Archive for the ‘Communism’ Category
Strange Days: Cold War Britain is a three part series shown on BBC.
The second section was broadcast last night.
The BBC describes it as follows, “Dominic looks at the front line of the conflict as a newly prosperous Britain of consumerism was pitched against the Soviet ideal of communism.”
Historian Dominic Sandbrook, the presenter, is a master of supercilious superficiality.
The Great Contest (Isaac Deutscher) was played out in the UK in the late fifties and sixties between the ‘Guardian reading’ CND – all solemn and po-faced – and the threat of imminent nuclear war.
Britain’s main contribution to fighting the Cold War was pop culture (the Beatles) of, and there were some missiles somewhere. There was James Bond to help us, and John le Carré (whose name Sandbrook managed the hard task of pronouncing ‘la‘ Carré) to muddy the waters.
Strange Days had some serious real-life stuff, with the Soviet blackmailing of British Navel Attaché John Vassall for his gay sexuality.
Strident left-wingers presented Play for the Day, which were little more than class war rants. Joining the Communist Party of Great Britain, one clip was reeled out to show, was a serious commitment, not far of becoming a Jesuit.
Come 1968 and the ‘seventies and Communism turned groovy.
We had the evidence of Rising Damp’s Alan Guy Moore (Richard Beckinsale) to demonstrate it.
In the battle between the Ideal Home exhibition and Nikita Khrushchev capitalist consumerism had the edge.
Who needed left-wing politics when you had white goods?
Now there are reasons to think that some of Sandbrook’s underlying arguments tilt in the right direction.
Sandbrook is, if the word is appropriate for somebody I’ve only just heard of, well-known for arguing that the 1960s far from being a decade of Revolution were conservative.
In the New Statesman (2005) he stated,
…anywhere you look you can find evidence that belies the myths of permissiveness and revolution. Was there really a cultural revolution? A million people rushed out every Saturday to buy the latest hit singles; but two million men and boys went in pursuit of fish, and a staggering 19 million people pottered about the garden.
It is indeed striking that you can meet people (Coatesy writes as somebody who actually was part of the counter-cultural left in the early 1970s) and who, on the basis of a few trips to the Roundhouse think they were part of this ‘cultural revolution’.
Those of us who were (and I know some of them as well) were acutely aware of how much a minority the ‘counter-cultural left’ was at the time. We had only to see the reactions of other people in pubs to tell us.
But that’s as far as it goes.
Sandbrook has apparently never heard of the New Left, anti-Stalinists and a lot more.
Despite these (and many other) gaps Strange Days tries to be too clever for its own good.
Sandbrook has faced charges of plagiarism in the more recent past.
Strange Days is just pastiche politics.
Ali G Discourses with Richard Seymour, and Laurie Penny.
Our old comrade Richard Seymour and Laurie ‘Penny Red’ have been well fit getting down on this with guest, Mr Ali G.
Extracts from A discourse on brocialism
On Russell Brand, iconoclasm, and a woman’s place in the revolution: a dialogue with Richard Seymour and Ali G on the question of how to reconcile the fact that people need stirring up with the fact that the people doing the stirring so often fall down when it comes to treating women and girls like human beings.
Richard Seymour. To an extent, he genderfucks, he queers masculinity. He has his hair as a beautiful bird’s nest, and wears eyeliner. His comportment is very ‘effeminate’ in some ways. Part of his attractiveness, then, is that for all his sexual swagger and rigorous self-objectification, he isn’t conventionally ‘manly’.
Laurie Penny. I’d like to say, first off that there are many things apart from the hair and cheekbones that I admire about Brand. He’s a damn fine prose stylist, and that matters to me. He uses language artfully without appearing to patronise, something most of the left has yet to get the hang of. He touches on a species of directionless rage against capitalism and its discontents that knows very well what it’s against without having a clear idea yet of what comes next, and being a comedian he is bound by no loyalty except to populism.
Ali G. Crack cocaine iz destroyin’ our community, so when a bruva makes it through, he deserves our respect. So, let’s big it up for me main man Brand, who has been off da crack now for eight years!
Richard Seymour. So, in place of a unity in which the oppressed preserve a tactful silence, we need a complex unity, a unity-in-difference. This is what ‘intersectionality’ means to me. It is the only strategy that will work. We aren’t asking too much; we’re demanding the bare minimum that is necessary for success.
Ali G. You wanna know ‘ow I make diz country bettah? Iz simple, two words: keep it real!
Laurie Penny. That’s three words!
Ali G. Don’t be a spannah, it ain’t a real word. It’s short for innit, innit?
Richard Seymour My experience is that ‘brocialists’ don’t openly embrace patriarchy; they deny it’s a problem. Or they minimise it. They direct your attention elsewhere: you should be focusing on class. You’re being divisive. You’re just middle class (quelle horreur!).
Ali G. Me woz born in da heart off da Staines ghetto. Me woz failed by da skool system and hated every minute me spent in da classroom. In fact added together, dat time woz probly da most borin 3 hours of me life – altho me do still go to a skool re-union every second Monday at Staines Job Centre… As well as bein unemployed – i iz also got a lot off well important careers. As head of Da West Staines Massive, me control da most peace lovin and violent gang in da hole of Barkshire.
Richard Seymour. The system of patriarchy has a lot of material compensations and advantages to offer those who accept it and identify with it. To me, the rape jokes and misogynistic language – all this is straightforward symbolic violence, ascriptive denigration, and obviously linked to punishment for transgression. Whether knowingly or not, it’s an occasion for male bonding – the ’naughty’ laughter – and the production of a type of masculinity. It’s the exercise of a ‘privilege’ of patriarchy. Of course, not all men like or want such ‘privilege’. But for it to be effective, quite a large number of men and women have to accept its basic inevitability, its naturalness.
Ali G. Do you think all girls should try feminism at least once? ”
Richard Seymour. I think organisations on the Left should have explicitly organised caucuses of women, of LGBTQ people, of black people, and so on – and these caucuses should have real authority, they shouldn’t just be debating societies where issues that are ‘inconvenient’ can be hived off. They should make policy.
Ali G. If this talk teach you anything, it should teach you how to respek everyone: animals, children, bitches, spazmos, mingers, lezzers, fatty boombahs, and even gaylords. So, to all you lot watching this, but mainly to the normal people, respek. West side.
Richard Seymour. You get this weird thing with many brocialists (I think this is true of Brand to an extent) who are clearly hurt by dominant norms of ‘masculinity’, and who resist it to an extent. And yet they still basically identify with patriarchy at some level, they still enjoy its brutality – the rape jokes, for example. yet they still basically identify with patriarchy at some level, they still enjoy its brutality – the rape jokes, for example.
Laurie Penny. That’s the issue that I’ve seen raised time and again when it comes to powerful men within movements and sexism or sexual violence, or to matters of fair representation, often by those seeking to defend or excuse the violence, but not always
Ali G. But what harm has violence ever done?
Laurie Penny. Oh… death!
Ali G. Yeah, but apart from that.
BBC Four’s Storyville documentary about Pussy Riot, the Russian feminist punk group, and founders of a new feminist movement, was extraordinary.
AS Wikipedia describes them, “they stage unauthorized provocative guerrilla performances in unusual public locations, which are edited into music videos and posted on the Internet. Their lyrical themes include feminism, LGBT rights, opposition to the policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom they regard as a dictator, and links between the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church and Putin.”
“Art is not a mirror to reflect the world, but a hammer with which to shape it” ran the Bertolt Brecht quote at the programme start.” notes the Telegraph reviewer.
They also cited Guy Debord.
The great merit of the documentary was that it showed the strength of their movement, their personal courage, and their ideas without forgetting some of the doubts people may have about their actions.
The film makers pointed out that the very Cathedral where they staged their most famous protest (Cathedral of Christ the Saviour (Russian: Храм Христа Спасителя, Khram Khrista Spasitelya) was demonilished on 5 December 1931, by order of Stalin’s minister Kaganovich, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour was dynamited and reduced to rubble.
It was rebuilt long after the Soviet era, in the 1990s.
That the believers come in different kinds, and that they have rights too.
At a time when Christians are under physical attack in many lands, we should not forget this.
Human rights have no exceptions, none.
Free Pussy Riot!
Diamond Geezer say Labour Candidate Andy Newman.
“Stalin was great says Red Ed’s man.”
So sayeth the Sun.
The Daily Mail helpfully adds,
Red Andy, the Labour hopeful who says Stalin improved living standards and the Berlin Wall was ‘a great success’ (but Ed says the party HASN’T lurched to the Left).
At first glance, Andy Newman would appear to be a good fit with the affluent Wiltshire seat, held by Liberal Democrat Duncan Hames.
Educated at a private school (Editor’s note I didn’t know that – another reason to hate Newman) and Oxford University (same as previous) Mr Newman’s CV bears the hallmarks of a modern Labour politician.
However, a delve into some of his recent writings suggests the union official is determined to keep the Red Flag flying over the West Country.
He has called the Berlin Wall ‘a great success’ and praised the ‘significant improvement in working class living standards’ during Stalin’s Great Terror.
He described the attacks on Pearl Harbour as the ‘opening salvo in a war between two rival imperialisms’ – equating America with wartime Japan under Emperor Hirohito – and branded the Dalai Lama a ‘figurehead for slavery’.
In the run-up to his selection last month, the telecoms engineer set out some of his uncompromising beliefs in articles in ultra-left-wing publications.
Paying tribute to Stalin’s character, whose brutal dictatorship led to the deaths of millions of citizens, he wrote earlier this year: ‘We should recognise how Stalin was the creature of his times; and not alone in culpability.
‘What is more, the character of Stalin, who almost through a feat of sheer will industrialised and militarised the USSR to defend itself against the Nazi threat, was also the character that ruthlessly regarded people as expendable. It did give Stalin the attributes needed to be a great war leader’.
And in 2009, Mr Newman, who is the local branch secretary of the GMB union, used a piece in Socialist Unity to put a positive gloss on the tyrant’s rule
Describing him in apparently respectful terms as ‘the Stalin’, he wrote: ‘Free market capitalism had seen worldwide depression in the 1930s and had led to fascism and war.
‘Meanwhile the USSR’s economy had achieved staggering success in the same period, including a significant improvement in working class living standards, despite the Stalin’s terror’.In the same article, he wrote warmly of the Berlin Wall: ‘If we set to one side the issue of personal liberty, the [Berlin] wall was a great success.’