Friday, 26 October 2012

Book Review: Rebel Cities: From The Right To The City To The Urban Revolution By David Harvey

A collection of essays from the distinguished Marxist theorist David Harvey on the theme of urbanisation and the class struggles arising out of city environments. For those who want to prioritise class struggle based on urban communities rather then the workplace or who see the centrality of community in workplace struggle, it is worth reading. It is a difficult read at times as much of the book is a detailed analysis of the vital importance to capitalism (its drive for the accumulation of profit and absorption of surplus value) of the built environment and the processes of urbanisation. The impact of this on the broad mass of city dwellers and the environment is in the dispossession of the poor and working class of their homes and communities to make way for gated communities, gentrified zones and CCTV monitored private spaces such as shopping malls-linked brutally to the extraction of wealth of both the people and the planet via methods of high rent and sub-prime mortgages. David Harvey is no anarchist and is mildly dismissive of vague horizontalism but has some admiring words for eco-anarchist Murry Bookchin. He formulates a new urban anti-capitalist movement based somewhere between Bookchin's municipal libertarianism, the Paris Commune and larger global state forms.

Read Owen Hatherley's review in the Guardian here

Blu-ray From My Collection: That Obscure Object Of Desire (1977), Directed By Luis Bunuel

DVD's From My Collection: The Saragossa Manuscript (1965), Directed By Wojciech Has

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Torpid TUC Rally Against Austerity

Trade unions' anti-cuts march

I've been on many demo's in my time and I'm sorry to report that the much hyped TUC March Against Austerity, The Sequel was a bit of a damp squib. The numbers were down on last year's half a million and also unlike last year lacked anger and passion. I did not see any lively young activists from Occupy or UKUncut, students, or pissed off anarchists (other then the syndicalist IWW) to inject a bit of life into my jaded middle aged lefty self, not even a decent Samba band-although they were probably all on this. And certainly the working class outside the public sector or London's unemployed were only noticeable by their absence. On the whole it was a comfort zone for the Trade Union leadership to spout empty rhetoric about fighting back against the evil Tories while waiting for Miliband to seize power. Of course there is still time for a movement that combines rank and file workplace resistance with anti poll-tax style community action to catch fire, as the massive social and economic re-structuring of this country continues on relentlessly-see Richard Seymour's interesting analysis here. Meanwhile I came away from the demonstration not with the will to take things further but to retreat into a gloomy Sunday morning negativity.

PS: Infantile Disorder's account is well worth a read here             

Friday, 19 October 2012

Book Review: The Wizard By Gene Wolfe

Reading Tolkien's The Lord Of The Rings saga when I was 13 had a major impact on my imaginative life no doubt, but by the time of my mid teens I had moved away from epic fantasy with all of its genre conventions. Gene Wolfe is one of the great fantasy and SF writers (that nobody has ever heard off) and can be read as literature of the highest order. The two books comprising The Wizard Knight (read my short review of The Knight here) is his attempt at straight down the line Fantasy, with all the tropes-knightly heroes, elfin races, dragons, giants, even talking animals. But as this is Gene Wolfe there is added complexity and depth belied by its bog-standard cover. It has all the pleasures of fantasy (escape into a mythical imaginary world being one of them) as well as a satisfying obliqueness and sophistication that makes you wonder what actually is going on under the surface.      

Friday, 12 October 2012

We Are Under Attack! We Are Under Attack! Resist! Resist! Resist!

Just when you thought it could not get worse... sneering public school bully and ultimate filthy rich shitbag Osbourne announces a £10 billion extra cut in Welfare at Tory conference and brings in a scheme where workers throw away their employment rights for a tiny amount of shares. But as a low grade civil servant a leaked document from the Cabinet Office was like a punch in the face! I had to read it again to make sure it was not an elaborate hoax so as to get more public sector workers on the TUC March next Saturday. Not only the savage cuts, a pay freeze and paying more for a pension for less, but now on top of all that they want to rip up our terms and conditions within a year!

 "Detailed plans to cut holidays, lengthen working weeks and reduce flexible working for 450,000 public employees have been disclosed for the first time in leaked Cabinet Office documents.

A letter sent to every human resources director across the civil service, and seen by the Guardian, outlines the scope and speed of the coalition government's planned reforms and how they would affect staff.

By the end of this year, directors in every Whitehall department are expected to have examined the terms and conditions of their workforce and outlined plans to make their jobs more like those in the private sector.

The documents reveal several aspects of working life as susceptible to radical change, including employees' annual leave, occasional days' leave, sick pay, hours of work, the ability of employees to move from one job to another and probationary periods.

Managers have also been ordered to review policies including the family-friendly scheme of flexitime, travel and expenses, disciplinary procedures and performance management. The letter applies to staff below the level of senior civil servants."

Read the Guardian report here

From The Anarchist Media Project

CD's From My Collection: UFOMAMMUT: Opus Alter (2012)

CD's From My Collection: Six Organs of Admittance: Ascent (2012)

CD's From My Collection: The Bevis Frond: The Leaving Of London (2012)

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Thurrock Heckler: The Radical Proletarian Movement That's Needed

Issues and debates surrounding a working class political organisation are extremly important. How else are we to start a movement of radical change, that at the moment just does not exist. Thurrock Heckler takes up these issues here from a hard line class struggle anarchist position but there is a lot here that I like. Well worth a read.

"We know we're not alone in wanting a broad based, radical / revolutionary proletarian movement that's an attractive proposition to ordinary working class people – we've met a few very sound comrades who share this aspiration and more importantly, recognise the urgency of the situation. The sickening thing is that we are in all probability too late to make a start in realising our vision before the economic, political, social and geo-political crises that we face all converge to create a horrific, extremely turbulent situation where the basic aim will be mere survival. However, the realisation that we may indeed be too late should act as the spur for that one last push to break through a toxic mix of complacency and inertia and kickstart the movement we need into being."

The Possibility Of A General Strike: Article From Infantile Disorder

Good article here from Infantile Disorder on the practicalities of a general strike and the dead weight of union leaders and the bureaucracy. A nice attack on outgoing TUC boss Brendan Barber:

"That's why - for all their talk of working class struggle - the material interests of the bureaucracy very closely align with those of the capitalist class. Perhaps the most blatant embodiment of these contradictions is outgoing TUC general secretary Brendan Barber. While making occasional and relatively criticisms of the government for its anti-worker measures, he has sat on the Bank of England board since 2003. He is fully integrated into the ruling class apparatus. So when he talks - as he did at the TUC conference - of an "Olympic-style crusade" to build up the UK "industrial strength", he does so knowing full well this would necessarily mean an enormous attack on wages in an era of global competition. But so long as these poorly paid jobs were unionised, Barber and his parasitic layer would be happy."

Friday, 5 October 2012

The Anti Poll Tax Moment

Anti Poll Tax Demo: 31st March 1990
Are we heading towards an anti poll tax moment? When Universal Credit is introduced next year it is estimated that 1.2 million low waged workers will lose benefits and also come under the strict surveillance and rules of conditionality similar to the unemployed-see The Guardian here. In 1989/1990 resistance exploded against the dreaded Poll Tax, seemingly coming out of nowhere, scuppering the tax and bringing Thatcher to her knees. Liberals and politicians say the British working class does not fight back against injustice-the anti-poll tax movement is one example of  large scale grass-roots struggle that disproves them big time. Will it happen again?

Polly Toynbee: Example of Delusion of The Political Classes

An almost unbelievable example of the delusion at the rotting heart of the liberal establishment. Top Guardian journalist and writer witnesses the second coming at the Labour conference. While nearly everyone hears the same pointless soundbites and catch phrases (not Old Labour, not New Labour but One Nation Labour) signifying absolutely fuck-all, poor old Polly sees the face of Christ in the dregs.