I wish Norman Geras was still here

At 70 this bright, clear, solid Marxist professor and teacher has died – Engage summarises how he got between the Jews and their foes. Neil D recalls his blogging beginnings. Haroon Siddique plots its rise. Martin in the Margins pays tribute to the man who started him blogging. Norm was a great profiler of less well-known bloggers. He had a whimsical side, attempting emails with Rosie using only one vowel. Nick Cohen calls him uxorious. Harry – the actual Harry – blogs about his methodical patience when dealing with people who could drive saints to mass murder. Ben Cohen, whom Norm taught, remembers him as patient, kind, and sympathetic to his students. I hear that tomorrow there will be a Guardian obituary worth reading.

I liked the way he didn’t allow comments on his blog, pushing people back to their own spaces to respond and let him know by email. This was unusual for the time – the vogue was for free comment. He was prescient about what chaff and distraction that can be on a blog which considers the political left, let alone the Jews.

Having given up 3 hours of my life – short, precious life if you are as ill as Norm was – to Slavoj Zizek’s Rorschach blot of a film this week, I just read this on Zizek by Norm back in 2009 with the warmth and gratitude of the vindicated. And so often vindication was Norm’s gift, which emanated from his blog and which I eagerly received.

I will miss him rubbing his hands over the cricket on Twitter, and I very much regret that he hadn’t heard from me for weeks. If I take nothing else from this it is that work is wicked if it steals your attention from your loved ones and comrades. I’m glad that Norm had such a loving family, and I am heartily sorry for their loss.

Thanks to them for being the keepers of the Normblog.

Olympic games as they are and could be

Tommie Jones and John Carlos, Mexico City Olympics, 1968I love watching the Olympics. But this week kickings (Li-Cheng wasn’t walking so well after losing the Tae Kwon Do final) and beatings (Katie Taylor), equine indignitysexualised, sometimes bandaged, contortionists, heptathlete and swimmer ambassadors for British Petroleum (the ‘Olympic family’ branding reminds me of the ones in ‘The Descendants’ who wanted to sell the wilderness and build a golf course), and an overweening sprinter who thinks he has a special relationship with God nauseated me off the couch to Farringdon’s Free Word Centre. Free Word is currently hosting a collection of captioned photographs on Politics & the Olympics including the body, national identity, extremism, the environment, security and protest.

Some things I now know. The reason there’s no branding in the stadium is not because London’s organising committee drew a courageous line (an impression you may have taken from the statements they put out when challenged about sponsorship) but because it’s in the Olympic rules.

Sexual inequality in the Olympics (see for example gymnastics) was built in from the beginning. On the admission of women to some sports in 1912, Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics, showed himself to be a fine internationalist but a tedious sexist:

“[women’s sport] is not in keeping with my concept of the Olympic Games, in which I believe that we have tried, and must continue to try, to put the following expression into practice: the solemn and periodic exaltation of male athleticism, based on internationalism, by means of fairness, in an artistic setting, with the applause of women as reward.”

In 1932 and ’36 when medallists’ hands were raised in fascist salutes, nobody got  disciplined. In 1968 Tommie Smith of the U.S. won the 200m in Mexico City and John Carlos took bronze, also for the U.S. They were suspended and banned from the Olympic Village by the International Organising Committee for the black-socked feet and black-gloved fists, symbols of black poverty and pride, which they wore to their award ceremony. The film Salute was made about this.

Hopefully after the recent publicity campaign most people are already aware of the Israeli athletes murdered in the name of Palestine at the 1972 Munich Olympics, assisted by German neo-Nazis to the dismay of the German establishment. There were no commemorative minutes of silence, prompting Philo to delve into some of the International Organising Committee’s more unsavoury influences. For the London 2012 Olympics, Britain spent more on security than it did on the athletes (which isn’t to say it would have been better to let the clear and present security threat – consider Atlanta 96 – sink the Olympics).

The Cold War was sporty. In Melbourne 1956 with the Hungarian Revolution ongoing, a Soviet water polo player punched a Hungarian water polo player in what became called the Blood in the Water match. Poland’s Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz was delighted to stick it up the Soviet-supporting crowd in the 1980 Moscow games. Opening ceremonies got especially silly in those times, notably the aforementioned Moscow games with its patriotic human mosaics, and the Los Angeles games which followed in ’84 where Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue was played by 84 men.

For anybody bothered by flag flying and talk of nations, in 1936 the People’s Olympiad, scheduled for Barcelona, was cancelled by the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Its planning is well documented at the University of Warwick. There was one flag for all (if it was this one then no wonder that didn’t take off) and chess was included, though not the barbaric and back then uninvented sport of chess boxing.

And if you haven’t yet found last month’s spoof Olympics edition newspaper London Late, it’s here – a superior protest rag (gsoh) collaboratively produced by groups who are trying to bring various of the Olympic sponsors to justice, namely the London Mining Network, War on Want (not a fan but this is probably their finest hour), the Bhopal Medical Appeal for the victims of the 1984 Union Carbide gas explosion, the oil campaign group Platform and the Tar Sands Network. From the selection on its middle pages, something good by Mau Mau.

So now I plan to return to gape at the sporn in the knowledge that I’ve heard, even amplified, some of what wanted to be heard and amplified. Yes, it is a shame I didn’t get my act together in advance.

My favourite Olympic performance so far is Russia’s synchronised swimming duet on the theme of puppets, along with the Italian duet’s swum biography of Frieda Kahlo. Mo “Look mate, this is my country” Farah is a legend, of course. We have tickets to Paralympic athletics finals in September.

But I think I may well, with the skepticism you should always reserve for people referred to as French intellectuals, have a read of Marc Perelman’s diatribe against organised sport as a “project of a society without projects”.

Occupy London

Anti-austerity protesters are peacefully and unintentionally occupying St Pauls with the consent of Canon Giles Fraser (canon chancellor of St Pauls and former militant socialist) after the police headed them off from approaching the stock exchange.

The initial statement. It’s not bad, and it’s not good enough. But it’s good it exists.

On #3 of the statement, how do we refuse to pay for the banks’ crisis? Tax protests don’t work. Not paying taxes is for Tea Party types. Now Cantona’s proposal is coming of age with Move Your Money – closing bank accounts in irresponsible banks. But then again how much are we worth anyway? As a population aren’t we in debt to the eyeballs? And isn’t this our crisis as well as the banks’? And if it is, maybe there is no we because the young didn’t get themselves in debt to the eyeballs.

But if there is a we, there’s a lot that can be done through consumption and lifestyle. Buy as little as possible. Make a shared agreement to live as modestly as if we were materially equal. Set out our rations, live by them, and put our money into the Coop with a view to contributing it into a shared fund. We arrange to tax ourselves. We take over the Coop and make it a people’s bank. We work out what we can do to live in dignity and we set up a parallel system with a view to starving the old one out and wooing its functionaries over.

Accounts from Occupy London in The Guardian, the AWL (“It would be wrong to be snooty about a protest movement because all of its members are not fully worked-out Marxists”),

The government’s consultation on squatting contained a question which led SQUASH to surmise that they were going to take a broad view of illegal occupation which included stuff like this. Peaceful protest is a precious right, and it is a good thing to gather in the streets, spend the night, and trade ideas about what lies between where we are now and a world where everybody can be confident about their material future. I wonder if I can persuade anybody to stay there with me.

Hashtags #occupylsx (may be on borrowed time), #occupy (for global protests), and #occupylondon.

Aside, it’s really important to put something between your tent groundsheet and the concrete or you’ll wreck its lining at which stage it’s tempting to throw it away, contravening item #7 of the statement – the bit about caring for the planet. Second aside – they’re allowing booze. That may be a problem. Aggro, alcoholic dyspraxia, damage and mess are bad for protests.

Update: Norm has focus – he’s looking for proposals.

A donation page with a list of immediate needs to keep the protest going in the meantime.

A colleague who was down there yesterday at the general assembly said that the amplification was so bad that Twitter was the only way those at the peripheries could hear  and so cast their vote. Mustn’t rely on personal technologies though, smart phone batteries don’t last –  tapping street lights is very dangerous and more than a bit freeloadery. Electric pedals powering an amp would be better.

The Indymedia-hosted chat is compelling – a groping towards a purpose and plan peppered with requests for information about toilets.

The London Declaration for Global Peace & Resistance against Extremism 2011

Just found a link to this BBC report on the Casuals United blog (who are amusingly and incorrectly trying to take credit).

Back on September 25th “about 12,000 Muslims gathered at Wembley Arena for Islamic group Minhaj-ul-Quran’s Peace for Humanity Conference where a campaign launched to get one million signatories by 2012 for this online declaration of peace.

Apart from the entire absence of environmental concerns in the declaration, and the now standard over-emphasis on the Israel-Palestinian conflict as a cause of world unpeace, this is my kind of declaration. Even if you, like some of my readers to my political right and left, favour hitting things and people to get your stuff done and find his determinedly non-violent stance cramps your style, this declaration should be read (by susceptible non-Muslims, anyway) as an antidote to the anti-Muslim suspicion and consequent stereotyping which hounds these times, and as a light shining ahead to a more together global society. These were the parts I liked best:

7. We reject as mistaken and spurious any assertions made by both Muslims and non-Muslims that the world is currently locked in an inexorable struggle between Islam and the West and we commit ourselves, through positive and mutually respectful engagement and dialogue, to oppose any and all claims of clashes of civilisations or the incompatibility of the values in various regions, states and communities.

9. Whereas we do not overlook the real or perceived grievances that may serve as a causative fuel for terrorist violence, and we call upon all national and local governments to address those grievances with haste and resolve, we commit ourselves to the non-violent resolution of those issues as well as to the removal through education and dialogue of conspiracy theories that seem to blinker some peoples’ worldviews.

15. We declare that there is no difference between an Arab and a Jew, between a Muslim and a Christian, between a Hindu and a Sikh, between a black person and a white person, or between a man and a woman. All humans are equal and must be treated with equal respect, dignity, compassion, equality, solidarity and justice.

16. We unequivocally condemn anti-Semitism (including when sometimes it is disingenuously clothed as anti-Zionism), Islamophobia (including when it is sometimes disingenuously dressed up as patriotism) and all other forms of racism and xenophobia.

19. We call on all governments to protect minorities against all hatred, intimidation and violence, especially from ultra-nationalism or religious intolerance.

The conference’s keynote presentation was given by Minaj ul-Quran founder Dr Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri, a classically trained cleric – of Sufi persuasion – from Pakistan now based in Canada. One particular contribution of his was an enormous review of Islam’s pronouncements on terrorism, which led to his issuing a 512 page fatwa proscribing terror and detailing the principles and terms of engagement for just war. To return to where we began (the approving Casuals):

Amid all this fatwa flashing, many Muslims fear divide and rule – and suspect that someone, somewhere will use Dr Tahir ul-Qadri to further that agenda. The scholar sees this as the signs of paranoia brought on by a weakness – and his answer is to expand his organisation’s mission in the UK beyond its 10 mosques and 5,000 members. So will Dr Qadri’s fatwa do some good or end up on the great big pile of similar denouncements? An hour after he delivered his address, the former leader of al-Muhajiroun, a group recently banned for extremism, turned up at the doorstep of a news channel and asked to go on air to counter Dr Qadri. Would he have bothered if the scholar was such an irrelevance in the battle for hearts and minds?”

It sounds as if, if the Casuals and their ilk try to claim Qadri, he will know how to put them in their place.

Travels in Nihilon

A few more angry thoughts about the outbreak.

  1. This couldn’t have happened a hundred years ago – the kids would have felt ashamed and if not ashamed then afraid of the consequences. They would have known the shopkeepers back then, and probably many of the makers too.
  2. Luxury in the media has reached disgusting levels. There aren’t good role models. Even the survivalists and self-sufficientists (Tom and Barbara excepted) are inauthentically roly poly. Imagine a population of Ray Mearses and Hugh Fearnley Tits – the countryside would look as if locusts had been through.
  3. Advertising, product placement, game shows. Pernicious forms of aspiration. Having and getting, as a way of being yourself. They fuel the web, the free city papers and commercial television, and they helped to pressure cook what happened last week.
  4. Their parents aren’t able or willing.
  5. You can’t stick two fingers up at the police without committing a crime. There was a huge current of wanting to fuck the police. I’m not sure what else the police stand for in these kids’ minds, but definitely protection of something they don’t have a stake in.
  6. Can’t a sense of entitlement to luxury consumer goods turn into politics?
  7. Ed Miliband is right to worry about those who don’t feel they have a stake in society, but he is wrong to say it’s “ridiculous” to compare looters to bankers. There is plenty to compare about them. And these children grew up under a Labour government that believed in trickle down – the poor patiently waiting to receive the crumbs from the table of the rich.
  8. I feel for the police, like I always do. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.
  9. Grant Shapps, David Cameron, and all who think like you – are you completely mad?
  10. Definitely the Spirit Level people are right. But it is possible to go too far with equality. If everything comes for free it makes people just as foul.
  11. Protection from the EDL? I’m for a nice big police force and a better IPCC.

Afterthought - another man died of his injuries last night. As well as thieves the arsonists and killers were abroad. I wonder whether they were opportunists waiting for their free run of the city, or whether they also stole, and whether thieves also burned and killed?

More afterthought: reading today’s Observer was a good experience. Peter Beaumont, who usually covers wars in other lands, has a substantial piece in which he talks to Clasford Stirling, one of those men I sometimes hear about who sublimate young rage into football. He says “The confrontation with the police before the looting happened. It was total anger. I’ve never seen young people face to face with the police like that.” And youthworker Alvin Carpio, who “says that … within the groups at the forefront of the trouble – criminal street gangs and local groups of youths who describe themselves as being in “gangs” – a sense of responsibility and loyalty does exist; it is simply misdirected. “There are communities within communities with their own rules”” and that “how for some with few paths available for them to follow, the figure in their community with the big car, the drugs and money appears to offer an alternative.”.

Also in The Observer, epidemiologist Gary Slutkin takes a public health approach to gang violence and rioting as if it were an infection. He questions conventional law enforcement of “community crackdowns, arrests and harsher penalities, heavy-handed suppression techniques, pointing to a (D.C.-based) Justice Policy Institute report (somewhere in their website?) which shows that these tactics have little of their intended effects but create deeper divisions between police and community.

Tracy McVeigh goes to the Hoxton the fashion students don’t visit, to interview nervous underfed kids in cheap, worn clothes who join gangs to defend their patch from the gangs in the next estate, or who have to scurry through the safest route to get a takeaway, and for whom youth clubs are one of a few safe spaces where somebody cares. Fewer than a quarter of those arrested for last week’s violence were under 18.

Tim Adams attends an overnight sitting at Horseferry Road magistrates court and is struck by the bleary eyed banality of the accused and the Dickensian quality of the prosecution. Yes, I’m with him to a certain extent. But he also completely excludes the victims from his reckoning. On the preceding page is a photograph of an 89 year old shop keeper, not very prosperous-looking, who lost everything. What about him? Nobody is much talking about restorative justice, but surely if these looters are so bewildered the morning after, it could work here?

Then I leafed through the Observer Magazine which is a stinky publication full of adverts for the kind of aspirational – i.e. useless, wasteful, environment squandering – products its journalists are now commiserating with people for stealing, and I felt kind of queasy. I get The Observer for the journalists but it makes me cringe in equal measures.

I listened to last year’s RSA debate between the authors of The Spirit Level and some of their critics. In a nutshell the critics query the evidence. They say that raising everybody’s wealth will improve outcomes on a wide range of health and social indices. I thought that the hypothesis that more unequal societies are worse was well defended – and not only in statistical terms. For example – and topically – Richard Wilkinson (one of the authors of The Spirit Level) on the link between inequality and violence,

“Because violence is triggered by disrespect, humiliation, loss of face, being looked down on an in a more unequal society we judge each other more by social status, competition increases and so people get more sensitive to it.”

Generation terrorists

I haven’t been able to read much about this yet. Riot vans were charging south-east to Lewisham all yesterday afternoon, then the consumer revolution (where you take what you feel you deserve, and don’t pay) spread the other side of where I was, to Peckham. I headed north after work, uneventfully. Today the sirens haven’t stopped and there’s smoke in bits of the sky.

In Barkingside, Gems and – no! – the Co-op. Our inadequate high street may have saved us from the worst. Perhaps, I speculate, our tighter parenting traditions? At any rate, it’s lucky since Twitter says Barkingside police station is shut.

On the outbreak of looting and vandalism in London I have only wonderment. Why pound shops? Why Job Centres?  Not an uprising at the death of Mark Duggan, surely, with so much burning, trashing of small businesses and flats above shops, and carrying away of consumer goods. (To sell? To keep because we’re all entitled to a free flatscreen TV?). Really Grand Theft Auto? How young? How many? How covetous of expensive footwear? School children with time and no money, no holiday jobs, nowhere to go and nothing laid on for them (youth services cut)? Rites of passage? Competitive copy-cat action, for a story to tell? Why this shitting in their own back yards – because they are too young to grasp the consequences? It must be hard to keep a determined 16 year-old from going out…

There is a protest about policing and there is a much larger spasm of smashing and grabbing. Through the fog reaches Alex Wheatle writing in last night’s London Evening Standard. After condemning the looting and arson, he comments,

“There is a deep aggravation in the black community that despite the many deaths of young black men in police custody there has yet to be a conviction of any policeman or policewoman. Tensions heightened with the recent death of reggae artist Smiley Culture, who allegedly took his own life with a kitchen knife at his own home. Again, no one in the black community believes this account. In a similar response to the Smiley Culture controversy, the IPCC announced an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Duggan.

Many in the black community who I speak to have no faith in the IPCC and believe it is an investigative body that is not fit for purpose. Over the years we have seen investigation after investigation but no conviction.”

“Justice” was the chant in Brixton 30 years ago, “justice” was the chant in Brixton Town Hall at a public meeting following Smiley Culture’s death and I heard the same cry on Sunday morning on the streets of Tottenham.

Trust between the police and the black community has been painstakingly rebuilt since the Eighties. For example, I am now consulted by the City of London police on stop and search policy for ethnic minorities. That simply didn’t happen in the Eighties. In Brixton the community now enjoys the Summer Splash street festival that was initiated by local community leaders hand-in-hand with the police.

All this good intention and goodwill will be undone if young black people perceive the police as an institution that never has to account for its own criminality.”

Ballistics investigations will shed more light. Yesterday’s protest began with a bereaved family’s long wait outside a police station to see a senior officer, and became continuous with a long list of black people to meet unexplained deaths in police custody. Then it became a smash and grab by kids who clearly don’t understand that when you take from a pawn-brokers, burn down your local Post Office, and trash your local Job Centre, you hurt your poorest neighbours. I blame the two most recent governments above all, but it would be nice if parents felt some sense of responsibility and brought their children out in their new nikes and watches, to clean up.

Raiding and burning a modest business, or taking possession of a flat screen TV or pair of trainers you didn’t buy, or hurting police officers who arrive to keep the peace, has nothing to do with Mark Duggan’s death. Opportunism and getting carried away explains these things, but not the underlying mentality of the youthful smashers and plunderers, nor their supporters’.

Generation Terrorists in the Manic Street Preachers’ nihilistic debut album.

Update:

Update 2 – The World Tonight was very good. There was an interview with wined up looters which for me raised a possible link between Mark Duggan’s death  and the riots – “showing the police we can do what we want – and now we have”. Bonnie Greer wearily disillusioned those who like me are horrified by the parents – “These kids don’t live in a Dick and Jane world”, pointing to the win or lose world of television, calling on society to listen to the young people while prosecuting the criminals. And an interview with two young men from South London, who shake their heads about the rioters and the police, who mostly get it wrong.

The people who wrote the Spirit Level are right.

March 26

Eleven until half past four to walk a few kilometres. The speaks were long over by the time we got to Hyde Park.

March 26th 2011, Embankment

I was really impressed by all the Labour and labour groups who joined the march without any pomp or circumstance, added their bodies to the many others on the streets, simply trudging (or sometimes shuffling) with their enormous and lovingly stitched banners, without anybody trying to use the occasion as self-publicity fodder. Good people.

Plus some wits:

placard from March 26th 2011

… a series of historical posters including:

less lust from less protein

And some ambitious hand-crafted efforts:

pig

The less-than-optimal power management on my new £8 per month phone meant that despite unlimited data (see how the capitalists have beaten each other down in price?) I had to ration Twitter, but I did send a number of peeps disowning the violent protesters. It’s important not to shrug about the violence I think, because although it shouldn’t, it could easily come to characterise the movement against the cuts, and has attached itself to us like a voracious parasite.

Violence drives people away. The thugs who committed acts of violence today did so simply because they enjoy violence. They need to fuck off back to the Bullingdon club or Marlborough or Guildsmiths or wherever they’re from and leave us alone. They’re nothing to do with the 500,000 people who shuffled through London today to protest the Conservative-led government’s cuts (and in many cases, the slightly less punishing but still deep cuts proposed by the opposition).

So I thought it an irresponsible and disheartening mistake for UK Uncut, asked in advance on BBC 2’s Newsnight about anticipated violence on the protest, to change the subject. They should have readily disowned it. Non-violent non-destructive occupations and flashmobs are sufficiently newsworthy without any acts of wanton destruction. To see the anarcho-syndicalist flag flying from the window of Fortum & Mason, and to hear that the atmosphere in there was festive, will make me smile for a good while to come.

Fortnum & Mason flies the anarcho-syndicalist flag

Fortnum & Mason sells luxury products to the wealthy at inflated prices and it would be great if people came to feel too embarrassed to shop there (providing a new penthouse home can be found for the honey bees).

And one of the things I like about UK Uncut is something David Mitchell (for one) doesn’t like – when UK Uncut campaign about legal tax avoidance they go for the avoiders as well as the government. They’re not so fixated with legal structures they’d overlook that greed is a culpable attribute of rich bosses. It is the anarchist and libertarian contingent in UK Uncut who rightly uphold the importance of individuals’ decisions – including (though only implicitly) the individual shopper.

Which brings me on to other individual culpabilities. I think that smashing up Lillywhites and Santander is only one step removed from smashing up the shoppers who of their own free will and unaided keep these companies afloat. The row of smashed and defaced shop-fronts on the other side of Piccadilly was a stain on anybody who doesn’t disown the violence. The way you get a high street bank to stop investing in war, the abuse of animals, and generally wrecking economies is, like Cantona, to organise for its account holders to withdraw their money and deposit it in a more ethical alternative. Only a political retard would go for its windows.

The Stop the War protest against attacks on Ghadaffi’s military stocks which was part of the reason it took us so long to get past the pinch-point at Embankment and Parliament Square was an objectively pro-Ghadaffi protest. Why do I say that? Because there was not a single mention of the atrocious man on the banners or the loudhailers. Any campaign against intervention therefore becomes a campaign which helps Ghadaffi.

One thing about the policing. Only towards late afternoon the BBC began to make the right distinctions between the anti-cuts protesters and the thugs. I don’t think the police did this adequately though. I noticed again from the footage that they were prepared to contain thugs with weapons along with non-violent protesters, placing the non-violent protesters at risk. Yesterday I had a conversation with an acquaintance who won’t protest on the streets since his head was opened up with a jagged bit of brick at the poll tax demo. If somebody wields a weapon or throws a missile such as a light-bulb filled with ammonia, they are dangerous and need to be seized. Instead the police leave these violent nutters in with the ordinary protesters, presumably prolonging the need for containment and ratcheting up the tension even further.

And now for some of the literature, and I should say it is a pretty haphazard sample because we didn’t get to Hyde Park until after everything had finished. All I can say is that the splits of the left were out in all their lilliputian force today. A selection from my bag: Socialist Action (“Libya … each missile costing around $1m … military spending … continuing to rise despite government debt”); Trotskyist Posadist IV International (“UCU … ETUC … no place in the movement because they do not oppose capitalism … despite their existence … dockers have intervened … refusing to handle Israeli ships”); the Communist Workers Organisation (“not in competition with other genuinely working class organisations but seeks to unite … prepare the way … throw off … capitalist … bloody imperialist appetites”); and the most audacious of all, the Socialist Equality Party who begin:

“Today’s demonstration was billed by Trades Union Congress head Brendan Barber as the start of a fight-back against the coalition government’s austerity measures. This is a fraud. The TUC will not lift a finger to oppose the most sever cuts in jobs and social services since the 1930s.

Barber has said that until now the TUC has been involved inn a “phoney war”, with the unions deliverately delaying action because “It was important for the cuts to be real.” Now he claims the phoney war is over.

That he can speak in these terms only underscores the indifference of the entire trade union bureaucracy to the appalling situation facing workers and youth.

The trade unions have not merely been keeping their powder dry, but have collaborated to the hilt in a one-sided war waged against the working class. Not a single significant strike has been organised.”

And more like that, culminating in a brattish rejection of both the Labour Party and the trade union movement in favour of “new democratic organisations of working class struggle”. But unions are their members. The bureaucratic layer is accountable and requires support to turn warm words into action. I was talking to somebody in the pub afterwards who pointed out that if there had been a swell of will for action among the membership, even if the TUC had been in bed with the Tory-led government, they would have found it impossible to resist. But there wasn’t one – so how the fuck are we going to become capable of forming “new democratic organisations of working class struggle”? And when we eventually do become capable, we’ll certainly be better off nursing our existing labour movement back to health than pursuing this fool’s quest for a fresh start. I can’t get along with this will on the part of anarcho-syndicalism to fragment at all costs.

I prefer what Workers Liberty says.

Lastly, I was particularly struck this time at how unnecessarily wasteful and throw-away these events are. Among the huge quantities of other litter, the trees of Embankment will be full of metallic University and College Union balloons for some time to come. They’ll be too distant to promote my union, and that is probably for the best because people will simply wonder what kind of environmentally negligent arseholes would have such ridiculous amounts of bright pink non-biodegradable balloons in the first place, let alone allow them to blow into the trees. Stupid bloody hen nights, they’ll mutter angrily to themselves.

UCU balloons released into the trees

For around 3,000 more representative photos, see Flickr. For better analysis, see the post I reckon Bob is about to write, plus some updates tomorrow.

Oh shit, the clocks have gone forward.

Update: I wondered why they’d gone for the windows but not the ATMs.

More update:

Nick Cohen on the Tory Party’s secret weapon.

Christopher Phelps

“Meanwhile the black bloc protester is far too busy with his wonderful self to notice the working classes. He feels brave. He sprays an A on the wall. He hurls paint balloons. He whacks the shields of policemen who earn less in a year than a banker does in a day.

Then he goes home to watch himself on the telly, and scratches his head when the most of the press reduces the day to hooliganism. He laughs that his antics lead the news rather than the massive demo. He thrills that the same police who kettled peaceful students didn’t bother to contain him.

And he wonders why capitalist extremes continue uninterrupted.”

Paul in Lancs – almost up for it (I don’t see the dichotomy as peaceful protest v. direct action – I see it as destructive versus non-destructive. You judge people on how they chose from their alternatives).

SOS Redbridge – love your public services on Valentines night

Received by email:

SOS Redbridge

Save Our Services

Public Meeting

On Valentines Night “SOS Redbridge”, the broad coalition against the cuts, will hold a public meeting to tell the human story behind the headlines, with a diverse platform of speakers on the arts, health, education, the community and trade unions affected

Monday 14 February 2011, 7-9pm, The Lambourne Room, Ilford Town Hall, IG1 1RS

Speakers:

  • Cllr Barbara White (Musicians Union NEC)
  • Sandra Vincent (GMB)
  • Gemma Bloomfield (UNISON)
  • Shushila Patel (Health Campaigner)
  • Bronwen Handyside (UNITE Regional Committee, KONP)
  • Cllr Bob Littlewood (Leader, Redbridge Labour Group)
  • John Coombes (Redbridge Pensioners’ Forum)
  • Gerry Gable (Redbridge & Epping Forest Together)
  • Chair: Bob Archer, (NUT)

Come along to:

  • Hear what is happening
  • Show your support for the various campaigns
  • Share ideas about defending local services
  • Find out more about the huge TUC-led march later in the spring on 26 March and join the delegation attending from SOS Redbridge

More and more people of all political persuasions say there has to be a fairer and more united way back to future national profitability. This is your opportunity to add your voice to the growing wave of opposition.

As a double-dip recession looms larger than we would all hope, more and more mainstream commentators now question the vast sweep of Coalition spending cuts, which locally extend well beyond cutting universally-loathed “red tape” to threaten valued frontline services, like street cleaning, lollipop men and women and our highly-rated Music School and Drama Centre. Even popular Goodmayes Library is under threat.

PS There are some seriously excellent South Indian restaurants in Ilford for your post-meeting Valentine’s meal.

Green Man 2010

Gripes, praise, music and photos.

Update: Green Man TV. I remember now. It was brilliant.

At times this year Green Man felt like a rally for people so similar-minded that there was no need to say anything substantially political. Josie Long pretty much summed up my experience of the comedy and literature stage when she observed that all a stand-up comedian had to do to get their audience on side was to say they hate the Conservatives. Truly, out of my admittedly small sample, it’s all we got. Including from her, nice woman she is. And I won my bet that no fucker we heard pronouncing on the state of the nation would go anywhere near the Liberal Democrats. All the bad feeling was reserved for the Conservatives. It was if there was no coalition. The reason is that Green Man reads The Guardian and The Guardian laid foundations for this government everybody shapelessly and aimlessly hates, by telling us to vote Liberal Democrat.

Maybe I was doing something else at the times when the criticism of the Conservatives became trenchant and argued. What Josie Long said suggests it never did, though. All I saw were performers acting like they were the last remnant of some ancient British tribe consoling themselves in a valley surrounded by Daily Mail-reading Roman garrisons. And if there were any Conservatives or Daily Mail readers at Green Man’s literature and comedy stage, they won’t be returning in 2011 because they were assumed absent and lampooned. That pissed me off to an almost unspeakable extent – because in fact we are the ones who lost the political battle. Now we have to start again, and if politics isn’t changing minds, it’s nothing.

In a cranky conversation I started, a good friend told me that somebody who didn’t know me would assume I was right wing. True, there’s a kind of left – the kind that makes me homeless and others neo-conservative in protest – that I want to see wither. When Billy Bragg sings about power in a union, I think about how my institution’s student and staff unions swung militantly behind a campaign for funded scholarships for (only) Palestinian students, and yet allowed our nursery to close. And when he gets us to sing, with regards to African states, ‘just drop the debt and it will be alright’, I think it’s only responsible to consider the ramifications, same as I would for my, your, everybody’s household’s £90k debt, which nobody is proposing we drop. Only talking and singing about that – or that in general – is going to rekindle any home fires on the left (listening to Mike Skinner on the way home I wistfully imagined him getting into politics – sadly or maybe happily it’s skinner by name…).

But mostly Green Man is about music. For me there were two electrifying stand-out sets. Steve Mason was amazing and the atmosphere was amazing – here’s something he played, recorded here during his Beta Band days (and I was at that gig).

Local heroes (Essex, that is) These New Puritans were mindblowing. Imagine these live in the dark:

Then on Sunday I’d stamped off to the tent in bout of near-tears at being denied advertised vegan cake after queuing (it was that time of day, there been some smoking and a lot of rum), returned to find Matt and Rachel in actual tears after The Tallest Man on Earth had huddled with his friends on the Far Out stage to perform Gillian Welch’s ‘Everything is Free’.

For silly talent, dancing, and bouncy youth, Darwin Deez.

For distracting me from being bored during their songs with smoke, confetti, mic cams and zorbing, The Flaming Lips. It looked like this:

More photos. Yes of course it rained – the rain was heavy, and light, and prolonged. We all came prepared and nobody minded. Billy Bragg informed us it was pissing down at V. In between showers I got this (from inside my hood):

They say Green Man, with its natural amphitheatre and cloud-wreathed mountain backdrop, is the most scenic music festival:

The other lovely thing about Green Man is how many parents feel comfortable about bringing their children.

It’s fun, recommend it. Our friend got laid.

More comprehensive reviews: