Support Alan’s Dryathlon for Cancer Research

December 23, 2015 at 2:35 pm (blogging, Euston Manifesto, good people, posted by JD, voltairespriest)

 Cover Photo

As it’s the Season of Goodwill and the Alan Thomas in question (under his nom de guerre ‘Voltair’s Priest’)  founded Shiraz Socialist, we are happy to republish the following appeal:

From The Gerasites:

Dear Eustonites, Gerasites, Red Tories, associated scum and villainy,

As you know, Norman Geras died of cancer on October 18 2013, and as such we feel strongly about doing our part to provide support to those looking to improve treatment and find a cure.

It has come to our attention that a Corbynite by the name of Alan Thomas is raising money for Cancer Research UK. Unfortunately, it turns out that he’s not having much luck raising funds from his comrades. Well, this is an important cause and we’d like to help.

So, in the spirit of Christmas, let’s band together and raise some money in honour of Norman Geras, and the work that has inspired us all. Sure, it might annoy Alan a little, but what a small price to pay to help to cure cancer?

Remember to sign your names as A Eustonite/A Gerasite/A Zionist, so he can be sure to know where the money is coming from. Give generously.

Let’s bring a smile to his face. Bottoms up, Alan.

A Eustonite.

JD adds: be sure to sign yourself as A Shachtmanite/ A Matgamnaite / A Shirazer, or whatever … just so the Eustonite scum don’t get the credit.

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Thinking of you, Norm

October 18, 2013 at 6:26 pm (anti-fascism, blogging, Euston Manifesto, good people, humanism, intellectuals, jazz, Jim D, Marxism, RIP, secularism, socialism)

RIP Norman Geras,
25 Aug 1942 – 18 Oct 2013

It shouldn’t have come as any surprise: after all, he’d warned us in so many words, that he was headin’ for the last round-up. But it was still a shock today, when the news came through – it felt like losing a a best friend or even a family member with an illness that you’d known all along could only have one ending. This despite the fact that we’d never properly met and only ever corresponded by email or via his occasional BTL comments here.

I will be writing more in days to come about this complex, inspiring human being. His pioneering blog, brim-full of gentle humour and searing honesty, remains as a permanent memorial. But for now, I’ll simply recommend Nick Cohen’s heartfelt tribute at the Spectator‘s website…

… and play some jazz (a shared enthusiasm, though Norm loved all sorts of music, including – to my horror – country ‘n’ western):

This version of ‘Ghost of A Chance’ recorded by tenorist Illinois Jacqet in 1968 was Norm’s gift to me, when I had the honour of being the subject of one of his many ‘profiles’ of fellow-bloggers. I’m playing it now, and thinking of him.

NB: – well worth a visit, and you can leave a message there as well.

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Is it a bird? A plane?

March 4, 2009 at 11:41 am (comedy, Euston Manifesto, hitchens, Max Dunbar)

The admired literary critic Stephen Mitchelmore once asked:

What could be more appealing to our literary hopes and wishes than President Chavez’s friendly advice to the young of the USA: set aside Superman and Batman to read authors like Noam Chomsky?

Well, it looks like he may be about to see a wish come true as an American activist has made a Chomsky colouring book.

With 1960s radicals becoming grandparents, Roger Leisner sees a market in the gray ponytail set for his only slightly tongue-in-cheek Noam Chomsky coloring book, which he sells for $5 each.

‘It’ll be interesting to see who I get orders from,’ said Leisner, whose activism took root in 1965 when he received a draft notice while in college in Illinois.

Now that his Radio Free Maine is blossoming into a retirement nest egg, Leisner is expanding with his coloring book business.

The 18 pages show outlines of photos featuring Chomsky, the world renowned linguist, author and political philosopher, along with other outspoken scholars and activists.

Next on the list will be a coloring book featuring [Howard] Zinn, a decorated World War II veteran whose views turned radical as he observed the civil rights struggle and Vietnam War while a college professor.

Later, Leisner said he may do a Noam Chomsky comic book, featuring quotes from various talks over the years.

‘No, I will not put him in a cape or any other get-up,’ said Leisner. ‘A blue workshirt and Levis is good enough for me.’

Actually the comic book idea has already been done by Jeffrey Weston, whose ‘The Adventures of Noam Chomsky’ (and his faithful sidekick, Predicate the dog) is a masterpiece.

When this was discussed at Harry’s Place Gene suggested that it would be good to see a comic book featuring a drunken, hapless Christopher Hitchens. I think that’s a fantastic idea and there is a real gap in the market for comics featuring intellectual celebrities.

An X-men style superhero team of Muscular Liberals™? Captain Lenin and the Tomb Raiders? The Exciting Exploits of Nick Cohen? Ideas for stories and theme songs would be more than welcome.


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What’s the Matter With Harry’s Place?

January 18, 2009 at 2:30 am (crap, Euston Manifesto, Free Speech, iraq war, israel, mccarthyism, Middle East, palestine, red-baiting, voltairespriest)

Long-time readers will be aware that this blog has historically been critical of prominent pro-war left site Harry’s Place, whilst nevertheless continuing to link to it and regarding it as an important part of the political blogging landscape. We have attracted criticism from members of the SWP and others for that stance, and I for one do not envisage it changing. That having been said, I cannot let some of their recent output pass without comment.

Harry’s Place has for a long time had very obviously different politics amongst its various posters, as indeed we do here. There is nothing wrong with that – blogging is not like party politics, still less like hard-left party politics, and there is no need for any one blog to have a set political “line” on any one issue. However, Harry’s Place at its inception had carved itself out a very deliberate niche as an advocate for the use of military force to ensure workers’ rights around the world. Whilst I do not agree with them over the war in Iraq, I do not think that anyone could deny the power of the single, raised ink-stained finger picture that marked the first Iraqi general election, nor the righteous fury of the writing which underlay it. It’s in the archive on their site, somewhere.

So, what has happened recently? In place of all this, we have increasingly bilious attacks on essentially random individuals who oppose Israel’s gross and nauseating military actions in Gaza, which do not even make the pretence of protecting democracy for the Palestinian people. We have attacks on the protests against those military actions and in my view, intimations of anti-semitism. I have attended three such demonstrations in the past fortnight, one in London, one in Coventry and one in Birmingham, and the idea that their tone was an anti-semitic one is quite simply arrant nonsense. I myself was sickened by the “We are all Hezbollah” chants that could be heard on London demonstrations against Israel’s war in the Lebanon – the protests that I have been on categorically did not have that tone, and anyone who says that they did was either watching something else, is desperate to fill out a pre-existing narrative or is simply an outright liar. Further, as people who constantly ask why Israel is held to different standards than other democracies (a contention which is often spurious: imagine what would have happened if the UK launched air strikes against the Shankhill Road in the 1980s), perhaps these supporters of Israel’s actions would like to explain why they seem always to be automatically willing to offer any Israeli administration a blank cheque to do anything at all when it is attacking Arab civilians?

Another thing, which has been particularly galling, is the recent descent into red-baiting. I have already blogged about the bizarre McCarthyism which surrounded the apparent attempt to get Owen Hatherley sacked from the New Statesman for writing a review of Lenny Seymour’s book that didn’t accord with David T’s (or Oliver “I’m left-wing, honest” Kamm’s) opinions. I fully endorsed Lenny Seymour’s comments at the time, and I gladly do so again here. For those who do not remember what they were, this summarises them quite well:

Describing the reviewer, Owen Hatherley, as the “Dilpazier Aslam” of the New Statesman (recalling a case in which a trainee journalist was fired from The Guardian, having written an article that included praise for Hizb Ut-Tahrir while he was a member of said organisation), the post on Harry’s Place claims that Owen Hatherley is a member of the Socialist Workers’ Party. He is not, and never has been. But it is on the basis of this single fabrication that the author of the post launches a lengthy diatribe effectively demanding that the New Statesman publish a correction and fire the reviewer. It is a small irony that, while in effect demanding a purge on the basis of an invention, David T fantasises that it is SWP members who are ‘totalitarian’.

More recently there was this, with an even more blantant exhibition of the most disgusting red-baiting from one “Lucy Lips”. In reference to people of “far left” views getting democratically elected to positions and putting their politics up for discussion, she says:

This is why the far Left needs to be kicked out of all elected positions in the Union movement. They’ve no interest in pay and conditions. They’re happy to wreck a union, as long as it helps them to recruit. They’re waiting for the Revolution, after all.

If that isn’t a classic 1950s-era “reds under the bed” style tissue of lies and paranoia then I don’t know what is. Political arguments aside, as someone virtually whose entire family in some way was born, bred and worked on the left of the labour movement, I find it personally insulting to see some superannuated metropolitan middle-class tosser (forgive me if you’re a destitute M & S worker Lucy, but somehow I doubt it) chooses to tell me what our movement can and cannot discuss in our own forums. And if you don’t like your union officials then vote them out without indulging in McCarthy-style ideological purges. Anyone who does not support that basic level of labour movement democracy is scum pure and simple, and that is the impression which the author gives to me in that post.

And finally we have the ultimate descent into utter Bullingdon crap, with a post taking the piss out of a middle-aged woman’s looks. “LOL TROTZ!”. Jeezus, next week it’ll be “Hey, that Roosevelt, get him and his funny wheelchair!”, “LOL HAWKING!” and “Pavarotti was fat! LOL OPERASINGERZ!”. Either that or a guest post by Roy “Chubby” Brown – hey don’t laugh, I’m sure he probably wants to Defend Freedom too.

Maybe it’s a case of watching Shachtman’s descent (from fascinating dissident left-winger to outright supporter of the political right) in fast-forward from the comfort of my living room. Or maybe they just always were the political equivalent of American Dad mixed up with Beavis and Butthead. Either way I won’t pretend that it isn’t deeply disturbing to see a group of people engaging in tactics worthy of the lowest form of witch-hunting pondlife whilst claiming overtly that they are doing so in the interests of pursuing a progressive political agenda.

Guys, I hope this recent spate of behaviour represents a loss of political bearings and not a display of your true colours. Sort your shit out.

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Reds under the bookshelf?

December 15, 2008 at 3:25 pm (Euston Manifesto, Pro-War Left, SWP, voltairespriest)

Scary Commies at the Staggers!This is a strange one. I hadn’t noticed until earlier today, but apparently the Continuity Eustonites have a bee in their collective bonnets… about two book reviews in the New Statesman. Whilst Eustonalia afficionados will be familiar with their having chosen odd demon-figures to rail at in the past (my personal favourite was Amnesty International, that fearsome institution whom the Eustonistas felt the need to target for reasons I never was bothered to fully fathom), even by their standards this is pretty weird.

According to David T’s original post at Harry’s Place about it, there would seem to be two articles that have upset them. One is a review of Richard “Lenny” Seymour’s book “The Liberal Defense (sic) of Murder” by somebody whom I’d never previously come across called Owen Hatherley. The other is Seymour’s own review of Chris Harman’s “A People’s History of the World”. I have not read either book, and I have no immediate intention of doing so; therefore I cannot know whether either Seymour’s or Hatherley’s reviews are fair and accurate, although I would hazard a guess that both are essential at-length regurgitations of the SWP’s line on the topics that they cover. Put them on somebody else’s Christmas list please, I would prefer a decent bottle of wine.

So, what’s the biggie? Apparently the issue is that Seymour is a member of the SWP, reviewing another SWP member’s book. Similarly Hatherley writes for Socialist Worker, although he maintains that he is not a party member. HP rather ties itself up in knots over this, coming to the eventual conclusion that Hatherley may not be a member of the SWP but must have some agreement with its politics in order to write for SW:

However, ask yourself. How many people do you know who would write for the newspaper of a totalitarian and anti-democratic organisation, without being substantially aligned with its politics?

As it happens I don’t think this is true, either of the SWP or any other left-wing group. Certainly my old comrades in the AWL regularly print articles by people with whom they disagree on other questions of politics, and whilst the SWP are far from as pluralist I still can’t see why it is impossible to believe that they might print an article by a non-member without exercising some kind of influence over that person.

On Seymour, David T is far more emphatic:

Here’s Richard Seymour reviewing a book by his party boss, Chris Harman. Seymour does not mention the fact that that Harman is a Socialist Workers’ Party activist, and the New Statesman doesn’t disclose Seymour’s membership of the Socialist Workers’ Party.

What contempt for its readership.

It would, of course, be something of a stretch to see the smirking proprietor of Lenin’s Tomb publicly dissing SWP Generalissimo Harman’s work, even if he did disagree with it in whole. However I daresay he doesn’t, and is in no way misrepresenting himself bywriting a positive review. They are both members of the same Marixist organisation, and therefore that they broadly agree about questions of politics is hardly surprising. Whilst that does make conversations with SWP’ers about other SWP’ers rather dull, I fail to see why it provokes such outrage on the part of Mr T et al.

Oliver Kamm appears just as exercised about it:

My point remains, however, that he (Hatherley-VP) is a contributor to the newspaper of a Leninist organisation, which is not a normal democratic party even of the radical Left, and in which he urges “a foundation for genuine class politics”. This is a material point in evaluating his review, and as such I consider he ought to have disclosed it both in his piece and in his comment on this blog.

It may or may not be the case that Seymour and Hatherley are not being totally transparent with regard to their political affiliations. However it seems to me that it is not particularly important either way: we are afterall talking about book reviews in the Staggers, not candidates for Prime Minister. The question then, is why do the Euston people care so much about it?

Seymour himself has written a response, which is also worthy of quotation:

On the one hand, all of this is immensely encouraging. If the deranged political cult of liberal bombers didn’t find the book in some sense threatening, they would not waste so much energy on vain attempts to undermine it. On the other hand, this petty, spiteful attack comprises a maniacal McCarthyite troika. It not only seeks to have a positive review of my book retracted and a ‘correction’ published. It also attempts to hound someone who did absolutely nothing wrong out of a livelihood, and to establish an ominous precedent of surveillance for actual and supposed members of the Socialist Workers’ Party on the basis of ignorant claims about it made by David T and his cohort.

This site was one of those which supported Harry’s Place when it was temporarily shut down as a result of complaints by one Jenna Delich, a UCU activist with whom the authors had taken issue. Regardless of our opinions of Delich and HP (which differ), we felt that this was a question of online freedom of speech. As such we offered our solidarity to them. I believe we were right to do that then, and that we should do so again were a similar situation to arise in future. However I for one find the attacks on Seymour and Hatherley very disturbing, and I can also detect the same whiff of McCarthyite sulphur that Seymour does. Think about it: would the Eustonites have gotten so worked up if the review was of a book by, say, Nigel Farage, and written by another UKIP member who (rightly or wrongly) failed to declare his or her own affiliation? I think not. 

I cannot speak for my fellow bloggers at Shiraz Socialist, but Seymour and Hatherley have my support on this issue. The SWP have never been to my political taste, but neither should they or their writings be hounded out of the mainstream press. Furthermore, if it is the case that the Eustonites really are trying to hound Hatherley out of his job then that is to be deplored. The comparison which David T makes between Hatherley and Dilpazier Aslam (sacked extremist Guardian writer) must presumably be predicated on an equation between the SWP and Hizb-Ut-Tahrir, the theocratic party with which Aslam was associated. That equation alone has the feel of red-baiting about it, and as such I find the Eustonites’ actions in this case unconscionable.

Free speech online and in the political media must apply fairly and evenly, or it is not free speech at all. Seymour and Hatherley deserve theirs, and as such I feel we all owe them our backing.

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