Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

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

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Eric Hobsbawm on the crisis

Is the intellectual opinion of capitalism changing? British Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, "arguably our greatest living historian" according to the New York Review, discusses the current economic crisis and the problems with a free market economy on the Today programme.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Marxism and the Economic Crisis

A one-day conference hosted by International Socialism
Saturday 25 October 2008
12 noon – 6pm
UCL, Central London

Faced with the unprecedented economic upheavals of recent months, International Socialism has invited some of Britain’s leading Marxist economics to present their views on the crisis.

Sessions on:

The depth of the crisis
Finance and the system
Political implications of the crisis

Speakers will include:
Peter Gowan, professor of international relations at London Metropolitan University and author of The Global Gamble
Alex Callinicos, chair of European studies at King’s College London, and author An Anticapitalist Manifesto and Resources of Critique
Robin Blackburn, professor of sociology at Essex University and author of Age Shock: How Finance is Failing us
Chris Harman, editor of International Socialism and author of Explaining the Crisis

To book a place, email isj@swp.org.uk or phone 020 7819 1177. Those attending will be asked for a donation (£10/£5) to cover our costs.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Historical Materialism Conference 2008

7-9 November 2008 School of Oriental and African Studies, Central London


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

International Socialism 120

Online now: International Socialism 120
Highlights include: Afghanistan: the case against the “good war” /Jonathan Neale
A crisis for the centre of the system/ Andrew Kliman
Snapshots of union strengths and weaknesses / Chris Harman
Where is the radical left going? /Alex Callinicos
Decyphering The Internationale / Donny Gluckstein
Marxism and ethics / Paul Blackledge
A fiftieth birthday for Marxist theory / Ian Birchall. This last article is a succinct history of the journal, from its founding in 1958 to the present day. An extract:

There are close on 1,000 articles plus editorials, reviews and letters. Obviously the quality is uneven. There are mediocre, boring and obscure articles, and polemics that seemed terribly important at the time but are now of little interest. There are also some historical curiosities of particular interest to students of renegacy. These include youthful efforts by Christopher Hitchens, actually more intelligent and better written than his current output...However, overall a collection of the two series provides a rich store of political analysis and commentary. In comparison with its main rival, New Left Review, which for long periods produced relatively little that was directly relevant to contemporary struggle, International Socialism was always geared to practice, to an interpretation of the current world in the perspective of changing it.

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Dean Ryan on the sanitisation of Black History Month

Today, when I tell young people about the racism my generation faced, there is a sense of disbelief that things were ever so bad. The fact that there is a generation that can’t imagine the racism that took place in Britain only 25 years ago shows the importance and effect of the struggles of that time. Yet too many young people don’t know about these struggles. They hate the police, racism and their treatment at the hands of the authorities, but they don’t think anything can be done about it.
The establishment is now trying to roll back the gains that black people have made, but a benchmark has been set. There will be no going back to the levels of racism we saw in the 1970s...We need a renewed grassroots movement of black and white people to challenge the increase in police stop and search, school exclusions, racism and the rise of the fascist British National Party. And this has to be an ongoing movement, not a once a year event. We need to teach young people the lessons of mass battles against racism – and inspire them to fight again.

Full article here

See also here and here - basically buy the Guardian this week for free black history timeline posters...

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Marxists Explain the Crisis

Kieran Allen: 'Financial Meltdown: Why Capitalism is in a Mess'
Waldon Bello: 'A Primer on Wall Street Meltdown'
Alex Callinicos 'System Failure: Economic turmoil and endless war'
Chris Harman 'Market Madness' - for longer background pieces see
here and here
Paul Kellogg: 'The Septembers of Neo-liberalism'
Radical Perspectives on the Crisis
John Rees: 'Leon Trotsky on Booms, Slumps and Class Struggle'
International Socialist Tendency statement on economic crisis

Feel free to suggest other articles etc - I will add to this list as and when...

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Two cheers for Blackadder

Blackadder apparently began 25 years ago, and while much of it has certainly dated in terms of comedy, I think parts of it have stood the test of time and deserve being warranted 'classic comedy'. To defend this slightly controversial view, here are some of my favourite Blackadder jokes.

From Blackadder:

Richard III: You are not putting him [Edmund Blackadder] anywhere near me, are you?
King Richard IV: No, no, my lord. He'll be somewhere amongst the rabble.
Richard III: Oh, arrow fodder.
King Richard IV: Precisely.
[Richard III waves at Edmund]
Richard III: What a little turd

From Blackadder III:

Prince Regent: Last night, I was having a bit of a snack at the Naughty Hellfire Club, and some fellow said I had the wit and sophistication of a donkey.
Blackadder: Oh, an absurd suggestion, sir.
Prince Regent: You're right. It is absurd.
Blackadder: Unless, of course, it was a particularly stupid donkey.

From Blackadder Goes Forth:

Blackadder: We've been sitting here since Christmas 1914, during which millions of men have died, and we've advanced no further than an asthmatic ant with some heavy shopping.

Bob Parkhurst: I want to see how a war is fought, so badly.
Blackadder: Well, you've come to the right place, Bob. A war hasn't been fought this badly since Olaf the Hairy, High Chief of all the Vikings, accidently ordered 80,000 battle helmets with the horns on the inside.

George: Great Scott, sir! You mean the moment's finally arrived for us to give Harry Hun a good old British-style thrashing, six of the best, trousers down?
Blackadder: If you mean, 'Are we all going to get killed?', then yes.

George: The war started because of the vile Hun and his villainous empire- building.
Blackadder: George, the British Empire at present covers a quarter of the globe, while the German Empire consists of a small sausage factory in Tanganyika. I hardly think that we can be entirely absolved of blame on the imperialistic front.

Blackadder: You see, Baldrick, in order to prevent war in Europe, two superblocs developed: us, the French and the Russians on one side, and the Germans and Austro-Hungary on the other. The idea was to have two vast opposing armies, each acting as the other's deterrent. That way there could never be a war.
Baldrick: But this is a sort of a war, isn't it, sir?
Blackadder: Yes, that's right. You see, there was a tiny flaw in the plan.
George: What was that, sir?
Blackadder: It was bollocks.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

New Film: How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

A hilarious new comedy starring Simon Pegg:

Simon Pegg plays Gordon Brown, a hapless control freak well out of his depth in the murky world of British politics, who makes blunder after blunder as Prime Minister. His disastrous infatuation with Margaret Thatcher, his bankrolling of bloody criminal imperialist wars, his public sector pay freeze at a time of economic crisis, his promotion of Peter Mandleson and his overall attitude of being 'intensely relaxed about people becoming filthy rich' by profiting from the misery of millions in rampant chaotic financial speculation ends up destroying the thing he loved the most - the Labour Party.

'More a tragedy really than a comedy - it shows the bankrupt logical end point of parliamentary socialism and the depths to which New Labour have now sunk as a political party. It beggars belief how so many trade union leaders can continue to bankroll such a party with their members funds, and put their loyalty to the Labour Party before the interests of the working class in general. Why don't they lead a united fightback against this incredibly unpopular New Labour regime?' - Jonathan Ross

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Emergency Protest: March on the City

"March on the city - We won't bail out the bankers"
Friday 10 October, 4pm - 6pm
Assemble outside the Bank of England, Threadneedle Street, London (nearest tube Bank). Summit for you and your workmates to do after work on Friday if you live in London perhaps...

Oh, and there is even more email spam around than usual at the moment:

Dear American,

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude. I am ministry of the treasury of the republic of America. My country needs a transfer of $700 billion. If you could assist me in this transfer it would be most profitable to you. This transaction is 100 percent safe. We need a blank cheque. Please reply with your bank account details and those of your children and grandchildren to wallstreetbailout@treasury.gov.

Yours faithfully,
Minister of treasury


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

John Pilger on breaking the lie of silence

Vintage Pilger:

Britain's political conference season of 2008 will be remembered as The Great Silence. Politicians have come and gone and their mouths have moved in front of large images of themselves, and they often wave at someone. There has been lots of news about each other...The club is celebrating itself, including all those, Labour and Tory, who gave the war criminal [Tony Blair] a standing ovation on his last day in parliament and who have yet to vote on, let alone condemn, Britain's part in the wanton human, social and physical destruction of an entire nation. Instead, there are happy debates such as, "Can hope win?" and, my favourite, "Can foreign policy be a Labour strength?"...The Guardian's economics editor, Larry Elliott, has written that the Prime Minister [Gordon Brown] "resembles a tragic hero in a Hardy novel: an essentially good man brought down by one error of judgement". What is this one error of judgement? The bank-rolling of two murderous colonial adventures? No. The unprecedented growth of the British arms industry and the sale of weapons to the poorest countries? No. The replacement of manufacturing and public service by an arcane cult serving the ultra-rich? No. The Prime Minister's "folly" is "postponing the election last year". This is the March Hare Factor. Reality can be detected, however, by applying the Orwell Rule and inverting public pronouncements and headlines, such as "Aggressor Russia facing pariah status, US warns", thereby identifying the correct pariah; or by crossing the invisible boundaries that fix the boundaries of political and media discussion. "When truth is replaced by silence," said the Soviet dissident Yevgeny Yevtushenko, "the silence is a lie."

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