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

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2014 - Bring it on!

It seems amazing to me that this blog is now half way through it's sixth year. One of the wonders of life is the way that the passage of time seems to be distorted when we are young. We look back at some episode in our youth and it appears to have taken up half a lifetime but extended in reality for a year or two. Suddenly the time is flying by. Anyway, to the two old blokes and a Jack Russell Terrier who read this stuff - Happy New Year.

Monday, 30 December 2013

From citizen's rights to consumer choices.

We have given up our rights as citizens in favour of rights as consumers, as customers. We have always been a nation of shoppers as well as shopkeepers but never has the retail mind set claimed the hegemony that it does today. From health to education to the provision of utilities to transport to politics itself, we are first and foremost customers with choices to be made and satisfaction to be evaluated. The  philosophy of the market place has seeped into every facet of our lives. We would sooner discus the relative benefits of different schools, supermarkets, pension plans or health care trusts rather than the pressing matters of the day. Only a tough and street savvy citizenry can ask the important questions like "Will it always be like this?" "Is a classless society possible?" and "Will there be any life before death?".

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Only practical skills can see us through.

Floods, storm damage and power cuts made this a Christmas that many people would sooner forget. It must have been irritating to have Cameron turning up at Yalding and pronouncing that "something must be done, lessons must be learnt" etc. and of course it's hugely satisfying to see the PM ambushed by an irate villager. Being wet and cold and not being sure what's going on is a miserable experience.The hard truth however is that both as individuals and communities we had better get used to this. Berating politicians and power company executives is all well and good but it will be the collective efforts of knowledgeable and committed individuals that will be increasingly needed in future. Dealing with the forces of nature and surviving is a practical skill. Flood defence is a practical skill.  Never in our history have so few people been employed in practical matters. We have become a nation of suits. Ideal if you want reports on flooding or investment analysis for power generators - less useful if a water course needs clearing or a power line re-erecting.

Monday, 23 December 2013

No turtle doves or (partridges) in my pear tree.

We used to have a pear tree in the back garden but it fell foul of the dreaded honey fungus. I'm not sure if I have ever seen a Turtle Dove and it seems unlikely that I will do so in future as they now faces extinction in this country, apparently shortage of weed seeds and a loss of nesting sites are to blame. Conservationist are trying to convince farmers to grow weeds and as farmers everywhere from Afghanistan to Australia will grow anything if the money is right they might well be in with a chance. Victorian ornithologists would have taken a different view and simply shot and mounted the remaining birds in order to complete their collections. There used to be a museum in Brighton dedicated entirely to the stuffed specimens that an Edward Booth decimated with his punt gun. The Booth Museum must be somewhat of an embarrassment to Brighton's Green commissariat but I suppose that  while they are worrying about environmental correctness they won't be pissing off the bin-men for Christmas. Noel, Noel.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Don't hold back Geoffrey.

England's defeat in the third test at Perth provides an opportunity for that most loved of English art forms, the post match analysis. Geoffrey Boycott tucks whippet under arm, returns tripe sandwich to trouser pocket and steps smartly up to the microphone…..
A dose of man flu meant that apart from just wallowing in self pity I have also been able to keep up to speed on the debacle down under by listening to the daytime catch up on Radio 5Live Sports Extra as well as the occasional live session in the early hours. What a wonderful thing it will be for future social historians when they discover recordings of BBC Test Match Special. What will they make of "Aggers", "Blowers", and the rest?  So far this series Boycott has surpassed himself and has been unstinting in his efforts to bring to our attention the shortcoming of the England team. "You could find more brains in a pork pie". "Pietersen seems to be living in fairy land".  Why, the archetypal grumpy old Yorkshireman has even complained bitterly about the standard of lunch being served up to the media by the Aussies. Ah! Geoffrey! Where would we all be without you?

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Cops off campus - and take the religious nutters with you.

Students are revolting, but they are not revolting half as much as they should be. Over the past couple of days two important protests have taken place. Today London students marched against police presence on campus, the court injunction against student protest on campus and the intimidatory tactics of the Met. All well and good. "The pensioners support the students!" and so on.  But perhaps more important, but more difficult for the left to cope with, was yesterday's protest against university authorities rolling over and allowing gender segregated meetings on university property. Such is the fear of being perceived as "racist" or "Islamophobic" that many on the left will turn a blind eye to this attack on everything that might be termed progressive, let alone libertarian socialist. Gender segregation is wrong and if saying that offends Islam then so be it. But don't take any notice of me. What do I know? You might however listen to these good folk.
Also -

Friday, 6 December 2013


Mandela has gone. That he was a good man, and probably a great one, seems beyond dispute and humanity will be the poorer for his departing. Now may not be the time to draw attention to the failings of the ANC and the continuing gross economic inequality of South Africa but one thing is for sure. During the next few days, alongside the very genuine grieving and sense of loss,  there will also be an unprecedented outpouring of hypocrisy and nowhere more so than in this country. Flowery tributes for the man will be mouthed by those who felt that apartheid was the natural order of things and that South Africa would have been a better place had Mandela and his comrades hanged. Others will praise Mandela and heap scorn on the Afrikaners safe in the knowledge that for the  wealthy, ANC South Africa is open for business as usual. As Mandela's old comrade Denis Goldberg was quick to point out this morning, the gains for the South African working class have been minimal. Meanwhile, the North London Guardian reading middle class will bow their heads, hum Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrica and move heaven and earth to ensure that their kids don't have to go to a school with a large proportion of black pupils. It is for all of that, as well as for the loss of Mandela, that I grieve.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Worst flood threat for sixty years.

In the early hours of tomorrow morning the East Coast and Thames Estuary may experience the worst tidal surge since the devastating floods of January 1953. Part of the problem then was the lack of preparedness and adequate communication. Times have changed and flood defence today bears no comparison to that night when as an excited young boy I was evacuated from Canvey Island. The conditions are the same; a spring tide, low atmospheric pressure and a Northerly gale combining to force a "hump" of water down into the bottleneck the Southern North Sea. But with modern communications and a far better understanding of how to deal with this kind of emergency, we could, with a bit of luck come through this with no loss of life at all. A stark contrast to the three hundred lives lost that one night in 1953. Learn more about those floods here.

Class War election statement of intent.

Reblogged from Ian Bone.
There is a class war waging and we are losing it. The rich are getting richer and the gilded elite who have ruled us since Norman times remain in power and dominate land ownership just as they did when they first robbed it. We live in a feudal society dominated by an oligarchy of privately and Oxbridge educated toffs who run not just the government, banks, diplomacy but the media, music. comedy and even the opposition. We see no difference between any of the parties – we oppose Tristram Hunt with the same venom we hate Zac Goldsmith. . We don’t want to kick the tories out to replace them with Labour or any variety of failed Trots. We don’t want to kick them out at all – we want to kick them in! Started in 1982 CLASS WAR was first a combative, funny, populist anarchist newspaper then mutated into a similar political organisation. We are proud of our past. But 30 years later the same approaches do not work. Endless photos of overseas riots and balaclaved anarchists bring no movement here. The same old same old is getting us nowhere. Time to think and do the unthinkable, to cross the Rubicon.
We are standing Class War candidates in the general election on May 7th 2015. We are doing this to launch a furious and co-ordinated political offensive against the ruling class with the opportunity an election gives us to talk politics to our class. We in no way see the election as an alternative to direct action. By the brick and the ballot.
We are not talking community politics here. It’s too late for a patient slowbuild like the IWCA. The ruling class have us by the throat -they need a short sharp kick in the bollocks. Our election campaign will use any means necessary. we won’t be ushered away by PR minders – we will make ourselves central to the campaign in a funny, rumbustious combative and imaginative way. We will be on the streets and in their faces.

Comrades whatever our yesterdays you are welcome now. join in. reject cynicism. have fun.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Why Oh why can't we be more Korean?

Why are we so crap? Our national football team is a waste of space, cricket wise we are being shafted by the Aussies and now we find that our kids are worse than useless when it comes to very hard long division. A new OECD ( Yes, I thought it meant not being able to stop cleaning the karsi as well but apparently it's something to do with economic development.) report just released shows UK kids come well down the international league table for exam results. Shanghai is world leader but the Far East in general shows a steely determination for their kids to obtain top marks. South Korean children are slaving away from early morning until late at night and the exam results are impressive as is the teenage suicide rate - highest in the world I believe. It can only be a matter hours before The Alien Gove and his grim crew start calling for British education to be modelled more along Korean lines. Fewer teenage pregnancies and more teenage suicides is clearly the way to go if we wish to keep a seat at the top table.To refer to the likes of Gove as a wanker really is to do an injustice to that most benign of pastimes.
For an interesting but very different look at education I recommend Adam Ramsay's article in the current issue of Strike on the reality (and benefit) of public school. Ramsay points out that, " There is a bizarre belief held by many that success in Britain correlates to intelligence and hard work. This is a very middle class concept. What the upper class understand is that success stems from two things: community and the appearance of confidence."   The trick of course is to make all of that available to everyone and not just a privileged elite.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Time For Outrage.

Someone gave me a copy of Stephane Hessel's little pamphlet. It escaped me when it was first published but is credited with being a prime motivator for the Occupy Movement. Hessler was 93 when he wrote this and had had what you might call a full life. A true hero of the Resistance he twice escaped from the Nazis having endured torture and the dreadful conditions of Buchenwald.  After the war Hessel was involved in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and throughout his long life remained an outspoken defender of the oppressed. What surprised me about Time For Outrage was not that this old fighter was able to so eloquently equate today's anti-capitalism with the struggles of the Resistance or that Hessel in his advanced years could still proclaim , "To create is to resist - To resist is to create". No, what amazes me is that this little pamphlet should have topped the bestseller list in France. I fear that a UK equivalent would have sold a couple of hundred with the rest of the print run gathering dust in Houseman's. C'est la vie.