London Fields, Martin Amis, Penguin, London 1989

This is a black hole of a novel. Dark matter for sure. Even the humour, of which there is aplenty, is of the dark variety. All the basest human instincts are on show here; lies, deceit, betrayal, violence, and ultimately murder. Yet every now and then some light shines through and when it does the whole bleak world that Amis so brilliantly creates comes to vibrant life. He’s a clever fellow is our Mr Amis. Damn clever. Too clever in many ways, or at least too truthful. Who wants to see the human condition revealed in such harsh tones? Even we Marxists have our limits. But Amis just doesn’t care. He lays it all out without the slightest consideration for human sensibilities. He offers us his dark insights on everything from pornography, masturbation and death. And when I say death I don’t just mean a paltry little individual death. No, Amis has a much bigger canvass. He’s meddling with the death of everything; of love, of literature, of the planet, of God, of science, and of the universe itself. I found myself hating and loving this novel in equal measure and I’m sure Amis would me more than happy with that state of affairs.     

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The New Enlightenment

 

 We’re living through a second brutal dark age

With renewed bigotry, superstition and terror.

And if you thought we’re on a preordained, exponential path of progress

Then I suspect you might be making a fundamental error.

 

Since the collapse of the twentieth century experiment in socialism

With equality and global brotherhood as its imagined creed

We have succumbed to the ideology of individualism

Which turns out to be  nothing but a fig leaf for corporate greed.

 

The natural dialectic between cooperation and competition

Has been cynically twisted in favour of the latter

Never-ending wars between regions and religions

Divide and rule, while the elites grow grotesquely fatter.

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The Corbynista Revolution: Women On Top.

 

Apologies for the headline but as the polemical war rages, even left-wing bloggers sometimes have to resort to cheap journalistic tactics in order to gain attention in a very crowded blogosphere. But behind this tacky tabloid heading is a very serious point. Corbyn was quickly lambasted for having a male dominated top table. All the so-called big hitters in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet were men. It was something the Tory press immediately jumped upon hoping to wrong foot JC at the earliest moment. But what the Tory press and Corbyn’s own detractors within the Labour Party did not pick up on was the highly competent female academics that have been invited onto John McDonnell’s economic advisory committee. Alongside Thomas Piketty, David Blanchflower and Joseph Stiglitz comes Ann Pettifor, Marianna Muzzucato and Anastasia Nesuetalova, all of whom have made their mark by critiquing the politics of austerity and advocating something a darn sight more human. Here are their credentials.

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Nuclear Contamination: Another Atrocity Hidden In the Small Print.

Apparently today at the Labour Conference, Jeremy Corbyn was defeated in his effort to ban nuclear trident weapons. The reason so I read, is because unions say it will threaten jobs. Now I understand that these are difficult times - no one want to lose there job – particularly in the midst of an on going global recession. But when your job is building nuclear weapons, common sense and the greater good must prevail.

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Jeremy Corbyn The Criminal

Blair and Bush led the West to an illegal war against Iraq

And a quarter of a million Iraqis directly perished in the inferno.

Yet Jeremy Corbyn is deemed to be the criminal

And their attacks on him continue, both direct and subliminal.

 

Anglo Saxon banks both sides of the pond recklessly speculated with our money

And tens of millions subsequently lost their homes and livelihoods.

Yet Jeremy Corbyn is deemed to be the criminal

And his policies are declared dangerous and abominable.

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Mr Corbyn – Watch Your Back!

Teflon Tony thinks he’s got it all wrong. Conservatives think he’s dangerous. The Labour establishment are mortally afraid of him. The Lib Dems conspire to belittle him. Those political elite types, straight from university having never held a real job, are campaigning against him. The mainstream press are digging the dirt on him. The BBC are trying to trip him up on every interview. Across the ocean, the bastion of political hypocrisy, are routinely denouncing him. And of course the landed and knighted gentry in this green and pleasant land are quaking in their designer boots.

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All Hail The Bearded One, Chris Mullin, The Guardian, 15/9/15


Chris Mullin is at it again. Having imagined the fate of a radical left-wing Prime Minister way back in 1982 in his novel, ‘A Very British Coup’, Mullin now dares to imagine the first 100 days of a Jeremy Corbyn Government. It’s a clever and imaginative piece that has Corbyn surviving all the usual establishment traps and coming out a respected and even well-loved Prime Minister. Of course, Mullin is only imagining the first 100 days. After that, Mullin choses not to predict. writing, ‘How long the honeymoon would last was anyone’s guess….’ 

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Corbyn and Contradictions.


 

The old contradictions haven’t gone away. At the heart of everything is that most stubborn of all contradictions, that between the private ownership of the world’s wealth and the socially created nature of that wealth, creating a situation where a relatively tiny handful of multi-billionaires  have gained control over the world’s resources and industries while an increasingly impoverished global population grimly toil just to survive. In various forms, this contradictory situation has been around for millennia, stretching back to the dawn of slave owning society, through the feudal epoch and then into the highly dynamic capitalist era. This dialectic between the private ownership of socially produced wealth has been around for so long that one could be forgiven for thinking that this is the natural order of things. It permeates everything and seems to forever frustrate any qualitative advance in how we humans organise ourselves. Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership victory will very likely drag this contradiction into the full light of day.

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Migrants


The distinction between refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants

Is as repulsive as racism itself.

The very essence of humanity is migration

Nobody wants to be left on the shelf.

 

Our descendants all originally migrated from Africa

In search of food and a safer place to live

Those that would make criminals out of migrants

Commit a crime that is impossible to forgive.

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London Mayoral Candidates: Where’s The Big Idea?

Ken Livingston had his Fares Fair , which of course soon got bogged down in the Tory courts. Boris Johnston had his cycling revolution which also got bogged down, though this time through lack of conviction. Painting a few blue lines on the road maketh a revolution not. But at least both Livingston and Johnston had something of a big idea.  But the current crop of Mayoral hopefuls really are a sorry lot. A chance to lead one of the planet’s leading metropolises and not one of them can come up with an inspiring policy. Of course all the Labour candidates are mouthing the right sort of platitudes on housing, transport and the environment but you get the distinct feeling that none of them really mean what they say.

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Corbynomics: TRWNBT

There’s a man going round who’d rather jaw jaw

than carelessly set off a nuclear war war.

But they call him a threat to national security.

 

There’s a man who’s opposed to austerity

whose alternative shows a great deal of dexterity.

But they say he’s a threat to the nation.

 

There’s a man who wants QE for the common people

instead of mindlessly pump-priming the capitalist steeple.

But they say he will wreck the economy.

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Kids Company: Scene of a Triple Crime

The Tory media would have us believe that this once loved charity had, in the last year or two, descended into a hotbed of financial misdeeds and sexual depravity. The evidence for such wrongdoings is patchy to say the least. Hard evidence, it seems, is non-existent. But there have indeed been crimes committed in and around Kids Company, and they are crimes so horrific that a public enquiry should be set up without delay and mass protests should be organised to name and to shame those responsible. These crimes do indeed involve financial wrong-doings and abuse of all types. And worse still, they include violent criminality of every conceivable description up to and including the premature deaths of young people. The crime I speak of is none other than the crime of poverty and neglect and it is endemic in our communities. And like all crimes, there are victims and there are perpetrators.

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Go Set A Watchman, Harper Lee, 2015, Penguin, London

Timing is everything. Released at a different moment and perhaps Watchman might not have created such a ripple. But coming in the wake of the current spate of police violence against America’s Black communities and the subsequent rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and suddenly Watchman is the book of the moment. As a piece of literature the best that can be said is that it is patchy. At its high points it invokes all the masterly beauty of To Kill A Mocking Bird, but towards the latter pages it becomes turgid and lecturing. Little wonder Lee’s original publishers recommended she go away and rewrite the thing from a different perspective. But literary merits aside, the book disappoints politically because after some stirring words from the leading protagonist, Scout and perhaps Lee herself seem to come to a begrudging accommodation with KKK terror and racist bigotry generally. Of course, written in the mid-fifties, this accommodation is probably not that surprising. The civil rights movement had yet to reach its full maturity and in many ways Harper Lee was ahead of her times. And critically, this accommodation with bigotry gives us an insight into the deep, deep roots of American racism still so blatantly on show in American society to this very day.

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A Very British Coup, Chris Mullin, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1982

Just revisited the magnificent TV version and then thought I ought to read the book just in case there were some nuances that the TV series had left out. As it turned out the TV adaption, for my money, does a far superior job in painting the dark picture of a British/US right wing coup than the original text. But both book and TV series are compulsory tools in exploring just how the ruling establishment, on both sides of the Atlantic, seamlessly come together to rid themselves of any threatening left wing upstarts. Written in the wake of both the CIA orchestrated Chilean and Australian coups, ‘A Very British Coup’ simply imagines the same thing happening in Britain should the British electorate have the audacity to elect anything like a radical social democratic government. And the genius of Mullin’s efforts is that his imagined scenario is actually unfolding in front of our very eyes in the wake of a possible Corbyn administration. Mr Mullin, we owe you a debt of gratitude. 

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Postcapitalism, Paul Mason, Allen Lane, 2015

When Mr Mason is not busy demonstrating to his readers just how clever he is, he provides us with a highly readable, highly thought-provoking discussion on post-capitalist scenarios. In actual fact Mr Mason is a very clever chap but he could do with adding a touch of humility whilst laying out his theories. Mason just can’t wait to tell us where Marx and Engels and Lenin got it right and where they got it wrong. As an accomplished journalist well-grounded in economics, he has every right to make such criticisms, but such criticisms might profitably be couched in more temperate language. I recall Mr Mason dismissing the entire Marxist/Leninist ‘Labour Aristocracy’ theory as ‘rubbish. Hardly the sort of approach to give his later arguments the gravity they might otherwise deserve. But ’notwithstanding this little criticism, I found Mr Mason’s latest offering both inspiring and unsettling in equal measure. Not only does he paint a picture of a gathering storm; environmental, economic, political and technological, he turns this perfect storm on its head and creates a future scenario of unimaginable possibilities. In short, he grasps perfectly the dialectic between scarcity and abundance thereby reawakening the entire Marxist understanding of a humane, rational, communist future. Not a future that is set in stone but a future of infinite permutations. The end of pre-history, as Marx once mused, and the real beginning of the human story.   

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Dear Jeremy Corbyn

Dear JC,

I remember you well. During those dark, dark days when Irish Republicans stood defiant in the face of the vicious remnants of British colonialism, you offered them a sympathetic ear. In fact you did more than that – you gave them qualified support. When nearly all in the Labour Party had washed their hands of the Irish Republicans’ legitimate demands for self-determination, you took a principled stand. I suspect you understood those searing words from Marx: ‘The English working class can never be free while it colludes in the oppression of the Irish nation.’ And as far as I can recall, you took a similar principled stand on Palestinian rights, anti-apartheid and a host of other ‘untouchable’ issues. So if you were to achieve nothing else in your political career those courageous, principled stands would mark you out as a success story in terms of political leadership. And as we have witnessed over the post war decades, political leadership has been a rare commodity in the British Labour Party. So whatever comes next in the roller-coater of political life, you should be well aware that your past record is an entirely worthy one. In fact I think it fair to say, an admirable one.

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