Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

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

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Bob Geldof and Making Tory Anarchism History

His love in with Blair apparently over, Bob Geldof, 'on the rebound' as it were, has now got into bed with Blair's enemy David Cameron. Cameron is said to be 'thrilled'. Apparently, Geldof thinks his beautiful new relationship with this rich Old Etonian former stockbroker will help 'Make Poverty History'.

At first sight, it is difficult to see what they might have in common. In October, after the massive Make Poverty History protests in July, Cameron attacked what he called 'Britain’s cultural hostility to capitalism'.

'Speaking at an event organized by the Centre for Policy Studies think tank, Mr Cameron said: "For too many people, profit and free trade are dirty words...We need to campaign for capitalism, to promote profit, to fight for free trade, to remind, indeed educate, our citizens about the facts of economic life."'

One citizen that Cameron might have had in mind at the time as someone who needed 'educating about the facts of economic life' was, er, Bob Geldof. After all, Geldof wanted fair trade - not free trade - to help producers in the developing world stop getting screwed as much by multinational capital. Moreover, in June, Geldof had furiously attacked Ebay, the biggest online auction company in the world, for 'capitalising on the misery of the poor' and acting as 'an electronic pimp' after it allowed auctions of tickets to the Live 8 concert. Geldof argued that 'selling Live 8 tickets which are free is sick' and the sellers were 'despicable'. Eventually the company backed down - but Tories at the time were furious with Geldof for challenging the logic of the market. As one ranted, Geldof 'was like Moses coming down from the mountain and denouncing those who had started worshipping 'graven images'...He calls the sales "profiteering" as if making a profit were, in itself, an evil thing.'

However, Geldof's occasional attempts to act like a modern day Christ figure aside, I actually think that we should not be too surprised at his new political partnership with Cameron. Geldof, after all, is a classic 'Tory anarchist', and possibly last great example (in Britain at least).

I think this description is the most apt for describing Geldof's politics. He embodies all the egotism, anti-authoritarianism and individualism of anarchist Max Stirner coupled with traditional random Tory prejudices - for example against women (see his support for Fathers for Justice) and against democratic radical mass movements (condemning anticapitalist protesters who were involved in battles with police at Gleneagles as "a bunch of losers"). He did, at times, brilliantly and passionately attack the obscenity of world poverty - yet his solution for tackling it was not to help build a global movement from below against the rich and powerful and their institutions like the G8 and WTO - but to build up hopes that the likes of Bush and Blair really do also care and are somehow 'on our side' in the war against want. Yet when those hopes were dashed at the G8 summit, Geldof had no solutions to take the Make Poverty History campaign forward.

Geldof was always in the pull of far more powerful forces than himself - but his individualism and egotism blinded him as to who was really pulling the strings and he kept on telling himself that he really did have influence and really was making a difference. Where this ends up is now clear for all to see - you end up helping a political party that historically has based itself on the principle of maintaining the power of the rich in society - and who oversaw a tripling of the level of child poverty in the UK when it was last in power - try to rebrand itself as a 'modern, compassionate' force in society.

At some University freshers fairs in the UK this year, 'Conservative Future' - formerly the Young Conservatives - changed the 'Make Poverty History' slogan to that of 'Make Socialism History' to try and recruit students. It is not clear whether the Tory anarchist Geldof completely agrees that the idea of socialism, of a society where human need comes before profit, is apparently fit only for history books. What is clear is that Geldof does not now offer anything to those who want to make poverty history, still less to those of us who also want to make capitalism history. It has been said before, but we need to Make Geldof History.

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At 5:32 am, Blogger Frank Partisan said...

In the USA, they call that type populist. Very unpredictable, from day to day.

At 9:58 am, Blogger Snowball said...

Yes, Geldof is I suppose a 'populist' but the problem is he is not actually that popular. Certainly not now, anyway.

At 8:52 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

Having thought about it a bit more, the main reason why it would be problematic to describe Geldof as a populist is that populism means (in some sense at least) for 'the people' and so therefore against 'the elite/rulers'. This does not fit for Geldof as he likes nothing more than putting his tongue up the arses of elite ruling class figures (Blair/Cameron et al).

Metaphorically speaking, of course.

At 6:07 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Snowball, since when is supporting Fathers For Justice a sign of prejudice against women?

At 11:52 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

Okay, maybe it is not necessarily a sign of prejudice against women -but in general many supporters of Fathers Rights organisations do tend to also be anti-feminist and complain of a wider 'sexism against men' in society. Lets just say it is hardly the most progressive campaign in the world, if it can be called a progressive campaign at all.

At 8:37 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How could a campaign ideal of equality in family law be unprogressive? I can see that the practices and attitudes of certain FFJ representatives may not always appear to be in the best interests of this ideal. I just think it's important not to fall into a reverse stereotype to the old 'all feminists are man-haters' stance.


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