Since Tribune is in the news, here’s an extract from one of George Orwell’s As I Please columns, which are proto blog posts. This particular column goes to prove that Karen Armstrong and Terry Eagleton are not new phenomena. Their cloud and vapour blowing at crude rationalists who coarsely ask them if the tenets of the religion they defend are true or not were around in 1944.
It . . . appears from my correspondent’s letter that even the most central doctrines of the Christian religion don’t have to be accepted in a literal sense. It doesn’t matter, for instance, whether Jesus Christ ever existed. ‘The figure of Christ (myth, or man, or god, it does not matter) so transcends all the rest that I only wish that everyone would look, before rejecting that version of life.’ Christ, therefore, may be a myth, or he may have been merely a human being, or the account given of him in the Creeds may be true. So we arrive at this position: Tribune must not poke fun at the Christian religion, but the existence of Christ, which innumerable people have been burnt for denying, is a matter of indifference.
……what my correspondent says would be echoed by many Catholic intellectuals. If you talk to a thoughtful Christian, Catholic or Anglican, you often find yourself laughed at for being so ignorant as to suppose that anyone ever took the doctrines of the Church literally. These doctrines have, you are told, a quite other meaning which you are too crude to understand. Immortality of the soul doesn’t ‘mean’ that you, John Smith, will remain conscious after you are dead. Resurrection of the body doesn’t mean that John Smith’s body will actually be resurrected – and so on and so on. Thus the Catholic intellectual is able, for controversial purposes, to play a sort of handy-pandy game, repeating the articles of the Creed in exactly the same terms as his forefathers, while defending himself from the charge of superstition by explaining that he is speaking in parables. Substantially his claim is that though he himself doesn’t believe in any very definite way in life after death, there has been no change in Christian belief, since our ancestors didn’t really believe in it either.
the Catholic intellectuals who cling to the letter of the Creeds while reading into them meanings they were never meant to have, and who snigger at anyone simple enough to suppose that the Fathers of the Church meant what they said, are simply raising smoke-screens to conceal their own disbelief from themselves.
Tribune, 3 March 1944
A good moment:
This is a small but important step forward for the Palestinian people, and all those who seek a just solution to the Isreal/Palestine conflict.
But it’s not only the Israeli and the US governments who oppose Palestine’s recognition; so, too, do ‘irreconcilables’ on the Palestinian side (aka political antisemites) who deny Israel’s very right to exist: him. for instance; and her.
Those of us who long for peace in the Middle East, and a just solution for Jews and Palestinians, must welcome UNESCO’s vote and continue to proselytize for Two States.
Now that even the New Statesman (well, one writer on its blog) seems to be willing to accept that anti-semitism (a) exists and (b) is A bad Thing, it seems an appropriate time to remind people of Leon Trotsky’s stance on “The Jewish Question” (he actually wrote “Jewish Problem“…), and specifically on anti-semitism. Here’re a couple of excerpts from his long (ish) 1937 article, ‘Thermidor And Anti-semitism.’
NB: Birobidzhan (Russian: Биробиджа́н; Yiddish: ביראָבידזשאַנ) is a town and the administrative center of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Russia created by Stalin in 1928 and given town status in 1937. Trotsky’s attitude towards it is of particular interest in the context of later debates about Zionism and Israel (Trotsky, of couse, didn’t live to see the creation of Israel):
“At the time of the last Moscow trial I remarked in one of my statements that Stalin, in the struggle with the Opposition, exploited the anti-Semitic tendencies in the country. On this subject I received a series of letters and questions which were, by and large – there is no reason to hide the truth – very naive. “How can one accuse the Soviet Union of anti-Semitism?” “If the USSR is an anti-Semitic country, is there anything left at all?” That was the dominant note of these letters. These people raise objections and are perplexed because they are accustomed to counterpose fascist anti-Semitism with the emancipation of the Jews accomplished by the October Revolution. To these people it now appears that I am wresting from their hands a magic charm. Such a method of reasoning is typical of those who are accustomed to vulgar, nondialectical thinking. They live in a world of immutable abstractions. They recognize only that which suits them: the Germany of Hitler is the absolutist kingdom of anti-Semitism; the USSR, on the contrary, is the kingdom of national harmony. Vital contradictions, changes, transitions from one condition to another, in a word, the actual historical processes escape their lackadaisical attention…
…”In the opinion of some “Friends of the USSR,” my reference to the exploitation of anti-Semitic tendencies by a considerable part of the present bureaucracy represents a malicious invention for the purpose of a struggle against Stalin. It is difficult to argue with professional “friends” of the bureaucracy. These people deny the existence of a Thermidorian reaction. They accept even the Moscow trials at face value. There are not “friends” who visit the USSR with special intention of seeing spots on the sun. Not a few of these receive special pay for their readiness to see only what is pointed out to them by the finger of the bureaucracy. But woe to those workers, revolutionists, socialists, democrats who, in the words of Pushkin, prefer “a delusion which exalts us” to the bitter truth. One must face life as it is. It is necessary to find in reality itself the force to overcome its reactionary and barbaric features. That is what Marxism teaches us.
“Some would-be ‘pundits’ have even accused me of ‘suddenly’ raising the ‘Jewish question’ and of intending to create some kind of ghetto for the Jews. I can only shrug my shoulders in pity. I have lived my whole life outside Jewish circles. I have always worked in the Russian workers’ movement. My native tongue is Russian. Unfortunately, I have not even learned to read Jewish. The Jewish question has never occupied the center of my attention. But that does not mean that I have the right to be blind to the Jewish problem which exists and demands solution. ‘The Friends of the USSR’ are satisfied with the creation of Birobidjan. I will not stop at this point to consider whether it was built on a sound foundation, and what type of regime exists there. (Birobidjan cannot help reflecting all the vices of bureaucratic despotism.) But not a single progressive, thinking individual will object to the USSR designating a special territory for those of its citizens who feel themselves to be Jews, who use the Jewish language in preference to all others and who wish to live as a compact mass. Is this or is this not a ghetto? During the period of Soviet democracy, of completely voluntary migrations, there could be no talk about ghettos. But the Jewish question, by the very manner in which settlements of Jews occurred, assumes an international aspect. Are we not correct in saying that a world socialist federation would have to make possible the creation of a ‘Birobidjan’ for those Jews who wish to have their own autonomous republic as the arena for their own culture? It may be presumed that a socialist democracy will not resort to compulsory assimilation. It may very well be that within two or three generations the boundaries of an independent Jewish republic, as of many other national regions, will be erased. I have neither time nor desire to meditate on this. Our descendents will know better than we what to do. I have in mind a transitional historical period when the Jewish question, as such, is still acute and demands adequate measures from a world federation of workers’ states. The very same methods of solving the Jewish question which under decaying capitalism have a utopian and reactionary character (Zionism), will, under the regime of a socialist federation, take on a real and salutary meaning. This is what I wanted to point out. How could any Marxist, or even any consistent democrat, object to this?”
NB: information on Birobidzhan from Wikipedia
A stupid fuckin’ eedjit writes:
“Strangely for a Marxist site very little coverage of the occupy wall street movement on this site and the crackdown by the police thugs of freedom loving imperialist state numero uno. One has to conclude that is not a coincidence to your pro imperialist views.”
For the record, ‘Shiraz Socialist’ is (generally) for Good against Evil (as illustrated below); guess which side we’re on in this particular instance…
‘Shiraz Socialist’ does not attempt to comment upon every item in the news. We prioritise items that may be of particular interest to socialists and/or trade unionists; but even then, if we have nothing of originality or particular interest to add to what other commentators have already said, then we may not say anything at all. That doesn’t mean we think the matter is of no importance
You may have noticed, like “Steve” (quoted at the top of this post), that none here has commented upon the “Occupy” movement as yet. I should hope that it goes without saying that all of us at Shiraz support them, for all their incoherence. I, personally, agree with this.
Anything that is supported by the Tory Richard Littlejohn, the Social Democrat Polly Toynbee and the Blairite Andrew Rawnsley, must be so banal as to be virtually meaningless. But that doesn’t mean they should be forcibly removed. As and when that happens, we must, and will, stand with them.
Trade unionists are urged to sign the trade union statement of support for the St Paul’s
occupation, backed by Mark Serwotka and John Mc Donnell…and pass it on!
This report from the AWL is interesting – especially regarding the antisemitism of the so-called ‘Zeitgeist Movement’ who have muscled in in the occupations.
The anti-EU “left” should read the Daily Mail. I was tempted to go on and write that they might find more in it to agree with than they would expect. But that would be unfair. I suspect they would, in the main, be suitably appalled. By this poll , in Saturday’s Mail, for instance:
Worryingly for Mr Cameron, most of those
polled believe the 81 Eurosceptic MPs who rebelled in the Commons this week are
‘more in tune with Tory voters’ than the Prime Minister.
Three-quarters said rebel MPs were right to
defy his three-line whip. Mr Cameron admitted yesterday that he must ‘work
harder’ to persuade his backbenchers he is on their side.
The Daily Mail has learned that he has ordered
every Whitehall department to draw up a list of powers to be grabbed back from
Right, you Morning Star “lefties”: study that Mail poll, and study it good. Note the areas in which the Mail’s respondents want “powers returned”:
* Immigration (86%)
* Human rights law (71%)
* Employment law (65%)
…and you lot (the idiot-“left” who campaign against EU membership) still think your pathetic little “left” anti-EU campaign(s) can somehow be “progressive”? Wake up, you morons! Sometimes the left has to fight for leadership of public opinion…this is one of those times.
Ricky Riccardi (at The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong) writes:
The song comes from Pennies From Heaven, Armstrong’s first major studio picture. He was hired for the film at the insistence of its star, Bing Crosby, a lifelong student, friend, collaborator and admirer of Pops. When the film came out, Armstrong got his own credit during the main titles, making him the first African-American to get featured billing alongside white actors. So Pops was pioneering, though some critics have frowned upon the way Armstrong was used in the film. Playing a bandleader who is hired by Crosby to perform at his nightclub, Armstrong’s “role, as written, makes one cringe,” according to Lawrence Bergreen. Bergreen quotes an exchange between Armstrong and Crosby in the film, comedically playing on the ignorance of Armstrong’s character, who asks for seven percent instead of accepting Bing’s offering of ten percent because his is a seven-piece band, “And none of us knows how to divide ten percent up by seven.”
Bergreen writes that this banter dwells “on black inferiority and subservience” but what he doesn’t mention is that Pops legitimately loved this scene, quoting it in front of friends on one of his later private tapes. One of Armstrong’s last television appearances was made with Crosby on the David Frost Show from February 10, 1971. During the interview portion, Armstrong talks about how much fun they had making the film and though 35 years had gone by, Armstrong quotes the entire “percent” scene, line by line, as it originally appeared in the film. Thus, it’s easy for a white critic to “cringe” while watching Pennies From Heaven but for Pops, funny was funny and he cherished the gags he was asked to deliver (and besides, would one “cringe” if the same exact dialogue was delivered by Stan Laurel or Chico Marx?).
Armstrong gets one music number to himself in the film and it’s a great one. “The Skeleton in the Closet” was written by Arthur Johnston and Johnny Burke, the same two men wrote the rest of the Pennies From Heaven score. Filmed in California, Armstrong was seen leading a contingent of some of the finest west coast jazzmen, including trumpeter (and Armstrong disciple) Teddy Buckner, saxophonist Caughey Roberts, future Nat Cole bassist Wesley Pince and as already advertised, the grand reunion of Armstrong and Lionel Hampton.
Hampton was in the midst of a steady engagement as a leader at the Paradise Nightclub in Los Angeles and was just about to explode. Pennies From Heaven was filmed in August 1936 and while out there, Armstrong asked Hampton to sit in on drums and vibes on two Hawaiian cuts made with “The Polynesians” on August 18. One week later, on August 24, Hampton took part in a Teddy Wilson session with Benny Goodman on clarinet and just a few months later, in November, Hampton joined Goodman’s Quartet and, well, you know the rest!
But for “Skeleton in the Closet,” Hamp sticks to the drums, wearing a mask to keep the whole “haunted house” motif going. This is Armstrong at his finest: storytelling, acting, singing, swinging and playing beautifully. Here’s the clip (a bit jerky, I’m afraid, but the soundtrack is fine):
As well as Hamp on drums, the band includes Joe Sullivan on piano.
A better-quality film of the same number (also including a Sullivan piano solo), here.
“Despite differences between sections of the left, what unites us in our struggles is the collective wish for a better world for working class people” – Gerry Kelly
Pete Carter, building workers’ union organizer, former Communist Party youth leader, Communist Party industrial organizer, and (later in life) a committed environmentalist, will be cremated today.
The Guardian published an obituary.
The Morning Star hasn’t even mentioned his passing.
Gerry Kelly – a former IS’er who doesn’t share Carter’s politics – expresses his disgust at the Morning Star‘s sectarianism :
I was a shop steward on Woodgate Valley B in 1971-2 and worked with Mick Shilvock there. Pete, Shilvock, Phil Beyer and me struggled together in Brum to kill the lump and organise the building workers.
Pete was the best working class orator I ever heard and was a great organiser. We had a couple of years in Birmingham in which we fought a desperate struggle, acheived some great victories and also had some laughs. Pete was an inventive class warrior and we carried out some stunts that publicised our cause and made us laugh as well.
I was tried with Phil Beyer and others at Birmingham Crown Court as a result of the Rotunda occupation. We were acquitted, mainly because Pete Carter was at the forefront of a ferocious solidarity campaign in our support.
Two years ago, I went to Mick Shilvock’s house for a re-union with him, Pete and Phil Beyer. We had a good time discussing and reflecting on what we had done in the early 70s.
The workers’ movement has lost a man who was a great rank and file leader…
… It is disgraceful that the Morning Star has not even mentioned Pete Carter. I was an IS member at the time I was I was active in UCATT and of course I had political differences with Pete and the other CP members in the union. I continued to disagree with Pete over a number of issues (I had quite an argument with him over the miners’ strike when I bumped into him in London in 1984 – he was, I thought, wrong in attacking the tactics adopted by Scargill and the NUM leadership – tactics he had advocated during the 1972 national builders’ strike) and I completely disagreed with the EuroCommunist line (just soft Stalinism, I thought).
However, as a union militant and organiser he was outstanding and I seldom disagreed with him, Beyer and Shilvock on tactics . Further, it is disturbing that the CP is trying to airbrush from its history a man who at different times was leader of their youth organisation, their industrial organiser and one of their most prominent and influential rank and file union activist.
I will be at his funeral … and will be sorry to say goodbye to him, but also proud to have served the labour movement as an ally of one of the best union militants I have ever known.
Shame on the Morning Star! Despite differences between sections of the left, what unites us in our struggles is the collective wish for a better world for working class people.
– Gerry Kelly
Public school Stalinist Seumas ‘Posh-boy’ Milne (above) is at it again, denouncing the Libyan revolution, taking the worst possible view of the rebels and minimising (well, virtually ignoring) the crimes of Gaddafi’s murderous regime:
“As the most hopeful offshoot of the ‘Arab spring so far flowered this week in successful elections in Tunisia, its ugliest underside has been laid bare in Libya. That’s not only, or even mainly, about the YouTube lynching of Gaddafi, courtesy of a Nato attack on his convoy.
“The grisly killing of the Libyan despot after his captors had sodomised him with a knife, was certainly a war crime. But many inside and outside Libya doubtless also felt it was an understandable act of revenge after years of regime violence. Perhaps that was Hillary Clinton’s reaction, when she joked about it on camera, until global revulsion pushed the US to call for an investigation.
“As the reality of what western media have hailed as Libya’s ‘liberation’ becomes clearer, however, the butchering of Gaddafi has been revealed as only a reflection of a much bigger picture. On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch reported the discovery of 53 bodies, military and civilian, in Gaddafi’s last stronghold of Sirte, apparently executed – with their hands tied – by former rebel militia.
“Its investigator in Libya, Peter Bouckaert, told me yesterday that more bodies are continuing to be discovered in Sirte, where evidence suggests about 500 people, civilians and fighters, have been killed in the last 10 days alone by shooting, shelling and Nato bombing.
“That has followed a two month-long siege and indiscriminate bombardment of a city of 100,000 which has been reduced to a Grozny-like state of destruction by newly triumphant rebel troops with Nato air and special-forces support.
“And these massacre sites are only the latest of many such discoveries. Amnesty International has now produced compendious evidence of mass abduction and detention, beating and routine torture, killings and atrocities by the rebel militias Britain, France and the US have backed for the last eight months – supposedly to stop exactly those kind of crimes being committed by the Gaddafi regime.
“Throughout that time African migrants and black Libyans have been subject to a relentless racist campaign of mass detention, lynchings and atrocities on the usually unfounded basis that they have been loyalist mercenaries. Such attacks continue, says Bouckaert, who witnessed militias from Misrata this week burning homes in Tawerga so that the town’s predominantly black population – accused of backing Gaddafi – will be unable to return.
“All the while, Nato leaders and cheerleading media have turned a blind eye to such horrors as they boast of a triumph of freedom and murmur about the need for restraint. But it is now absolutely clear that, if the purpose of western intervention in Libya’s civil war was to “protect civilians” and save lives, it has been a catastrophic failure.” – You can read the rest of this Stalinist rubbish here.
Happily, Comrade Clive is on hand to take Posh-boy (and his co-thinker Jonathan Steele) to pieces:
“I feel moved to comment on Seamas Milne’s piece in the Guardian today about Libya.