Saturday, 22 February 2014

Events that move so fast

I wonder how the Michael Gove analysis of World War 1 would have stood up if communications had been as fast then as now?
I wonder how many people would have shared the pompous arses' view that somehow it was a great war and a glorious moment i British history had our forebears had I-phones and facebook and the rest of modern communications?
The events over the last few hours in Kiev have demonstrated just how graphically and brutal war can be.
In 1914 cinematography was still in its infancy, and the press as well as being slow was also heavily censored by the military.
Reading a review by Rowan Williams of a new biography of Wilfred Owen in the New Statesman two things struck me.
Firstly how long it took for the full horrors to sink in, Owens poetry was published posthumously , and by the way its strange how the Gove talks glibly about 'Oh What a Lovely War' and 'Blackadder' and  manages to omit the work of eye witnesses to the slaughter like Owen and Sassoon and others.But then perhaps Gove only read Robert Graves and left it at that!
Secondly and even more moving in many ways was the illustration that accompanied Williams review.It was a stark black and white photograph of five young soldiers who had just finished basic training and were preparing to go to the front.The casual insouciance of the youngsters, a couple with fags in their mouths was tragic.The uniforms,already crumpled,seemed far too big for them, as if they were wearing someone elses' castoffs.
And in a sense they were, they were wearing the cast offs of a ruling class who thought that there was glory to be won somewhere along the Somme,an officer class who thought they were going to do daring=do's  in the way of their forebears.
They hadn't bothered to see that war had become slaughter on an industrial scale.
I doubt if any of those five children came back in one piece.
It's hard not to be angry when time and time again we see the same young men and women being sent into each new killing field, unprotected and innocent,hoping above hope that the war that they are engaged i will somehow be the 'war to end all wars' but sadly never seems to be.
Now I am no pacifist and I believe that sometimes we have to take up arms because what we are confronted with is simply too awful to contemplate.It was absolutely right for the people of Spain and the International Brigades to confront Franco, and because the rulers failed us over Spain it was right for us to confront and defeat Hitler,although the cost was far too high.
Similarly there have been 'just' wars since then too, the Vietnamese people,the Palestinians,the people of South Africa,but it is frustrating to know that throughout the last century if working people had stood together in their class interest then there would have been no wars.
If German workers had not been beguiled and lied to by their Keiser and the Russians by his cousin the Tsar and the British by their cousin George, then millions of lives would have been saved.
Ironic really that the European Royals were all sending armies to rip great lumps out of each other when it could all have been solved on somewhere like a playing field at Eton.
Jackets off boys and a bit of a punch up behind the bike shed-first one to draw blood gets to keep Africa!
But then of course those states were fighting for something tangible,control of the worlds natural resources,what I find impossible to comprehend is how anyone in their right mind can be persuaded to go and kill aother person,or wear an explosive vest or massacre innocent strangers simply ecause 'my God is better than your God!'
What on earth is all that about?
Did the enlightenment pass them all by?
And to go back to my original point, with the instant images of death and destruction on the worlds TV screens every night is the world still full of numpties who cannot see how pointless it all is?
The youngsters who went to the trenches in 1914 had no idea what was awaiting them, as soon as they knrw it was too late,but so many who fought echoed not simply Owen but Harry Patch, the last survivor of WW1- it just wasn't worth it.

But I guess there are still people like Michael Gove, who wonder around with beans in their ears.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Without ideology-politics becomes a dangerous diversion

The Withenshaw by election was bad news for all the political parties.Well at least for the three main parties.I find it impossible to think of UKIP as a political party, it is an ill assorted collection of prejudices wrapped up in the Union Jack and masquerading as a political force.
It is nothing more than every right wing bunch of trailer park trash fitting what they laughingly call a 'political vision ' round a set of xenophobic views.
It is however the popularism of the gutter that makes it so dangerous, its like every little beer garden outfit that likes to blame everything else on somebody rather than something.
It had its predecessors all over Europe and North America.The Poujadists in France, the America First lot,the Mosleyite Blackshirts, O'Duffy's Blueshirts.

Nasty little fascist groups that threw their weight around and roared out defiance to anyone who would listen.
Of course they were absurd and of course they mostly came to nothing, but one or two of these 'movements' did become something-in Spain,Italy and Germany their posturing  did win support.

In times of anomie it's often hard to forget that people grasp at straws,and sometimes a mass hysteria emerges and creates a maelstrom of fear and resentment.In those conditions all political bets are off,and even the most absurd and inchoate ideas catch a mood.

Let me put it clearly, the crisis we are living through, or rather crises,are the products of unrestrained capitalism.The free market is neither free or a market, it is a method of social control that allows international capitalism to plunder the world with no constraints.
It is little wonder that we are facing an ecological disaster-for plundering and ravaging scare resources are what the world's oligarchs are all about.

I'm no conspiracy theorist, I suspect the Bilderberg likes to think of itself as a conspiracy of sorts, the rich and powerful gathering together to plot world domination.But even with Lord Mandelson and the forty million pound former leader of the 'Peoples party' on hand, their gatherings are just window dressing.
Capitalism has entered the phase of dog devour dog, or maybe more precisely fat cat lap up other fat cat. 

In order to sustain itself for a few more squalid years our rulers need a few diversions to keep us plebs under the thumb and more importantly at each others throats.
A few diversions, so they throw in a bit of religious bigotry,nothing better to get the old juices of prejudice going that a bit of the 'my Gods better than your God' routine.If that fails there are lots of other useful scapegoats to fall back on.Gay people,black people,women people,foreign people,poor people,old people,young people....Name your own particular resentment and there you are!

Of course just as the prejudices are transnational, there was a time when we had a solution to their hated.There was a time when working people realised what these power structures were up to and we organised resistance.We realised that the only way ordinary folk to resist was by combing together.We realised quite early on that education was the most potent weapon we had.

I don't care how far you go back, take for instance the Founding fathers of America, those great leaders who understood the strength of the Enlightenment-what did John Adams write into the constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts ?Why free and universal education for boys AND girls!  

Or forefathers also understood that working people need to make alliances, with each other and with others,workers by hand and by brain.

And they also realised quite early on that as capital was international,so labour needed to be international too.
We know to our cost that the capitalist class play off not simply one group against another,but one nation state against another too.Forget the rights of small nations to self determination,forget any cultural hegemony, just remember you can move your factories and plants anywhere on the globe, and the dispossed labour will follow.

There was a time when the Labour Party was proudly internationalist,OK its true that the best it could do was the miserable Second International and that folded because of the First World War.There were too many ill formed jingoists  in both the Labour party and the SDP in Germany to understand that they were being sold the most outrageous pup in history.
However there were brave men and women in both parties that refused to follow the lie that it was a war of national pride and honour.
And that strain of internationalism existed in the sadly deformed Labour Party right up until the creature Blair destroyed all that was good and decent about the Party.

So we have a Party that cannot see the writing on the wall and thinks nothing has changed.I really don't care what happens to the Tories and the Liberals, they in truth were history about the start of the 20thc.They have simply taken a long time to fall off the perch.However what I do care about is the future of the only movement that can resist the last redoubt of capitalism.The rise of UKIP is once more part of a pattern we saw several times in the last century,only this time there is no world Communist movement to resist the far right, there is not even a social democratic base from which to resist, and the Trade Union movement is fragmented and weakened worldwide by the insouciance of parties like the Labour Party who ant to break links with organised labour in order to be more like the 'democratic' parties of advanced capitalist states.
It's a sad illusion, and the resistible rise and rise of the far right needs to be understood and fought.Remember comrades,those of you who think that they are simply the right fighting amongst themselves and the social democratic force can slip through un noticed-look carefully are Wythenshawe, and while the vote was good this time, the poll was under 20% and the writing id clearly on the wall.