Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

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

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Caption please: When Bush met Brown

To start the ball rolling...

Brown: You might want to take a left now...
Bush: Hey, Tony warned me about you - are you some sort of goddamn Commie or something? The 'Labour' Party - I never could understand that - what is the 'Labour' Party all about anyway?

Bush: 'You are very humourous for a Scotsman, Mr. Brown...'
Brown: 'Mr. Bush, I am not joking, I really am the Prime Minister of Great Britain.'

Bush: 'We are writing the initial chapters of what I believe is a great ideological struggle between those who do believe in freedom and justice and human rights and human dignity and cold-blooded killers who kill innocent people to achieve their objectives.'
Brown: Congratulations, Mr. Bush, I didn't realise you had now learnt how to write. But which side of that struggle are you on again?

Brown: Mr. President, do you agree we should send Western troops into Sudan?
Bush: Yo, Brown! That's a no brainer - it's a Muslim country with huge oil reserves that we need to stop China getting...of course we should send them in!
Brown: What about the genocide?
Bush: These things always take time to organise Gordon - look at Iraq. And, after all, we haven't even started killing innocent people in Sudan yet!

Edited to add: Private Eye went with the following:

Brown: Tony sends his regards...
Bush: Tony who?

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Honourable men


Rain stops play in the BB House...

Day 32 4.06pm

The housemates are in the living area sitting around two tables. Torrential rain outside the BB No. 10 House has meant that Big Brother has provided them with board games to entertain them. Digby, Hazel, Shaun, Ed and Jacqui are sitting together, ready to play 'Monopoly'.

DIGBY: My favourite game this - taught me everything I know in life. I'll be the 'Top Hat'...
SHAUN: Oh yes, cracking fun travelling round London buying up property, eh wot? ...I'll be the 'Bag of Money'. I'll have another Pimms, Jeeves.
JEEVES: Very good, Sir.
ED: I'll be 'the car'. My dad once told me that this game was invented by anti-capitalist Quakers to try and teach people how capitalism failed as an economic system as everyone began with equal wealth and yet by the end of the game one person had the lot and everyone else had nothing...
DIGBY: Bolshie nonsense, boy. Capitalism rewards talent and those that work hard...[whispers to Ed: you want to know the secret to winning Monopoly son - get lucky and land on 'Orange' and then built up that set..]
ED: Wow thanks - you are so cool Digby...
HAZEL: I'll be 'the dog'.*
JACQUI: Oh great - I'm left with the 'old boot'. Thanks guys.

Meanwhile on the other table, the remaining housemates are in the middle of the game 'Risk'

HARRIET: I'm so bored. This game is just about armies fighting each other the whole time - isn't there enough of that going on in the outside world?
DAVID: Well, Harriet, my father once told me that Risk must have been invented by anti-imperialists, as it shows that inevitably all empires must fall...
GORDON: Well by the way this game is going it looks like my empire might just prove that 'law of history' wrong - I am poised to take over the whole world - no one here seems capable of stopping me...
ALISTAIR: Well, Gordon, you might have achieved global hegemony but you haven't dislodged me yet from Afghanistan after the fourth time of trying, and Jack has you bogged down in Mesopotamia and Persia...
GORDON: I will destroy you, darling...
DAVID: How many troops are you willing to keep sending in Gordon? You keep sending 'em in, they keep coming back in bodybags...shouldn't one learn from History at all?
JACK: Victory to the resistance!
GORDON: I think someone has had one too many Shandy's...Now, back to the game everyone. Concentrate. Where was I? Ah, yes, Afghanistan... [Gordon mutters to himself: I will conquer Afghanistan for the greater glory of the British Empire...it is...my destiny...]

Will Digby win Monopoly? Will Gordon keep risking it all in an attempt to conquer Afghanistan? Can you stand the excitement? Stay tuned folks!

[*Readers - please note that this is not me trying to be sexist, I just think Hazel would probably want to be the little Scotty dog...]


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Articulate articles

Those with time on their hands (unfortunately not me at the moment) might, if they do not do so already, like to read Louis Proyect's continuing series of articles on the transition from feudalism to capitalism, which rightly focuses on the obscene profits to be made off the backs of African slaves as well as the revolutionary aspects of British farming...

I will also quickly highlight Caryl Phillips's fine article on the life of James Baldwin from the Guardian, and finally Paul Foot's brief article looking back at the Leninism of CLR James from Socialist Worker in 1989.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Song of the young Leninists

'The five-pointed star is rising over the earth. We proletarian children will build a new world. Forward boldly, you Leninists! The commune is our watchword; let each of you fulfil the commands of Lenin.
We shall relieve the communist youth. We are the friends of every worker. The children of the world shall form one family. We will show life a new way, for the old have need of rest. We are the children of communist heroes; the spirit of the warriors is strong in us. We will build the commune sooner with the aid of science. Labour and science shall unite to make us stronger. Books will be useful to us and make our work easier. With united strength we are resolved to master science and press on further.
Come, you children, follow our fighting cry! We are free minds and not slaves. We are resolved to be tenacious and steadfast - like Il'ich Lenin'.

'Song of the young Leninists', association of Pioneers, early Soviet Russia.

From the superbly illustrated The Mind and Face of Bolshevism; An Examination of Cultural Life in Soviet Russia by Rene Fulop-Miller (1927). Hat-tip: Children's Laureate/Commissar for Children's Literature Michael Rosen.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

The latest from the BB house...

Day 24 9.49pm
The housemates, with the exception of Digby who is busy eating cake in the kitchen area, are all in the sitting room. They are talking about places they have visited on holiday...

DAVID: My best holiday ever was spent in the States. I just love everything about America...
ALISTAIR: What? Even George Bush and the neo-cons?
GORDON: Now now darling, don't be anti-American...

Big Brother No. 10 has been criticised by some on the outside for being one of the dullest ever, despite the claim that it was a house 'of all the talents'. The first task of the house involved housemates revealing their particular 'talent' to their fellow housemates. Gordon's talent was a perverse party trick, known as the 'Brown bounce'. However housemates have soon tired of Gordon's repeated attempts to perform this and have spent increasing amounts of time moaning about Gordon behind his back in the Diary room. Alistair's talent was a distinctly convincing impression of an owl. Digby's talent was his ability to consume vast quantities of pies. However, when it was the turn of Harriet to show off her 'talent', she burst into tears and ran into the bedroom complaining that the task was 'unfair'. The housemates accordingly failed the talent task, adding to the building tensions in the house...

Day 24 11pm
Suddenly the door opens and another four new housemates appear! Lets meet them!

Name: Shaun 'Wooster' Woodward

Favourite colour: Money
Occupation: Minister for Northern Ireland
First Words in the House: 'This house is so tiny - How on earth do people live in conditions such as this?'
Life Philosophy: Careerism.
Likes: Being so rich he can own a butler.
Dislikes: Proles.
Why BB?: 'Sounds like bloody good fun, eh wot?'

Name: Jeeves.

Favourite colour: Black
Occupation: Shaun Woodward's butler.
First Words in the House: 'After you, sir.'
Life Philosophy: Being quite intelligent.
Likes: Reading.
Dislikes: Fascists.
Why BB?: I really couldn't say.

Name: Jacqui

Favourite colour: Brown
Occupation: Home Secretary
First Words in the House: 'Lets get this Party started!'
Life Philosophy: Careerism mixed with hypocrisy.
Likes: Partying.
Dislikes: Young people. Cannabis.
Why BB?: This Big Brother is so boring - I am the person to liven things up!

Name: Ed

Favourite colour: Brown.
Occupation: Cabinet Office Minister
First Words in the House: 'This is so much better than school!'
Life Philosophy: Careerism
Likes: Doing homework. Harry Potter.
Dislikes: Going to school everyday.
Why BB?: 'As the youngest ever housemate on Big Brother, I believe I can bring something new to the Big Brother house - apart from the latest Harry Potter book of course!'

What difference will the new housemates make? Could they be the saviours of Big Brother No. 10? Or will this lot go down as the dullest collection of housemates ever? Stay tuned to find out!

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Paying respect

This year while at Marxism, I took some time out to visit the grave of Karl Marx in Highgate cemetery - and pay my respects to the old man. I have been a Marxist for the past ten years or so and so I felt it was about time I did this, especially since I was in London at an event called 'Marxism'. Incidently this was not because 'Marxism' this year was dull or anything - in fact I thought the level of discussion throughout very good and while there was less of an international presence than in the recent past (possibly because many SWP groups now seem to organise their own 'Marxism festivals' rather than make the trip to London) overall I enjoyed it a lot. Finding Marx's grave is not too tricky, once you have located the cemetery itself. Marx is buried with several members of his immediate family - the two quotes on the grave are 'Workers of all lands unite' and 'The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways - The point however is to change it'.

Next to Marx lies Claudia Jones (1915-1964), Trinidadian-born Communist and founder of the Notting Hill Carnival, a quite remarkable woman whose life work remains too little known, at least in Britain.

And opposite Marx is Paul Foot's grave. It reads:

Paul Foot
Writer and Revolutionary
Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number -
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you -
Ye are many - they are few

The lines of course are from Foot's beloved Shelley. Around Marx's grave are the graves of several other revolutionary Marxists from around the world - in particular several Iraqi and South African Communists who must have died in exile in Britain. A stone's throw away from Marx's grave is that of Herbert Spencer, the English liberal philosopher. Who would have ever put Marx and Spencer together?

Any interesting points about Marx's grave or visits to it, please feel free to make in the comments box. I took some pictures on my phone but I can't seem to upload them at the moment, which is annoying. One comrade told me that when he visited Highgate cemetery he had a problem locating Marx's grave until he saw a little red squirrel which lead him along a little path through the wood until he saw the statue of Marx's head looming in the distance...


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

International Socialism 115

Now Out - International Socialism 115
A quarterly journal of revolutionary socialism


Britain after Blair

Sarkozy: the French Thatcher?

Greece: waves from the student struggle Nikos Loudos

Robin Blackburn interview: What really ended slavery?

Nandigram and the deformations of the Indian left Aditya Sarkar

Gordon Brown

Brown's Journey from Reformism to Neoliberalism John Newsinger

New Labour's economic "record" Chris Harman

José Carlos Mariátegui: Latin America’s forgotten Marxist Mike Gonzalez

At an impasse? Anti-capitalism and the social forums today Alex Callinicos and Chris Nineham

France at the crossroads Antoine Boulangé and Jim Wolfreys

Kim Moody interview: The superpower’s shopfloor

The rate of profit and the world today Chris Harman

A revolution in paint: 100 years of Picasso’s Demoiselles John Molyneux

The literature of a ravished continent: Achebe, Sembène and Ngugi Ken Olende

Plus book reviews - all in all, lots of reading for Histomat readers while I am away at Marxism...But while I am here, I might as well point out that yesterday was a good day for the Guardian letters page:

Simon Jenkins (Comment, June 29) seems to have forgotten that Gordon Brown does have a greater knowledge of history than his predecessor, having gained both a first-class degree and a PhD in the subject. The problem is that the erstwhile disciple of James Maxton now takes his assessment of the history of British imperialism from Niall Ferguson rather than John Newsinger.
Dr Tobias Abse
Department of history, Goldsmiths College, University of London

and here:

Your front page story on the London car bombs refers to them as "Iraqi style". Actually I don't think this is any kind of Iraqi tradition. It dates precisely from certain events in spring 2003.
Keith Flett

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

BB No. 10 Update...

It is Day Four in the Big Brother House, and the housemates are in the sitting room, discussing politics:

GORDON: 'Am I glad that Tony Blair has finally gone. While he was in power, there were British soldiers dying in Iraq and Afghanistan on a daily basis, and a mounting threat of terrorism at home. Now we can all finally relax again - its back to business as usual.'
HARRIET: 'You are so right Gordon, as always.'
DAVID: 'Oh Gordon, you are so right'.
HAZEL: 'Relax? If Big Brother hadn't taken away all our cigarettes we might have a chance...'
ALISTAIR: 'I agree with Gordon too. I don't know what people ever saw in Blair, personally. I can't believe that they have now gone and made this war criminal into a peace envoy - what the fuck is that all about?'
GORDON: 'Less of the swearing, darling.'
JACK: 'I hate war criminals, me. Lock 'em up and throw away the key I say.'

Suddenly the door opens and another new housemate appears! Lets meet him!

Name: Digby

Favourite colour: Grey.
Occupation: Minister for Trade and Investment.
First Words in the House: 'I wish I could fit through this bloody door'
Life Philosophy: Getting rich by doing as little work as possible.
Likes: Big Business. Rich people. Money. Pies.
Dislikes: Trade Unionists. The Unemployed. 'The Great Unwashed'.
Why BB?: 'I like the idea of sitting around for weeks on end and doing nothing. I think I'd be pretty good at that. I am the Big Beast of Big Brother - geddit?'.

How will the other housemates take to Digby? Will he eat all the pies? Stay tuned to find out!

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