Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Intermission - Victims of War

I interrupt my scheduled topic of chatter for this story...

600 trampled to death through fear.

Make no mistake, these people are casualties of war - of the fear that war spreads, every bit as much as those who lost their life in, frankly, similar circumstances at Bethnal Green tube station during the Blitz.

War cheapens all lives, causes fear and disruption, and though no-one pulled the trigger here, the war itself is directly - and horriffically - to blame.

Peace, now, at any political cost, no matter what Iraq is produced, no matter where American troops are, the workers only have one interest in this struggle - to live.

Blame Canada

Well, reading about Meriky made me reckon I ought to check out Canda for a wee while, mainly by way of contrast. After all, Canada is the answer to the question how could things have been done differently in America - sort of.

Anyway, I checked out Bumsted's The Peoples of Canada: A Post-confederation History. After a couple of paragraphs, somethings struck me.

Now, I've never been keen on the argument that the ruling class granted democracy as a fraud to keep the workers in their place. What struck me, though, was that from the 1780's onwards, Canda had experience of relatively stable, relatively popular elections.

The government was, of course, appointed by London, and all acts were subject to British Parliamentary approval. However, there were popular assemblies, which could threaten the Governor, and certainly which pressed for local interests. These assemblies were, though, monopolised by oligarchic interests.

The thing was, not everyone who could vote did - the votes were not collected locally but at Market towns, representatives were unpaid and votes weren't secret. This combination allowed a relatively stable elite to dominate the electoral process. There is another factor which I'll consider in a different light tomorrow.

The point is, to what extent did the practical experience of oligarchic representative democracy allow sections of the Briutish ruling class to believe they could sfely extend the franchise without releasing the demogorgon? A different proposition to the straight con thesis.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Mincemeat and Workers Control

Once more unto the breech - I found this useful recourse on the Socialist Party's website - a labour newswire service.

Found some interesting links already.

Apparently overt 100 workers a week are being minced in China's mines - I know, I know, I've covered it before - but interestingly, a report here from a Hong Kong based groups is arguing that workers control would improve things.

Just a thought.

Meanwhile, our Mutualist friend continues analysis of Venezuela's workers management issues...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Film watching

Well, I've just bought some filum watching gizmo, which means I can start ransacking all those classic movies I've never got round to viewing.

Comments on two:

Mr Smith Goes to Washington - every inch a political classic - tragic in the finest sense in that we are all expected to empathise with the realism of Senator Paine while also aspiring to the idealism of SMith - thje archetypal SPGB parliamentarian, using the platform to rail for liberty while no bugger listens. Intriguing politics of the film - it casts a shady eye on populism and the Democrat consensus of the time. The scenes with kids are eye watering and verge on fantasy, until they get their arses kicked by the real political gangsters. Carefully paced with due and wry wit, the acme of libertarian politics, rooting for the abuse of teh undemocratic Fillibustering rules (why should one member of a body be able to hold the whople thing up indefinitely - fun though). Slightly relevent in the current age what with the threat to eliminate the fillibuster by the Bush administration that can't control the senate.

The Third Man - intriguing film about loyalty and conscience - the a great apprehension of the banality of business evil - look at all those dots, would you care if one of them dies? A rogue chancer managers to bind the hearts of all of his friends while he essentially abuses them for his own gain. Interestingly, Harry Lime is a believer in God, but that doesn't stop him and his thoroughly immoral activities which are tied up with the behaviour of the occupying governments of the world brought together in the crucible of post-war Vienna.

I doubt my potted reviews are new or insightful, but these are films I've oft heard about and not seen, so I urge my readers (those who aren't spambots - comments are now giftrapped, btw) to seek em out.

I won't chunter about all the ones I track down, just the ones I think might make for a fifteen minute post when I've been quiet for a while - anotehr string to the blogging bow of the impossiblist blog.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Minute Men and Farmers

I was jolly pleased last night, my copy of CLR James' American Civilization turned up in the post - more on the contents of which anon.

It reminded me of a post I intended on another recent inclusion to my American Studies collection - A people's history of the American Revolution.

Its first chapter is instructive - it deals with how Massachussetts farmers basically rose up in 1775 - before the formal war kicked off - and used mob violence to close down the British backed governmental courts. In effect, a social revolution occurred - leading to the American victory with irregular forces at Lexington and Concord.

A people's army, a militia of farmers assembled with arms from the household, the acme of revolution. The very image of the American struggle of indepence.

Now, the trouble came with trying to actually formally expell the British. The requirements for field war, for taking on the mmightiest military machine on Earth meant farmers and artisans would have been away from their business for far too long. In effect, the mighty Minute Men declined to sign up under military discipline.

Bribes, rewards and salaries were offered, and in the end, it was an army composed of that traditional material of armies - surplus population. Centralised and hierarchical, under the Virginia slaveholder George Washington.

So far, so banal. My point, as such, is that this shift marked a change away from social revolution - farmers against the existing legal/political system, towards a political revolution (to use the trotskyite terminology). The farmers, acting as farmers, as a community, were able to effect radical democratic changes - and in reality, probably could have survived under nominal British jurisdiction by sheer dint of the fact that the british could never have suppressed that social movement.

But to make a national revolution meant acting as something other than farmers and communities, it meant establishing the professional military that suffered so horrendously while the powerful wheeled and dealed. What I am suggesting, is that the removal of the British was greatly desired by the elite, first and foremost, and was their revolution - the rest of the population could have had their revolution without it.

But this highlights a traditional problem for revolutionaries. The workers as workers have power, but in past revolutions when they have joined red armies, joined the party, they have become something other than workers, a new social/political force. teh trick is to build the revolution with the workers as workers and communities, not as rebel armies.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Class struggle across the seas...

In South Africa, again, there is a strikle. This time, it's Gold Miners - according to SABC 37,0000 miners downed tools yesterday. This is the potential cost. Apparently it's over the miners having to live in dorms - a hangover from apartheid. The BBC has full details.

Meanwhile, mine workers are still being minced in China - 166 in one day. Here's teh Reuters version, quoting official sources, mark you. Of course, this mincing is due to China's rising energy needs, the BBC reports on fuel shortages in some provinces. Obviously, private enterprises will continue to try and make as much profit as they can, while they are allowed to by a government trapped by it's needs to keep on boosting profits and growth.

Time to dust down those copies of Capital Volume II and look at that funky little problem of diproportionality - the growth of one sector relative to others, and think what a sizable collapse in China's economy brought on by excessive fuel prices might o to workers there, and to workers the world over. It will make the milling of workers in the mines look like a picnic.

Arise ye starvlings!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Thank you Hackney

That was the legend on a bus advert I saw t'other night.

Now, who is this Hackney the old gent in the photo was thanking?

I supose a political candidate would say Hackney is the people who live in the geographic area of the London Borough of Hackney.

A Weberian sociologist may say that Hackney is a geographically based brueaucratic entity.

An elector of Hackney may say it is the council, and their elected councillors.

Liberal democratic theory would say that it is the ruling group on that council.

The last is important. The Hackney being thanked in the advert, I'd suggest, is the council, implicitly the ruling group of the council, who have dispersed the tax revenue of the council to some effect or other. According to liberal theory, we should reward the munifiscence of the municipalists. The elected politicians trade gifts with us - their gift tax revenue dispersements, ours, a vote.

In ancient Rome - the political oligarchy our modern democracy barely resembles (indeed, the Roman republic was, I'd suggest, more democratic than our society, possibly) - office holders were meant to pay for things out of their own wealth: a practise which justified tax farming and corrupt use of offices.

After all, liberal democracy is supposedly based on private venality (pursuit of office and power) being harnessed to public good.

Now, my point is, that so long as the local authority is seen as a person, an other, a stranger, an alien, so long will it not function as a democracy. You cannot be grateful to yourself, nor should you be grateful to someone who does what they are suppsoed to do (I refuse to thank drivers who stop at Zebra corossings, for example).

I'd suggest that it is this relationship of buying support that is flawed and corrupt - in the first instance.

No thankyous for Hackney.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Priest gut...

So, I haven't posted a happy happy piece about piggy features carking it.

Maybe that was because Billmon already said it all.

Maybe it was because I was waiting for Harry's Place to make a happy comment about the death of a tyrant, and all the prospects for democracy in the Middle East a genuine democratic movement arising from crack in the top echelons of one of the world's most brutal and disguting regimes might bring.

But no, silence.

Just a little Fisking?


Maybe I was just glum because he died in his sleep, peaceful and well cared for, instead of being strangled with the guts of the last Imam.

Oh, well, maybe we'll get Abdullah.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Normal politics will be resumed

Shortly, that is. Longer, in depth posts about things - proper things. But for today, just a round-up of some smidgins.

Apparently, Blair plans to leave the commons when he leaves the Premiership -
Mr Blair has a poor personal voting record in the House of Commons, and his plan to leave parliament may be seen by some as further confirmation that he has never been excessively attracted to Westminster's "club" and its traditions.
Eitehr that, or he's never been too attracted by democracy, neither. No, I'm not fetishising the place, just highlighting some of the interesting traits to be found in modern leading politicians.

It's all about power and control - megalomania that they can make sweeping changes with the stroke of a pen - a government Minister (Hazel Blears) is meeting Muslim Community Leaders to draw up plans of action for elminating extremists. A very British reaction, religion is causing problems, nationalise it. Soon we'll have a Mosque of England alongside the Church of England.

Co-opting certain selected Muslims is hardly likely to end the alienation and division (and may even harm their chances of affecting any change in their communities). Typical New Labour use of the bully pit, trusting Government office over building any sort of genuine social movement.

Finally, another example:
This is the strange reality of Niger's hunger crisis. There is plenty of food, but children are dying because their parents cannot afford to buy it.
Not so strange, really, sounds like most other famines. So the great and powerful nations are shifting tonnes of food out there, now, to avert an utterly unnecessary disaster - flexing transportation and food reserve muscle, when what is needed is widespread changes in access to the common wealth. Doing something to seem big and strong, rather than doing the right thing.

Moral of the story, I think, well, you work it out. That's the point.