Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Jack the Ripper Weekends - leaving Ipswich in 2007

While searching around for bus timetables, I came across the following tempting offer from one local bus company - Beeston Buses, based in Hadleigh, near Ipswich - 'Jack the Ripper' Weekends 2007.

'JACK THE RIPPER ~ Weekends 2007

Dare you walk in his shadow?? As night falls, we delve into the shadowy alleyways and dark cobbled streets of Whitechapel to follow the Ripper's blood-stained trail of terror. We inspect the murder sites, sifting through the evidence and eliminating one suspect after the other Your search will take you to the doorway where the only clue was found and the awe inspiring building where the last victim desperately sought shelter before she was murdered. Finally, by the light of a lone lamp and the shadow of an abandoned Victorian building, we will unmask the Ripper.

We depart Ipswich at 1000 hrs for the journey to London. On the way, you will have approx. 3 hours to spend at Lakeside for shopping and Lunch before continuing on to the Hotel. You will check into your Hotel in the Docklands and be given time to freshen up before being taken into central London to begin the walk at 1930 hrs. After your walk, lasting approx. 2 hours you will have a Fish and Chips Supper before the Driver collects you and takes you back to the Hotel for the night.
After our full english breakfast, you will be taken into London ready for a 'flight' on the London "Eye" at 1000 hrs. After our flight, there will be time for Coffee by the riverside before boarding your boat for a two course Lunch cruise, complete with stunning views of sights, such as Houses of Parliament and St Pauls Cathedral. You will then be collected and taken into Covent Garden to spend the remainder of the afternoon, before departing at around 1700 hrs for the return journey to Ipswich.'

And all for £113! However, I rather doubt the prospect of 'following the Ripper's blood-stained trail of terror' is somehow going to be that popular now with the good burghers of Ipswich in the light of recent events...

Still, perhaps they could soon offer a deal for Londoners - 'Dare you walk in the shadow' of the 'Ipswich Ripper'? Come to visit the 'shadowy alleyways and dark cobbled streets of Portman Road...inspect the murder sites, sift through the evidence and eliminating one suspect after the other' - after all, I am sure Suffolk police would appreciate help with their enquiries...


Thursday, December 21, 2006

The 2006 Histomat Awards

Karl Marx talks somewhere about 'rural idiocy' - and it is hard to get more idiotesque (an invented word, but I like it) than rural Suffolk in England. Still, I suppose at least now when I say I am from Ipswich, people know where I mean...

Anyway, if people were wondering why this blog had gone kind of quiet recently, it was not because I had met a grisly end at the hands of a psychopath (well, not at the time of writing) but because in general everything kind of moves somewhat slower outside of a city (contrary to much media coverage, Ipswich is a town - not a city, hence Ipswich Town Football Club...)

This post is just to wish Histomat readers seasonal greetings and good wishes for the new year, as well as to hand out my end of year awards, (a new feature, partly inspired by Morbo):

2006 Histomat International Hero of the Year
: Gary Younge (a Guardian journalist based in America - almost always bang on the money and consistently a voice for the voiceless) (Runner Up: Hugo Chavez)

2006 Histomat International Idiot of the Year: Tony Blair (I know this blog seems to have developed an unhealthy obsession with him - I promise I will move onto Gordon Brown next year) (Runner up: Donald Rumsfeld)

2006 Histomat National Hero(ine) of the Year: Salma Yaqoob (Respect Councillor) (Runner up: Tony Benn, President of the Stop the War Coalition).

2006 Histomat National Idiot of the Year: Jack Straw (Runner up: Billy Bragg's idiotesque 'New England' campaign)

2006 Histomat Socialist History Blogger of the Year: Dave Renton (a UK bias, I know, apologies) (Runner Up: If there is hope...)

2006 Histomat Most Idiotesque Blogger of the Year: The collective at Harry's Place. (Runner up: The Monarchist Blog - has to be seen to be believed)


Friday, December 15, 2006

Saving the World - Blair's legacy to us all

It is worth remembering - as sometimes readers of this blog have a tendency to forget - the fantastic and heroic achievements of Tony Blair in the short time he has been Our Dear Leader. On assuming office, Blair's predecessor, Baroness Margaret Thatcher quoted the words of Saint Francis of Assisi - 'Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope'. But it is only really under Blair that we have finally seen that promise lived up to. In particular, one cannot really fail to do justice to the tremendous achievements of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office over the last decade or so. The values of democracy and civilisation have never been more highly respected around the world thanks to the alliance of George W Bush and Tony Blair.

The Glorious Victories of Blair's Foreign Policy
In May 1997, the late Robin Cook as Blair's Foreign Secretary insisted that:

'the fourth goal of our foreign policy is to secure the respect of other nations for Britain's contribution to keeping the peace of the world and promoting democracy around the world...Our foreign policy must have an ethical dimension and must support the demands of other peoples for the democratic rights on which we insist for ourselves. The Labour Government will put human rights at the heart of our foreign policy'.

A decade on, when asked by the New Statesman to summarise Blair's foreign policy, Blair's current Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett has now stated the following: 'Anti-poverty, pro-development. I could say anti-conflict. We must never have another Rwanda.'
The horrors of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide left about one million dead after a bloody civil war - just compare that to the current situation in Iraq for example. Incomparable! Blair's brave new 'anti-conflict' foreign policy truly must rate as a new wonder of the world. The five glorious 'humanitarian' interventions in Iraq (1998), Serbia (1999), Sierra Leone (2000), Afghanistan (2001) and then Iraq again (2003) have brought peace to both war-torn Africa and the once troubled Middle East. Let us again remember the wise words of the Right Honourable Margaret Beckett about Blair's ten years in office: 'When he goes, people will say that Iraq's his only legacy, and that it's a terrible one. I don't think it's true at all'. No, Iraq is not a terrible mess at all but a truly remarkable achievement of foreign policy, that will be marvelled at by future generations of historians. 'Of course, there were mistakes...but that's human behaviour' she notes. The main thing now is firstly, while a total victory is not yet in sight, 'we're not losing'. 'Whenever I meet Iraqi ministers, they seem to have visibly grown in stature.' The news that American backed puppet leaders have put on weight truly brings a tear to ones eye.

More than just foreign policy triumphs
However, Beckett is known for being controversial and speaking her mind and she notes of Blair that 'I don't believe Iraq is his legacy.' Is this heresy? No, off course not - to simply focus on Iraq would forget the other outstanding achievements of Our Dear Leader. But what then will be his legacy? Rebuilding trust in Parliament and the Office of the Prime Minister? Education, Education, Education? Saving the NHS in 24 Hours? Ending Child Poverty in Britain? Peace in the Middle East? Making Poverty History? No - all of those accolades are but mere ripples in his wake. Of Blair, Beckett writes 'I think climate change will be his legacy.' Of course - what a fitting epitaph for Our Dear Leader, who after all has been not only a brave leader for millions of British people - but is a hero to humanity in its struggle against the forces of nature.

Blair's legacy
Blair's leadership in the struggle against the evils of Climate Change and so saving the world for future generations means that in his own way he may be likened to the Sun, giving light to lead the way forward for the whole of overshadowed toiling humankind. As the Communist thinker Rajani Palme Dutt once noted, 'That there should be spots on the sun would only startle an inveterate Mithras worshipper ...', but let us not forget that Blair's mistakes over Iraq really only show, ultimately, just how human he is. And thanks to New Labour, his Party, the Party of the People, the People's Party, Blair's essential humanism and compassion will continue to shine long after he has gone.

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An Inspector Calls

'I think it is perfectly natural that the police should come and talk to me.' - Tony Blair. Indeed so. Life seems to be imitating art here - as just before Blair was questioned yesterday, a new single had been released with a video showing him being arrested for war-crimes. In the new year, if enough people download the cover of the Edwin Starr classic 'War (What is it good for?), then it has a chance of topping the single charts...

Only doing his duty by arresting Blair


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Hated tyrant cheats justice

There was outrage as news came in that the notorious tyrant Antonio Blairchet had successfully evaded having to face justice in an international criminal court for his crimes against humanity. From 2001 onwards, Antonio Blairchet, with heavy US support, had waged a 'reign of terror' which killed thousands of innocent people. Torture and human rights abuses were widely documented, while uncounted numbers of other victims simply 'disappeared' in what Blairchet called a 'war on terror'. Some people rightly blamed Jack Straw for being too supine to the rich and powerful throughout his career and so failing to hold Blairchet to account.

Heartless Bastard

Others felt Blairchet's claim that heart problems meant he was too ill to stand trial did not really stand up as it was debatable whether he really had a heart. However, Margaret Thatcher rallied to the defence of the detested war criminal yesterday, calling Blairchet 'a saviour of democracy'...(cont. p. 94)


The Road to Hell...

One down, nine to go. After Pinochet, which state terrorist will die next? Going by age, Henry Kissinger (born 1923) should follow his apprentice next, followed by George Bush Snr (b. 1924) and then Margaret Thatcher (b 1925)...but Ariel Sharon (born 1928) has still got to be odds on to die first...


Monday, December 11, 2006

Winston Churchill on slavery and the slave trade

'Our [Britain's] possession of the West Indies, like that of India... gave us the strength, the capital, the wealth at a time when no other European nation possessed such a reserve. It enabled us to come through the Napoleonic wars, the keen competition of the 18th and 19th centuries and enabled us to lay the foundation of that commercial and financial leadership which gave us a great position in the world.'

Winston Churchill addressing a banquet of West Indies sugar planters in London on 20 July 1939.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Duncan Hallas on the Labour Party

'It’s not a question that a Labour government won’t bring socialism, you have to be pretty daft to believe that. But Labour will act as the agent of capital. And, paradoxically enough, because it is not in the same sense part of the system, it may be worse [than the Tories] as it has to prove itself to the bankers and big business. The only thing which can offset that is a rise in the level of the class struggle.'

The late, great Duncan Hallas (1925-2002) on what a future Labour Government would be like, from a speech in 1990.

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Amnesia International?

'Protecting the Human'? UN peacekeepers in Somalia, 1993.

Don't get me wrong. As NGOs go, Amnesty International does important and necessary work, highlighting human rights abuses around the world. However, does anyone else find its latest campaign to send UN Peacekeepers into Sudan slightly nauseating? This is their rational for sending in troops to stop the horrific killing that is currently going on:

'How can it be stopped?
Sudan must consent to an effective peacekeeping force. At the current time the best option is provided under UN Security Council Resolution 1706 which calls for the deployment of UN peacekeeping force with a strong mandate to protect civilians. Global pressure on governments to see this happens quickly must be continued.'

As a result, local groups of Amnesty in the UK have been really busy collecting petitions urging support for UN Peacekeepers, and even doing protests with placards reading 'Protect the Human - UN Peacekeepers Now'. What bothers me about all this is two things. Firstly, after the disasters of Iraq and Afghanistan, surely the last thing the world needs is Western troops occupying another Muslim country through force under the guise of 'humanitarianism'? Any foreign troops would inevitably be resisted by sections of the population of Sudan - quite legitimately - and so the violence and killing would not 'be stopped' but rather would likely continue. The record of UN interventions historically is appalling, from Somalia in 1993 where as the photo above shows, Belgian paratroopers committed appalling human rights abuses, to the forgotten bloody UN occupation of Haiti more recently. Put simply, UN troops are not the military wing of Amnesty International, as some seem to think, they are part of the military wing of capitalist globalisation.

Secondly, if Amnesty can take to the streets to protest for troops to go in to a country for 'humanitarian' reasons without being accused of being 'political', surely they can also now call for troops to come out of Iraq and Afghanistan? After all, Kofi Annan as Secretary General of the UN declared the Iraq war illegal - so why didn't the UK branch of Amnesty International affliate to the Stop the War Coalition and join the demonstrations before and during the war?

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

The historical philosophy of Dr. John Reid

Home Secretary John Reid is in the news today for launching an attack on 'political correctness gone mad'. As he put it:

'Like the vast majority of people, I'm sick and tired of this sort of mad political correctness that said you can't wear a crucifix on British Airways, or you can't put up decorations for Christmas, or you can't call Christmas 'Christmas'. I think most people just find this completely over the top and I would rather have a bit of what I call PCS - plain common sense - than PC - political correctness.'

Brave words indeed. No doubt he is in imminent danger of being arrested by the evil tyrannical 'Political Correctness' Thought Police that ruin the lives of 'Ordinary British Hard Working Families' (copyright), and is facing the prospect of spending Christmas behind bars for his stand. No doubt he will be demonised by the tabloid press for such heretical words. Histomat therefore urges readers to rush letters of support to the Home Secretary to support him in his lone struggle against the Liberal Elite who run the Blair Regime.

Or perhaps not. Attacking 'political correctness' has become the last refuge of the scoundrel, and so the first resort of the racist and the bigoted. If Reid gave a shit about the bastards who have really ruined Christmas for workers in Britain this year he might attack the rich bosses of Farepak, or lay into the Chief Executive Officers of Corporations in London who are expected to recieve almost £9 billion in 'Christmas bonuses' while they pay their workers the minimum they can get away with, or indeed often far less. Why doesn't this former member of the Communist Party do that, one wonders?

Part of the answer, I believe, lies in John Reid's historical philosophy, his theory of how society works and changes. Those that doubt Reid has such a theory - and is just a reactionary old git who gets his 'ideas' from the editorials of Rupert Murdoch's Sun should know that he has a PhD in Economic History from the University of Stirling, from which he derives the 'Dr' bit of his name. Entitled 'Warrior aristocrats in crisis : the political effects of the transition from the slave trade to palm oil commerce in the nineteenth century Kingdom of Dahomey', this is apparently a Marxist analysis of political economy of part of West Africa in the epoch of imperialism. This is what this intellectual heavy weight of New Labour, the esteemed economic historian, apparently said in a speech to Party activists in Enfield, London, reported in Metro yesterday:

'History is not static, it is a dynamic process. As the world changes, people's perception of the world and their cares and concerns about it change. That very often means the centre of politics can shift from concern about one issue, say, unemployment 15 years ago, to concerns on another issue because people react to the circumstances in which they live, quite sensibly.'

In other words, while things like pay and conditions at work - or even the basic right to work full stop - might once have been an issue (in the dark days under the Tories, perhaps) now under New Labour, everything is sweetness and light for what was once called the working class. In Britain, workers today have no such worries about boring things like pensions, or housing, or economic insecurity - while thanks to New Labour's humanitarian ethical foreign policy, the life expectancy of working people in Third World countries like Iraq and Afghanistan has altered drastically.

The philosophy behind Reid's thinking unsuprisingly owes something to Karl Marx - or at least to some form of materialist understanding of history. As Marx wrote in 1859, in the Preface of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy:

In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.

So therefore, given the transformed material economic base of British society, given things are so much better for workers under New Labour economically, inevitably the ideas, consciousness, concerns of British people will change as well. This is what Reid is getting at. The problem is though, that when explaining historical change, things are much more complicated than this - as Marx and Engels recognised. As Engels wrote to J. Bloch in 1890:

According to the materialist conception of history, the ultimately determining element in history is the production and reproduction of real life. Other than this neither Marx nor I have ever asserted. Hence if somebody twists this into saying that the economic element is the only determining one, he transforms that proposition into a meaningless, abstract, senseless phrase. The economic situation is the basis, but the various elements of the superstructure — political forms of the class struggle and its results, to wit: constitutions established by the victorious class after a successful battle, etc., juridical forms, and even the reflexes of all these actual struggles in the brains of the participants, political, juristic, philosophical theories, religious views and their further development into systems of dogmas — also exercise their influence upon the course of the historical struggles and in many cases preponderate in determining their form. There is an interaction of all these elements in which, amid all the endless host of accidents (that is, of things and events whose inner interconnection is so remote or so impossible of proof that we can regard it as non-existent, as negligible), the economic movement finally asserts itself as necessary. Otherwise the application of the theory to any period of history would be easier than the solution of a simple equation of the first degree. We make our history ourselves, but, in the first place, under very definite assumptions and conditions. Among these the economic ones are ultimately decisive. But the political ones, etc., and indeed even the traditions which haunt human minds also play a part, although not the decisive one.

In other words, the role of politics also plays a crucial role. By simply focusing on how the economic 'base' shapes the political and ideological 'superstructure', Dr. John Reid is guilty of a crude form of economic determinism that has nothing to do with Marxism, and explains very little about the past. It does however, owe rather a lot to Stalinist distortion of historical materialism - something that should not surprise us given Reid's youthful Communist past. In Stalinist Russia, all sorts of intellectuals praised Stalin's declaration of 'the victory of Socialism' in Russia in 1936, despite the fact that Engels had talked about 'the withering away of the State' under Socialism, and Lenin had stressed that any future Workers State under Socialism would a 'Commune-State' where the fullest democratic rights and freedoms would be enjoyed. Stalinist Russia did operate, to be fair, on a system of 'One Man, One Vote' - Stalin's - but Show Trials, GULAGs and a Police State was not quite what Marx, Engels or Lenin had envisaged.

Reid's Stalinist economic determinism is now the historical philosophy underpinning Blairism. Basically, as long as the system is 'developing the productive forces' and leading to economic development and 'progress', then people not only do not need to worry about things such as unemployment - they no longer need to worry about nuclear proliferation or civil liberties. Our rulers know best - let them govern. 'L'Etat, c'est moi' said King Louis XIV of France, justifying his autocratic powers. 'The State?' - that is our business, not yours.

Louis XIV was echoed by Stalin - and now John Reid is essentially saying the same. The only difference is that, unlike Louis XIV, Stalin and Reid claim to have a magical umbilical cord linking them to the historic needs of the 'working class' - in other words, they know what workers want better than the workers themselves. Both Stalinists and Blairites claim their mandate to do so from their position of state power - so if Reid argues that Britain is in need of a purge of 'political correctness' rather than say, an end to our imperialist and racist foreign policy or a restoration of trade union rights and an increase in the minimum wage, then that is what is wanted. It is only an accident that such an argument also fits with the needs and interests of the richest and most powerful in society as well.

In conclusion, the distinction made by Gramsci between traditional 'state intellectuals' and 'organic intellectuals' might be worth noting. Reid is the archetypal 'state intellectual' - the only difference is that where once he used his 'intellect' to serve the Russian State, now he uses it to serve the British State. As a result, he is playing his noble role in ensuring that, as Marx put it, 'the ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class'. What Reid calls 'plain common sense' is merely what Gramsci called 'the day to day ideology of the bourgeoisie'. How very politically correct.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Pan's Labyrinth

This fantastic film, set in the dying embers of the Spanish Civil War, has already been reviewed by the author of Lenin's Tomb in Socialist Worker, and I have little more to add to it - bar this: Go and see this film if you possibly can. It is a bit like The Shining meets Land and Freedom, though with a script woven around a magical realist fairy tale that is reminiscent of something 'the Brothers Grimm' might have written had they seen Picasso's Guernica. If you can imagine what that might be like.


Bush, Blair and Machiavelli

In 1864, Maurice Joly, an exiled French republican published a book called Dialogue aux enfers entre Machiavel et Montesquieu, 'The Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu', a satirical attack on the regime of Napoleon III, the 'Second Empire' which was banned by the regime and put Joly into prison for 15 months. According to Wikipedia, 'In the book Niccolò di Bernardo Machiavelli and Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brede et de Montesquieu engage in dialectical argument, with Machiavelli taking the case for the power of the state as ultimate authority and Montesquieu putting forth a contrasting liberal thesis.'

At one point, 'Machiavelli' makes the following advice to any would-be tyrants:

'Seperate morality from politics, substitute force and astuteness for law, paralyse the individual intelligence, mislead the people with appearances, consent to liberty only under the weight of terror, pander to national prejudices, keep concealed from the country what is happening in the world and likewise from the capital what is happening in the provinces, transform the instruments of thought into instruments of power, remorselessly inflict executions without trials and administrative deportations, exact a perpetual apology for every act, teach the history of your reign yourself, employ the police as the keystone of the regime, create faithful followers by means of ribbons and baubles, build up the cult of the usurper into a kind of religion, create a void around you thus making yourself indispensable, weaken public opinion until it subsides in apathy, impress your name everywhere as drops of water hollow out granite, profit by the ease with which men turn informers, manipulate society by means of its vices, speak as little as possible, say the opposite of what you think, and change the very meaning of words...'

Boris Souvarine, in his fine biography, Stalin (1939) (p. 583) quoted the above lines and then wrote 'all of this appears to have been written for Stalin...he has followed by instinct the line of conduct traced in this ironical manual of cheating and duplicity'. Those of us living under the tyrannical regimes of Bush and Blair might also find the lines of interest...

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Monday, December 04, 2006

John McDonnell and 'socialism in the 21st century'

A month ago I declared the Labour Left dead, but I now have to report that against all odds, it is actually still alive, but only just. On Saturday, I went to see John McDonnell MP, who is campaigning to become the new Labour leader after Blair, speak in Leeds. McDonnell spoke well enough, though the picture he painted of the current state of the Labour Party on the ground (about 20,000 activists nationally, apparently) thanks to Blair and New Labour's criminal betrayals was shocking to an outsider like me. He warned of the consequences if his campaign was not successful - and predicted defeat for Labour at the next election as voters simply would not vote for more Tory policies from Brown. The audience was about 80 strong, mostly elderly left Labourites, with a smattering of old Communists and orthodox Trotskyists. Anyone under the age of 30 (there were not many) seemed to be a member of some Trotskyist group or another (I suppose I also fall into this category), and in the discussion John was asked several times by these young people about how he would 'attack' and 'defend himself' from 'international capital' once he was elected.

The 'elephant in the room' which was somewhat ignored by such comrades concerns McDonnell's chances of getting elected. Indeed, to even get onto the ballot paper he needs 44 MPs to agree to nominate him - and the problem is that finding 44 Labour MPs with socialist principles is not the easiest task in the world. It was telling that not one Leeds Labour MP was present at this - just as no Leeds Labour MP voted for an inquiry over the Iraq war. Indeed, with his fervent hope that he can 'get his Party back' to the politics of peace, social justice and equality, McDonnell is akin to the blind man in the dark room looking for black cat...which isn't there. There is no 'golden age' of building socialism in the Labour Party's history - and one hundred years after the Party was formed, Labour is now further away from its goal of 'democratic socialism' than ever before. If the Party cannot even hold its leader, the war criminal Blair, to account after committing mass murder, what chance of the same Party ever electing a socialist leader?

Nevertheless, McDonnell's campaign does deserve support from those socialists like myself in Respect - and if he does get onto the ballot paper then he has a chance to put his ideas about 'socialism in the 21st century' out there to a wider audience. This will strengthen the whole of the Left in Britain - not just the Labour Left. Yet the consequences for the Labour Left if McDonnell does not make it onto the ballot paper are pretty dire it must be said. Labourism's roots in the British working class movement are still there, but, thanks to New Labour's neo-liberalism at home and neo-conservatism abroad, every day become less and less. In 1981 Tony Benn got 3.2 million votes to be deputy leader of the Labour Party and must have had 250,000 active supporters (he still lost). Twenty five years on, the fact that the leader of the Labour Left in Parliament is scrabbling around to even get onto the ballot paper tells a sad tale in itself. There is a desperate need for a 'labour' Party in British politics - a party which will champion labour against capital, and peace against war - and Blair has all but destroyed the Labour Party's chances of being such a Party. Unfortunately for Blair, just as he thinks he has chopped off the head of the working class movement, another head slowly begins to appear...

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Engels on the 'Iron Chancellor'

'a man of great practical judgment and great cunning...but this advanced sense of the practical often goes hand in hand with a corresponding narrowness of outlook...Bismarck, as we shall see, never managed to produce even a hint of any political ideas of his own but always combined the ready-made ideas of others to suit his own purposes. However, precisely this narrow-mindedness was his good fortune. Without it he would never have been able to regard the entire history of the world from a specific Prussian point of view; and if in this typically Prussian world outlook of his there had been a rent through which daylight could penetrate, he would have bungled his entire mission and it would have been the end of his glory.'

Substitute 'Brown' for 'Bismarck' and 'British' for 'Prussian' and I think Engels' critique of the 'Iron Chancellor' still kind of works, particularly given Gordon Brown's obsession with championing 'Britishness'...an obsession that British taxpayers are going to have to indulge to the tune of up to £100 billion (£76 billion for Trident plus £20 billion for ID Cards)...

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Robespierre on Empire building

'The most extravagant idea that can be born in the head of a political thinker is to believe that it suffices for people to enter, weapons in hand, among a foreign people and expect to have its laws and constitution embraced. No one loves armed missionaries; the first lesson of nature and prudence is to repulse them as enemies.'

Maximilien Robespierre, speech to the Jacobin Club, 1792.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Surely shome mistake?

The current edition of Private Eye - with the front cover 'Blair Admits Iraq Disaster' ('David Frost: 'You've just told the truth!' Blair: 'It was a slip of the tongue') - is quality. I don't buy it every week - and sometimes you feel ripped off, but occasionally there is an issue which is so anti-war and anti-capitalist that it feels like a true defender of the people against the ruling class. For example, there is a nice little satire on Orwell's 1984 (revised 2006 Edition):

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.
Inside the flat a fruity voice was reading out a list of figures which had something to do with the Government's endless war on terror. The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall.
"Our war on terror to defeat Syria and Iran is at an end.
"Our war on terror with our partners Syria and Iran has just begun"...

Yet there was another little story which caught my eye, 'Nursery Times':

'Small Boy Arrested as Emperor Opens Parliament'
By Hans Muslim Andersen.'

A small boy who shouted at the Emperor during yesterday's ceremonial opening of Parliament was arrested and charged with offences under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.


As the Emperor Tony I proceeded toward the Grand Imperial Council Chamber, winning admiration from all present for the magnificence of his new suit, spun by the tailors Campbell and Manderson, the small boy, whose name cannot be revealed for security reasons, shouted out, "Look, everyone, the Emperor hasn't got any policies." (Surely 'clothes'? Ed.)

Doesn't Suit You, Sir

Immediately the Emperor's security guards jumped on the small boy and charged him with the new offence of Threatening-The-Security-Of-The-Realm-By-Making-Comments-Critical-Of-The-Emperor-Within-2-Kilometres-Of-The-Council-Chamber-When-He-Is-Not-Wearing-Any-Clothes.'

This is clearly amusing, but parts of it did seem a little familiar to me. Back in July, my (admittedly less witty) effort in this vein The Emperor's New Sweater ended in a remarkably similar fashion: Those in the crowd that day who had shouted out the truth were later detained under the new anti-terrorism legislation. The boy was taken off to the appropriately titled 'Camp X-ray' where he was tortured, and remains detained there without a trial to this day... I am not sure what, if any conclusions, to draw from this other than Hans Christian Anderson had a talent for pricking the pomposity of the powerful - and doing so in a way which retains relevance over 150 odd years on.