Saturday 27 October 2012

What doesn't destroy you and all that.

Almost a year to the day after I was bombed out of my old job I met up with a couple of former workmates - similarly 'lifers' with the old company - for a few beers in Covent Garden.

Between the three of  us we  must have notched up about 75years of service with the firm - so it's fair to say that all of us had our worlds turned upside by sudden redundancy. Of the the three of us I've probably moved the furthest from our previous world,  but we all agreed that the past year has been more enjoyable and more meaningful than anything we'd experienced for years with the old business.   In fact the only thing we missed - apart from the money - was the banter; and even that declined rapidly when we stopped being 'in the print' and morphed into the poncier world of the  'creative industries'.

I detest the new-age capitalism that preaches a mantra of self help about embracing change and using redundancy as an opportunity. It's a sanctimonious fig-leaf to justify that every few years the free market has to have a clear-out. Meaning that for most people who have been tossed out on to the rubbish heap there's simply not much hope of a way back. 

And it's worth remembering  that all that 'what doesn't destroy me makes me stronger' bollocks was originally coined by the Fascist's very own barmy pet philosopher. But for a small minority - those lucky enough to have some sell-able  skills or education and a bit of financial security behind them, the self-help mantra might just have a element of truth. 

It doesn't scale up to a societal level and it's certainly no model for a sustainable economy with any sort of morality - but thank fuck it seems to have worked out for me...

Saturday 20 October 2012

Another walk in the park

I've just come back  from the TUC march today. One of many such demos over the years, but my first as a public sector worker.

With aching feet and a ridiculous wait for a bus home my feel-good factor has become worn a bit thin. 

Feel-good because I always think that  trade union demonstrations capture  the kind of  communal spirit that was so often spoken about at the time of the London Olympics - and so often is just bullshit. But today there was a genuine feeling that this is the real Britain - a country of working people who do actually give a toss about each other.

But it is a fine line between that and a frankly hollow sentimentalism. So when I hear the likes of Unison's Dave Prentis making their usual ritualistic fiery speeches or even worse, Ed Milliband brazenly trying to warn us to expect cuts from a Labour government, I can't help feeling much like one of the grand old Duke of York's weary foot-soldiers.

To maintain the momentum for a proper General Strike, it was important that today wasn't a flop. And thankfully it wasn't. But realistically that's as much as can be really said.

On a lighter note, as I walked down Oxford Street to get my bus home, I couldn't help but reflect how the Metropolitan Police show considerable political understanding by  stationing TSG squads outside Starbucks, Vodaphone, Boots and anything owned by Richard Green. Thereby unambiguously signposting  to the rest of the world which businesses are the worst tax-dodging corporate cunts.

Sunday 14 October 2012

Jimmy Saville - In defence of the odd

You don't have to be one of the usual self-appointed, self-righteous Daily Mail brigade to be stirred by the Jimmy Saville paedophilia case. 

Janet Street-Porter (along with others) has put it very well in revealing that in the 70's music and broadcasting industries celebs had a sort of droit de seigneur - or perhaps more accurately a  benefit of clergy - that turned a blind eye to everything from casual misogyny to rape. 

I suspect that forty year later. things  have got  worse rather than better. I've heard it argued that such a conspiracy of silence as surrounded Sir Jimmy OBE would simply not be possible in this inter-web twittering age. But the antics of Premiership footballers would suggest quite otherwise.

However, there has  also been a very dangerous argument being advanced in the wake of Saville-gate: A surprise that nobody had realised sooner he was a nonce - because it was so obvious. 

The shell suit. The jingle-jangle jewellery. The hairstyle. The fact that he was unmarried and lived with his mum. Or even more sinisterly, that he was a wealthy celeb who chose to do voluntary work. It all adds up to very disturbing a charter for vigilantes and bigots - and it evokes the memory of Stefan Kiszko the tragic misfit falsely imprisoned for 16years and hounded to an early death. And many other easy scapegoats similarly the victims of a lynch-mob mentality.

Saville - and more controversially I'd add Roman Polanski too - deserve to be exposed for what they are - paedophiles. And not just oddballs.

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Eric Hobsbawn

I have to confess that I owe a slightly perverse debt of gratitude to Eric Hobsbawn who died yesterday.

It was his 'Labour's Lost Millions' article published in Marxism Today in 1983 that sent me on the trajectory that ended with me joining the then Militant. At the time I was a member of the Young Communist League having made the rookie mistake of believing that the Communist Party were to the left of Labour. My wonderfully tolerant Bennite parents didn't give me much to rebel against - but this was one way of expressing the unavoidable teenage rejection of the older generation. 

Fortunately this delusion only lasted a few months before Hobsbawn's article came out. Instinctively I knew it to be a rejection of class politics and of of the values of the labour movement in favour of something that would come to be later known as 'New Labour'. And so I probably became one of the few who joined the Labour Party with the express view of seeking out the Militant and the 'proper' Marxists. So thanks for that Eric.

Like any socialist  with an interest in history, I had his books - and it is only fair to say that his history was very much better than his politics and in a world of Niall Ferguson, Andrew Roberts and David Starkey, they remain essential reading.  

But strangely enough, I think that perhaps one of the things most to Hobsbawn's credit was the very thing that most obituaries are criticising him for - he maintained his party membership long after that brief period in the sixties when it may have had some cachet in academic circles.