Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Minestrone Bean cassoulet
 A warm and cheap meal
 1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tin butter beans
1 tin red kidney beans
1 tin tomatoes
1 tetra pack tomato passata
Tin of potatoes
Handful of mixed frozen veg
400 Ml vegetable stock
 Dried mixed herbs
Optional handful of broken spaghetti
 Chop onion and garlic and gently fry in large oven proof casserole dish.drain and rinse potatoes and beans. When onions are soft Add the stock, tomatoes with their juice, mixed herbs, potatoes, frozen veg and beans. Stir well then slowly bring to the boil. Cover the casserole with a lid and transfer to the oven to cook for 45 minutes. Whilst the pot is cooking, boil the broken spaghetti until cooked, rinse and drain. Stir gently into casserole and continue cooking until ready to serve. Use any combination of canned beans available, such as red kidney, cannelloni or mixed beans, to suit your preference. Serve with grated cheese and fresh Parmesan and plenty of fresh bread and butter.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

   Identifying the individual in the Contemporary Histories of the Twelfth Century Anglo Norman Historians

   When the historian Charles Haskins in an essay in 1927 first applied the idea of a Twelfth century renaissance, it was pivotal in reshaping modern interpretations of the Middle Ages. Previously, historians had accepted the picture first propagated by the propagandists of the 15th century, who, wishing to emphasise the difference with their own dynamic age, created a narrative of the middle ages as a stagnant society, violent, ignorant and mired in superstition. Most modern medievalists have largely abandoned this in favour of a view of the period as one of far more profound change and development. When understood in its most popular as an intellectual awakening or revival, then there is little problem, however, the anachronistic application of the term ‘renaissance’ has led some writers (including Haskins) to seek to discover a full range of the humanistic teaching of the 15th century Republican Italian city states in the still coalescing  monarchical realms of the 12th century. 
 There was a flowering of intellectual expression in the 12th century amongst the literate population of Western Europe. This was, in part, a reflection of the increased confidence within Christendom as a whole after the turn of Millennium: as the existential threats whether from pagan tribes to the North and East, or from Islam, in the Mediterranean were either converted, and brought within the fold of the Church or were being turned back by the armies of Christ. The crusades brought increased contact with Byzantium and the Levant, which in turn led to a wealth of newly rediscovered classical works being brought to the attention of Western scholars. Previously, such Pagan works had been viewed with suspicion by the Western Church, but, in these newly confident times there was a wider audience for them, both within the Monasteries which had been the safe houses of learning in the West since the fall of Rome, and also, slowly, outside of the confines of the cloister. Evidence that this might prove the existence of a humanistic concept of individualism is difficult to pin down, all too often 20th century readers imposed false interpretations onto 12th century ideas; for example, a key motif of 12th century individualism is Abelard’s dictum “know thyself”, this unequivocal expression of self-awareness seems to prove beyond doubt the humanist thesis, however, as Swanson points out “Scito te ipsum” can also be translated as “know what you are”, a far less definite statement . 
The historians of the 12th century were, like almost all literate men of the age, churchmen, and more specifically, monks, who considered their labours as a part of their devotions and the histories that they wrote evidence of God’s plan for the world; all of their histories should be read, therefore, both as historical records and religious works.
 To decide whether there is a concept of the individual in the history writers of the 12th century, this study looked at how three of the most prominent actors in Anglo Norman affairs of the time: the ‘truncated dynasty’ of Henry I; his daughter, the Empress Matilda, and his most favoured illegitimate son Robert, Earl of Gloucester, have been treated in the works of three contemporary historians; John of Worcester, William of Malmesbury, and Orderic Vitalis. 
 These three historians were almost exact contemporaries, all three writing their histories through the height of the reign of Henry I; and then, all three compelled return to their labours by the descent of the kingdom into civil war after the death of King Henry. All three cease their labours in the early 1140s, probably due to their deaths, at the very nadir of the fortunes of the Anglo Norman kingdom.
The Chronicon Ex Chronicis of John of Worcester has been somewhat overshadowed by the modern repute of William and Orderic, and the annalistic form it maintains appears somewhat archaic to modern readers. Worcester had a tradition of Historical writing which predated John’s Chronicle, and this, as well as John’s use of older histories, the universal chronicle of Marianus Scotus, and a version of the Anglo- Saxon Chronicle  (themselves being annalistic in form), which influenced his style
In his own time though, John was very influential, the longevity of his labours and the reliability of his chronology gave him a certain celebrity status in the early twelfth century; Orderic Vitalis recounts a visit to Worcester Abbey in the early 1120s to see the venerable Chronicler at work in his cell. The Worcester chronicle was used as a source for other histories, notably by Orderic, and also by the writer(s) of Durham’s Historia Regum.
Henry I is not mentioned in John’s chronicle is not until he is made a knight by his father, William I, in 1086, as presumably up until this point Henry is still a child, and therefore not an independent actor. Henry next appears in 1091, taking and holding Mont Saint Michel against his brother King William II. Henry only moves to the forefront of John’s Chronicle after the death of William Rufus; when the crimes and failures of William were contrasted unfavourably with Henry’s initial actions as King, notably, freeing the Church, restoring the laws of Edward and restoration of the commons, and the arrest of Flambard, and recalled Anselm from his exile in France. Anselm officiated at Henry’s marriage, to Matilda, daughter of the Scottish King and a direct descendant of Edward the Confessor.  Throughout his chronicle John studiously abstains from applying any descriptive phrases to King Henry; limiting himself entirely to Henry’s deeds, and yet he does succeed in impressing upon the reader a clear picture of Henry as king distinct from his predecessors and peers.
Henry is portrayed as a king who carries through his will, sometimes very violently, such as his enforcement of financial probity in England, but crucially, he does so effectively (in contrast to his brother William). John also demonstrated that Henry was willing to give way when in dispute with the church when the king’s dispute with Anselm over the investiture of his chosen bishops is resolved by Henry’s acceptance of the Pope’s decision. However it is noticeable that Henry still got all of his proposed bishops invested.
 John does not recount in any detail Henry’s actions whilst in the Norman part of his realm, presumably because he had no consistent correspondent, and Henrys frequent forays to pacify the fractious Norman Lords or meet the challenge of Angevin and French invaders were regularly simply recorded as having “crossed over the sea”. 
 Possibly the most dramatic moment of Henry’s life, the sinking of the White Ship and the drowning of Henry’s heir, and only legitimate son, William, is described in typically succinct style: 
“This disaster horrified and distressed the mind of the king, who reached England after a safe voyage, and of all who heard of it, and struck them with awe at the mysterious decrees of a just God.”
John’s strict chronological method shifts dramatically in 1130, to recount in frenetic detail three dreams which greatly disturbed the king, which he states are based upon the eye witness testimony of Henry’s physician, Grimbald, who watched the king terrified in his bedchamber and striking out with his sword at his unseen tormentors. Grimbald claimed to have watched the king whilst he slept and then to have discussed the dreams with his lord in the morning, John reported that Grimbald counselled the king to redeem his sins by alms giving.
The dream is evocative of similar ‘dreams’ which are recounted in Medieval stories and texts, both by the inclusion of the three estates of society; those who work, those who fight, and those who pray, and also with the reported ‘realism’ of the dream as experienced by the dreamer. 
Hollister emphasises that John had finished the main part of his history in the mid. 1120s and the dream sequence was written in the late 1130s, he argued that the vocal interruptions suggested that the piece was designed to be read aloud, to other churchmen, and that the complaints of the clergy in the third dream would have been understood as aimed at the depreciations of King Stephen, rather than of Henry. This is possibly unfair to John, who does employ these rhetorical devices elsewhere, and it seems likely was simply trying to give a verbatim account of Grimbald testimony which he heard first hand whilst at Winchcombe. Neither does John feel the necessity of hiding criticism of King Stephen behind allegory, in the entry for the same year John records Henry pledging to not collect the ’Danish Tax’ for seven years if the storm affecting his ship would abate: 
“When he had so promised there was a great calm. On his return, to everyone’s rejoicing he fulfilled his promise. King Stephen, who now reigns, also promised in a royal decree that he would never collect the Danish tax. We hear that it is now again demanded throughout England by a perjury odious to God. This cursed offence overturned the prophetic pledge just as it had been made.” 
 John’s first mention of Matilda is upon her betrothal as a child to The German Emperor Henry IV in 1110, and marriage in 1114. It seems that among her entourage was a correspondent of John’s as, unlike his lack of reporting from Normandy, whilst Matilda is in Germany, John has a stream of information from the Imperial court, although this is always about the Emperor, rather than his young wife. Matilda does not become an actor in her own right throughout John’s Chronicle, even after the death of the emperor in 1123. Matilda is always referred to through the prism of the men who had claim over her; her father, the King, her husbands, the Emperor, and later, Geoffrey of Anjou. Even though it is clear that Matilda must have been a formidable character in her own right, this is nowhere shown in John’s Chronicle.
 Robert, Matilda’s half-brother, features first in John’s chronicle at the royal court of Christmas 1128, when King Henry has his court swear to support Matilda, or any child of hers as king in the case of Henry dying without having anymore sons. John clearly ascribes the perjury of this oath as the cause of England’s woes after Henry’s death.  This does not mean that John becomes a supporter of Matilda’s rebellion, Stephen is the lawful king throughout John’s Chronicle, the sin of perjury is the cause of the suffering of the nation, but this does not in John’s view justify rebellion. Robert returns to John’s narrative after Henry’s death, launching the Angevin rebellion against Stephen, but as with Henry, and of his daughter, John gives no description of Robert. Toward the end of John’s chronicle, his dispassionate account slips, as he describes the assault on Worcester by an army loyal to the Empress and the sack and burning of the town. Perhaps John’s change of style is a reaction to his witnessing of these traumatic events, or, alternatively what has been recorded are the eye witness reports of which there was no time left for John to edit fully for final inclusion in the chronicle.
Orderic was the son of a Norman father and English mother, tutored by an English monk (from whom he took his name) and spent almost his entire life at an abbey in Normandy, he was thus an ideal exponent of the new Anglo Norman kingdom. Where John often left a blank page when Henry left England for France, Orderic could report at first hand from his home in the Abbey of Saint- Evroult. Though Orderic’s history covers all of the Anglo Norman Kingdom, it was the ability of a ruler to control Normandy which greatly influenced his attitude to that lord. 
The death of William Rufus and the succession of Henry allows Orderic to write a damning obituary of the acts of  King William:
 “…considering his squalid life and dreadful death…virtually past redemption and unworthy of redemption by the Church, for as long as he lived they had never been able to turn him from his vices to salvation ” whose death was mourned only by “mercenary soldiers, lechers, and common harlots (who) lost their wages through the death of the lascivious king, and lamented his wretched end not through respect but out of vile greed that fed on his vices”
 Which he places alongside a glowing eulogy to the good governance of Henry: 
“He governed the realm committed to him by God prudently and well through prosperity and adversity…outstanding in his preservation of peace and justice… earned the affection of all, clerk and lay alike, who enjoyed orderly rule… King Henry did not follow the advice of rash young men, as Rehoboam did, but prudently took to heart the experience and advice wise and older men.” 
For Orderic, it was Henrys imposition of stability upon the fractious lords of Normandy which made him a great king. Orderic believed: “The Normans to be an untamed race, and unless they are held in check by a firm ruler they are all too ready to do wrong”. 
 Robert, Henry’s older brother, who Orderic held responsible for the anarchic state of Normandy, failed utterly to be that strong ruler:
“But Robert, a weak Duke… sunk in sloth and voluptuousness, he feared his vassals in his own Duchy more than they feared him” 
Orderic believed that Robert had abandoned his responsibility to his subjects when he went on crusade, and upon his return, became the pawn of those “alarmed by the energy of King Henry and preferring the mildness of the sluggard Duke William” who influenced him to rebel against Henry and invade in 1101.
 Henry, in contrast, attracted to himself those who were repulsed by Robert’s ineptitude and indolence, who, by listening to wise counsel, was able to buy Robert off and thus separate him from his rebellious supporters . 
 Orderic writes in a very different style from John, adopting a far more classical style, he often inserted direct speech into the narrative, in order to allow Orderic to ascribe motive and explain certain otherwise ‘out of character’ actions. Orderic used this device liberally and expected his audience would understand what he was doing. 
Despite these rhetorical flourishes Orderic’s approach is not that different from that of John. Orderic fills out his history more comprehensively than John, but is still overwhelmingly concerned with actions and the consequences of those actions. Orderic does occasionally use attributive adjectives in association with Henry, and others, but these are often honorific or declamatory in nature, for example; “ingenious bishop”, “sluggard Duke Robert“, “energetic King”, “the wise Henry”, which in themselves tell the reader little about the personalities.
 The death of Henry’s heir in the White Ship disaster is related by Orderic in far more dramatic style than John; Orderic graphically recounts the events on the dockside and on board the doomed craft, adding for dramatic effect what he imagines must have occurred amongst the stricken crew. This was a real disaster; alongside William and his young bride perished the cream of the next generation of Anglo Norman nobility.
Orderic relates the most complete description of how Henry is told of the loss of his son, with the nobles of the court afraid of his grief kept the news from him: 
“The magnates wept bitterly in private and mourned inconsolably for their loved kinsfolk and friends, but in the kings presence they struggled to restrain their tears to avoid betraying the cause of their distress. However, on the following day, by a wise plan of count Theobald’s a boy threw himself weeping at the king’s feet, and the king learned from him that the cause of his grief was the wreck of the White Ship”
 Orderic’s account fits with the commentary of other contemporaries, and has been accepted by modern historians. Orderic employ biblical and classical allusions in his narrative, which he expected a similarly educated audience would understand in order to convey meaning; his account of King Henry discovering the loss of his heir is reminiscent of the book of Samuel, when King David’s servants afraid that David would harm himself in his grief were afraid to tell him of the death of his first child with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12), and also in the way in which, after Joab’s victory at the forest of Ephraim, King David is told of the death of his beloved, but errant son, Absalom (2 Samuel 18). Orderic expected his audience to recognise the allusion and see Henry’s grief for his son as the equal to David’s for Absalom.
 Having given a eulogy to Henry at the start of his reign, Orderic gives a pious account of his death and funeral arrangements and then concentrates upon the collapse of Normandy into internecine strife on the news of his death.
 Once Stephen is accepted by the English church Orderic does not dispute the legitimacy of his claim, and even his failure to adequately defend Normandy from internal strife and Angevin depreciation does not lead him to question Stephens claim. Matilda and Robert are thus described as Rebels throughout his account. Orderic does not mention at all the Christmas 1127 oath, which is so prominent in both John of Worcester’s account, and that of William. Matilda’s marriage to Geoffrey of Anjou is mentioned without further comment. From her marriage onward, Orderic refers to her as the countess of Anjou, rather than Empress. On Henry’s death, Matilda is sent by her husband to invade Normandy; the behaviour of Angevin troops in Normandy does appear to be a serious factor in Orderic’s attitude toward the Empress’s cause. Orderic drew a parallel between the invasion of Normandy by the Angevins and Earl Robert’s raising of the Welsh “wild men”. By far the most famous of the 12th century historians in his own time, and also amongst modern historians, was William of Malmesbury; "a gifted historical scholar and an omnivorous reader, impressively well versed in the literature of classical, patristic and earlier medieval times as well as in the writings of his own contemporaries. Indeed William may well have been the most learned man in twelfth-century Western Europe." William was a close confident of many of those who he wrote in his history, and was eye witness to many of the events on which he writes. He was also very close to Henry’s court, he was commissioned to write the Gesta Regum Anglorum by Henry’s first wife Matilda in 1118 He was also a strong advocate of the Empress’s cause (and dedicates the work to the Empress), and more specifically that of Earl Robert, who was a patron of Malmesbury Abbey and who commissioned William’s continuation of his history, the Historia Novella. William use of language is very classical in style, and he inserts Roman and Greek references and allusions into his works throughout. William euligises Henry, writing of him as being predestined to be king; “the centre of all men’s hopes while still an infant, for he alone was born a prince, and the throne seemed destined to be his” William uses descriptive writing far more than our other two historians. William describes Henry as being of average height, balding head, and having a tendency to snore. William’s candour is not all it seems as writing disparagingly about the physical features of a subject was a common feature of medieval writers, for example, Einhard describes Charlemagne’s pot belly, small head and high pitched voice. This may reflect the medieval belief in the imperfect and corrupt nature of the body, as opposed to the soul inside. It is the opposite of the 15th century obsession with the perfect model of man. William portrays Henry as a ideal secular monarch, does so as a scholarly monk would have him be; as a scholar king, more at home in the council chamber than the battlefield, averse to violence, and free from fleshly lusts. William has difficulty in adjusting this portrayal to Henry’s actions as monarch. Henry’s personal dispatch of a traitor from the battlements of Rouenor his policy toward debasers of the coin do not describe a king adverse to violence, nor his conduct at Tinchebrai (bizarrely described by William as without bloodshed) is of a King happier off the battlefield. William, as royally appointed historian, also has difficulty in explaining the energetic love life of Henry. For John of Worcester, there was no real problem; Henry marries in 1101, and again in 1121:  “having been a widower for some time, that he might not in future lead a dissolute life,” Henry’s illegitimate children are simply there, and need no further explanation. For Orderic, Henry’s fecundity cannot be ignored completely, but is largely swept aside, Henry marrying as he was: “not wishing to wallow in lasciviousness like any horse or mule which is without the use of reason”, Henry’s illegitimate children are introduced when they intrude upon the history without further comment- illegitimacy is a fact, the sin was not that of the children, and the role of royal illegitimate children as marriage/ diplomatic fodder was widely accepted. William of Newburgh might describe “...his lusting after women, in which he rivalled the wantonness of Solomon”, but William cannot allow his king such licence. William writes; “All his life he was completely free from fleshy lusts, indulging in the embraces of the female sex (as I have heard from those who know) from love of begetting children and not to gratify his passions” As Kathleen Thompson put it: “(in) His endeavours in this area, as with much of his life, Henry was eminently successful” Henry had twenty, known, illegitimate children as well as his two legitimate ones. The loss of his only, legitimate, son in the White Ship disaster threatened all of Henry’s hopes to establish a dynasty. William’s description of the disaster echoes Virgil who he quotes directly. William spends some time writing of those who perished in the disaster, but strangely does not report Henry’s grief, moving on to his need to find a new heir by finding a new wife. William finished his great history before the death of Henry and dedicated it to King David and the Empress Matilda. He was commissioned to continue the history by her brother Earl Robert of Gloucester in the early 1140s. In the Novella Historia William provides the fullest contemporary account of the oath of 1127, in which Robert, his patron, features prominently and which establishes Matilda’s claim for the throne. At Henry’s death bed William has Henry reassert Matilda’s claim. In the Novella Historia Robert is the clear hero, much of the book concerns his deeds, and the Earl is often praised by William, whilst the Empress, becomes somewhat transparent, she is present in William’s account, but never truly as a protagonist, always as a figure that events are taking place around. Whether considering the Chronicle style of John of Worcester, or the far more classical approaches of William of Malmesbury and Orderic Vitalis, it is not possible to discover a humanistic interpretation of the individual. Although Both Orderic and William both use Latin in deeply classical style which can give the impression of a humanist interpretation, this is not what is happening,    
 Twelfth century society was one in which the power of the Monarch was only recently being established, and in reality was constantly being challenged by powerful local lords, who themselves were constantly under threat from castellans and incursions of neighbouring lords. The political ideal was one of an ordered and stable society united by bonds of fealty and obedience under the divinely anointed rule of king with the support of the church and the obvious disparity between the brutal reality and this ideal only served to make the ideal more sought after.
 The 12th century historians were all monks, religious men, who had studied their theology and understood that the actions of a man can be recorded but his intentions are unknown to all but God, and it is not the role of a historian to claim to see what exists in a man’s soul, only God can do this, and only God can tell if that man, whether he be a King or a pauper has truly repented his sins and had made sufficient penance to be saved at the Final Judgement.
What were important were the actions of the man, and the consequences of those actions, not his intentions. Trying to guess what went through his mind would not make sense to them; as ideas which were not acted upon were not considered moral failings, but instead a victory over the influence of Satan.
 Neither was it the role of the historian to seek to understand Gods Will, but instead to faithfully record the events that they witness, or can find reliable sources for, so that future readers may through their work discern the Will of the Almighty. 
  Does the biblical allegory in Orderic’s account of the White Ship disaster or the coyness that William adopts when discussing Henry’s love life damage their worth as historical documents? Not if it is remembered that our historians were not writing for modern eyes; their audience were contemporary scholars at least as skilled in theology as they were themselves who would recognise the references and from them could see the truth in the allegory, and who were alive enough to the frailties of men to not need them spelled out. It is possible to see the individual in these histories, but this is conveyed by our historians through the actions of the protagonists, trying to impose anachronistic interpretations upon them is both unfair and it risks missing the real historical worth of their works, as insights into the medieval worldview. Bibliography Primary sources Chibnall, M. Orderic Vitalis: the Ecclesiastical History Vol. V. 1975 Chibnall, M. Orderic Vitalis; the Ecclesiastical History Vol.VI 1978 King and Potter William of Malmesbury: Novella Historia Oxford 1998 Mynors, Thomson, and Winterbottom, William of Malmesbury: Gesta Regum Anglorum Oxford 1998 Walsh & Kennedy, William of Newburgh: the history of English Affairs Bk. 1 Warminster 1988 Secondary sources Chibnall, M. The World of Orderic Vitalis Oxford 1984 Haskins, Charles Homer. The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century. Cambridge 1927. Hollister, C. W. Henry I London 2001 Gransden, A. Historical writing in England c.500 to 1307 London 1996 Swanson, R. N The twelfth century renaissance Manchester 1999 Internet resources Thorpe, Weaver & Forester John of Worcester Chronicon ex Chronicis 1854 online at http://www.bsswebsite.me.uk/History/JohnofWorcester/Chronicle_John2.htm accessed on 21/04/2012 Journals Thompson, K. State of affairs: the illegitimate children of Henry I Journal of medieval history 29 2003

Friday, November 28, 2014

Unity mongering and the Hostility clause

I have recently been accepted as a member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain. It is notorious amongst the Left for, among other things, it's hostility clause in its founding constitution:
  That as all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.
For a left obsessed with 'unity' this is incomprehensible. Surely, they say it is vital to unite all socialists and the left together and fight on what unites us. Socialists have no problem with this, but what is being suggested is not uniting of all socialists, a project which the Socialist Party has always been committed to, but instead uniting with reformists and vanguardists on a reformist programme.
        For the past 100 years the working class has been politically dominated by two competing ideologies: reformism, which argued that through piecemeal reform capitalism could be transformed into something nicer. And vanguardism, also called Leninism, which claimed that a violent revolution led by a determined band of revolutionaries could institute socialism with the support of only a minority of the working class.
       Both rejected socialism as being 'Impossiblist', not trusting the working class to be able to liberate itself they instead proposed their different brands of possiblism. Both ideologies have been tested and found wanting; the vanguardists ruled over a third of humanity for 70 years and reformism has held governmental office throughout the industrial world for much of the post War period. Despite this capitalism has thrived and prospered, and the possiblists have been exposed as the worst kind of idealists. Indeed, they have given up any real belief in changing the world in favour of being hired as managers of Capitalism.
        The latest cry of unity was launched by the rape denying SWP. Once the largest fish in the rapidly draining pond of the British left, it has fallen on hard times, suffering repeated splits and a haemorrhaging of its cadres. Recently, the swp has latched onto the rise of UKIP as the latest 'fascist' threat, a political move dictated more by the potential financial benefits of union sponsorship and liberal guardian readers donations to their latest front groups; stand up to UKIP (SUTU) and stand up to racism (SUTR) rather than any real belief that the millionaire stockbroker Farage is a new Mussolini or the gaggle of geriatric Tories and free market nutters he leads are about to unleash a corporate state or a wave of Blackshirt violence.
   After the Rochester bye election the SWP made a impassioned plea for left unity. what this means in reality is illustrated by this weeks protest against the grand jury decision not to prosecute the murderer of Michael Brown. When the london Black revolutionaries who called the protest outside the U.S. embassy refused to allow SWP speakers from their front group SUTR to speak, the SWPs Weyman Bennett threatened to'go to war' with the Lbr, to 'dismantle' them and then to name their comrades to the police. He demanded that the LBR not involve itself in any anti racist activity unless it acknowledges the 'established leaders of the movement' i.e. The SWP. Thankfully, the LBR refused to be intimidated.
      If this is what unity looks like, I'll stick with an little honest hostility.

We don't need another hero- or why the Russell Brand Question is not about Russel Brand

"Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce" so wrote Karl Marx in the 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon; if he was writing today he might well have added; "...and also as celebrity."
         In Britain today we have a rash of celebrity social activists, who from the lofty heights of their cocoon of privilege and wealth inform the ignorant masses just what is wrong with society, and offer pearls of celebrity wisdom as to how the world could be put to rights (which often consists of the rest of us having to purchase their latest book etc.) This past week, the multi millionaire Bob Geldof took time off from providing evidence in support of his close friend, Tory MP Andrew Mitchell to re-re-re-relaunch BandAid, which, with a few different words, to make it relevant to the latest crisis is shortly to solve the crisis of Ebola, just as the previous outings of Bandaid solved world hunger, 3rd world debt and the war in South Sudan (nobody please mention the continued existence of hunger throughout the world, of crippling debt and poverty or of the continuing bloody conflict in the Sudan, as this might make poor Bob sad).
        The millionaire comedian and actor Russell Brand, previously most famous in the UK for abusing an elderly man by telephoning him on live radio to claim to have slept with his granddaughter, has become an icon of Rebellion. Notwithstanding Brand's tax avoidance, his misogyny, his close friendship with open nazis and conspiracy theorists or the vapidity of his call for a new kind of revolution, in which the multi millionaire implores humanity to cast aside material concerns in favour of a new spiritualism, all across the left, from the comment is free pages of the Guardian to the outer reaches of Trotskyism and anarchism, Brand has become a totem of rebellion against an undefined establishment.
       Brand has achieved this exalted status through the pursuit of a highly professional publicity campaign; through virally distributed videos, appearances on demonstrations (where he is always photographed, even when masked and anonymous, and also forever available for interview by conveniently positioned journalists), a guest editorship of the union busting New Statesman and then, the Newsnight interview, where Brand was afforded the attention usually reserved for a world leader, all culminating in the publication of his £20 book, which, notwithstanding the fiasco of the official launch party, is guaranteed by wall to wall promotion in every major book shop and review in every newspaper best seller status this Christmas.
     The response of Brand's supporters to criticism is twofold; his true believers will claim him to have changed, the tax avoidance, the misogyny, the rightwing associates are all in the past, and, anyway, that his detractors are really the shills of the 'establishment'. The leftists who have embraced Brand may actually acknowledge all criticism to be valid, but claim that he has publicised the idea of revolution to an audience far wider than anything that Socialists could reach through their propaganda, and that by allying ourselves to Brand we gain access to that audience. This is mistaken, firstly, it ignores Brand's actual message, which is anti materialist, spiritual and religious in charactor, which sees society as being afflicted by a vast conspiracy, rather than any class analysis and is thus completely anti socialist.
    More importantly, it displays, at best, a lack of belief in the ability of the working class to liberate themselves, and at worst a contempt for the intelligence of workers.
 In a society obsessed by celebrity, rebellion is only valid when endorsed by a celebrity.
   What they fail to understand is that Capitalism has no morals, where there is a need, there is a market and, so there is a commodity to be profited from. The alienation felt by so many toward a political system dominated by corporate interests and the preserve of only the most privileged is just another market to be exploited. In this, Brand is no different from fried chicken or toilet cleaner. A product to be exploited and profited from, his revolution a commodity to be sold to a appreciative customer base. And no more dangerous to capital than a pot noodle.

 In the 19th century the centres of the great cities of Britain were transformed by great public works constructed on the orders of philanthropic capitalists. great reform campaigns swept away slavery, disease and childhood abuse. Christian charity enthused these monied reformers, steeling them in their determination to drive out every Ill and sin from capitalism, whilst ensuring their dividends were unthreatened. Indeed, far from being any threat to Capitalism, these reformers and their campaigns were mostly aimed at regimenting the poor and streamlining their exploitation: the moral crusade against 'Gin Lane' and mass (working class) drunkeness was as much about the regulation and disciplining of an unruly workforce as it was about concerns for the moral or physical health of the populace. Jamie Oliver's campaign against poor nutrition in school meals, similarly became an assault on working class mothers and 'Turkey twizzlers'. Late 19th century campaigns against the sex trade criminalised single working class women, labelling any woman not conforming to Victorian sexual roles as a prostitute. The crusade of British evangelists against the Slave Trade led directly to the expansion of British imperial power throughout the continent of Africa. Only a tiny number of these reformers were able to take their opposition to the evils of capitalism, to recognise the Evil of Capitalism, and reject their privilege to become a part of a socialist movement dedicated to its overthrow. The pioneers of socialism began by rejecting the pious words and charity of Lord and Lady Bountiful. Not the crumbs from the rich mans' table, handed to a grateful and suitably 'deserving' poor; but the whole world, as a common treasury for all! For over a hundred years the cause of socialism has been dominated by the machinations of two statist creeds, social democracy and Leninism. These have fed off the discontent and aspirations of the working class to become alternative managers of Capitalism. Their heydays are long past; the labourites have long abandoned any pretence to 'reforming Capitalism' in favour of simply managing it, after the end of 'Communism' the Leninists have been reduced to mini sects which replicate within their own structures the regimes of the old Stalinist States in a homage to Marx's dictum, "first as tragedy, now as farce". Their aspirations have shrunk with their horizons, whilst they grandly imagine storming the winter palace and fantasise about bloody revolutions, in reality they have little or no belief in the working class ever rallying to their 'proletarian leadership', and even less in the ability of the working class to emancipate itself. They hide themselves in front campaigns for partial reforms, and embrace and promote a succession of 'Saviours from high' who they are sure will deliver us, until the inevitable betrayal, when they move on to the next. For these 'socialists' what Brand is for is unimportant,it is enough that He is. All previous revolutions have been the overthrow of one minority ruling class and the victory of a new one. Such revolutions have needed abstract slogans and ideals ( Liberté, Fraternité, Egalité, Peace, land, bread, ) in order to enlist the support of the masses. They have needed heroes and demagogues to inspire the majority to give their lives for the victory of new masters. The state socialists may talk about socialism, but in reality they wish to replace our present system of class exploitation with another, only with a new bureaucratic exploitative class. This is why they too need heroes, martyrs, demagogues and saviours, because they need to beguile the masses to support their revolution, to support another new ruling class. The socialist revolution can only take place when the majority of the working class not only understand that it is possible, but also desirable. It needs no abstract ideals to mask it's true purpose, no demagogues to beguile the masses. It needs no heroes.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Dave Renton on the crisis in the swp, and the mad professor

(This post was published by Dave Renton in reply to the version of history being peddled by pinky and the brain, Kimber and callinicos, in the new ISJ, it is reprinted here as there is a rumour that Stalinicos is seeking to have it removed) 6 Alex Callinicos, Charlie Kimber and the investigation of rape Posted on 06/10/2013 by lives; running Standard Alex Callinicos and Charlie Kimber’s piece in new issue of International Socialism sets out, amongst other things, the SWP Central Committee’s justification for how its members acted during the complaint of rape against our National Secretary Martin Smith. The problem with publishing an account like theirs is that there will be people out there who do not accept the veracity of it. And I am one of them. What am I supposed to do: keep silent, while others present a narrative which I believe is substantially untrue? Like all of us, I have lived with the crisis for a year, and done everything in my power to find out as much as I could about what happened. My duty to the comrades I know and love – inside the SWP and out – is to explain what, to the best of my knowledge, happened. I make no claims to omniscience. If it turns out that I am wrong when I describe what happened in detail, I will say so. But the party is in crisis; our reputation has been wrecked. Unless we start telling the whole truth and explain properly to others and to ourselves the mistakes the party has made, no-one will ever trust us again. Callinicos and Kimber write: “The SWP Central Committee responded to the complaint by referring it immediately to the DC” (i.e. the SWP’s Disputes Committee) Callinicos and Kimber imply that the Central Committee (CC) were barely actors in the dispute, and that all important decisions were made by other people (in particular our Disputes Committee). But this is not true; since the case began, the DC has been involved only when asked. The question of whether and when to involve the Disputes Committee and what kinds of decision it was allowed to make were all made by our Central Committee before the DC was convened. Starting from the beginning: the Central Committee was made aware of the complaint for the first time in July 2010. They were told that a woman had made serious, sexual allegations against Smith, although she was not in London at that time to put her case to anyone directly. After Marxism, two members of the Central Committee, travelled to the city where the complainant lived in order to speak to her. On their return to London, the CC agreed its strategy of dealing with the complaint, which was to ignore the then “Control Commission” (i.e. the forerunner of our present Disputes Committee), which played no part at all in the 2010 complaint. All decisions in 2010-2011 were taken by the Central Committee, not the DC. Alex Callinicos and the other members of the CC encouraged Smith and the woman to “negotiate”, i.e. if the woman could be persuaded to keep the detail of the complaint out of the public eye, Smith would in turn agree to his voluntary demotion. During the course of the negotiations, he was able to bargain his proposed sanction down, from the original punishment (that he would stand down from all paid work for the SWP) to the end result that he would remain not just on the party’s payroll but even on our Central Committee. Anyone who thinks it is appropriate to compromise a sexual complaint before investigating whether it is true or not should recall the immense criticism the police received in 2009, once it became known that in certain cases they had accepted cautions as a way of resolving rape complaints. Socialist Worker would have known where to stand on that one; the politics are made no better when it is the leadership of a revolutionary party that deals with a rape complaint by trying to negotiate it away. Callinicos and Kimber write: “there had been controversy between the parties to the case from 2010 onwards, although the issues raised then were not the same as in 2012.” I compare the account which appears in a resignation letter written by G-, who was until this year a member of the editorial board of the International Socialism Journal and a regular contributor to that journal, and before that, a member of the central committee of the SWP’s sister party in Germany. He had been a member of the SWP and its sister parties for more than 20 years before he left this year: “[Women] who were present, and involved in these discussions, insist that though W may not have wished it to go forward to the DC, she was evidently in tremendous distress, was making a serious complaint, and was demanding that something urgently be done. Women comrades who heard W’s story back in 2010 judged that what had taken place was rape – even though she, back then, did not use that word.” G- says, in effect, that he spoke to the women who were there when the complainant met the CC, and the women who had brought her complaint to the CC’s attention, and a common picture emerged. Every woman he spoke to recalled the complainant saying that Smith had forced her to have sex with him against her will. She did not use the word “rape”, but in every conversation she conveyed that she had not consented to have sex with him but had had sex with him. If G- is right, and he, unlike Alex Callinicos or Charlie Kimber, does not have a position to protect and has no motive to make things up, then their claim that she raised different allegations (“issues”) about Smith in 2010 and 2012 is simply untrue. Alex Callinicos and Charlie Kimber’s piece makes no mention of anything that took place between 2010 when the complaint was made and 2012 when the woman asked to have it properly investigated At the party’s 2011 conference, it was announced that Smith had decided to stand down as National Secretary. Alex Callinicos introduced the session. He explained that a complaint had been brought to the Central Committee’s attention, and resolved. He declined to say what the complaint was although he hinted that it involved a woman and was sexual. Others have already given their accounts of Callinicos’ speech. One of the members of the SWP in the audience, R-, on hearing this, said aloud “It’s because Smith jilted her!” I do not criticise him for saying it: it was exactly the impression that Alex Callinicos actually communicated to the delegates. Smith spoke next. He said that he was no angel but he would not admit to doing anything wrong. He said that he was hurt by the things that had been written about him on the internet, but he was a fighter. Normally at party conferences, speakers are allowed no more than 3 minutes. Smith spoke for 10 minutes, twice telling the chair he would carry on even when asked to stop. I wonder which CC members it was who had planned who would speak after Alex Callinicos, and who within our leadership approved the idea of Smith going first? We are a very centralist organisation; our party conference and our summer event Marxism are controlled through “speakers’ slips” requiring anyone wishing to speak from the floor to indicate first, after which their proposed speech can be approved before they are allowed to the microphone. Decisions as to who to speak in a debate of this importance are not made without planning in advance. Our leadership behaved as if they wanted the session to follow a particular script: that is, for Smith’s behaviour to be minimised and for him to be “vindicated”. Between them, Smith and Alex Callinicos set the tone for the session. Smith told the delegates that sectarians had considered publishing the story of the accusations against him online, but had not. The reason they didn’t publish the story, he said was that there was simply nothing to it. If people knew the very worst he was accused of, they would gasp at how empty the story was. After Smith, a number of long-standing comrades rose and spoke in his support. A leading woman comrade told conference that everyone had skeletons in their closets. Another leading woman comrade J- also defended Smith. When one comrade later asked J- why she had spoken up for someone accused of a serious sexual crime, she said, “I wanted to know whether it was true or not, so I asked Smith. I said, the thing you are accused of how bad is it from 1 to 10? And Smith told me, ‘it’s not even 1’.” In response to every signal from the people who had planned the session that the misconduct was of the mildest character possible, the delegates chanted “the workers united will never be defeated” and gave Smith a standing ovation. The first people to leave the SWP over the complaint resigned then – in response to an episode which subjects to the harshest test Alex Callinicos and Charlie Kimber’s claim that “we [the Socialist Workers Party] are a revolutionary socialist organisation that has prided itself in its principled opposition to all the different forms of oppression that capitalist society maintains”. In reality, we are a party which has to be judged, like any other, not on what we say but on what we do. Horrific as the scene appears in retrospect (a socialist party, applauding out of the room a man accused of rape?), I do not blame the delegates who clapped and chanted in his support. Several of them have spoken out since against the leadership cover-up. The fault lies with our Central Committee. Smith was our party’s National Secretary, our leader. Just a few months before he had gone on trial for assaulting a police officer, a prosecution which was presented inside the SWP as a challenge to the entire left. He was only under attack, he had said at his trial, because of his politics. The memory of his trial hung over conference. Alex Callinicos and our whole CC gave delegates the false impression that the complaint against Smith was minimal. On the information that Alex Callinicos had allowed the delegates to hear; who could blame them for clapping? Callinicos and Kimber write: when the woman complained a second time in 2012 there was a “serious investigation” The flaws of the investigation are now well known – the choice for the DC investigation of a panel on which a majority were or had been on the Central Committee of the SWP, the refusal to allow the complainant to know the basis on which he defended her case (while making sure that the details of her case had been provided to him), the confusion as to what burden of proof applied, the failure to provide the complainant or her witnesses or even the party as a whole with any explanation which could join the two things we were told about the complaint: “the woman was believed” and “her complaint was not upheld”. I could go through any of these in detail, but I will focus here on just one particular problem, the questions asked of the woman and of her corroborative witness. Of the two worst questions asked of the witness, one was asked directly by a present member of our Central Committee. Trying to rebut the second woman’s evidence that Smith had plied her with drink before repeatedly sexually harassing her, Amy Leather asked the woman, “Don’t you think Smith is generous? Whenever I go out for a coffee with Smith, he always buys me coffee.” A former CC member Maxine Bowler then asked the second woman “Is it true that you like a drink?” She then followed it up with another version of the same question, “Are you someone who likes to have a party?” Just in terms of the ordinary competence you might expect if a complaint was being investigated by people with any experience of questioning (managers in a workplace, trade unionists or whoever else), these were hopeless questions. Whether a woman drinks never, occasionally, or often makes no difference when it comes to deciding whether, on that occasion, the man had harassed her. The politics that informed the question was specific. Its logic was simple: a woman who goes drinking regularly or parties is by definition a woman who is asking for sex. If a man abuses her, the woman – and not the man – is to blame. You cannot call an investigation serious when it is informed by a prior logic of disbelief in sexual complaints, and an automatic, institutional belief in the necessity of protecting the man who is the subject of the complaint. Callinicos and Kimber’s piece never explains properly that there has been a second complaint against Martin Smith Their piece writes out of history the second woman who complained about Smith. But she is human: she lives, she breathes and she has suffered. And there can be no honest account of what happened which ignores her story. Her complaint was submitted at the end of February of this year. For three months, the Disputes Committee, supported by the Central Committee prevaricated and refused to say directly whether it would allow her complaint to be heard. After three months of hesitation, on 14 May 2013, the DC with the approval of Alex Callinicos and our whole Central Committee, wrote to the woman again, telling her that they refused to hear her complaint. This position was then maintained in a series of further letters through the remainder of May and June. There then followed a battle within the party before eventually the CC – not the DC, which made none of the important decisions in the case – finally, in July, admitted defeat and agreed to allow the case to be heard. We know what happened next – Smith resigned from the SWP and declined to co-operate with the subsequent Disputes Committee investigation. At exactly the same time that Smith resigned from the SWP, the Central Committee decided that the Disputes Committee which investigated the second complaint would not be allowed to determine the truth or otherwise of the allegations, but only whether he had a “case to answer”. This decision was taken long before the people were chosen who would eventually sit on the DC. To grasp the significance of this decision, you need to understand that no employer, no union, no professional disputes body, no Tribunal and no court would have done the same. For all these bodies, it is entirely normal to have to deal with someone who does not want to attend a hearing – whether that is a worker who is accused of making off with the company funds, or a nurse being investigated for abusing her patients who says she is too ill to attend a hearing before the Nursing and Medical Council, or an older man accused of raping a woman thirty years his junior. All of them, faced with a person subject to a serious complaint who refused to attend a hearing, would have determined the case in their absence, deciding whether the allegations were convincing or not. If the person was cleared in their absence, that would be the end of it. But none of them would leave the door forever open to an accused person, just in case they felt like clearing their name in the future at a time of their choosing. None of them would say that until the defendant has chosen to attend a hearing in person, no finding could be made against them. There are two ways you could look at the second DC investigation. One would be to focus on the sanction it imposed. Smith has been excluded from membership of the SWP unless he applies to rejoin, and, should he apply, he would be required to be investigated by a further Disputes Committee panel. In so far as the panel has chosen to place this restriction on his membership of the SWP, it would appear that the original DC found that the complaint against him was probably true. Their decision, it follows, has implications for the first complaint too. The essence of the first complaint was that he had pursued the complainant for sex, and made her have sex with him. And the essence of the second complaint was that he had repeatedly pursued the second complainant for sex, and harassed her, although they never had sex. Inevitably the findings of the second DC investigation case a long shadow over Smith’s supposed exoneration in the first complaint. The other way to look at the second DC investigation would be to focus on its decision, not “conduct inappropriate of an SWP member”, but merely “a case to answer”. The practical effect of instructing the DC that they could not make a finding about Smith but only determine whether he had a case to answer, was to protect the Central Committee from having to face what would otherwise inevitably be questions from the membership along these lines: “How can you justify driving 400 comrades out of the party in order to protect your account of Smith’s innocence, when you now accept he is guilty of similar behaviour with a second woman?” The question can of course still be asked. But when it is asked, the CC now respond, “the DC never did find Smith guilty…”. And the answer to that is: “You’re right, the DC, after a two day hearing, at which the complainant provided a detailed 33-page statement backed up by written documents, and had eight corroborative witnesses, and she and her witnesses were questioned by a panel, found no more than that there was ‘a case to answer’. The reason they stopped there and would not consider whether Martin Smith was probably guilty of the conduct giving rise to her complaint is that Alex Callinicos, Charlie Kimber and our whole Central Committee had decided in advance that the DC were not allowed to find any more than this.” And then you have to ask: who came up with the proposal that the panel investigating Smith would not be allowed to adjudicate on the merits of the complaint, but restrict itself to a finding of “case to answer”? Was it Callinicos, Kimber; was it Smith himself? Now is the time for the CC to start telling the truth. The Central Committee SWP is not infallible; the members of the party are not children. The party gains nothing by our leadership continuing to keep secrets from us. I have no ill-will towards either of the authors of the ISJ article. I, like every member of the SWP, can remember each of them in better times. Alex Callinicos is the longest serving member of our Central Committee. Charlie Kimber was seen for years as a consensus figure in the party, someone who could avert situations of conflict with a smile and a kind word. The strategy behind Callinicos and Kimber’s piece is to blame everyone but themselves for the crisis in the SWP: Michael Rosen, Lindsey German, John Rees, George Galloway, John McDonell, Jeremy Corbyn and many others get criticised by name for their failures of revolutionary nerve. But you cannot blame anyone outside the party for the way we handled the rape investigation. Who was it who introduced the special session at the 2011 conference? Who devised the strategy of labelling the party opposition as feminist or autonomist in order to distract from the leadership’s handling of the rape complaint? And which CC member had the job of “co-ordinating” the relationship between the DC and CC during the rape investigation? The answer to all these questions is Alex Callinicos Share this: Twitter37 Facebook396 Like this: Filed under SWP and tagged Alex Callinicos, Charlie Kimber, rape investigation, swp | 2 Comments Post navigation Previous Post 2 Responses » lives; running on 07/10/2013 at 3:59 pm said: [NOTE TO ALL READERS] Because of the nature of this article, I will not be approving comments on it. Those of you who have my contact details are of course welcome to write to me privately about it Reply ↓ lives; running on 07/10/2013 at 4:03 pm said: [EXPLANATION OF AN EDIT] Three friends have written to me, via social media, about one part of the piece – the reference to “J”. When I originally posted this I gave the comrade’s name in full. No-one has said to me that my account of what she said at the SWP’s 2011 conference was inaccurate, or that they disagree with my assessment of the damage it did. But friends have explained that she regretted the speech afterwards and apologised for it at the next SWP (district) event which she attended a few days afterwards. In those circumstances, I have thought it right to only publish the first letter of her name. If it is true that she apologised, even if only before a smaller gathering of comrades, then this is a sign of that comrade’s strength and something to be encouraged in others Reply ↓ Leave a Reply

Monday, February 25, 2013


WHAT IS FILTH? A repost by Anna chen SWP faction leader and Central Committee member Pat Stack wrote to members of his beleaguered party, saying: “I think a lot of comrades would like some respite from the filth that is out there (here I’m talking about non-party bloggers), but these expulsions will only give that filth fresh impetus.” Thanks for the impetus, Pat. Aside from noting the commonplace party practice of throwing people off the back of the sleigh to save one’s own skin, let us explore the question you raise: WHAT IS FILTH? “Filth” is an alleged rape taking place when a woman is nineteen, 2 years after she and her party leader meet, at which time he is forty-six and she seventeen. “Filth” is an appeal to the party’s internal disciplinary body being met with a kangaroo court run by several of the party leader’s friends, who then exonerate him. “Filth” is the woman denied access to his evidence while he sees hers: the game is surely “I’ll show you mine IF you show me yours.” “Filth” is a woman ostracised, cast out as unclean with a scarlet letter “A” carved into her forehead. “Filth” is her friends put under heavy manners by the party’s attack dogs, fresh from their two-minute hate. “Filth” is power relations that exist under capitalism going unchallenged and amplified in the party playground. All that youth and pulchritude — yummy! “Filth” is continuing to claim exemption from “bourgeois morality”: may I remind you once again that Trotsky wrote “Their Morals and Ours”, not “Their Morals and We Ain’t Got None”. “Filth” is saying “you don’t lie to the class”, and then lying to the class about how many members you have. Claiming 7,000 while actually having far fewer than 2,000, even after it has been brought to your attention (remember?), is far from clean. “Filth” is honeytrapping people who want to change the world for the better, who bring love and hope to the party, and then find themselves smashed up on the rocks of the politics of envy and the drive for personal power. “Filth” is love-bombing potential recruits and then treating them like your property once they’ve joined. “Filth” is demanding their full-time intellectual and physical labour for no pay while you draw a salary. “Filth” is paying your printshop workers well below the minimum wage (in 2003 and maybe even now for all we know) — and what happened to that fulltimer’s tax and National Insurance, by the way? “Filth” is expelling four members for the thought-crime of discussing issues on Facebook. The internet to the party in 1998: “What does that mean to a postie on eighty quid a week?” “Filth” is denying potential recruits the free information with which to make an informed choice: in the public interest, Caveat Comrade. “Filth” is Professor Darkside’s puppies fed the stolen milk and apples and now look: lynch-mobs and goon squads patrolling the perimeter. “Filth” is practising filth and yelling “Filth” louder than the next guy. “Filth” is watching your party go from excess to excess and being surprised when, like a child given no boundaries by the grown-ups (of which you are supposed to be one), it does something RE-E-E-E-ALLY ba-a-a-ad! “Filth” is knowing all these abuses exist while in a leadership capacity and doing nothing about them. “Filth” is pointing the finger when three fingers point right back atcha. “Filth” is a mirror.

Monday, April 30, 2012

In what senses can we describe certain political, religious and social movements of the English Revolution (1640-1660) as radical?

Just how useful is the adjective ‘radical’ in describing or categorising the Minority religious, political and social movements that emerged in the course of the English Revolution? In an age when stalwart and staid country squires led armies in rebellion, sat in judgement and then condemned to death, a divinely anointed monarch and the most hard headed of pragmatic politicians believed genuinely in the imminent arrival of King Jesus and the Reign of the Saints, how does a historian assess what makes a radical in this, the most radical of ages? Equally it is also clear that there was at the heart of the intellectual and social ferment of the Revolutionary years a flowering of new dissident ideas, of new concepts of civil, social and religious liberty, that grew independent of, and in opposition to, both the old regime and the emerging power of the gentry. Although it is true that there are serious weaknesses in the use of the term ‘radical’, which is anachronistic, and has the potential of misleading the reader into ascribing the 17th century radicals views and motives not of their own, it is difficult to find a term which more adequately fits them. There are those who have recently argued against use of the term radical at all; Clark and Condren have argued that Radicalism was a term created in the early 19th century to describe a specific form of politics; democratic, atheist, and pro free trade, and by using the term for very different conditions and politics of the 17th century created a false impression of the nature of those movements and suggested continuities between the ‘radicals’ of the 17th century and modern politics which were not necessarily present1. This also created the danger of isolating the ‘radicals’ from their own circumstances and conditions and rewriting them in modern terms in order to provide historical justification, or criticism, of modern ideals and movements; writing in The Times in the wake of the April 1st G20 demonstrations Dave Horspool contrasted the demonstrators with the example of Gerald Winstanley and the Diggers: “Unlike the Meltdown protesters, they made no attempt to attack anything - “we shall not do this by force of arms”, but by good example. It would be heartening to think that a few of this week's activists will read up on the words of their non-violent, environmentally friendly, making- poverty- history forebears: “For where money bears all the sway, there is no regard of that golden rule, Do as you would be done by.” The pacifism that Horspool commends so highly was adopted by Winstanley’s followers in the wake of 7 years of civil war and defeat of the old regime and monarchy, pacifism was possible only because “kingly power” had, it seemed, been broken. Tony Benn, writing on the anniversary of the Putney debates, attributed the Labour party’s recently junked Clause 4 to the direct influence of the Levellers. It is largely due to the work of the left wing historian Christopher Hill and especially his 1968 classic, The World Turned Upside Down that the movements and individuals who dwelt on the margins of 17th century society during the years of the Great Rebellion have become far more well-known and have received far more historical attention than many of the revolution’s more mainstream participants. The inspiration for Hill’s work was found in his political activity and membership of the Communist Party in the 1940’s and 50’s. The Communist Party Historians Group, of which he was a founding member, set itself the task of “reclaiming” a hidden radical British history from “conservative historians who had been responsible for the conformable, reassuring, self-satisfied platitudes of Whig history.” Hill and a number of other historians notably A. L. Morton and Rodney Hilton attempted to challenge the orthodoxy of the time which found the entire civil war and interregnum an embarrassment which it was generally agreed was better off never happening. What positives for the evolution of British society and the development of British democracy that could be identified from the turmoil of the 17th century were to be found entirely in the controlled and ordered ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1689 and certainly not in regicide and rebellion. The problem inherent in the CPHG project was its loyalty to, and dependence upon, a Moscow based dogmatic state Marxism which imposed on historians a rigid ‘stageist’ theory of history which demanded that the English Revolution must have been a ‘classic’ Bourgeois one and that whatever other causes and impulses might be stated by the participants themselves were unconscious expressions of the class war hidden behind the religious language of the time. Hill, and the majority of the leading members of the Historians Group, left the Communist Party in protest at the brutal Soviet invasion and crushing of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, but the Soviet methodology from which he drew much of his earlier work and gained during his post graduate work in Moscow in the 1930s continued to play an important part in his work. One mistake which is inherent in the History Group method is to association of the radicals as being advocates of a larger silent mass (perhaps reflecting the Groups communist politics in which the party considered itself as being the vanguard and ‘Tribune of the oppressed’). There is little evidence that the Levellers especially saw themselves as being in any way as being in a separate class or party from the rest of the revolutionary party. Cromwell, in the course of the First civil war repeatedly made statements and took positions that associated him with the most radical sections amongst the army, defending Lillburne both on the battlefield and in Parliament associating with radical officers and causes and setting himself forward as a champion of those who were willing to fight the war to the finish against the old guard of parliamentary grandees- above all the commander of the parliamentary army, the Earl of Manchester; “..(I)t would not be well until Manchester was but Mr Montagu”, and “God would have no lording over His people’, are sentiments not far from the utterances of many levellers. The close proximity of many of those who can be seen as the chief spokesmen of the radicals to the leadership of the army make it easier to see them as being a wing of the Independent Puritan elite, who only stepped out from that position when once the army had beaten the forces of the royalists and imprisoned the King. Cromwell and the generals were beginning to sketch out the shape of the future regime and the politicised New Model through its elected Agitators were concerned that they should have a say in the new world which they had had such a part in creating. The Leveller leadership were concerned that there was no place in Cromwell’s new Commonwealth for the small men of property and thus made common cause with the Agitators. Cromwell is simply the most prominent example of another problem with the use of the term radical; it implies a fixed, set and fully developed position, however the truth is far more fluid, in the rapidly changing situation of the revolution those who had been on fringe, on the very extreme in 1638, such as the Scottish Presbyterians, whose refusal to accept Charles’ Bishops and book was to first spark the crisis, and whose army was to tip the balance of the first war, would become guardians of privilege and royal power by the end of the decade; the Kirk had not changed but the world around them had changed utterly. Without over riding ideological positions men who were radical at one point, or over one issue could find themselves on the side of the existing order at the next; Ireton, for example has been recognised as being on the radical fringe of the Independents, a passionate advocate of the need to pursue the war to the end and for the need to try and execute the King, a radical advocate amongst the revolutionary and radical Independents, and yet Ireton was also the chief witness from the generals against the Agitators and Levellers at Putney. Sexeby, an agitator and Leveller at Putney, is later a colonel in Cromwell’s army in Ireland and Scotland, later still an agent for Cromwell amongst Huguenot rebels in France and in the end a conspirator, reputedly with royalists, in an attempted assassination attempt on Cromwell, this criss-crossing from radical opposition to stalwart of the regime suggests that the Political radicals should be considered less as the ‘voices of the voiceless’ and more in the role of junior members of the elite vying for a place in the new order. At the heart of the revolution was religion, for Hill and the other history group members who had grew up in the 1930s and survived the war to be faced with the prospect of nuclear backed extermination the threats they faced came from secular political sources, and the hope that they sought in the soviet system was also secular and political, the religion that they came into contact with (in the shape mostly of the Church Of England) was benign in its ineffectualness. It was natural for them facing a wealth of religious writing emanating from the most radical of the 17th century revolutionaries to assume that this was a codified expression of deeper, more secular concerns, Even when engaged in a study of the role of the Bible in the seventeenth century revolution Hill said that: “This book focuses on a few areas where the bible was directly influential in matters other than the – in the modern sense- strictly religious.” Today after the experience of the Iranian Islamic republic, the Taleban’s attempts to return Afghanistan to the 7th century and the brutalised religious child soldiers of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, the idea of a religiously based revolution is far less outlandish and the type of governance that such a revolution might produce would be treated with far less equanimity than that showed by the historians of the 1950s and 60s. Before the collapse of the old regime and its power of censorship in 1642, the major religious forces that existed were the ‘Laudian’ Church of England, with the pomp and ceremony of Charles Stuarts ‘popish’ innovations and the rebellious Presbyterian Scottish Kirk. However most English puritans were outside of both Kirk and the official church, gathering together to form congregations of like- minded souls, persecuted by the Laudian authorities these ‘Independents’ attracted into their ranks a wealth of dissenting opinions united in both their opposition to the oppression of the Laudians and also extremely distrustful of any attempts to impose a conformity upon them. The ending of censorship allowed the production of a flood of pamphlets and newssheets which were consumed by a population which was by the standards of the day highly literate. Parliament’s first call for troops was answered in the main by the Godly; those who were most threatened, who felt they had most to lose by the threatened arrival of a royalist Irish Catholic army to London. As the imminent threat to London diminished the parliamentary army expanded out of their metropolitan base they took upon themselves the duty of purging the churches of Arminian decoration and ritual, the Godly example of the parliamentary armies attracted to their ranks more and more of the most convinced independents and the army’s developed a increasingly militant religious self image. The army became a hothouse of religious and, partially political, debate, as the Godly soldiers searched heir bibles for some precedent for a God fearing people in rebellion against their King. Chiliasm, never far from the surface in Christian reform movements, came much to the fore as many became convinced that they were the army of the saints preparing the ground for the imminent arrival of King Jesus and the final defeat of the Antichrist. In the areas which were occupied by godly regiments, local independents and other sectaries were able to find safe havens free from the threat of persecution by Justices of the peace or church authorities. Radical preachers were sure of an appreciative audience. Cromwell in his preference for the plain but godly rather than members of the aristocracy to serve as his officers, encouraged the religious radicalism of the army but did not cause it. It is when the question of Ireland that dispels the illusion that the radicals of the 17th century are the contemporaries of today’s liberals, the English revolution did not take place in a vacuum, it was a part of a far wider crisis of religion and society that was taking place across Europe, like all good English protestants the radicals had been brought up reading Foxe’s Lives of the Martyrs and believing that the Pope was the Antichrist and that Catholicism was ever waiting and planning the destruction and forced conversion of England’s Godly Kingdom. National myths around the fortitude of the Marian martyrs, the heroic thwarting of the Spanish Armada, the evil machinations of Jesuits and Guy Fawkes’ gunpowder plot encouraged a climate which has been described as ‘The Beleaguered Isle’.In the course of the revolution many were convinced that England was predestined to launch a protestant crusade to liberate he embattled protestants of Europe and pursue the Antichrist to his den in the Vatican, in 1657 the Quaker George Fox urged Cromwell to capture Rome and overthrow the Pope. Catholic Ireland had risen at the very start of the Civil war, the newssheets and chapbooks deluged London with horror stories of thousands dead at the hands of the vengeful papists and amongst the radicals there was if anything even more clamour for harsh measures in the suppression of papist Irish treachery, Cromwell’s campaign in Ireland and the subsequent military operations have been seen in hindsight as being at least partially concerned with removing radical regiments from the political scene, but as Christopher Hill ruefully notes: “The Irish were cast in the role of Antichrist, the enemy of all the revolutionaries stood for.” Quakers, Agitators, fifth Monarchists and Levellers all took important roles in the Invasion army and considered the war necessary and Gods will: “The work of Justice in Ireland... Prospering under the standard of the interest of Christ.” Those who dreamt of a world turned upside down and the establishment of the ‘Reign of the Saints’ have become far more memorable than those who overthrew a divinely anointed king, dared to try him for his crimes and cut his head from his shoulders. Movements such as the Diggers who were, at most, made up of a few dozen adherents have passed into the national consciousness whilst men who made the revolution, like Henry Ireton or William Waller, have been consigned to the dusty outskirts of historical marginalia. Attempting to apply the term Radicalism to the minority sects and movements of the 17th century without sufficient qualification is Anachronistic and a hostage to the fortune. In this respect the revisionist critics of Christopher and the radical historians are justified. However, it must be acknowledged that the English Revolution was not, as old Whigs and young revisionists would pretend, a mere power struggle between social elites that did not touch the lives of the ordinary people at all, there is at its heart a fundamental shift within society itself that took place during the years 1640-1660. Ordinary men and women broke through the limits of the old order and started to make a new one for themselves. Radical may be an insufficient appellation, but in the absence of a better term it is the one that we are stuck with, we must therefore learn to identify and read the writings of the radicals in their 17th century context. The first use of the term radical applied to the participants of the English revolution was by the 19th century Historian Macaulay: “In politics they (the independents) were to use the phrase of their own time, “Root- and- Branch men,” or, to use the kindred phrase of our own , Radicals.20” Root- and- Branch men (and women) is a term that fits the radicals of the 17th century very well indeed. Bibliography Benn, T., Set my people free The Guardian Sat. 13/05/2001 http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2001/may/13/election2001.uk10 Burgess, G., "A Matter of Context: 'Radicalism' and the English Revolution", in M. Caricchio, G. Tarantino, eds., Cromohs Virtual Seminars. Recent historiographical trends of the British Studies (17th-18th Centuries), 2006-2007: 1-4 http://www.cromohs.unifi.it/seminari/burgess_radicalism.html Friedman, j. The battle of Frogs and Fairford’s flies: Miracles and popular Journalism during England’s revolution in Sixteenth century journal XXXIII/3 1992 Hill, C. The experience of defeat London 1993 Hill, C. A nation of novelty and change London 1993 Hill, C. The English Bible and the Seventeenth century revolution London 1993 Horspool, D., “G20 protesters owe a debt to the diggers” The Times April 4th 2009 http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article6028098.ece Humber, L. And Rees, J. The Good Old Cause- an interview with Christopher Hill in International Socialism 56, Autumn 1992 Thomas Macauley: from History of England, Volume I London 1880, pp. 90-95. Found at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/macauley-cromwell.html Trevor-Roper, H.R. The General Crisis of the 17th Century Past and Present, No. 16 (Nov., 1959) Weiner C.L., the beleaguered Isle: A study of Elizabethan and early Jacobean Anti Catholicism Past and Present 1971 51

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Guardians of Law and Order

From Ian Bone's blog
Case Study One: Gerald Kaufman MP fraudulently claimed £750 for a Bang and Olufsen television on his parliamentary expenses.

He was not prosecuted but asked to repay the £750

Case Study Two: A young woman with no previous is alleged to have looted a Bang and Olufsen television from a store in Manchester

She was remanded in custody to crown court to get a sentence longer than 6 months


Kaufman could be seen in parliament today demanding ROBUST action against rioters. Robust…..robust..fucking ROBUST….FUCKING ROBUST…..IF I HEAR THAT AGAIN…………………….ROBUST AAAARGGHH!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

order reigns in Tottenham, order reigns in Clapham

“Order prevails in Warsaw!” declared Minister Sebastiani to the Paris Chamber of Deputies in 1831, when after having stormed the suburb of Praga, Paskevich’s marauding troops invaded the Polish capital to begin their butchery of the rebels.

“Order prevails in Berlin!” So proclaims the bourgeois press triumphantly, so proclaim Ebert and Noske, and the officers of the “victorious troops,” who are being cheered by the petty-bourgeois mob in Berlin waving handkerchiefs and shouting “Hurrah!”
Who is not reminded of that drunken celebration by the “law and order” mob in Paris, that Bacchanal of the bourgeoisie celebrated over the corpses of the Communards? That same bourgeoisie who had just shamefully capitulated to the Prussians and abandoned the capital to the invading enemy, taking to their heels like abject cowards. Oh, how the manly courage of those darling sons of the bourgeoisie, of the “golden youth,” and of the officer corps flared back to life against the poorly armed, starving Parisian proletariat and their defenseless women and children. How these courageous sons of Mars, who had buckled before the foreign enemy, raged with bestial cruelty against defenseless people, prisoners, and the fallen.

“Order prevails in Warsaw!” “Order prevails in Paris!” “Order prevails in Berlin!” Every half-century that is what the bulletins from the guardians of “order” proclaim from one center of the world-historic struggle to the next. And the jubilant “victors” fail to notice that any “order” that needs to be regularly maintained through bloody slaughter heads inexorably toward its historic destiny; its own demise.

“Order prevails in Berlin!” You foolish lackeys! Your “order” is built on sand. Tomorrow the revolution will “rise up again, clashing its weapons,” and to your horror it will proclaim with trumpets blazing:

I was, I am, I shall be!

Rosa Luxemburg. Berlin 1919. shortly before she was murdered by victorious reaction

Monday, July 18, 2011

No Class (my arse)

They say that class don't matter,
But that just cannot be,
The jury said they're innocent,
They each had a degree.
No previous bad character,
And references galore,
A soldier and a nurse for friends,
Well who could ask for more?
They say we are all equal,
It's simply just not true,
The way the law applies to me,
Does not apply to you.
We all sat in the courtroom,
Accused of the same crime,
You're getting on with your life,
I'm in here doing time.
I'm angry at the system,
The judges and the law,
That sit in ivory towers,
The rich above the poor.
This is our 'big society',
It isn't worth a cus,
There'll always be one law for them,
Another one for us.

Sean Cregan A5769CE HMP Wormwood Scrubs

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

solidarity is a two way street

from the Norfolk Community Action Group
by Ruahri ó Cléirigh

It’s been an interesting week, watching the media talk up a riot, public servants ‘STRIKING…RALLYING…MARCHING!’

Yet it seems it doesn’t have enough ‘oomph’ anymore for the press. It’s only newsworthy if there’s a ruckus involving ‘latchers on’ from the ‘anarchist movement’…heaven forbid an anarchist might themselves be part of a Labour Party recognised trade union…


Likewise it’s been an interesting and pleasing week watching friends and comrades rising to the challenge in defending the unions and taking the struggle to the streets against the Tory/Liberal ‘coalition’ government…who seem hell bent on destroying our welfare state…much to the derision of the press and unions in equal measure of course…

It’s also been a sad sad week. A week where comrades have been taken from us…

You know solidarity is a great great thing. There’s not enough of it about these days. So it fills me with joy to see it on display.

It is however a two-way street. And it is rarely reciprocated.

Over the last year I’ve spent a lot of my time involved with my organisation in our local ‘Coalition Against The Cuts’. Those on the inside ‘leading the fight’ are a hodge podge bunch, of local and regional union officials, some permanently involved in the usual paper-sale and petitioning for this months big issues, others less politicised but falling into place behind their more ‘senior’ union members. Hidden caucuses, caucuses hidden or within caucuses that are hidden from caucuses…

They use great and meaningful words like ‘worker’ and ‘working-class’. Even…’comrade’…although it’s often followed my a snigger and a red face…

These words however just seem to roll off the tongue.

There’s little passion there. It’s as if they’re acting out a part and the main lines of the script have become their catch phrases.

They talk of ‘fighting’ and ‘uniting the class’…

And this friends is where they start to lose me…when they eagerly discuss booking whole trains to take down to demos held in London which would ‘easily be filled to the carriage’ by a happy throng of ‘the class’…who would be eager to ‘rally to the cause’…

Only it’s all just fantasy…

As is all the talk of ‘the class’…

Class… They don’t belong to my class. Increasingly…they don’t belong to my class…Increasingly they don’t share the same life experiences, of dole, and housing office queue…of the prison…

They work for the state, they increasingly have the degree (that’s not a dig), often work in comfy offices, they have ‘expenses’, and something called’by the mile’… they work a rigidly set working week, hours never to be tampered with or there’ll be hell to pay…most of us don’t…and they have things called pensions…and their idea of conflict with the state…

Many of us too are currently in conflict with the state…and all it’s little branches…it’s offshoots…it’s wheels and centres of enforcement…

They work in the police station, the social services, the job centre, the housing office…’the public services’…the very services that many of these individuals will never ever have to utilise themselves… the very services that many of us have to deal with on a regular basis when we’re unemployed or in need of housing or desperate for work and money…or banged up…

‘NOW JUST HOLD ON!’ I hear you cry…’There’s nothing wrong with having a degree or working for the state and going on strike over pensions!’

You’re absolutely right, there’s not and my hat goes off to them…Likewise I remain steadfast and committed to the principle ‘a grievance to one is a grievance to all, I SHALL NEVER CROSS A PICKET LINE…’

But It would be nice if the solidarity that you and I believe in would be…and here’s that word again’…’reciprocated’.

It would be nice to know that those on the marches and rallies waving their flags shouting ‘support us’ and ‘join us’…that those same people this Monday weren’t going to be throwing us out of our houses, taking or children away, cutting our dole money, putting us in prison, and being the holders of the keys to our cell doors…

Because they will be.

Yes it would be nice if there was…solidarity…

The recent attempts made by the Norfolk Community Action Group within the local coalition to try and bridge this situation fell on deaf ears. So we chose to part company.

Our arguments that if they want ‘popular support’, and yes folks that does mean engaging with the Sun reader and the Daily Mail reader, then they will have to stop solely ‘agitating’ within their unions…an ‘agitation’ that often is nothing more than an email and a flyer on the union notice board or a phone call to the very same people who attended the meeting the week before, the pathological ‘preach to the converted’ who can only be bothered if it affects ‘them and theirs’…and get off their arses and physically start engaging with their local population explaining and arguing why they BELIEVE they are RIGHT to take the actions they are taking, in plain words with the use of plain English, without the use of a pre-script or the handing over of a leaflet that will never ever ever in a million years dear God get read because it’s cold, it’s heartless, it will not engage…

It can not engage.

Because there’s no soul in a leaflet…or a petition…especially when it’s a petition for OUR benefit…and our benefit only…

Yes that means job centre staff walking onto council estates, Yes that means teachers walking onto council estates, Yes that means housing officers walking onto council estates…Yes that means social workers walking onto council estates, Yes that means trade unionist from each and every sector of public services in this ‘country’ of ours walking onto council estates…

And engaging…

Not destroying peoples lives and being the first port of call of the oppressive state…

Only they won’t will they?

They won’t because there is a barrier…

They won’t because there is a barrier of ‘us’ and ‘them’…

They won’t because there is a barrier of ‘us’ and ‘them’ and ‘service provider’ and ‘service user’…

That is…dare I say it…a barrier…of one class against another, even if that ‘class’ can not be easily differentiated. They would if they could though comrades…’differentiate that is…

Long gone are the days of Dave Douglass and the great Hatfield Main branch of the NUM, all the miners, the steel workers, the toilers, the manufacturers, the print workers…

They have been taken over…by the bureaucrat…the degree in trade union studies…and the Tolpuddle Martyrs, more an historical quaintness than a model, example, direction and template of struggle…


Increasingly…not…my… fight…

Unless miraculously new Dave Douglass’ appear and return the trade unions to their rightful place…holding meetings at the bottom of our streets, discussing and showing ‘solidarity’ and helping the unemployed with education and training, and building a real resistance to the aggressive Tory doctrine that has recently returned to plague us…


You know comrades, only 26% of the workforce in Britain today are unionised…and it’s falling daily…

They had better appear soon…before trade unions go the way of the Tolpuddle Martyrs..and become ‘a quaintness’..

Saturday, July 02, 2011

reflections on J30

Miliband on BBC yesterday

I must admit to heretical thoughts in the lead up to J30, the first concerted national strike action in response to the Condem assault has been the subject to paeons of hyperbole from the left press whose salivating coverage was mirrored by the fake horror of the right wing press at what one might have thought from the coverage was the presage to the establishment of a revolutionary commune.
the truth was that a one day strike by teachers, civil servants and college lecturers involved far less strikers than any of the TUC 'days of action' that peppered the early years of Thatcher's reign, all of which were derided by the Left at the time as tokenistic and ineffectual.
the day to day roles of those who were taking action was also problematic. the PCS, UCU, the NUT and the ATL all benefitted from the rapid expansion of white collar trades unionism in the 1980s, the majority of contact that the working class are likely to have had with their members is almost uniformly negative ; from the engineered failiure of the school system, its indoctrination and petty rules in preparation of a life of regimentation as a wage slave, to the policing of the undeserving poor by the fortnightly humilitation and sly vindictiveness of the Job centre interview. Those on strike on thursday would be back at their desks by friday investigating 'dole scroungers' and arranging the detention and expulsion of asylum seekers; there was little to promote solidarity from the wider working class, and much to permit their demonisation by the Goverment and press.
But that isn't the way it worked out. The ham fisted attempts to accuse the unions of greed in demanding high pensions at the expense of the private sector tax payer faltered as private sector workers recalled the bankers and bosses that stole their pensions and now sit pretty on the ConDem benches.
As Rick Dutton pointed out on facebook-
"I hated most of my teachers when I was a kid, always got shit off the Jobcentre when I went to sign on, regularly took crap from the housing office when I was homeless, have had bad experiences of prison officers, hate the police, despise careerist Trot trade union officials...in fact most public servants I've had contact with are c~~~s...but I wouldn't cross their picket line ;)"

Basic solidarity.

the Tower Hamlets ALARM website reports from the London demonstration:
I felt a bit funny marching with lots of teachers, they deserve a good pension and good money, but whenever I’m around teachers all I can remember is getting detention for some pointless reason, sexually repressed RE teachers flying into rage at homework not being done, art teachers thinking their class matters, French teachers convinced they can teach another language to a group of kids that are mostly failing English…the list goes on. But I marched with them, avoiding detention.

Clearly no one was expecting anything more than a few pickets and a fun family march, but the police hadn’t got the message, after a bit of walking and a few speeches a group began to move up Whitehall. A kettle sprang out at the crowd. Police lines formed to the shock of everyone. Snatch Squads (a gaggle of police out to snatch people away from the crowd) circled targeting anyone under 18 who wasn’t white, and then moved on to just grabbing anyone.

Here I saw teachers at their best, not the scum from my childhood, but concerned teachers jumping forward and grabbing back their students from the claws of the police. Teachers willing to confront the crazed uniformed thugs, a real solidarity between the EMA kids of last year and the striking staff off today. Brilliant.

Basic Solidarity.

In fact the only person in the country who appears to have swallowed the ConDem Bollocks is the sad sock puppet that it is rumoured is in charge of the Labour party.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

solidarity with anti fascist prisoners

Six antifascists were recently fitted-up and sent to prison. Because of ongoing legal issues, for the moment we are unable to say more about their case, but a full report will eventually be issued. Suffice to say, they have been well and truly fucked over and deserve our fullest support and solidarity. Please write to them. (One person has asked to be left off lists and therefere no longer appears here). As always, assume your letters are being read by our enemies and ensure you do not compromise your own security or that of others. Also please note that Thomas Blak and Austin Jackson are as yet unsentenced. For advice on writing to prisoners see the Leeds ABC website. La lucha continua!
Andy Baker (21 months)
HMP Wormwood Scrubs
PO Box 757
Du Cane Rd

Thomas Blak (Unsentenced)
HMP Wormwood Scrubs
PO Box 757
Du Cane Rd

Sean Cregan (21 months)
HMP Wormwood Scrubs
PO Box 757
Du Cane Rd

Ravi Gill (21 months)
HMP Wormwood Scrubs
PO Box 757
Du Cane Rd

Austen Jackson (Unsentenced)
HMP Wormwood Scrubs
PO Box 757
Du Cane Rd
London W12 OAE

Monday, June 27, 2011

1984 reviewed on amazon

1984 Nineteen Eighty-Four (Penguin Modern Classics)
by George Orwell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.78
Availability: In stock
257 of 354 people found the following review helpful:
1.0 out of 5 stars Completely misleading, 11 Oct 2009
This review is from: 1984 Nineteen Eighty-Four (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Do not buy this book if you're expecting to find out anything at all about 1984, as this writer seems to have been living on a different planet. I was trying to do a bit of research into the influence of New Wave on cross-over dance music in the Mid-Eighties, but I found "1984" a complete waste of time... Jackson's "Thriller"?(the soundtrack of the summer, and the biggest selling album of all-time) - not mentioned; Frankie Goes To Hollywood (their breakthrough year leading to world pop domination) - not a whisper; Style Council? (Not Paul Weller's finest hour, but still an honest nod to the white soul roots of Mod culture) - you'd have thought they didn't exist if you read this book. Nik Kershaw? Ray Parker Junior? Sister Sledge? Nope, nope nope. Instead this man seems to have moped around in his room and at work, watching some kind of depressing news channel (was his remote broken? This isn't explained - but you'd have thought they'd have had MTV on at least one of the channels in his office). Orwell completely fails to capture the uplifting vibe that was the pop explosion of the summer of '84... maybe he lived in Norwood. 0 Stars.
Oh, and don't read "the Road to Wigan Pier" either, as we drove around for ages last August Bank Holiday before asking a traffic warden, who said that the sea was about 30 miles away, by which time it was too late. I don't think Orwell had actually ever been to Wigan. What does he do - just sit in his room making this stuff up for kicks or something? 0 stars also."