Keep calm, occupy, and have a pint

Let’s start with two snippets from the mainstream media. This morning on Radio 4, DJ Tayler, Orwell biographer, was talking about the Orwellian quest for the perfect pub. You can listen in some parts of the world here, or read about it here.

A roaring open fire. The bartender knows your name. Your pint of draught stout comes in a china cup. Did George Orwell have the recipe for the perfect pub?

Who knows who you might bump into in the perfect pub

… In an article written for the London Evening Standard in 1946, he produced a detailed description of his ideal watering-hole, The Moon Under Water, which “is only two minutes from a bus stop, but it is on a side-street, and drunks and rowdies never seem to find their way there, even on Saturday nights”.

The Guardian has a nice photo gallery of posters from the Occupy movement, with an emphasis on the retro look. Here’s one:

Turning to the alternative, Entdinglichung has a round-up of the latest in German on the Marxist Internet Archive, as part of the on-going project of bringing socialistica to the masses.

He also introduces to a great archival website called Workerscontrol.net, which “aims to be a virtual open library for the collection and access to documentation and theoretical essays on past and current experiences of workers’ control”. Material in a few languages by Cornelius CastoriadisKen Coates & Tony TophamAntonio GramsciKarl KorschRosa LuxemburgErnest MandelPaul MattickAnton PannekoekOtto Rühle, and Leon Trotsky, as well as stuff like “The Universe of Worker-Recovered Companies in Argentina (2002-2008): Continuity and Changes Inside the Movement” and “The South London Women’s Hospital Occupation 1984-85“. Check it out.

But my favourite is this post of old papers, as it has a nice greeting to me, as well as nice newspaper images: (more…)

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al-Poum

GeorgeOrwell

Image via Wikipedia

Following on from Mikey’s post here about socialist commandments, here are a couple with titles inspired by socialist hymns: Arise ye workers from your slumbers (about the SWP front, the Right to Work campaign – even the name should be anathema to real communists) and On tyrants only we’ll make war! (about the Stop the War left’s hypocrisy about tyrants).

Talking of tyrants, David Osler has a very good piece on whether clerical fascists can turn social democrats (thinking of the Muslim Brotherhood), which cites an excellent piece on the Middle East from Tony Cliff in 1946, which I think I recently linked to.

And talking of Cliff’s International Socialists, I didn’t know Lord Macdonald of Tradeston was an ex-member, until reading this piece by comrade Osler, whose title references one of my favourite Lenin paraphrase. Unrelated, here’s comrade Osler on Japanese Maoism.

In the most surprising places… Tess Lewis in the Wall Street Journal on Victor Serge. Opening para:

‘No poison is more deadly than power!” The Russian anarchists’ slogan is the perfect motto for the life of the writer and revolutionary Victor Serge (1890- 1947). A life-long man of the radical left, he saw almost all his friends, heroes and enemies destroyed by the poison of Soviet communism and spent his life exposing the psychosis of absolute power. Yet even in his darkest hour—isolated and destitute in Mexico City in 1943, surviving on donations from friends, unable to get his writing published in more than a few small journals, his wife driven insane by the persecution of the Soviet secret police—Serge never lost his faith in the ideals of socialism

DJ Taylor on Mubarak and the Neds, citing George Orwell:

Monitoring last week’s news from Tahrir Square, it was impossible not to be reminded of an essay George Orwell published in an obscure monthly magazine called The Adelphi shortly before the start of the Second World War.

The piece seldom gets reprinted these days, doubtless due to its somewhat bracing title: Not Counting Niggers. In it, Orwell makes the, by now unexceptionable, point that in a prosperous country left-wing politics is always partly humbug, because a thorough-going reconstruction of society would lead to a drop in living standards, which no politician of any party is ever prepared to countenance. He also points out – this was in 1939 when the Empire’s working-class population included several hundred million Indian labourers – that Britain’s standard of living was linked to the exploitation of people earning a few pence a day and dying before they were 40.

Fast-forward 72 years and a very similar piece of moral sleight-of-hand applies to our relationship with the autocracies of the Middle East.

A new blog to me: Work Resumed on the Tower, “a blog focused [on] popular culture, literature, and politics from a radical, anti-capitalist perspective.” I very much recommend a recent post: In Defense of (a slightly more modest) Marxism.

Taming the Trots: Anarchism’s Sisyphean Task: Rachel at Northern Voices on a misery of sharing the left with the likes of Linda Taafe.

A note on the post-Gerry Healey Workers Revolutionary Party, from Marko Attila Hoare, with which I thoroughly concur, having been close to this faction at that time and being almost exactly the same age as Marko:

The members of the WRP (‘Workers Press’) with whom I collaborated in Workers Aid were among the bravest, most principled and most committed fighters for social justice and political liberation that I have ever met. When the Bosnian genocide was at its height and when much of the rest of the Western left was either sitting on the sidelines or actively sympathising with the perpetrators, these people built the Workers Aid movement to bring aid to, and show solidarity with, the people of the Bosnian city of Tuzla. This was an industrial city with a proud left-wing and working-class history, whose own miners had supported the British miners’ strike in the 1980s and whose citizens maintained a social democratic administration in power throughout the Bosnian war. Members of the WRP/WP and other supporters of Workers Aid – sometimes risking their own lives as they guided their convoy of rickety lorries along the broken roads of a country at war and through sniper zones – built a movement of solidarity between British and European trade unionists and Bosnian trade unionists that defied the ethnic cleansers and their Western backers.

That is the WRP with which I worked in the 1990s, and to whose newspaper I contributed. Although I have since mostly lost touch with them, I remember with particular respect and fondness Bob Myers, Dot Gibson, Charlie Pottins, Bronwen Handyside, Cliff Slaughter, the late Geoff Pilling and others, some of whose names I don’t recall. It was an honour to have worked with them and to have contributed to their newspaper, and though I suspect they might not approve of my subsequent political evolution, I would do so again. So no, I don’t find my past association with them ‘embarrassing’ (I have advertised my former involvement with Workers Aid in the ‘About’ section of my blog since the day it was launched); they represented what was best in the British left. For someone like Daniel Davies, whose sole political activity seems to consist of running a blog devoted to smearing and rubbishing other left-wingers, the same cannot be said.

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DJ Taylor’s Orwell

DJ Taylor’s book Orwell: The Life won some prizes in 2004 but somehow passed me by, but has started cropping up in lots of places recently. Here’s an extract.  It entered my consciousness when I read “Another Piece of the Puzzle”, by DJ Taylor for my post on Eileen O’Shaughnessy. Then again when I read Taylor’s Orwellian take on the UK elections. It cropped up in this thoughtful post about how one is formed intellectually. And I came across his review of Peter Davison’s Orwell: A Life in Letters (via Ondalieve). Actually, he seems to have reviewed that twice for the Times but both reviews are worth reading.

What book changed your life? Orwell’s essays. It was Orwell’s voice that got me; it was like he was saying, “I wrote this for you.”

What is your daily writing routne? I take my children to the bus stop, walk the dog, eat breakfast and then I’m at my desk for 9.15am. I usually work all morning.

Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with? Christopher Hitchens. It would be jolly nice to have a full 20 minutes of “the Hitch” in full flow.

Can you remember the first novel you read? Orwell’s A Clergyman’s Daughter. I was 12 or 13 years old.

And this is from a review of his new novel:

Taylor’s London has echoes of early Orwell, as well as the Priestley of Angel Pavement. He creates a wonderfully convincing world of cheap cigarettes, desperate respectability, casual anti-Semitism and dreary bedsitters.

It is a feature of Taylor’s journalism, in fact, that he mentions Orwell in more or less everything he writes. But that’s not a bad thing. On the late Alan Sillitoe: (more…)

Published in: on May 26, 2010 at 4:27 pm  Comments (1)  
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