Tuesday, 30 June 2009
I had always assumed that one of my favourite films, The Sting, was nothing more than a hugely entertaining but far fetched piece of fiction. Then several years after the film I came across The Big Con by David Maurer and learnt that Maurer had been a consultant on the film and that so called "long cons" as portrayed in The Sting really did happen in the 1920's.
It is a basic tenet of grifting that you can't con an honest punter. The mark has to be motivated by greed or they just won't play. I was reminded of all this when hearing about Bernard Madoff's 150 year sentence. Now I'm not suggesting for a moment that Madoff is the kind of bloke that you would want to be building the post-revolutionary anarchist society with, and no doubt his victims included some hard working small time savers, but when I hear that one punter lost 12 million dollars I tend feel a distinct lack of sympathy.
The anarchist movement has a long and honourable tradition of expropriators. Perhaps we need a new generation of political con-persons - screwing the rich for the common good.
Monday, 29 June 2009
The bottled water scam is of course well known and I'm sure that by now only the very daft will be paying good money for something that you can get out of the kitchen tap. But where did all this obsessive fear about dehydration come from in the first place? Half the population seem unable to pop down to the shops unless they are clutching a bottle of water. I never drink water (well with my iron constitution I could easily rust) but I do drink gallons of tea and have always maintained that a good cup of builders is just as rehydrating as water. Now my long held opinion is being confirmed by "scientific research" no less and experts are telling us that a good cuppa is not only a rehydrater but is a sure fire answer to every medical problem from blackwater fever to ingrowing toenails. Oh! hang about. I see that this research was funded by the Tea Council. Ah! well, never mind.
Friday, 26 June 2009
There seems to be, on the internet at least, a revival of interest in the 70s revolutionary socialist group Big Flame. BF was part of a current at the time that styled itself "libertarian" although I failed to see the libertarian content of much of the politics and felt that "non-aligned" might have been a better description. There are others I know who would be a lot less generous but there were some good people around and often the politics was confused rather than malign. Certainly the emphasis on the personal in politics and the importance of sexual politics was very positive. Having said that, there was a strong vanguardist element in this so called libertarianism. I well remember being berated by one of North London's finest for doing (or not doing) something or other, I can't remember what, when as she put it,"there's a whole working class out there waiting to be organised". I can still feel the hackles rising now after all these years.
One of the hallmarks of this strand of politics was almost fetishising activity. It was essential to be doing something, anything. Lotta Continua sent a group over to London and was much admired. This was in a way understandable as they did tend to look like Italian film stars. They were rumoured to be the children of wealthy families. I don't know how true that was but they certainly had some very expensive looking clobber. But boy! Were they active.
Almost any political movement that could be considered at all left-wing seemed worthy of support, especially if they hailed from the Third World. I mean people like myself, pro-sit anarcho stoners, we may not have had the most razor sharp critical faculties but at least we knew that our politics had nothing to do with North Vietnamese Stalinists, Roman Catholic Irish nationalism or Third World dictatorships in waiting of any sort; no matter how oppressed the people they claimed to represent. I could never watch Citizen Smith. Too close to the truth mate.
Big Flame itself bit off a tad more than they could chew when they crossed swords with Solidarity. Accusing the likes of Joe Jacobs and Ken Weller of being "middle class pamphleteers" was a big mistake and the response was "Solidarity and the Neo-Nerodniks" a devastating hatchet job on vanguardism, third-worldism and a few other isms besides. Good old Solidarity. They may have been small, but perfectly formed.
Does any of this matter to anyone other than a small group of balding political anoraks? Probably not. Certainly that object of such unrequited adoration,the working class, soldiered on as before. I am confident that today's young militants will make a much better fist of things then we did. What happened in the 70s is of interest only to the extent that those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it. Finally here's a quote from someone who had more influence at the time than Big Flame, Solidarity and the rest of us put together.
".......... absorb what is useful". Bruce Lee.
It's early days and we don't want to be counting chickens, but it looks like the Lindsey Refinery workers are on the edge of a victory with the reinstatement of sacked workers. This is good news, and not just for the Lindsey workers. We could be seeing the rebirth of something that we have not seen for some time; an organized and confident working class that are ready to take on the bosses.
Wednesday, 24 June 2009
"Hard times in Spain sends expats home" the BBC tell us. Fair enough, but then I got to thinking about that term "expat". It somehow has a harmless, almost warm ring to it. Quite unlike some other terms such as "immigrant" or "asylum seeker" or worst of all, "failed asylum seeker". Interesting stuff language I'm sure you will agree.
Tuesday, 23 June 2009
I have no idea what kind of House of Commons Speaker little Bercow will make but if his first TV interview is anything to go by the meedja, not to mention us punters, are in for hours of entertainment. As I live and breath, were do they find 'em?
Monday, 22 June 2009
English women's cricket is really setting an example to the blokes. With both the World 20 twenty championship, the World Cup and every chance of beating Australia in the forthcoming test the girls also have an infectious love of the game and a team spirit that is just great. Look and learn Kev. Look and learn.
Saturday, 20 June 2009
Just got back from a few days in Mallaig at the top end of the West Highland Line. The B&B we stayed in served one of the best black puddings I have ever had and when the landlady confided that it came from the local Spar her indoors set off post haste to secure a sample returning with a 18 x 3 inch specimen that we later smuggled across the border. All part of a most enjoyable Scottish Experience that also included pints of McEwans, loads of fish and chips, walking the glens, Scottish Pies, a trip to Skye and witnessing a full on punch up outside Glasgow Queen Street Station.
The trip was also incentive to learn something more about the Highland Clearances, a part of British history that I was shamefully ignorant about. The Clearances were of course a terrible episode of betrayal and cruelty and in many ways just another example of how little a people can come to be valued when they stand in the way of profit or 'progress'. And don't run away with the idea that "it couldn't happen now". You only have to look at what is going on in Amazonia today (or for that matter the Isle of Dogs not so long ago) to see the error of that assumption. Never trust an elite and don't ever think that just because they are members of your own tribe, clan or class that they won't sell you out and sacrifice you on the altar of 'modernization'. Oh yes! and it rained four days out of the five.
Saturday, 13 June 2009
Not for the first time Ian Bone has put the cat among the pigeons, this time by suggesting that being a bit fond of England does not necessarily make you a raving fascist. He has gone on to make the point that there is still much to admire in the kind of love of country that was expressed during WW2 and epitomised by the writing of George Orwell, Humphrey Jennings' films and Frank Newbould posters. I tend to agree and think that for too long anarchists/progressives/the left have, in an effort to trumpet our (quite correct) internationalism, allowed a simple love of place to be hijacked by the Right.
Those of us who were young in the 60s tended to sneer at the wartime and post-war make do and mend camaraderie of all those seemingly dull people in their demob suits and co-op socialism. What did they know of rock 'n roll and The Beats? How cool we were, and how ignorant.
The truth is that in wartime England there was not only a love of the old place but a real determination that once the Nazis were beaten there would be no going back to the old world of greed and privilege but the creation of a new kind of society. All right of course it wasn't perfect. The injustice of Empire. The wartime black market. A top down rather than bottom up socialism after the war. We could go on but the fact remains that during the 40s there was a kind of patriotic collectivism that we will be hard pressed to surpass. The message of all that propaganda that Ian was talking about comes down to something that bears repeating today. We can get through this, if we pull together we can get through this and when we do we will build a better future. It is not nationalism and is based on a generosity of spirit that the likes of the BNP would not begin to understand.
Friday, 12 June 2009
Maps have always held a fascination for me. I can't visit a new bit of territory without poring over a map of the area and getting a feel for the lie of the land. If I wander into a part of London that I am not familiar with I can't wait to sit down with the AtoZ and look at the street layout and it's relationship to everything else. The whole business of maps as a social product is another area worth investigating. Why is North always "up"? Just one of a number of questions that spring to mind. Maps as a product of society are also products of power, and reflect that.
If you can learn a lot from maps it's equally true that sometimes they just confirm something that you knew all along. The other day I was looking at a 1896 map of a West London suburb. There was the old village with it's High Street and a few roads of workers cottages around it. The railway had arrived and already the place was taking shape as a suburb for the middle class with the old village now surrounded by a patchwork of substantial villas set in large grounds. And here's the point. The entire working-class housing stock of several dozen cottages would have been able to fit into one or two of the "gardens" of the affluent middle-class. Maps can show the lie of the land in more ways than one.
Wednesday, 10 June 2009
Today's tube strike is predicted to cause chaos in the capital and already reports are coming in of fights breaking out at bus stops as an overburdened bus service struggles to cope. A glance out of the window confirms that the rain is still coming down in stair-rods and I am just visualizing the hordes of sopping wet commuters arriving at their offices in a state of barely controllable rage.
Why do they do it? I understand and salute those workers in essential and socially useful jobs who will go through hell or high water to get in and provide a service that they are committed to, but why are all those in jobs that have no function but the creation of profit making so much effort to add to their own misery this morning? Pull a sicky, and get a life!
Monday, 8 June 2009
The weekend brought the depressing news that across the EU the centre and far right appear to be on a roll. In this country we will now have the dubious privilege of being represented in Europe by our very own example of the Master Race, Nick Griffin, a man who gives the impression of being unable to find his arse in a dark room.
This weekend was also the occasion of the Anarchist Movement Conference. After some thought I decided not to attend. Not that I don't think that it was a good idea, far from it and I look forward to hearing that it was a huge success, but apart from turning out for the odd demo I no longer consider myself to be active and I feel strongly that conferences, groups and federations do not need to be clogged up with dead wood.
Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Oh no! Blimey! No, listen, you'll love this. Apparently, due to the financial downturn, many of the the elitist twats who send their kids to private school are struggling to pay the fees and are turning to the State Schools only to find that there aren't enough places to go round. As if the posh school pig flu outbreak wasn't enough to worry about.
According to the expert on this morning's Radio4 Farming Today prog, one of the effects of climate change could well be the collapse of continental wine production. Even Southern England could be too hot for viticulture and Scotland and Northern England might end up with terraced hillsides of grapes replacing traditional hill farming. The next question of course is how people will manage to survive in the Mediterranean lands? Do we think that they will just sit there and starve? The reality is that over the next couple of decades we are likely to see a global movement of peoples that will make the worst nightmares of UKIP and BNP seem like watching a cheerful episode of Empire Road on your Mums old black and white set. I am sure that we will cope and as usual remain optimistic about going on to build a better world; but it may not be easy and it may not be pretty.