Tuesday 26 November 2013

The dangers of political sects

The emerging story of the Brixton 'slaves'  and the obscure Maoist sect is a gift to Left-bashers.

From obsessive anarchist anti-Marxists to Daily Mail witch-hunters, there is a smug sense of told-you-so. So let's be clear - there are some truly bonkers groups on the Left. And some truly bonkers individuals too. Any activist who has been around the block will have encountered their fair share of them. And also, sadly, the needy, the eccentric and the vulnerable.

It is not a phenomenon restricted to the Left. From amateur dramatic societies, to bible groups and motorcycle clubs - some  people will always  try to find a haven away from the mainstream.

 Society, particularly capitalists society, fucks people up in all sorts of ways and drives them towards some sort of refuge or release. And the flip-side, even more  sadly, is that these havens are also a magnet for the predatory, the manipulative and the exploitative - or simply those that enjoy being a big fish in a small pond.

Throw in some sort of legitimation for authority (and all those groups mentioned above have that) and there is the potential for some pretty nasty mind games.  The Brixton Maoist loony-tunes are a horrible and extreme example. But not unique - in the not too distant past the cases of the WRP and the RCP also spring to mind.

I am not going to jump on any reactionary bandwagon that rubs its hands in glee at these horror stories. But it is a salutary reminder to any activist - whatever organisation or campaign you are involved in - are you doing it simply because you want to change the world for the better -  does it fill some psychological vacuum in your life - have you been manipulated into thinking it will - or even worse do you get off on the whole closed-little world? 

In my experience the best revolutionaries are reluctant revolutionaries who would rather be with their families, down the pub or pursuing some unpolitical hobby. Only a peculiar cocktail of anger, solidarity  and education obliges them to be active.

Monday 11 November 2013

Remembrance hi-jacked

Every year I end up writing something about Remembrance. And looking back at previous posts it seems that every year I become increasingly ambivalent about poppy-wearing. Because recently the Remembrance campaign has become more and more jingoistic.

I was listening to Radio 4 on Sunday morning to a plummy vicar who talked about his father having flown 'Lancaarster' bombers in WW2 and then went on to talk about how angry he was at people (like me) who criticise the flag-waiving aspects of  Remembrance. This was then followed immediately by the massed bands at the cenotaph striking up 'Rule Britannia'. Rule-fucking-Britannia. If every there was a less appropriate tune to open a ceremony that supposedly marks the suffering and sacrifice of two generations in the World Wars. 

And I say two World Wars because that is what Remembrance is about - as I have said before. 

Not because killed and injured servicemen in other conflicts are not important but because these global  conflicts involving citizen-armies and civilian populations is qualitatively different from the Falklands, the Gulf Wars or Afghanistan. And yet much of this year's commemorations focused on scenes from Camp Bastion, and on casualties from recent conflicts.  Needless to say the same coverage did not feature  the scandalous treatment of  servicemen from these conflicts - particularly  how ATOS is now making them jumping through hoops to limit their disability benefits for example. 

Remembrance is not the same as 'Help For Heroes'. It is a time for reflection about the broader nature of war - the big questions and the awkward questions that go to the very heart of everything that is wrong with the world. No wonder these are swept under the carpet whilst the band strikes up a stirring tune.

Sunday 3 November 2013