Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

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

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A poem for David Cameron

If you've searched without success in every pestilent latrine
For a sample of the most revolting filth the eye has ever seen;
If the garbage of the midden and sewage of the drain
Reward you not, and all your efforts seem to be in vain,
Let not barren explorations fill your busom with despair,
Just trot around to Downing Street, you'll sure unearth it there.

By John S Clarke (originally about David Lloyd George).  As Cameron with no shame or cover whatsoever declares it is time for open class war, it is time for the rest of us to begin discussing how to organise the fight back - come along to Marxism 2012 in London in July.

Edited to add: Another slightly political poem, though not directly about Cameron himself, 'Golden Empathy', which I have been sent by James McGrath, a lecturer based in Leeds who has poems forthcoming in several magazines.

Golden Empathy

We have lost the most admired
member of our Company –
and Company in the truest sense.

Sir Donald Witney, MA, PhD,
was a genuinely ambitious man.
His self-confidence was rivalled by none.

Few insurance companies can claim
to have been directed by the human race.
But all of us who worked under Sir Donald
at Golden Empathy can claim exactly that.

Sir Donald insisted we think of him
as a humble billionaire.
For his chief interests remained people,
whom he understood deeply.

And so, on this saddest of days,
let us celebrate. Let us give thanks
not just for Sir Donald the Empathy Director;
not just for Sir Donald the honorary scholar;
but for Sir Donald the deceased human being.

Sir Donald – ‘Sir’, to his friends
and family – will be remembered
for many things.

His sarcasm was legendary;
his charm, incredible;
and his perseverance, also legendary.

Sir had his way with words.
His company bulletins moved many to tears.
Indeed, Sir deeply loved literature,
enjoying the rights to thousands of novels.
He often quoted Shakespeare,
with whom he felt an affinity:
‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever, team’.

Sir was knowledgeable of nature.
He could name every species of wildlife
he ever shot. He said the simplest things,
like the simplest people, were the most important:
late morning sunshine, reflecting
on a golden fish-fork; raindrops on the roof
of his favourite Bentley.

Sir had time for everyone, including you –
whether you worked in security or law;
haulage or education; munitions or debt recovery.
A mark of his humility was that he never judged.
It speaks long volumes for Sir’s generosity
that he employed dozens of domestic servants.

And now, as Sir would say – ‘Time’s up’.

For Golden Empathy and all her customers,
today is the one day we couldn’t insure.
So may God, to whom he donated hundreds
in church each Christmas,
reward Sir Donald Witney in Heaven with,
we pray, his no-claims bonus.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

New Book: A People's History of the Second World War

New from Pluto Press:
A People's History of the Second World War: Resistance Versus Empire -Donny Gluckstein

 'A People's History of the Second World War' unearths the fascinating history of the war as fought 'from below'. Until now, the vast majority of historical accounts have focussed on the conflict between the Allied and Axis powers for imperialist mastery. Donny Gluckstein shows that in fact between 1939 and 1945 two distinct wars were fought - one 'from above' and one 'from below'. Using examples from countries under the Nazi heel, in the colonies and within the Axis and Allied camps, Gluckstein brings to life the very different struggle of the people's and resistance movements which proliferated during the war. He shows how they fought not just fascism, but colonialism and empire, and were betrayed by the Allies at the war's end. This book will fundamentally challenge our understanding of the Second World War - both about the people who fought it and the reasons for which it was fought.
DONNY GLUCKSTEIN is a lecturer in history at Stevenson College, Edinburgh. He is the author of several books on Marxist history.
  'The Second World War is so thoroughly surrounded by myth that it is hard to grasp its real character. Gluckstein offers a new interpretation, portraying 1939-45 as two parallel wars: one waged by the Great Powers among themselves, the other by the peoples against fascism. Refreshingly avoiding a conventional narrative approach, he offers new insights that provide a powerful antidote to historical mythology.' 
- Alex Callinicos, Professor of European Studies, King's College London and author of 'Imperialism and Global Political Economy' (2009)

 'Rigorously structuring his analysis around the two central themes of popular resistance and inter-imperialist rivalry, Gluckstein makes an indispensable contribution to understanding the reality of the conflict in all its complexity.'  
- Neil Davidson, Senior Research Fellow, University of Strathclyde and author of 'Discovering the Scottish Revolution' (2003)
1. Introduction
2. Spanish Prelude
3. Yugoslavia: Balancing Powers
4. Greece: Allies at War with the Resistance
5. Poland's Warsaw Uprising
6. Latvia: Standing History on its Head
7. France: Imperial Glory Versus Resistance Ideology
8. Britain: The Myth of Unity
9. USA: Racism in the Arsenal of Democracy
10. Germany: Conservatives and Antifa
11. Austria: Resistance and Ruling Class Capitulation
12. Italy: The Working Class and the Two Wars
13. India: From Famine to Independence
14. Indonesia: Axis and Allies United Against the People
15. Vietnam: Anti-Imperialist Breakthrough
16. Conclusion
17. Chronology

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Toussaint Louverture at Bedourete

Class Wargames interviews KIMATHI DONKOR from ClassWargames on Vimeo.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Workers' United FC?

I haven't written anything about football for a while on this blog (lets be honest I haven't written anything about anything for a while on this blog), but since it is Euro 2012, I thought I may as well highlight one quite remarkable piece of footballing trivia that may appeal to some readers.  This is: the great East Anglian footballing rivals - Ipswich Town and Norwich City - both currently have managers who are not only socialists (not in itself so remarkable given there is a great tradition of socialist football managers or one sort of another) but also have an admiration for Leon Trotsky.   Chris Hughton, the new Norwich manager, was a supporter of Gerry Healey's Workers' Revolutionary Party during the 1970s and even wrote a column for their paper Newsline:

I did write - but it's probably not as dramatic as it sounds. I've always had strong views on social issues such as hospitals - I think we should have a good health system - and the education system, too.  I was a young player with Ireland at the time. These days, players can do as many interviews and columns as they want. Back in the day, it wasn't like that.

Paul Jewell, Ipswich manager, meanwhile, has a pet tortoise called Trotsky:

Though Paul Jewell was actually born in Scotland Road, Liverpool – a working-class area home to many of the city’s migrant communities – he spent 21 of his first 23 years in the Walton district, not too far from the Anfield football ground.
His father Billy, an engineer, was a profound influence on his life. "I miss my dad more than anything (he died of a brain tumour 17 years ago). He was my best pal, and a man of strong, strong principles.
"He worked on the shop floor, and would never do overtime at a time of unemployment because he thought he would be stopping someone getting a job. He stuck by his values to the letter, and I admired him for that, he was a great guy."
Billy Jewell was a trade union activist and his son remembers being hoisted on to his shoulders in the 70s for many ‘right to work’ marches, as well as protesting against the three-day week, and for the miners.
The young Jewell was keenly interested in politics, reading about – amongst others – the lives and times of Lenin and Trotsky; his family even today has a pet tortoise named after the latter! He’s a great admirer of the Labour stalwart Tony Benn.
But even though he can engage compellingly, if pressed, about issues like the war in Afghanistan and the neglect of Africa, the absence of ideology and the blurring of party political lines has left him somewhat disillusioned with politics today.
"I look at politics now and I think, they’re no different, no matter who’s in charge, Labour or the Conservatives. I think it’s all spin – we live in an age of spin, don’t we? These days you often feel we only get to find out what our political masters want us to find out.
"I didn’t like Thatcher, I’ve got to be honest with you, but I knew what she stood for; she didn’t try to pull the wool over my eyes. Equally with Norman Tebbit, when he said ‘Get on your bike’ I knew where he was coming from, what side he was on. That’s why I liked Tony Benn, he had opinions and he could back them up."

I don't know what this means for either Ipswich or Norwich with respect to football, and it seems doubtful Leon Trotsky himself would have ever advocated long term entrism into the world of football management as a tactic for his supporters, but personally as a Trotskyist Ipswich Town fan (who once had a pet cat called Trotsky) I think having two such anti-Tory football managers is to be welcomed given the task of building a wider culture of resistance to the politics of austerity and racism in the current climate.  

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Thursday, June 07, 2012

Austerity, Resistance and the Pensions Fight - Unite the Resistance conference London

From UtR: More speakers announced for the Unite the Resistance conference in London on 23 June.

We are pleased to announce further speakers at the ‘Austerity, Resistance and the Pensions Fight’ conference on Saturday 23 June.  In particular, we are proud that the following international guests will be joining the ‘Europe’s fight against austerity’ session. With the conference falling just days after the Greek and French elections it will be an interesting debate:

From Greece, Themis Orfanakos (doctor),

From Spain, Enrik Rodrigo (Madrid Indignados movement)

Also joining this session will be a Quebecian student who will report on the inspirational student movement that has exploded onto the streets in the last month)

There will also be a session at the conference organised by people involved in the recent electricians’ dispute which stopped powerful companies like Balfour Beatty in their tracks as they tried to drive through pay cuts. Unofficial action last week by hundreds of workers at Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station saw the reinstatement of health and safety steward, Jason Poulter, who played an important in the BESNA dispute. Speaking at the workshop will be:

Dave Renton, author of ‘Struck Out - Why Employment Tribunals Fail Workers and What Can be Done’

Dave Smith, Blacklist Support Group

Plus, a rank and file electrician

They join Mark Serwotka, John McDonnell MP, Gill George (Unite Health NISC, pc) and a speaker from the BMA will speak at the opening session. And Steve Headley (RMT Regional Organiser London Transport), Jane Aitchison (PCS DWP group president 2004-12) and Sean Vernell (UCU nec, pc) who will speak in the ‘Where next for the pensions campaign?’ session.

Monday, June 04, 2012

It's a Royal Washout!

Torrential rain sees 438 people treated for hypothermia at yesterday's Diamond Jubilee River Pageant, 71 were hospitalised - I suspect one particular 86 year old woman was not one of those who suffered too much

Monarchy would not have continued so many ages in the world, had it not been for the abuses it protects. It is the master-fraud, which shelters all others.
Thomas Paine

In Britain, there is — and I ask you not to forget it — a monarchy... Now a monarchy cannot be depicted from any point of view as an expression of the highest culture, as one of the highest attainments of mankind... In Britain there is still to this day an aristocracy enjoying distinctions of rank. There is a House of Lords. In Britain, finally, the church, or rather the churches, wield tremendous influence in all spheres of life...And if you approach Britain one-sidedly from this aspect, that is, from the aspect of the monarchy, the House of Lords, the aristocracy, landlordism and church influence, then you would doubtless say that the most barbarous and backward country in Europe is Britain... The British monarchy, hypocritical British conservatism, religiosity, servility, sanctimoniousness all this is old rags, rubbish, the refuse of centuries which we have no need for whatsoever.
Leon Trotsky

As I believe in neither God nor the Queen, what is the point in calling on one to save the other?
Paul Foot recalling his response when he was once harangued for failing to stand-up and sing the National Anthem at the cinema.