Friday, May 28, 2004

*Ding* *Dong* "Cadre calling..."

If I were an insurrectionist, a proto Geuvarra, sans asthma, I would definitely send my cadre out leafletting, generally at election times.

I can honestly say there is no better way to get to know the nooks and crannies of an area (other than growing up as a small boy scaling any and all walls available), than to leaflet every house in a ward. I would recomend the same course to any architecture students out there.

Round Clapham, you can go from the immense terraced houses of the Victorians and Georgians (some owner-occupied, some multiple occupancy), to next door having a council block, then to a post war pre-fab crescent, like Guaden Close. In London, riches and poverty live cheek by jowell.

You can find wee things like police depots that you blockade during an organised riot, or rat runs and routes that you could use in running battles. Leninists, get out leafletting!

Anyway, here is my guide to leafletters:

1) Always leave the gate as you find it. If in doubt of memory, close it. The exception being if there is a sign on the gate to close it, then always obey the sign.
2) If there is a sign saying 'no leaflets please', obey it. Yes, you could make the democratic case that you have a right to disseminate your election material, and their right to receive it. But they won't read it, and it only pisses folks off. Don't do it.
3) Stick the leaflet all the way through, 'nuff said really.
4) Be polite and considerate, hand leaflets to people you meet coming out of houses, emphasise that it is election material.
5) Plan your route well, preferably with a pub in the middle.
6) Take it easy, enjoy yourself, the experience should be a pleasure, physical exercise combined with the freedom to simply think or enjoy the aesthetic pleasures of your leafletting patch - even the grimmest council estate has its pockets of beauty: weeds growing amidst the concrete, and that. Enjoy yourself.

As I have said here before, modern elections rely on armies of leafletters to go out and get the message across, its the simple way to get involved in politics.

Remember, leafletting at elections is a pleasure, not a chore.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

CND Hustings

A quick observational report on a Mayoral hustings. Four candidates present, Livingstone (Labour), German (Respec'), Hughes (Forces of Darkness), Johnson (Gimp Party).

As I've found at many such events, with Socialist Alliance in previous elections, the Labour left's usually managed a more consistant and hard-core line than the so-called raving Trots. Ken barnstormed off the blocks, clearly saying it was a war for oil and opposing the occumapation. German spent a lot of time explaining why the greens were'nt really anti-occupation, and Hughes why he was so very important.

Ken promised, if elected, to hire screens round London to show Michael Moores Fahrenheit 911 (genius stroke of popularism).

When asked about putting Tony Blair on trial for War Crimes, Hughes equivocated ('If there is a case to answer...'), Johnson and German were for it, while Ken, riding the boos, was against but for hanging drawing and quartering George Bush.

The only line of attack the other candidates had on Ken was his membership of the Labour party, which he batted away saying that the only real alternative is the Tories. (Credible argument if true, but didn't an independent candidate win in London last time? Rather knacks the old bifurcation fallacy that one).

In terms of the leftists interest, the important point was that German looked pointless, outshone by an old pro, who simply agreed with and then said it better, she was hamstrung by her grudging support for Ken. Getting up and saying vote for us, and then transfer your vote in the second preference catageory of the alternative vote system election (effectively) hardly has that aura of confidence a candidate need to go away with a big impression.

Also, I'll add, whilst its factually true, her phrasing of 'I helped found the stop the war coalition' (as opposed to, say, 'I was invovled in the founding of...') does have an air of proprietorship about it.

Friday, May 07, 2004

The quiet America...

Been reading Greene's The quiet American. I'd not seen the film, nor read the reviews, so I kind of went in blind. It was a revelation.

Greene's understated prose, bone bare plot and command of the essence of thriller writing provided the vehicle for what amounts to a critique of the esence of modern war. Every inch of this books is applicable to the action in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Briefly, its a tug of love story between an English journalist and an American agent in French colonial Vietnam's dying days fighting over the affections of Phuong, a local woman. Pyle, the American, is backing local General Thé as the vehicle for American policy - as per the idealistic writings of his foreign affairs guru. Pyle winds up dead, at the hands, more or less of Fowler.

Points of note are:

1) The obvious control of the press, and the journalists willingness to put up with being controlled and embedded with the French military.
2) The guerilla war being fought in Saigon, with restraunts with meshes to stop grenades being thrown in.
3) The unreliable clients of both the Americans and the French, as they wage their versions of war against the insurgents.
4) The blurring of political principle and personal feeling, in Fowler's actions.

All the more realistic because Greene himself lived in vietnam in that period, smoking his head off with opium.

This book alone is a vindication of realist fiction, and the power of art to delineate reality. Its tensions and complexities are perfectly suitable for anyone grappling with the difficult issues surrounding the Iraq war.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Arresting event.

I went to the Official TUC Mayday Macrh at Clerkenwell Green today (very pretty part of London, btw).

As me and my Comrades agreed, without the 57 different flavours of Turkish Communist Party (complete with children in nice maoist uniforms, but they obviously decided to leave the AK's at home) the event wouldn't have happened.

A funny thing happened, though, on my way to the March. As I approached (after having succesfully got lost between the Green and Farringdon Station) the muster, I was asked to 'Sign the petition'. I didn't even bother to stop and check what the petition was - as a rule, I don't sign them. I'm a revolutionary Marxist who believes in working class political action, not grovelling to our masters with insipid demands.

However, before I could walk away, the feller concerned said "I see, you're Jewish, you support George Bush, yeah?".

Two incorrect facts. As I have made clear here many times, I do not support Israel,a nd in fact am actively working for its abolition, along with the abolition of Palestine, Lybia, America, 'etc. etc. in your hearts you all know the fucking truth'

What's more, I'm not Jewish. What hapened, and has happened before, is that my 'Puritan Look' that I aim for, which involves a widebrimmed black hat, has been confused with the sartorial aspects of Orthodox Jewry. Add to the fact that I don't shave (but don't have well cultivated ringlets), and I can forgive the odd misapprehension - though I usually respond my correcting people and informing them that they were being very presumptive.

You can judge for yourself from this picture of me engaging in an earlier form of Blogging at Hyde Park's Speakers' Corner.

What struck me forcibly, though, we the ignorant and utterly unwarranted assumption that a Jew necessarilly supports Israel or the War on Terror, etc. This is the creeping anti-semitism that so many writers have warned about, the metonymy from Zionist, to Israeli to Jew all neatly summed up in one thoughtless stereotype. Chilling, in it's own way.

I might not have mentioned this incident, but I later saw this petitioner Sporting a Stop the War Coalition Stewards Bib. I don't know what involvement the STWC had in the March, but he was certainly wearing this bib at their table, so the feller must have reasonable bona fides. Judge how ye will.