Tory with a wilted rose

You won’t be surprised to learn that I am supporting Jeremy Corbyn as the next leader of the Labour Party.

He’s not really a “hard-left extremist”, despite what the media tells you. He is an old fashioned Social Democrat, like the Labour government of 1945, which brought us the National Health Service, or like current governments in the Scandinavian countries, which have some of the highest standards of living in the world.

The only reason he can be portrayed as an extremist is that politics have moved so far to the right in the last thirty years that what is now considered the centre ground was once the exclusive preserve of the right wing of the Tory Party.

Thatcherism is the new orthodoxy.

So Tony Blair is on the rampage, telling us to reject what he calls “Alice in Wonderland politics”.

This from the man who told us that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction which could be deployed within 45 minutes.

Blair did a deal with the oil lobby and the Murdoch press, took us into an illegal war which killed more than a million Iraqis and set off the chain of events which led directly to ISIS. And he thinks we should listen to his sage advice?

Corbyn has said that Blair could stand trial for war crimes. Perhaps this might explain the ex-leader’s urgent need to intervene in the debate.

Tony Blair became mysteriously wealthy after leaving office, which illustrates something else about the hysteria surrounding Corbyn’s candidacy.

The word “Capitalism” literally means rule by those with Capital.

Rule by the very rich.

Corbyn’s policies are a bid to return us to the post-war mixed economy which saw unprecedented levels of wealth for the majority of people in this country, and a relative decline in the influence of the financial elites.

Thatcher’s policies were designed to reverse that trend.

Not satisfied with having lots of money, the Capitalists want ALL of the money.

Austerity is their means of achieving this.

A Labour Party committed to cuts in public expenditure is not really a Labour Party at all.

It is just another Tory Party, handing us a wilted rose.

Posted in economics, politics, protest | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dear Mr Mailman

A letter came through the post this morning. I don’t know who it was from. It was addressed to “Mr Mailman”, with a heart in place of the dot above the i, and a picture of a sleeping cat, with a toy dinosaur on its back.

Here is the picture:

scan0007

It looks like the cat is dreaming about being a dinosaur and letting out that wild electric roar like forked lightning to frighten away its enemies.

The envelope was green with circles and star shapes, and a big hand drawn star in the middle, which is where my address was written.

Here is the letter.

scan0006

I think it is honestly the best letter I have ever received from anybody. It might be the best letter written to a postal worker by anyone anywhere. It was me who received it, but I think it is for all postal workers everywhere on the planet.

So remember this postal workers – or mail men and women, or posties, or whatever you call yourself in your part of the world: You are AMAZING. AMAZING!

Evie. R. Body says so.

Posted in Royal Mail, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Who’s really profiting from post office’s loss?

scan0005

I was on the telly last week. It was in episode 3 of the BBC2 series, Signed, Sealed and Delivered: Inside the Post Office, about the occupation of our Crown Post Office on the day the building closed down for redevelopment. A copy exists on YouTube if you want to watch it.

I’m a bit-part player, that’s all. You see me carrying a bucket and then explaining what it will be used for.

The programme also features Hugh Lanning, James Flanagan, and Brian Hitcham; plus the talented Justin Mitchell, playing a moving rendition of the Last Post on his bugle, the lovely Cherry Walker with her hand made sign, and the irrepressible Julie Wassmer doing what she does so well, namely being clever and colourful in front of a camera.

Julie gets a lot of stick from some quarters for being so energetically involved in the protest scene. People call her a self-promoter, but I know from having worked with her, that she is just very adept at manipulating the media and bringing much needed attention to the cause.

In this case the cause is the downgrading of our Crown Post Office service to a franchise in a shop.

Roger Gale, the general manager of the Crown Network, has this to say: “The Post Office holds a place in people’s hearts…. but we have to modernise, we have to change, and we can no longer be a burden on the tax-payer.”

That gave only part of the story.

The real reason that the Post Office has become a “burden to the taxpayer” is that it has been forcibly separated from its historic partner, the very profitable Royal Mail, by that company’s recent sale to the private sector.

As always, it’s a case of privatisation of profit, socialisation of costs. The profit goes to wealthy investors, while the public bears the burden of loss.

Meanwhile, the government continues to support big business through subsidies to the private sector to the tune of £93 billion a year.

In other words, the government is perfectly happy to allow the taxpayer to subsidise loss making companies, as long as those companies don’t belong to the taxpayer.

*****************

The Whitstable Gazette.
The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.
Send letters to:
The Editor, 5-8 Boorman Way, Estuary View Business Park, Whitstable, Kent CT5 3SE,
fax: 01227 762415
email: kentishgazette@thekmgroup.co.uk
Posted in politics, protest, The Whitstable Gazette | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jeremy Corbyn: Quantitative Easing for the people

State opening of Parliament: the speech is not her own

I’ve been wanting to write these words for a long time.

If democracy is rule by the majority, and monarchy is rule by an individual, then what is capitalism?

It is rule by those with capital, of course. Rule by the rich.

That’s such an obvious statement that I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone saying it before.

We all know that our monarchy is just for show. The Queen makes a dazzling display on the state opening of Parliament, wearing the crown and the royal robe, shimmering in all her jewellery under the TV spotlights, while summoning the commons to attend, as if she had any real power.

We enjoy the theatre of it while knowing that it is purely ceremonial. We listen to her words, aware they have been composed by someone else. We know her speech isn’t her own.

No one argues with this. It is the measure of our sophistication as consumers that we understand these ceremonial forms for what they are: symbolic gestures carried out in the grand theatre of Parliament.

So what of our democracy? Is this, too, an empty ceremonial form covering a deficit of real power?

Of course it is.

We all know this too, secretly, deep down. We know that we elect governments not to rule, but to administer. We know that governments themselves are ruled. That’s why we never believe the promises that they make.

Politicians even admit it, but in a subtle way. They are always telling us that we have to obey the market, that “Market Forces” dictate this, that, or the other policy, but without telling us – what they know, and we don’t – that “the market” is the mechanism by which the rich rule over us.

Governments throughout the world are mere administrators for the financial oligarchs who control the market.

Market rules

This has been the case for more than thirty years, since the Thatcher revolution overthrew the post-war consensus, and instituted a return to rule by market forces in this country, but now we know the Thatcherite experiment has failed.

What she told us was that by allowing the financial markets free rein while simultaneously subjecting Trade Unions to all the rigours of the Law (by regulating the one and deregulating the other) that the rich would grow very rich, and that their wealth would trickle down to the rest of us. She referred to the rich as wealth creators, and suggested that it was they who had generated the wealth.

She was lying to us, of course, but some of us believed her.

So we mopped up shares in the newly privatised industries and took out mortgages for our own council houses. We became a nation of speculators.

What happened next? The rich grew very rich, as promised, but they kept their wealth for themselves.

Surprise, surprise!

The only way it trickled down was by turning the young into their zero-hour contracted, minimum-wage servants, and allowing us the crumbs that had fallen from their table.

All the pride and the intelligence of the post-war generation was squandered – all that accumulated skill, which had taken centuries to develop – to be replaced by a generation of smiling automatons, enslaved by their own indebtedness.

But this was not always the case. Sometimes things can change.

Labour Party, for public ownership

Throughout the 20s and 30s the Labour Party was the parliamentary wing of a wider political movement. We called it “The Labour Movement” and we understood what that meant. It consisted of working people, the people who voted Labour, plus their financial backers in the Trade Unions. The Labour Party was wedded to the Trade Unions, just as the Conservative Party was (and still is) wedded to the Business Elites.

If the Labour Party does not represent the views of the Trade Unions and their members, then what is its purpose? We already have one Business party, why would we need another?

When the Labour Party won in 1945, it was as a representative of this wider movement, and it enacted policies which were approved of and were understood by the vast majority of people in the UK.

Our grandparents knew what they were voting for. We called it socialism then, and we can call it socialism again, right now.

What that government did – despite the extreme austerity to which the nation was subjected by the war – was to enact policies of economic stimulation. It did not cut the economy: it grew the economy. It created the NHS. It took into public ownership large swathes of British industry. It invested in infrastructure, in rail and road, in energy, in telecommunications, in the postal network. It built homes. It built schools. It replaced the devastated landscape of our major cities, bombed-out in the war, and built anew on the rubble of the past.

What followed was more than thirty years of prosperity for the British people. As Harold Macmillan said, we’d never had it so good.

Jeremy Corbyn: Quantitative Easing for the people

These are precisely the policies that Jeremy Corbyn is proposing now: Quantitative Easing for the people. Growth, not austerity. Work not slavery. Give the people a share of the wealth, everyone will spend, and that will make the economy grow.

Quantitative Easing is creating money. What successive governments have been doing since the crash of 2008 is creating money and then giving it to the banks, in the hope that they will lend it to the public.

It is our money. Giving it to the banks is giving it away. It is handing our money over to speculators. They will only spend it on what will enrich themselves. We already see speculative bubbles forming. Property prices are rising, not because property prices are an indication of what is happening in the wider economy, but because it is a way for the Business Elites to store and expand their wealth.

It was speculation of this sort that lead to the financial crash of 2008. Why would we imagine that it wouldn’t have the same effect this time round? Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If individual insanity manifests itself through personal breakdown, so economic insanity manifests itself through the breakdown of the financial system. Expect another crash quite soon unless we change the policy.

This is all that Corbyn is proposing: the people’s money for the people, for economic stimulation, for investment, for infrastructure, for schools and hospitals, for all the things that we want and need, just as the Labour government of 1945 did.

He is talking about a National Education System: an NHS for our minds. A lifetime of learning instead of a lifetime of work.

He is talking about renationalising the rail: putting public subsidy, currently paid out to speculators, back into improving the service and reducing fares.

He is talking about renationalising the Big Six energy companies, and investing in green energy.

He is talking about participatory democracy, of us all becoming a movement again, of us taking back the Labour Party, which was our own creation, and making it work for us again, instead of for the Business Elites as it currently does.

So when the media tells you that Jeremy Corbyn is a hard-left extremist, remember this: he is only as much of an extremist as the Labour government of 1945.

Posted in politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A first-class education is a right, not a privilege

scan0004I was sad the hear of the closure of the Chaucer Technology School earlier this year as my son was a pupil there.

When Joe failed his Kent Test he was very depressed. We chose the Chaucer as the only school looking anything like a comprehensive in the area at the time. In order to get into the school he had to do another test; which he passed, with flying colours.

This cheered him up no end.

Joe went on to get three A levels and a First Class Honours degree. He now works in the photography industry as a freelance technician and is much in demand for his skills and his practical intelligence.

The Kent Test would have condemned him as a failure at the age of eleven. It was the Chaucer which gave him the confidence to discover where his real intelligence lay.

I’m puzzled at how the Chaucer ended up failing as a school. When my son went there, in the nineties, it was a first class institution.

My own schooling was undertaken at Sheldon Heath Comprehensive School in Birmingham. It was the first specially built comprehensive in the country and the largest.

That too, like the Chaucer, went through emergency measures recently. It closed and was re-opened as the King Edward IV Sheldon Heath Academy in 2010.

And yet the school that I went to was anything but a failure. It was a flagship school of the newly devised comprehensive system and served me and my contemporaries very well. A number of my friends went on to get degrees and to forge successful careers.

The only explanation I can think of is that successive governments have messed around so much with the education system, pulling it first one way, and then the other, that they have undermined the very foundations of education in this country.

The latest news is that the Chaucer is likely to re-open at some point in the future, but as a secondary, rather than a technology school, which sounds like an admission of failure to me.

A first class education is a right, not a privilege, and should be available to all.

*************

The Whitstable Gazette.
The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.
Send letters to:
The Editor, 5-8 Boorman Way, Estuary View Business Park, Whitstable, Kent CT5 3SE,
fax 01227 762415
email kentishgazette@thekmgroup.co.uk
Posted in education, The Whitstable Gazette | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Biker Dads

Bikers at the Ace Cafe

Bikers at the Ace Cafe

Driving used to be a pleasure. Right now I’m inching forward in first gear, watching the tail lights of the car in front flicker on and off, tasting the traffic fumes like bitter porridge, steaming in this damp, heavy heat, seeing yet another red light up ahead, yet another set of road works, waiting, waiting – moving – waiting. Where’s the pleasure now?

From The Independent 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bring Back British Rail: Jeremy Corbyn the only choice.

JC RailYesterday I went up to London with my family: my brother, my two sisters, and my niece, Beatrix. We caught the 10.24 from Whitstable. This is the earliest direct train to Victoria in off-peak hours.

There used to be two trains an hour going to Victoria. Now there is only one. It used to take an hour and 20 minutes. It now takes an hour and a half. Trains from Whitstable to London are slower and less frequent than they were in the 19th Century.

When we got to the station there was a long queue at the ticket machine outside the station. This is because the ticket office was closed. The notice on the window explained that the office was closed in order to allow staff to perform other duties on the station.

Take a minute to think about that.

Office staff are expected to perform other duties only ten minutes before the busiest train of the day is due to pull into the station.

This is obviously a cost-saving device by Southeastern Rail, the company that runs the train service in our area. There is now only one member of staff on duty, who has to do all the tasks that were once performed by a number of people. The consequence of this is that several passengers were unable to get a ticket in time and were forced to jump on the train without a ticket.

Once we were on the train it was difficult to find a seat as the train was packed.  There were only four carriages. My family and I had to sit in separate seats. We were lucky to find one at all. As the train moved further up the line, more and more seats were taken, meaning that, by Gillingham – about half way to London – large numbers of people were left standing.

Also the door from our carriage was faulty. It only allowed people through intermittently, which meant that people were unable to get to the toilet, or to move down the train to find a seat.

Such is the nature of our privatised rail service.

The usual justification for the privatisation of services is that it will offer us “choice”.

So where is the choice in the South East region where I live? There are no Virgin trains plying their way to London from Ramsgate and Dover offering us an alternative. There’s no Arriva, or Cross Country, or Chiltern or East Coast, or any of the other 27 or so train companies that divide the rail network up into a patchwork quilt of competing monopolies.

Thus “choice” is an illusion. There is no choice. Most of us, given the choice, would choose a publicly owned, publicly controlled national rail service, accountable to the public.

We would choose British Rail.

Of all the people standing for the leadership of the Labour Party, only Jeremy Corbyn is promising to re-nationalise the railways, something that over 70% of the electorate would agree with according to a recent poll.

Thus only Jeremy Corbyn is offering the electorate a real choice.

http://www.jeremyforlabour.com/

 

Posted in economics, politics | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Let’s show refugees our compassion

scan0009You will have seen the front page headline of the Gazette last week: “Fury over plans to house refugees”.

I was a little puzzled by it. Someone obviously doesn’t know the meaning of the word “fury”.

To quote my on-line dictionary: “unrestrained or violent anger, rage, passion”.

So is someone on Vulcan Close roused to violent anger at the possibility that some migrant children may be moving into their vicinity?

People may be concerned; they may be fearful; they may be unhappy, but it would take a very seriously unbalanced person to fly into a rage over it.

As it is, some people –  like the Rev Donald Lugg – have sympathy for them. It’s nice to know there are some fully developed human beings in Whitstable, people who are not afraid to show that they care.

After I read the article, I wrote an impassioned reply, which you can read on my blog, Fierce Writing.

I put a link up onto Facebook and got an encouraging response. Many people gave the thumbs up to my article, or left positive  comments.

Someone – Jean Rosette –made the following suggestion, which I liked.

She said that we should volunteer to help the professionals whose legal duty it is to support them.

This seems like a brilliant idea to me. Instead of being distant and suspicious of them, or angry or afraid, we could engage with them, listen to them, mentor them, introduce them to our community.

I’m sure they will have some heart-rending stories to tell: stories of great hardship and danger, of deprivation and loss.

Some of them may have seen loved-ones killed. If you want to know the real meaning of the word “fury” imagine a rocket attack in which your Mother and Father and your entire family are blasted to bone-meal before your eyes.

Such things happen in war. These children may be deeply traumatised.

So, yes, why not? Why not show how compassionate Whitstable can be, and take these children into our community, to learn from them as well as to introduce them to our way of life?

After all, they may be here for a long time.

****************

The Whitstable Gazette.
The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.
Send letters to:
The Editor, 5-8 Boorman Way, Estuary View Business Park, Whitstable, Kent CT5 3SE,
fax 01227 762415
email kentishgazette@thekmgroup.co.uk
Posted in politics, The Whitstable Gazette, War | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fury” over plans to house refugees

Whitstable Gazette 16/07/2015

Whitstable Gazette 16/07/2015

Front page of the Whitstable Gazette last week: “Fury over plans to house refugees”.

Pardon? Did I hear that right? There’s an unused building in Whitstable; there’s  some homeless, traumatised children – that’s the meaning of the term “unaccompanied minor” – and somebody is “furious” about it; someone objects?

What has become of us, that we treat young people seeking refuge this way? The victims of wars that our political and economic elites started in order to fill their own pockets. Orphans, driven from their homes by conditions which we helped to create.

We don’t even know who these children are. We don’t know their stories or where they are from. We don’t know how they came to make these extraordinary journeys, in flimsy vessels, across a hostile sea, risking their lives to be here.

We don’t know which countries they come from, but it’s a fair bet that the majority will be from North Africa and the Middle East, where our pilots are active again, skimming the skies over Syria and Iraq, unleashing their weapons of fury at some newly-defined targets.

That’s right: “fury”. There is nothing in any of our imaginations as furious as a rocket attack, or as lonely and bereft as a child who has lost his home.

You want to know who Isis are, or how come they are so well armed, so well trained, so well equipped?

The bulk of them are the remnants of Saddam’s army. They used be known as Al Qaeda in Iraq. There had been no Al Qaeda in Iraq until we invaded their lands.

They were supplemented by fighters from Libya, who we armed and trained in order to get rid of Gaddafi and subsequently directed at our next chosen enemy, Assad.

Their philosophy is the salafist doctrine of Saudi Arabia, the most corrupt and venal nation on Earth, a nation built on nepotism and greed, who we support and arm.

Thus it is that our own actions return to us in the form of these homeless children seeking asylum.

If we really want to stop migrants coming into this country, then let’s stop the wars that drive them here.

More on Syria: https://christopherjamesstone.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/which-side-is-our-mp-on-over-syria

***************************************

The Whitstable Gazette.
The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.
Send letters to:
The Editor, 5-8 Boorman Way, Estuary View Business Park, Whitstable, Kent CT5 3SE,
fax 01227 762415
email kentishgazette@thekmgroup.co.uk
Posted in politics, protest, The Whitstable Gazette | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Party politics

Let’s have a revolution for fun

New Statesman & Society 29th July 1994

Photographs by Dave Hendley

Awake. awake O sleeper of the land of shadows, wake!  expand!

I am in you, and you in me, mutual in love divine:

Fibres of love from man to man thro’ Albion’s pleasant land.

William Blake: Jerusalem.

 

There is a place where Contrarieties are equally true

William Blake: Milton.

Untitled 8

AS I’M writing this the first of many mountain-sized chunks of rock will be plunging headlong into the thick, gaseous stew of Jupiter’s swirling mass, sending a huge plume of matter and radiation into the Solar System. Everyone I know is talking about it. It may be the most important cosmic event of the last 2,000 years. My friend Joe, an Astrologer, tells me that the resulting explosions will release what he calls “Jovian forces” into the Solar System, by which he means peace, justice and natural goodness. Consciousness will change, he tells me. And he quotes the song from Hair to prove it: “When the Moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars, then peace will guide the planets, and love will steer the stars.” According to Joe this is pretty much the configuration as the cataclysm erupts.

What has this to do with politics? Everything.

The point is, Joe, who has never felt the need to express himself politically before, will be on the March and Rally against the Criminal Justice Bill on the 24th of July. As will assorted Pagans, Witches, Druids, Tarot-readers, Buddhists, Celtic tribes and English posses, travellers, ravers, dossers, space-cowboys, self-proclaimed gurus, pranksters, visionaries, poets, as well as the usual assortment of lefties, anarchists and professional protesters. A measure of Joe’s previous political involvement is a conversation we once had about a particular field that was threatened by a new by-pass. Joe wanted to stop the road. I suggested I could help him. “No thanks,” he said. “I’ll meditate in the field and create an invisible psychic barrier.” Joe has also been known to proclaim himself immortal.

Justice, peace and natural goodness. However you put it, whatever the rhetoric that leads up to it, whatever the structures of thought, justice, peace and natural goodness is what we all want and what we all need. And anyone who states these things as his or her principles, and acts upon them, is one of us. Simple.

To me this is the essence of the new politics. Here’s an analogy. It’s as if we’ve reached a cross-roads in human evolution, or in political life. There are a number of choices open to us, some of them exceedingly dangerous. It’s fairly pointless standing round debating how we all got here. What we need to do is work out where we go next. The world is full of rhetoric. Political, spiritual, scientific rhetoric. The first thing we have to admit is that we really don’t know all that much. It’s fundamental that there are people around us we can trust. Anyone can adopt a stance. What matters is the intention behind the words.

Joe is not a nutter, by the way – the usual description for anyone whose belief-structures are different than ours – he is perfectly sane, chases women, drinks beer, watches the Soaps like the rest of us. These are his beliefs, that’s all, just as Marxism is a belief, or the idea that we are all simply accidental lumps of matter running round like headless chickens with no other purpose than to reproduce and then die. Belief is one of the things that defines us as human beings.

Marxism is a belief, I said. Of course the Marxists would deny that. Marx himself, humanitarian though he was, was also deeply enamoured of the mythology of 19th century materialist science, and the idea that, one day, all things would be reduced to simple, non-contradictory laws. This in itself is a faith. In the 20th century science itself took us into areas where apparent contradictions exist concurrently. Is light formed of waves or particles? Depending on your point of view it can appear as either one or the other. In fact it is both at the same time. Are human beings distinguished by consciousness or production, asks Marx? And he answers the question: by production, by work. And from this first step the socialist movements that followed him proceed relentlessly along a line that takes us into work, work and more work. Cultural expression is an irrelevance and can be ignored. Joy, celebration, pleasure are the gaseous by-products of the digestive processes of labour: consciousness as fart.

– But does Marx really know that production is the distinguishing factor of human existence? Is work the only thing? –

My profoundest political revelation (is revelation the revolution of the mind?) came not during a strike, or at a committee meeting to discuss the future of socialism: it came at a rave. The event was held deep in the Sussex countryside, nestled high in the soft folds of a chalk escarpment, hidden away in a little bowl of land like a natural amphitheatre. We took our drugs and danced to the pulsing beat. I took my shoes off at one point to feel the cool grasses tickling my feet. The summer breezes bustled about my limbs, warm and relaxing, and tiny shivers ran up my spine. This was heaven, the perfect union of body and mind, of earth and air, of personal expression and communion with others. Some months later I went back to visit the place. There was no sign that anything had ever happened there.

– So what is work? –

The labour that the DIY crew put into the event was real enough. Planning it, shifting gear, clearing up afterwards. And the joyous expression of dance certainly cost a lot of energy. But what did we make on that occasion? Nothing but love.

But afterwards I knew, with an understanding that went deeper than the rational, that the land was truly mine, all of the land, all mine and all everyone else’s at the same time; that the land contained ecstasy, beauty, sensuality, love, and that the pulsing heart beat of the music was rippling through her body like a shiver and that she was being awakened by it. Take it or leave it: it is my belief.

Untitled 11

OF COURSE Karl Marx’s theories are based in part upon his observations of the British Working Class during a crucial period of political and economic change. Frederick Engels actually owned a factory in Manchester and his Condition Of The English Working Class is a seminal work of 19th century social observation. But what is the most abiding contribution that the British Working Class have made to the state of Britain and to the world as a whole? Trade Unionism? To some degree, though we have seen how self seeking the leadership can be, and how fragile and inept the structures of economic dissent. The National Health Service? Perhaps, though the drug companies seem to do a lot better out of it than the rest of us. The Labour Party? At one time maybe, though the current fraternisation with the City of London – Champagne Socialism – makes you question where their loyalties really lie. Or is it something else? Isn’t there another thing that working class history has given us, not just the British people, but the world as a whole?

– I’ll tell you what it is: it is football. –

Of all the things formulated in the golden age of British Imperialism, when Britain was the world economic power, and the engineers of Birmingham and the cotton workers of Manchester were producing goods that would help reshape the world, the only thing that has lasted is football. And what working class community does not play football these days? And what is football but a strange ritual performance involving 22 men and a ball, surrounded by taboos and fetishes, on which the whole world’s hopes and fears are pinned, like an icon, like a religion? What is it but cultural expression?

Who is to say really what the earliest human beings were thinking when producing the first artefacts? Did they sing as they did so? Did they perform magical acts? When the first animal was brought down by the first arrow, did it feel like sport? And did they dance around the fire afterwards with the sheer joy of being alive?

Joy and labour are not separable things. Cultural expression and means of production are from the same source. Humanity is not a machine wedded to work but a living, breathing act of consciousness, expressive of joy. The world is a better place than we imagine.

The new politics arises precisely out of this awareness. People don’t go on demos these days, they celebrate. They don’t protest, they party. 23rd July, Hailli Sellasi’s birthday: the Kent Freedom to Party, Travel and Protest Campaign held a “Picnic against the Criminal Justice Bill” on Folkestone Pleasure Beach, including a March to Lobby Michael Howard’s surgery. Like so many of the events taking place in this current period it was characterised by a genuine party atmosphere. Dancing, drums, good natured banter, chants that owed more to their rhythmical qualities than to their content, whistles, war-whoops, a lot of noise: what you might call, in old fashioned terms “good vibes”.

Untitled 7

THE main point was that people were enjoying it. It was fun. In a sense even the word “politics” is misleading. A substantial segment of the current movement would not see their actions in political terms at all. For them it is a spiritual commitment, to the Earth, our Mother. Theirs is an expression of love, of sorrow at the pain and joy at the beauty of our world. And their fundamental understanding is not that they are facing the blind structures of Capitalism, but manifest evil. There are black magicians out there, in control, behind the scenes, people who understand perfectly well the energy systems of the Earth and who are channelling dark energy to destroy her. For both sides materialism is a front, a myth that the rest of us have bought, Capitalist and Communist alike, and through which the secret societies manipulate our very thoughts.

Someone told me a wonderful story. Apparently George Bush is a member of a secret society called the Skull and Bones Club. George Bush’s father actually stole the skull of Geronimo, and even now acolytes drink from it in memory of the defeat of this celebrated nomad. But as part of the admission ceremony you have to lie naked in a black coffin with your genitals tied up with ribbon while you recite your sexual experiences to the assembled audience. Picture it: George Bush, future President of the United States of America, one day to become the world’s most powerful man, with the entire might of the US war-machine at his disposal, lying naked in a coffin with his genitals tied. Maybe this explains as well as anything the motives behind the Gulf War. I don’t care if the story is true or not. I’m only glad that someone told it to me.

And maybe there are Black Magician’s channelling negative energy into the Earth, who can tell? Better to be safe than sorry. And it’s in anticipation of this that the exponents of the new politics – the eco-warriors and pagan travellers of Little Solsbury Hill and Twyford Down – perform their own magic rituals. May 1st on Solsbury Hill, the Donga Tribe built a “Wicker-digger” from sticks, set fire to it, and leapt through the flames. July 2nd, Twyford Down: balls of wool (unfortunately some of them acrylic) were cast around the crowd to create a web of unity and to remind us of the sheep that have for centuries shaped the landscape.

– Gobbledegook, you say? Who cares? Fun, frolic and celebration in the sunshine, I say. –

But it goes further than this too. If through ritual magic we can free the human spirit, then it is more than mad frolics: it is essential to the progress of consciousness on this planet. Magic empowers, prayer diminishes. In magic you depend on yourself. In prayer you depend on the good will and intervention of a higher authority. The practice of magic is the psychological anticipation of a world of self-determination. The practice of prayer is the psychological reflection of this world of disempowerment. Again I cite the Donga Tribe. On July 2nd many of the women of the tribe were bare-breasted, and there was something absolutely extraordinary in this. Not the sight of breasts – we see these on beaches the world over, lying inert, soaking up the sun – but whole women, straight-backed and proud in a mixed crowd of generally clothed people, staring the world in the eye. I must admit it made me shy, like a little boy not knowing where to look. I caught one woman’s eye. She smiled at me and her eyes gave off little electric sparkles like a static charge, and I knew she knew exactly how I was feeling. The new politics is new because it is innovative and arresting and because it challenges all the assumptions we make about ourselves and others. It is more than politics, it is love.

– These women have no need of legislation or the censorship of Political Correctness. They prove themselves stronger than men in everything they do. –

I said the new politics isn’t really about politics. Actually it’s not even new. There’s a history there. It’s a culmination. The roots go back to the 60s (doesn’t everything?) and many of the elder statesmen of the current movement are happy to recite their 60s credentials. And if anyone doubts the historical relevance (resonance) of that decade, they only have to meet people too old or too emotionally restricted to have enjoyed those heady days when they were upon us. Prior to the 60s people may have had sex before marriage, but then they ran guiltily to the nearest registry office once the tests proved positive, and had to live through years of unhappy marriage as a consequence. Prior to the 60s people did not grow their hair, or come out openly as homosexuals, or experiment with lifestyles or drugs or political and communal options. They stayed within limits. And all of the emotional and sexual freedoms that we now cherish (loving friendships, partnership not ownership) have their roots in the sexual revolution that those years brought. Revolution is not too big a word. The world was changed as a consequence.

– Revolution, you see, is not necessarily about overthrowing governments. It can also describe abiding social and cultural change. –

One of the great qualities of that era was that politics was fun. It was full of scams and taunts and it mixed its metaphors no end. The Yippies tried to levitate the Whitehouse as a protest against the Vietnam war, and put up a pig for President. Oz magazine was irreverent and spooky and packed with wild graphics. Slogans were off the wall and witty with a sometimes strange resonance. One I remember came from the 68 Paris revolution. “Under the cobbles, the beach” it said. What does that mean? Partly, that beneath these civilised structures lies a simpler reality. But you can imagine some tripped-out revolutionary picking out a cobble to chuck at the lines of riot police, and finding the bedding sand beneath. “Wow, man: the beach!”

– The trouble with the 60s, though, is that they came to an end. –

As yet there was no distinction between the search for personal and political emancipation. The two things went hand-in-hand. Timothy Leary wrote a book called “The Politics of Ecstasy.” And there you have it: in a nutshell. Later the movement divided into what Tom Wolfe called the Me Generation and The New Left (Radical Chic). And it is this division we have lived with ever since. The New Left became ever more relentlessly Marxist and materialist until they were indistinguishable from the old left. The Me Generation – what became known as the New Age – turned to crystals, aromatherapy, Buddhist chants, and began to scorn politics altogether, as beneath them. Both approaches were flawed.

The movement fragmented. All you had left was lifestyles. Me: I’m into motorbikes and black leather and a girl with a tattoo on the pillion. Me: I’m into Transcendental Meditation and free love and I think I’ll open a carpet emporium. Me: I’m into Karl Marx and the revolution, and that cushy job as a sociology lecturer at the nearest red-brick university. Me: I’ve taken so many drugs I get lost in my own toilet. Me: I just give up.

But one thing held: the festivals. Glastonbury, the Windsor Free Festival, The People’s Free Festival, Stonehenge until ’85, as well as countless Albion Fayres, small gatherings the length and breadth of the British Isles. Punk came along, a new urban rebellious spirit, and rejected the hippies as Boring Old Farts. But even they joined in the end. Travelling became a lifestyle, moving from festival to festival during the summer months, scraping a degree of self-sufficiency and a suntan from these sterile Islands. Travellers were and still are the heart of the movement, whether as Hendrix-inspired psychedelic gypsies, or as politically motivated Mutant hordes, or as Crusties with a drug-habit: they kept the thing going.

Travellers have always had a political agenda, whether they know it or not. But it’s a negative agenda: rejection. The travelling lifestyle says simply: “Fuck your low paid jobs, your miserable, low-grade housing, your rooted, sedentary lifestyle, your Ping-Pong politics of deception, your wars, your poverty, your loneliness, your despair. I’m gonna get a bus and watch the sunset from a hilltop whether you like it or not.” Like the official propaganda on drugs, it just says no. I spoke to travellers on a wooded site somewhere in the South of England. I asked them why they travelled. “What’s the choice?” said one of the girls. “A crummy bedsit.”

Other things happened in the intervening years, of course. There was the Anti-Nazi League in the 70s, Peace Camps in the 80s, The Miner’s Strike of 84-85, the Poll-Tax Protests that brought down Thatcher. They all served to keep the rebellious spirit alive. But they were still all essentially negative. No to this, and no to that. The synergistic moment – to me – comes when rave meets the festivals and all heaven is let loose. All of a sudden the answer is yes. Yes, yes, yes, emphatically yes!

Untitled 2

RAVE was and is about as non-political as you can get. If anything it was welded to the ideals of Thatcherism. Early Acid House party organisers made big bucks running illegal pay-parties in fields and warehouses. The so-called second summer of love in 88 was one long hedonistic binge. But it was joyful. It was spiritual. And it was positive.

What was first class about it is that these people really knew how to throw a party. The music was good: no more crap amateur bands trudging through pedestrian versions of ancient songs. New, interesting, vibrant sounds fresh out of the USA, a sampled amalgam of deep soul R’n’B and sparkling Salsa. The equipment was good: a 10k solid wall of sound to unfurl your intestines, rather than the Woolworth’s stereo with one blown speaker I remember. The effects were good: swirls of fractal images, smoke machines and lasers, rather than a single, naked red bulb and a Hendrix album cover. And the drugs were good too, of course: warm, heart-swelling MDMA, enough to make you fall in love forever… or until the next party, that is. No violence. No sexual rivalry. No meat-market. Just human beings, dancing and having fun.

– People say drugs are bad for you. But so’s living in a drab council estate with no money and no prospects. So are motorways. So is breathing their noxious fumes. –

The pay-parties became licensed Raves and entry fees went through the roof, and more and more people were excluded, until someone came up with the bright idea of doing it themselves. Only to discover that people had been doing it themselves for decades. Rave met the festivals. The party had just begun.

I often think of these events as like the Ghost Dance, the last ecstatic-despairing expression of the Native American Peoples before they gave in and crawled back to the miserable culture-crushing welfare-drudgery of the Reservations.

Untitled 10

FROM the late-1880s to the mid-1890s the Indians danced. They danced and danced and danced. Danced to ecstasy, to drive the white man from the spacious plains, to bring back the buffalo, to shake off despair. In my romantic moments I imagine that the sounds of their footsteps have resonated ever since, to emerge in this great party spirit that unites us now: new tribalism, new communion, new consciousness. The Party party: political spirituality. Action Yoga, as a friend of mine puts it: emancipation of the self through collective action.

The only way to properly define the new politics is to compare it to the old politics. Politics was, and always will be, a dull affair. Committee meetings, endless wrangles, pompous, meaningless speeches, being forced to work with people you don’t like, and certainly don’t trust. Committees for this and committees for that. The EC of the GC. Strings of incomprehensible letters: EEC, RCP, TCP, DDT. And of course there’s always a certain person that loves all of this, who can tell you who was who on what committee in what year; eats, sleeps, dreams and dies by committee, and who scorns anyone who can’t hack it. Talking shops, talks about talks, and then talks to discuss the outcome of talks. In the end you give up. Anyway, what’s the point, nothing ever changes? A vote for Labour is a vote for yet another potential criminal to get his hands on the purse-strings. Can you really believe that the Labour Party, the Liberal Party, or any other Party will ever do anything, even if they have all the good will in the world? Do you really expect the super-rich to give away power because a Labour Prime Minister goes to them, cap-in-hand, to beg a few crumbs? Isn’t it far more likely that he’ll keep the crumbs for himself, or find a cushy little pay off for himself in Brussels even if he never gets to be Prime Minister? Democracy is about empowering someone else and then praying that they don’t turn out to be too corrupt.

The new politics is about self-empowerment. It’s about tribes not structures. What’s a tribe? A tribe is a network of friends who’ve gone through the same things as you. That way you know you can trust them. It’s intuitive, not legislative. People are “sound” because you sense they are, not because they show you a set of white teeth and say all the right things. More than at any time in my life I truly feel that I’m surrounded by my brothers and sisters.

Untitled 1

That was the atmosphere on the March and Rally on the 24th. A mobile sea of humanity, all brothers and sisters, all beautiful. Someone shouted to a scowling police officer, “Smile, it doesn’t cost anything,” which merely deepened the scowl. I asked the officer what he thought when the guy had said that. “Same as I’m thinking now about you: go away!” But generally even the police were OK. Some sporadic violence, most of it more symbolic than real. A couple of hundred people attempted to force the gates of Downing Street, and actually managed to make the foundations creak. I saw only one arrest, someone who fell down on the wrong side of the gates and who was summarily punished by the quivering riot police as a consequence. Aside from that, just one long, happy party. I overheard someone on the tube. “You’re never too old to have a happy childhood,”he said.

The new politics is about change, it’s about freedom, it’s about liberty. “Freedom to travel, party and protest,” as my mate Tim has it. But freedom from want too, from oppression, from ridiculous waste. The CJB has united us through it’s ineptitude, it’s stupidity and it’s vicious petty-mindedness. But it shows simply and clearly the prejudices and hang-ups of it’s authors, and clarifies – for the first time for many people – that the government can be as out-of-control as any of us. If the government can’t govern wisely, why do we allow them to govern us at all? It leads us to question the very foundations of government itself.

I don’t mind saying it: we’re moving into a New Age. Either that or we’re all Party Lemmings dancing off the edge of the world. But at least we’ll die happy.

The new politics is about revolution. All that refers to is the cycle of change, the turning of the great wheel. This can be Buddhist or Taoist or anything you like. Either we change things or we’re finished. And there’s no time left for debates or factions or Royal Commissions on the state of the environment on nice fat salaries: jobs for the boys. Cars stop or we all stop. Society changes or there’ll be no society.

But it’s optimistic though. There’s a new spirit about, a new consensus. The road-protesters have shown us a way, ancient though it is, and with unity with the railway workers it could become an unstoppable force. The solution is non-violent direct action. Refuse to believe in the structures of madness any more. Just say no. And then afterwards, with your friends at the party, you can shout yes, yes, yes and dance till you drop!

As DH Lawrence put it in a poem titled A Sane Revolution:

    If you make a revolution, make it for fun,

            don’t do it in ghastly seriousness,

            don’t do it in deadly earnest,

            do it for fun…

            Don’t do it, anyhow, for international Labour.

            Labour is the one thing a man has too much of.

            Let’s abolish labour, let’s have done with labouring!

            Work can be fun, and men can enjoy it; then it’s not labour.

            Let’s have it so! Let’s make a revolution for fun!

Posted in economics, politics, protest | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment