Sunday, 31 March 2013

Books: Germinal By Emile Zola

Emil Zola’s classic novel of brutal class war in 19th century France. A rare breed of a book, both brilliant literature combining vivid description and character study and a page turner with a savage bite. A tragedy rather then a revolutionary polemic-there are no heroes here, except the defiance and resilience of the miners, engaged in a doomed strike brought on by intolerably working conditions and starvation wages. There is a villain though, not the individual bourgeois or the Russian nihilist Souvarine or even the thuggish scab Chaval, but the capitalist system itself-a vile monster that not only feeds on the blood and sweat of the workers, but eats the corpses of its own failed capitalists to accumulate more and more profit. 

See Wiki entry here

Christopher Eccleston reads from Germinal below:

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Lessons From The Anti-Poll Tax Movement

I was involved in the anti-poll tax struggle and what I’ve learnt from it is that if the conditions are right events can really escalate into something big. There is always a lengthy lull before the storm when it appears nothing is going on. You seem to be banging your head against a brick wall of apathy. You get slightly despondent. I think this is the period we are going through now. Then suddenly everything comes together and a mass movement arises seemingly out of the blue. This is what happened with the student revolt of winter 2010, the Arab Spring and the international Occupy movement of 2011. Of course underneath the seemingly spontaneous uprisings are committed activists that do the boring stuff-do stalls, drop leaflets, organise meetings, etc. The important thing is to be open minded and imaginative, not full back on dogma (including anarchist dogma). Always keep it local and grassroots orientated, avoid as far as possible heavy involvement by Labour MP’s or councillors or union big wigs, but keep a loose dialogue open with such people. But it is also important to link up with other grassroots groups on a federated fashion to create a unified campaign. Above all be flexible and open to surprises. The big mistake the Socialist Workers Party made with the Poll Tax was to put all their eggs in the union basket by rejecting the non-payment campaign and relying purely on the council workers to refuse to implement the tax. Their rivals Militant (The Socialist Party) won out tactically by basing their campaign on the working class community itself where Militant had connections, especially in Scotland and the North of England.

There are big difference though with then and now. Then it was only one heinous tax we had to deal with but now the working class are under attack from all fronts and it’s global. We are seeing an escalation of neo-liberalism, a re-structuring of society (which of course began with Thatcher.) We are dealing with the dismantling of the Welfare State, the privatisation of the NHS (something even Thatcher did not dare to attack) and the privatisation of the public sector using the deficit as an excuse, including the police and the fire service. And that’s only for starters when you bring ecological devastation and climate change into the equation. With hindsight it was easy to defeat the Poll Tax; if you have enough people who are not paying the tax then it becomes unworkable. Also as everybody had to pay the tax it also affected the lower middle classes and became an electoral liability. This is not so for the Bedroom Tax for instance.

The need for open-mindedness, flexibility, imagination, a linked but grassroots orientation, radical democracy and an experimental politics is even more important now then in 1989-90. This is because we are going to see (and are seeing) major but unpredictable and fragmented revolts breaking out everywhere in workplaces and the community all connected by the degradation of people and planet caused by neo-liberalism. Not one of these struggles will be more important then the other and almost over night many people will become activists without even realising it. Self-conscious activists of all strips have to be involved in debating, offering alternatives and organising in the community and workplace but at the same time not seeing themselves as special or a vanguard with all the answers. Distrust all conventional politicians or ‘experts’ but keep an open dialogue with them based on the strength of our solidarity.

It’s going be a very long and difficult struggle, Comrades, but we have to start somewhere and that somewhere is in the here and now, in your local community and workplace. We have a world to win!

News From The Future

Back in early 2008 I meet a character who claimed she could travel in time. She told me that in 2013 we would see the most savage restructuring of society in the UK and throughout Europe for the benefit of big business and the rich since the days of Maggie Thatcher. Incredible a fringe group of middle class woolly jumper wearers called The Liberal Democrats had a small role to play. Nah, I scoffed to this crazy leftist time traveller who had probably been watching too much Dr Who-don’t exaggerate I said, they surely use more subtle methods, etc, etc, the nice Lib-Dems, pull the other one…

TNI Report: Using the Crisis to Entrench Neoliberalism-here 

Saturday, 9 March 2013

CD's From My Collection: With Love: A Pot Of Flowers: Various Artists (1967)

A compilation album originally issued in 1967 showcasing the bands on San Francisco label Mainstream. You are in jangle/fuzz heaven here, introducing the pop/garage side of the legendary SF music scene.

CD's From My Collection: Popol Vuh: Hosianna Mantra (1972)

Combining perfectly classical chamber music (piano/vocals), some eastern elements and lead electric guitar (no bass or drums), Hosianna Mantra is stunningly beautiful. Traditionally melodic without discords or heavy volume this album was made for bliss. 

CD's from my Collection: King Crimson: Larks' Tongues In Aspic (1973)

King Crimson from this album onward are in my opinion the best of the UK progressive rock bands from the 70's. Dynamic, heavy but sophisticated with quiet/loud musical textures and influenced by jazz rather then orchestral classical music. Prog-metal originated here, even post-rock is indebted.