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Indie Rock Politics Song of the Day

Song of the Day (A-Z): Parquet Courts – Violence

Day 22 (V). I was originally going to choose Venus In Furs by The Velvet Underground for today. Event’s in the world have forced me to reevaluate though & it feels correct to choose Violence by Parquet Courts from their 2018 album Wide Awake! Violence is a rallying cry against the Violence inherent in American society. “Violence is daily life”.

In the wake of the murder by Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin of unarmed & handcuffed black man, George Floyd, it seems respectful to acknowledge & pledge resistance to the systematic racism which grips America an always has done.

This post signals solidarity with the people of Minnesota & wishes them well in their uprising. Keep up the pressure, comrades, & watch out for police agent provocateurs in your midst, like Jacob Pederson, the Minneapolis police officer who donned a gasmask & smashed the windows of a branch of AutoZone while carrying an umbrella.

Violence is the fruit of unreached understanding 
That flowers from the lips of scoundrels
It is a forest so dense and rooted in our past
It tempts us to become lost in its darkness
And stinks like the piss test you were forced to take
Just before you were told that you didn’t meet
The standards of integrity that this organization strives to maintain

Why are there no folk songs about ATM machines
That produce the likeness of the blazer of the trail of tears
Issuing overdraft fees from beyond the grave
Prison TV shows in an endless queue
Containing the robust nourishment of a commissary
This is why we cannot afford to close an open casket
You protect no one by obscuring the mirror 
That reflects our own problematic reality
Allow me to ponder the role I play
In this pornographic spectacle of black death
At once a solution and a problem

A cause, an effect, a rejoice, a regret
Violence is daily life
A promise a pact that the world never kept
Violence is daily life

A cause, an effect, a rejoice, a regret
Violence is daily life
A promise a pact that the world never kept
Violence is daily life

Violence is daily life
Violence happens every day
It’s hard to get used to getting used to violence

Savage is my name because Savage is how I feel
When the radio wakes me up with the words “suspected gunman”
My name is a warning for the acts you are about to witness
Which contain images that some viewers may find disturbing
My name belongs to us all
So if they ask for yours give them mine
My name is a threat

Riot is an unfinished grave that was dug to deposit undepleted anger
Like barrels of uranium leaking into something sacred
It is a word to use to delegitimize your unrest
And to make your resistance into an overreaction

The pink tube of paint called flesh
Used in portraits of chairmen of boards and
Men who clean up streets named after those who fought
For erasing the lives they now claim to protect
What is an up and coming neighborhood and where is it coming from?

A cause, an effect, a rejoice, a regret
Violence is daily life
A promise a pact that the world never kept
Violence is daily life

A cause, an effect, a rejoice, a regret
Violence is daily life
A promise a pact that the world never kept
Violence is daily life

What’s wrong with the air you breathe?
The water you drink?
Violence is so omnipresent
So ingrained in your daily reality
You forget to notice it happens everyday

Stuck for something to listen to? Why not wrap your ears around this playlist of my Song of the Day (A-Z) series.

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Politics

Chilean anti-cop techniques for protesters

From here in the UK there isn’t much I can do to help my comrades protesting against police violence in the USA. What I can do however, is share these pics I saved from last winters protests against the right-wing coup in Chile. There are some extremely useful ideas for protestors who will be going up against violent cops over the coming nights.

  1. Grab whatever you can & form a shield wall. When the cops are firing teargas canisters or beanbag rounds at you they should be able to harmlessly deflect the projectiles away from you.
  2. Another ingenious technique that was used to great effect in Chile was the laser pointers which were used to blind drones which were used to monitor protestors movements. They can also be used to blind violent cops & spoil their aim or prevent them from identifying you.
  3. Face coverings are very useful as they both conceal your identity & help against teargas. Bearing in mind that we are still in the midst of the Covid19 pandemic, face coverings are just both common sense & commonplace at the moment. A gas mask is preferable to a face mask but obviously less common. If you have one, wear it.

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Politics

Rare political post to set out some thoughts I’ve been having

image shamelessly “borrowed” from The Guardian

A primer to the cyclical nature of British politics

I’ve often heard it said that American politics is incredibly complicated to British people. Where I don’t know as much about it as I’d like, I believe I have a fairly solid grasp of how it works. Thinking about our own (British) politics however, I see archaic ritual & intentionally obtuse language used to mask the hidden simplicity of our system. I’ve been thinking recently about how our politics seems to follow a cyclical patch & I wanted to get my thoughts down on paper about it. So, this blogpost is my ham-fisted way of attempting to describe the simplicity & the cyclical nature of British politics to one who is bamboozled by its pomp & ceremony. Please note that I am a “loony lefty”, so expect partisanship in the extreme. I make no apology for this & swear by political hero Aneurin Bevan’s 1948 assertation that Tories are “lower than vermin”.

British politics is a two-party system. One party is the Conservatives (or Tories). The Tories represent the interests of the richest in society. We’re talking everyone from aristocrats to hedge fund managers & everyone in between. Basically, anyone higher in the British class system than the upper middle class. The other party is the Labour Party. Birthed by the union movement, their original job was to represent the interests of Labour. The working classes. As they’ve evolved, however, they’ve taken on the unenviable task of attempting to represent the interests of everyone who isn’t represented by the Tories policies. This means everyone from the unemployed through to the fairly wealthy upper middle class (why many contemporary observers scornfully refer to as the ‘metropolitan liberal elite’). This position, as you can imagine, is like balancing spinning plates. There are third parties in the British political system, most notably the Liberal Democrats (or Lib Dems), but their main function, whether intentional or not, is to syphon votes away from the Labour Party.

So, the eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that nothing I’ve said thus far constitutes a cyclical nature (except for the existence of a two-party system). All will become clear. Since we have to start describing the cycle somewhere, let us start it with the beginning of a new Tory government. The Tory government & its policies concentrate on redistributing as much wealth as possible from the hands of the poor into the hands of the rich. A primary engine of this change is the lowering of corporate taxes & the relocation of corporate profit into offshore tax havens. The policies which facilitate these goals are often concerned with underfunding & privatisation of key public services like power supply, healthcare & education. Concurrent to this, sophisticated propaganda campaigns are waged against the Labour Party &  any other convenient scapegoat. Why blame the governments pro-billionaire policies for your poverty when you can blame immigrants instead? This propaganda campaign is waged with the help of the class whose interests they represent: the extremely wealthy. We’re talking about billionaire media moguls like Rupert Murdoch, the Barclay brothers & others. The campaign in turn is aided by the intentional erosion community values & political literacy.

This goes on for a while, usually for two or three terms, until the extent of the Tory crimes becomes so large that the propaganda in the media is unable to excuse or mask them. The people, understandably, flock to the Labour Party at the following election & vote them in in a landslide. The Labour government then has to spend all of its time & resources repairing & making up for the economic damage that the Tories have inflicted while in government. Meanwhile, as we’re seeing real improvements to our way of life & the stability of our economy, the Tories have begun their campaign of propaganda & misinformation again. With the aid of the same billionaire media moguls whose interests they represent. From this point on the Labour Party’s public perception is eroded even as they are doing quantifiable good. Interestingly, even more right-wing leaning Labour prime ministers, like Tony Blair, oversaw stable economic activity & greater public funding than even the most liberal Tory equivalents. After a while the Tories are able to turn the public back against the Labour Party, despite the fact that their lives have been better during the Labour government.

The most recent time that this has happened, the Tories were only able to scrape together a coalition government with the help of the Lib Dems who, despite their protestations to the contrary during the leadup to the 2010 election, capitulated to the Tories on absolutely everything. This included their flagship policy of preventing a rise in tuition fees. The Lib Dems voted through the Tories rise in tuition fees & then bragged how they’d managed to secure a 5 pence charge on single use plastic bags. This ineffective policy, which the Lib Dems deemed worth sacrificing their tuition fees promises for, actually oversaw a rise in the use of single use plastic bags.

At the time of writing, the Tories are at the beginning of their third term. They have been in power for a decade & have overseen deregulation of worker’s rights, chronic defunding of public services (like the NHS & Police force), the Brexit debacle, 130,000+ deaths as a result of benefit “reforms” & a woefully inadequate response to the Coronavirus pandemic. This response to the pandemic, in an ordinary world, would be the final nail in the coffin for the Tories. After an initial reluctance to react to the threat due to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s egotistical self-image as  a “Superman of Capitalism” & chronic misunderstanding of the scientific term, “Herd Immunity”, the United Kingdom has seen the highest number of deaths in Europe with 37,837 at time of writing (though many contest this figure due to irregularities in reporting & claim the real number is likely to be between 50,000 & 60,000 as a conservative estimate) & the highest number of deaths, per capita, in the entire world.

This appears to be the point of the cycle where the propaganda machine can no longer mask or downplay the Tories crimes. Trust in the Prime Minister is dropping on a daily basis & record numbers of people are incandescently furious with him over his handling of the latest scandal to hit his government: the breaking of lockdown rules by senior advisor Dominic Cummings, who helped draft & design those rules in the first place. The governments reaction to this insulting treatment of the voters ranges from Boris Johnson preventing scientific advisors from answering questions about it on live TV to Matt Hancock laughing hysterically about it on live TV. I’m expecting a Labour landslide at the 2024 general election, though it is by no means guaranteed after a decade & a half of eroded political literacy & propaganda. We would be foolish to rest on our laurels.

As a kind of footnote, some of what I say above may suggest a fondness for Tony Blair that I don’t actually feel. Blair was terrible Prime Minister who led us into an illegal & pointless war which saw huge numbers of people lose their lives. This makes him among the worst of Labour Prime Ministers but, in my opinion, he still stands head and shoulder above every Tory Prime Minister.

If you’ve made it this far, I thank you & I’d definitely be interested in hearing any thoughts about this. I welcome genuine debate but will not respond to insults, false equivalences, strawmen, whatabouterry, sealioning or bad faith arguments.

Justice before peace

Solidarity

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History Politics

Happy Birthday Malcolm X & Ho Chi Minh

Showing solidarity with Malcolm X on his 95th birthday & Ho Chi Minh on his 130th.

A little while ago I made this Glitch art portrait of Uncle Ho.

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Uncle Ho

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And today, this one of Malcolm X

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Happy Birthday Malcolm X

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“If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress. Even if you pull it all the way out, that’s not progress.

Progress is healing the wound that the blow made. And they haven’t even pulled the knife out much less healed the wound. They won’t even admit the knife is there.”

Malcolm X

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Politics Videogames

Tonight We Riot

I haven’t played enough of the new game, Tonight We Riot, by Pixel Pusher Union 512 to review it or say much about it. What I can say is that it is a pixelated side scrolling brawler where your character leads a gang of workers through armies of riot police. Utilising such tools as bricks, molotov cocktails & work tools (ie. wrench as a melee weapon), the aim is to liberate as many workers from capitalist oppression as possible while keeping as many of them alive as possible. It is a game which is unashamedly and openly left wing and is a welcome antidote to the neoliberal, imperial fantasies that most modern games are.

To get an idea, here are screenshots from the opening cutscene/slideshow:

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History Politics Visual

VE Day, 75th anniversary

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the defeat, by the allied powers (British Empire & commonwealth, USA, USSR & many partisan resistance forces) of the fascist regimes in Italy Germany. After years of sacrifice and hardship by predominantly working class men, the forces of European fascism were finally defeated. I celebrate this day with a visual post showing some of the celebrations carried out by soldiers and civilians alike.
We must never forget the sacrifice made to combat far right extremism, and going forward, in respect of those who sacrificed everything, we must destroy far right extremism wherever it raises it’s ugly, intolerant head.

Solidarity.

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History Literature Politics

Contemporarily relevant dialogue by Chernyshevsky

“Your books say that we’re not supposed to live like this. Don’t you think I know that, Verochka? But in those books of yours it says that in order not to live like this, everything has to be organized differently; now, no one can live any other way. So why don’t they hurry up and set up a new order? Hey, Verochka, do you think I don’t know anything about those new systems described in your books? I know they’re good ones. Only you and I won’t live to see them! People are really stupid—how can you set up a new system with the likes of them? So let’s keep on living in the old order. That includes you! What sort of a system is it? Your books say that the old order is one of filching and fleecing. That’s true, Verochka. So if there’s no new order, let’s live by the old: filch and fleece. I’m telling you all this because I love you, becau . . . zzzz.”

Nikolai Chernyshevsky, What Is To Be Done?

Let us remember though, with the looming environmental collapse, we are on a deadline. If we don’t introduce new systems and ways of doing things soon, it will be too late. We are literally on a deadline here. Planet Earth cannot sustain capitalist models of society any longer, that is the only certainty we have now.

Let us “filch and fleece” no more. A kinder gentler world is not only possible. It is imperative.

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History Music Politics

International Workers Day

To mark International Workers Day, my partner and I participated in a Zoom meeting with members of Unite the Union, the wider labour movement and people linked to the Miners Strike of 1984. To mark this day on this blog, I am sharing some of my favourite activist songs by Billy Bragg and some quotes from revolutionary leaders like VI Lenin and Ho Chi Minh regarding international solidarity.

misleading press image of anarchist protesters throwing a bomb at police, Chicago, May 1886

There are many things going on globally to mark International Workers Day. In the US, for example, I am aware of Mass Rent Strikes (the 1st of the month being rent day) and strikes at various US companies including Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Target, Amazon, Instacart, WalMart, Shipt and FedEx.

US labor movement (https://www.rlmartstudio.com)

The best way you can honour the many sacrifices of the international labour movement is by joining a union. It’s your best defence against unscrupulous employers, and in this age of rampant free market capitalism there is no shortage of those. And the defence that a union can offer you becomes more powerful as it gets bigger.

UK pro union poster

In the UK and the US, neoliberal free market zealots like Thatcher and Reagan have brainwashed many into thinking that the the unions had become too powerful before they came along. To believe that unions can become too powerful is to fundamentally misunderstand what a union is and what it is for.

Solidarity in the workplace. Educate! Agitate! Organise!

In the history of modern socialism this is a phenomenon, that the strife of the various trends within the socialist movement has from national become international.

Lenin, What Is To Be Done?, “Dogmatism And ‘Freedom of Criticism’” (1901)

All the martyrs of the working class, those in Lausanne like those in Paris, those in Le Havre like those in Martinique, are victims of the same murderer: international capitalism. And it is always in belief in the liberation of their oppressed brothers, without discrimination as to race or country, that the souls of these martyrs will find supreme consolation.

Ho Chi Minh, Le Paria, August 17, 1923
Billy Bragg playing There Is Power In A Union during the “Clap for the NHS & Key Workers”, 30th April 2020

If you are interested, here are some links to further reading about International Workers Day:

International Workers Day Wikipedia page

IWW archive

Solidarity Comrades.

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History Politics

Festa della liberazione

Today, 25th April, is Liberation day in Italy. This annual celebration marks the liberation of Italy from the forces of Mussolini’s Fascists and Hitler’s Nazis.

Following from Wikipedia Liberation Day (Italy) (click any links in this blog post for interesting reading):

The date was chosen by convention, as it was the day of the year 1945 when the National Liberation Committee of Upper Italy (CLNAI) officially proclaimed the insurgency in a radio announcement, propounding the seizure of power by the CLNAI and proclaiming the death sentence for all fascist leaders (including Benito Mussolini, who was shot three days later.

By 1 May, all of northern Italy was liberated, including Bologna (21 April), Genoa (23 April), Milan (25 April), Turin [2] and Venice (28 April). The liberation put an end to twenty-three years of fascist dictatorship and five years of war. It symbolically represents the beginning of the historical journey which led to the referendum of 2 June 1946, when Italians opted for the end of the monarchy and the creation of the Italian Republic, which was followed by the adoption of the Constitution of the Republic in 1948.

Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci. Artwork (surprisingly) by comic actor Jim Carrey
Monument to fallen partisans, Bologna
Italian communist party Liberation Day poster

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Literature Politics

Chernyshevsky, What Is to Be Done? – Bureaucratic bungling

The extraordinary circumstances surrounding the publication (and circumvention of censorship) of a landmark in 19th century subversive Russian literature.

In late 1862 Chernyshevsky asked the prison commandant for permission to begin work on a novel. His request granted, he set to work and produced the entire novel within four months, between December 14, 1862, and April 4, 1863. The first part of the manuscript was then submitted to the prison censor, who, whether carelessly or for devious purposes, passed it and forwarded the manuscript to the censor of the journal Sovremennik. Passed again, the novel was sent to the journal’s editor, Nekrasov, who promptly lost it in a cab. He managed to recover the manuscript only after advertising in the official gazette of the St. Petersburg police. With what is perhaps the greatest irony of Russian letters, the novel that the police helped to retrieve turned out to be the most subversive and revolutionary work of nineteenth-century Russian literature. Its publication has aptly been called “the most spectacular example of bureaucratic bungling in the cultural realm during the reign of Alexander II.”

Chernyshevsky, What Is to Be Done? and the Russian Intelligentsia,
Michael R. Katz and William G. Wagner

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