Merle Haggard: Jesus Christ
Hat tip Emma.
It is today the anniversary of the Portuguese carnation revolution.
Like all radical endeavours in history the upsurge was a joyful affair, at least to start with. An immensely popular song, after April 25th, was entitled Gaibota (the seagull). Poster wit, although perhaps never achieving the insights of May 1968 in France, nevertheless developed into a telling instrument of social critique. The anarchists ensured that it was used as often against the ‘left’ as against more obvious targets. With the joy went a very Portuguese toughness.
The Fado persisted,not as an embodiement of despair and resignation (as claimed by the superficial sociologists ) but as a down-to-earth and uncompromising statement of the life of the poor. I recall a letter Phil once wrote me. He was entering the Alentejo : “The tiny hills begin to roll across the flat countryside. Crouched eucalyptus trees hide in the barren dales. Here is a land of tradition, of rich struggles against elements and of wine, olives and music, of landowners alike, a land of everyday survival, difficult to penetrate except by those who care for it. It is as if the stunted growth of the trees said all that needed to be said about hardship, abandonment, work – about the constant fight against a poor and unyielding soil on which lived giant women and monstrous men. But however ungrateful the land, the spirit was never crippled…”.
Although not songs of revolt the fados testify to this indestructibility of the oppressed, to this deep unity of man and nature. Romany roots endow some songs with a fierce pride, with a scorn for what ‘the bourgeois’ will think or say, enabling them boldly to deal with such themes as women’s right to sexual pleasure. No sentimentality, no soothing syrup. Love may mean pain, but is worth it. No neurotic trendiness. Just things as they are.Is not this the raw material of which revolution will be made?
Here is A gaviota, also known as Somos livres, We are free.
Some great anarchist humour at Twitter’s #anarchistfacts. Here are some:
Anarchists have an antistate instead of a prostate gland.
Kropotkin, was the anarchist formerly known as Prince.
anarchists only use lower case type as they are opposed to capitalism
In 1973, a meeting organised by an anarchist group in a terraced house in didsbury was attended by an incredible 7 people.
The SWP knows more about anarchists than anarchists know about themselves.
If you don’t get why anarchists prefer herbal tea then you’re probably not an anarchist.
The anarchist/Marxist split began when Bakunin claimed to Marx he had a better beard. (more…)
First, a couple of quick links: Gene on the German radicals in nineteenth century America who helped liberate the slaves. Review of a new edition of Vasily Grossman writings.
From the archive of struggle
*POUM: The General Policy of the Workers Party of Marxist Unification, 3 September 1936
*Raya Dunayevskaya: New Turn To The “Popular Front” ; International Women’s Day and Iran [1979/80]
*Paul Mattick: La gestion ouvrière/La gestión obrera 
*Victor Serge: The Old Man [SV] [ 1942]
*The Communist Party of France during the Resistance Archive: Join the Party of the Executed!, 25 August 1944
*The Workers World newspaper. The complete 1919 run of this Left-Wing Socialist pre-Communist Party journal had 35 issues, all of which have been digitized into PDF format by the Riazanov Library for placement on the MIA. Variously edited by both Earl Browder and James P. Cannon, The Workers World, published out of Kansas City, was one of the many left wing SP periodicals inspired by and firmly supporting the Russian Revolution, and (like many other such left wing SP periodicals) ended as those involved in it left the SP to organize the new Communist Party of America and Communist Labor Party, and develop new periodicals for those organizations.
*Natalia Sedova: 1940 – Bagaimana itu Terjadi [How it Happened, Indonesian]
Anarchist documents on Poland, 1980-82:
*Poland on the Edge: Revolution or reform? by Various Authors (Fifth Estate, December 31, 1980)
*Poland: Triumphs and Defeats (Fifth Estate, Vol. 15, No. 2, (Whole number 303), October 20, 1980)
*Two articles on Poland by Various Authors (Howard Besser and Terry Downs: Gdansk: an eye-witness account/The betrayal begins, Freedom, London, vol. 41 no. 18, September 13, 1980)
*It’s Us They’re Shooting In Warsaw / Under the Polish Volcano (December, 1981) (London, June 1982)
*El Salvador and Poland: Two Paths to Revolution (Strike! August/September 1981, page 11)
*Poland: Communique of the Emmanuel Goldstein Group (Warszawa, 16 June, 1983)
*The Summer Strikes in Poland, 1980 (Echanges et Mouvement, Number 23, November, 1980)
*Poland, 1982 (Collective Inventions, 1982)
*Address to the Proletarians of Poland by The Scoffer (1980, The Scoffer/Le Frondeur, France)
*Poland 1980: Won’t Get Fooled Again / Meet the New Boss by Joey Stalin (North American Anarchist, October-November, 1980)
*Who are the Workers in Polish Solidarity and what do they want? by Andrzej Tymowski (Commonwork Pamphlets, 1982)
*Poland: Return of the Anarchists by Brian Amesly (Strike!, February 25, 1983)
Unsung heroes of struggle:
*John Alan/Allen Willis: Marxist-humanist and fighter for black freedom (1916-2011)
*Vicki Scarlett; librarian, socialist, feminist, yoga teacher and campaigner for social justice (1934-2011)
*John Watson: soldier and decent man
*Ann Blair: tenant activist
*Alice Beer: Quaker, potter, poet
*Peter Owen: trade unionist
Paul Robeson: Go Down Moses
Ofra Haza: Chad Gadya
Yehoram Gaon: ‘Un Kavretiko [Canción Sefaradí-Sephardic song]
Two interesting uses for Twitter and Blogging.
Seventy five years on, the people behind the Orwell Prize website have been reposting daily extracts from George Orwell’s The Road To Wigan Pier. The format seems to suit Orwell perfectly, and to take one example – his description of Rudyard Lake in Staffordshire, is evocative to anyone who has every visited a sight out of season.
A second use of this method comes from Alex Butterworth, who is tweeting a daily update of events at the Paris Commune, reproducing the voices of the participants – shame we know how it ended!
And a third to mark 200 years on from the days when the Luddites rioted across the north and the midlands – even would you believe, in Wilmslow!
Of course, the New Statesman has form. Back in the 1930′s it refused to publish George Orwell’s writings on the Spanish Civil War for fear of offending the Comintern and their local agents. Orwell never forgave the then-editor Kingsley Martin, a supple-spined “left” power-worshipper who seems to have uncannily prefigured both Peter Wilby (editor 1998-2005) and the present incumbent Jason Cowley.
The final straw, for me, came last week with an edition edited by upper class “wadical” Jemima Kahn, largely devoted to promoting the preening anti-semitic loon Julian Assange and other posh friends and relatives like her Tory brother Zac Goldsmith and her ex-hubby Hugh Grant. The high-spot of the issue is Jemima’s own interview with her friend Nick Clegg , who wails, “I’m not a punchbag: I have feelings.”
On the left there is a hero gap. Che is dead, Castro too old, Ortega is compromised, and Chavez is a bit of a buffoon. Enter Assange to fill the space. His appearance adds to the mystique. He is pale, and looks slightly alien and that along with his giant computer-like brain gives him the air of someone from a science fiction world, some sister planet of Vulcan where they have not evolved pointed ears. He came as the man of mystery and enigma.
Earnest Trotskyists: Lenin and James Connolly on the Dublin labour war of 1913. Peter Taaffe on Eric Hobsbawm. SOYMB on Chris Bambery. (OYMB not the earnest Trots – Bambery is!)
Alternative socialist traditions: Andrew Coates on GDH Cole, guild socialism and Blue Labour, and via him an interesting Guild Socialism blog, with posts on Karl Marlo and loads more.
Towards a theory of radical history: Dave Osler on generations, and the 2010 generation of radicals.
Unrelated: Dali and the Jews.
At Cafe Turco last week, a beautiful post. Some extracts more relevant to our topics here:
This week two historical dates were commemorated in Sarajevo: the day of the liberation of the city in the Second World War and the beginning of the siege of Sarajevo, in 1992.[…]
The commemoration of both wars was simultaneous not only because of the coincidence of dates, but also because of the coincidence of places: both the memorial park of Vraca and the Jewish Cemetery were used as launching pads from which the Serb forces targeted the city. The connection between both wars is also made through the invocation of anti-fascism. Such approach, while establishing a connection between both wars, also allows to identify the nature of the recent war as a new episode of the confrontation between fascism and anti-fascism, and thus ‘de-ethnicise it’. But such connection is far from being consensual, and reflects the ideological divide existent in Bosnian society. Not everyone views the communist regime only through the perspective of an heroic anti-fascist struggle. Thus not everyone who went to the Mezarija in Kovaci went also to the Vijecna Vatra, and only people affiliated with SDP, the social democratic party, went to Tito and Valter’s statues.[…] (more…)
Peret y Muchachito: Chavi
From Soul Sides:
In my last post on rumba catalan, I mentioned this excellent comp, Achilifunk which is now in its second volume. I was reminded of this via an email, touting a new set of remixes of rumba catalan tracks by Txarly Brown. Well worth a listen!
It was also a reminder to get back to writing about a pair of songs I discovered from the first volume by one of the kings of rumba catalan, guitarist and singer Pere Pubill Calaf, better known as Peret. These two tracks do an exemplary job of capturing the various music heritages flowing through the style; “Si Fulano,” especially has a grand, lively feel to it. Meanwhile, “Chavi” has a lovely, smoky funk groove that grabs the ear from jump. Both songs can also be found on what looks like an American-manufactured comp of Peret tracks from the late ’60s through early ’70s.
This is the fifth in my series on Catalan music, the fourth being on Pau Casals.
However, the problem I still have is that if you argue that workers intervnetion is alright up to a point, but given our weaknesses at the moment, there is a limit to what they can achieve, you still end up with the “Something Must Be Done” argument. The point is that sometimes doing nothing other than what you can do, which might simply be saying what should be done if workers had the power to do it, is better than doing something, which is a lesser evil.
For example, a while ago, I wrote some blogs about the AWL’s position taken from Albert Glotzer about the establishment of the state of Israel. Glotzer & Immigration, Glotzer & The Jews As Special, and Glotzer, anti-Semitism and the degenerated workers state. Glotzer argued that the socialist position argued up to that time that nationalist struggles were reactionary and divisive of the working class could no longer hold for the Jews after the Holocaust. Jews could not wait for the working-class to come together and resolve the problem. Only the Zionist idea of creeating a separate Jewish State could address the immediate concerns of Jews. Something had to be done. It was a moral not a Marxist argument. (more…)
So it was that in the spring of 1939 I came to Prades. I could not have imagined at the time that I would spend the next seventeen years of my life in this little town in the Pyrenees. And in spite of the sorrow in me, I found respite in my surroundings. With its winding cobbled strees and whitewashed houses with red tiled roofs – and the acacia trees that were then in bloom – Prades might have been one of the Catalan villages I had known since childhood. The countryside seemed no less familiar to me. The lovely patterns of orchards an vineyards, the wild and craggy mountains with ancient Roman fortresses and monasteries clinging to their sides – these too were a replica of parts of my homeland. Indeed, centuries before, this very region had been part of the nation of Catalonia – from Joys and Sorrows by Pablo Casals, via On An Overgrown Path
Granados: Spanish Dance (played by Pablo Casals, c.1916-20)
For Granados, a Catalan composer of the late 19th century, see here.
Max Bruch: Kol Nidrei (played by Pablo Casals, 1923)
Pablo Casals: El Cant dels Ocell
This version of his classic Catalan melody was recorded in Puerto Rico in 1956.
Pablo Casals: El Cant dels Ocell
This version is from 1958’s Windjammer.
Victoria de los Ángeles: El Cant dels Ocell
A singer from Barcelona, who died in 2005.
Photo from my current favourite blog, Bertram Online.
An individual, a group, a party, or a class that “objectively” picks its nose while it watches men drunk with blood massacring defenceless people is condemned by history to rot and become worm-eaten while it is still alive. – Leon Trotsky The Balkan Wars 1912-1913 (Sydney: Pathfinder Press, 1980), pp.292-293.
More surprisingly, Gilbert Achcar agrees with Matgamna. Jim writes:
Barry Finger comments on Achcar and “anti-imperialism”, here.
The Orwell Prize
I have no doubt George Orwell would have taken the same line as Matgamna and Achcar. I have little doubt he would not have been pleased with many of the recent Orwell Prize for blogging long listees. I suspect he would agree with HarpyMarx‘s assessment that “Orwell Prize blogger longlist, with 1 or 2 exceptions, is just full of media privileged luvvies or journos who should b in journo section!”
I think Orwell would not have been upset about Sunder Katwaler‘s or Cath Elliot’s longlistings (he would have liked Katwala on cricket I think, and taken up cudgels for Cath against the Morning Star). He would have been pleased about David Osler’s (second?) longlisting.
Getting myself longlisted yet again for the Orwell Prize (and good luck to all the real bloggers who don’t have a mainstream media pension, salary and self-censorship training to fall back on)… made me ask: what single bit of Orwell’s writing I would recommend to somebody starting a blog, or studying journalism?
Actually it’s Inside The Whale, where Orwell takes apart the literary industry of the late 1930s, concluding that of 5,000 novels published, 4,999 were “tripe”. He does this sandwiched between two lengthy eulogies to a book that, at the time of writing, was banned – and banned in the 1930s meant impounded at Dover and burned, to be found only in the secret cupboards of anarchists and wierdos.
The book in question is Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller – a strange choice of book to praise for a man who’d just come back from the Spanish Civil War and who, with the Dunkirk fiasco, believed Britain was entering a “revolutionary period”.
Musing on this very point, Orwell concluded that Miller had probably founded a new school of writing with this one book, and its successor Black Spring:
“In Miller’s case it is not so much a question of exploring the mechanisms of the mind as of owning up to everyday facts and everyday emotions. For the truth is that many ordinary people, perhaps an actual majority, do speak and behave in just the way that is recorded here. […]
Orwell sensed that at some point people would start writing about ordinary life in ordinary language, dramatising the ordinary, peeling back layer upon layer of literary finesse, pretension, writing-school prose, irony etc.
The blog is the logical outcome.
And like the novels of 1940, the vast majority of blogs are mediocre, “tripe” as Orwell might have said. But they are mostly attempts at honesty – whether literary or non-fictional.
I give you two excerpts, both from fellow longlisters, writing about the same recent event: (more…)