tactics and strategies to positively overcome division and all forms of backwardness.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Our men in Kiev and Donetsk

Don't provide redwash
EXTRACT: What we do know though is that the left in Britain, for the most part, has taken a disastrous approach - backing one or the other side in the conflict. Either Kiev or Moscow. One side looks enviously at the protests in Independence Square and imagines it is a progressive revolution, or uprising, against an oligarch - therefore we have to support it. After all, anything that draws a crowd must be progressive - right? Such comrades, like Socialist Resistance, believe that out of this spontaneity will come the royal road to socialism. All you need to do is nudge the masses in the right direction with your transitional programme, and everything will be fine - they will eventually flock to your leadership.

What a delusion, downplaying and ignoring the active role of far-right and fascist forces in the Maidan ‘revolution’ - including the ones who hold senior government posts. This is surely beyond question now, there being an abundance of material concerning the likes of Right Sector and Svoboda before, during and after the Independence Square protests. We in the CPGB would call such forces fascistic not mainly because of any professed ideological orientation - or that they like to carry portraits of Nazi collaborators - but rather because of what they actually do: ie, organise street gangs to attack minorities and the left.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

BNP: Death Bed Performance

Time for an autopsy

EXTRACT: However, the reason why the BNP is facing extinction is obvious - it was targeted by the establishment. As we in the CPGB argued at the time, Nick Griffin was fatally holed by his disastrous October 2009 appearance on the BBC’s Question time, which is still popular viewing on YouTube and elsewhere.7 On that day the show ditched its normal deadly dull format to become a far more entertaining Let’s do Griffin time - and it certainly did. Before an audience which peaked at 8.2 million people - more than half of all those watching television at the time and around four times the number who usually tune in to Question time - Griffin was outed as a bumbling would-be ‘fuhrer’. For instance, he defended David Duke, the “totally non-violent” former Ku Klux Klan leader and, far worse, refused to answer a direct question concerning his views on the Nazi genocide (or “holo-hoax”, as he once called it) on the pathetic grounds that “European law” prevented him elaborating upon his position. Obviously a man of principle and courage. The BBC had turned him into a laughing stock.

Griffin himself later admitted that he had been the victim of a “lynch mob”, bitterly complaining that the way the programme had been produced was “unfair”, because it had been “altered” to concentrate on him and his policies - with all but one question focused on the BNP. Poor thing. Showing how dreadful Griffin’s performance really was, many BNP members gave vent to their dismay and embarrassment. Lee Barnes, the party’s legal officer at the time, raged on his blog about how Griffin should have stood up to these “whining, middle class hypocrites” that use the “race card for self-enrichment” and “thrown the truth right back into their fat, sanctimonious, hypocritical, self-serving faces”. From that day, Griffin was a dead man walking.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

We are the 0.00001%

Asking for fairness will get nowhere

EXTRACT: One of the major revelations, apart from the fact that the queen is a relative pauper these days (at £330 million she is now ranked 285th), is that the top 1,000 own a third of all the country’s wealth, with a combined fortune of almost £520 billion - an extraordinary development. Occupy used to talk how “we are the 99%”, as opposed to the 1%, but they got their maths seriously wrong - in reality the super-rich only constitute about 0.00001% of the population. Another cheerful thought is that their wealth has doubled since the financial crisis, whilst hundreds of thousands have to rely on food banks to feed their families.

An even more staggering statistic, if anything, is that last year alone the total wealth of the very richest jumped by 15.4% - they have never had it so good. No wonder that Philip Beresford, who compiled the list, had never seen such a “phenomenal” rise in personal wealth before - the super-rich people in Britain had had an “astonishing year”, he said. Naturally though, he thoroughly approved of this fact, as many of these people are apparently at the “heart of the economy” and “their success brings more jobs and more wealth for the country”. We should be grateful for their “success”.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

SWP: Outriders for the Establishment


EXTRACT: There is another big problem with the SWP’s overall approach. In the May 6 Socialist Worker we discover that the comrades want to build an “anti-racist core” in the working class.2 In reality though, that does not amount to much more than standing outside Ukip meetings idiotically shouting ‘Racist!’ at those going inside. But it is pretty clear that there is already an “anti-racist core” in the working class - as well as in society as a whole. Yet, if we were to believe the SWP, we would have to draw precisely the opposite conclusion: not only the 30% or so who vote for Ukip in the EU elections will be supporting a “racist” party, but so too will about 99% of the others - Tories, Lib Dems, Labour, No2EU ... A racist landslide, it seems.

Bluntly, the SWP is being tactically, strategically, politically and theoretically stupid. It is placing itself in a position where the mainstream parties, especially the Tories - appreciate the irony if you can - are able to turn around to the SWP and say, ‘Thanks for the good job you are doing for us’ - as outriders for the Westminster establishment. The implication of Stand up to Ukip is that you can vote for any of the ‘respectable’ parties - that is entirely unproblematic. As Stand up to Ukip innocently declares on its website, “people of goodwill” must come together to oppose Ukip “regardless of our differing views on Europe or other political issues” - not much ambiguity there: vote Tory if you have to.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Clarkson: Beyond the Pale

Reactionary to his marrow

EXTRACT: For communists, however, whether Clarkson used the word ‘nigger’ or not is ultimately not the main point, not that we would make light of such things: words do obviously matter. But it would be a mistake to think of him purely as an obscenely highly paid TV celebrity or just another bigot, though both those statements are true. He clearly has a political agenda of sorts. It was surely no accident that he was defended by Farage, the personification of Little England narrow-mindedness, and has a regular column in The Sun: making a united stand against this ‘politically correct’ madness forced upon patriotic Brits by the gay-loving, hoodie-hugging, dope-smoking, metropolitan liberal/lefty elite - who lost us the empire.

This reactionary nostalgia seemed to surface in a Top gear special shown in March and filmed in both Burma and Thailand, the three presenters on a “mission” to build a bridge over the river Kwai in Thailand.6 At the completion of the task, an Asian man is seen walking into shot, to which Clarkson comments: “But there’s a slope on it”. This is a catch-all derogatory term for Asian people, used as a racial slur against Japanese and other Asians in US World War II-era movies and novels - and especially about the Vietnamese by US soldiers during the imperialist war in that country. ‘Slope’ just goes with the whole package of anti-foreigner, male-chauvinist politics that Clarkson almost perfectly embodies.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Ukip: Part of the Mainstream Chauvinist Consesus

Nigel Farage: all together against outsiders

EXTRACT: At the end of the day Ukip’s shrill, loud, anti-immigrant message does not fundamentally differ from the mainstream national chauvinist consensus, which combines bourgeois or institutional anti-racism with British nationalism. Ukip just has a more extreme or virulent petty bourgeois version, spiced through with a visceral hatred for the ‘politically correct’, same-sex marrying, metropolitan liberal elite and feckless ‘scroungers’ - whether they be migrants or not.

Equally, there is no reason to disbelieve Ukip when it says it is a “non-racist” party. Nigel Farage genuinely wants Britons, including previous immigrants and their descendants, to unite around the union jack against non-British outsiders - Poles, Romanians, Bulgarians, etc. One big happy family. Just like Gordon Brown, Farage wants British jobs for British workers, regardless of whether they are called Smith or Patel - and anyone who does not like that, such as Lampitt or Henwood, will get their marching orders.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Cameron Decise to Do God

Get evangelical

EXTRACT: Therefore we call for the disestablishment of the Church of England, the confiscation of all its property not directly related to acts of worship, the end of all state subsidies for religious institutions, and so on. Of course, not being liberals, Marxists ultimately aspire not just to freedom of religion, but freedom from religion. Hence we do whatever we can to overcome superstition and religious prejudice, which in the very last analysis is a diversion from the class struggle and is used by the ruling class as an antidote to socialism.

However, we are utterly opposed to the idea of a ‘war against religion’ - we no more want to live in an atheocracy than we do a theocracy. Nor do we espouse the elitist and overly pedagogical approach seemingly adopted at times by Richard Dawkins and his followers - the great man who will guide the ignorant masses to the path of rationalist enlightenment.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Ukraine: Peddling Absurd Fairy Tales

Internationalist response needed

EXTRACT: This Russophobic drivel from the Alliance for Workers' Liberty and Socialist Resistance almost perfectly mirrors the propaganda that comes out of the White House or Downing Street - a narrative that portrays an ‘expansionist’ Russia as the villain of the piece, aggressively set upon a “Crimean Anschluss” or worse.2 But such attempts to demonise Russia or Putin are entirely one-sided. The orange-brown ‘revolution’ in Kiev, enthusiastically backed by the west, and an extremely ugly resurgent Ukrainian nationalism are just as much to blame for the crisis - if not more so. It was hardly an accident that the very first acts of the new Kiev government after it had booted out Viktor Yanukovych (despite coming to a ‘compromise’ deal with him only the day before) were to strip Russian of its official language status, move to outlaw the Communist Party of Ukraine and appoint six members of far-right and fascist groups to the most senior positions in the new cabinet - including minister of defence, commander of the national defence and security council, deputy prime minister, prosecutor-general, and so on.

Similarly, we have had little time for the hypocritical cant about the exceptionally authoritarian (even ‘totalitarian’) or corrupt nature of the Yanukovych administration. On what objective or rational basis was his government any less ‘legitimate’ or more ‘corrupt’ than previous Ukrainian governments - or today’s, headed by the shady Oleksandr Turchynov? At the end of the day, Yanukovych was elected in a reasonably free and fair election, with the support of large sections of a Russophone population that had suddenly felt disenfranchised by the central authorities in Kiev - for good reason, not just because of an outbreak of Russian nationalism.


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.