Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

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

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Make Love Not Cuts/The 2010 Histomat Awards

2010 Histomat International Heroes/Heroines of the Year: Students across Europe and internationally fighting fees and cuts and for free education. Their revolt this year is the lightning strike that signals the coming storm of working class struggle and rebellion in 2011. Well, let's hope so eh?

Runner up: The people and families who campaigned for justice for Bloody Sunday, and in particular revolutionary journalist Eamonn McCann - deserved winner of the Private Eye Paul Foot Special Lifetime Campaign award.

2009 Histomat International Idiot(s) of the Year: The Israeli state for bravely massacring innocent people on an aid flotilla back in May.

Runner up: All those Islamophobes and racists who protested at the 'Ground Zero Mosque' that wasn't.

2009 Histomat National Hero of the Year: Jody McIntyre, a headache for BBC and ITN news anchors as well as the Metropolitan Police and Con-Dem government.

Joint Runners up A) The voters of Barking and Dagenham for telling the Nazi BNP fuhrer Nick Griffin where to go in the 2010 elections
B) The English Football Association - for ensuring England was utterly humiliated in the World Cup and then were utterly humiliated all over again in the same year when, after abjectly prostrating themselves before the corrupt fucks who run FIFA still came bottom with 2 votes when they tried to win the bid for the 2018 World Cup. Keep up the good work guys!

2009 Histomat National Idiot of the Year: So many to choose from the Con-Dem government - very very tricky - while I was tempted to award this (yet again) to Phil Woolas, but there can really only be one winner of this - Nick Clegg. Well done Nick, you may have gone from 'hero' to 'zero' among the wider mass of the British electorate and be on course to destroy your own political party in the process in the space of six months but you've won a Histomat award!

Runner up: The Police - especially Met police commissioner Paul Stevenson. Despite their past track record of bloodshed while 'policing protests' ranging the anti-fascist and revolutionary socialist Blair Peach 31 years ago to Ian Tomlinson at the G20 protests, the police seemed to have learnt very little when faced with students protesting this year. Guys - when faced by 12 year old school students and disabled protesters wielding wheelchairs you shouldn't need to shit yourselves and start beating them up, and we shouldn't have to all praise your 'restraint' and 'professionalism' because you didn't resort to actually shooting those exercising their democratic rights but only left them needing brain surgery.

2009 Histomat Socialist Bloggers of the Year: This year has seen a proliferation of sorts in the number of blogs and internet sites documenting the history of far-left wing groups in the UK = for example see the list here, but I am aware that I have never given this prestigious award to a woman and so - even though she urged lefties to vote Lib Dem in the 2010 elections, took a crappy position on the SWP/Counterfire split and is already currently in slight danger of 'over-exposure' (she was on the BBC's Any Questions recently) - I have been increasingly impressed with the quality of Laurie Penny's work as the year progressed, which ranged from reports while 'embedded' within the UK student occupations to discussions of Mad Men, so she is a very deserved winner.

Runner up: This is Gramsci Country

2009 Histomat Most Incredible Quote of the Year:
'He has an incredible legacy: he improved the lives of millions of people here and around the world.'
Ed Miliband remembers Gordon Brown (well I guess someone has to...)

2009 Histomat Most Idiotesque Quote of the Year:
'You've Never Had It So Good' - rich Tory parasitical fuck Lord Young on the economic crisis. Young went on to describe the looming attack on 100,000 public sector jobs as a number so insignificant it falls 'within the margin of error'.

Runner up:
'A fascinating book...beautifully written, it is a rich and deeply moving history, which leaves the reader awed, humbled, yet uplifted...Figes visits their ordeals with enormous compassion, and he brings their history to life with his superb story-telling skills. I hope he writes for ever'
Historian Orlando Figes's 'skills' means he not only writes books - he also writes his own book reviews


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Former defence secretary in truth telling shock

Bob Ainsworth MP, a former defence secretary, caused something of a scandal and a stir in Parliament today by telling the truth. Labour leader Ed Miliband has acted quickly to distance himself from former minister and what were described by a spokesman as his 'extremely irresponsible' comments, adding 'I don't know what he was thinking'.

Just say No, Kids

Ed Miliband warned of the potentially harmful dangers if more politicians tried telling the truth on occasion or even became addicted. 'I worry about the effects on young people, the message that we would be sending out'.


John Saville remembered

The Socialist History Society have just published a special volume on John Saville and his work as a socialist historian.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

New film: John Pilger: The War You Don't See

On Tuesday 14 December, ITV1 will broadcast John Pilger's new film 'The War You Don't See' at 10.35pm GMT. Speaking of great TV, the drama Any Human Heart based on the novel by William Boyd concluded last night, which from its Mad Menesque title sequence at the beginning onwards I thought a fine portrayal of the twentieth century through the life of one writer.

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Cultures of Occupation and Demonstration

In the context of numerous student occupations of their universities
and mass demonstrations, the seminar Marxism in Culture has organised a special session on 17th December at the Insitute of Historical Research, Senate House, 5.30. All welcome.

'Cultures of Occupation and Demonstration: 2010/1968/1917'

Warren Carter
Gail Day
Steve Edwards
Esther Leslie
David Mabb
Nina Power
Alberto Toscano

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What a difference a century makes

A march of the Right to Work Campaign in London in 1908. There was a national Right to Work movement in the early years of the last century with committees being set up across the country between 1904 and 1908. Their threat was not an idle one - in 1905 there was serious 'Right to Work' rioting in Manchester. [from here]
Join the Right to Work Campaign today

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New Book: David McNally's Global Slump

Global Slump: The Economics and Politics of Crisis and Resistance by Marxist economist David McNally looks like potentially good Xmas reading for those whose taste in books is, er, Marxist economics.

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Histomat Exclusive: Inside the Royals' Rolls Royce

[Though Histomat cannot quite claim to be as dangerous to governments as Wikileaks, we are very proud to be first to bring people a transcript of the conversation between Prince Charles and Camilla in their Rolls Royce as it attempted to drive through the mass student protest on Thursday.]

Camilla: I am so looking forward to the Royal Variety show tonight...

Charles: Well at least that makes one of us. I'm sorry, I'm just in a bit of a foul mood. It's all the fault of that dreadful Terry Eagleton. His review of my book Harmony is just appalling. Let me read it out to you:

Never afraid to stick his ears above the parapet, Prince Charles has produced a book he proudly describes as "a call to revolution". Throwing moderation to the winds, he comes out in favour of happiness, sustainable development and cities fit to live in, while opposing greed, ugliness and environmental catastrophe. Has his old man got wind of this subversive stuff? Has the prince taken to selling Socialist Worker to the toilers of Clarence House?

Camilla: Darling, sorry to stop you in full flow. I have always wondered, what exactly is socialism?

Charles: Oh, nothing to worry your pretty little head about dear. It's a very old-fashioned thing now - something about collective democratic control of industry and society by the workers or something. It's long been something people feel has no relevance or purpose in the world we all live in today.

Camilla: Oh, jolly good. It sounds like a lot of Bolshy rubbish to me.

Charles: Well, quite. Anyway, enough of Eagleton and this talk of socialism - lets just try and enjoy this evening yes?

Chauffeur [interrupting]: Sorry to disturb, your Royal Highnesses, it appears there may be some trouble up ahead.

Charles: Yes?

Chauffeur: Well, it's the students you see. They are revolting.

Camilla: Yes, yes, we know that students are revolting. Bloody parasitic layabouts and wasters. What's that got to do with us?

Chauffeur: Sorry, your Royal Highness, I mean it appears that the students are protesting in central London today and we have been advised to take a detour around their protest.

Camilla: Oh, bloody hell - we are running late as it is. Charles, darling, what are the students protesting about again?

Charles: Well, I think the government has decided to raise the level of tuition fees or something. Up to £9,000.

Camilla: £9,000 a day? That does sound a little bit steep.

Charles: No, sorry darling, £9,000 a year I think.

Camilla: That's nothing! Why I spend that amount a week on making myself look beautiful. Bloody students! Drive on! Drive on! We'll be late!

Chauffeur: Very good, Your Royal Highness.

Charles: These student protests are partly the fault of the idiocy of that silly little man Nick Clegg.

Camilla: Nick who?

Charles: You know darling, the leader of the Liberal Democrats.
One of my valets, Waterson, told me that he rang up Liberal Democrat central office last week and asked for a copy of their election manifesto. The woman answering the phone said she was very sorry but they had sold out. You know what Waterson said?

Camilla: I have absolutely not the faintest idea.

Charles: He said: 'I know you have sold out, but I was actually wondering about maybe getting hold of a copy of the election manifesto!' Ha! Ha! Get it?

Camilla: If its meant to be a joke, I'm afraid I don't understand it all.

[The car soon runs into student protesters and has to slow down. One protester shouts 'All right Charlie, how's it going boy?']

Charles: I think they want to talk to us. I'll wind down my window and have a word with them.

Camilla: Do you think that's wise, darling?

Charles: Well, my father found himself in the middle of a march by firefighters a couple of weeks ago. They just looked amazed to see him, the Duke of Edinburgh, just sitting there and wanted to take his picture and things. This lot are only students for heavens sake. Listen, I think I can hear them chanting my name. 'We hail Prince Charles, we hail Prince Charles'. See the people all love us - and this is something we should begin to get more used to now given the wonderful news about Wills and Kate...

[Charles winds down window.]

Camilla: Oh god Charles - listen! They don't love us at all. They are chanting 'We hate Prince Charles, We hate Prince Charles'. Its so...ghastly.

Charles: Oh. So they are. Bugger. Bloody students. Drive on man! Drive on! The sooner we are through all this the better.

Camilla: These protests are all the fault of your bloody mother's fifth cousin twice removed...

Charles: You mean David? Oh, yes, I see. It's all a mess. A very regrettable mess.

[The students start chanting: 'Off with their heads! Off with their heads!']

Camilla: Oh, Charles. Do you think this is it? Are they going to... kill us?

Chauffeur: Your Royal Highnesses! Please wind the window back up - now!

[Here the recording becomes muffled and tails off due to loud noise of chanting. It is possible to just about make out a woman's voice - probably Camilla's - shouting to one policeman 'Shoot the students! Bloody just shoot them!' You can also hear students chants in the background 'David Cameron we know you, we f*cked up your HQ' and 'Prince Charles, we know you, we just f*cked up your roller too']


Thursday, December 09, 2010

This Is What Democracy Looks Like

'Mounted police are charging into the crowd. Other police are lashing out with truncheons to push protesters back into Parliament Square from Victoria Street. One demonstrator has been seriously injured. The police are endangering lives. This is what democracy under the coalition looks like—a deeply unpopular policy, which Lib Dems had pledged explicitly not to carry out, is voted on while police try to smash those who want to make their voice heard.'

Follow coverage of the student protests outside Parliament here

Whatever the outcome of today's vote in parliament, the events of today have once again showed how the hypocrisy of the Liberal Democrats and the bloody tyranny of police violence and intimidation of student protesters - many under 18 who have no vote and so no other way of making their views heard other than to take to the streets - exposes the real nature of the liberal parliamentary system in British society. The contrast between the votes and debate in parliament and the democratic self-organisation which has been the hallmark of the 30 or so student occupations in Britain over the last few weeks could not be greater - and the mass student activism has shown a glimpse of what a real democratic society could be like.

Such a vision has never been more needed - not least since what the neo-liberal Con-Dem coalition are attempting to do by cutting away at public services and the principle of education as a social good is to bring out the systematic disenfranchisement and disempowerment of people as a collective force - to turn us into a fragmented multitude of atomised individuals who identify themselves only as consumers, objects of history rather than its subjects.

Yet the issue of tuition fees has created huge political and ideological turmoil at the top of society - not least threatening to split apart the Con-Dem coalition government itself - and the thin official media managed 'consensus' that exists about the necessity for cuts as well as fees has begun to unravel. As Gary Younge noted in an excellent article on the revolt of students and youth spreading across Europe,

'it can never be pointed out too often – if only because it is so frequently ignored – that this situation was not created by excessive public spending but by an international banking crisis brought about by an unregulated binge in the private sector. In a sordid redistribution of wealth from poor to rich, working-class kids will be denied the possibility of a university education because wealthy traders were in denial about economic reality.

So while it's true that others have it worse than students, it also entirely misses the point. Protesting against tuition fees is not a sectional interest. For most, student years mark a transition from youth to adulthood, which means the burden for these increases do not just fall on individuals but families – who will already be suffering from the crisis in others ways. Thatcher's cuts blighted isolated communities, whether they were pit villages or northern cities. These attacks are not just deeper but broader. Clearly, how students' resistance to these cuts pans out will have ramifications for successful opposition to the entire austerity programme. That is reason enough to deserve our support.

Younge concludes by noting that just as 'the French students in 1968 bolstered the confidence of factory workers', 'the threat British students pose – much like the financial crisis bringing them on to the streets – is of contagion. That their energy, enthusiasm, militancy, rage and raucousness might burn in us all.' The dream of a repetition of France in May 1968 today - on which see
this excellent short article
by Ian Birchall - as well as this longer essay, with its slogans 'Students of the World Ignite!' and 'All Power to the Imagination!' (as well as slightly odder ones like 'Beware the Pedagogic Gerontocracy') has to be our dream. Yet as John Rose - who was at the LSE during 1968 pointed out at a teach-in organised by the Education Activist Network at the LSE last Sunday, there are important differences as well as as similarities between the student revolt now and then. As well as the Cold War structures which shaped the whole revolt and led to 1968 being about as much about an attempt to bring new understanding and new meaning to terms such as 'socialism' and 'communism' in the face of Stalinist state repression, above all in Czechoslovakia - the crushing of the Prague spring was the lowest point of 1968 - the student revolt in Western capitalist countries in 1968 came about as a crisis of expansion in higher education, while today we face a crisis of contraction.

Moreover, unlike then, the student revolt takes place amidst a very real crisis of capitalism itself. At times like this, and especially in Britain where the organised working class movement remains a kind of 'sleeping beauty' - the stakes are incredibly high for the student movement. It remains worth reiterating the potential that student's political action could help spark a wider 'economic' fightback. The critical importance of such a fightback taking place does not need to be elaborated upon here.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Teach-In: Education for the People, Not the Market

From the Education Activist Network
Teach-in: Education for the People, Not the Market
Sunday 5th December, 12noon-4pm, King’s College London

Speakers include journalists George Monbiot and Laurie Penny, King’s College lecturer Stathis Kouvelakis and veteran of the 1968 student movement John Rose.

According to The Independent the student movement has broken through the ‘cuts consensus’. Now we have an opportunity to challenge a vision of education that is dominated by the market – where private companies are gaining the power to award degrees and young people are to be priced out of our colleges and universities. In the university occupations of May 1968 students took control of their curriculum from the authorities – thousands attended lectures by Sartre, Genet and others. At the national Teach-in, students, academics, artists, musicians, writers, precarious workers and trade unionists will be debating the alternatives for education. There will also be forums for HE and FE/school students to coordinate the next steps in the struggle.

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Commercial break

Racists and reactionaries in Britain spend a lot of time this time of year bemoaning the way Christmas as a festival is somehow under threat, somehow in danger as a result of secularism and multiculturalism, as if amid all the Con-Dem cuts and economic austerity, the Xmas question is the critical issue facing our crisis-hit society. Yet you can hardly switch on the TV or walk through any urban environment without being hit by a barrage of corporate propaganda and advertising about Xmas - which has indeed for a while now come apparently officially sponsored by Coca-Cola. Given this, I guess it is good to see there are a number of 'socialist gifts' out there on the market - for example the mug above from Philosophy Football or an equally cool range of mugs and other gifts can be found on the Red Stuff Shop (including an incredibly popular 'Stuff the Wedding - Fight the Cuts' range and an equally respectful and tasteful 'Ding Dong Thatcher's Gone! Party Pack' - both which should come in handy in the months ahead...

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