Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Friday, July 30, 2010

The wit and wisdom of Nick Clegg

The day before I was elected leader [2007], Mr Cameron suggested we join them. He talked about a “progressive alliance”. This talk of alliances comes up a lot, doesn’t it? Everyone wants to be in our gang. So I want to make something very clear today. Will I ever join a Conservative government?
No...I will never allow the Liberal Democrats to be a mere annex to another party's agenda.

Nick Clegg, Speech to Lib Dem Conference, March 2008.

Look, the decision on how we govern this country and how people vote shouldn't be driven by fear of what the markets might do. Let's say there was a Conservative government. Let's say a Conservative government announced, in that sort of macho way: 'We're gonna slash public spending by a third, we'll slash this, we'll slash this, we'll do it tomorrow. We have to take early, tough action.'

Just imagine the reaction of my constituents in south-west Sheffield. I represent a constituency that has more people working in public services as a proportion of the workforce than any other constituency in the country. Lots of people working in unviersities, the hospitals and so on.

They have no Conservative councillors. They have no Conservative MPs. There are no Conservative MPs or Conservative councillors as far as the eye can see in South Yorkshire. People like that are going to say: 'Who are these people telling us that they are are going to suddenly take our jobs away? What mandate do they have? I didn't vote for them. No one around here voted for them.'

I think if we want to go the direction of Greece, where you get real social and industrial unrest, that's the guaranteed way of doing it.

Nick Clegg, March 2010

For too long, vested interests have triumphed over doing what's right and it's got to stop. Sometimes it makes you feel so helpless - and yes, angry too - when there's so much you want to change. I bet you've all felt like that once in a while. Like there's a mountain to climb, and it's just too much to do alone. The cynicism of so much public debate doesn't help. A cynicism that mocks anyone with the nerve to speak with sincerity about what they believe. A cynicism that's given up believing in hope. But I am not embarrassed by sincerity. I am not ashamed of believing in things.
Nick Clegg, Speech to Lib Dem Conference, Spring 2008.


This is Gramsci Country

If 'history is the new rock n' roll', and lets face it, it remains rather a big if, then readers of Histomat might be excited to know that Doug Nesbitt, formerly of the much missed blog 'The Proles' is back on the blogosphere with a new blog called 'This is Gramsci Country', an event at least as noteworthy as the new album by Arcade Fire. This blog relates to his phd thesis on 19th century Canadian history - and in particular possibly 'discovering the Canadian [bourgeois] revolution'. As he suggested to me, 'the thesis is shaping up into an exploration of Canadian Confederation as a project of "bourgeois revolution from above" - à la Neil Davidson.' Does 19th Century Canadian Marxist history on the blogosphere get any better than this?

Labels: , ,

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Eamonn McCann on Alex Higgins

Since I don't have time to do a proper blog post about anything just right now, I will instead simply do a round up of odds and ends that have interested me of late. First up, two tributes which are well worth reading - Eamonn McCann on the snooker star Alex Higgins and Victoria Brittan on Basil Davidson, a pionnering historian of Africa. Secondly, for those interested in Marxist history, the new John Saville Internet Archive and the new Marcel Liebman Internet Archive are well worth a look. Thirdly, the existence of a scab operation amidst the current great Tolpuddle Martyr's Tour Guides Strike remains well, an anomoly - to put it mildly. Finally, I guess I should have linked ages ago to Charlie Brooker's savaging of the Twilight phenomenon, while it seems my namesake Snowball is going to be starring in a new musical by Elton John of all people. I guess I should be feeling honoured.

Solidarity with Gaza T-shirt

From Philosophy Football:
In the 1970s and 1980s Soweto became a global watchword not simply for the murderous brutality of the racist Apartheid regime but also the heroic resistance of the South African people. Solidarity with Soweto became a huge, popular international movement which helped isolate Apartheid. Today Gaza requires that same wave of support. As part of Philosophy Football's contribution towards this we have produced a delightfully simple T-shirt design on a non-profit making basis. We are actively supporting and raising funds for the September 2010 aid convoys to Gaza organised by Viva Palestina but we cannot all join the convoys by land and air. Yet we can all wear 'GAZA' on our chest and help spread the message of solidarity. T-shirt in sizes S-XXL, plus womens' skinny-rib fit.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ken Coates on the idea of Workers' Control (1968)

'...But although the possibilities for a real revolution in the quality of life in this country have never been more exciting, the obstacles to such a revolution are formidable. First and most crucial among these is not the power of the financial oligarchs, not the manipulative force of the media of communications in their hands, nor the pliability of political leaders who operate within a system designed to accentuate and overcome all suggestions for major change. The major conservative force which radicals must overcome is the fact that the present indefensible order of things is the only one in which people have ever lived, and is, for that reason, "natural" even when it most flagrantly violates every principle of human nature, driving men deaf in infernal noise, stealing their sleep and alienating their families in shiftwork patterns, forcing them to assume postures to which animals would never adapt, and robbing them all the time of the fundamental human characteristic, of the right to act thoughtfully, to form one's own goals consciously in association with one's fellows.

If such outrageous conditions are "normal", and if the atmosphere in which men breathe is one of subordination, and if men must learn to make comparisons with other conditions before they can be fired by divine discontent: then there is only one satisfactory place to look for such comparisons. That place is a difficult one to reach. It consists of the great, unchartable territory of human potentiality, the world in which what men have it in themselves to become is more real than the poor little things they have alread been, in which the achievements of all men who ever were extended into the very fabric of the personality of any man, the world which music and poetry has torn from the torments of all who have suffered the terrible restrictions and deprivations of the generations to whom freedom has been mostly a word, sometimes a hope.

The idea of workers' control is the key by use of which the artisans and clerks, the skilled but powerless technicians, the labourers and students and busmen and miners and dockers, and all the working people, can discover such a world. Once they do, all the endless succession of daily battles, of partial struggles for limited rights, of routine meetings and protests and lobbies, which marks out the life of every trade unionist, will become for all trade unionists, a line of march. Workers' control puts the goal of human brotherhood right back into every dispute about piecework. This makes men whole again, and men who know themselves can change the world.'

Ken Coates, 'Introduction' to Can the workers run industry? (London, 1968).


Afghanistan: Time to Go Stop the War Rally

On Monday 26 July, Joe Glenton, the soldier who said no to the war in Afghanistan, will make his first public speech since his release from military custody. He will speak at Stop the War's Time To Go rally in London, when he will be joined by Caroline Lucas MP, Mark Steel (comedian and Independent journalist) and Ross Williams, another soldier jailed for refusing to fight an unjustified war (full list of speakers below). Joe Glenton suffered months of imprisonment for making his stand against the war, and has shown great courage and principle throughout (SEE http://bit.ly/reppW ). The anti-war movement owes him a great debt and we hope everyone living in the London area who can, will be there on Monday when we show our appreciation. Please circulate details of the rally to welcome Joe's release and encourage as many people as you can to join us on 26 July.


SPEAKERS: Lance Corporal JOE GLENTON, just released from prison following court martial for refusing to fight in Afghanistan, ex-soldier ROSS WILLIAMS, jailed in 2008 for refusing to fight in Iraq, CAROLINE LUCAS MP, JEREMY CORBYN MP, MARK STEEL, comedian and columnist, LINDSEY GERMAN, Stop the War Coalition, YASMIN KHAN, War On Want.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Jim Wolfreys on Islamophobia and the failings of the French Left

From Socialist Worker

Islamophobic legislation acts as a substitute for measures which the government has been unable to implement and deflects attention from its own shortcomings. Why, then, is the rest of the left not exposing government racism? Where are the demonstrations in defence of France’s Muslim community? Why, in a country that has seen social movements on an unparalleled scale over the past decade and a half, has the left failed to oppose Islamophobia?

Part of the answer lies with the hold of the Republican tradition of secularism over the French left. In the late 19th century this took the form of anti-clericalism, a powerful tool against the influence of the monarchist Catholic church. But it was also, as the socialist Paul Lafargue argued, a way of getting workers “to eat priests rather than eat capitalists”.

This opened up a space for Republican nationalism to root itself in the Socialist and Communist traditions. In the 1980s, once the Socialist Party had abandoned its ambitious plans for social reform, it turned to Republican nationalism as a substitute. It invoked “Republican values” as an alternative to the rise of Le Pen. This in turn disarmed the left when Muslims were attacked during successive headscarf affairs from the late 1980s. Eventually the hijab was banned from schools in 2004.

Once a weapon against the wealth and privilege of the Catholic church, Republican secularism has become a means of scapegoating France’s oppressed Muslim minority. The ban on full-face veils is based on a series of myths – that Muslim extremism is a greater problem than Islamophobia, or that women have more freedom when the state tells them what they can wear. These myths can be challenged, but this requires a concerted and unequivocal campaign that identifies Islamophobia, and not Islam, as the enemy.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Liking Marx

A couple of videos for people to have a look at - first up, Alex Callinicos, Slavoj Zizek and John Holloway debating the Idea of Communism at Marxism 2010 - and secondly a nice parody of Katy Perry's hit 'I kissed a girl', 'I read some Marx (and I liked it)' - both well worth a look.