“The young people of Britain do not need leaders, and the new wave of activists has no interest in the ideological bureaucracy of the old left”
Laurie Penny is the latest in a long line of “revolution as play” types who don’t really want any radical change whatsoever. It’s about posturing. Read her article again and notice that she makes no proposal whatsoever for an alternative vision of society – or even the contemplation of such a vision. It’s all about “making a statement” – as if the purpose of the movement itself should be about making a lot of noise without going beyond that.
To say the new activists have “no interest in the ideological bureaucracy of the old left”, without proposing any alternative “left” they may have “faith” in, is to essentially endorse what she perceives as their faith in the neo-liberal status-quo.
Put simply: what is she proposing? That the protests remain about smashing things up in Parliament Square and then going home?
All very well; but like I said: revolution as play.
Then I realised that Engels had already answered Ms Penny one hundred and thirty eight years ago, dealing with Bakunin (whose ideas were identical to hers):
(Bakunin wanted the International to be, not an organization for political struggle but a copy of the ideal society of the future, with no leaders and no authority, for authority = state = an absolute evil. The authority of the majority over the minority also ceases. Every individual and every community is autonomous. But as to how is any society to function, unless each gives up some of his, or her, autonomy?)
Engels: “Bakunin, who up till 1868 had intrigued against the International, joined it after he had made a fiasco at the Berne Peace Conference and at once began to conspire within it against the General Council. Bakunin has a peculiar theory of his own, a medley of Proudhonism and communism, the chief point of which is in the first place that he does not regard capital, and therefore the class contradiction between capitalists and wage earners which has arisen through social development, as the main evil to be abolished–instead he regards the state as the main evil. While the great mass of the Social-Democratic workers hold our view that state power is nothing more than the organisation with which the ruling classes, landlords and capitalists have provided themselves in order to protect their social prerogatives, Bakunin maintains that it is the state which has created capital, that the capitalist has his capital only by favour of the state. As, therefore, the state is the chief evil, it is above all the state which must be done away with and then capitalism will go to hell of itself. We, on the contrary say: do away with capital, the appropriation of the whole means of production in the hands of the few, and the state will fall away of itself. The difference is an essential one. Without a previous social revolution the abolition of the state is nonsense; the abolition of capital is in itself the social revolution and involves a change in the whole method of production. Further, however, as for Bakunin the state is the main evil, nothing must be done which can maintain the existence of any state, whether it be a republic, a monarchy or whatever it may be. Hence therefore complete abstention from all politics. To perpetrate a political action, and especially to take part in an election, would be a betrayal of principle. The thing to do is to conduct propaganda, abuse the state, organise, and when all the workers are won over, i.e., the majority, depose the authorities, abolish the state and replace it by the organisation of the International. This great act, with which the millennium begins, is called social liquidation.
“All this sounds extremely radical, and is so simple that it can be learnt by heart in five minutes ; that is why this theory of Bakunin’s has also speedily found favour in Spain and Italy, among young lawyers, doctors and other doctrinaires.
“But the mass of the workers will never allow themselves to be persuaded that the public affairs of their country are not also their own affairs; they are by nature political and whoever tries to make out to them that they should leave politics alone will in the end get left in the lurch. To preach that the workers should in all circumstances abstain from politics is to drive them into the arms of the priests or the bourgeois republicans.
“Now as, according to Bakunin, the International is not to be formed for political struggle but in order that it may at once replace the old state organisation as soon as social liquidation takes place, it follows that it must come as near as possible to the Bakunist ideal of the society of the future. In this society there will above all be no authority, for authority = state = an absolute evil. (How these people propose to run a factory, work a railway or steer a ship without having in the last resort one deciding will, without a unified direction, they do not indeed tell us.) The authority of the majority over the minority also ceases. Every individual and every community is autonomous, but as to how a society, even of only two people, is possible unless each gives up some of his autonomy, Bakunin again remains silent. The International, then, must also be reorganised according to this model. Every section, and in every section every individual, is autonomous. To hell with the Basle resolutions, which bestowed upon the General Council a pernicious authority demoralising even to itself!
“Even if this authority is voluntarily bestowed it must cease simply because it is authority.
“Here you have in brief the main points of the swindle.”
Cuno Theodor (born 1847). German Social-Democrat. Engineer. Expelled from the country at the beginning of the seventies, took part in the organisation of a section of the International in Milan and stood for the line of the General Council. At the Hague Congress (1872) he was chairman of the commission which decided on the expulsion of Bakunin from the First International. Cuno later emigrated to America, where he collaborated in the New York People’s Paper.
Courtesy of Marxists Internet Archive.
Hal Draper is also brilliant on “The myth of anarchist ‘libertarianism’“, that Penny ought to read.
July 24 1921 – Dec 28 2010
Billy - who seems to have been a hell of a good guy – in illustrious company:
He also wrote this civil rights anthem, made famous by Nina Simone (and Barry Norman!):
More on Billy here.
H/t: Sackcloth and Ashes
[At this time of austerity many of us neverthless feel obliged to hold a party. So here are some useful tips from Kingsley Amis, the master of mean-spirited parsimony and calculated vindictiveness at party-time]:
The point here is not simply to stint your guests on quality and quantity – any fool can pre-pour Moroccan red into burgundy bottles, or behave as if all knowledge of the existence of drink has been suddenly excised from his brain at 10 p.m. – but to screw them while seeming, at any rate to their wives, to have done them rather well. Note the limitation: your ideal objective is a quarrel on the way home between each husband and wife, he disparaging your hospitality, she saying you were very sweet and thoughtful and he is just a frustrated drunk. Points contributing to this end are marked *.
* 1. Strike at once by, on their arrival, presenting each lady with a rose and each gent with bugger-all. Rub this in by complimenting each lady on her appearance and saying in a stentorian undertone to the odd gent, “I heard you hadn’t been so well” (=pissed as a lizard every day) or “You’re looking much better than when I saw you last” (ie with that emperor-sized hangover).
2. Vital requirement: prepare pre- and post-dinner drinks in some undiscoverable pantry or broom-cupboard well away from the main scene. This will not only screen your niggardliness; it will also make the fetching of each successive round look like a slight burden, and *will cast an unfavourable limelight on any individual determined to wrest additional drinks out of you. Sit in a specially deep easy-chair, and practice getting out of it with a mild effort and, later in the evening, a just-audible groan, though beware of overdoing this.
3. As regards the pre-dinner period, procedures vary. The obvious one is to offer only one sort of drink, a “cup” or “punch” made of cheap red wine, soda water, a glass of cooking sherry if you can plunge that far, and a lot of fresh fruit to give an illusion of lavishness. Say you invented it and add menacingly that it has more of a kick than might be expected. Serve in small glasses.
The cold-weather varient of this – same sort of wine, water, small glass of cooking brandy heated in a saucepan, pinch of nutmeg on top of each glass or mug – is more trouble, but it has two great advantages. One is that you can turn the trouble to positive account by spending nearly all your time either at the cooker, conscientiously making sure the stuff goes on being hot enough, or walking from the cooker - much more time than you spend actually giving people drinks. The other gain is that after a couple of doses your guests will be pouring with sweat and largely unable to take any more. (Bank up the fire or turn up the heating to aid this effect, remembering to reduce the temperature well before the kicking-out stage approaches.)
If, faced with either of these, any old-stager insists on, say, Scotch, go to your pantry and read the paper for a few minutes before filling the order. * Hand the glass over with plenty of emphasis, perhaps bawling as you do so, “One large Scotch whisky delivered as ordered, sah!”
Should you feel, as you would have reason to, that this approach is getting a little shiny with use, set your teeth and give everybody a more or less proper drink. You can salve your pocket, however, by adding a tremendous lot of ice to fill up the glass (troublesome, but cheaper than alcohol), or, in the case of martinis, by dropping in an olive the size of a baby’s fist (see Thunderball, by Ian Fleming, chapter 14). Cheat on later drinks as follows: in preparing a gin and tonic, for instance, put the tonic and ice and thick slice of lemon in first and pour on them a timbleful of gin over the back of a spoon, so that it will linger near the surface and give a strong-tasting first sip, which is the one that counts. A friend of mine, whose mother-in-law gets a little excited after a couple of drinks, goes one better in preparing her third by pouring tonic on ice, wetting a fingertip with gin and passing it round the rim of the glass, but victims of this procedure must be selected with extreme care. Martinis should be as cold as before, but with plenty of melted ice. Whiskies are more difficult. Use the back-of-the-spoon technique with coloured glasses, or use then darkest brand you can find. Water the sherries.
4. Arrange dinner early, and see that the food is plentiful, however cheap it is. You can get away with not serving wine with the first course, no matter what it may be. When the main course is on the table, “suddenly realise” you have not opened the wine, and proceed to do so with a lot of cork-popping. The wine itself will not, of course, be French or German; let us call it Ruritanian Gold Label. Pour it with ceremony, explaining that you and your wife (*especially she) “fell in love with it” on holiday there and will be “interested” in people’s reactions. When these turn out to consist of polite, or barely polite, silence, either say nostalgically that to appreciate it perhaps you have to have drunk a lot of it with that marvellous local food under the sun, etc., or announce bluffly, “Doesn’t travel well, does it? Doesn’t travel.” Judge your audience.
5. Sit over the remains of dinner as long as you dare or can bear to, then take the company off to the drawing-room and make great play with doling out coffee. By this stage (a vague, prolonged one anyhow), a good half-hour of abrupt and total forgetfulness about the very idea of drink can profitably be risked. At its end “suddenly realize” you have imposed a drought and offer brandy, explaining a good deal less than half apologetically that you have no cognac, only a “rather exceptional” Armagnac. This, of course, produced with due slowness from your pantry, is a watered-down cooking brandy from remote parts of France or from South Africa – a just-potable that will already, did they but know it, be familiar to those of your guests who have drunk “Armagnac” at the average London restaurant. * Ask the ladies if they would care to try a glass of Strelsauvada, a “rather obscure” Ruritanian liqueur made from rotten figs with almond-skin flavouring which admittedly can “play you up” if you are not used to it. They will all say no and think highly of you for the offer.
6. Play out time with groan-preceded, tardily-produced, ice-crammed Scotches, remembering the recourse of saying loudly, * “I find myself that a glass of cold beer [out of the cheapest quart bottles from the pub] is the best thing at this time of night.”
7. Along the lines of sticking more fruit than any sane person could want in the pre-dinner “punch” or “cup”, put out a lot of pseudo-luxuries like flood-damaged truncheon-sized cigars, bulk-bought * after-dinner mints, bankrupt-stock * vari-coloured cigarettes, etc.
8. Your own drinks. These must obviously not be allowed to fall below any kind of accustomed level, however cruel the deprivations you force on your guests. You will naturally refresh yourself with periodic nips in your pantry, but going thither at all often may make undesirable shags think, even say, that you ought to be bringing thence a drink for them. So either choose between a darkly tinted glass (“an old friend of mine in Venice gave it me – apparently it’s rather valuable, ha, ha, ha”) and a silver cup of some sort (“actually it’s my christening-mug from T.S. Eliot-believe it or not, ha, ha,ha,”) which you stick inseperably to and can undetectably fill with neat whisky, or boldly use a plain glass containing one of those light-coloured blends known, at any rate in the U.S.A., as a “husband’s Scotch” – “Why, hell, Mamie, just take a look; you can see it’s near as damn pure water,” and hell, Jim, Jack, Joe and the rest of the crowd.
9. If you think that all or most of the above is mere satirical fantasy, you cannot have been around much yet.
Cross-posted from Amnesty International
Urgent life-saving appeal launched
Amnesty International is calling on the Iranian authorities to halt the execution of a Kurdish law student scheduled for 26 December, and for the authorities to commute his death sentence.
The lawyer of Habibollah Latifi, a law student at Azad University in the south-western province of Ilam, has been informed by the Iranian authorities that Latifi’s execution will take place on 26 December at Sanandaj Prison, Kordestan, in western Iran.
Habibollah Latifi was arrested on 23 October 2007 in Sanandaj, the Kordestan provincial capital, north-western Iran. His trial was held behind closed doors and his lawyer was not allowed to be present to defend him. Nor was his family allowed to attend the trial. On 3 July 2008 Latifi was sentenced to death and his death sentence was upheld by the Appeal Court in Sanandaj on 18 February 2009.
It is not known whether the Iranian authorities have notified Habibollah Latifi’s family of his planned execution. Amnesty has launched an urgent appeal to save Habibollah Latifi’s life. Please take action now
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Director Malcom Smart said:
“We are urgently appealing to the Iranian authorities to show clemency, halt the imminent execution of Habibollah Latifi, and commute his death sentence.
“While we recognise that governments have a responsibility to bring to justice those who commit crimes, this must be done according to international standards for fair trial.
“It is clear that Habibollah Latifi did not receive a fair trial by international standards, which makes the news of his impending execution all the more abhorrent.
“Amnesty International is unconditionally opposed to the death penalty – the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment – in all cases.”
Poor recording quality, weird film (what’s the significance of that bridge?), but…the wildest, swingingest version of ‘Jingle Bells’ ever. Thomas ‘Fats’ Waller in 1936. Fats and the boys were feeling no pain that day.
by Robert Bridges
When men were all asleep the snow came flying,
In large white flakes falling on the city brown,
Stealthily and perpetually settling and loosely lying,
Hushing the latest traffic of the drowsy town;
Deadening, muffling, stifling its murmurs failing;
Lazily and incessantly floating down and down:
Silently sifting and veiling road, roof and railing;
Hiding difference, making unevenness even,
Into angles and crevices softly drifting and sailing.
All night it fell, and when full inches seven
It lay in the depth of its uncompacted lightness,
The clouds blew off from a high and frosty heaven;
And all woke earlier for the unaccustomed brightness
Of the winter dawning, the strange unheavenly glare:
The eye marvelled – marvelled at the dazzling whiteness;
The ear hearkened to the stillness of the solemn air;
No sound of wheel rumbling nor of foot falling,
And the busy morning cries came thin and spare.
Then boys I heard, as they went to school, calling,
They gathered up the crystal manna to freeze
Their tongues with tasting, their hands with snowballing;
Or rioted in a drift, plunging up to the knees;
Or peering up from under the white-mossed wonder!’
‘O look at the trees!’ they cried, ‘O look at the trees!’
With lessened load a few carts creak and blunder,
Following along the white deserted way,
A country company long dispersed asunder:
When now already the sun, in pale display
Standing by Paul’s high dome, spread forth below
His sparkling beams, and awoke the stir of the day.
For now doors open, and war is waged with the snow;
And trains of sombre men, past tale of number,
Tread long brown paths, as toward their toil they go:
But even for them awhile no cares encumber
Their minds diverted; the daily word is unspoken,
The daily thoughts of labour and sorrow slumber
At the sight of the beauty that greets them, for the charm they have broken.
“This is Louis Satchmo Armstrong talkin’ to all the kids from all over the world…”
The last thing he ever recorded, btw.