Alice Neel in Harlem

May 20, 2017 at 4:51 pm (Art and design, culture, humanism, posted by JD, United States)

Alice Neel, Uptown is at Victoria Miro, London N1 from 18 May-29 July. A catalogue accompanies the exhibition, published by David Zwirner Books and Victoria Miro.

 Above: Alice Neel’s 1950 portrait of the playwright Alice Childress

“I love you Harlem,” the American painter Alice Neel wrote in her diary around the end of World War II, and really, she loved everything in it. Neel celebrated Harlem — specifically its ethnically mixed section known as Spanish Harlem or El Barrio — for “your poverty and your loves.” And what Neel eulogized in her diary, she immortalized in oils: street scenes, interiors and, above all, portraits of the men, women and children in a neighborhood far from the suburban Philadelphia of her youth, which the artist adopted as her own.

Little heralded in her lifetime, Neel (1900-1984) has won posthumous acclaim as one of America’s most inventive and peculiar portraitists. Her later paintings, especially, made her sitters strange through thick outlining and unelaborated backgrounds. But behind Neel’s experiments with form were New York lives — of writers and revolutionaries, lovers and petty criminals – Jason Farrago, New York Times.

Benjamin, 1976
Benjamin was the son of Neel’s landlord in Harlem. She painted many portraits of adolescent boys, some more self-assured than Benjamin appears. ‘Alice seems moved by his smallness,’ says Als. ‘There’s something about the vulnerability of his shape, the narrowness of his shoulders and the tilt of his head. It’s a moving picture of a boy who has yet to become a man and doesn’t quite know how to fit into masculinity. He’s thinking, “Is this the way a boy or a man sits?” Just as we have paintings of young women in flower becoming women, this is about a boy about to be transformed.’

  Ron Kajiwara, 1971
When Alice Neel painted his portrait, Ron Kajiwara was a graphic designer at Vogue; later, he became its design director. ‘Kajiwara’s face is a kind of mask here,’ Als says. ‘He and his family had been interned in California during the second world war when he was a kid, and he was gay, and there is something so forbidding about his character. He has been rejected by the world and here he is working in the white avant garde. His pose is a kind of armour. Alice is painting her inability to get further in; his beautiful self defence.’

Ron Kajiwara, 1971, by Alice Neel

Abdul Rahman, 1964
‘I know all the theory of everything,’ Alice Neel once said, ‘but when I paint I don’t think of anything except the subject and me.’ Abdul Rahman was a cab driver she painted more than once. Als: ‘What’s so powerful about a lot of Alice’s pictures of men is she doesn’t shy away from the erotic element. She lets it be known as part of the work. What is energising in this painting is the erotics of her looking. She looks at men the way men might look at women or other men. It is delectable to her.’

Abdul Rahman, 1964, by Alice Neel
*
Two Girls, Spanish Harlem, 1959
The world treats your children as you have treated them,’ Neel once observed. And when she came to paint children, she was always concerned to treat them as equals. She also had some tricks to keep their attention. ‘She would suddenly miaow like a cat to keep the children interested while they were sitting,’ says Als. ‘I love this painting as a kind of perversion of a Sunday-school portrait. There is a kind of fierceness to the girls. Alice liked that. She wanted girls who would stand up to the challenge of being painted.’

Two Girls, Spanish Harlem, 1959 by Alice Neel

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Tories to outlaw effective strike action on rail

May 19, 2017 at 12:59 pm (elections, posted by JD, Tory scum, unions, workers)

This item, tucked away in the Tories’ “pro-worker” manifesto, seems to have escaped the media’s notice:

‘We will work with train companies and their employees to agree minimum service levels during periods of industrial dispute – and if we cannot find a voluntary agreement, we will legislate to make this mandatory’ (p.60)

H/t: Comrade Tony and thanks to Roger McCarthy and others BTL for pointing out the link to the image I originally posted had broken.

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Israeli intelligence expert Melman on Trump’s “dangerous amateurism”

May 18, 2017 at 2:42 pm (israel, Middle East, posted by JD, Putin, Russia, Trump, United States) ()

By Yossi Melman (17 May 2017) at Yedioth  Ahronoth: Dangerous Amateurism

  • Israeli officials were very careful yesterday not to comment even implicitly on reports from the US, according to which US President Donald Trump shared top secret intelligence in his meeting last week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrof and with the Russian ambassador to Washington. That’s all senior officials need, to get into trouble with the unpredictable Trump prior to his visit to Israel next week.
  • .

  • American media outlets assessed yesterday that the secret information came from Jordan or from Israel — two countries whose intelligence  communities have very close ties with American intelligence. Both also have good capabilities. The Jordanians [specialize] more in handling agents; Israel, presumably [specializes] in technological intelligence — in coverage of Syria and ISIS. Lat night the New York Times already reported that the information came from Israel, which had requested that the US handle it with extreme caution.
  • .

  • In any case, the information, irrespective of its source, dealt with ISIS terror plots. We can assume that Trump said what he said in order to mobilize and spur the Russians into taking action against the terror organization, which is a front on which they are dragging their feet. However, sharing the information is a double-edged sword. The Russians, who are working in Syria to fortify Bashar Assad’s regime, might share the information to him and perhaps even to his allies/their allies in the civil war in Syria — Iran and Hizbullah. Each of these could make use of the information, if it comes to their attention, in such a manner that would jeopardize intelligence operations and expose sources of information. And in this shadow world, there is no worse sin than failing to protect sources and exposing agents — as in the affair involving Eli Zeira, the Mossad and Egyptian agent Ashraf Marwan.
  • .

  • In democratic countries, the intelligence communities are committed to give all the information at their disposal to the political echelon. There are leaders, in Israel too (such as the late Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin), who insist on receiving not only the executive summary, but also knowing about the sources that are behind the information. Presumably, Trump delivered the information not out of malice, but simply because of his lack of understanding of the rules of the game in the [sphere of] intelligence. If he did this with malicious intent, then that is a different story, which borders on treason and espionage.
  • .

  • Sharing the information with a third party without permission from the supplying source undoubtably undermines trust between the two countries. And intelligence cooperation is based first and foremost on trust. There is no doubt that officials in the US intelligence community are also embarrassed by the president’s amateurism. But at this point what can they do? They are on a collision course with him in any case, and the affair of the dismissal of former FBI director James Comey is only one example. Besides, after all, he is the elected president and commander-in-chief of the military.
  • .

  • Before being elected president, Trump had already become entangled in slips of the tongue and leaking intelligence, to which he was exposed in briefings that he received.
  • .

  • Now there are reports in Europe that following the incident, some countries are weighing the option of scaling down their cooperation with the United States. This is empty talk. The US is an intelligence power, and all the intelligence communities in the Western world, certainly small countries like Israel, are more dependent on it than it is on them. The relationships here are not among equals, and are more similar to the relationship between horse and rider. Even those who are angry at Trump will not be able to take counter-measures, since then they would be exposed to American revenge and punitive action. If the information is indeed from Israel or Jordan, have no fear — both countries will continue to cooperate with the United States, mainly because they have no alternative. However, they will be more cautious.

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American Castroites defend Israel’s right to exist!

May 17, 2017 at 4:41 pm (anti-semitism, islamism, israel, left, Middle East, palestine, posted by JD, Uncategorized)

The Militant (logo)

“Revolutionaries must press for recognition of the state of Israel, and for the right of Jews who wish to go there for refuge to do so. That’s also a political precondition to rebuilding a movement capable of advancing a successful fight for a Palestinian state, and for a contiguous, viable homeland for the Palestinian people.”

The American Socialist Workers Party (not related to the UK SWP) are arguing in their paper, The Militant, that recognition of the right of Israel to exist and Jewish people to move there is a key socialist demand.

It is, perhaps, surprising (though welcome) that such a deadheaded Castroite group have rejected “left wing” orthodoxy on this and come to a rational position.

http://www.themilitant.com/2017/8106/810661.html

H/t: Comrade Dave

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Thornberry skewers Fallon over fawning on Assad

May 15, 2017 at 6:06 pm (elections, Jim D, labour party, reformism, Syria, Tory scum, TV)

We’ve not always been big fans of Ms Thornberry, here at Shiraz, but her demolition of Michael Fallon on Sunday’s Marr Show was simply superb, and an object lesson to other prominent Labour figures in how to conduct yourself when faced with a Tory liar:

Fallon had attempted to make capital out of Jeremy Corbyn’s contacts with the Provisional IRA prior to the Good Friday Agreement:

Thornberry asked Fallon where he was on May 27 2007. “No, but I’m sure you’re going to tell me,” he replied.

She continued: “You were in Syria and you were celebrating, at a reception, the re-election of President Assad with 99 per cent of the vote.

“Now I am not going to judge you on your going to a reception for Assad, and I don’t think you should judge Jeremy for trying to talk to people who might be open to a settlement in Northern Ireland.”

Suddenly remembering his visit, Fallon: “There is a little bit of a difference. It was a parliamentary visit. An all-party visit. MPs have gone every year during better times in the relationship.”

Thornberry: “But you were at a party.”

Fallon: “I don’t recall any party. I remember a fact-finding visit to Syria.”

Andrew Marr intervened: “But did you meet Assad when you were there?”

Fallon: “I did meet Assad. Indeed.”

Marr: “Did you shake his hand?”

Fallon: “Indeed I met Assad.”

Thornberry: “And you celebrated his re-election.”

Fallon: “I did not celebrate his re-election.”

Thornberry: “But that was what the reception was for. It was a celebration of his re-election.”

Thornberry continued by saying Fallon had earlier claimed that she had wanted to negotiate “the future of the Falklands.”

“That is bollocks,” she said.

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Scotland: local elections, national issues

May 14, 2017 at 9:28 am (elections, labour party, posted by JD, reformism, scotland, SNP, Tory scum)

Scottish Labour Party logo.svg

By Dale Street (also published on the Workers Liberty website)

In the Scottish council elections, the Tories did well, Labour did badly, and although the SNP won more seats than other parties, it failed to maintain the electoral momentum unleashed by the 2014 referendum.

The boundary reorganisation carried out after the 2012 council elections makes it difficult to compare the number of seats won in 2012 with seats won in 2017.

Labour losses can be calculated as 112 or 133. The SNP tally can be calculated as an increase of around 30 seats or a loss of seven seats. And whatever the precise figure for Tory gains (somewhere around 164), it was enough for them to overtake Labour as the second largest party in terms of council seats.

The Tories did particularly well outside of the Central Belt. What seems to have happened is that ‘traditional’ Tory voters who switched to the SNP in previous years as the best way to defeat Labour are now returning to voting Tory.

For a time SNP policies which benefited the middle classes and the better-off – such as the council tax freeze and no tuition fees for university education – had maintained the support of ex-Tory switch voters.

But Sturgeon’s announcement of plans for a second referendum, combined with her ongoing transformation into a latter-day Alex Salmond, have now resulted in large-scale desertions.

Although last week’s elections also saw a limited revival of the working-class Tory vote, especially in and around Glasgow, the SNP’s limited successes were mainly in the Central Belt.

They failed to win an absolute majority in Glasgow, for example, despite the resources they had poured into their campaign in the city. But they won enough seats to become the biggest party after 40 years of Labour rule.

And they overtook Labour as the largest council group in Edinburgh, but only because Labour lost more seats (nine) than the SNP (two). The Tories, on the other hand, increased their number of seats by seven.

The irony here is that the SNP vote held up or even increased in areas and sections of the electorate which have been the prime victims of SNP policies –falling literacy and numeracy standards, the growth of child poverty, major cutbacks in FE places, and cuts in council funding and local services.

(The Westminster block grant for the current financial year increased by 1.4% in real terms. But the SNP government in Holyrood cut local authority funding in real terms by 2.5%.)

Labour, the SNP and the Tories all claimed that they were fighting the elections on local issues. In fact, for all parties, the issue of a second referendum on Scottish independence was central, overtly or covertly, to the elections. It was also certainly the main issue on the doorstep.

The centrality of the issue of independence is also reflected in how political commentators have chosen to ‘analyse’ the results: unionist parties – 605 seats, up by 28, 57%; independence parties – 450 seats, down by 2, 43%.

Although some voting patterns are clear from last week’s election results, they provide little clarity about the possible outcome of the general election in Scotland in four week’s time. There was a low turnout in the elections, and Scottish council elections are based on Single Transferable Vote, not first-past-the-post.

Over the next four weeks Scottish Labour needs to make clear that the key question which should determine how people vote in the general election is not “who will stand up for Scotland?” but “who do you want to form the next government: the Tories or Labour?”

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General Election 2017 – Bradford West Again

May 13, 2017 at 7:32 pm (communalism, Galloway, labour party, Respect)

By KB Player at That Place

Who can forget George Galloway of the Respect party winning Bradford West in a by-election after running a foul sectarian campaign back in 2012? And his tweet saying “shattered but happy after the Blackburn triumph?”

The 2015 General Election’s brightest spot was Naz Shah’s defeating him and telling him off for running a further disgusting sectarian campaign. Shah’s back story includes a forced marriage and Galloway’s agent was doubting this on the grounds that if mother and other witnesses attended a forced marriage, it wasn’t forced!

Shah comes from a disability rights background and is an eloquent speaker.

It was Shah’s “anti-Zionist” remarks that kicked off the whole Ken Livingstone debacle on antisemitism and Shah, whose apology seemed sincere, really emerged with the most credit, certainly compared to Livingstone, Corbyn and Shami Chakrabati and her whitewash of antisemitism in the Labour Party.

Now Salma Yaqoob (pictured above), former leader of Galloway’s Respect party, is running against her in the General Election.  Yaqoob lives in Birmingham, has tried to get into the Labour Party and was refused and now, it seems, wants to split the left vote in Bradford West.

Yaqoob broke with Galloway over his rape remarks vis-a-vis Julian Assange. She has a feminist streak and is no Islamist.   But why Bradford West when Birmingham has its own set of problems and a sizable Muslim population?  Also she was campaigning for Labour a week ago.

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The net closes on Trump: either a traitor or a useful idiot

May 11, 2017 at 8:10 pm (Asshole, corruption, fascism, Jim D, nationalism, plutocrats, populism, Putin, reaction, Russia, strange situations, Trump)

It’s pretty obvious that former FBI director James Comey was sacked because the FBI’s investigation of Russian government interference in the 2016 election was closing in on Trump. All other explanations – and in particular, that the cause was Comey’s handing of the Hillary Clinton email affair – are simply preposterous.

Trump has denied any collusion: but he would, wouldn’t he? All the (admittedly, so far largely circumstantial) evidence points to Trump being either a traitor or Putin’s useful idiot.

Putin has always denied attempting to influence the US presidential election: but he would, wouldn’t he? Albeit, with a smirk.

Comey spoke in March at a rare open hearing of the congressional intelligence committee, which is also investigating the links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. He said the investigation was “very complex” and he could not give the committee details that were not already publicly known. He also said he could not give a timetable for its completion. “We will follow the facts wherever they lead,” he said.

Also testifying before the committee was National Security Agency (NSA) chief Admiral Mike Rogers.

He said the NSA stood by an intelligence community report published in January, which said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered a campaign to damage the presidential  prospects of Hillary Clinton.

What are the allegations?

In January, US intelligence agencies said Kremlin-backed hackers had broken into the email accounts of senior Democrats and released embarrassing ones in order to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.

Since then, Trump has faced well-sourced allegations that his campaign team had links to Russian officials.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has said he is in no doubt that the Russian government was behind the hacking of the Democratic Party during the election, but that at the time he left his post in January, he’d seen no evidence of collusion.

However, Adam Schiff, the committee’s top Democrat, said the material he had seen offers circumstantial evidence that US citizens collaborated with Russians to influence the vote.

If the Trump campaign were found to have colluded with Russia it would eclipse the Watergate scandal and be the most outrageous act of treason in US history.

Which campaign members have been accused of deception?

Two senior officials in the Trump administration have been caught up in the allegations – former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Attorney-General Jeff Sessions, who was forced to recuse himself from any federal probe of Russian meddling in the presidential election, because of his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the US, but now – outrageously – turns out to have been heavily involved in the Comey sacking.

Flynn was fired after he was exposed as having lied about his conversations with the Russian ambassador before he was appointed national security adviser. Flynn has a long history of close and friendly relations with the Putin regime, and has received payments from the regime’s propaganda channel RT.

flynn.jpg Flynn (left) dines with Putin

He lied about having discussed US sanctions with ambassador Sergei Kislyak. It is illegal for private citizens to conduct US diplomacy.

Meanwhile, Sessions was accused by Democrats of lying under oath during his confirmation hearing in January, when he said he had “no communications with the Russians”:  it later emerged that he had met Kislyak during the campaign.

Sessions denied any wrongdoing, but removed (‘recused’) himself from the FBI inquiry into Russia’s interference in the election: now it transpires that he’s played a key role, at Trump’s behest, in getting rid of Comey.

Trump could be heading for impeachment over his corruption and treacherous links to Russia. But, unlike even Nixon, Trump doesn’t play within the rules of bourgeois US politics.

Trump is still very popular with his base. He can argue plausibly that he has tried using Executive Orders to do what he said he would do. Where these orders are being reversed by the courts or bureaucracy he will point to the key idea that the system is broken and dominated by a liberal elite.

The Russian issue doesn’t currently  impinge on his supporters’ admiration for him as they are in general isolationists. He’s on 80% approval ratings with Republican voters.

Trump won’t go quietly and the ace up his sleeve is the movement behind him. It is a  genuine mass movement, plebeian in character (often sole traders, shop keepers, small business owners, lumpen blue collar workers, the unemployed, farmers etc) and radical in the sense they don’t defer to authority. If he wanted he could probably mobilise enough of them to turn up outside the Capitol with guns and set up camp. There is a history of this kind of thing happening in the US at state level.

The impeachment of Trump would in all likelihood enrage his mass base, fuelling ‘deep state’ conspiracy theories and resentment against bourgeois democracy: fertile ground for American fascism.

That doesn’t mean that the left shouldn’t use the charge of treason and collaboration against Trump, or not campaign for his impeachment. Some on the left (and even the liberal-left) have recoiled against this, on grounds of supposed “McCarthyism” (a claim that Trump himself has raised): but that’s nonsense. The suggestion of collusion with Putin is not comparable to the anti-communist witch-hunts of the 1950s and ’60’s: Putin is behind an ultra right wing international campaign to promote reaction, nationalism and isolationism wherever he can. He’s backed Brexit, Trump, Le Pen and a host of other ultra-right and semi-fascist movements.

It’s not McCarthyism to denounce Trump for his links with Putin, up to and possibly including outright treason. But it’s not enough: the US left must also engage with Trump’s working class base and convince them that this billionaire racist, shyster and charlatan offers nothing worthwhile to American workers.

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Labour can ensure the Maybot’s empty slogans come back to haunt her

May 9, 2017 at 5:22 pm (elections, labour party, posted by JD, Tory scum)

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But the SWP *is* a joke

May 8, 2017 at 3:54 pm (Beyond parody, comedy, Jim D, SWP)

Unlike some people, us Shiraz’ers can usually spot a joke.

But….

… is this a joke?

The SWP are asking people to sign a petition to kick the Tories out!

Who does that petition go to? The government? The Labour Party?

Ah! (thanks to Jason Hill, in btl comments) it goes to Corbyn – he needs to be told,  by the SWP,  of the importance of kicking out the Tories…

The petition’s on the SWP website.
https://www.swp.org.uk/resource/1726

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