Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

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

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Recession

Public Meeting: The Recession

Tuesday 2nd September 2008

6.30pm, Friends Meeting House, Small Hall, 173 Euston Road, NW1 2BJ

Paul Mason, Economics editor of Newsnight and Graham Turner, author of "The Credit Crunch" will be discussing the recession and what it means for us. The meeting is hosted by the People Before Profit Charter. All welcome.

Edited to add: A report of the meeting.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Trotsky on the Moscow Trials

To celebrate Histomat reaching the 250,000 hit mark (or thereabouts), I have decided to put up a video of Trotsky defending himself in the Moscow Trials. If I have got the version I hope I have, there is a bit where Trotsky looks up straight at the camera for a moment, and you just know he is thinking, 'Yes, I am indeed Trotsky and, yes, I do always look this good'...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A warning from the future

There was something distinctly different about this years Labour Party conference, but it was difficult to put one's finger on exactly what that was...

From 2018: A Novel

The alarm clock was giving forth an ear-splitting whistle which continued on the same note for thirty seconds. It was nought seven fifteen, getting-up time for office workers. Oliver Kamm wrenched his body out of bed — naked, despite a Times Leader Writer received only £3,000 pounds monthly, and a suit of pyjamas was only £60 — and seized a dingy singlet and a pair of shorts that were lying across a chair. The next moment he was doubled up by a violent coughing fit which nearly always attacked him soon after waking up. It emptied his lungs so completely that he could only begin breathing again by lying on his back and taking a series of deep gasps. His veins had swelled with the effort of the cough, and the varicose ulcer had started itching.

The pain of the coughing fit had not quite driven out of Oliver's mind the impression made by his dream. He was struggling to think his way backward into the dim period of his early childhood. It was extraordinarily difficult. Beyond the late sixties everything faded. When there were no external records that you could refer to, even the outline of your own life lost its sharpness. You remembered huge events which had quite probably not happened, you remembered the detail of incidents without being able to recapture their atmosphere, and there were long blank periods to which you could assign nothing. Everything had been different then. Even the names of countries, and their shapes on the map, had been different. Airstrip One, for instance, had not been so called in those days: it had been called England or Britain, though London, he felt fairly certain, had always been called London.

Oliver could not definitely remember a time when his country had not been at war, but it was evident that there had been a fairly long interval of peace during his childhood. War had been literally continuous, though strictly speaking it had not always been the same war. For several months during his childhood there had been confused street fighting in London itself, some of which he remembered vividly. But to trace out the history of the whole period, to say who was fighting whom at any given moment, would have been utterly impossible, since no written record, and no spoken word, ever made mention of any other alignment than the existing one. At this moment, for example, in 2018 (if it was 2018), America was at war with Russia and in alliance with China. In no public or private utterance was it ever admitted that the three powers had at any time been grouped along different lines. Actually, as Oliver well knew, it was only four years since America had been at war with China and in alliance with Russia. But that was merely a piece of furtive knowledge which he happened to possess because his memory was not satisfactorily under control. Officially the change of partners had never happened. America was at war with Russia: therefore America had always been at war with Russia. The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible.

The frightening thing, he reflected for the ten thousandth time as he forced his shoulders painfully backward (with hands on hips, they were gyrating their bodies from the waist, an exercise that was supposed to be good for the back muscles) — the frightening thing was that it might all be true. If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, it never happened — that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death?

The Party said that America had never been in alliance with Russia. He, Oliver Kamm, knew that America had been in alliance with Russia as short a time as four years ago. But where did that knowledge exist? Only in his own consciousness, which in any case must soon be annihilated. And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed — if all records told the same tale — then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. ‘Reality control’, they called it: in Newspeak, ‘doublethink’

Oliver sank his arms to his sides and slowly refilled his lungs with air. His mind slid away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink. To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again: and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself. That was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word ‘doublethink’ involved the use of doublethink.

The half-pleasant quality went out of his meditations. The past, he reflected, had not merely been altered, it had been actually destroyed. For how could you establish even the most obvious fact when there existed no record outside your own memory? He tried to remember in what year he had first heard mention of Big Brother. He thought it must have been at some time in the nineties, but it was impossible to be certain. In the Party histories, of course, Big Brother figured as the leader and guardian of the Revolution since its very earliest days. His exploits had been gradually pushed backwards in time until already they extended into the fabulous world of the forties and the thirties, when the capitalists in their strange cylindrical hats still rode through the streets of London in great gleaming motor-cars or horse carriages with glass sides. There was no knowing how much of this legend was true and how much invented. Oliver could not even remember at what date the Party itself had come into existence. He did not believe he had ever heard the word Ingsoc before 1960, but it was possible that in its Oldspeak form — ‘English Socialism’, that is to say — it had been current earlier. Everything melted into mist. Sometimes, indeed, you could put your finger on a definite lie. It was not true, for example, as was claimed in the Party history books, that the Party had invented aeroplanes. He remembered aeroplanes since his earliest childhood. But you could prove nothing. There was never any evidence. Just once in his whole life he had held in his hands unmistakable documentary proof of the falsification of an historical fact.

With the deep, unconscious sigh which not even the nearness of the telescreen could prevent him from uttering when his day's work started, Oliver pulled the speakwrite towards him, blew the dust from its mouthpiece, and put on his spectacles. Then he unrolled and clipped together four small cylinders of paper which had already flopped out of the pneumatic tube on the right-hand side of his desk.

In the walls of the cubicle there were three orifices. To the right of the speakwrite, a small pneumatic tube for written messages, to the left, a larger one for newspapers; and in the side wall, within easy reach of Oliver's arm, a large oblong slit protected by a wire grating. This last was for the disposal of waste paper. Similar slits existed in thousands or tens of thousands throughout the building, not only in every room but at short intervals in every corridor. For some reason they were nicknamed memory holes. When one knew that any document was due for destruction, or even when one saw a scrap of waste paper lying about, it was an automatic action to lift the flap of the nearest memory hole and drop it in, whereupon it would be whirled away on a current of warm air to the enormous furnaces which were hidden somewhere in the recesses of the building.

Oliver examined the four slips of paper which he had unrolled. Each contained a message of only one or two lines, in the abbreviated jargon — not actually Newspeak, but consisting largely of Newspeak words — which was used in the Ministry for internal purposes. They ran:

times 14.3.17 bb speech malreported africa rectify

times 19.12.17 forecasts 3 yp 4th quarter 83 misprints verify current issue

times 14.2.17 miniplenty malquoted chocolate rectify

times 3.8.18 reporting bb dayorder doubleplusungood refs unpersons chomsky rewrite fullwise upsub antefiling

With a faint feeling of satisfaction Oliver laid the fourth message aside. It was an intricate and responsible job and had better be dealt with last. The other three were routine matters, though the second one would probably mean some tedious wading through lists of figures...

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Zizek on Haiti

'This is why Hallward's outstanding book is not just about Haiti, but about what it means to be a "leftist" today: ask a leftist how he stands towards Aristide, and it will be immediately clear if he is a partisan of radical emancipation or merely a humanitarian liberal who wants "globalisation with a human face".'

Slavoj Zizek reviews Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide and the Politics of Containment by Peter Hallward ( Verso, 480pp, £16.99) I am warming more and more to Zizek. This is from a recent interview:

Aside from a property, what's the most expensive thing you've bought?
The new German edition of the collected works of Hegel.

What is your most treasured possession?
See the previous answer.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
The chapters where I develop what I think is a good interpretation of Hegel.

Tell us a secret.
Communism will win.

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A Marxist Critique of Grand Theft Auto IV

[Regular readers of Histomat might remember that back in May I said that 'If anyone wants to write a Marxist analysis of GTA4, I'll publish it'. For the last three months one reader - Marvyn Trott - has dedicated himself to the task of playing the computer game almost non-stop solely in order to come up with what surely stands as the first explicitly Marxist analysis of the game. And he has given Histomat the world-historic opportunity to exclusively publish his findings, for which we are, obviously, extremely grateful.]

A Marxist Critique of Grand Theft Auto IV (of sorts)…
by Marvyn Trott

‘We Rock because We have the Freedom to Rock. So F. U. you Commies!’
(GTA IV Liberty Rock Radio)

Right, first things to say is stop reading this if you cannot abide encouraging deeply sexist or violent portrayal of contemporary popular culture. If you persist then you’ve no doubt been sucked into the hype surrounding the most popular game so far this year (2008).

First off, according to commentators, the UK firm that produced this game has accumulated approximately £360million globally and Hollywood is now acknowledging that video games are in direct competition with their own blockbusters. So much so that the film industry are now cashing in on the release of their own film rights sub-contracted to software studios, but need I say, these games tend to be shite.

Having read hardly any reviews for GTA IV but played the original GTA III and San Andréas i can say that these are the front runners in the state of games under capitalism. In fact GTA IV is an advert for aspects of popular culture vulgarised by capitalism.

The last point is an important one. Let’s give a couple of examples.

One is, as I said in the introduction is the sexism, the total and complete objectification of women, shouting at you from the TV whilst using of the worst expletives known in the English language against women. The complete sexualized imagery of women in the game via massive billboards as you drive down the street, an obvious universal commodification of women’s bodies under capitalism. Cynically targeting the game buyers audience which are predominantly teenage herberts.

Another is the violence. Ok, I quite like first person shooters ever since the release of ‘Doom’ back in the early 90s. But this game is just inhumanly contemptible towards its human AI’s. Niko, your character, likes to push people out of his way whilst calling them mofo’s (just as I’m typing snowball is beating up two homeless blokes). Niko is so alienated from his fellow human characters in the game one wonders who dreams up this shit.

The narrative says that Niko’s story is one of war victim or war criminal from the Balkans and that’s what makes him act as such. Fair enough, I think any self discerning gamer knows this. Then again everyone knows how violent capitalism itself is and the game reflects aspects of this reality. After all there are real war criminals stalking our streets in the back of cars with names like Bush and Blair.

Apparently I’ve heard that the game makers have been quoted in the media that they don’t care much for political correctness and I would say this is fitting in its backward portrayal of sexism and violence.

The worthwhile side to this game and that have certainly given the game its popularity is the music from the car radio every time you get into a car, whether jacked or stolen. The producers of the game have spared no expense in attracting some of the biggest names from the world of music and also the ingeniousness of the scripted dialogue that blares from the different radio channels.

The stars of the music world given airtime include Iggy Pop, Femi Kuti, DJ Premier, Roy Ayers, Bobby Konders, Francios K and Juliette Lewis. The playlists are just as good with Tuff Gong Marley tunes to the Black Keys. I’m thouroughly impressed with the hip hop classics and jazz funk tunes. I’ve been wondering how I can copy all the tracks off the game onto playable cd, the ones I aint got on vinyl! Suggestions welcome.

Was it Charlie Brooker that said this game satirises capitalism? Agreed. It ridicules capitalism and the ideology behind it. The ‘War on Terror’ is the standing joke throughout the game. Some inane fox news sounding presenter from ‘Weasel News’ is constantly reminding the gamer that the ‘terror threat level’ is ever increasing.

A eugenics advert tells you to throw away your children and buy perfectly cloned babies online. You get Iggy Pop telling you that, to paraphrase, ‘everyone wants to be famous because all the people who are famous have rich parents’, all Iggy wants is drugs but if he couldn’t get any he would jump off a tall building but can’t because all the rooftop doors are locked because of the war on terror… You get ‘the journey’ channels green message played after renditions of the Qyanasqatsii theme tune telling you that humans have fucked up the planet and it’s to late to do anything so it’s game over…

Also enough of the tunes speak out against the injustice of today’s system, Brand Nubian- One for All, Bob Marley and the Wailers - Rat Race, R.E.M -Turn you inside out & Gil Scott-Heron – Home is where the hatred is, are just pinch of musical plays in this game.

The anti capitalism of the game is its ridiculing of the corporate, fast food, consumer culture individualism and that to get ahead is to feign the criminal fraternity while escaping the uniformed state patrols and learn to drive a helicopter at the same time. I mean how many other working class teenage boys can impress their girlfriends by dropping into their garden via a helicopter then Rocket Propelled Grenade-ing the local police?

The games blatant anti racism is cool too.

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Bush's History lesson

'You can only push western influence so far eastwards into Eurasia. Napoleon learned that, Hitler learned that: George Bush's time has come.'

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

An Urgent Appeal: Can you help?

Our world is in crisis. Recession and war spread. The environment is steadily being destroyed under capitalism. The gap between rich and poor is wider than ever, reaching historically grotesque proportions. Just one tenth of the US defence budget could mean that no one in the world had to starve or die of preventable diseases because of lack of access to clean water. The case for another way of organising society - the case for a world where the needs of people come before the drive for profit - the case for socialism - has never been more self-apparent.

There are billions of people suffering in the world today. It is hard to think about individual cases. But please spare a moment if you can to just think about what you could do to help just one person. Meet Douglas Murray.

Douglas has had to survive a very tough upbringing indeed, possibly one of the toughest in the world. He was born into the British ruling class. He managed to survive, but was left scarred for life:

Eton and Oxford educated, an Anglican — sorry, a "practicing Anglican," as he corrects me — and complete with the chiseled features and upper-class accent one associates with the British aristocracy...

Having survived that ordeal - and who knows the kind of brutality, sadism and sheer horror he must have experienced in the process - then something even more terrible then happened to Douglas. He experienced an ordeal that would transform his life for ever. He became a victim of crime - in this case - a thought crime. As Douglas tells us, he was 'repeatedly mugged by reality'.

Mr. Murray was, however, "repeatedly mugged by reality" by three pivotal events — Kosovo, the September 11, 2001 attacks, and the reaction to those attacks on America.

Did he suffer directly from any of these events, I hear you ask? Was he perhaps caught up on the end of a NATO airstrike while on holiday backpacking around Serbia? Was he unfortunate enough to be on one of the planes that was hijacked on that fateful day? Was he on the recieving end of a racist backlash in America or detained in Guantanamo Bay for years on end without a trial or contact with his family?

Well, not quite, as it happens. But, as I am sure you will agree, what he experienced was even worse.

Kosovo was his "defining conflict." It shocked him that the governments of Europe were prepared to allow another genocide take place on European soil. The September 11, 2001, attacks provided the second jolt, and the third came with the "reaction to 9/11." He witnessed a large swathe of people in Europe and in America who still "didn't get it" and whose reaction was self-blame rather than seeking to defeat the terrorists. Realizing that the world he loved faced real danger, he turned to the practical world of policy and became a neocon.

Yes you did read that right. Douglas became a neoconservative. Initially, Douglas's 'early interests lay in literature and the arts, and not in practical government policy' but now he became political. What unimagineable torment must he have suffered? Can you imagine the intellectual turmoil such a transition must have thrown him in? To go from Eton - the bastion of Conservatism - to end up a NeoConservative. His parents must have been mortified (but we hear that as of yet they have not disowned him and blocked his inheritance, despite what must have come as a terrible traumatic shock for them) .

However, having survived being 'repeatedly mugged by reality', Douglas was now a neoconservative. Having bravely 'come out' to his parents about his shock transformation, he decided to bravely 'come out' to the world. Can you imagine how brave a decision that was - given the climate of fear after September 11? I mean to declare openly that you shared the same ideology as the most powerful man in the world, the most powerful government in the world, and the most powerful people in the world?

Douglas bravely wrote a book. He had the courage to give it a stirringly powerful title: Neoconservatism: Why We Need It (you don't go to Eton and study literature at Oxford and not be able to come up with a thought provoking and imaginatively evocative title for your book). He wrote lots of articles for various publications. He got to give speeches in the White House. For a time things were not so bad. Douglas looked like he might pull through in the end after all.

But then something terrible went wrong. After being declared 'The Right's answer to Michael Moore' and 'A brilliant young British intellectual', people who were not neoconservatives simply didn't buy his book or his arguments. Something perhaps about the title - and seemedly something about him - put people off. But without reading him, they remained wedded to the idea that maybe neoconservatism had some flaws and maybe, actually, 'they didn't need it' after all.

Douglas tells us that sales of his book fell after the 'War or Terror' began. As Douglas remembers, 'we were accused of killing hundreds of thousands of people'. He became an outcast in Britain - the country he loves almost as much as America and Israel.

[Douglas] is known on the British television chat show circuit as 'Britain's only neoconservative.'

But with your help there is hope for Douglas. He tells us he is going to be brave and summon up the courage to write another book.

I ask him what his next project will be. A career in politics perhaps, I suggest. He laughs and says he's not sure they'll have him. For the moment he's working on a book on Europe, which, he is at pains to stress, isn't lost just yet.

Yes, Europe is 'not lost yet'. Nor with your help is Douglas. Can you help?

£100 can ensure food for one day for Douglas Murray.
£50 can buy one hardback copy of Neoconservatism: Why We Need It.
£25 can buy one second hand copy of Neoconservatism: Why We Need It.

If you can't spare money, Douglas tells us he needs help thinking of a title for his forthcoming book on Europe as he is suffering from writers block of all things. He is currently tempted to go with Europe: It's Not Lost Yet but he is not sure whether this will sell. He is also considering the titles Europe: We Don't Need To Bomb It Yet and Europe: Lets Bomb Some of It But Please Don't Hit Me Or My Friends and Family. Douglas needs to sell books if he is to survive as an 'author and broadcaster' and he tells me he currently has rather a lot of unsold copies of Neoconservatism taking up room in his garage.

Can anyone help?


Dave Crouch on Solzhenitsyn

A good obituary in this weeks Socialist Worker of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, which manages to get the tricky but necessary balance of praise and criticism about right, and ends 'we must reject Solzhenitsyn the prophet – but celebrate him as a witness to Stalin’s crimes and the voice of his victims'.

[This weeks paper incidently also clearly explains what the hell is happening over in the Caucasus, which is useful for those of us who, unlike the likes of Lenin, haven't been good enough Marxists to make time to find out for ourselves...see also Seamus Milne]

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Say No to NATO

I just got this email from the Stop the War Coalition:

Friends Meeting House (Small Hall) London
6.30 pm, Thursday 14 August, 2008 with

MARK ALMOND, lecturer in History, Oxford University and expert on the Caucasus

KATE HUDSON, Chair of Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

BORIS KAGARLITSKI, former director Institute of Globalisation Studies, Moscow and author of, ‘Empire of the Periphery: Russia and the World System’

JOHN REES, Officer of Stop the War Coalition and author of ‘Imperialism and Resistance’

The outbreak of war in Georgia is already a disaster for the people of the region. It risks being turned into a still broader problem by Dick Cheney's threats. The conflict is in large measure the product of George Bush's policy of US global hegemony, in the Caucasus as in the Middle East. Attempts to extend NATO eastwards, specifically incorporating Georgia, directly challenge Russian interests. Please come to the meeting to discuss this latest flashpoint in an increasingly dangerous world and forward this message to your contacts.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

National Comedy Festival in September

This summer forget the Edinburgh festival, and the joys of the fringe! Why not come to Manchester on September 20 for the all new National Comedy Festival! This new event, formerly known as 'The Labour Party Conference', promises to have something to appeal to everyone and be fun for all the family!

Don't Mention The War Productions presents...

In association with Northern Rock 'The People's Bank'...


Highlights include:

Legends in their own household -catch them before they are gone
The Two Brownies - Gordon Brown 'The Joker man' and Des Browne 'The Straight man'

With support from...

The New Kids on the Block
The Dream Team - Alan 'the Minister' Johnson and his sidekick, 'Comedy Dave' Miliband.

Also hundreds of other hugely popular acts!

The Renationalise British Gas Now You Bastards Stage
With special guest host: Al 'Not Now' Darling
and featuring brand new comedy talent and new comedy sketches including:
'Balls By Name...' - Ed Balls
'Remember me?' - Hilary 'Not a Bennite' Benn
'The Future's Bright' - Hazel Blears
'Shit, Maybe My Dad Was Right' - Ed Miliband
'How to Win Elections' - Ken Livingstone

The Haunted House of Horrors
Featuring: Charles 'Fungus the Bogeyman' Clarke
James 'sin-eater' Purnell
Margaret Hodge
and...special guest - The Ghost of Ramsey MacDonald.

And Don't Miss:
The National Knife Throwing Championships
Organised by Jack 'Boot' Straw, Geoff 'Buff' Hoon and E.T. Brutus.
The awards will be presented by a very special invited guest,
the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown M.P., who will speak on
'The Menace of Knife Crime', a lecture where he will talk movingly about his own growing fears of being 'stabbed in the back'.

Special Exclusive Book Launch
Don't Diss The Peacemaker: The Memoirs of Tony Blair

For those who want more serious fayre, there is also...
The National Comedy Festival Fringe
'The Politics Tent Lectures'
'Why I Stopped Telling Political Jokes When They Kept Ending Up Being Elected Labour MPs'
'From Ramsey MacDonald to Ronald McDonald: A Short History of the Labour Party'
'The History Tent Lectures'
'What ever did happen to the British Labour Party after Glasgow East?' Discussion with historian Tristram Hunt
'The Futility of Parliamentary Socialism: Why Ralph Miliband was right about the need for a Left alternative to Labourism'

Don't miss out on the funniest day of the year! Come to Manchester on September 20!


George Orwell Blogs! (sort of)

'It appears from reliable private information that Sir O. Mosley is a masochist of the extreme type in his sexual life.'

So wrote George Orwell in his diary on 29 August 1939*. If only Orwell were still around to see that certain things seem to run in the family of the British Union of Fascist leader...

Anyway, instead, we will have to make do with the fact that Orwell's old diaries will be serialised online starting from tomorrow, day by day, here. Orwell I think would not only have approved of the blogosphere, he is a very much needed new presence in it given the kind of idiocy which currently dominates it, not least from those who claim to stand in his legacy yet cheer on imperialist war.

*Thanks to this weeks Private Eye for bringing this to my attention.

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A Marxist critique of the Olympics

Chris Bambery in this week's Socialist Worker has a critique of the Olympics opening in Beijing, and building on his analysis in Marxism and Sport, a critique of sport more generally. It's all good stuff, though I suspect there are some who will take issue with the way in which he ignores some of the contradictions within sport. For example, he writes that

Sport has been used as a tool of imperialism. Trinidadian Marxist CLR James showed how cricket was used in the British West Indies to disseminate ideas that were central to maintaining colonial rule.

Now this is of course true as far as it goes. Cricket was promoted by colonial officials at the height of the power of the British Empire in order, some of those - like say Lord Harris - doing the promoting, thought, to precisely uphold the values of Empire. Cricket then was tied up with Englishness and Empire during this Victorian period - the 'Golden Age' of the game.

But those who do read CLR James's Beyond a Boundary will of course see something else, that actually the way cricket was organised and structured in colonial Trinidad according to race and class actually meant that sometimes cricket matches took on enormous political significance. Moreover, when the West Indies and other teams like India played England at an international level - particularly once the grip of colonialism was being steadily undermined off the pitch by national liberation movements, cricket matches could help embolden those struggling to build say a new West Indian national consciousness or say Indian national consciousness. Lets quote, (oddly enough for this blog), the former Conservative Prime Minister John Major, in his history of cricket, More Than a Game:

'The Marxist historian C.L.R. James argued that, in the West Indies, cricket had a magic that was a guiding light for the dispossessed and the disenfranchised. From a polar opposite political position, Lord Harris argued that cricket upheld the values of a nineteenth-century empire. From their disparate viewpoints, James and Harris had instincts in common: both believed that cricket touches deep and conflicting emotions, and offers added value to society. They are right. Sport, and cricket specifically, can have a dynamic effect upon a community, and can spring from the very core of a nation.'

Now today, of course, things are slightly different again. The enemy of cricket now is less imperialism - though like racism, until the socialist revolution, that will sadly always be one factor shaping the game - but rather the enemy is capital and corporate power in particular. David Renton writes about this particular threat here. Renton is also author of a new biography CLR James: Cricket's Philosopher King, and if anyone wants to hear someone who knows far more than me discuss what James might have made of cricket today, then he will be speaking at the Salford Working Class Movement Library on 4 October at 2pm.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

The Darker the Knight the Brighter the Star

I kind of enjoyed The Dark Knight. Of course, the 'philosophy' behind it was a crude and simplistic justification of the importance of 'law and order' in capitalist society. Both it and Batman Begins can and should also be read as an ideological legitimation of the 'war on terror', with Liam Neeson's 'League of Shadows' -or whatever they were called - as a representation of Al Qaida (they come from Asia and like terrorism) and Michael Caine's butler Alfred dismissing The Joker with 'Some men don't want anything logical like money. Some men just want to watch the world burn' - is also another perhaps slightly more subtle attack on dem' 'evil doers' who apparently constitute the main threat to world peace today. Doug and Lenin in their reviews of the film explain all of the flaws in the film in a much more compelling and convincing way.

However, I disagree with Lenin's description of Batman as in some way a kind of 'fascist' film. Yeah, its about a 'billionaire playboy with a penchant for sadistic violence' but if glorifying violence and hard 'super-heroes' make a film 'fascist' then half all all Hollywood action films must be in someway 'fascist'. But then, how to explain their popularity? If Batman was in some way 'fascist', surely people would not come out of the cinema and tell their friends 'yeah, its alright - go and see it' in the numbers that people must have been doing to make it the massive box office success it has been. Politically and morally, the underlying message of the film may be more than dubious - but if we are going to have Batman films made, I for one would rather have Christian Bale keeping Batman quite a dark character in the manner of the early Tim Burton films rather than Hollywood serving up shit involving any of the following: Val Kilmir*, Chris' O Donnell, George Clooney** or Jim Carrey. Artistically, both BatmanBegins and The Dark Knight work reasonably well as films, in my opinion. And for Marxists, artistic merit should count for something.

* Though Val Kilmir was quite good in Heat.
** Clooney has probably been involved in one or two good films too in his time, though he is sadly well and truly being used as a poster boy for imperial power over the question of Darfur.

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