Thursday, May 24, 2007

Votail Pairti an Lucht Oibre

No, I don't know how to pronounce that, nor if it's grammatically correct.

Anyway, I just didn't want to repeat a header. Election day in Ireland, Britains nearest neighbour (you know, the only country we have a land border with) - it'd be hard to know it, compared with the acres of comment about our other neighbour, France's recent election.

Here's how the Irish Independent is calling it:

Fianna Fail38%
Fine Gael26%
Sinn Fein9%
Progressive Democrats3%

Bearing in mind that at least 1 "Independent" is the CWI member of the Dail, that makes for a left vote of roughly 2% Labour + Sinn Fein) - although Sinn Fein are being given pariah treatment by all other parties. The centre right (Fianna Fail and Fine Gael + PDs) make up 67%, so it's clear that there's not going to be a red revolution in Ireland any time soon.

Labour has been happy, due to the breakdown in teh votes and the rivalry between the two right parties, to enter into coalition with eitehr of them. The fact that Sinn Fein are outcast provides an interesting pioint for discussion, relevent to elft debates over here - indside or outside Labour? In reality, the two party system is a series of coalitions, labour being made up of some Christian Democrats (like Blair), Social democrats (Brown), and Socialists. Inside the coalition, you have influence, but also blame and gult by association. You also have collective discipline which works for the dominant forces. Outside, though, you have long years in the wilderness, and difficulty getting your message across.

Now, Sinn Fein talk like they want a sniff of government, but if they join a coalition they will have to abandon chunks of their programme - maybe by staying out (being kept out) they can become seen as a true opposition, and their vote will grow over the years until they are a major rather than a minor party.

Either way, it's something of a shame the left vote is as split as the right, for all the radicalism of Sinn Fein a Labour group with that sort of clout backed up by the militancy of Irelands unions could get a lot of work done (their nurses have just finished yet another strike).

I think Fianna Fail are canny enough to cling onto power, possibly without Bertie Ahern. The PDs are doomed, the point of interest, then, is will Sinn Fein be let in?

Here endeth the ramble.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Crazy Driver, Crazy Dancer

My home Ken Loach season continued this week with Carla's Song. Not his best, I don't think, but worthy enough.

I was struck, however, by the clear denunciation of the COntra's tactic of blowing up schools and hospitals. It sounded familiar.

Like the Taleban, maybe? Or the Iraqi insurgency? Obviously, maybe they learned from the same fount of knowledge, then again, maybe it's common sense in a strategy of mayhem. Either way, I think as a film it is good for challenging simplistic notions of "Victory to the Resistance" etc. we hear from the likes of Loony.

The commentary was telling. Apparently the scene's in the hospital (after a supposed bus bombing) featured real survivors of the contra war, including amputees, reliving their trauma so that it would be recorded. Nicaragua only has a populatuion of a few million, I wonder how many scarred and wounded people there are after the war in iraq and Afghanistan.

Now, this is in no sense a note of supporting the West's actions in these countries, but drawing attention to a film that problematises easy support for resistance, and questions what we can and should think/do?

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Friday, May 18, 2007

"Hi, I'm Harriet Harman"

She said, as she swooped on the person in the row in front of me - I had a trashy vampire novel to ward of prospective networking deputy leadership candidates, last night at the palatial London Irish Centre. they prowled the room butting into people's conversations and letter everyone know they were there.

We were being husted.

The first I noticed was Hilary Benn, gadzooks he has a loud booming voice - the sort I'd normally associate with puiblic schooling, but he went to his local comp. He did some sort of interview for Channel Four news, earpiece on, staring to camera - I couldn't hear the questions but it sounded a confident combatative performance.

Harman, Hain, Blears and Johnson all had leaflets flying about - as an affectionada of leaflets I have to say I think Hain's was badly deigned - nicely produced but badly designed. Johnson wasn't present himself, having an unmovable prior arrangement.

The hustings themselves were chaired by affable Lancastrian MP Shahid Malik, and were interesting enough. All of the candidates banged the equality drum - Harman and Cruddas almost explicitly mean equality of outcome (Harman claimed you cannot have equality of opportunbity while you have unequal distribution of wealth, which I'd agree with, but is unusual from this Labour government to hear, and I think I saw one or two bemused faces in the crowd).

Cruddas claimed that all the candidates were going to have to support the Fourth Option on council housing - so presumably they've all taken flak over that - plus they all acknowledged that housing is a big issue round here.

Hain was competent, and wants to have a big seat at the cabinet, to give the DL clout. Benn seemed to think much the same way, stating he thought party organisation should be the Chair's job. Blears wanted a full-time campaigning DL, as did Cruddas.

They were all fine speakers, Cruddas was mateyand informal, Benn highly oratorical, eschewing the fine detail of the otehrs' speeches to talk big politics (even using a stunt I've used on the stump often enough of waving a bottle of water around because kids in Africa are dying from the want of the same).

Harman was the surprise for me, she seemed energeic, committed, and may have bumped up a few placed in my estimation.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Brown Zedong

Well, to answer Darren's question, below, I would have voted McDonnell - I can't say I agree with him on everything, but at least he tried and he seems a nice personable gadgee.

But, to the ongoing debate - I got some literature from the Brown campaign through my door last night (who paid for that?). It reads like some of the interminable job applications I have to occasionally go through "I have decided to stand as leader of the Labour Party because I want to make a cotnribution to meeting the challenges ahead. I am capable of working under my own initiative and as a member of a team." OK, so I embellished the quote a little, but you get my drift.

The big question is, what sort of historical illiterates are running his campaign, see this picture here:

Look familiar? Well, it ought to, because it is reminiscent of quite a famous photo indeed:

That's right, brutal, tyranous murderous dictator Mao Zedong making himself seem all cuddly and smiley with lots of happy children, of course, he always secured 90% of the votes of the Chinese communist party as well. Maybe Brown really is a sixties child "If you go copying pictures of Chairman Maooo..."

My thoughts on how I will vote, a little later.

p.s. my initial private ey-ish title for this post was "Gordon Brown in paedophila shocker"...

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Vale Blair

27th June it all ends.

Lets briefly look back. Despite whopping majorities, Blair always realised his grip on power was slender, and was based on distortions of the electoral system. Michael Foot planned the '83 election on the premise that a radical left could win with a fraction of the vote if teh SPD syphoned enouh votes off the Tories. Blair took the opposite view, he pursued a hegemonic strategy - Labour was always going to be a weak government, but persistance would leader to greater changes, eventually.

In the North, Labour has massive percentile margins of victory, with handfuls of votes (the Tories are derisory). In the south, Labour loses seats after taking over twentyb thousands votes - the Tory heartlands held.

Trimming a centrist line, even with overwhelming parliamentary majorities was thus his strategy. Despite that, public spending has increased, the welfare state protected, and the use-value provided by the state extended through the (thoroughly dubious) means of PFI.

As far as the hegemonic strategy goes, it is clear from the persistance of the existence of the awkward squad that they epresent a real phenomena, a measurement of the labour left in the electorate and parliament, a left vote is too weak to sustain a long-term left-wing government.

The question is, has Labour simply accomodated to the centre right electorate or has it shaped the electorate to the left. What's for certain is that the map of the great and the good has be re-written.

The true effects will be seen after Brown - my predictions on that score another time.

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Oral sex cancer death

OK, according to the Beeb it seems performing oral sex can increase the chances of throat cancer - it really does seem that everything fun kills you.

Of course, good Freudians will now highlight the sex/death matrix (i.e. unreproductive non-sex that can kill you) to make oral sex the most desirable act in the universe.

There, I just wanted something to say other than chunter about Blair's handing in his notice, and I thought 'Oral sex cancer death' was a great post title.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism: Organized Capital vs. Organized Labor

Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism: Organized Capital vs. Organized Labor

And quote:
My preference is to get rid of Wagner, and Taft-Hartley, and the right-to-work laws, and the railway and other transport worker labor relations acts, all at once. But as I've said before, if we're simply choosing between forms of statism, I prefer the form of statism that is least onerous to me. If my only choices are between getting a jackboot in my face under the neoliberal version of statism favored by Reagan and Thatcher, and getting smothered with paternalism in the brave new world of social democracy, I'll take the latter any day. Old-style corporate liberalism and new-style neoliberalism represent two wings of organized capital. The corporate liberals are like a kindly farmer who thinks he can get more work out of his livestock in the long run by taking good care of them. The neoliberals, on the other hand, are like a farmer who thinks he'll come out ahead by working his livestock to death and then replacing them. If I'm going to be livestock, I know which farmer I'd prefer to live under.
relevent to recent themes methinks. Young Mr. Carson talks sense once more.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Vote Labour?

Over in ireland, they're having elections this month as well.

Their Labour Party has launched its manifesto today (here).

Now, just a couple of paragraphs:
To be a socialist is to recognise in each of us, the common humanity that binds all of us. The Nobel prize-winning philosopher-economist, Amartya Sen wrote that ‘a common characteristic of virtually all the approaches to the ethics of social arrangements that have stood the test of time is to want equality of something’. To do otherwise, is to place one person on a different level to another – it is to deny our common humanity.

In the Fair Society, the talents and potential of all are equally valued, and society is structured so as to allow for the development of that immense human potential. As Richard Tawney wrote: ‘A society is free in so far and only so far… as its institutions and policies are such as to enable all members to grow to their full stature’. It is the task of government to confront the arbitrary interests and the concentrations of power which hold people back, and through positive measures ensure that all have the opportunity to fulfil their potential – to bridge the gap between our circumstances, and what is within us to become.

Labour is the authentic Irish expression of the great European socialist and social democratic movement. For a century, our movement has worked to improve the lives of hard working families and to protect the vulnerable in our society. Our values of democracy, equality, community and solidarity are unchanging. In common with our sister parties across Europe,we constantly debate and reassess the best means and policies through which our values can be given expression in a rapidly changing world.
Yes, I know, motherhood and apple pie, but quoting great thinkers? Putting flesh on values? Using the S word? Committing to Continuing to enhance the adequacy of social welfare payments? How unlike over here.

I know, the Irish labour Party is reformism warmed up, and they keep (bizarrely) getting into bed with the formerly fascist Fine Gael, but it does show how altering the mood music can make something of a difference. Of course, the main differene is Labour in Ireland are not going to be the main party of government any time soon, they need their coalition.

Update: Just to show I haven't gone totally soft, here's some Rrrrrrevolutionary pictures

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Vote Labour

...well, vote, anyway. If you're in Wales, or Scotland, or in a local authority up for election. Vote. And by that, I mean anything that involves you turning up and being counted. Spoil your ballot (cock alone knows I've advocated and done that for years). Vote for the party of your choice - yes, even the BNP, if you're a viscious fascist I want to know it by you sticking your neck out and voting your colours. I'd rather you weren't a viscious fascist, so stop it, then you won't have to prove you're a fascist coz you won't be. If you see what I eman. But I suspect most of my readers aren't fascists. I hope.

To continue vote - Tory or Lib-Dem (although, Lib-fucking-dems, I mean, come on, what are you thinking? Remember, they sup of the devil's jism). But were I you, in your shoes, able to vote this time round, I'd give it to Labour. Volte face, I know, but hear me out.

Capitalism isn't going away soon. The no matter who you vote for,l the government gets in. Voting shouldn't and can't be about a quid pro-quo gift relationship where you swap your vote for political favours (as Shaw put it, the party that promises to rob Peter to pay Paul can count on the support of Paul). It is about who rules, the inclinations, affiliations and accesses. Governments must make cuts, they don't have a choice, but would you rather have a government for whom cuts are easy, or dificult?

Put another way, the social wage is part of the class struggle, we defend it all we can, and until something comes along to promote democracy and abolish the quckery of government, a vote for Labour is a slight defence against the worst. I've lived under two councils that fell to the Yellow Tories in alliance with the blue, t'ain't pretty. You can stop it.

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