A blogroll of honour

August 30, 2006 at 10:22 pm (Uncategorized)

Hmm. Was having a think about what blogs I like to read, and skimming my links list. So, in light of the book thing, I thought I’d give some people a drumroll.

I’ve got pretty eclectic taste in political blogs, but I’d guess my top ten (in no particular order) goes something like this:

1) The legends that are Stroppy and Louise. Two feminists who truly understand the politics and ethics behind the word, and whose blog mixes wit, humour, light and heavy subject matter in a way that so many who take themselves more seriously fail to do. Diamonds, both of ’em.

2) One has to mention the one and only Mike and his little red page – if you ever wondered what a socialist novel in the Wodehousian style, co-written by Stephen Fry and David Lodge would look like, then give Mike’s blog a look: he’s living that dream. A top fellow, and one who’s always welcome at mine and Denham’s table for a few foaming pints of real ale.

3) Darren, the SPGB ingrate – how does one so young and possessed of such an acerbic wit, living the high life in New York, remain a member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain? Maybe he’s a man of high principle, maybe he’s just old before his time. Whichever, his blog is dead good, and you should have a gander at it.

4) The Grand Old Man of lefty independent-minded semi-trot types, Cap’n Dave Osler. Dave’s a man who’s forgotten more about the left than I will ever learn, and who writes about it in a pretty snappy way too. His blog is a mine of information about goings on in the labour movement and on the left, and one of the few genuinely non-sectarian forums for debate as well. Check it out.

5) The Daily Kos. Lamont 52%. Lieberman 48%. Need I give you further reason to read it?

6) Samizdata. Not a choice that exactly fits in with my other ones, but quite apart from being IMO the most achingly cool-looking site on the UK political scene, this right-libertarian blog actually contains some interesting debates, and does tackle issues that the left sometimes shies away from.

7) Broder. He writes some fascinating and deeply thought-out stuff, especially about Latin America, on which he’s a great source of info and debate. And what’s more he’s only 12 years old. Scary intelligent AWL boy. And then of course there’s the AWL blogger from the AWL site, the great Janine. She should post more often, because when she does it’s wonderful stuff. But then she’s usually far too busy fighting capitalism.

8) The New(ish) Labour bloggies, Tom and Adele – you two are nice folks; you should really get a bit more radical, but you’ll do!

9) Renegade Eye and the Fiskers of Flirty Fisking both deserve a mention as well, because both do something a little differently. Renegade runs a great big networking hub of a Trotty, Jazzy blog, and conducts some fascinating debates along the way that are beyond the run of the mill. And the Fiskers are Eustonites who I’m not nasty about. Which means they gotta have something special.

10) Last, but by no means least, this list would not be complete without Harry’s Eustonite Place and Lenny Lenin’s Coffin. You may love one or the other, or hate both of them (a fair number of people do), and if you look at them sideways they do kinda look exactly the same, but either way the enlightenment stockbrokers and the SWP fratboys are essential reading.

OK so that was a bit more than ten blogs. So I cheated. Read ’em all anyway, when you’ve got a bit of time to kill. You won’t regret it.

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419 Scammer!

August 30, 2006 at 8:29 am (Uncategorized)

Someone kindly sent me a new 419 scam email today, which I felt compelled to share with the world:

Dear Friend,

How are you today and business in your country?

I am Mr. Kato Yoshida, Bank Manager of Tokyo Mitsubishi ufj Bank, Tokyo Branch.

I have a business proposal for you,if you are intrested,you can contact me through My Private E-mail Address katoyoshida1912@addressdeleted

Awaiting your urgent reply.

Yours Sincerely,

Mr. Kato Yoshida.

Yeah, and I’m really Leo DeCaprio in a fat suit.

(By the way, just in case anyone reading this is gullible beyond belief, this man is NOT the manager of any bank in Tokyo; he is an email scammer seeking to defraud you of money. I’ve deleted his email address to protect the vulnerable. So don’t blame me if you’re so bloody stupid as to try and contact him. You’ve been warned)

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OK, I’ve been tagged for the book thing…

August 29, 2006 at 12:18 pm (Uncategorized)

… by Stroppy. So here goes:

1. One book that changed your life – Murray Bookchin “The Ecology of Freedom”. I don’t agree with all of the politics in it, but it’s what convinced me that a thinking radicalism is possible without simply becoming right-wing.

2. One book that you’ve read more than once – Ken Macleod “The Star Fraction” – thoughtful and fun, a rare combination.

3. One book that you’d want on a desert island – the Dune books (all of them). Geeky but they’d keep me entertained.

4. One book that made you laugh – “Gerry Healy: A Revolutionary Life” – I never read the whole thing but the title alone had me rolling on the floor, howling with laughter until tears streamed from my eyes.

5. One book that made you cry – Donald Woods “Biko”. With sadness, anger and joy at different places.

6. One book you wish you had written – Horkheimer and Adorno “The Dialectic of Enlightenment”, if only to see my name on 10,000 undergraduate reading lists.

7. One book you wish had never been written – the entire Chick Lit genre. If I have to see another novel about a funny, middle class girl living in Hampstead who drinks chardonnay and falls over a lot but ends up marrying the handsome writer next door after a series of amusing japes, I may explode.

8. One book you’re currently reading – James Carville and Mary Matalin “All’s Fair”; what can I say, I’m a US politics junkie!

9. One book you have been meaning to read – James P Cannon “The Struggle for a Proletarian Party” – I actually bought a copy some years ago in a fit of revolutionary ardour, but have never yet mustered the will…

Right… Tags: Denham, Broder, Mike, Darren and Janine!

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When left-wingers go bad

August 28, 2006 at 10:42 pm (Uncategorized)

You hear a lot of talk at the moment from blogosphere right-wingers and some on the pro-war left, insinuating that groups on the left, particularly some of those groups within it that opposed the war in Iraq, are comparable with, or accusable of support for, fascism. Whilst I don’t particularly want to get into that debate on this thread (we all know where we stand on it, and rehearsing old debate over again won’t get us very far), it did raise one question in my mind, which was originally brought up by our occasional commenter Daggi, on a different thread.

One group that actually did go all the way from Trotskyism to fascism, was that led by Lyndon LaRouche, aka Lyn Marcus, formerly a member of the SWP-USA. A former leftist, he has now been denounced as a fascist by many people across the political spectrum, and his views (convincingly on my reading) deconstructed to that effect, in print and on the web. A particularly good, and devastating, historical critique of the LaRouche group was done by Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates, which as the name suggests is a liberal academic/political outfit based in the USA. “Fascism Wrapped in an American Flag” is probably the finest and most concise piece of work on the LaRouche group that I’ve ever read, and it should serve as a warning to those on the left who think that subsuming one’s political principles to reaction in an effort to adapt to new political circumstances, does not eventually lead one to change beyond recognition. In LaRouche’s case, his group seemingly quickly became something horrendous, taking increasingly bizarre political positions and being widely denounced as a right-wing political cult. It is to be hoped that history does not repeat itself, and that no more groups or individuals ever make the same political journey that LaRouche did.

Anyway, to return to Daggi’s question. It’s known that LaRouche operatives are around in Europe, in particular in Germany. But did they ever get to any meaningful level in Britain? I’d be delighted to hear that the answer is “no”, by the way.

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George in Lebanon 2: the squib gets damper

August 27, 2006 at 10:29 pm (Uncategorized)

As already promised, I had another listen to George Galloway broadcasting from Lebanon this evening, expecting that either he’d crack and say something offensive (he didn’t, particularly, although he does apparently thinks the Israelis poisoned Yasser Arafat – which is weird, albeit not offensive per se), or that alternatively, he’d be more impressive than I had expected. The latter having been true yesterday, I was expecting the former today.

The reality was that neither happened.

He basically did a show that he could have done from London, only instead he was talking from Lebanon via the Talksport UK studios. He took a few calls from partisan pro-Israelis who called in with the same scripted questions as yesterday – “why don’t you report from Haifa” being a favourite. He bashed them all, as you’d expect from the guy whose colleague in London controls the “mute” button. He took some more calls, from people who fulsomely agreed with him. He fulsomely agreed with them in return.

But so what?

Galloway could do the show that happened tonight in his sleep. The only thing differentiating it from the show he does every week, was that he happened to be doing it from Lebanon rather than London. The nuts and bolts of it were otherwise virtually identical. Basically, the substantive differences were that he got some notoriety for broadcasting it from Lebanon, and presumably also that it cost TalkSport the price of a plane ticket.

If this is ground breaking “free speech radio” (and incidentally, Galloway says he gets a fairer “crack of the whip” from commercial broadcasters than he does from the “Bush and Blair Corporation”), then I can quite happily give it a miss.

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Our notoriety spreads. Maybe.

August 27, 2006 at 8:07 am (Uncategorized)

Apparently Shiraz Socialist is now showing up on pkblogs, a site that uses a nifty bit of code to by-pass state enforced blocks on websites. This possibly has something to do with blanket bans on Blogspot URLs by some ISPs in India, Iran, Pakistan and China, as these are the countries whose bans pkblogs gets around.

Unless of course we’ve really upset someone in high places in one of those four states, in which case I’m delighted. Furthermore, if you know that’s the case then let me know more; my email contact address on this site is open to you.

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Big George, Live from Beirut

August 26, 2006 at 9:17 pm (Uncategorized)

George Galloway has just finished his first of two live shows from Beirut… and it was quite interesting. I’d have to say with all honesty that he was nowhere near as bad as I was expecting him to be – the usual demagogic manner of speaking aside, he was quite effective, and he made a few pertinent points. Some of which surprised me.

For instance, I never thought I would hear George Galloway come right out and say that “People born in Israel have rights there now”. I’m glad he does think this, but it surprised me to hear him say it. It also suprised me to hear him appear to support the PLO position on a Palestinian state – which is for a state of Palestine on the 1967 borders, with its capital in East Jerusalem. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that too – although perhaps I’m not as surprised by it as Galloway’s gofers in the SWP will have been.

He also thought that “Sky (News) in particular had a pretty good war”. Which is interesting, given his recent encounters with them on the subject of Lebanon.

The main bum note was the ex-colonial wing commander who served as the “guest” on the show, hanging about in the studio with Galloway’s pal James Whale and rambling on about how peaceful things were during “the mandate”. What the point of him was, other than to go on about the Stern Gang (who, it should be fairly obvious, did not participate in the recent Lebanese conflict), is beyond me.

Whale also allowed on a fair number of anti-Galloway callers, including some who were possibly a bit over-virulent, for instance a chap called “David”, who called Galloway a “Goebbels talking in an Arabic beer hall”… which just goes to show that sometimes it might be worth some of us remembering that not all fanatics are pro-Galloway.

Overall George, old man, it didn’t have me swooning with admiration; it was never going to. But it was a lot better than I was expecting. I shall listen with interest to the second installment tomorrow.

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The Problems of "Multiculturalism" and Ruth Kelly…

August 25, 2006 at 9:32 pm (Anti-Racism, Jim D, multiculturalism)

What the hell is “multiculturalism”? In my experience, the term simply means “willing to get along with your neighbours, regardless of where they come from”. In which case, of course, every decent person should be in favour of “multiculturalism”.

However, the term (I understand), also has another meaning: that no-one has the right to impose their social/cultural values upon anyone else. Simply because we in the West are (for instance) opposed to (say) female circumcision or in favour of one-person-one vote democracy, we have no right to impose those concepts upon peoples whose “culture” does not encompass such ideas. There are no” universal values”; bollocks! Socialists of the Marxists tradition are all in favour of “imposing” our “values” upon people. In general, we’re in favour of doing so by persuasion, rather than by force. However, we do believe that our ideas are better than other peoples’, and we do seek to win people over, especially from ignorent, reactionary religious ideas.

That’s why Ruth Kelly’s statement today, about multiculturalism, (Ruth Kelly is the British “Communities Secretary”), gave me to pause for thought.

My first thought was, “this woman is a member of Opus Dei, the Catholic organisation that says all non-Catholics are doomed to an eternity in torment. She’s also a member of a government that actively promotes religious schools: so what the hell is she doing lecturing the rest of us about “integration” and “cohesion”?

It is also, clearly, the case that the Blair government seeks to pander to white working class and middle class hostility to immigration in general. And, of course, their immigration policies remain a racist disgrace.

However, after all that has been said, the fact remains that “multiculturalism” has been a disaster for working class people of all ethnic backgrounds in Britain: not least black and ethnic minority people. Funding (eg; SRB 6) for community projects actively promotes ethnic and religious difference between communities. The end result of this was seen earlier this year when Afro Caribbean and Asian people fought each other in Handsworth, Birmingham, earlier this year. If Trevor Phillips (of the Commission for Racial Equality) and Ruth Kelly are now saying we need to re-evaluate multi-culturalism, I think the serious left should agree : we need an approach that emphasises unity and human solidarity, rather than difference. But difference is what government policy has been emphasising up until now. Predictably, those who have a vested interest in promoting racial difference (like the “National Assembly Against Racism”) , have objected to any re-assessment of multiculturalism. But socialists should take an independent, class-based view: and just because the dreadful Ruth Kelly and the careerist Trevor Phillps now attack multiculturalism…it doesn’t mean that they’re wrong. Socialists should, indeed, emphasise unity over division.

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When Eustonites Attack!

August 25, 2006 at 8:50 am (Uncategorized)

Having recently advertised the splendid article by a Blairite pensions minister which provides some of the theoretical backbone for Euston’s new social-democratic political project, the heroes and heroines of the Eustonite Harry’s Place site have now gone into full-throated war cries at the latest horrific enemy of enlightement progressivism.

Who are these barbarians that so rile our heroes? Why of course it’s Greenpeace, who have committed the cardinal sin of taking the piss out of city bankers who drive 4 x 4s. According to HP posters and commenters, variously, this gross act of indecency makes our greenie chums “modern day misanthropes” and “fascists”. These accusations, of course, coming from the people who brought you support for the war on Iraq, vitriolic attacks on the orthodox left as a daily obsession etc.

Any Eustonites who want to remind me why your project is a progressive one, the comments box is all yours.

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All Bosses Are Bastards

August 23, 2006 at 11:33 pm (Uncategorized)

I must thank Will of “A General Theory of Rubbish”, for drawing my attention to the following. And also for the above title, which I simply couldn’t improve upon.

“The worst excuse for not paying the national minimum wage was ‘He doesn’t deserve it – he’s a total waste of space’. This was followed by: ‘She only wanted £3 per hour’ and ‘I didn’t think the workers were worth te national minimum wage’. ‘I didn’t think it applied to small employers’ was also on the list, and ‘He’s disabled’.

“Other excuses included ‘They can’t cope on their own and it’s more than they would get in their own country’, and ‘The workers can’t speak English'”.

All the above comes from an official report by the Customs Service and Paymaster General Dawn Primarolo. And a hat-tip to Will, despite his continuing practice of calling my colleague the Priest a “wanker”.

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