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

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Refinery Wildcat.

The Lindsey Refinery wildcat is beginning to gain support in other sectors and seems likely to spread. Is this a "Good Thing"( autonomous mass action) or a "Bad Thing"(racist,xenophobic)?
Politicos on the left will struggle to explain and emphasise the class nature of the dispute whilst those on the right will try to highlight it's perceived nationalist nature. Both will be wetting themselves in excitement at the prospect of another opportunity to "sell the paper, build the party". For Anarchists and others on the libertarian left the the response must be neither to lift up our petticoats and run, lest we are contaminated by false-consciousness, or to go into a state of denial about the nationalistic, anti-foreign feelings that like it or not are a part of, but only a part, of the culture of ALL classes. Already there are interesting discussions going on both Ian Bone's and the Libcon sites (see links) but of course the REAL debate and the one that matters will be happening on the picket lines, in the pubs and in the homes of the workers involved.
 This is the real world. Mass movements are not made up of perfectly formed, anarchist revolutionaries. If we wait for that we will wait a very long time. No, mass movements are just that and are made up of people with all the usual blessing and failings that you will find at work and in your neighbourhood. Mass movements always contain the potential for revolutionary change. For revolutionaries the message is an old one- trust the masses and don't be afraid to get your hands dirty.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Aunty Gets it Wrong. Sometimes.

Marina Hyde suggested in Saturday's Guardian that the reasoning behind the BBC's refusal to air the Gaza Appeal was due to fears about creating yet more controversy after the Brand/Ross fiasco. If so, they certainly got that wrong having not only produced a veritable mares nest of controversy but shed loads of publicity for the appeal as well. I don't know if Marina Hyde has got it right but her theory is certainly a bit more appealing than some of the more anti-semitic ones that are doing the rounds
It's easy to knock the beeb at times like this but if you are in any doubt about what TV and radio would be like without it just flick through the satellite  channels and spin that dial. See what I mean? Only tonight London News came up with another fine piece of investigative journalism revealing how the Olympic Delivery Authority are seemingly hell bent on becoming a virtual state within a state. Aunty only gets it wrong some of the time.

Friday, 23 January 2009

What's in a name?

I don't know when it was that party image makers started to shorten the first names of politicians, it just seemed to creep up on us. Almost overnight the rather pompous sounding former Oswald Mosley admirer and Bilderberg Group member Kenneth Clarke became avuncular man of the people "Ken" Clarke. The sort of bloke that you wouldn't mind having as a brother-in-law. Likes a pint, good with the kids. Good old Ken. I bet his Mum never called him Ken.
I'm not sure that the device has worked so well with Vincent Cable.  Vince Cable sounds like a 50's biker complete with massive quiff, shirt collar turned up, handy with the nut. Anyone less likely to have hung out at the Ace Cafe than the Honorable Member for Twickenham would be difficult to imagine. Along with a great many others I have a bit of a soft spot for Vince, there is an air of  intelligence and decency about him that is unusual in a politician. However his appearance as a castaway on Desert Island Discs did reveal a couple of shortcomings. His mind numbing taste in music and his truly awful choice of father. Cable Snr. comes across as an authoritarian, right-wing,bigoted god-botherer. He finally got to meet his maker after catching pneumonia as a result of leafleting for Margaret Thatcher in the pissing rain. 

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

The Famous Five and the overthrow of capitalism.

I seldom give advice to young people. What do I know? It was a different matter when I was working on sail training ships and was responsible for the safety and well being of thirty odd teenagers. My stock advice and the themes that I would come back to time and again were "look after each other" and  "have an adventure". In that kind of situation you tend to develop a series of set pieces that you can trot out to each successive group that you deal with. One of my openers was, "I am sometimes asked what my definition of a good seaman is and I have no hesitation about this. It's got nothing to do with wire splicing or astro-navigation. A good seaman is someone who looks after their shipmates."  Very rarely did the kids fail to respond. Kropotkin got some of it wrong, but on the subject of mutual aid he was right on the money. We have an innate tendency to look after each other and this tendency is at the very heart of socialism.
So far so obvious, but what has having an adventure got to do with anything? Well to my mind revolutionary politics is, or should be, an adventure above all else. Not in the sense of living out Che fantasies but of living the adventure of breaking free from the constraints that capitalism places on us; and changing life.  The revolution of everyday life, as Vaneigem put it.
Look after each other and have an adventure. I'm still trying to live up to my own rhetoric.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Another one bites the dust.

Blimey! They're dropping like flies. First Patrick McGoohan, then John Mortimer, now Tony Hart has gone and flatlined it. I'm not one to name drop but I used to know the bloke who did the voice for Morph. He worked in a hardware shop down the end of our road when not doing the Morph gig. Funny old world innit?

Friday, 16 January 2009

Rumpole creator dies.

After the sad news of the death of Patrick "The Prisoner" McGoohan comes the demise of an unlikely hero of mine, Sir John Mortimer. I say unlikely because if ever anyone deserved to be described as a champagne socialist it was Mortimer.  Although an unashamed member of the upper middle class he was a thorn in the side of the establishment and as a barrister always seemed to be defending cases that interested me; most famously Lady Chatterley's Lover, Oz and the Sex Pistols. As a writer he will probably be best remembered for Rumpole of the Bailey.
We can be consoled by the possibility of  The Prisoner and Rumpole reruns on the box.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

It's the class, stupid.

The BBC's revelations about the cosy relationship between Primark and Mr Zahid Sarwar, owner of Manchester sweat-shop TSN Knitwear, should come as no surprise. Cheap food, cheap clothing, it's produced at a price. In this instance the price is paid by illegal workers putting up with appalling conditions and being paid half the minimum wage. It should come as no surprise because that's how the system works; and it is going to get worse as the recession bites deeper and companies struggle to maintain their profit margins. So if I am not surprised about Primark. TSN Knitwear or the liberal hand wringing about it what's my problem? Well, it's just that I heard a comment that, given that both Zahid Sarwar and the workforce were of Asian origin, he was "ripping off his own people". No, No. Sarwar's "own people" are fellow factory owners: of any colour or creed. The class nature of issues like this needs to be emphasised over and over again.
It must be thirty five years ago that we had a slogan, " Black and White Unite and Fight". Perhaps we should take it off the shelf and dust it off. 

Saturday, 10 January 2009

gaza demo II

Today, spurred on by her indoors, I turned out with who knows how many thousands of others for the march to the Israeli Embassy. The strong religious and nationalistic elements involved still concern me so it was very reassuring to see the red and black of an anarchist block. I have to admit that this Freedom Pass Anarchist was on the way home by the time the cops did the kettle job. 

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Don't lose the plot. Part II.

If you have been lucky enough to rise to the top of the waiting list and have just taken over the tenancy of an allotment, congratulations. Now is the time that you should be planning in some detail what you are going to do with the plot and, as soon as the weather permits, making a start on clearing the site. Don't leave the planning or the clearing until the start of the growing season, you will never catch up, and don't underestimate the amount of time involved in cultivating an allotment.
I don't intend to go into practical advice on growing as the net is full of it and there must now be almost as many books on gardening published as cookery books. In fact there is almost too much information available and it can be quite confusing for the first time veg grower. Remember that there is more than one right way of going about it. Whether you decide to go for 1940s style allotmenteering or trendy, fully organic raised beds is up to you but don't be to influenced by what you see on TV. The neighbour on the next door plot with thirty years experience will almost certainly know more than any bloated celebrity chef/gardener on the box.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Don't lose the plot

If you are on the waiting list for an allotment don't hold your breath as nationaly there are now 100,000 people waiting to take over a plot. Yet Local Authorities have a clear statutory obligation under the Allotment Act to provide plots for their constituents. Councils are not able to fulfil their obligations because they have sold of allotment sites to developers. Now some authorities are considering reducing the waiting list by simply reducing the size of plots. Brilliant! Double the number of allotments by reducing the size by 50%. I'm surprised that some fool hasn't suggested this as a way of reducing the waiting list for housing. 

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Gaza demo

I didn't turn out for yesterday's Gaza demo. I should have done I suppose. My heart goes out to the ordinary people of Gaza who are suffering terribly but I always feel very alienated when marching in a sea of hijabs, niqabs and burkhas. Even on the libertarian left there seems to be very little discussion about all this.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Blood and Ballyhoo

A question that I am frequently asked is, "How come that someone who has read all those books and even done that Open University, how come that you can take so much interest in something that is such an obvious load of bollocks as professional wrestling?" For if all professional sports have at least a touch of show business in their make up, wrestling would appear to be show-biz with just a hint of sport. The mat game is a kind of athletic three card trick,existing on the cusp of  cheap con and genuine skill; and that is the attraction.
For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with the margins of society, the less than respectable fringes of popular culture. I remember being taken to the Tower of London as a kid. The old weapons and suits of armour were interesting enough but for me more interesting by far were the escapologists working the cobbles of TowerHill. Hidden in a canvas bag, trussed up with chains and with rusty WWII bayonets stuck in the chains for good measure, the showman would escape in " three, but no more than three and a half minutes". After all these years I can even remember the patter. I was hooked. The circus, fairgrounds, street entertainers, burlesque this was the milieu  that gave birth to pro wrestling. For the street con-artist, the punter who is about to be taken for a ride is known as a "mark". It's no coincidence that the same expression is used in wrestling to describe a fan. 
If wrestling was nothing more than choreographed fighting and cheap showmanship it would be easy to dismiss, but amongst the phoney mayhem of drop kicks, forearm smashes and referees becoming mysteriously entangled in the ropes, hidden in all this nonsense is a kernel of genuine competitive wrestling. There are two strands to this tradition of  "shoot" wrestling.
The first strand goes back to the American carnivals of the late 19th and early 20th century. In the carnies the wrestlers would  "work" exhibition bouts with each other as well as taking on all comers from the public. In the Mid West farming communities, with strong wrestling traditions, this could turn out to be no easy task so most of the wrestlers in the troupe would be "shooters", capable of real wrestling. A "hooker" was a master of  crippling submission holds that could be used to deal with local heroes who proved to be a bit of a handful, as well as with  aspiring fellow pros with a tendency to deviate from the script. It must have been a tough old game and of course all this ability went with the wrestlers when the business was later transferred from the carnival to the auditoriums.
The second strand of the tradition comes from this side of the Atlantic and may well have predated the American carnies. By the middle of the 19th century English wrestling had evolved into a number of local styles the most famous of these being Devon and Cornwall, Cumberland and Westmoreland and Lancashire catch as catch can. Unlike most styles, Lancashire Catch emphasised not only the clean throw and pinfall but also the use of painful submission holds. Yes, the Lancashire miners were masters of submission fighting long before anyone in this country had heard of jujitsu.
Eventually, rather like Rugby League/Union,  the style split into amateur catch as catch can without the submission holds (this would later evolve into Olympic Freestyle) and the hard as nails Professional Catch. This last was the style that the working wrestlers took with them as they climbed through the ropes to do the business in yet another choreographed bout. This was also the style nurtured in the tough environment of Billy Riley's Wigan gym, the Snake Pit.
No doubt about it, old time professional wrestling was a three card trick alright, but a three card trick with attitude. It was a secret smoke and mirrors world and in looking at it's history it really is pretty difficult to separate fact from fiction. Many years ago I had the privilege of sharing a dressing room with the late Jackie Pallo.  "All wrestlers are liars" the old luvvie confided, "and the first lie is when they tell you that they can fucking wrestle".

Cheer Up! It's only Orwell.

I don't know if it's a sign of approaching senilia nostalgica but recently I have been re-reading a few books that I haven't opened for years. I've just completed Nineteen Eighty Four and, having promised her indoors that this time it will not involve me growing a wispy beard and hitching down to Brighton a lot, am about to start Kerouac's, On the Road. But to return to Nineteen Eighty Four. Many people find Orwell's classic a depressing book and certainly it's not a fun holiday read but I find a basically optimistic message at it's core. The book has been interpreted as a critique of Stalinism, of totalitarianism in general and as a warning for the future. It is all of this but also a message of hope about the human spirit. Even the terrible power of the Thought Police could not stop the emergence of people like Julia and Winston, who by the simple act of making love and being in love are seen as such a threat to an all powerful state. Julia and Winston are defeated utterly, but we know that there will be others. 

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Financial Literacy? Or a load of Balls.

A New Year message from our esteemed Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, the one and only Ed Balls (Nottingham High School and Oxford) reveals plans for a new addition to the already overburdened school curriculum, financial literacy. On the face of it, teaching children how the financial system works seems like a pretty sound idea, but that is not quite what Balls has in mind. In an interview on the Radio 4 Today program he was asked what he felt was the single most important aspect of financial literacy that should be taught in schools. Apparently it's, "starting to save for a pension now". 
So there you have it kids. The meaning of life according to Ed Balls. Your life will be divided into three phases: Childhood - best stay indoors as much as possible during this phase lest you get involved with gangs , or strangers. Childhood will be followed by the middle or main bit during which you must concentrate on getting together enough money to ensure your comfort during the final bit, old age. Due to advances in technology, this final bit will be extended by several years of being incontinent and wishing that you had had more sex when young.
Don't listen to him kids! Not unless you want to end up as a boring twat like Ed Balls with horizons that don't extend beyond fiddling your expenses in order to consolidate your property portfolio. Make your life an adventure. This is not a dress rehearsal.