German Wave

September 30, 2008 at 8:58 pm (fascism, politics, Rosie B)

I found I was gripped by The Wave while I was watching it.  The film tells how a charismatic teacher does a project on autocracy with his class by beginning a movement called The Wave, and each day of the week the schoolkids are pulled further and further into this movement, which unites them in fraternity, while making them highly unfraternal to outsiders.  It explores the idea that being in a political movement is like being part of a tribe or a gang. It’s safe there, you’re stronger together, social and religious differences don’t matter and even the pathetic loser can find a place for his geeky skills. The teenagers jump from level to level of misbehaviour under The Wave’s influence, from graffiti, to bullying non-members and onto serious violence.  This was colourful lively stuff with tagging, skateboarding and upbeat music, and fairly drove along.

Diewelle

The message seemed to be, give people a uniform and a salute, and they’ll join.  Never mind the ideology, here’s the movement.  Of course that’s nonsense – a political movement wouldn’t last without something at its base, whether class or community.  The Wave then was an experiment like observing animal behaviour in a zoo – where, of course, animals don’t behave naturally, as it’s a zoo.

It ended melodramatically with the teacher giving a Hitlerite speech, thus underlining in capitals and bold font that these cool hip German kids who are bored with the topic of Nazism can be sucked in to becoming fascists.  There was no good at all in being a part of The Wave, which left a sense that any political movement is an evil thing since it leads to dangerous bonding and exclusiveness– but not all political bonds in this world are fascist bonds.  There can be trade union bonds or environmentalist lobby bonds or whatever.

It was interesting though to see teenagers in a film about politics, which at least had one idea in its head, even if it was a crude one.  I saw This is England, and I found it disappointing, because it gave no idea of why someone would join a right wing movement. Any arguments about the attractions of the ideology or the sense of union were fuzzed over with a bit of pointless psychologising.

I wonder though if British kids were given a uniform and a daft looking salute whether most of them wouldn’t be taking the piss, and The Wavers would be mocked as a bunch of weirdos, just another teenage tribe like Goths.

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Dis-United we fall

September 29, 2008 at 6:20 pm (Champagne Charlie, class, unions, workers)

Unitelogo.jpg

(Oh bloody hell: didn’t mean it to be that big, matron!).

Bad news on the British trade union front: the merger between the TGWU and Amicus is in serious trouble.

Of course, it’s nothing to do with anything that sane people would regard as politics: it’s all to do with personalities. Or, to be precise, Derek Simpson’s paranoia.

According to senior members of both ex-T&G and ex-Amicus that I’ve spoken to, the problem is that Derek Simpson cannot tolerate any form of challenge to his authority. He and Tony Woodley are now “at war”.

There is a fundamental difference between the two: Woodley, whatever his faults and shortcomings, wants to build an organisation that will further the interests of the working class in Britain and internationally; Simpson wants to retain power for Simpson…

Ironically, Simpson is hoping to use “Respect Renewal”  member Jerry Hick‘s complaint to the Certification Officer -against himself (Simpson) continuing in office beyond the age of 65 – as an excuse to call an election and run for General Secretary of Unite…this would more or less force Woodley to run against him. This is despite the fact that the recently-agreed (by a membership ballot) Unite rulebook states that both existing General Secretaries (ie: Simpson and Woodley) shall stay in office until December 2010, and this was, I’m told by a reliable source, agreed in advance of the rulebook being finalised… by the Certification Officer himself!

This entire situation is bad news for British workers. Hopefully, the serious left groupings within both unions will get their acts together and sort out a modus vivandi. And beware: the dangerous fake-lefts within both unions, around Steve Davison (ex-Amicus) and John Aitkin (ex-T&G), are already in talks to back Simpson in the event that Hick’s challenge succeeds, and an early election goes ahead.

If it doesn’t, then it may be a matter of one of two sides of the Coyne in 2010…

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Lucky Me

September 29, 2008 at 12:31 am (419 bullshitters, trivia, voltairespriest)

Ok, I promise I’ll write something serious soon about the Tories in Brum, but for the time being (late on a Sunday), I thought I’d share with you the latest 419 scam email to hit the blog’s contact address.

Hello Gentleman,

 My name is Babra, I am 26 years old girl in search of a man who understands love as trust and faith rather seeing it as a way of fun always but a matured man with sense of humor. so you should also consider trying a new thing by making a open avenue to meet and know new people as this may bring us a happy dream together. I am interested in having a relationship with you, I will also like to Know you the more, you can send an email to my email address so that I can send you more details about my self Including my picture.

I believe we can move from here. But bear in mind that Love has no colors barrier, no educational back ground barrier, no socio-economic Barrier, religious, language, nationality or distance barrier, the only important Thing there is love. I am waiting for your mail and a brief information about you.

 I believe we can start from here. awaiting to hear from you soon so I can send pics for more introductions.

 Kisses

 Babra

It’s actually quite a sweet one, ain’t it? Lads (or ladies), if you want to make “Babra’s” day, I can supply you with her email address. I daresay she has a million dollars in a pot that she’ll be happy to exchange for a grand as well. She’s charming and rich, dontcha know.

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‘Please allow me to introduce myself…’

September 28, 2008 at 12:00 pm (Max Dunbar, politics)

Right, the login is finally sorted and I have officially joined the boys at Shiraz. If you don’t know me, my name is Max Dunbar and I’m a Manchester-based writer of fiction and criticism.

My politics are basic democratic socialist. I think it’s possible to criticise and scrutinise democratic governments while defending democracy against its enemies. Like many in the blogosphere, I’m angry and disappointed that many on the established left aren’t able to do this, and that some will even give active support to totalitarian governments and movements as long as they are against the West/neocons/Israel. We know all this, we have banged on about it for ages and we will keep banging on about it. In particular, I am annoyed with the status-quo left’s uncritical support for religion, and for faith-based elites and societies. Without secularism there is no future.

It’s an honour and a pleasure to write for Shiraz as it’s a blog I have admired and enjoyed for some time. I’m going to kick things off with something I picked up from the Working Class Movement Library in Salford. It’s a poster (25p – kerching) listing the ten Socialist Commandments.

Now, like I said, I believe the British left has suffered – and is suffering – from its association with religion. But these ten principles seem like good general guidelines for life and I thought they were worth sharing here.

1: Love your school-fellows, who will be your fellow-workmen in life.

2: Love learning, which is the food of the mind; be as grateful to your teacher as to your parents.

3: Make every day holy by good and useful deeds and kindly actions.

4: Honour good men, be courteous to all men, bow down to none.

5: Do not hate or speak evil of anyone; do not be revengeful, but stand up for your rights, and resist oppression.

6: Do not be cowardly, be a friend to the weak, and love justice.

7: Remember that all the good things of the earth are produced by labour, whoever enjoys them without working for them is stealing the bread of the workers.

8: Observe and think in order to discover the truth; do not believe what is contrary to reason, and never deceive yourselves or others.

9: Do not think that he who loves his country must hate other nations, or wish for war, which is a remnant of barbarism.

10: Look forward to the day when all men will be free citizens, and live together as brothers in peace and righteousness.

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Unjust Rewards

September 27, 2008 at 9:48 pm (capitalism, Max Dunbar, poverty, socialism)

We tend to see inequality as man’s natural state, but for most of the twentieth century people’s incomes became more and more equivalent. It’s only during the last three decades that society has gone galloping the other way. Thatcher’s cabal of free-market evangelists removed all conceivable obstacles to businessmen’s ability to become as rich as possible. Selling this to the public, the elites of Britain and America used the analogy of a ‘trickle-down effect’; if the rich were allowed to create and keep as much wealth as possible, some of this wealth would make its way down to the middle classes and the poor – perhaps by a kind of osmosis.

It was a myth: the lie of the century. The wise rich invest or save money rather than pump their cash into the economy in a way that others can benefit from it. (State handouts, on the other hand, roll into bank accounts and then roll straight back out again to be spent on rent, utilities, drink and food.)

For all the talk of freedom and opportunity, social mobility ground to a halt. Nick Cohen describes the current state of affairs:

Jo Blanden of the London School of Economics, Stephen Machin of University College London and Paul Gregg of Bristol University examined the two big generational surveys from the last half-century – the National Child Development Study of 1958 and the British Cohort Study of 1970 – which followed newborn babies through schooling and into adulthood. They looked at how children had done compared to their parents; whether they had risen or fallen in the pecking order, or stayed pretty much where their mothers and fathers once were. They found that, on average, a boy born to a well-to-do family in 1959 earned 17.5 per cent more than a boy born to a family on half the income of the rich boy’s parents. If the equivalent Mr and Mrs Moneybags produced a son in 1970, he would grow up to earn 25 per cent more than his contemporary from the wrong side of the tracks.

In other words, the rags-to-riches journey is harder today than it was in the 1950s. Destinities are set early and set in stone. In Unjust Rewards, their seminal polemic on the mess we’re in, Polly Toynbee and David Walker reveal that life’s courses are laid in ways we don’t even consider. Like vocabulary:

By the age of four the child from a professional family will have had 50 million words addressed to it. A working-class child will have heard 30 million, but the children from families on welfare will hear 12 million. Here was another shocking fact: by the age of three the child of the professional family will have a bigger vocabulary than the adult parents of the welfare child.

The divide has become so pronounced that even the Daily Mail rants about ‘fat cat’ executives and boorish City traders. The gap between the middle class and the rich, and even between the rich and super-rich, is as wide as the historic chasm between rich and poor – itself encapsulated in the recent story of the private equity manager complaining that he paid less tax than the person who cleaned his office. Old money is worried: ‘the toffs or would-be toffs of the Tatler are willing the Tories to say that exponential incomes are socially damaging, corrosive and destablising.’ Middle England, too, ‘thinks the rich should pay more tax.’ Yet government spends far more time and resources going after petty benefit fraudsters.

I don’t know who coined the phrase ’socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor’ but its author deserves a knighthood. We know that tax planning schemes are employed by the top percentile to help them avoid making a substantial contribution to the society in which it makes its money. We know that government is soft on high-end tax fraud because it fears that Britain would collapse without the Belgravia set. We know about the ridiculous bonus culture in which high earners are given additional rewards just to do their jobs. Toynbee and Walker ask us to do a thought-experiment:

Imagine if workers had to be bribed with extra cash just to carry out their contractual responsibilities. Jobseeker’s Allowance would be raised and raised again in order to make the people getting it strive harder to find work. Hospital cleaners would be paid a bit more every week, to make them scrub harder. But in the real world the logic of low pay runs in the opposite direction. At the poor end, benefits are cut to encourage more endeavour in job-seeking; cleaners’ pay is kept low to clock up higher productivity per pound spent on the NHS.

They go on to argue that serious redistribution of wealth would not only be morally right, it would also save the taxpayer millions of pounds of public money that we spend on prisons, doctors, mental health teams and other agencies picking up the pieces of broken lives.

There has been some redistribution but not enough. The authors point out that the minimum wage is not a living wage – the true figure is around £7:20. £200 a week doesn’t make work a route out of poverty, especially factoring in transport costs – many low-paid jobs are based in supermarkets and call centres far from residential areas.

Class is the one prejudice no one talks about. At my comprehensive school the biggest targets for bullies weren’t the black or Asian kids but the poor kids. It was social death to be labelled a ’scrubber’; and our uniform didn’t conceal the class differences: as Toynbee and Walker write: ‘[I]t doesn’t take long in the playground to sort out where they stand in relation to the rest.’

Different classes are like different worlds, and the triumph of their book is in showing the gap not just in income but perception. As part of an aspirations programme group of working class pupils from Brent were taken up the road to Oxford University. ‘What had they imagined university to be? They said ‘like a prison,’ ‘really hard work and no social life,’ ‘horrible, worse than school and locked in all the time.” Undergraduates showed them the halls of residence.

At home the Brent pupils shared rooms with siblings but here was a room of their own, with their own bathroom, use of a kitchen and common room… were students ever allowed beyond those great college walls? Yes, all day and all night. They asked if they could have visitors and if their parents could come and see them? Yes, any time and even have a cheap room to stay in overnight. And was term time just twenty-four weeks of the year? Yes, but they could stay on in the holidays if they liked. They could even have people to stay in their room too, if they signed them in. The opposite sex? Yes! Wow!

This little anecdote shows us that maybe the way forward is to close this gap of perception. As Irvine Welsh said, the key to who wins in society isn’t money or connections. It is the power of expectation.

(And on that note, a big welcome to our newest contributor Max Dunbar, who can also be seen at his own blog and at the marvellous Butterflies and Wheels. We’re very glad to have him – VP)

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On this day in 1938…

September 27, 2008 at 3:55 pm (Europe, fascism, Guardian, history, Jim D, thuggery, war)

I am grateful to the Graun for drawing this to my attention, from exactly seventy years ago:

Czecho-Slovakia is the last territorial claim I have to make in Europe. But it is not one I will renounce. Now I have for the first time stated that the self-determination of these 3,500, 000 (Sudentans) at last come into force and that we won’t wait any longer.

“I am not willing any more to stand  by calmly without acting and see these madmen, who believe they can mishandle 3,500,000 people, and I have no doubt German patience is at an end. The memorandum which I wrote and which is my last and final word for the British Government contained only the method of execution.”

Remind you of anything more recent?

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I know what I like

September 26, 2008 at 11:14 pm (Art and design, Champagne Charlie)

There’s a real difference between talent (however tortured)…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Rothko

…and charlatanry (however lucrative):

Feature image

Visit this exhibition while you can.

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The Star-linist school of demonisation

September 26, 2008 at 8:21 pm (anti-semitism, AWL, israel, Jim D, palestine, stalinism)

I ask you: don’t you know where you are, what’s going on around you? Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is detestable; it should be condemned in its detail, and in its totality, by counterposing to it the creation of an independent Palestinian state in contiguous territory.

“But the detestation of Israel on the ostensibly revolutionary left, and way beyond it – in the Guardian ‘liberal left’, for instance – is out of all proportion to what Israel does, as compared to other evils in the world.”

Sean Matgamna continues his masterly, Marxist demolition of Moshe Machover.

And, as if to prove Matgamna’s point, here’s an excerpt from the editorial in today’s Morning Star (daily paper of the remnants of the old Communist Party of Britain):

“What is it about being a superannuated, multimillionaire former member of the most famous pop group in the world tthat drives Paul McCartney to spew forth drivel about wanting to ‘help the peace process through music?’

“Does he think that posing for the cameras sporting a quirky grin and giving a peace V-sign with both hands is the vital ingredient missing from a Middle East peace settlement?

“Does he imagine that there is no material base for the conflict that shows no sign of resolution after 60 years since the establishment of the expansionist, racist, colonial state of Israel?”

Note how those glib terms “expansionist, racist, colonial” are used by these superannuated old Stalinists, without one single, solitary shred of explanation let alone evidence, as though they are self evidently true. Note too, how these miserable hypocrites, usually only too willing to praise any gesture about “peace”, from any quarter, suddely start sneering at McCartney when he talks about peace during a visit to Israel.

Interestingly, the same editorial goes on to talk about “the widespread but usually unspoken cultural boycott of Israel“: an “unspoken” boycott! How undemocratic and sinister is that?

McCartney, by the way, had planned to visit the music school (usually praised on the left as a progressive institution) set up in Rammallah by Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim, but had to cancel the visit because of a protest by some Palestinians (I’ve no idea how representative or spontaneous the protesters were). McCartney also faced protests by extreme right wing Jewish groups.

But to return to the Morning Star‘s increasingly hysterical demonisation of Israel (which not all CPB’ers agree with by the way – time to speak up, Mary Davis): it has a history – one that ought to worry anyone on the left who recoils from Stalinism…

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Protest against clerical fascism this Sunday in London!

September 25, 2008 at 1:14 pm (anti-semitism, fascism, Human rights, Iran, islamism, israel, Jim D, palestine)

From Sacha Ismail:

Oppose the Al-Quds Day demo!

Image

Don’t let Iran’s theocracy exploit the Palestinian cause for its own ends!

Solidarity with workers, women and students in Iran!

In 1979 Ayatollah Khomeni, leader of the Islamist counter-revolution which crushed the popular uprising against the regime of the Shah of Iran, called for an “international day of Al-Quds” (ie Jerusalem). This day, supposedly in solidarity with with the people of Palestine, is in fact used to promote international support for Iran’s Islamic republic – a viciously misogynistic, homophobic, anti-semitic regime which is currently engaged in a crack-down against workers, women, students, democrats and left-wing opponents.

In London, we will be counter-demonstrating to say:

*Down with the Islamic Republic, solidarity with workers, women and students in Iran

* No to war, military attacks or sanctions against Iran

* Genuine solidarity with the Palestininians, not anti-semitic demagogy

Come and join British and Iranian trade unionists, socialist, student activists and feminists to make solidarity with workers and other democratic forces across the Middle East – including Palstine, Israel, Iraq and Iran.

Meet 1.45, Sunday 28th September, Piccadilly Circus, London. For more information email

UK@cisstudents.com

More background info here.

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From those wonderful folks who brought you the Socialist Alliance…and Respect…

September 24, 2008 at 12:08 am (Champagne Charlie, left, Respect, SWP)

Lenny “Seymour’s Tomb” Fuckinidjeet,  tells us:

Meanwhile, Red Pepper has reported from the Convention of the Left. It seems to have gone well so far:

A contributor from Permanent Revolution caused even more consternation when he said: ‘the elephant in the room … [pause for dramatic effect] … is Respect. It collapsed, that’s the truth of the matter. And before that we had the Socialist Alliance.’

‘Why did they fail? We need to ask the question or we risk repeating their mistakes.’

Then Lindsey German was up, doing a decent job of tranquilising that elephant. ‘We can all put our hands up to what we’ve done wrong,’ she said, ‘but there’s no point in sitting here and saying 20 years ago we fell out over this question or two years ago we fell out over that question. We have to find a method of working that unites us and doesn’t divide us.’

Nick Wrack, from the other wing of Respect, shared the sentiment. ‘I’m prepared to debate and discuss what went wrong,’ he said, ‘but what is far more important is that there is more that unites us than separates us.’

‘The working class out there is facing a terrible situation and it’s going to worsen. We don’t need to make differences over tactical issues a dividing line at this moment.’”

Where have we heard this before?

And would you buy a second-hand political programme from either “Comrade” German or “Comrade” Wrack? And do you believe that either of them give a flying fuck about the “situation” of the “working class out there”?

No: neither do I.

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