Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

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

Monday, April 30, 2007

A festival of resistance - Marxism 2007

The full timetable for Marxism 2007, which is highly recommended to all readers of Histomat who live anywhere near the UK, is now online here. My reflections on last years event are here. Held between the 5-9 July in London, there are so many excellent meetings this year one could highlight, but I am just going to point out the following:

Billy Bragg & Martin Smith discuss the fight against the BNP
Nick Broomfield discusses his films and the making of Ghosts
Paul Gilroy & Weyman Bennett ask, why is multiculturalism in crisis?
George Galloway & John Rees ask, what next for Respect?
Soweto Kinch headlines a Cultures of Resistance gig
Jill Liddington introduces her book Rebel Girls: Their Fight for the Vote Lemn Sissay & Michael Rosen perform poetry of liberation
Trevor Ngwane & Mani Tanoh discuss the struggle for liberation in Africa
Billy Hayes looks at the shape of the working class today
Tony Benn on the left in power – problems and possibilities
Katrina to Obama: Gary Younge on Black leadership after the civil rights era
Drew McConnell of Babyshambles pays tribute to punk
Mark Serwotka, John McDonnell, Matt Wrack & Jane Loftus on building fighting unions
Radical philosopher Slavoj Zizek on the limits of liberalism
Lindsey German launches her book Material Girls: Women, Men and Work
Claudia Webbe & Dean Ryan discuss gun crime – who is to blame?
Michael Billington, Tom Stoppard, David Edgar & Charlotte Westenra discuss theatre today
Moazzam Begg talks about Guantanamo and the War on Terror
David Harvey & Chris Harman ask why did capitalism go neoliberal?
Steve Bell, Martin Rowson, Ralph Steadman, Leon Kuhn& Tim Sanders feature in the Oh What a Horrible War exhibition
Egyptian MP Hamdeen Sabahi on the fight for liberation in the Middle East
Comedian Mark Thomas, Craig Murray, Rose Gentle and Andrew Murray on the anti-war movement.
Lenin's Tomb's Richard Seymour on why conspiracy theories suck.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Long Live the Blair Revolution!


I greet you in the name of the Glorious Leader Tony Blair, and in the name of the Party of the Glorious Blair Revolution. Today we stand at the threshold of the door of History - we both celebrate Year Ten of our Revolution and look forward to another ten years of revolution - striving towards Year Twenty of the People's Revolution. It is therefore time for us to reflect on what our Revolution has achieved so far in transforming Britain, but also what challenges still lie ahead of us.

The Blair Revolution
Before we came to power, in 1996, two Old Blairist thinkers in our Party - Peter Mandleson and Roger Liddle - produced a short book, The Blair Revolution: Can New Labour Deliver? In it they set out the manifesto for what they called 'New Labour's concept of One Nation socialism', the philosophy which has been our guiding ideology over the last decade. As they put it:

'New Labour is fundamentally different from old Labour in its economic, social and political approach. It goes well beyond the battles of the past between public and private, and about the role of the unions and the relevance of public expenditure, to the achievement of a more equal society.'

Comrades, as we mark Year Ten of the Blair Revolution, can anyone truthfully say that we have not already achieved that more equal society?

When we put forward our Party's vision of 'One Nation socialism' ten years ago - or what from now on will be known simply as 'National Socialism' - some were cynical. It is hard to imagine anyone being cynical today about the successes of the Blair Revolution! But at the time there were those who were sceptical. In 1996, Mandleson and Liddle carefully explained to such people why they were wrong:

'Opponents claim that the Blair revolution is "dumping socialism" or "leaving the old members behind" or just "fishing for votes". The truth is that the New Labour agenda stands in a long line of socialist thinking...the less dogmatic ethical school in which it is a body of core values that matter...the ethical approach has unsurprisingly stood the test of time. This is a socialism based on a set of beliefs and values, and is similar to the social democracy found in other European countries. It is founded on the simple notion that human beings are socially interdependent and cannot be divorced from the society they live in.

In the past politics of the old left, socialism was a slogan that was often shouted from the rooftops and through the street megaphones by those with least in common with the values of socialism as New Labour interprets them. Yet the general public is not at all interested in the bandying around of labels. If it is socialist to be committed to community and a strong society, to justice and fairness, to maximising the life chances of all our people and preventing the exclusion from society of any, then New Labour is socialist...We stand for a strong society and an efficient economy because we need both, and each needs the other. That is the essence of our belief in One Nation policies.'

Today our National Socialism has triumphed in Britain! Of course we still have those few 'socialists' who stand around shouting slogans through megaphones - but we are already planning how these people - who are so out of tune with the interests of the general public - might be 're-educated' in the 'ethical approach'. And for those of them who refuse to be 're-educated', we we are working on ways so that such people might be taken out of society and be put to work usefully in the construction of an 'efficient economy'.

Permanent Revolution
Yet while absolutely right about how National Socialism might transform British society, Mandleson and Liddle in 1996 did not examine how the Blair Revolution might spread internationally in detail. All they said was the following:

'Blair is very interested in foreign affairs, but he will not want these to crowd out his domestic agenda - especially when, in Robin Cook, he has a prospective foreign secretary in whom he has complete confidence.'

We now know that it was very fortunate indeed that Blair was 'very interested in foreign affairs' - as his confidence in Robin Cook was of course very much misplaced. While embracing the philosophy of 'ethical socialism', Cook failed to see how this might be brought to the people of Iraq though armed force if necessary - fortunately the Great Leader understood this and saw further than many other Party members. Blair understood that 'Socialism in One Country' was not an option! To their credit, Mandleson and Liddle did recognise this strand of Our Dear Leader's thinking back in 1996:

'Some have complained of feeling that the party is engaged in a "permanent revolution". But what is wrong with that?...The leadership's view is clear. Tony Blair told the GMB trade-union conference last year, "People ask me when I will draw the line under reform. When can we say it is done with? The answer is never."'

The Blair Revolution must be spread internationally! Internationalism is the task for the Blair Revolution over the next ten years!

But for all that, we should not forget again the historic achievements of the Blair Revolution at home. In 1996, Liddle and Mandleson described what life was like under the hated Tory Capitalist Government:

'Given the recent shabby record of the Conservatives...it is not surprising that people have lingering doubts and uncertainties...they are cynical about politics and politicians, and sceptical as to whether a new government would make much difference to them...throughout society there is a feeling that Britain is in moral, social and economic decline. In previous generations parents felt certain that their children would go on to do better than them. Many of today's parents worry about whether their newly graduated son or daughter will even get a job. Middle Britain has never felt so insecure, as new ways of working take hold in the labour market and faith in the public services that families rely on is eroded. Millions less fortunate seem condemned to unemployment and poverty...'

Who could possibly recognise such a picture as still true today, after ten years of Blairism? No wonder in local elections due to take place next week up and down the country, millions cannot wait to get down to the polling booths to cast their verdict on the People's Party, the Party of the Blair Revolution!

Enemies of the Party in our midst
Yet, some of our younger Party members are hesitant - they report some hostility on the doorsteps when canvassing. It is true there are still enemies of the Party active, skulking around. 'With a broken prime minister, a defence secretary on the edge of resignation and its much vaunted spin-machine in chaos, New Labour is facing annihilation in the local, Welsh and Scottish elections', some enemies of the Party scoff in their lying counter-revolutionary propaganda. I mean! Who could seriously believe such nonsense?

We should not be alarmed at the tricks and lies of our enemies. Every Glorious Revolutionary Party in History has had to face far worse! As Comrade Jack Straw said recently, New Labour’s campaign was going 'OK under the current circumstances' after canvassing in his Blackburn constituency. Too true Comrade Straw! That is the spirit! Comrade Straw remembers the long hard struggle to get into power - and no ruling class ever hands over power without a fight! And our Revolution is not going to be destroyed without a fight!

The final message to Party members is therefore this: Remember under whose banner we are fighting! The banner of the People! And remember who is the leader who first raised this banner: Our Dear Leader Comrade Blair! If out canvassing opinion for The Party and you run into those who are in any way sceptical about the direction of the Revolution, or about the Party, simply remind people of Our Dear Leader and his heroic and tireless efforts on behalf of them over the past decade.

In the name of the People,
In the name of the Party,
In the name of the Revolution,
In the name of Our Dear Comrade Blair,
Go Forward to Victory!

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Antonio Gramsci and India

A Readers Words has an interesting article on Antonio Gramsci and his impact on Indian intellectuals.

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The sound of early American Trotskyism

I admit that it is kind of unlikely that you have ever felt a particular need to do so, but if you have ever wanted the chance to listen to some early American Trotskyists giving lectures about the class struggle in the 1930s, then this is now possible thanks to these guys.

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Seventy years ago today, during the Spanish Civil War, Franco's fascist forces firebombed the village of Guernica, prompting the painter Pablo Picasso to paint his finest work by way of an damning indictment. Mike Gonzalez has an article about the continuing power of the painting in Socialist Worker, while there is also an article about the current controversy of the painting's location in the Guardian. On the subject of the Spanish Civil War, I should probably also highlight this year's London Socialist Historians Group Brian Manning Memorial Lecture, which is on Saturday 19th May in London, and by Reiner Tosstorff: 'Case closed: The Assassination of Andreu Nin, the Persecution of the POUM and its Background.'

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Leeds - Ipswich

The big match is today - can Ipswich Town send Leeds United down? Lets hope so, eh...

Edited to add: Hurrah!


The cricket world cup: over and out

There is a good article by historian Michael Collins on the failings of this year's World Cup on the Open Democracy website. It is worth reading it all, but this is from his conclusion:

'...great sport, perhaps like great art, often gains its energy from contradictions in society at large. More prosaically, sport is an important lens through which to view the history of any society. Cricket in particular has provided a stage for men of character (they have so far always been men) to act out dramas that resonated with the people of their day. Crucially, the significant characters of cricket's past - those who captured the popular imagination, beyond the confines of the aficionado - were connected to their social environments. They retained something of the "amateur" as opposed to the "professional".

If there are very few genuinely interesting personalities left in today's game, a great part of the reason is the effect of the cult of "professionalism". At the top level, today's cricketers more than ever exist in a bubble of endless tours, fitness regimes and product endorsements, entirely removed from the social lives of the people who watch them play. I suggest that it is this, more than other immediate causes, which accounts for the failure of the 2007 world cup.'


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Alex Callinicos on the French Presidential elections

'The immediate challenge is to beat Sarkozy, who won the best vote of any right wing candidate since 1974. Opinion polls put him well ahead of Royal in the second round on Sunday week. Besancenot has called on the 1.5 million people who voted for him to help turn the second round into "an anti-Sarkozy referendum for all those who plan to resist his policies. The issue isn’t to support Ségolène Royal but to vote against Nicolas Sarkozy." Congratulations and good luck to him and his comrades!'


On abolition

Lenin's Tomb has a link to film footage of Paul Gilroy and Weyman Bennett speaking last week in Friends Meeting House, London at a SWP rally to mark the 200th anniversary of the official abolition of the slave trade by Britain.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

The face of Imperialism

From The Communist (CPGB), January 27, 1923.

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Mike Davis on the 'sinister symmetry' of terror in Iraq

At the height of the Stalinist terror in the 1930s, Leon Trotsky once outlined briefly why Marxists oppose individual acts of terror as a tactic when faced with brutal state terror, despite the 'seductive symmetry' of the idea:

'If terror is feasible for one side, why should it be considered as excluded for the other? With all its seductive symmetry, this reasoning is corrupt to the core. It is altogether inadmissible to place the terror of a dictatorship against an opposition on the same plane with the terror of an opposition against a dictatorship. To the ruling clique, the preparation of murders through the medium of a court or from behind an ambush is purely and simply a question of police technique. In the event of a failure, some Second-rank agents can always be sacrificed. On the part of an opposition, terror presupposes the concentration of all forces upon preparing acts of terror, with the foreknowledge that every one of such acts, whether successful or unsuccessful, will evoke in reply the destruction of scores of its best men. An opposition could by no means permit itself such an insane squandering of its forces. It is precisely for this, and for no other reason, that the Comintern does not resort to terroristic attempts in the countries of fascist dictatorships. The Opposition is as little inclined to the policy of suicide as the Comintern.'

In today's Guardian, Marxist historian Mike Davis writes on how 'a sinister symmetry of strategic perception seems increasingly to ally White House circles with the occult bombers' in Iraq as both American state terrorists and Iraqi sectarian terrorists agree with more than just the utility of blowing people up with bombs: 'The [car] bombers obviously calculate that the carnage [caused by blowing up mainly Shia civilians] will bring about an apocalyptic confrontation with the Americans. And since the Bush administration now finds evidence of Iranian subversion everywhere, a Shia insurrection might be the trigger for an attack on Iran.' Horror piles up upon horror now thanks to the bloody Iraq war. Now the US are following the Israeli model by building a security wall.

However, there is at least some hope amid the horror. As Iraqi exile Sami Ramadani insists, 'Iraq is not a communal war', yet. 'The people’s hostility to the governmental parties and the occupation, and the historical absence of mass sectarian hostility have all combined to prevent large-scale communal strife and violence.' Long may this resistance to occupation continue and flourish.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Ernest Jones, Chartist and songwriter

Ernest Jones (1819-1869) was an outstanding socialist and leader of the Chartist movement, the first national working class movement in history. Frederick Engels felt that 'he was at bottom the only educated Englishman who was entirely on our side' - see here and here. He inspired the title of John Newsinger's recent 'People's history of the British Empire' The Blood Never Dried, which I reviewed here. Yet he was also a composer of songs and I want to put online a song of his he wrote in 1851, after the Chartist movement had suffered serious defeat, something which is reflected in the song's sombre lyrics. Yet Jones kept on fighting, and overall the piece is optimistic about the future of the class struggle.

We are silent.

WE are dead, and we are buried!
Revolution's soul is tame!
They are merry o'er our ashes,
And our tyrants rule the same!
But the Resurrection's coming
As the Resurrection came.

All in silence glides the larva
Thro' its veins of red-hot ore;
All in silence lightnings gather
Round the mountain's glacier hoar;
Weight on weight, and all in silence
Swells the avalanche's snow,
Till a scarce-heard whisper hurls it
Crushing on the world below;

Drop by drop, and all in silence,
At their mound the waters grow,
Till the last wave proves too heavy,
And away the barriers go!

In the depth of toiling masses
Feeds the fire and spreads the flame,
And the foot of freedom passes
O'er the doubtlings of the tame.
God-like Freedom! Glorious Freedom!
Kindling spirits into flame.

Times will set the coldest burning,
Times that come with great events,
Like the deluge-tides returning
On decaying continents,
Sweeping worn-out wrongs before them,
Wrecks, and wrongs, and discontents.

Silent as the snowflake sinking,
Truth on truth keeps gathering strong,
Till the nations turn to thinking,
Thinking of their right and wrong:
Then some sudden thaw of feeling,
Then some unomened whisper stealing,
Hurls the mighty mass along.

"We are dead and we are buried!"
Not so! life is in us yet.
There's too much of good to hope for -
Too much evil to forget!
Rich man! mark! the tide is turning!
See! the ripples backward roll!
Brains are thinking, hearts are burning
Nations tending to their goal.

Yes! there is a few among you!
Fear of freedom's coming day;
Like ghosts amid your palaces
Thoughts of poor men force their way.
Light your glittering chandeliers:
They must die when dawn appears,
Dawn of freedom's glorious day.

Ernest Jones.
Notes to the People, 1851, vol. 1, p. 92.
From An Anthology of Chartist Literature.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

A Chartist Song for the Millions

Song for the Millions (iii)

Friends of Freedom, swell the strain
That peals across th' Atlantic main,
And echoes wide o'er hill and plain,
Arousing men to Liberty.
Your every moral power awake,
Bestir yourselves for Freedom's sake;
Base Slavery's chains shall snap and break
Before your Godlike energy.

Lift up your faces from the dust,
Your cause is holy, pure, and just;
In Freedom's God put all your trust,
Be he your hope and anchor.
Give to the world your firm decree,
That Britons will - they will be free -
Shout, shout for glorious Liberty!
It will succeed and conquer.

Vain tyrants, that would make us slaves,
Go look upon the patriots' graves,
And study there, ye dastard knaves,
The folly of your knavery.
What! think ye to subdue the mind,
Which God hath given to mankind?
Ye surely will for ever find
Men will not suffer slavery.

Though ye have prisons to immure
The poor, and friends unto the poor,
Yet think not basely to allure
The flock from they who lead them.
Vain are your dungeons, idly vain.
The rack, the torture and the chain;
Ye neither can nor shall restrain
Our strong desire for freedom.

We ask for rights by Nature given,
Sanctioned and ratified by Heaven,
For which our forefathers have striven
On the battlefield and wave;
We wish to make no man our foe,
For all are equal born we know,
And all must surely, surely go
To the republic of the grave.

Benjamin Stott.
The Northern Star, September 24, 1842.
Quoted in An Anthology of Chartist Literature.

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Another Chartist Song for the Millions

Song for the Millions (ii)

Beware! ye white slaves of old England, beware!
Your dastard oppressors are fiendish and base;
Their spies are abroad, to betray and ensnare -
To bring you to ruin, to death and disgrace.
They are thirsting for blood, and impatient to spoil
The prospects of freedom which all now enjoy;
They have soldiers to crush you who live by your toil,
Then beware of the infamous traitor and spy!

Be firm and unite, but be cautious in words,
On your prudence depends the success of your cause:
Remember policemen have bludgeons and swords,
And unjust protection from despotic laws.
The press is corrupt, and knaves they can find
Who will perjure their souls, and swear truth is a lie,
Then, producers of wealth, be not wilfully blind,
But beware of the infamous traitor and spy!

'Tis true that your sufferings are grievous and great,
And death, from starvation, you constantly fear;
While a proud, pampered priesthood would teach you to wait
For that comfort in heaven they rob you of here.
'Tis true ye are goaded by insult and wrong,
But justice will come; be united and wise;
The weak shall not ever be slaves to the strong;
Then beware of the tyrants, their traitors, and spies!

Celestial freedom! the birthright of all,
Inert in our bosoms, inhaled by our breath;
Thy spirit abhors both oppression and thrall,
We still live in hope for thee even to death.
Oh! let thy bright presence enliven our land;
The free-born will despots and dungeons despise;
They will purge the fair earth from slavery's brand,
And exterminate tyrants, and traitors, and spies!

Benjamin Stott, Manchester.
The Northern Star, July 2, 1842.
Quoted in An Anthology of Chartist Literature.

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Is turning rebellion into money courageous?

Why is it Gordon Brown has to try and make money out of everything? Is nothing sacred? Apparently not, if his soon to be published book Courage: Eight Portraits is anything to go by. This is apparently about Gordon Brown's political heroes, but it seems to me to more about cashing in on his rise to fame and power than anything else. Still, lets hear him out.

As far back as I can remember, I have been fascinated by men and women of courage. When I was 10, I was given an encyclopedia of 20th-century history. In it were recorded great deeds: the daring of Shackleton, the sheer determination and inspired improvisation that took his expedition across the Antarctic; the bravery and ill-fated amateurism of the Mallory and Irvine attempt on Everest in 1924; Scott's expedition to the South Pole in 1912, and Captain Oates and his last sacrifice. All of them I admired'

What sort of 'encyclopedia of 20th century history' was that? The Boys Own guide to plucky British adventurers in the age of Empire? However, though he is not mentioning it now, Brown soon discovered socialism and with it a set of Scottish heroes and heroines. In his twenties, in 1975, he wrote an article of which I put extracts up on my blog, The Socialist Challenge, where he praised 'Scotland's socialist pioneers, Hardie, Smillie, Maxton, Maclean, Gallacher, Wheatley and others' - indeed he even wrote a biography on James Maxton based on his PhD research. All of them, even the beloved Maxton, are forgotten now by Brown.

Who are his heroes now?

Edith Cavell, a British nurse executed by the Germans during WWI.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor who was killed by the Nazis for opposing them.
Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish capitalist who saved Hungarian Jews from the Nazis before dying in Stalinist Russia.
Martin Luther King, black leader of the American Civil Rights movement, assassinated in 1968.
Robert Kennedy, American liberal anti-Communist politician, also assassinated in 1968
Nelson Mandela, leader of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.
Cicely Saunders, British founder of hospices.
Aung San Suu Kyi, fighter for democracy in Burma today.

One should salute Brown's internationalism, and his inclusion of three women on one level I suppose, and he is right to describe these people (with the exception of Robert Kennedy - still it could have been worse) as 'men and women of courage...Their stories live on and inspire us...They were prepared to endure great sacrifices and persist, some of them for many years, against the odds and in the face of the greatest adversity.' The Guardian seems ecstatic at the prospect of the book. Catherine Bennett gushes 'The most appealing thing about this book is its wonderful unflashiness; that it could never have been written by Tony Blair or David Cameron.'

There are several things of interest about Brown's choices, but I want to touch on just three things - nation, class and politics.

On nation, what is most obvious is that there is not one person on the list of Brown's heroes who challenged tyranny or injustice when it was carried out by the British. The only two British figures are nurses, (perhaps this is a sop to today's undervalued nurses - 'I will cut your pay today, but I really appreciate what you do, honest'). Brown's beloved 'Britishness' remains uncomplicated by any questions of empire or race. Martin Luther King is saluted for leading the American Civil Rights movement - but the 'British Civil Rights movement' remains safely out of sight and out of mind (no Suffragettes or anti-colonial activists here). We should not be surprised. As Brown boasted to the Daily Mail recently: 'The days of Britain having to apologise for its colonial history are over. We should celebrate much of our past rather than apologise for it.'

On class, while the Chartists are forgotten, it is interesting that not one trade unionist makes it onto the list. Brown will celebrate capitalists and capitalist politicians - but those who were imprisoned, deported or killed fighting for rights at work - forget it.

Finally, we come to the hypocrisy of Brown, 'paymaster of the Iraq bloodbath' as John Pilger calls him. Who is he to give moral lectures on anything, let alone 'courage'? As one Guardian reader pointed out:

'Did he stand up to Blair and Bush over Iraq? As a cabinet minister he would have known the evidence for WMD was flawed. Did he stand up to the frivolity of the Millennium Dome? Did he do his best to prevent Trident's progress (Scotland-based Trident will presumably not be in his beautiful backyard as pictured on your front page). Has he admitted his PFI initiatives are spiralling out of control? Does he do all he can to prevent people being deported to countries with violent regimes?'

Writing an awful book will not cover up the awful truth about Gordon Brown.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The politics of Michael Foot

Today former Labour Party leader Michael Foot seems really quite cool in a retro kind of way - fortunately for those of us too young to remember him when he actually was Labour Party leader there is a good article by Simon Basketter in this weeks Socialist Worker which should help dispel any illusions, as well as going through his political and intellectual evolution, and concluding that the tradition of Labourism is utterly utterly bankrupt when it comes to the struggle for socialism. As Marx once noted, 'The democratic petty bourgeois, far from desiring to overturn the whole of society for the revolutionary proletarian, strives for a change in social conditions which will make the existing society as endurable and comfortable as possible for him'. That might sound quite a harsh judgement on Michael Foot's political life, but there is undoubtedly an element of truth in there somewhere.


Lenin on Socialism

'As I just passed through your hall, I observed a placard with the inscription: "The realm of the workers and peasants will never end!" After I had read this remarkable placard, which did not, it is true, hang on the wall in the usual manner but stood in a corner, perhaps because it occurred to someone that the inscription had not been happily chosen and he therefore put it on the side – when I had read this remarkable placard, I was forced to think: So, there still prevail among us misunderstandings and false conceptions about those most elementary and most fundamental things! If the realm of the workers and peasants were really never to end, this would mean that there would never be socialism, for socialism is the abolition of all classes; but so long as there are workers and peasants, then there are different classes, and complete socialism would be for that reason impossible. And when I reflected that, three and a half years after the October revolution, there can be among us such remarkable placards, even if pushed somewhat to the side, it occurred to me that it is possible for the greatest misunderstandings to prevail even about the most widely disseminated and widely used watchwords.'

Lenin, Speech at the All-Russian Conference of Transport Workers, Moscow, March 1921

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Chartist Songs for the Millions

The Charter

Today I had a stroke of luck while browsing in my local secondhand bookshop, which I thought I would share - I found myself a copy of Iu. V. Kovalev's edited collection, An Anthology of Chartist Literature published in Moscow in 1956 (so the Soviet Union did do one thing right that year) going for a mere £2.49. This has been described as 'An anthology of Chartist songs, poems, speeches and essays. The introduction and the notes are in Russian, but the text of the chosen pieces is in English. Ernest Jones is well-represented; Kovalev has collected many hard to find pieces, including stories and a novel. An important resource long out of print.' I intend to share some little gems from it as and when, but the page fell open on Benjamin Stott - a Manchester bookbinder by trade - and his three versions of 'Song for the Millions', the first of which was published in The Northern Star on March 12, 1842 and which I shall reprint for you below. 1842 saw the world's first General Strike - the 'Plug Riots' and Stott was part of this class movement. Chartist songs are what music should be about (imagine some sort of Iron Maiden style riffs underneath as you read the lyrics if you can) - music is for the people - not about rich idiots like Colin Greenwood betraying the anti-war ethic of Radiohead by praising Oliver Kamm's review of Nick Cohen's latest book, or Dave Rowntree from Blur betraying the anti-war activism of Damon Albarn and the musicial genius of Graham Coxon (and possibly the environmental living of Alex James) by standing as a candidate for New Labour. Anyway, check out the Chartists, y'all. Respect.

Song for the Millions

How long will the millions sweat and toil,
To pamper the lordlings' bastard brats;
How long will they till the fruitful soil,
To be starved by the base aristocrats?
How long will they bear the galling yoke,
Ere their bones shall burst, their chains be broke,
And vengeance come down like a thunderstroke?

The spirit of freedom yearns and bleeds,
And liberty lies in patriots graves;
Whilst the monster tyrant's ear unheeds
The suffering wail of weeping slaves;
But shall mankind for ever bear
The stings of woe, and grief, and care,
And live and die in dark despair?

Forbid it heaven, and all the powers
That rule the universal world;
'Twere better that this globe of ours,
'Mid lightning's flashes, swift were hurl'd,
And with it all the human race,
Into the gulf of endless space,
Further than mortal ken can trace.

Bondsmen and slaves in every clime,
Your voices raise in freedom's cause;
Despots, be wise; be wise in time,
Remember it is Nature's laws
That make men equal; and dare ye,
In hellish conclave met, agree
To alter Nature's wise decree?

Vain is your wish, your strong desire
Can never! never! be obtained;
Ye cannot quench fair freedom's fire,
Though ye of blood a deluge rain'd.
Seek in the rolls of lasting fame;
There shall ye find each honour'd name,
Whose memory feeds the sacred flame.

Oh! may that flame burn fierce and bright,
Within the breasts of all mankind;
May knowledge pour a flood of light
From out the intellectual mind;
A light, that shall illume the earth,
Whose genial rays shall soon give birth
To glorious liberty, that boon of worth.

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Gary Younge has a dream...

'In Cardiff last week Tony Blair claimed the spate of knife and gun murders in London was not being caused by poverty, but a distinctive black culture. This is the speech he could have made.'

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

International Socialism 114

The new issue of International Socialism is online now, for those of you yet to have got a subscription. Features include:

Gramsci's Legacy
Antonio Gramsci, who died 70 years ago, is one of the most cited political thinkers of the 20th century. He is also one of the most misused. Thirty years ago socialists in favour of class conciliation treated him as their own. Today "post-Marxist" academics do the same. But Gramsci was a revolutionary with much to teach revolutionaries today. Megan Trudell, Chris Bambery, Chris Harman and Adrian Budd examine his legacy.

LGBT Politics
Official attitudes to sexual orientation have changed dramatically in recent decades. But lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people still face attacks and witch-hunting by right wing politicians. Colin Wilson looks at the roots of their oppression and the politics of the LGBT movement today.

Watching Big Brother
A row over racism meant that the reality TV show Big Brother impacted upon the consciousness of the left for the second year running. Colin Sparks asks what reality TV tells us about society.

Socialists and Scottish Independence, Northern Ireland's new troubles, the return of 'Popular Power' in Latin America, Sami Ramadani interviewed on sectarianism and resistance in Iraq, climate change, Bush's surge strategy and book reviews.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Campaign Iran

Just came across the The Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran site, which together with the Stop the War Coalition, are probably quite timely sites to visit if you live in the UK at the moment. Apart from Lenin's Tomb, that is, which has compiled an important post about the current situation in Egypt. Also check out The Sharp Side on Iran.

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Against 'moral empire'

Priyamvada Gopal has an excellent article in today's Guardian on how we should be remembering the abolition of the slave trade. An extract:

This commemorative year is shaped by a contradiction: it emerges at a time when we are being enjoined to celebrate the legacies of the British empire and "British values". But recalling slavery renders this a somewhat fraught process. The solution is to separate slavery from empire, and to emphasise the ending of the slave trade rather than the continuation of exploitation by other means. Conveniently excised from this account is not only the fierce resistance put up by the enslaved and the colonised, but also the fact that 1807 did not mark the end either of slavery itself or of the exploitation of cheap labour.

Following formal emancipation in 1838 and appeals by owners, the sugar plantations of the Caribbean were productively worked by government-approved schemes of indentured labour - a form of debt bondage involving deception, pitiful wages, arduous and often fatal journeys, harsh working conditions, confinement, physical abuse and, in most cases, no promised return to the homeland. This is how millions of "coolies" - Indian and Chinese labourers - arrived in the Caribbean and parts of Africa. The history of slavery is inseparable from the history of empire: it is contradictory to celebrate the latter while claiming to condemn the former.

We know that government and politicians stop short of a full apology because they are aware of legal implications that would strengthen the case for reparations. Moreover, reparations themselves would force us to face up to the fact that the horrors of the past were not merely momentary lapses of moral judgment that can be redeemed through public enactments of remorse. They were systematic projects of national self-enrichment at the expense of other societies. A clear acknowledgement of this fact would deprive Britain of the cherished historical mantle of the "moral empire", the coloniser with a benevolent mission. Indeed, the argument that Britain would stamp out slavery was frequently invoked to make the moral case for colonising Africa.

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