Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Declinism and Tory Culture Wars.

with 8 comments

As Far-right Surfaces Left Gets Involved in Culture Wars.

In an important article ‘The Seductions of Declinism in the latest London Review of Books William Davies discusses Britain’s economic malaise. The Goldsmith professor cites the Resolution Foundation,’s latest report which reads, “The UK has great strengths, but is over a decade into a period of stagnation. The toxic combination of slow growth and high inequality was posing challenges for low-to-middle income Britain’s living standards even before the post-pandemic cost of living crisis struck. Growth stands at 0,4% a year, compared to an average 0,9% in OECD countries. Since 2007 wages have not grown at all. The UK is now an “unusually unequal country”.

In form of capitalism which has been called “rentier” (for many this will evoke the work of Thomas Piketty, although he cites Brett Christophers) or ‘neo-feudalism’ (for many again this evokes CĂ©dric Durand and techno-feudalism rather than Jodi Dean) “economies like Britain’s have effectively abandoned the pursuit of prosperity through the traditional practices of investment in technology, R & D, skills and entrepreneurship…and (have) descended instead into passive speculation on unproductive assets, above all housing, bu extending to such Ponzi schemes as NFTs and other cryptocurrencies.”

This is the backdrop to the “nostalgia fest of the Tory leadership election”.

But one thing brightens the Conservative contest, cultural issues. They soak up “vast amounts of attention on-line” – propelled by the priorities of the news business, “a handful of newspapers owned by three or four billionaires”. This is illustration of Durand’s take on the “DĂ©pendance des sujets aux plateformes, brouillage de la distinction entre l’économique et le politique” people’s dependence on digital platforms, a blurring of the distinction between politics and economics. At the same time it indicates Davis’ own view that with digital platforms we have shifted from the ideal of the presentation of factual information towards a landscape of swirling cascades of data and sentiment.

Davies’ picture was summarised last year in the Los Angeles Review of Books,

“The world of publicly available facts that these figures marshaled and mediated for ordinary citizens becomes increasingly divorced from the hidden world accessed by the miners of private data, with the result that new sets of insiders and outsiders are created and the workings of power become increasingly opaque. The ground is laid for conspiracy theories to replace consensus about reality. According to Davies, we have entered a new regime of truth, one with scant time for the shibboleths and separations — “between public and private, between state and market, politics and media, and between the three branches of government (executive, legislative, judiciary)” — that defined the liberal order.

The Liberal Trust Crisis. Adam Kelly.

Davies may well be right that “Pronouncements about Stalinism, gender identity, wokeness and Brexit” are more oaths of Tory loyalty than a contributions to Conservative electoral victory, or a ‘hegemonic’ strategy that can draw the electorate behind the Tories. He may, though this is less than sure, have a point about underlying this is a dispute about narratives between universities and papers over such topics as British identity, though this begs a lot of questions about the authority and coherence, let alone radicalism (many self-identifying left leaning ones are very quiet on the pressing issue of Ukraine) of academics. His observation that the under 50s do not read papers is undermined by the prevalence of their content on social media. Playing, cos or otherwise, many people are indifferent to battles on these issues, preferring simply to be “to be alive to issues of race and social justice,” and plenty of other subjects.

One topic though, Brexit, is neither a matter of wokeness, nor, despite the efforts of some of Davies’ left wing sovereigntist colleagues, a “floating signifier” that could have been given a left inflection. It is damaging to those trying to create a radical alternative to the Conservatives, and Starmer’s moderate slide, that it continues to capture illusions about popular sovereignty whose reach can be read in those left wingers who believe that People’s Brexit could have happened. Or that, for all its present Tory cast, is, in some sense a step forward which a future left government could build on.

It is hard to forget that New leftist Perry Anderson, whose thesis (with Tom Nairn) on the lack of a proper bourgeois revolution to spur later British modernisation Davies discusses at length, stated “for all its woeful shortcomings
 Westminster is vastly superior to the lacquered synarchy” of the European Union” (The Breakaway: Goodbye Europe London Review of Books. 2021). Brexit, headed by a populist braggart, welcomed by the new millennium New Left Review, to be continued by the next Tory PM, is another cause of a economic, political and social regression, aiding the economic stagnation the Resolution Foundation outlines.

Davies concludes that the Tory Party leadership contest, “creates the impression of a country that can now only speak to itself in slogans, oaths and insults, and has no has no capacity to describe or explain its problems”. At the same time, it looks, he says, concentrating out minds, as if “Britain’s elites now intend to stake everything on another financial free-for-all”. If a limited (constrained by anti union laws) wave of strikes is breaking out, there has not been much success in getting the people to yearn for another clamp down on organised labour. There have been calls for a union day of action. As yet there is no sign of Britain seeing this: GrĂšve gĂ©nĂ©rale et nationale le 29 septembre 2022 (France).

There is no doubt the case that the political world is now digitally captured to the point where it is hard to know where Twitter and platforms begin and at what point they merge into face-to-face politics and end political – even state – decisions .

The culture wars, in the meantime, are both in the billionaire media, and out on the streets:

You might almost think dredging up the culture wars is a deliberate distraction from the reality of economic decline….

Written by Andrew Coates

August 7, 2022 at 12:27 pm

Nichelle Nichols, Lt Uhura in Star Trek, dies aged 89: Science Fiction and the Left.

leave a comment »

Nichelle Nicols, Lt Uhura has passed away. (Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt Uhura in original Star Trek, dies aged 89). There are many tributes today to the greatly loved actress. “She died of natural causes on Saturday night, her son Kyle Johnson said. In a statement posted on Facebook, Mr Johnson wrote: “I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years.””Her light however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and draw inspiration.” (BBC)

Few reports do not highlight that in the episode Plato’s Stepchildren (1968), Nicols shared one of the first lip-to-lip interracial kisses on television – with co-star William Shatner, Captain Kirk. This remains important. In Britain, to cite what is thought to be one of the first such embraces broadcast, there was a kiss between Lloyd Reckord and AndrĂ©e Melly in the ITV Armchair Theatre adaptation of Ted Willis’s play Hot Summer Night, shown on 1 February 1959. 

The Guardian comments that Star Trek had wider intentions, “Its multicultural, multiracial cast was creator Gene Roddenberry’s message to viewers that in the far-off future, the 23rd century, human diversity would be fully accepted.”

In the US Star Trek has long been described ‘left liberal’. The creator of the series, Gene Rodenberry, stood for racial and sexual equality, and is perhaps best called liberal humanist. In Bread and Circuses of the Original Series the slaves who believe in universal brotherhood are revealed at the conclusion to worship the Son of God .

The left side of the franchise, as it has developed over the years, has grown. There is a vision of a future in which parts of the populated universe (such as the United Federation of Planets in times of peace) have conquered scarcity. This is Marx’s premise for a communist society “an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all”. Money is not used in the Federation. Yet the Ferengi (prominent in Deep Space Nine), live by the “Rules of acquisition”,  where earning profit, Accumulate! defines their patriarchal lives. On the space station Deep Space Nine, where cash is used, one, Ferengi, Rom, sets up a bar trade union to strike against his own proprietor brother Quark – at one point shouting Workers of the World Unite! (Bar Association).

There is a loss of diversity in these distant days. In a moment of sadness Captain Jean-Luc Picard, born in La Barre France, in The Next Generation series, tries to defend the French language, which has become obscure in the 24th century. A greater challenge to the socialised pluralist future come from the Borg, cybernetic organisms. Their Hive Mind, the Collective, is bent on assimilating cultures, technologies and all transform other species into drones. In Star Trek: Voyager, the Borg Queen is more than the expression of the group. She is in command, a kind of non-ego totalitarian Leader.

Some people have the theory that Star Trek is created with extra-terrestrial help. By showing these dramas the aim is to get us used to life in the rest of the galaxy before Warp Drive is introduced.

Science fiction has a long association with politics. A founder of modern science fiction, “scientific romances” H.G. Wells was a socialist. Many people have grown up with his novels and ideas taking from them a sense of optimism about the potential of science and the future analogous to the Second International’s belief in the onward march of the labour movement, or the Fabian ‘inevitability of gradualness’. Now the beliefs that the left is “swimming with the tide” and the “concept of progress” do not often appear. Wells himself offered less than optimistic pictures of the years to come, from Eloi and Morlocks in The Time Machine (1895) to the class struggle that erupts in a world two hundred and three years hence ruled by the oligarchy of the White Council in The Sleeper Awakes (1910). The author also had a not necessarily progressive interest in inter-racial sex. In 1910 he visited a Washington DC black brothel in 1906 (The Young H.G. Wells: Changing the World. Claire Tomalin. 2021).

Amongst contemporary left-wing science fiction writers Ursula K. Le Guin (1929 – 2018) stands out. Her The Dispossessed (1974) is a memorable work, describing warring capitalist and state socialist societies on Urras, and an anarchist syndicalist utopia on the moon Anarres. China Tom MiĂ©ville, formerly active in the Socialist Workers Party  and a member of the Royal Society of Literature, is best known for his compelling Bas-Lag series. In these books the heroic underground newspaper the Runagate Rampant battling the vicious rulers of  New Crobuzon is believed to be modelled on Socialist Worker.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 1, 2022 at 12:05 pm

GB News Goes Spiked on the “Commonwoke Games”.

with 2 comments

If we yield to wokeism, which is communism in all but name, if we yield to the hard left, we will be left, with nothing at all. Marx my words, communism is back, and we have to defeat it all over again, says Mark Dolan. GB News”

In this Blog’s relentless battles on the culture war front there is little respite. Last week we visited O’Brien’s, a dwelling place of the Inner Party. He offered me a glass of French wine, ChĂąteaux Neuf du Pape, apologising, “Since Brexit not much of it gets to the Outer Party”. I sipped the beverage, savouring the taste. It belonged to a vanished romantic past, like the Tendance Marxiste RĂ©volutionnaire Internationale (TMRI) in which Cde Keir Starmer learnt his entryist craft.

The line-manager at the Ministry of Woke Truth had only a blank, voiceless, telescreen. ‘He caught me staring in its direction. ‘Yes’ said O’Brien, ‘we can turn it off. We have that privilege.”

No such luck for the Tendance….

Cor Blimey!

The Commonwoke Games

Woke scolds are ruining everything. Even sport.

Can the woke scolds not leave us alone for five minutes? Judging from last night’s opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Games, the answer to that question is a firm No. The ceremony was a big fat finger-wag at the nation, an am-dram lecture to the masses on the right way to think about race, colonialism, gender, blah blah blah. It was like being beaten around the head with a copy of the Guardian for three hours. What ought to have been a sparkling celebration of Blighty ahead of a two-week sporting festival that is exactly the pick-me-up this troubled nation needs was turned by the Beeb and the Birmingham glitterati into yet another opportunity to hector Joe Public about ‘ishoos’. Millions must have switched off.

“Brummie glitterati” – nice one Benny Brendan! Brings back the happy days of Crossroads Motel when you could have a laugh with loveable people with learning difficulties

You need no party telescreen watcher to guess what else GB News – and the Spikey ones – are obsessed with today:

With its colourful talking heads, far right Tory commentary, and anti-Woke crusade GB News is already comparing well to its counterpart far-right alt-news channel, C-News. The gallic broadcaster’s star Éric Zemmour scored 7,07% in this year’s Presidential election standing for La ReconquĂȘte against the ‘Great Replacement’.

As the feisty candidate said last February, “Aujourd’hui on est antiraciste, fĂ©ministe, Ă©cologiste, la culture ‘woke’ a pris la place du marxisme, qui avait pris la place du socialisme, qui avait pris la place du libĂ©ralisme”.”These days we are anti-racist, feminist, green…..’woke’ culture has taken the place of Marxism, which had taken the place of socialism, which had taken the place of liberalism”.

Funster Mark Dolan could not have put it better.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 30, 2022 at 5:25 pm