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

Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Manassa Mauler.

Looking along my bookshelves the other day I came across something that I haven't picked up in years, Championship Fighting by Jack Dempsey.  My copy is a 1980's reprint of a book published in 1950 and it would have been this hardback original that I borrowed from the public library when I suppose I was 13 or 14 years of age. I doubt that I realised what a classic and what a link to the past I was reading. Championship Fighting was probably the last book published on boxing as, not only a combat sport, but a system of self defence as well; hence the sub-title - Explosive punching and aggressive defence.
Jack Dempsey was taught to box in the first place by his elder brothers but honed his skills, not in the more usual YMCA or amateur club but in the tough lumber and mining camps of the American West. When Jack left home in the first decade of the twentieth century it was to join an army of itinerant workers, wobblies, hobos and rough-house fighters. This was at a time when there were plenty of people around who could still remember the bare knuckle prize ring and the fight game was a world away from modern day boxing.  The Manassa Mauler as he came to be known, eventually battered his way up from fighting in the back room of bars in side stake matches to beating Cowboy Jess Willard for the Heavyweight Championship of the World in 1919. They don't make 'em like Jack Dempsey any more and with it's encouraging "you can do it" tone they probably don't publish books like Championship Fighting any more either.

Friday, 27 April 2012

The wettest draught in history?

It's all sent to try us and for us allotmenteers the weather is proving to be very trying indeed. After an unbelievably hot dry February and March the South East is experiencing what will probably turn out to be one of the wettest Aprils on record. The trouble is that the deluge is running straight off into the rivers leaving ground water levels still very low. On my own plot things are not too bad as I managed to get well ahead with preparation during the winter and was able to get spuds, beetroot, chard and peas in just before the rains came. What we need now is a dry first week in May so that we can crack on with more sowing and planting but the forecast looks like rain, rain and more rain. This is shaping up to be the wettest draught in history.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Reflections on a funny old world. Chapter 90.

"It seems that it is easier for us today to imagine the thoroughgoing deteriotion of the earth and of nature than the breakdown of late capitalism; perhaps that is due to some weakness in our imaginations."
The Seeds of Time. Fredric Jameson.

Meanwhile back at the ranch -

The Sun and the National Association of Master Bakers have called off the Pasty Tax march on Downing Street for fear that the event be "hijacked by anarchists". Well you can't be too careful 

Monday, 23 April 2012

The Kinder Trespass

Tomorrow marks the 80th anniversary of the Kinder Trespass. This act of civil disobedience eventually resulted in a movement to allow working people from the cities to get out in the fresh air and enjoy the open countryside without being harassed by the servants of the landed gentry,  but not before several activists were jailed. A number of events are happening to commemorate the trespass and I'm sure that they will all be far better organised than my own single handed treck up Kinder Scout to mark the 42nd anniversary. I had hitched up from London so it was fairly late in the day by the time I started to make my ascent. I gained the plateau but had not been up there long before the rain started. By this time it was getting dark so I found a bit of lee and pitched my small tent. I spent the next couple of days trapped in the tent as the rain came down in stair rods. I had plenty of food and a sizeable lump of dope - but nothing to read but the Solidarity Lump Pamphlet. I reckon Dave Lamb owes me a pint.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Survival still standing up for tribal rights.

It's not all that many generations ago that we were all tribal hunter gatherers and of course this phase of human history was by far the longest. The few remaining peoples who practise this mode of production can tend to be seen by us as the mere victims of, or worse still a hindrance to, the onward march of progress. They are much more than this of course. Tribal people are not interesting primitive relics of a lost age neither are they  noble savages; they are human beings much like the rest of us and with all of the strengths and failings that are a part of the human condition. The history of the relationship between hunter gatherer tribes and the agricultural/industrial world is well documented and sad. I have always felt that these people may well be the custodians of knowledge that stood us in good stead for hundreds of thousands of years and for all I know may be needed again one day. Tribal societies don't exist in a state of inertia and have always absorbed and been influenced by outside developments. They are not blind to some of the benefits of the products of global capitalism but wish to except these benefits at their own pace and on their own terms.
I have been a supporter of Survival International, the group who campaign for the rights of tribal peoples, for over twenty years. Standing up for the rights of some of the most threatened people in the world without being in any way patronising or controlling was never going to be easy but I reckon that Survival have just about got it right. If you want to know more about tribal people and their struggle to continue to live in the way that they choose you need look no further than Stephen Corry's excellent "Tribal Peoples For Tomorrow's World. It would be difficult to find a better introduction to the subject.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

What's wrong with blokes?

What the fuck is wrong with us? Blokes I mean. I have no idea how messed up in the head you have to be to harass women who are considering abortion. What kind of sad bastard would hack into the BPAS web site in order to find and publish details of women who have gone to them for help? Why are so many young men involved in this kind of rubbish? If they want to pray for pregnant women fair enough, but like other forms of masturbation it should be conducted in the privacy of their own homes. Try getting a girlfriend/boyfriend. Try getting a life. If all else fails just fuck off and die. What is wrong with us?

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Pastie Wars. Master Bakers March to Downing Street. April 26th.

This will most probably not lead directly to the eruption of the marvelous, liberated territory or the hegemony of the workers councils - but it should be a right laugh.

Freedom Pass Anarchist Local Leader.

Anarchists are not necessarily opposed to leaders per se and even a horizontalist such as myself can see the need for someone to lead specific tasks or projects at times. So leadership is not inherently bad in all circumstances and neither are all leaders bad - just people who, no matter how well intentioned they may be, we need to keep a close eye on. Take my latest venture for example. By the mere click of a mouse I find that I have become a 2012 London Olympics Local Leader. I'm not entirely sure what my duties involve but growing flowers in brightly painted car tyres seems to be a part of it. Then again, could I combine my Local Leader role with the UK Uncut Street Parties? You tell me comrades because although I am a Local Leader I stand before you as a soldier of the revolution and subject to your immediate recall. Still, "Local Leader". It has a certain ring to it don't you think?

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Back from the Doone Country safe and sound but a lucky escape remembered.

We have been walking the Doone Country of Exmoor again and as usual it was just a privilege to wander the dramatic landscape. The weather was kind to us on this occasion but the area needs treating with a great deal of respect because in this part of the world, when the met turns nasty it can turn nasty in spades.
The summer of 1952 had been a wet one and the Exmoor catchment was already saturated when on August 15th a massive nine inches of rain fell in twenty four hours. The rivers that drain the moor became raging torrents and trees and boulders were swept down toward the coast. A mass of debris laden water was to sweep down the East and West Lyn Rivers and devastate the coastal village of Lynmouth resulting in the loss of 34 lives. Horrific though the Lynmouth flood was it proved to be but the overture for what happened five months later.
On the night of 31st January - 1st February a combination of a big spring tide, low pressure over the North Sea and a North Westerly gale caused a surge of water to move rapidly south east. As this lump of water was forced into the shallow bottle neck of the southern North Sea it swept over the flood defences of East England and the Netherlands. The death toll in England was to reach 307 but Holland bore the brunt with a tragic loss of life that approached two thousand. On Canvey Island where I was living at the time, 58 people drowned before the island was evacuated. Of course at my young age I just thought it a huge adventure. It was certainly a night to remember.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

When I read stuff like this I know that we are still in with a chance.

UK Uncut's Great British Street Party...because the future's not what it used to be!

Let’s go on a journey back in time to the year 1948…

Britain was emerging from a World War and had a huge national debt. Much bigger than the one we face today. Did we see painful cut backs and austerity measures?

No, quite the opposite. We saw the birth of our National Health Service and the Welfare State. The UK was the first country to make health care, social care and financial security accessible to all.

1948 saw the launch of ground-breaking new laws designed to protect and care for everybody in our society, including universal unemployment benefits, universal child benefits, disability benefits, rights to housing and the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

1948 – a year when the Olympics were last in town and – at last – the people of Britain were looking forward to the future.

Britain back then really was ‘all in this together’. The future looked better than the past. So, we partied in the streets and dreamt of what we could achieve as people and as a country.

Fast forward to 2012 and things feel rather different. The government is not playing fair: its spending cuts are the deepest for decades and it's cheating ordinary people by forcing them to suffer for an economic crisis they didn’t cause.

The government is also lying: it actively enables big business to dodge tax and slashes tax rates for the wealthy. Right now, for us, for ordinary people in this country, the future’s not what it used to be.

So now is the time to party like it was 1948. Street parties are going to be all the rage for the Queen’s Jubilee. But let’s make ours have a twist.

On Saturday 26th May join UK Uncut’s Great British Street Party to demand that we keep our public services, our rights and our welfare system and to celebrate a new future that isn’t dictated to us by a handful of millionaires but decided by us all – together.

Hold a street party where you live to celebrate the services that are under attack and resist their closure. Hold it in the road, the high street or on a roundabout and reclaim your future.

Over the next few weeks, a group of volunteers will be touring the country to help deliver skill shares on direct action, communications and legal rights that will help to prepare you and your friends/family/neighbours to pull off a massive street party that inspires everyone in your region to resist the cuts and celebrate our future.

Get in touch if you want to help organise a UK Uncut skill share in your region and/or if you will hold a street party locally. Contact us on ukuncut@gmail.com and list your action on the website.

The future’s not what it used to be – let’s get it back.

Yates Of The Yard's Bread Buttered in Bahrain.

Time was that when the shit hit the fan and senior police officers got a bit splattered they could step into a steady little number down at Fortress Wapping. But now that the Murdoch brand has become so highly toxic Britain's top cops are having to look around for other profitable bolt holes. Former Assistant Commissioner John "Dodgy" Yates is not one to miss a trick and when things went tits up with the Met he promptly found a nice little earner in Bahrain. Ostensibly Yates Of The Yard is teaching Bahrain's finest the noble art of kettling but he has also been on hand to allay security concerns about next week's Grand Prix. "I feel safer in Bahrain than I do in London" claims Yates. Given the level of violence that the Gulf State has seen this comment says something about how popular "Champagne Charlie" feels in his own manor.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Trenton! TRENTON!

There's nothing new about sporting events being disrupted. Frequently these interruptions have taken the form of a mass invasion because the crowd objected to the way things were going, betting or team loyalty being the usual motivation. Sometimes the authorities have been the culprit. Jack Johnson toyed with Tommy Burns for fourteen rounds on his way to becoming the first black heavyweight champion and was closing in for the knockout when the police stopped the fight and ordered the film cameras to be switched off lest the world witness the humiliation of a white champion by the peerless Johnson. From Emily Wilding Davison throwing herself under the King's horse at the 1913 Derby to the Stop The Tour anti-apartheid action in 1970 there is also a long and honourable tradition of sporting events being disrupted for political reasons. So where does the undeniably elite ant-elitist Trenton Oldfield fit into all of this? Before people leap to condemn Oldfield they might do well to cast their minds back to those anti-apartheid actions of the seventies. At the time there was no shortage of cricket and rugby fans who thought that sport should be in some way "above" political protest. Some would have liked to do real harm to the protesters. Few today would be prepared to stand up and say that Peter Hain and comrades were not doing the right thing.
Personally, I like the Boat Race. Tideway rowing with it's combination of physical fitness and watermanship has always interested me. What's more, like many Londoners I've had a few good piss ups at the Boat Race. It may be favoured by my class enemies but so are a lot of other things that I enjoy. As for Trenton well, apart from being lucky to be alive, by this time next week he will probably be as forgotten as the Pasty Tax. One thing is for sure, and much as I enjoy the Boat Race - nothing is sacrosanct.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Dubliners rare old days escaped me.

The death of Barney McKenna, the last surviving member of The Dubliners original line up, closes a chapter in folk history. I have always found that didly doodly music is a potion best taken in small doses but The Dubliners were different. For many of us the ethos of the band was best summed up by the haunting voice of Ronnie Drew singing "Dublin In The Rare Old Times". The Irish love a lament all right and perhaps, as someone has remarked to me, they have plenty to lament about. I first visited Dublin around the time that The Dubliners were forming. I was a seaman on one of Everard's "Yellow Perils" and having read JP Donleavy'sGinger Man I had high hopes of the town. I was to be disappointed. The Guinness flowed like the Liffey but in the four days spent in the port we failed to find any action or even a pub with a decent jukebox. I was shocked to find women with babies begging in the street and Ireland seemed to me to be a land of both grinding poverty and the grinding heel of the Catholic Church. I'm afraid that the rare old times rather passed me by. For all of that let's remember The Dubliners and the tradition of Irish radicalism with this grand number.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Remember the Angola 3.

All those radicals of the late sixties and the early seventies - where have they all gone? For that matter what happened to all those issues and injustices that we felt so strongly about? In one particular case that we were very vocal about the radicals may have moved on but the victims of injustice have remained exactly where they were. In 1972 three members of the Black Panthers and inmates of Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana were fitted up for the murder of a prison guard. Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox and Robert King came to be known as the Angola 3. King was released in 2001 but Wallace and Woodfox remain in the solitary confinement that they have endured for decades. Angola Prison is built on the site of a plantation that once belonged to Isaak Franklin the country's most notorious slave trader. "I can not be free while they remain in chains". It was easy to say forty years ago and to my shame rolls of the keyboard now. I just hope that Herman and Albert will walk free one day soon.

MI5? Sub it out to Murdoch.

This is just a thought but Dave Snooty's plans for an increase in state snooping are bound to be a fuck up if left to MI5 and the cops. Perhaps Dave should kiss and make up with his erstwhile mate Murdoch and let the Dirty Digger take over. Why not leave it to the experts Dave?

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

I could do this for a living.

A gentle and pleasurable day out with her indoors today. The train to Vauxhall and noting the points where two of London's lost rivers, the Tyburn and Efra, flow into the Thames we stroll across the bridge. Once on the north bank we pay a visit to the Dolphin Estate once home to Christine Keeler and assorted Tory MPs of her acquaintance. From the 1930s splendour of this estate we make our way to the Tate to savour Patrick Keiller's installation. We spend hours in the gallery. In fact our visit is interrupted by a fire evacuation so we decamp to another of London's iconic landmarks, the Regency Cafe just up the road. After a decent fry up in the Regency followed by a swift pint in The Speaker on the corner of Perkins Rents and Great Peter Street. we walked back to the Tate to find that the emergency was over and that we could continue perusing The Migrations exhibition and Keiller's fascinating installation. I could do this for a living!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Falklands Anniversary.

The 30th anniversary of the start of the Falklands War and amongst all of the maudlin or jingoistic stuff in the media perhaps we should ponder what our reactions might be if a similar situation were to happen today. At the time I hated the Thatcher government and everything that they stood for but could see that if I were a Falklands Islander fearful at the thought of being governed by Galteri's military dictatorship I would certainly have been cheering on the approach of the task force. A few weeks and nine hundred British and Argentinian deaths later and it was all over. Here in Britain the post Falklands euphoria led to a huge surge in Thatcher's popularity and gave her the confidence to push on with Thatcherism red in tooth and claw. For the Argentinians, national humiliation was to be followed by the collapse of the junta and the rebirth of democracy. Was any of it worth the loss of all those young lives?
Hindsight is a wonderful gift. At the time there was total confusion on the left to the extent that some so called revolutionary socialists actually voiced support for a fascist dictatorship. Nothing that has happened since 9/11 leads me to think that it would be very different today.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Get yer hands off our pasties posh boy.

Even creating the kind of panic that resulted in chaos at service stations and some poor woman being very seriously burnt. Even diversions of this scale have not been able to calm down the Pastygate fiasco. Apart from anything else, all this talk of pasties has left me feeling permanently hungry but has also got me thinking about workers food. Note that I say "workers" rather than "working class" food because the two are not necessarily the same thing. I'm referring to food bought and eaten during dinner (lunch?) breaks. Although when people worked close to home many would go home to eat, sit down meals in the works canteen used to make up a big proportion of workers grub. The cafe was, still is when you can find them, another haven of cheap food and cheerful ladies to look after you. Before I went to sea and entrusted my digestion to the whims of a ships cook I worked on the paper stand at Liverpool Street Station. My favourite eating house was the chop house in Bishopsgate. Huge plates of pies, chops etc all served with a mountain of chips. It can't have been very expensive as I seem to remember that I was earning £3 a week at the time. Works canteens, like "works" themselves are about as rare as rocking horse shit these days but decent cafes can still be found even if they do need to be sought out. Take away food has traditionally been based on the chippie but the pasty tax is an attack on that other great source of on the job food - going down the bakers. Gregg's pasties may not be worthy of the name but that is not the point. The fact is that for many workers the bakers is a place to get cheap hot food to take back to work or eat in the van. These people tend not to be on mega bonuses. Tend not to have second homes or a string of polo ponies. This is a world that for the fuckwits on the ConDem front bench must seem as difficult to understand as anything encountered by 19th century colonialist. This is what Pastygate is really all about. We are governed by a bunch of dim ex-public school District Commissioners who think that we have bones through our noses and boil missionaries.