Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

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

Thursday, June 28, 2007

BB No. 10 - Meet the New Housemates!

It is day 1 in the Big Brother Downing Street House and today Gordon and Harriet have been joined by four brand shiny new housemates! How exciting! Lets meet them...

Name: Alistair

Favourite colour: Grey.
Occupation: Chancellor.
First Words in the House: 'Don't call me darling...I'm not your darling'
Life Philosophy: Careerism.
Likes: Owls.
Dislikes: Blackadder Goes Forth. Being called 'Captain' or 'Darling'.
Why BB?: 'I want the general public to see the real me'.

Name: Jack

Favourite colour: Grey.
Occupation: Justice Minister.
First Words in the House: 'I am the law'.
Life Philosophy: Authoritarianism / Careerism/ Making racism respectable.
Likes: State Repression. Margaret Thatcher. Illegal wars. Telling women what they can and cannot wear in public.
Dislikes: International Law. Cannabis. Students. Judges. Immigrants (esp. Muslims.) Liberals. Juries. Protesters.
Why BB?: 'I think I could learn a thing or two from Big Brother [evil laugh]'

Name: David

Favourite colour: Grey.
Occupation: Foreign Secretary.
First Words in the House: 'This is going to be like, so cool'.
Life Philosophy: Neo-Liberalism with a baby face. Careerism.
Likes: Watching Big Brother. Paris Hilton.
Dislikes: Any mention of the politics of his father, a towering giant of post-war British Marxism, Ralph Miliband.
Why BB?: 'I want to show off my personality and charisma to the world'.

Name: Hazel

Favourite colour: Orange.
Occupation: Secretary for Community
First Words in the House: 'This is going to be brilliant!'
Life Philosophy: Careerism with a happy shiny face.
Likes: Power.
Dislikes: Muslims.
Why BB?: 'I think Big Brother is brilliant - British culture at its best!'

What do you think of the housemates? Not impressed? Well, there will be more going into the house soon...

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

How Democracy Works - by J.V. Stalin

The coronation of Gordon Brown as British Prime Minister without the need to fight an election among the Labour Party of Great Britain brings to mind an earlier 'election victory' by Joseph Stalin of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union back in 1937. The 'election speech' to the 'voters of the Stalin Electoral Area' in Moscow is online in full here. In it Stalin stressed the importance of 'universal, equal, secret and direct' elections but went on to note that, despite the lack of any political opponents coming forward to challenge the C.P.S.U., 'our universal elections will be carried out as the freest elections and the most democratic of any country in the world':

Universal elections exist and are held in some capitalist countries, too, so-called democratic countries. But in what atmosphere are elections held there? In an atmosphere of class conflicts, in an atmosphere of class enmity, in an atmosphere of pressure brought to bear on the electors by the capitalists, landlords, bankers and other capitalist sharks. Such elections, even if they are universal, equal, secret and direct, cannot be called altogether free and altogether democratic elections.

Here, in our country, on the contrary, elections are held in an entirely different atmosphere. Here there are no capitalists and no landlords and, consequently, no pressure is exerted by propertied classes on non-propertied classes. Here elections are held in an atmosphere of collaboration between the workers, the peasants and the intelligentsia, in an atmosphere of mutual confidence between them, in an atmosphere, I would say, of mutual friendship; because there are no capitalists in our country, no landlords, no exploitation and nobody, in fact, to bring pressure to bear on people in order to distort their will.

No doubt those those being quietly deported to concentration camps in outer Siberia at this point - after all the heights of the Great Terror - would have attested to this 'atmosphere of mutual friendship' in the land of 'Socialism'. But there is more...

If you take capitalist countries you will find that peculiar, I would say, rather strange relations exist there between deputies and voters. As long as the elections are in progress, the deputies flirt with the electors, fawn on them, swear fidelity and make heaps of promises of every kind. It would appear that the deputies are completely dependent on the electors. As soon as the elections are over, and the candidates have become deputies, relations undergo a radical change. Instead of the deputies being dependent on the electors, they become entirely independent. For four or five years, that is, until the next elections, the deputy feels quite free, independent of the people, of his electors. He may pass from one camp to another, he may turn from the right road to the wrong road, he may even become entangled in machinations of a not altogether desirable character, he may turn as many somersaults as he likes—he is independent.

Can such relations be regarded as normal? By no means, comrades. This circumstance was taken into consideration by our Constitution and it made it a law that electors have the right to recall their deputies before the expiration of their term of office if they begin to play monkey tricks, if they turn off the road, or if they forget that they are dependent on the people, on the electors.

This is a wonderful law, comrades. A deputy should know that he is the servant of the people, their emissary in the Supreme Soviet, and he must follow the line laid down in the mandate given him by the people. If he turns off the road, the electors. are entitled to demand new elections, and as to the deputy who turned off the road, they have the right to blackball him. (Laughter and applause.) This is a wonderful law. My advice, the advice of a candidate to his electors, is that they remember this electors' right, the right to recall deputies before the expiration of their term of office, that they keep an eye on their deputies, control them and, if they should take it into their heads to turn off the right road, get rid of them and demand new elections. The government is obliged to appoint new elections. My advice is to remember this law and to take advantage of it should need arise.

One wonders how Stalin would have felt had any of the 'electors' of the 'Stalin Electoral Arena' actually tried to use the 'right to recall' but oddly, it seems no-one ever felt Stalin was playing any 'monkey tricks' or had ever forgotten for one moment his dependence on the people...at least no-one who lived to tell the tale...


New feature on Histomat: Big Brother No. 10

Today marks the historic launch of Big Brother No. 10, where contestants will compete to rise up the greasy pole of political power by going into No. 10 Downing Street - or what will now be called 'the Big Brother House'. Sponsored by No2ID, today the first housemates will enter No. 10 and Histomat will be first with the official news of the power struggle which results.

So...what are we waiting for? Lets meet the first housemates!

Name: Gordon

Favourite colour: Brown.
Occupation: Prime Minister.
First Words in the House: 'I'm a soul man, I'm a soul brother'.
Life Philosophy: Neo-Liberalism with a happy smiley face.
Likes: Money, Economics, Rich people. Humanitarian Interventions.
Dislikes: Striking public sector workers and striking postal workers. Strikes in general.
Why BB?: 'I like state power and admired the ideal behind Big Brother in the novel 1984'

Name: Harriet

Favourite colour: White.
Occupation: Chair of Labour Party.
First Words in the House: 'I’ve never said the government should apologise [over Iraq]'
Life Philosophy: Bourgeois Feminism.
Likes: Middle England.
Dislikes: Anti-war protesters. Being caught out lying.
Why BB?: 'I see going on Big Brother as a good career move'.

Do you like what you see so far? No? Well, there will be plenty more housemates joining these two in No. 10 Downing Street soon!

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Cowards in the face of Iraq

I don't really normally have much time for the team around Spiked magazine, but Brendan O'Neill hits the nail firmly on the head when he notes that, for the Labourites, their care is not for the people of Iraq but their own positions of power:

'In the ranks of the Labour party, and among its supporters in the press, many are covering their backs on Iraq by claiming they were conned, misled or downright duped by Bush and Blair's pre-war claims. They seek to blame Blair and his coterie of advisers for the war in Iraq, when in truth a majority of Labour MPs voted for the war and most of the Labour party membership went along with it with a kind of shoulder-shrugging indifference to what its consequences might be. Never has Labour members' slavish acceptance of the leadership's line been so deadly as it was in 2002-2003. Those who claim to have been duped should bear in mind the words of American historian Carl Becker: "One of the first duties of man is not to be duped, [but] to be aware of his world."

Harman is disavowing responsibility for Iraq in a desperate bid to save Labour's skin. She says: "Party membership has halved and people are disillusioned ... The symbol of that has been our foreign policy, particularly Iraq." She is opportunistically distancing herself from the Iraq debacle in order to gain credibility amongst the disorientated members of her party. Gordon Brown is attempting a similar trick. His proposal to allow critics of the war to demonstrate outside parliament is largely a sop to Labour party members, an attempt to show them that, although he also backed the war to the hilt, he's a little bit apologetic so please, please forgive me!

Others are urging Brown to go further. They have called on him to "lance the boil of Iraq" in order to save Labour from oblivion. John Harris, author of So Now Who Do We Vote For?, has complained that "no one under 25 [will] join the Labour party until it [has] lanced the Iraq boil". Note this is not a demand to end the war and occupation, much less to challenge future military interventions; rather it is a call to squeeze the "Iraq boil" that sits like an ugly, pus-ridden blemish on the most important thing of all: Labour's reputation. The concern is to save Labour, not Iraq.

Writing in the Guardian before the last general election, Madeleine Bunting was even more explicit. She called on Labour under Brown to execute a "surgical strike" and "lance the Iraq boil before the left is irrevocably split": "Lance the boil and let Blair pay the price for Iraq. Prime Minister Gordon Brown would then reposition the line on Iraq ... It would liberate the next election from endless questions about trust that have dogged Blair's political career. It would give a fresh impetus to New Labour's political project, which would give it a fighting chance of two more terms."

Some on the Labour left are clearly more concerned with "liberating" British politics from pesky questions about Iraq than they are in liberating Iraqis from endless western meddling. The reduction of Iraq to a "boil" - how inhumane! - sums up what is motivating much of the Labour-left criticism of Blair over the war: a self-serving desire to repolish Labour's image, and thus secure re-election, rather than a desire to kickstart a debate about war and democracy.'

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Book Review: Hitchens Is Not Great

When people try to imagine what Hitchens looks like, they invariably think of an old frail man dressed in white and with a white beard

Hitchens Is Not Great: How Imperialism Poisons Everything by G.O'Dot

Famed for his biting polemical satire 'Waiting for', G.O'Dot has now unleashed a tremendously fierce and impassioned attack on neo-conservative apologists for American imperial power and corporate greed, entitled, provocatively, 'Hitchens Is Not Great'. The same contrarian spirit that makes G.O'Dot delightful reading as a political commentator, even (or especially) when he's completely wrong, makes him an entertaining huckster prosecutor once he has Hitchens placed in the dock. In this book, G.O'Dot exposes how if Hitchens did not exist, there would be a need to invent him, as imperialism has always needed and found shameless journalists prepared to lie and prostitute their talents in exchange for material reward. 'Hired prizefighters for the capitalist class', Marx called them. Yet their cause is incredibly damaging to humanity. Imperialism, G.O'Dot writes, is 'violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children'. It truly 'poisons everything'.

Water into Whine

Yet G.O'Dot is especially damning when it comes to the question of Hitchens himself. Many have claimed for Hitchens special super-natural powers, particularly when it comes to hard drinking. For example, one believer, George Galloway, has claimed that 'What Mr Hitchens has done is unique in natural history; the first-ever metamorphosis from a butterfly back into a slug. I mention 'slug' purposefully, because the one thing a slug does leave behind it is a trial of slime'. This is remarkable stuff, remarkable, but though there are people around who claim to have seen such acts - 'miracles' - they are very thin on the ground and there is still no rational, scientific, reasonable proof of Hitchens' existence as of yet.

False Profits

Others have asked that if it is true that Hitchens exists, and if he is such a kind benign spirit, why does he let so much suffering and destruction at the hands of the American Empire happen without intervening? Indeed, at times it seems as though Hitchens positively glories in the death and misery caused by imperialism - what sort of idol is this? Overall, G.O'Dot's short work, while perhaps a little hastily put together, is both timely and important and highly recommended to readers of Histomat.

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Blair 'not the Messiah' - shock claim

Following the stirling example set by Nick Cohen's mother, the mother of Tony Blair has questioned the widespread belief that Blair was sent from heaven to bring peace and goodwill to all on earth. Since leaving office, many expect Blair to use his apparently miraculous powers to bring peace to the Middle East, a task expected to take him a week or so, before making poverty history, saving the planet from the threat of environmental catastrophe and then cashing in by publishing his memoirs.

Son of Gord

Yet now Blair's own mother has cast doubt that her son has these powers. 'He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy' she told reporters yesterday, alluding to his various murderous imperial adventures while British Prime Minister and suggesting that he should be sitting in an international criminal court rather than being held up as some sort of respectable politician committed to peace... (cont. p.94.)

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Farewell to the Dear Leader

From The Sunday Times:

LONDON - Comrade Blair has received a standing ovation and ringing praise from his senior ministers as he chaired an emotional last politburo meeting before leaving office.

Among the tributes paid was one from incoming premier Gordon Khrushchev, who told Blair that his achievements in office had transformed the country in the last 10 years. "Whatever we achieve in the future will be because we are standing on your shoulders."

Blair, 54, officially leaves office on June 27, three days after handing over the leadership of the governing Labour Party of Great Britain to 56-year-old Khrushchev. He responded to Khrushchev’s praise by saying he had the qualities to make a good leader and he would have his "unswerving support", Blair’s spokesman told reporters. "He finished by saying that this was ’the right time to go’," he added.

The spokesman said the meeting, which lasted about an hour, was a "good humoured" and "very affectionate" occasion, the likes of which he had never seen before. "The only way to bring the standing ovation to an end was for him to leave the room," he added.

Blair’s former foreign secretary Jackboot Straw, now leader of the House of Commons, also praised his boss, saying "history would look back on him as one of the most successful prime ministers ever".

Josef Stalin is 129 years old.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Marcus Brigstocke on Bernard Manning

He did have great timing - everyone will say that over the next few days, and I would join them - except that it is no compliment. Manning had great timing ... yeah, and that mentally ill lad who murdered all those kids at Virginia Tech was a bloody good shot, but that's hardly the point, is it?

- Marcus Brigstocke on the dead racist comedian Bernard Manning.


Iraq was on course until 2003 bombing - Blair

From the Guardian:

Tony Blair yesterday warned the west that he was personally losing the will to win the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, as he hit back at those who claim Iraq has gone wrong because of a lack of planning. The prime minister said the real turning point in Iraq came on March 20 2003, when 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' began with the unfortunate dropping of a series of bombs by the US Government.

Mr Blair told the Commons liaison committee in his 11th and last evidence session: "I thought in July 2002 we had contained a terrible dictator, we had got in place UN weapons inspectors and the Labour Party were going to remain the elected government in Britain for the foreseeable future.

"What happened in March 2003? The US went in and began to murder innocent Iraqi people. At that moment I had a fundamental decision to make as an international statesman- did I say to the US 'I am not going to let you succeed' or did I say 'this is going to be really difficult to sell to the British people but fuck it - lets go to war'?"

Apparently giving in to suggestions from MPs that his premiership had been ruined by his misjudgment over backing the US in Iraq, the prime minister attacked the idea that a lack of planning was to blame. "It is so comforting to say that there was an error in the planning - someone did not spot what was going to go on. In reality, that is not what has created the problem, the problem was the initial idea that bombing innocent people was going to be the thing that liberated them."

Mr Blair also attacked the imperialist idea that democracy comes about through the West exporting it by bombing. "Please do not believe that the ordinary Arab does not want democracy or freedom in the way we do," he said. "What country has ever chosen not to be a democracy - it is nonsense. It is what oppressors do to justify their oppression. They say democracy and freedom are western values. It is rubbish. They are universal values of the human spirit and they always will be."

Mr Blair went on to disclose the limits of British prime ministerial authority by revealing that he was personally opposed to three recent planks of US government policy: their rampant military imperialism; their lack of respect for the environment; and their general lack of respect for democratic rights, but he was unable to persuade George Bush to change policy despite the 'special relationship'. He urged people to attend the Stop the War Coalition's lobby at the special Labour Leadership conference in Manchester on June 24th...

Or maybe not...

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

M.N.Roy on 'the liberal Labourites of England'

M.N. Roy was an early leader of Indian Communism, and in 1922 wrote this article, The Liberalism of the British Labour Party which should remind us that the Labour Party has always loyally supported British Imperialism and that the idea of a 'pro-war "Left"' as being something 'new' and 'unprecedented' and only resulting from 'Liberals losing their way' after 9/11 is clearly problematic. As Roy noted:

Ramsey MacDonald, Labour's leader, always 'forgets about the Irish political prisoners rotting until recently in subterranean dungeons—or the wholesale massacres in India, Egypt and the Rand'...

'We are expected to believe that the Social Democrats and the Labourites stand for freedom for all, as against the principle of proletarian dictatorship professed by the Communists. Well, the sincerity of the British Labour Party in this question cannot stand the test when its attitude towards the national movements in the colonies is examined. Let us look into its record. Never has the British Labour Party defined its attitude, on the Colonial Question. Of all its leaders, Ramsay MacDonald has written the most about the imperial administration of the subject countries. We search in vain all through his writings to find a sentence which unconditionally recognises the right of the colonial peoples to determine freely what sort of government they would like to have. The most liberal statement he makes amounts to this: the old jingoist imperialism is untenable under the present circumstances; more liberal methods have to be adopted if the safety and permanence of the Empire is to be insured; the word Empire has become too odious, a more democratic term—Commonwealth—has to be introduced. He is sure that the 'democratic Federation of the British Empire' will be safe and secure in the keeping of the Labour politicians; a Col. Wedgewood in the India Office and a Ramsay MacDonald in Delhi will be a great improvement upon the noble lords now occupying those comfortable positions. The Irish policy of the Labour Party has never committed the sin of exceeding the limits of Gladstonian liberalism. So much by way of generalisation; now a few particulars.

When at the beginning of the war the Boer Nationalists of South Africa rose in revolt with the object of declaring an independent republic, the liberalism of the British labour leaders fell into line with those rank imperialists who found German intrigue, behind that revolt and dammed it as treason. Not a murmur was to be heard from the British Labour Party when De Wet was sentenced to hard labour.

Such an event as the 1916 Easter Revolution in Ireland could not make the British Labour Party define its attitude regarding this thorny question. As a member of the War Cabinet, Henderson did not raise a finger to save James Connolly, not to speak of others whose genuine fervour for national independence cannot be blackened by the insinuation of underground German intrigues. The British Labour Party did not find it necessary out of loyalty to the working class at least to withdraw from the Coalition which has killed the champion of the Irish proletariat...

The British Labour Party has maintained a sublime indifference towards the brutal repression is India ever since the earliest years of the present century. When the so-called “war services ” of the Indian people—services for which even the pacifist Ramsay MacDonald congratulates the Indians and recommends a better lot for them—were paid for by the infamous Rowlatt Act, which practically put the entire country under martial law, not even a word of protest was raised by the British Labour Party. But the Amritsar massacre which followed upon the heels of the Rowlatt Act, disturbed the philosophic calm of the British Labourites and elicited a conventional protest from them. This document, signed among others by Henderson, J.H. Thomas, Robert Williams and Lansbury, deplored the foolishness of such a policy of repression, and pointed out that thereby “the lives of the thousands of English women and children in India were endangered.” The apostles of humanity...were only concerned about the precious lives of helpless members of the ruling class, when the unarmed workers of India were being bombed and blown up by hundreds...

A few words more about Egypt. The Labour Party did not have anything to say against the proclamation of the British Protectorate over Egypt at the beginning of the war. The repeated persecution and the ultimate deportation of Zaglul failed to inspire these champions of liberty with holy indignation. They tacitly support the present policy of coercing the Egyptian people with the help of a few landed aristocrats, bought with sham concessions.'

And all this when Labour was in opposition and before they had ever formed a Government!
No wonder that whenever these 'champions of liberty' have been in power since, they have carried out the imperial 'civilising mission' - or 'humanitarian intervention' as it is more fashionably called today - with as much vigour as any other British Government. The British Labour Party was born at the time when the British Empire was at its height - and along with the decline and fall of the British Empire has gone the decline and decay of British Labourism. That tradition does not deserve to be revived - even if revival of it were still possible. Fortunately the British working class has always contained more internationalist, more progressive, more revolutionary traditions which socialists can and must relate to if a socialist alternative to Labourism is to be built.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Ousmane Sembène 1923-2007

The great radical film maker and novelist from Senegal in West Africa, Ousmane Sembène, has died. RIP.

Edited to add: SR Obituary

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Lenin Reloaded

Lenin Reloaded: Towards a Politics of Truth
Edited by Sebastian Budgen, Stathis Kouvelakis, and Slavoj Žižek

Lenin Reloaded is a rallying call by some of the world’s leading Marxist intellectuals for renewed attention to the significance of Vladimir Lenin. The volume’s editors explain that it was Lenin who made Karl Marx’s thought explicitly political, who extended it beyond the confines of Europe, who put it into practice. They contend that a focus on Lenin is urgently needed now, when global capitalism appears to be the only game in town, the liberal-democratic system seems to have been settled on as the optimal political organization of society, and it has become easier to imagine the end of the world than a modest change in the mode of production. Lenin retooled Marx’s thought for specific historical conditions in 1914, and Lenin Reloaded urges a reinvention of the revolutionary project for the present. Such a project would be Leninist in its commitment to action based on truth and its acceptance of the consequences that follow from action.

These essays, many of which appear here in English for the first time, bring Lenin face-to-face with the problems of today, including war, imperialism, the imperative to build an intelligentsia of wage earners, the need to embrace the achievements of bourgeois society and modernity, and the widespread failure of social democracy. Lenin Reloaded demonstrates that truth and partisanship are not mutually exclusive as is often suggested. Quite the opposite—in the present, truth can be articulated only from a thoroughly partisan position.

Contributors. Kevin B. Anderson, Alain Badiou, Etienne Balibar, Daniel Bensaïd, Sebastian Budgen, Alex Callinicos, Terry Eagleton, Fredric Jameson, Stathis Kouvelakis, Georges Labica, Sylvain Lazarus, Jean-Jacques Lecercle, Lars T. Lih, Domenico Losurdo, Savas Michael-Matsas, Antonio Negri, Alan Shandro, Slavoj Žižek

Table of Contents

Introduction: Repeating Lenin 1

Part 1: Retrieving Lenin
1. Alain Badiou, One Divides Itself into Two 7
2. Alex Callinicos, Leninism in the Twenty-first Century?: Lenin, Weber, and the Politics of Responsibility 18
3. Terry Eagleton, Lenin in the Postmodern Age 42
4. Fredric Jameson, Lenin and Revisionism 59
5. Slavoj Zizek, A Leninist Gesture Today: Against the Populist Temptation 74

Part 2: Lenin in Philosophy
6. Savas Michael-Matsas, Lenin and the Path of Dialectics 101
7. Kevin B. Anderson, The Rediscovery and Persistence of the Dialectic in Philosophy and in World Politics 120
8. Daniel Bensaid, “Leaps! Leaps! Leaps!” 148
9. Stathis Kouvelakis, Lenin as Reader of Hegel: Hypotheses for a Reading of Lenin’s Notebooks on Hegel’s “The Science of Logic” 164

Part 3: War and Imperialism
10. Etienne Balibar, The Philosophical Moment in Politics Determined by War: Lenin 1914-16 207
11. Georges Labica, From Imperialism to Globalization 222
12. Domenico Losurdo, Lenin and Herrenvolk Democracy 239

Part 4: Politics and its Subject
13. Sylvian Lazarus, Lenin and the Part, 1902-November 1917 255
14. Jean-Jacques Lecercle, Lenin the Just, or Marxism Unrecycled 269
15. Lars T. Lih, Lenin and the Great Awakening 283
16. Antonio Negri, What to Do Today with What Is to Be Done?, or Rather: The Body of the General Intellect 297
17. Alan Shandro, Lenin and Hegemony: The Soviets, the Working Class, and the Party in the Revolution of 1905 308

Contributors 333
Index 335

For more information, please visit here - for a critical review see here. I have yet to read this book, but it certainly sounds interesting...

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Toilet humour

Some of you no doubt are already familiar with this, but for those who are not I highly recommend reading Mike Haynes on 'Toilet Paper Usage in the Former Soviet Bloc and the Transition'...

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Scott McLemee on 'The Sopranos'

Marxist cultural critic Scott McLemee has written a fine piece about the hit gangster TV series, The Sopranos. An extract:

'[C.L.R.] James treats the cinematic gangsters of yesteryear as radical individualists – their crimes, however violent, being a kind of Romantic refusal of social authority. But the extraordinary power of “The Sopranos” has often come from its portrayal of an almost seamless continuum between normality and monstrosity. Perhaps the most emblematic moment in this regard came in the episode entitled “College,” early in show’s first year. We watch Tony, the proud and loving father, take his firstborn, Meadow, off to spend a day at the campus of one of her prospective colleges. Along the way, he notices a mobster who had informed to the government and gone into the witness protection program. Tony tracks the man down and strangles him to death.

At the college he sees an inscription from Hawthorne that reads, “No man ... can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which one may be true.” Earlier, we have seen Tony answer Meadow’s question about whether he is a member of the Mafia by admitting that, well, he does make a little money from illegal gambling, but no, he isn’t a gangster. So the quotation from Hawthorne points to one source of Tony’s constant anxiety. But it also underscores part of the audience’s experience – an ambivalence that only grows more intense as “The Sopranos” unfolds.

For we are no more clear than Tony is which of his faces is “true.” To put it another way, all of them are. He really is a loving father and a good breadwinner (and no worse a husband, for all the compulsive philandering, than many) as well as a violent sociopath. The different sides of his life, while seemingly distinct, keep bleeding into one another.'

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Howard Zinn on Making History

Sorry people, I am really busy just now but I thought I would just link to this interview with the legendary historian Howard Zinn, author of among other things A People's History of the United States, in this month's Socialist Review. Here is an extract:

#Q: Your book A People's History of the United States is proudly partisan. Why do you think it is so important for history to be openly partisan?

A: First you use the phrase "openly partisan". It's a good point. All history is partisan except that most of it is not open. Histories that pretend to be objective and neutral, and pretend not to be taking sides, are of course taking sides, because they are not raising any consciousness about society. It's flat history which doesn't provoke anyone into action and which therefore reinforces the status quo.

That passive, pretentious scholarship which is partisan without saying so is what I'm trying to overcome. I believe the historian is a citizen, a human being, before he is a historian. To me being a historian is just a means to an end.

History, by its nature, is always a selection out of the past of an enormous amount of data. What you select out of that data to present in a book or a lecture suggests what your point of view is.

The selection is inevitably partisan. You select things that are unprovocative and harmless or the facts of history that will really provoke thinking and action.'

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Making a difference

'If you care, it does make a difference, and making a difference should be what politics is all about. The one thing I've come to despise more than anything else is cynicism.' - Tony Blair, 30 May 2007.