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

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The profits of slavery still bankroll the Tory front bench.

The British ruling class used to maintain that their position in society was God given, now they would have us believe that their wealth and privilege are all down to merit, "hard work", "service", "entrepreneurial spirit" and suchlike. The truth is of course, that the wealth of the few is the direct consequent of theft from the many, both now and in the past. Most of the "old money" in this country is rooted in slavery. Vast fortunes were made, and dynasties of huge wealth founded, on the horrors of plantation life. When slavery was finally abolished in the British Empire the slave owners added to their accumulated wealth with the millions of pounds compensation paid by the government for loss of property. The property in question, the former slaves, received not a penny of course.
I was pleased to hear from Anti-Slavery International that UCL have now set up a website were we can  for the first time find out who in the British establishment can trace the family fortune back to slave ownership. A quick search at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/  revealed that among the companies and individuals who can trace their fortunes back to the profits of the lash are those loveable toffs Dave and Sam Cameron.
EDIT. The good Doctor has taken me to task for failing to mention modern day slavery in general and Mauritania in particular. Fair point Doc but a quick shufti at the Anti-Slavery International link would have revealed plenty about both the general and the particular. I do my best Doc, honest.

Monday, 27 May 2013

If God existed it would be necessary to destroy him.

After the terrible killing in Woolwich it was inevitable that the EDL would attempt to capitalise on the justifiable revulsion that people feel toward the jihadist wing of Islam and so far they seem to be making a pretty sound job of it. The left on the other hand are stranded out on the usual limb of not wanting to upset Muslims who have to be viewed as an oppressed minority. Why can't we just be honest for a change. Islam is an unpleasant faith with a strong current of social conservatism as a fundamental part of it's agenda. That is not to say of course that individual Muslims are anything other  than the usual mix of thoroughly decent people and total shits, much like individuals from any other faith, but we should at least have the bottle to say what we think, about Islam, religion in general and a host of other things as well. An honest, open-minded look at the complex world around us is the only basis for building any kind of political view, let alone movement. That honesty has to extend to being prepared to admit that we are not sure about something as well.
We live in interesting times. The agenda will not be set by old farts like me but by the state on the one hand and kids on the street on the other. There is a real climate of unease at the moment. Genuine fears about immigration are beginning to take a grip. In the past kids have been able to reach out to each other with a shared interest in music and dope. No such reaching out is likely today. Rosa Luxemburg's slogan of Socialism Or Barbarism seems an ever more likely set of alternatives. Today's anti-Muslim backlash will die down soon enough and we will have the Romanians to worry about; who knows what it will be after that. Against a background of increasing inequality and lack of economic security such concerns are building to a mass neurosis that could lead us anywhere. Never has the call for No Gods and No Masters been more pertinent.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

RIP The Man They Loved To Hate.

Post-War British professional wrestling reached the peak of it's fortunes during the early sixties. Apart from the weekly television exposure there were literally hundreds of live shows being put on in venues ranging in size from the local corn exchange or public baths to the Royal Albert Hall. At times the quality of the wrestling was such that it was almost possible to believe that the game really was as straight as table tennis, and certainly more straight than racing or politics. Some of the wrestlers became household names and none more so than welterweight champion Mick McManus.who died this morning aged 93.  Archetypal wrestling villain and South London dodgy geezer with an interest in  antiques, Mick was the epitome of the mat game. Turning pro in 1947 he had a career that spanned three decades. Such was the secretive nature of the business that McManus' true role was shrouded in mystery but it was generally acknowledged that as the Dale Martin "booker" or matchmaker he could make or break careers. Upset Mick and a wrestler could have a very lean time indeed. The product of a strange smoke and mirrors world of deceit, subterfuge and genuine hard men, Mick McManus was also that other paradox, a true died in the wool working-class Tory. Ah! well

Monday, 20 May 2013

Joe Bageant, a blue collar hero.

"Henry" used to comment on this blog quite a lot at one time and I will be forever grateful to him for introducing me to the writings of the late Joe Bageant. There is so much about the USA to be outraged at or merely sniffily disapproving of, that it's easy to overlook the "other" America. The America of wobblies, freedom riders, and the hard working hard drinking folk who the East Coast intelligentsia  look down on with such disdain. It's an America that was captured wonderfully by Joe Bageant and the  country was the poorer for his passing

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Meet Demetri Marchessini.

Misogynist twat of the week must be "businessman" and UKIP doner Demetri Marchessini. If ever a man needed a good kicking!

Friday, 17 May 2013

Every second counts. Stop fire service cuts.

In an interview this morning, Matt Wrack General Secretary of the Fire Brigade Union, made what I thought was an interesting observation. As part of a general discussion about government cuts to the Fire and Rescue Service the matter of foam filled upholstery came up. Wrack pointed out that in the 1980's his union had campaigned tirelessly for legislation regarding this highly flammable material that also emits very toxic fumes when burning. He also mentioned, almost as an aside, that some of the most vociferous opponents of that campaign are in government today. So who are these scumbags who would gamble with the lives of both firefighters and the public, and what was their connection to the furniture trade? Name 'em and shame 'em.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

The Zoo and Kew Gardens no longer cheap days out.

We are lucky in this country to have some wonderful free museums and galleries to wander around. A godsend  on a wet day while waiting for the pubs to open. The great and good of a bygone age thought that we might better ourselves, that a bit of culture might rub off on us on the run up to opening time and well, "gawd bless you guvnor", they may have been right. For children the museums of South Ken are a wonderland. I don't know what it is with small boys and dinosaurs but The Natural History Museum certainly hits the spot. Another two cheap days out for Londoners were The Zoo and Kew Gardens but no more I'm afraid. It's well within living memory that you had to put a penny in the turnstiles to gain admission to Kew and didn't we moan when it went up to threepence. An adult ticket will now set you back fourteen quid, although to be fair kids do go free. Generation of parents knew that when it came to a day out with the kids a trip to the zoo and an ice cream was a dead cert and would not break the bank. Well you can forget about that - adult admission is now twenty five pounds with under 16's not far behind at eighteen quid. No wonder that these two old favourites are now patronised mainly by foreign tourists and wealthy pensioners.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Could they still make The History Boys.

When what was left of the Revolutionary Communist Party metamorphosed into The Institute Of Ideas and Spiked Online dreary Marxist rhetoric was replaced with a far more entertaining brand of self-important contrarianism. On Radio 4's Moral Maze panelist Claire Fox is introduced as "Claire Fox of The Institute Of Ideas", as if they were talking about Harvard or one of the great teaching hospitals. I'm not knocking it. We need people who will fly in the face of received wisdom (no matter how noble) and say the unsayable. When Spiked published Barbara Hewson's critique of Operation Yewtree it was bound to upset the apple cart. Not that I'm suggesting that Hewson is right in her defence of ageing celebs accused of unwanted gropeing half a century ago but it might be an idea to just pause for thought. The History Boys was shown on TV recently. The teacher Hector has genuine concern for the boys in his charge but he also lusts after their young bodies. Hector is not a monster but a bumbling, if likeable, old fool who should keep his hands to himself.  It's a wonderfull play that adapted well to the screen but I'm not sure if in the current climate The History Boys could be made anymore.

Friday, 10 May 2013

A green and pleasant land?

There is a now mercifully less common propaganda technique where you write an on the face of it interesting piece on Oh! I don't know, football, art, agriculture or education and then in the final paragraph explain how there can never be good football, art, etc until capitalism is finally superseded by the golden age of the workers councils. It's a literary device that must have led to more papers and magazines being chucked in the bin than any other. I try to avoid writing such stuff but frequently find it difficult to, if not actually write it, at least think it. Channel 4 news are running a series, Green and Pleasant Land, examining how climate change is impacting on the countryside. Prompted by a report by the Natural Environment Research Council, the Channel 4 piece last night made fascinating if disturbing viewing but as usual with environmental reporting no effort was made to even begin to question how the natural world can be protected in an economic system that must rely on growth and expansion to survive. To pose the question is to answer it of course and the answer is enough to send shivers down the spines of the rich and powerful. It seems to me that the effects of climate change, distressing though some of them may be, provide us with a challenge and a wonderful opportunity to take a further step along the road of the human adventure. Will the dreams of the 19th century anarchist and socialist revolutionaries be finally realised and will an inadvertent result of industrial capitalism that they could never have imagined be the catalyst?

Wednesday, 8 May 2013



Adventures in Metroland.

Have you ever followed the Betjeman Trail into Metroland and headed out on the Metropolitan Line toward the foothills of the Chilterns? That's what we did yesterday when packing the usual flask of tea, packet of sandwiches and trusty Freedom Pass we set out on the tube to Amersham and then to Great Missenden. Journeying into Metroland today it's difficult to imagine that during the inter-war suburban building boom such profoundly ordinaire places as Wembley Park, Northwick Park and North Harrow could be seen as some kind of semi-rural utopia that the moderately affluent middle-class could escape from "the smoke" to. Our plan was to disembark at Great Missenden and walk the ten miles back to Amersham. The walk itself is a pretty easy stroll through fine rolling country. May is my favourite month. All that new growth, blossom, the first almost psychedelic green of beech leaves. Yesterday we had Red Kites soaring overhead as well.  SAY NO TO HS 2 proclaim the posters in every settlement we passed through. I bet UKIP cleaned up here.  Amersham when we arrived turned out to be a microcosm of rural Middle England, the council estate on the outskirts contrasting with the film set, olde worlde High Street with Georgian buildings and the usual posh shops. A group of very smartly dressed women passed us in a cloud of what Her Indoors assured me was Estee Lauder. We sunk a couple of well deserved pints in The Crown before trudging up the hill to the station and the tube home.

Monday, 6 May 2013

For the lack of a kill-cord?

The tragic speedboat accident at Padstow is another in the long line of outboard engine disasters. Power boats, and especially outboard driven ones, are potentially very highly dangerous pieces of kit. Accidents involving outboards engines are never trivial and almost always result in horrific injuries or death. Tight turns at high speed can flip the boat or at least hurl the crew overboard with the boat continuing to make lethal high speed circles around the people in the water. All outboards are fitted with a simple device called a "kill cord" that is attached to the helmsman and will kill the engine instantly if they should be thrown from the boat. Attaching the kill cord is such an easy thing to do but every year many power boat drivers just don't bother. Some of them are no longer with us.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Farewell Audley Harrison.

Show biz, and professional sport is very much a part of the entertainment industry, can be a hard old game. Fans can be very unforgiving and none more so than boxing fans. Many boxing aficionados will be heaving a sigh of relief at the news of Audley Harrison's retirement. Despite a 31-7-0 pro record Audley was never able to really make his mark in the upper echelon's of the paid ranks. At 6 ft 5 in and  250 pounds he cut an impressive figure and with an outstanding amateur record and a stiff jab to back it up their were high hopes, but alas it was not to be. I hope Audley has a happy retirement. I know that he's not short of a bob or two but mostly I hope that when he looks back on his pro career he will be able to raise a smile. Fuck the critics. Good luck Audley.

What do we want? Xenophobia!

Nothing gets politico stamp collector's juices flowing like the ups and downs of the fringe parties and UKIP's undoubted success at the polls yesterday will no doubt have the desired effect. But UKIP having their fifteen minutes of fame is not the rebirth of fascism or (unfortunately) part of the death throes of capitalism. It is a sure sign that, rightly or wrongly, many people in this country have deep misgivings about immigration and our future in Europe. UKIP is no longer the preserve of bitter and twisted old blokes living in bungalows on the South Coast and can now claim a much wider support. More important than the local authority elections was the result of the South Shields by-election. Labour may have had a comfortable victory, and I'm unsure whether to laugh or cry at the Lib-Dems getting just half the vote of the BNP, but certainly UKIP's strong second place points to a lot of working class people seeing their problems, not as class problems, but as individual trials and tribulations brought about by foreigners. Now that is bad news.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Steadman weathers well.

Last night to the preview of the excellent Ralph Steadman retrospective at the Cartoon Museum.          A real treat for Steadman fans and well worth a visit.