“The society which has abolished every kind of adventure makes its own abolition the only possible adventure.” Paris, May 1968


Saturday, 27 December 2008

Happy New Year.

So how was it for you? Xmas that is.
Half the population (myself included) seem to have been laid up with colds and flu. The rest no doubt incapacitated by such stress related ailments as visitations from the in laws.
Peering into the fridge at one stage I felt sure that we must be hosting the World Eating Championship.
The holiday period provided no let up in the continuing stream of doom laden economic forecasts. It seems certain that a great many people will have a pretty grim time of it in 2009, and as usual they will be the ones who least deserve it. There is a tough time ahead, but we will get through it. What is on the other side? Who knows, but I am convinced that the political elite can only offer a reformed, superficially different version of the same old same old. Real change can only come from the bottom up. We really are living in interesting times.
A happy New Year to you all.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

A short walk in Southwark

I was determined to get at least one decent tramp in before Xmas so last week we had a good roam around the North Downs. A flask of tea and a sarni shared overlooking a view across The Weald. What could be better? Mind you, an enjoyable walk doesn't have to consist of miles of muddy footpaths and spectacular scenery, far from it. I spend far more time wandering around the back streets of London than I do in the country, and some of the best  urban walks need not be long at all.
Sunday afternoon was the occasion of Ian Bone's Xmas Booze Up in Borough High Street and I decided to walk to the venue from Waterloo. There is nothing remarkable about the route but it's one that I enjoy non the less.  I usually walk past the Old Vic Theatre and down The Cut. At the end of this street, on the corner of Blackfriars Road, is The Ring, a pub with a fine collection of old boxing photos on the wall and close to the site of the old fight venue that it's named after.
Crossing Blackfriars Road and continuing along Union Street a short detour to the right brings us into the very wonderful Copperfield Street. Walking into this tiny street is like entering a lost world. I believe that the terrace cottages were inspired by Octavia Hill one of the founding members of the movement for social housing who was very active in this part of South London.
Returning to Union Street another short diversion, this time to the left, brings me to the site of the Cross Bones Burial Ground in Redcross Way. This unconsecrated ground was a final resting place for prostitutes and paupers. In a touching symbol of solidarity with the "outcast dead" people have left notes and ribbons attached to the gates of this semi-derelict site. From here it's two minutes to the bustle of the Xmas shoppers in Borough Market. Another world.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Make Love, Not Washers.

The recession is bringing all kinds of people out of the woodwork as the media cast around for someone, anyone, who might be able to offer some explanation for the pigs ear that the wide boys have made of the economy. I'm fully expecting astrologers, aromatherapists and the Church of Later Day Freemasons to all be putting in their two bobs worth any day now. On last night's Radio 4 World Tonight it was the turn of a Professor of Community History from Birmingham University who, after first explaining that he was the first member of his family not to work in a factory, went on to explain how we would have all been much better off if we had stuck to industrial production rather than the service sector. Well yes and no Prof. Yes and no.
Apart from global capitalism deciding on the geographical location of industry with no other consideration but  the maximising of profit, even if you take that out of the equation, I don't think that the matter is a straightforward one. All throughout the 80s I was arguing for the retention of our industrial and agricultural base as opposed to trying to base an economy on financial services. This was partly due to finding it easier to understand and appreciate the world of what I considered to be "real" work, as apposed to the more ephemeral world of the service sector, and in no small part to my prejudice against "prats in suits who thought that moving bits of paper around was work". All rubbish of course. The project is to do away with the division between work and leisure and  build a world where production is at the service of our desires rather than the creation of profit, and I knew that then as well as I do now. 
 When my generation left our Secondary Modern Schools at the age of fifteen we were destined for a lifetime of boring, repetitive, alienating factory work. I was one of the lucky few who managed to escape. The thing is Prof, before we start getting all moist about factory work it might be an idea to consider who is actually going to do this work. Cos it ain't going to be me and it sure as fuck ain't going to be you,

Monday, 15 December 2008

An extract from the Red and Black Bumper Xmas Annual.

Four  useful things my Dad told me.
  • The English Upper Class are stupid rather than bad.
  • Those who don't understand history are doomed to repeat it.
  • The old fashioned straight left is the most useful punch in boxing.
  • Whatever else, it's important to be on the side of weak against the powerful.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

New Labour-Old Tricks

I have been re-reading Some Lives, David Widgery's story of his life as an East End GP. It's a salutary tale of  how the effects of the last economic downturn impacted on the lives of those at the bottom of the heap. Mass privatisation and high unemployment coincided with government plans to change the ethos of claiming  benefit. It was the era of  "Job Club" and all kinds of other mad schemes intended to make claiming more difficult and in some way "prepare" people for the market in non-existent jobs. 
It looks like a similar tranche of bullshit is about to be unleashed on both the long term unemployed and the new army of jobless who are growing by the day. As New Labour prepare to pick up the soiled mantle of tough love from where it was dropped by the retreating Tories all those years ago we might wonder why all this "help" and "training" was not rolled out during the time of economic boom, when the City was awash with dough and traders were spending the equivalent of a cleaners annual salary on a round of drinks. 
Of course none of this has anything to do with unemployment and certainly nothing to do with helping the long term jobless toward a richer and more fulfilling life. This is all about reassuring a spiteful middle class Middle England that, despite what they read in the Mail on Sunday, that New Labour is still very much a party of the centre right. 

An old git salutes young heroes.

I know that this is by and large a light hearted blog, bit surreal, bit tongue in cheek and so on but I want to be serious just for a moment. I want to salute the brave young comrades in Greece who at this very moment are just on the brink of calling everything into question. If they can take and hold territory. If they can resist not only the brute power of the state but also the recuperation of the liberal/left. Well, who knows. Good luck.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Freedom Pass Anarchist Official Green Statement.

Turned out for the Climate March on Saturday. Well, I like the drumming and I suppose that you never can tell. I'm not entirely sure why, but in spite of the fact that I have spent most of my working life and a good deal of my leisure time in the great outdoors, I find it difficult to get very motivated about green politics, unless we are talking about environmental justice that is. Anyway I didn't think that I could hack the speeches at Parliament Square, much less the painfully worthy "Seize The Day" so split to the Red Lion for a pint.I must also confess that I find the average vegan activist, who thinks that growing beansprouts on the kitchen windowsill makes them an expert in world food production, a bit of a pain in the balls.
Mind you, here at HQ we are well into recycling, although we do regret that recycling operatives no longer give out goldfish and have a horse to pat. Clearly we can't continue to use valuable land for landfill sites when it's needed for golf courses, but the once simple act of putting out the bins is getting more and more complicated. Current instructions from the council state that we should place paper and cardboard in the BLUE box and glass,plastics and cans in the BLACK box. They then go on to say that after collection all the stuff will be mixed together prior to being squashed and sent to a sorting facility!! I'm reliably informed that you can now get a degree in rubbish, or "waste management" as it's known.


Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Playing the game- or not.

I  tend to think that an "Austerity Olympics" for 2012 might not be such a bad idea. Something more along the lines of the last time London hosted the games in 1948 might be more in keeping with the coming hard times. Olympic Village in a converted army camp. Extra one egg per week for the wrestlers. Give the boxing team as much jelly and custard as they want. Whole thing put on at a cost equal to Seb Coe's salary. We might even end up with some real 1948 type sporting heroes like Jim Halliday who, released from a Japanese POW camp as a walking skeleton, built himself up on post-war rations and heavy squats with rusty weights to go on and win a bronze in the weightlifting. 
Compare this with our fearless cricket team. One minute Kev's boys are crying in their beer about not being able to consolidate their bank balance's in the  Indian Premier League and the next they can't wait to get out of the place. No question of playing on as a gesture of solidarity with the nations traumatised fans. I've had it up to here with today's overpayed sports stars. No one wants a return to the days of professional footballers struggling to make ends meet and fighters retiring without a pot to piss in. I want to see players getting a decent reward for all the hours of training and dedication, but come on guys. Play the game
 

Monday, 1 December 2008

In praise of anoraks

Other peoples hobbies are always difficult to understand. Radio controlled models, tennis and taking a lively interest in the genealogy and internal politics of Trotskyist grouplets are all hobbies that strike me as being only marginally more entertaining than watching paint dry but hey! that's just me. Others find these things totally riveting and more power to their elbow I say. I'm in favour of hobbies, the very idea of them tends to make me feel all warm in a sort of pipe and tank top kind of way. 
On my bookshelf, and I suppose that you could count books as one of my hobbies, I have a 1930s edition of The Universal Book of Hobbies and Handicrafts by Sid Hedges. It's a blinder. There is basic information on over a hundred hobbies ranging from Applique Work (me neither) to Wood Carving by way of Boating, Bookbinding, Self-defence and Television (that's making a set, not being an expert on Corrie).  But it's the introduction that really  gets my juices flowing. I don't know who Sid Hedges was but I tell you, he was one of us. Sid had much to say about unemployment, the alienation of work and the tyranny of machines. Here he is on the importance of hobbies, " they will become more important still, for as mankind shakes itself clear of the old jungle habits of hating and arming and fighting so there will be more scope for living...... Is it too much to hope that the various Whitehall Ministries of War may one day be replaced by Ministries of the Peoples Leisure?"
Of course you could accuse Sid of a certain naivety; while he was writing all this stuff about Fretwork and Home Gymnastics Hitler was putting the final touches to his plans for a new United Europe. Perhaps that is the whole point. If only Adolf had just relaxed and got on with his painting. Done evening classes. Joined the local Art Group. Maybe made friends with a nice Jewish girl. It could all have been so different.
One of my own hobbies is old fashioned systems of physical training and a few years back I got hold of a book on the subject called "Dinosaur Training". About the same time I bought a wormery for making compost and I was tempted to put on my CV under "Hobbies and Interests" - Dinosaur Training and Worm Breeding. I had visions of a HR department somewhere, " blimey! bloke here not only breeds worms, he trains fucking dinosaurs as well".

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Survival International

I have been a supporter of Survival International, the group that campaigns for the rights of tribal peoples, for many years. Survival is not perfect of course, but who is and the organisation does have a policy of offering assistance to beleaguered tribes without trying to take over their struggle or manipulating tribal decisions. 
I won't go into details here of the long and depressing history of land theft and genocide that has been the fate of so many tribal peoples over the last hundred and fifty years. It's all out there in distressing detail if you are interested. Suffice to say that the remaining tribal and indigenous peoples of the world face an ongoing struggle against governments, multi-national companies, missionaries, do-gooders and lute playing ex rock stars. 
Tribal people aren't anthropological relics, nor are they noble savages. They are people like any other with all the strengths and weaknesses of the rest of us and all of the blessings and curses of the human condition. 

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Fear and Loathing in West London.

Mayor Boris Johnson's plan for a new "fantasy island airport on stilts" in the Thames Estuary seems unlikely to become reality anytime soon but you never can tell. The idea has been around for years, Grocer Heath being a previous enthusiast for an airport on the Maplin Sands. The sandbank in question was of course named after the famous leisure entrepreneur Joe Maplin who at one time wanted to establish one of his holiday camps there. Wake up at the back.
The loss of wildfowl habitat would be regrettable, but here in leafy West London we tend to be gung ho for the project. Anything to stop the expansion of Heathrow. Anything to take our minds off falling property values, school fees and the indignity of having to go on the school run (desert storm) in last years 4x4. Also we tend to view anywhere east of Bow Creek as one vast shit hole populated by tattooed neanderthals and ethnics various. This view used to extend to anywhere east of Bishopsgate until Thatcher's spawn seeped into the East End and the area became "interesting", "desirable", albeit a bit "edgy".

Friday, 28 November 2008

Plotlands Revisited

A couple of years back Five Leaves reprinted Arcadia for All, Dennis Hardy and Colin Ward's fascinating look at the plotlands of South East England and I picked up a copy at the Anarchist Book Fair.  The expression "plotlands" refers to the shanty towns that sprung up during the first half of the 20th century and especially in the inter-war period. An agricultural slump and the fall in land prices resulted in farmland being divided up into small plots and sold off for as little as a £1 down payment. The absence of any real planning legislation and the desire of working-class families from London to create weekend retreats where the kids could run around and get a bit of fresh air for a change resulted in a wonderful DIY landscape of shacks, shanties, ex-army bell tents, old railway carriages and colonial style corrugated iron bungalows. Many families moved onto to their plot during the blitz. Some stayed on after the war. Others moved down upon retirement and gradually the areas became permanent settlements.
Me and plotlands go back a bit. When I was five we moved into a wooden bungalow on Canvey Island. The unmade roads turned to a quagmire during the winter. There was no main drainage and the chemical toilet was emptied into a pit in the garden; a source of great interest to any small boy. I remember walking the sea wall that surrounded the island and we would often bump into one old gent who would sell Dad a copy of the Daily Worker and let us look through his binoculars at the Chapman Lighthouse, the coast of North Kent and the ships working up Sea Reach on the tide.
I think I liked Canvey. My mother was probably less enamoured and the 1953 floods must have been the last straw. The sea wall was breached and we were all evacuated but not before fifty eight people lost their lives. Shortly afterwards we left Canvey for good. Retreated to higher ground. Decamped to the broad sunlit uplands of Leyton.
I did return to Canvey many years later when I took my daughter there for a day trip. The roads were made up and all the old shacks replaced by modern brick buildings. I think that she was a bit disappointed really. Having been brought up on tales of how I used to live on an island below sea level I think that she was expecting something a bit more like Atlantis than the Wates type development that Canvey had become.

The usual toxic mix.

On a previous visit to Cyprus a few years back I visited the Museum of National Struggle in Nicosia. A sobering experience for any Brit holidaymaker who happens to stumble in expecting the usual collection of icons, pottery and rusty spear heads, the museum is in part dedicated to the killing of  British National Servicemen who probably had no idea why they were in Cyprus in the first place and is also a commemoration of the equally sad and pointless hanging of EOKA fighters by the authorities.
In the Cypriot inter-communal strife of the 50s and 60s the usual toxic mixture of nationalism and religion combined with British muddle and CIA meddle to create a bloody dress rehearsal for the real horror story later to unfold in Yogoslavia.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Now, where was I?

You would have to be totally insensitive not to appreciate why America's black community are so pleased about the election of Barack Obama and to be fair the man has his points. Looking for all the world like a black Mod from The Grove circa 1964, the President Elect exudes charm, cool and the gift of the gab. For myself, I'm afraid that I am reminded of 1997 and the euphoria ( in some quarters) that greeted the election of Tony Blair. That's a thought. You don't suppose do you that the Cheshire Cat Jesus Freak and master of the three chord trick might reinvent himself as Obama's new best friend?
I hope that Joe Calzaghe decides to call it a day now. A decisive win over one of the best pound for pound fighters of the post fifteen round era will be a fitting end to an outstanding career. I know that cynics will tell us that Joe fought a shop soiled and over the hill Roy Jones Jnr but no one was saying that as the fighters walked back to their stools at the end of the first round.
I have been in Cyprus. Walking the mountain trails, soaking up the rays and generally recuperating from the frantic celebrity lifestyle of today's Freedom Pass Anarchist. 

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

World on hold. Blogger on hols.

Cutting edge political comment, horticultural ramblings and a wealth of unsolicited information about the more obscure aspects of professional wrestling history are just some of the delights that you will have to forgo over the next couple of weeks. I'm off on me hols. 
When I return Barack Obama will probably have defeated John McCain (but it will be close), Joe Calzaghe will probably have failed to defeat the great Roy Jones Jnr (even closer?) and the allotment society newsletter editorial collective will probably have censored my controversial "open letter to the committee". 
KEEP WARM THIS WINTER  -  MAKE TROUBLE.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Studs Terkel Dies.

On the eve of the American presidential elections one of that countries finest social commentators and historians has died at the age of 96.
Such is the contempt that is felt for the neo-con, imperialist state of George W Bush that a whole generation of militants have grown up not knowing about the existence of another America. I'm thinking of the America of the Wobblies, of Steinbeck, "On The Road", City Lights Bookshop and Freedom Riders. An America not afraid to talk about the working class and one epitomised by Studs Terkel. RIP Studs.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Barclays to offer interest free loans.

When Barclays Bank turned down the offer of a government bail out it ensured that there would be no threat to the bank's independence or to senior management's richly deserved bonuses. It did not mean of course that Barclays was not as deeply in the shit as any other bank, just that they would have to look elsewhere for a financial leg up. Enter the Royal Families of Qatar and Abu Dhabi who are now set to bail out the High Street bank to the tune of 7 billion quid in return for 32% stake in the operation. So far so good. Barclays are saved and members of the board will not be reduced to doing the Christmas shopping at Woolies
But hang about. I thought that usury was forbidden  under sharia law and that Islamic banking involved no interest charges. Does this mean that Barclays will be bound to offer interest free loans if the Middle Eastern investors ever end up with a controlling stake? 
Islamic banking seems like a pretty good idea as it goes and more along the lines of a mutual society than the city spiv flogging mortgages of the back of a lorry that we have grown used to. However, I'm not an expert on banking or sharia law and if you really want to find out about Barclays new line in interest free loans I suggest that you trot down to your local branch and ask at the desk.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Ross,Brand and a very silly idea.

I don't know if the Jonathan Ross / Russell Brand fiasco has been deliberately engineered to take our minds of the impending recession but it might as well have been. I'm prepared to accept that both Ross and  Brand are overpaid tossers, reproductive parts of the first water and a general waste of space but aren't we making just a bit too much fuss about all this?
Meanwhile, the prize for dim idea of the week goes to DEFRA who announced that in future schools and charities that have a compost heap (it's not clear yet if that includes allotment societies) will have to pay an annual £50 fee to be exempt from a recycling license. This master-plan will be administered by the Environment Agency who will also be responsible for INSPECTING THE SITE OF EVERY COMPOST HEAP.  Sometimes I feel like I'm losing the will to live.

Monday, 27 October 2008

It goes to show you never can tell.

When Ariane Sherine and her mates launched the Atheist Bus Campaign with the support of the British Humanist Association, they were asking to raise five grand to advertise on a few buses for a few weeks. It just seems to have captured peoples imaginations and last time I checked the kitty stood at well over £100 000 !! It's time that we took a stand against religious loonies of all persuasions. If ever there was a time to put across an anti-religious, anti- capitalist and pro collectivist  message that time is now. 

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Shipping News

 If you thought that hedge fund managers were scum you should meet shipowners. The attitude of this bunch of undesirable aliens toward employees was best summed up by the late, unlamented Lady Astor when she suggested that merchant seamen should be prepared to work for free as they got to "see the world at others expense". The only honest shipowners were the pirates.
Now comes the news that shipping costs have been slashed by a massive 80%. That's right, if you want to charter a container ship it will cost you just one fifth of the rate for this time last year. So think of the profits they must have been making. And still they scour the world for yet more impoverished people to crew their rust buckets. Bastards, all of 'em.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Who is that masked man?

The masked man has long been a favourite character in popular culture. In Victorian "penny dreadfuls", comic books and films,the Lone Ranger, Zorro and that perennial anti-hero Dick Turpin have all swung from chandeliers,fought their way out against seemingly overwhelming odds, leaped from the balcony onto their trusty steeds and rode off to do battle against the forces of darkness once more. I suppose that there was a kind of historical inevitability about the emergence of masked wrestlers. It's as if the mysterious heroes and villains of pulp fiction had been waiting all along for that call from the wonderful burlesque world of professional wrestling.  It was a match made in heaven.
Well actually, as far as I can tell, it was a match originally  made at New York's Manhattan Opera House in 1915 on the occasion of an international tournament that had been set to run for a couple of weeks. Many of the top American and European names were there including Alex Aberg, Ben Roller, Wladek Zbyszko (brother of the more famous Stanislaus),  Strangler Lewis and a host of lesser grapplers. It should have been a sell out but for whatever reason the old luvvies just weren't  getting the bums on seats and at one stage it looked like the wrestlers might be in danger of outnumbering the punters. Something would have to be done.
One evening, just as proceedings were about to get under way, a man stood up and announced that the gentleman sitting next to him, a gentleman who he had the privilege of managing and who was, at this moment in time wearing a  black mask, this gentleman was in fact a wrestler of such outstanding quality that not one of the assembled athletes would be able to prevail against him if only the powers that be would give him a chance. It was an outrage that this great wrestler was being barred from the tournament just because of the need for him to remain anonymous.
Eventually the Masked Marvel (for it was he) and his manager were escorted from the building,only to repeat the performance the next night, and the next. When the promoters relented and allowed the mystery man to compete it was standing room only. Night after night he played to a packed house and never looked like being beaten. Toward the end of the run the Masked Marvel was finally defeated and forced to reveal his identity. The audience waited with baited breath. Did the mask hide hideous disfigurement? Was our hero an estranged member of the British Royal Family? He turned out to be one Mort Henderson a jobbing wrestler from the Midwest. 
 In the the wonderful smoke and mirrors world of professional wrestling, Mort Henderson deserves a nod of recognition as the founder of a tradition that has endured to this day.  A tradition that has reached it's final, if not necessarily logical, conclusion in Mexico where all wrestlers wear masks. Mexico was also the home of the most famous of all masked grapplers. A man who during a fifty year career became a national hero, as well as the hero of thousands of matches not to mention countless B movies and comic books; El Santo.
The masked wrestler was always a favourite with British promoters. Apart from the obvious  marketing appeal it also had the advantage of allowing a wrestler to work twice on the same bill: once as himself and later, after a quick cup of tea and a fag, as the Red Scorpion or whatever. There have been many notable British masked warriors. Count Bartelli stood the test of time. Kendo Nagasaki had a nice line in mysterious occult knowledge and random bits of martial arts equipment, but for me the one who stands head and shoulders above the rest was the one and only Doctor Death. There was a real air of menace about the Doctor. Mind you, coming from Hollywood as he did it was good of him to make the effort to get over here and work Walthamstow Town Hall as frequently as he did. Doctor Death's alter-ego was in fact well known wrestling promoter, owner of the famous Two i's Coffee Bar and Tommy Steel's first manager, Paul Lincoln.  Smoke and mirrors, smoke and mirrors.



Thursday, 16 October 2008

As we don't see it.

In 1967 the Solidarity group published a summary of their views entitled As We See It and some years later, in an effort to clear up any ambiguities or misunderstandings went on to publish a more detailed, but still short, statement called As We Don't See It. I recently came across my old copy and sat down to re-read it. Even after all this time, and in spite being written against a background of the Cold War and a very different world, it remains in my view one of the clearest pieces of writing to come out of the  libertarian movement. Well worth the effort of trying to get hold of a copy at the Anarchist Book Fair.

Monday, 13 October 2008

On being serious in the city.

I'm getting to know that triangle of ground in front of the Royal Exchange quite well. Today it was a "don't bail out the bankers" protest called by London Shop Stewards Network. I think that I was the only Freedom Pass Anarchist in attendance but there was no shortage of Trots who looked like they were well past the first flush of youth.
I got talking to a nice lady flogging The Socialist and after commenting on the poor turn out I said that  hoped that they would create as good an impression on The City as the kids did on Friday. She explained that unlike Friday's young insurrectionists she represented a serious organization and went on to tell me that she had been a member of Militant (Socialist Party) since the 60's. She seemed like a good soul and I didn't want to be rude or sectarian. Didn't ask about when the correct historical moment was likely to arrive or make any of my usual smart arse comments. Just smiled weakly and made my excuses. I suppose this is where I've been going wrong all these years. Just not serious enough you see.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

We Live In Interesting Times

Interesting times indeed. The past week has seen the economic crisis deepen dramatically. Things are happening at an accelerating pace and who knows what the next couple of weeks will bring. Some of us have maintained for years that running the world economy like a bookies was bound to end in tears before bed time but no matter. We need to raise the game a bit. Extend the rhetoric beyond "I told you so". People are worried about their savings, their homes and their jobs. How will they respond to this? That is the critical question. Will the crisis bring people together or force them to retreat into the isolation of the family? 
From this mess we can build something better. I know we can.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Martin Rowson at the RSA

I don't know why but the Royal Society of Arts has never really appeared on my radar before today. I suppose that I had just assumed that it was part of the establishment and nothing to do with me. However, when I was told that Will Self was introducing a talk by cartoonist Martin Rowson on "The Power of the Political Cartoon" it sounded too good to miss and I duly trotted off to RSA HQ in John Adam Street. It turned out to be one of the most interesting and entertaining gigs that I have been to for some time. The main thrust of Rowsons argument was that humanity has been around for about a hundred thousand years and that for almost all of that time lived in non-hierachial hunter/gatherer societies, with social elites only developing with the dawn of agriculture. Nothing very new so far but Rowson then went on to suggest that the main tool used by hunter/gatherers to prevent the emergence of an elite is mockery. Nothing punctures the inflated ego of the potential leader like having the urine extracted at length. Political cartoons are an honourable continuation of that ancient tradition.
Martin Rowson is not just a brilliant cartoonist, he is also a very amusing speaker. If all the RSA's talks are as good as this I might become a regular.

Monday, 6 October 2008

On Blogging

Three months into my career as a blogger it's maybe time to pause and take stock a bit. It was suggested to me that I do a blog long before I actually got down to it. I had resisted mainly because I was, and to some extent remain, a bit suspicious of the whole blog media. What concerns me is the picture of thousands of bloggers typing away, legends in their own bedrooms and inhabiting a virtual world that they have confused with actual practise. It was interesting to hear Martin Wright, during the recent Ian Bone interview, express similar concerns regarding the possible isolating effect of the internet.
I eventually decided to bite the bullet and join in for one very simple reason. I enjoy writing. For most aspiring writers the options are limited. We can keep a journal with no intention of seeking publication. To some extent this appeals and I see myself complete with quill and dipping ink writing these masterly observations of the world for future generations to pore over. In reality it ain't going to happen.
A second option is writing for occasional publication in papers, journals etc. The third option, the self or group publication, and worse still, distribution of magazines, papers and leaflets is one that I think I wont be taking part in again - but I take my hat off to those that do. That,for me at least, leaves blogging.
A few random thoughts on the blog. I struggle a bit with the technology, find it a bit boring to be honest, but hope to improve and add graphics and so on.
Are their any women bloggers, or have they all got better things to do?
Does anyone read it? Probably not judging by the lack of comments, but what the hell. For someone who paid their dues cranking a duplicator, this is a piece of piss.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

The ongoing debate (slanging match) about life-style versus class struggle anarchism seems set to run and run. It's been going for the last forty years to my certain knowledge, and if recent posts on the anarchobloggesphere are anything to go by, seems set to see me out. Of course the roots of the problem lay deep in the history of the European socialist movement, Marx and Prouhdon both having had a bit to say on the matter. By the 1940's George Orwell was having fits about sandal wearing beardy-wierdy vegetarians getting us all a bad name. In such august company it seems unlikely that I will be able to add much of value but for what it's worth here are my thoughts on the matter.
For a long time now there has been a connection (and at times a confusion) between radical left politics and the bohemian life style. This connection is hardly surprising, as someone challenging the bourgeois mode of production may well also reject what is perceived as a bourgeois life style, even see this rejection as an integral part of their politics. So the two things, bohemian and lefty, are certainly not mutually exclusive BUT neither can we assume that a person who is the one will also be the other. We are all familiar with the hip capitalist, or the eco-facist for that matter.
A lot of the problem comes down to what I call "throwing the baby out with the bathwater". What I mean by this is that very often, in the quite legitimate attempt to call everything into question, comrades can reject a great deal that is useful and authentic and even adopt a spurious alternative. Our project is to supersede capitalism not to reject out of hand all the product of capitalist art and science. We don't need to develop an anarcho/communist alternative to the law of gravity. Don't need to confuse rebellion with the uncritical acceptance of every kind of mumbo-jumbo.  My generation, in throwing out the attitudes of our parents with their demob suits and uncool "make do and mend" approach to life, also threw out their collectivist/distributive world that they had fought so hard for. In the sixties and early seventies we struggled to make our politics relevant to every facet of our lives. We were right to make the personal political, to take up the struggle for sexual liberation but in doing so many of us ended up with an austere, miserableist politics. Punk was in many ways a rejection of this no fun approach to life and politics. "Revolution is a carnival or it is nothing" but as usual much that was of value was thrown out along with the dross and soon we were left with nothing but the cult of celebrity fashion. What I am saying is that in all the above cases the baby was thrown out with the bathwater.
So where to with this class struggle/ life style split? To start with I have always felt that I had a bit of a foot in both camps, certainly when I was younger, and have been happy to have pretty straight industrial militants and extreme space cadets as my comrades. I certainly don't have any solutions but would just like to propose the following. Maybe we could even talk about it without referring to each other as wankers.
For a start "it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that class analysis" and by class analysis I don't mean anything more intellectually demanding then simply knowing who's side you are on. As we judge each others politics let's use the criterion, "who's side are they on".
The libertarian strand of socialism is not just about the redistribution of wealth and the abolition of privilege, it is about the discovery of a new and authentic life and while it is wrong to think that it is possible to build that life alongside (as an alternative to) capitalism, it is equally absurd to demand that every effort to live a different life is wrong, that we must wait until "after the revolution". To know that capitalism is able to recoup everything and sell it back to us does not mean that we sit frozen, like a rabbit caught in the headlights.
Part of the reason why the anarchist/libertarian socialist movement has been dogged by disagreements is that the very nature of our politics has allowed the development of a huge diversity of emphasis and opinion. It's a diversity that we should cherish, that we should be proud of. I'll try and remember that next time some vegetarian eco-mental gets up my nose!

Monday, 29 September 2008

Reality Killed the Radio Star

Yesterday was the occasion of the allotment society autumn social and what with me winning the prize for biggest sunflower AND second prize in the raffle. Well! Did you know that the best ever book on allotments was written by former Freedom editor Colin Ward? I don't know if George Orwell mentioned allotments anywhere but I'm sure that he would have approved.
The evening found me in the Resonance FM studio as a guest on Wing Commander Bone's outstanding series " Freedom Pass Anarchists". It's always nice to chat to Ian so all in all I was feeling pretty chipper by the time I got back to area HQ.
I woke up this morning, brewed the first cup of builders of the day, switched the radio on and returned to earth with a bump. News of the far right electoral success in Austria was followed by a harrowing piece on child soldiers in Congo. I know that there is nothing I can do to influence either of these issues but it sure put last nights rambling reminiscing in perspective.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Hazel Blears set to join anarchists.

You never can tell how the day will pan out. Take today for example. It had been my intention to toddle off up to the allotment and get stuck into the autumn muck spreading. Makes a change from spreading it on the web. Anyway, I made my sarni and a flask of tea, reached for my trusty Freedom Pass and prepared to set off. Bugger! It's only started to rain. I should have seen it coming. Me being a bit of an amateur meteorologist and all, as her indoors was quick to point out.
Ah well! On to plan B- elevate feet and have a read of the paper. Now what's all this? ".....absolute belief in the ability of ordinary working-class people to determine their future and make their own decisions......activist in the working-class tradition
..... believe strongly that it's not about well meaning middle-class people doing good things for working-class people." This is not a quote from some yellowing Solidarity pamphlet circa 1972. No. This is arch Blairite and New Labour super-chick Hazel Blears.
You can't fault it of course. It's all true. The trouble is that if working-class communities really did take matters into their own hands and started to make their own decisions, and implement those decisions, the power of the state would be down on them like a ton of bricks. It would then be up to Our Haze to decide whose side she was on.
Blears also goes on to say that, " The truth is,the poorest people always get the poorest services because they have not had the clout and the influence." And it took all these long wasted years of Labour government to find that out, right?
I should never have opened Society Guardian. I knew that it would upset me. Should have gone up the allotment in the rain.

Monday, 22 September 2008

The one and only Yukio Tani.

During the second half of the 19th century,as Japan was emerging from it's isolated feudal past and rapidly becoming an industrialised nation, the Japanese started to visit abroad and large numbers of Europeans were for the first time visiting and working in Japan. It must have been frustrating for the Japanese,that just as they were trying to take their place in the modern world, it was the ancient and now somewhat discredited art of jujitsu that fascinated the foreigners, especially the Brits.
Among these Victorian martial arts fans was one W E Barton Wright, an engineer on a tour of duty in Japan. Barton Wright had decided that upon returning home he would open a jujitsu academy in London teaching his own "westernised" system that he had modestly named "Bartitsu". Just to be on the safe side and to ensure that he wasn't put on his arse by the first punter to walk through the door, Barton Wright also decided to bring back a genuine Japanese instructor with him, the nineteen year old Yukio Tani.
Bartitsu got off to a good enough start and for a time was the talk of the town. Having Sherlock Holmes use it to overcome Professor Moriaty in their little set to at the Reichenbach Falls helped of course. It couldn't last, the bubble was bound to burst before long and soon the flood of hopeful trainees dried to a trickle. In a last effort to drum up business Barton Wright put his teenage instructor on the stage. Tani was to appear nightly in the capitals music halls not only giving demonstrations of his art but taking on all comers as well.
Barton Wright and Bartitsu were soon forgotten, not so Yukio Tani. The British public took the little man to their hearts as thousands of miles from home and with no other way of making a living he really did take on and beat all comers. Touring the country night after night he offered an open challenge to boxers, wrestlers and God knows what bar room brawlers to step right up and have a go. Only five feet two inches tall and never weighing more than nine stone, how on earth did he do it?
Of course there was his undoubted skill, even though he always modestly claimed that in Japan he would be considered as no more than a good third rater. What was probably even more impresive was the level of mental strength that he must have had.
Yukio Tani settled in London and when he finally retired from his music hall career was to become the first chief instructor at the now famous Budokwai Judo Club.

Friday, 19 September 2008

The Final Days? I Doubt It.

Much as I would like to think that capitalism's present crisis heralds the collapse of the system and the dawn of a new world, I can't help feeling that such is very much not the case.
However, the one certain thing in politics is the complete lack of certainty.
Chances are that the worst off will feel the pinch even more and the sale of mega-yachts and racehorses will continue as before.
But you never can tell. This shambles may offer opportunities we haven't even thought of yet. Stay focused.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Let the Gurkhas stay.

I wish the retired Gurkhas well in their High Court battle for the right to settle in this country if they choose to do so. Even the likes of the BNP would surely find it hard to justify the deportation of these veterans so I was surprised to hear the comment this morning that being allowed to stay "wasn't part of the deal". Like when people striking for improved pay and conditions are told that they knew what the job was like when they started. With that attitude social change of any sort would never happen. Freeing the slaves, votes for women. the five day week, you name it. None of it was "part of the deal". It all had to be fought for.
Ayo Ghurkali !

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Wake me up before you go Gordon.

With such political heavyweights as Joan Ryan and Siobhain McDonagh calling for a leadership contest, Brown must be shaking in his boots. The truth is, that despite the huge amount of media hysteria, the Machiavelian intrigues of the New Labour elite are of little interest to anyone apart from party members and professional politics watchers. The mass of ordinary people are well aware that whoever is in Number 10, from whatever brand of New Labour/New Tory/Same Old Story,the increasing gulf between rich and poor will continue. The reality of modern capitalism is that power, real power, belongs not to politicians but to big business.
The project is not to change leaders but to change life. Something that we can only do when we make real the power dormant in all of us - not just at the ballot box but on the streets, in the workplace and in every area of daily life

Saturday, 6 September 2008

MMA cuts through the bullshit.

I have never been a great fan of Mixed Martial Arts, or Cage Fighting as it is sometimes known. The fights tend to be scrappy and I also feel a bit uneasy about the way the whole thing is marketed. Having said that,There is no doubt that MMA has made an important contribution to martial arts/combat sports in two respects. First off, MMA is acting as an archive of Catch Wrestling submission techniques that might otherwise be lost. Fortunately there were enough old time shooters around to pass on their knowledge to the new generation of MMA fighters. The other big contribution has, in my view, been as a bullshit detector.
I think that during my years of involvement in the martial arts I must have come across more unmitigated old cobblers than in any other area of life. Mixed Martial Arts demand a pragmatic, open minded approach to training and combat that was missing for years. Once the door of the cage closes no amount of secret internal death touch nonsense will get you out in one piece.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Soft Southern Tossers Beware.

I've been Up North. No, honest. Dockside pubs in such exotic ports as Blyth, Hull, Newcastle and Immingham have all been graced by my presence in the past and I have to admit that by and large the experience was a good one. High on my list of Northern adventures would have to be my introduction to Middlesbrough pub culture about 1962. Mind you, this in no way prepared me for my introduction to Sheffield Anarchists some ten years later! Gosh!
But I digress. What I wanted to say was that if any other soft,Southern,suburban tossers are planning a trip North and are looking for a bit of pre-voyage cultural preparation, they could do worse then visiting the outstanding Snook Cocker blog.

Not now darling.

I would not normally have bothered reading the now notorious Alistair Darling interview but so much fuss has been made about it that I felt I really had to check it out. Apparently the media are in a state of shock regarding a politician, much less the chancellor, TELLING THE TRUTH. So what is this hand on heart revelation they are all going on about? Surely it can't be the bit about the forthcoming economic downturn, everyone and their dog has been talking about that for months. No, it must be something else. Ah! this will be it. Towards the end of the article. Where he admits to not being a socialist. That'll be it.
A recession will hit the worst off hardest, as always. I have never subscribed to the view that "worst is best" in politics. When the shit comes down people are not radicalised necessarily, and may retreat into a defeated, depressed isolation instead. The thing that probably concerns me least regarding the likelihood of a recession is Darling fessing up to some journo about it.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Revoke anonimity, not licenses.

News that that despite new legislation, the abuse of migrant agricultural workers continues, should come as no surprise. Revoking gangmaster licenses won't help much as the companies just reappear under a new name. We need to find out who owns the companies and give them all the publicity they deserve. Do their daughters posh private school friends parents know how they make a living? Do they want a welcoming committee waiting for them at the golf club? Make their lives a fucking misery.
Oh! and if middle class leftie liberals want something to do they can start by expressing a bit more concern for workers welfare and a bit less for that of poultry.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Boris big hit in Beijing panto.

With the Peoples Republic and Workers Paradise spending the equivalent of the GDP of some Third World countries on the closing ceremony, some people probably felt that Team GB's handover bit was doomed to pale into insignificance. Not a bit of it. Best comedy for ages my view. Outstanding performance by Boris Johnson. I always knew that drawing up the plans on acid was a good idea. Our mayor looked as though he had just woken up having fallen asleep in his suit and was thinking, "who are all these people in my bedroom".
I tend to agree with Arthur Smith on the Today Program this morning. I also try to dislike Boris Johnson as a mental exercise, and don't always find it easy. Doubt if anyone has that problem with Seb Coe.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Reade Crashes. Riley Smashes.

Commiseration to Shanaze Reade who fell off big time in the BMX. Next time Shanaze.
Congrats to Alex Riley for last nights BBC3 "Cheap Homes For Sale". Making a point and making us laugh at the same time it was one of the best progs that I have seen for a while. The nice bit of footage of the Class War Fuck Foxtons action was the icing on the cake. More! More!

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Olympic thoughts.

I don't much like the jingoistic medal table hype but that doesn't stop me from being pleased about Brit success at the games.
Never thought that I would be a BMX fan but that Shanaze Reade has got me well enthused.
No matter how debased the Olympic Spirit has become, even old git cynics such as myself can't help but be lifted by the sight of so many happy young faces.
BBC coverage has been outstanding apart from the usual lack of wrestling. Freestyle is actually not a bad spectator sport; certainly better than some that have had hours of coverage.
In the midst of all this hype, lets not forget the huge army of ordinary coaches who slave away in draughty gyms and muddy sports fields, will never produce an Olympic medalist or get lottery funding but devote hours of their time to giving kids a chance to express themselves. They are true sporting heroes.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Ready to Ruck.

Years ago I wrote and marketed a correspondence course. My reasons for producing " Ready to Ruck. A guide to street survival" were threefold. In the first place I was hoping to make a few bob. In case anyone is concerned about my being corrupted by the forces of capitalism, let me put their minds at rest straight away. There was never the faintest glimmer of hope that anything remotely resembling a profit was ever going to result from the project. In the second place I somehow hoped that Ready to Ruck would be a vehicle for anti-state propaganda. Don't ask.
The final and perhaps only legitimate reason for unleashing this masterpiece on an unsuspecting public, was a fascination with correspondence courses that dates back to boyhood. The thrill of knowing that a rugged physique, the secret wisdom of the Rosicrucians and the ability to draw like Leonardo could all be mine for the simple investment of a 10/6d postal order was matched only by the exciting sound of the first lesson thudding onto the doormat. From then on it was usually downhill all the way. If any of this was due to some deep rooted psychological shortcoming it was not revealed in the eight lesson course from the British Institute of Practical Psychology.
Anyway, about the time that I was preparing the nation for street survival an advertisement appeared in the local paper (I'm not making any of this up) for a correspondence course in Nihilism. And it was free. All I had to do was send off a SAE. Well, it would have been rude not to. A few weeks later, and having completed the course ( I later discovered that I was the only person to achieve this, and you can draw your own conclusions about that ) I was invited by the chief nihilist to come round to his drum for a meeting on how best to proceed from here. So, much against the advice of friends, I turned up on his doorstep as arranged The meeting comprised just the two of us plus his disgruntled girlfriend who made tea. It was all a bit of an anti-climax really.
The world of correspondence courses came to an end as learning facilities (adult education classes, gyms etc.) began to improve and I suppose that the internet must have been the final nail in its coffin, but this odd,marginal part of popular culture, populated as it was by experts and charlatans, remains a fascination.
One famous correspondence course, still very much alive, deserves a mention. The cream of the crop and Harold Wilson's finest achievement, the Open University is in a class of its own. I did some OU myself when I was lock-keeping. It was the perfect way to spend the nightshift. With outstanding course material and some very committed tutors I really enjoyed it.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Digging for victory. Class victory.

It seems that the Soil Association, freaked out by concerns over the new buzz phrase "food security", are to launch a new Dig for Victory campaign. The original wartime Dig for Victory has always interested me. By the end of the war there were 1.5 million allotments providing over half of the nations fruit and veg. In the face of the German U boat blockade, years of agricultural decline and reliance on cheap imports from the empire had to be reversed. Every available piece of land was put to good use. It has always struck me as an example of what can be achieved when the economy is geared to NEED rather than mere profit. In fact we could all do with being reminded from time to time that during the war "profiteer" was a term of abuse.
This new Dig for Victory campaign has radical potential, but it is only potential. Chances that the media will big it up for a while, celebrity gardening experts will explain how to grow aubergines in the bath and the whole thing will be recouped by the market, reducing us to mere bit players in the spectacle of self-sufficiency. The other option is that we force local authorities to fulfil their obligations under the Allotments Act and provide plots for the estimated 100,000 on the waiting lists. In London alone there are thousands of acres of land that could be used for food production. The back garden of Buck House for starters.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Kev comes good.

Just got back from The Oval. Nice one Kev. Well done. Never doubted you for a moment mate. Top geezer or wot?
Still not sure about the Greens though.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Take me to your leader.

As Kevin Pietersen completes his first day as England captain we can but hope that the selectors know what they are doing. Leaving aside the reasons for Pietersen playing for England rather than South Africa in the first place, arrogant but fundamentally insecure individuals don't tend to make the best leaders.
Funny old thing leadership. The reasons for feeling the need for a leader are complex, as are the reasons for wanting to be one.
The Green Party are about to descend into these murky waters with their decision to adopt a leadership profile like the main parties. My contact at Green Central Office tells me that the main reason for deciding on this was the difficulty in getting the press to take them seriously while they remained leaderless. I have strong misgivings about both KP ( too up himself ) and the Green Party (ain't got no class analysis) but at the end of the day I wish them both well. If Pietersen is looking for a bit of bed time reading he could do worse than Mike Brearley's "Art of Captaincy".
Oh! and Caroline, there are lots of good reasons for having a leader, but wanting to be taken seriously by some wanker from Fortress Wapping is not one of 'em.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

The Lion and the Unicorn Revisited.

To my mind there is nothing like a good walk to clear the cobwebs. Get the old pins moving and have a proper think about things. That's the ticket.So in this optimistic frame of mind I strode out the other day on one of my favorite jaunts.
Crossing over Waterloo Bridge, I am, as always, thrilled by that view of the city downriver and although I'm not a huge fan of the architecture, I can't help turning to look back at the South Bank and especially the Royal Festival Hall, all that now remains of that supreme example of post-war optimism, the Festival of Britain.
Over the bridge, turn right into The Strand and on to Fleet Street. Pause to go down into the crypt of St Brides "the printers church". No printers in evidence now but an interesting exhibition of the history of Fleet Street. On street level again and the real world. Post Murdoch Fleet Street.
I'm indebted to Ian Bone and his excellent blog for drawing my attention back to George Orwell and the need for the left to remain connected to the common culture of our society. It has got me reading Orwell again especially the essays, and most especially The Lion and the Unicorn. There are lots of things about Orwell's that I admire, not least the unashamed ENGLISHNESS of it all. That does not mean that I'm not an internationalist - far from it. It's just that looking back over the past 40 odd years of my own political development, it seems to me that the baby has been thrown out with the bathwater so many times.
Onward. Cross the valley of the old Fleet River, up Ludgate Hill and into the heart of the beast- The City. Look, this place, The City. It belongs to ME. The workers built this. The heritage of the Square Mile will remain long after the fly by night capitalists and hedge-fund tossers have struck their tents. And this heritage, it's MINE. It's OURS.
On past St Pauls. Down Cheapside and Poultry.Cross another lost river (Wallbrook) Past The Bank and up Cornhill. Pause to admire the Lloyd's Building and the ironwork of Leadenhall Market, both in their own way wonderful examples of craftsmanship and testimony to the truth of the words spoken by Durutti all those years ago. Negotiate the Aldgate one way system and I'm in Whitechapel High Street. Duck into Angel Alley and the anarchist sanctuary of Freedom Books. I buy something by Colin Ward. I like Ward. He writes about allotments, plotlands, the margins. Its all so, well, English I suppose.

Monday, 28 July 2008

From Shoot to Show.

We will never know for sure when it was that pro wrestling changed from being a genuine competitive sport to today's highly skilled but totally non- competitive exhibition. Truth is, a sport with roots in the English music hall and American carnivals rather than the playing fields of Eton, is unlikely to ever have been entirely straight. No one expects the magician to REALLY cut the lady in half after all. The money in wrestling was always in getting bums on seats rather than gambling on the result as in prize fighting. When the "Russian Lion" Georges Hackenschmidt joined forces with showbiz impresario C B Cochran in 1904 the result was that wrestling took London by storm. Box office records were broken and the West End experienced its first traffic jam the night that the "Russian Lion" squared off with the "Terrible Turk" at Olympia. Hackenschmidt was the real deal all right, but there is no reason to suppose that he was averse to a little gentle choreography to keep the punters happy.
All good things come to an end. The public started to lose interest and when Hackenschmidt split from Cochran and decamped to the States only to lose to Frank Gotch, the end of the golden age of wrestling was in sight.
America was to be the scene of the next major innovation with the transformation of the old corrupt and brutal business of carnival wrestling into something just as corrupt but with only the appearance of brutality. The so called " Goldust Trio" of Toots Mondt, Ed "Strangler" Lewis and Billy Sandow more or less invented the form of pro wrestling that has been around for the last ninety years.By introducing aerial acrobatics, unlikely submission holds and fast moving matches, public interest was restored. By 1920 the business was well established and with Lewis as a World Champion more than happy to drop (and win back) the title on demand, their fortune seemed assured. By 1925 it was felt that the game required a new hero to keep the punters happy, and to this end the trio recruited ex football star Wayne Munn, taught him a few moves and put him on the roster. Lo and behold, in no time at all the hapless footballer is deemed ready for a championship match and, who would have thought it, beats Lewis for the title.
Even the gullible and long suffering wrestling fans found this difficult to swallow. What was needed for the new champion was a convincing win over a really reputable challenger. Enter Stanislaus Zbyszko.
Now approaching middle age, Zbyszko was a tough old bird who had really been around the block. From the Greco-Roman tournaments of the Austro Hungarian Empire, he had graduated to working for Cochran during the golden age and was now a key player in the slam-bang world of the new style. The deal was done. Zbyszko would roll over for Munn and credibility would be returned to the title. Ah! the frailty of human nature. The wily old Pole had changed horses in mid stream. Had signed with rival promoter and title claimant Joe Stecher. Did the screw job. Beat the crap out of Munn and pinned him so many times that even the house referee had no choice but to declare Stan the winner and new World Champion. Later that year Zbyszko dropped the title to Stecher. Mission accomplished.
Stanislaus Zbyszko retired from wrestling a few years later but was to tread the boards one last time. In 1950 aged 70 he secured a major role alongside Richard Widmark and Googie Withers in Jules Dassin's film noir classic, Night and the City. In one final touch of irony, the old trouper played the part of formerly great Greco-Roman wrestler appalled at the shenanigans of the modern game.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Lest We Forget

I don't know how long we will have to wait for the big day, but I for one am looking forward to the Thatcher Funeral bash in Trafalgar Square. I am also aware of the fact that many people, especially those who did not live through the Thatcher years, feel that the idea is petty and small minded. It is all getting to be a long time ago. Major, Blair, Brown and Cameron are all fitting heirs to the Thatcher legacy. They have served the project well. Soon, very soon I fear, Thatcherism will seem the norm. It will appear absurd to talk of anything but neocon reality. And that Margeret Thatcher, wasn't she, all in all, a force for good?
Well just for the record this is why I will be in Trafalgar Square. Thatcher not only pauperised whole working class communities,
not only sacrificed hard won social benefits on the altar of market forces and reduced the idea of social housing and comprehensive education to second rate safety nets for the underprivileged (read underachievers). Worse, much worse, all of this could be turned around but for her (their) master stroke, the destruction of the last vestiges of collectivism in this country and the seeming triumph of middle class individualist values. Fucks sake, I know that the post-war settlement was not Catalonia 1936 but looking around now at the increasing social polarisation, its beginning to look like some kind of Golden Age.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Shocking increase in bike crime.

Right. It's not big and it's not clever. This is the sort of thing that gets us all a bad name. A few irresponsible people spoiling it for everyone else.
WILL THE COMRADES WHO HAD IT AWAY WITH DAVE CAMERON'S BIKE PLEASE RETURN IT AT ONCE.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Nice man with beard shock.

The arrest of the odious Radovan Karadzic, while being obvious good news, also contains certain strands that really should come as no surprise to anyone. Being able to remain at large in Belgrade under an assumed identity for one thing and finally having his cover blown just as the EU gravy train appears on the horizon for another.
As for the man who was at least partly responsible for so much human misery reappearing as an alternative therapist - well the arch nationalist simply moved seamlessly from one load of mumbo jumbo to another.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Beano and Dandy Birthday Bash

It was said that Class War owed more to The Beano than Bakunin. Maybe so. Kids of all ages certainly thrilled to the exploits of the unlikely band of neer- do- wells and larger than life ruffians who inhabited the pages of the great comic. The Beano wasn't bad either.
No doubt the pointy heads will long debate the socio-political importance of The Beano and Dandy and ponder how such iconoclastic journals emerged from the anal-retentive environs of DC Thomson.
More to the point, did you know that the Cartoon Museum in Little Russell Street are celebrating 70 years of Beano and Dandy with a special exhibition starting on 30th July? I'll be there.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

The Mighty Sandow

Few people today will have heard of Eugen Sandow but during the last two decades of the 19th century, and for many years after, his was literally a household name. He was the most famous of the old time music hall wrestlers and strength athletes and went on to develop his own system of physical training and lay the foundation of, not only modern bodybuilding, but physical education in general. Rich from the proceeds of all this he could have rested on his laurels, but instead went on to use his fame as a tireless social campaigner. As might be expected, Sandow was a keen on the benefits of exercise, but he went far beyond this and campaigned vigourously for the introduction of free school meals, improved housing, health and safety at work,sanitary inspectors and family allowances. In all of this he was way ahead of his time.
His feats of strength have long been surpassed but to my mind today's sporting heroes,unable in many cases to see beyond a celebrity lifestyle and a colour spread in Hello magazine, they don't compare to the Mighty Sandow.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

The Word on 4?

When I was asked by an old friend if I wanted to go on a Palestinian march a while back, I accepted the offer, as much as anything else, because I thought that a couple of hours in her company would be a nice way to spend an afternoon. And so it proved, but I have to admit to feeling very out of place. "We are all Hezbollah now". Well, no actually. I have always felt that nationalism and religion are twin evils, responsible for much that is wrong in the world. When they combine, as history shows they frequently do, repression is never far away.
However, a dislike for religion has never stopped me taking an interest in it. Being a committed atheist also relieves me of having to make value judgements of one religion over another. It's a matter of regret to me that people are followers of medieval superstition. What particular brand is neither here nor there. So I certainly can't claim to been overburdened with an open mind when I sat down to watch Channel 4's The Qur'an on Monday night. There is ,of course a fascinating tale to tell here. Dessert nomads inspired by the words of a prophet, go forth to conquer vast swathes of the known world and within a couple of hundred years rule over what was, for it's time, a tolerant and progressive empire. The part that the Qur'an had to play in this huge achievement cannot be denied. The trouble with the Qur'an however, is that as with all sacred texts, it is open to interpretation. It can mean all things to all men (and women). Only those who have had direct coms with God know the truth. Trouble with God is, he tends only to speak to those afflicted with mental illness or a lust for power, or both.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Up the plot

Whether I'm grafting away with the spade and hoe or sitting under the tree with flask of tea and book, the allotment is proving to be an increasingly welcome oasis of calm in these troubled times. The credit crunch. falling house prices, street crime, summer TV schedule, none of this impinges on my consciousness when I'm up the plot. In fact, there are times when I think that I've passed into a completely different space-time continuum and woken up in the middle of a John Major speech. You know, the bit about the sound of leather on willow, old maids cycling back from Holy Communion and all that old tosh. I'm usually brought back to earth by the arrival of the first 4x4 load of the chattering classes.
The days of allotments being the preserve of old geezers and the occasional clueless hippy are long over. Growing your own is now attracting the middle class in droves, all desperate to weave their own bread and grow their own laptop and creating not only a whole new market in designer gardening accessories but also long waiting lists for plots. Hang on! The mists are clearing. I'm not in a John Major speech at all. It's the Palace of Versailles. Marie Antoinette and her chums are in the garden dressed as milkmaid and playing at being peasants. Must remember to get that tumbril out of the barn.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Ken's ring revealed.

According to Will Self his missus reckons that psychogeography is just an excuse to get out of the house and that people like him and Iain Sinclair are, well, wankers really. Not much I can add to that but tramping the metropolis, expecting the unexpected and generally getting a feel for the lie of the land remain a favourite pastime. No doubt the sits over egged the pudding. Ambling around town is not the revolution, but as Rebecca Solnit points out in her excellent Wanderlust, there is a long and honourable connection between walking and radical politics.
Unlike most comrades I don't view the Livingstone years in a completely negative light. There were some useful initiatives from the Mayor's Office, not least the London Strategic Walks Network. Jewel in the LSWN crown is the CAPITAL RING, a 78 mile circumnavigation of the London burbs that takes in parks, disused docks, deprived estates,Hampstead Garden Suburb and the Streatham Pumping Station. Anyway, as part of Ken's efforts to big up the project, certificates were supposed to be issued to people who completed the walk. Needless to say when I finally staggered through the front door last year after doing the final leg my letter was in the post before you could say knife.
Did I get my certificate? Did I fuck! No chance now of course.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Keep the money. Keep the faith.

Chatting to an old mate the other day, he informed me that old copies of Suburban Press are fetching as much as a hundred quid. He went on to tell me that he was approached by a dealer at the recent 1968 And All That book-fair regarding selling his own collection of old radical pamphlets. "I'd rather burn them", was the response, "we were about destroying the market, not feeding it". Nice one mate.
I have managed to hang on to a few bits and pieces from the past myself including a couple of prized copies of the late George Foulser's esteemed organ,"The East London Speed Freak". George was an anarchist militant of the old school, hated almost as much by the National Union of Seamen as he was by the shipowners. I don't know what George would have made of these yellowed duplicated pages being collectors items but I doubt that he would have had much compunction about taking the money. He died without a pot to piss in.
Years ago I sailed with another old shellback who when he had a few pints of Guinness would always reminisce about two major incidents from his past. One was his fighting in the International Brigade at the defence of Madrid and the other concerned him working in Jack Sherrie's corner when the great shooter wrestled Man Mountain Dean. Spending my formative years around blokes like this...Well,it explains a lot I suppose.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Two more Luche Libres here when you've got a minute squire.

News that Mexican Masked Wrestling (Lucha Libre) is in town has concentrated the minds of Boris lackeys at City Hall, nervously looking over their shoulders and asking security to double check stationary cupboards etc. Why? Well, from El Sante to El Super Barrio, there is a long tradition in Mexico of masked grapplers being seen as on the side of the poor in the struggle against the rich and powerful. On top of the Ray Lewis debacle the last thing Boris needs is some 18 stone masked Johnny Foreigner stepping out from behind the filling cabinets and dangling him out of a window by the ankles. It's all a far cry from the old Big Daddy/Thatcher mutual admiration society. Is someone going to tell me that Bert Assirati was at Cable Street? I hope so.
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