Social Attitudes Survey

January 25, 2007 at 8:18 am (Uncategorized)

Yesterday’s report on the results of the social attitudes survey which were printed in the Guardian were very interesting indeed. Most intriguing for me was the figure citing that 57% of the population consider themselves “working class” versus 37% who consider themselves “middle class”. While the latter figure has increased, the fact that 57% consider themselves working class in today’s climate is to me rather astonishing.

One of the primary reasons I find this surprising is that union density is only 26%. The other is that the postmodernist and Thatcherite legacy of the “classless society” which continues to be propped up by the media and the upper classes has failed to change the percptions of the people on the ground. Further, there is a real disconnect here between the large percentage of the population of those who cosider themselves working class and the lack of support for New Labour. Worryingly, the decline in New Labour and indentification of it as a working class party has led some of the self identified working class to support the far right BNP. In Billy Bragg’s new book “Progressive Patriot” he takes up this issue head on and should be compulsory reading for those on the left seeking to offer an alternative to the disillusioned members of our class.

Two additional positive statistics show that despite the fear mongering in the press and the popularity of Gloria Hunniford’s Heaven and Earth show (sarcasm), there was a marked “decline in religious identity” according to the Guardian, “with more than two-thirds of people (69%) saying that they do not belong to a religion or have never attended a religious ceremony”. This figure was only 24% in the swinging 60’s.

Finally, there is a decline in “Britishness” and an increase in “Englishness” with 44% down from 52% considering themselves British and 40% considering themselves English up from 31% under ten years ago. Reading Bragg’s book, it becomes clear that the increase in the self-identification as “English”, while it may not intrinsically seem so to those on the far left, could actually be a very positive development, not least because it may indicate a distancing of identification with the empire. Bragg’s point is that Englishness can be claimed to be progressive and in fact has a progressive history in a way that “Britishness” doesn’t. Whether or not one agrees with him – it is worth thinking about.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Sanctimonious twit and hypocrite

January 24, 2007 at 9:19 pm (Uncategorized)

I used to regard Rowan Williams as a particularly irritating, whinnying, sactimonious twit whose half-baked opinions on matters he had no particular authority to pronounce upon, were given far too much coverage by the media. He was, however (I used to think) essentially harmless and perhaps even benign.

In the light of his intervention over the ‘gay adoption’ row I have revised that opinion. He is, indeed, a whinnying, sanctimonious twit. But he’s also exposed himself as a hypocrite of the first water. Together with his C of E sidekick John Sentamu (Archbish of York), he has backed the Catholic campaign to deny gay couples equal rights with heterosexuals when it comes to adoption. Sentamu and Williams have written to Tony Blair:

“In legislating to protect and promote the rights of particular groups, the government is faced with the delicate but important challenge of not thereby creating the conditions within which others feel their rights have been ignored or sacrificed, or in which the dictates of personal conscience are put at risk.

“The rights of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation, however well meaning”.

Has Williams – supposedly an erudite and thoughtful man – thought through the implications of that argument? If we are to allow exemptions to anti-discrimination legislation on grounds of “personal conscience”, then the very basis and rationale of such legislation is fundamentally undermined. And who’s “personal conscience” should be afforded such privilege? Just Christians? What about people who sincerely believe that the Race Relations Act is a threat to their belief in racial purity? Or others (myself included) who have a principled, philosophical objection to the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations? Do we all get exemption from the requirements of the law, if our consciences are sufficiently disturbed?

Unfortunately, Opus Dei supporter Ruth Kelly and her god-bothering boss Mr Blair, seem to be only too willing to appease the Catholic bigots and their C of E fellow-travellers, and are desperately trying to broker a compromise. That Kelly was ever let anywhere near gay rights legislation is a scandal and a disgrace.

Anyway, back to that craven hypocrite Williams: it turns out (according to today’s Guardian), that he has a “longstanding friendship with a Welsh gay Anglican priest, the Rev Martin Reynolds, who with his partner has raised a boy with severe learning difficulties”.

So where exactly does this preposterous man Williams stand on the issue, beyond claiming (quietly) that some of his best friends are gay adoptive parents?

Permalink 1 Comment

Social Libertarianism Rules

January 24, 2007 at 12:01 am (Uncategorized)

Follwing from a variety of complaints, moderation is off. You asked for it, kids.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Brother Hrant is dead, and yet not one of you said a thing

January 23, 2007 at 11:48 pm (Uncategorized)

Hrant Dink was shot this week. And not one of you (yes I mean you Dave, Stroppy, Lenny Lenin, Harry, all of you bloggers) said a word. Wow, did the dead Christian Armenian who didn’t fit your “sound line on anti imperialism” also not fit your political model? I mean, all he was, was the last great conciliator from the victim community of the largest genocide in the 20th Century before or since the Holocaust, who was actually willing to make his peace with the host community that perpetrated it?

Call yourselves the “left”?

Get yourselves together. And begin to understand what being on the left is all about.

Permalink Leave a Comment

‘Morning Star’ forgets its own history

January 22, 2007 at 6:46 pm (Uncategorized)

On this day (January 22) in 1941 the ‘Daily Worker’ – forerunner of the present ‘Morning Star’, was banned by the British government. You’d think, wouldn’t you. that the ‘Star‘ would wish to commemorate this heroic episode in its history, but – for some reason – there’s not a mention of it in today’s edition.

Fortunately, the ‘Guardian’ has a better memory, and even republishes its leader comment of the day. Maybe it explains why the ‘Star’ is now so coy about the whole episode:

“No one likes the idea of the suppression of a newspaper even during a war, and least of all the suppression of a newspaper that is the sole organ of a legal political party (the British Communist Party – JD).

“Yet no one who has read the ‘Daily Worker’ and ‘The Week’ during the war can doubt the extreme provocation they have given and can harshly censure Mr Morrison (Herbert Morrison, a Labour minister in Churchill’s National Government-JD) for his action. The ‘Daily Worker’ began the war as a supporter of resistance to Hitler; it changed its tune when it found that Stalin wanted to be friends with Hitler.

“Day after day since it has vilified the British Government and its leaders to the exclusion of any condemnation of Hitler. Nothing that has happened in this country has been decent and right. Even when the United States increases its aid this is denounced not as something to be welcomed but as a malevolent exercise of Yankee capitalism.

“More recently the paper has largely devoted its columns to derogatory accounts of Service conditions on the one hand and to the encoragement of agitation among munitions workers on the other. This might be excusable if the motive were honest, if it were really desired to help the country in its struggle to keep democracy alive in Europe. But the ‘Daily Worker’ did not believe either in the war or in democracy; its only aim was to confuse and weaken. We can well spare it”.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Democracy: An End or a Means to An End?

January 22, 2007 at 5:10 pm (Uncategorized)

First, I’d like to thank the Shiraz crew for having me on board and I will try to contribute when time allows. I suspect we’ll have lots of debates and interesting discussions as well as raucous arguments – but then that’s the point of a blog (I think).

Here’s my first stab at a contribution:

Democracy: An End or a Means to An End?

One of the courses I am taking this year is political philosophy and I’ve actually quite enjoyed the philosophy bit of my “politics, philosophy and history” degree. It should be particularly interesting later in the year when my lecturer, who hates Lenin and makes constant references to how great the czar was, covers the topic of “socialism as ideology”.

In any case, last week’s lecture was on “Democracy” and concerned different types and whether or not people thought it was a truly relevant concept any longer. Of course taking this from the realm of the metaphysical and putting it into concrete day-to-day reality is not what lecturers normally do, so I was left to accomplish this task alone.

Being immersed in the British far-left from varying viewpoints, it became clear to me that whether folks on the left realise it or not, a huge portion of the discussions to be had in politics today pivot on this central issue.

As far as I can discern, there are three types of democracy that people on the far left discuss regularly. These are:

1. Structural or organisational democracy
2. State or governmental democracy
3. Participatory local democracy (as in a socialist society)

The central question concerning these forms of democracy that we discuss is whether each type is an end in itself or a means to an end for a greater “good” – and since I hate terms like “good” and “bad” when speaking of politics, I will substitute the word “progress”.

In other words do we support these forms simply because democracy in individual cases leads to human progress in and of itself in that one situation, or do we support it as a means to furthering human progress in the future and as a whole?

Let’s look at the types of democracy listed above and examples on the left that are relevant to
them. The first type is characterised in the ongoing debate inside the organisation that I support, Socialist Resistance, about character of Respect. While there are numerous problems with it as an organisation, the primary reason that I oppose Respect (besides Galloway acting like a cat) was that the organisation has a severe lack of internal democracy and no room for debate. I have argued on numerous occassions that there is a tradition on the left of democratic debate, but this would not seem to be the strongest argument in favour of this position. I could alternately argue that democratic functioning in left groups is in and of itself progressive, but this does not seem to have as strong of a weight behind it for enforcing democracy as it could.

So what is the real reason that democratic structures and “organisational democracy” is important? It is because without it, the third type of democracy, “participatory local democracy” or socialism is not realised. Whether or not one believes that this would be in the form of “soviets” and workers’ councils or local neighbourhood organisations, our concept for a better world requires a respect of and an adherence to “structural and organisational democracy”.

Now let us turn to the second type of democracy, that is “state or governmental democracy”. The obvious example here is simply Iraq and the current Iraq war. More specifically, I want to look at reasons why the ruling classes of the US and Britain support the war and contrast that with Nick Cohen’s support of the war.

In a sense, the US neo-cons (a number of whom came out of the US Trotskyist movement as odd as that may seem) use the pretence of supporting the same means to an end that those on the far left do – ie that democracy as such is the means to a more progressive future, a better world and so forth. Of course some of them may believe it, but if you visit the Project For a New American Century website, you will find this belief buried under a pile of documents supporting a much more important “end” – that is US dominance, economically and otherwise.

In this sense it would seem that while leftists argue for “structural and organisational democracy” as a means to an end for “participatory local democracy”, the neo-cons and US ruling class are using “state or governmental democracy” enforced from above as a means to an end for US dominance, and not “participatory local democracy”.

So what does any of this have to do with Nick Cohen’s book excerpt in the latest issue of the Observer?

It would seem that Nick Cohen is arguing for “state or governmental democracy”, not as a means to any end, but as an end in and of itself. In this sense he differs from the neo-cons and those on the far left. But is he correct? Is the situation in Iraq one in which democracy should be established as an end with no plan for how one could get to “participatory local democracy” even if we believe Cohen when he claims to be opposed US dominance?

Looking at it from the point of view of ends, we can clearly see that if Cohen’s concept of democracy for Iraq were implemented, the end desired by the neo-cons – US dominance – could also be achieved. However, it becomes equally clear that the end desired by those on the left – “participatory local democracy” – is an impossibility if US dominance occurs, which is a direct contradiction this type of democracy.

In the end Cohen’s views are very simply, liberal. He claims to want a better life for the Iraqi people but he blocks the possiblity of a socialist future for Iraq by supporting the end desired by the neo-cons and having no vision beyond democracy as an end in itself.

Regardless of what one thinks of the views posted here, the subject of democracy remains a vital topic of discussion for socialists.

Permalink Leave a Comment

And now for a bit of sectarian gossip

January 21, 2007 at 10:53 pm (Uncategorized)

Right now I’m listening to the James Whale show – on TalkSport after Radio Galloway, and his guest is one Faria Alam (she of the “I shagged Sven” fame). I’d heard the rumour before, that she is the cousin of AWL student organiser Sacha Ismail. This was something that I was always reasonably prepared to believe, not because Sacha particularly reminds me of Faria, but because I had no reason to disbelieve it.

However, some spod (sounding like a geeky undergrad) has just phoned the show and asked Faria straight out whether she is Sacha’s cousin. He also said that the AWL “hate George Galloway more than anything else” or words to that effect, an assertion that may surprise Matgamna and the crew. Apparently there was some tangent about how if Galloway married Faria, he’d then have to see Sacha at the wedding or some such. Ah, the old common room rib-ticklers. I remember them well.

Anyways, not only did Faria deny that Sacha is her cousin, she also appeared to deny knowing him at all. She sounded genuinely perplexed, saying things like “What cousin? I don’t have many cousins”. She couldn’t really have been much more emphatic.

So Sacha, what’s the story? Does anyone else know anything? I think we should be told.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Public service broadcasting

January 21, 2007 at 9:07 pm (Uncategorized)

Various self-righteous posturing ninnies, of the Ken Livingstone variety, have been calling for Channel Four to take “Celebrity Big Brother” off the air, in the aftermath of the Jade Goody business. Sunny has been the most sensible commentator so far.

On the contrary, I think “Celebrity Big Brother” should be made compulsory viewing, particularly for the young and impressionable. As my partner says, “they (the participants) always think they’ll beat the ‘Big Brother’ machine, and come out smelling of roses: but they never do”. Somehow, this crap show manages to expose the truth about its participants: George Galloway was shown up for the ultra-right-wing bully and poltroon he is; Jade Goody, Danielle Lloyd and Jo O’Meara have been exposed as the racist chavs they are. This is all to the good, and should be applauded by all decent people. I want John Rees and Lindsey German on there next. And, maybe, Ken Livingstone.

Permalink Leave a Comment

‘Socialism of fools’ alive and well

January 21, 2007 at 6:34 pm (Uncategorized)

Nick Cohen, a journalist who saw through Blair and all his works well before most, has an insightful article, (“The world turned upside down“), plugging a forthcoming book, in today’s ‘Observer’. Cohen, of course supported the Iraq war, though he now seems to accept that it was, maybe, not such a good idea. Lots of decent people also supported the war, for the best of reasons. Just as lots of fascists, anti-semites, escaped Quakers and little-Englanders opposed it. Cohen quotes the South American playwright Ariel Dorfman’s 2003 letter to an ‘unknown Iraqi’, which sums up my own feelings at the time , much more eloquently than I could:

“What right does anyone have to deny you and your fellow Iraqis that liberation from tyranny? What right do we have to oppose the war the United States is preparing to wage on your country if it could, indeed, result in the ousting of Saddam Hussein?”…

Cohen comments: “His (Dorfman’s) reply summed up the fears of tens of millions of people. War would destabilise the Middle East and recruit more fanatics to terrorist groups. It would lead to more despots ‘pre-emptively arming themselves with all manner of apocalyptic weapons and , perhaps, to Armageddon’. Dorfman also worried about the casualties – which – I guess, were far higher than he imagined – and convinced himself that the right course was to demand that Bush and Blair pull back. Nevertheless, he retained the breadth of mind and generosity of spirit to sign off with ‘heaven help me, I am saying that I care more about the future of this sad world than about the future of your unprotected children'”.

There’s much more good stuff in Cohen’s article, but the most revealing material of all is the readers’ comments, where anti-semites assume that Cohen is Jewish (he isn’t – as it happens): the socialism of fools is, indeed, alive and well. And it thinks it’s “left-wing”.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Wankered with some, errr… ahem…

January 21, 2007 at 5:35 pm (Uncategorized)

Yesterday as regular readers will be aware, was the inaugural Socialist Bloggers’ Meetup in London. A small and select crowd assembled in the Doric Arch pub (resisting the urge to sign any crappy manifestos that might have been passed around). ‘Twas a pleasure to meet for the first time with Dave, Andrew, John A, Jon R, Marsha and TWP, as well as, not for the first time, with Stroppy, Kit, Janine and of course me old mucker Mike, as well as my adopted child for the night, Jim “where’s my fucking bag” Denham.

So, what actually happened? I’d arrived a few hours early, so having trundled off to Housman’s bookshop to buy some sectariana, I settled in the pub round the corner from the Doric, and nursed a pint whilst reading the CPGB’s report on their obsessive-compulsive topic of conversation, the conference of the Socialist Youth Network. This might seem a surreal topic for a double-page spread in a paper, but there again Conrad’s gaggle of goons have been up to that sort of thing for years. Anyway, I was soon joined by Mike, and after loitering for a bit we headed for the Doric.

Already quaffing liberally were Kit, John A and in particular Denham, who seemed remarkably loquacious for a man who (according to Kit) was “on his first pint”. Was he bollocks, in my humble opinion, but there again I’m more cynical than Kit is. All very amiable – myself, John and the three AWL bloggers merrily chatted and waited for others to arrive.

Stroppy turned up shortly afterwards, although in spite of three of us yelling her name and me gesticulating wildly, it took some time for her to notice us – an impressive feat in a grimy little pub that’s about the size of a broom cupboard. Should we take offence? Anyhow, Jim (who was at this stage still manageable) raced off the the bar to get her some booze, and all was well with the world. She appeared to have a thing about dress sense around the table – indeed she’s blogged about it in her own report of the event. Some people might think that a woman who dresses like Courtney Love might want to be a little circumspect about handing out sartorial advice, but obviously I wouldn’t pass any such comment.

Then we were joined in quick succession (my memory is hazy) by Dave, TWP, and Janine. John A immediately made a bee-line for Dave, and appeared enraptured by Mr Osler’s anecdotes about the good old days on the left. Touching, really.

Now, at this point some kind of weird demonic posession seemed to overtake Jim, who began to alternate between thumping his fists on the table and shouting at TWP about Palestine, and doing the same to John A, who he appeared to think was a supporter of mass murder. That’s when he wasn’t rooting around under the table muttering “where’s my fucking bag” or (most amusingly) patting Stroppy on the head and calling her “doll”, Sinatra fashion. I did intervene at one point when he appeared to be about to launch himself across the table at John, but thankfully my concerns were unwarranted. Indeed TWP was so struck with him, and he with her, that she’s kindly agreed to become one of the team here at Shiraz. The invite is in the post, mate – you were very articulate and intelligent company, and anyone who can go ten rounds with Denham is more than worthy of posting here. Even if you are in that funny group that the SWP like to hang about with.

After several failed attempts to get a photo or video of Jim in table-thumping action, whilst also talking to Janine about whether Kit taking the piss out of Katy Clark MP’s trainers is a sexist comment (we decided it isn’t) and after an amusing if rather gloomy chat with Osler about how shit the British left is at, well, everything, we were joined by Marsha, Andrew and a (ahem) “tired and emotional” Jon R, who appeared to be trying to rival Jim in the sobriety stakes. He appeared very concerned about the collapse of the Soviet Union, which I had always thought was a fait accomplis, but anyway I was more concerned with the sight of a rather high-spirited Mike kissing the back of Jim’s head, presumably in an attempt to distract him and thus preserve the table from further assault. However, Mike was still intact by the end of the night, so all was well. Besides, Jim was preoccupied with buying what appeared to be the world’s biggest ever round, one drink at a time, and further frustrating the barman by repeatedly losing his switch card and forgetting his pin number.

I did have some sympathy with the member of bar staff who threatened to throw us out of the pub if we didn’t desist from group hugging and singing the Internationale. Quite right sir. The song’s as dull as dishwater, and besides I never knew the words when I was a Trot, let alone now.

As things drew to a close, there was talk of going on for a curry but Denham and I resisted, deciding to go home. I was actually quite tempted by the sparky Marsha’s alternative suggestion of “more alcohol”, but on balance I thought that I might die if I drank any more. And besides, I wasn’t too sure if Denham would make it back unassisted. So we said our goodbyes and headed for the train.

The train was an adventure in itself; this being UK railways, there were of course engineering works and enormous delays, further compounded by the fact that we had no idea what was going on, largely because the Virgin Trains staff seemed to be averse to talking to the two paralytic blokes muttering garbage to each other in one of the carriages. Eventually we went our separate ways, and I left Jim on the train, sleeping peacefully whilst face-down on a table. I presume he must have got home eventually, but he’ll have to tell you exactly how. If he can remember.

Anyway, it was pleasure folks, and I look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Permalink Leave a Comment

« Previous page · Next page »