Writings, photos, politics and rants... *Original content - may not be reproduced without my consent.*

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Not a review. Reviews are Bourgeois

My Latest Huffpost submission:

One positive thing the current Tory/LibDem coalition is doing here in the UK is boosting protest rock and pop. To look at the charts you wouldn't think it- but unlike back in the eighties when for example, The Clash, Paul Weller and The Specials could make it in to the charts with anti- government songs, nowadays the charts themselves (and what music is deemed fit to be part of them) are controlled by the music corporations through the Entertainment Retailers Association and The British Recorded Music Industry ran "Official Charts Company." Those who control the corporations are unlikely to allow mass dissemination of something that nowadays truly "shouts to the top," especially in an epoch of squeezing the last drop of exploited profit from chanteuses' and boy bands with a shelf life of a couple of years. Most of the protest music is outside the charts...

For this reason we are unlikely to see "Thee Faction's" second album, "Up the Workers" in the UK charts - the other reason being that this group do not see themselves as a group in the sense Echo and the Bunnymen or JLS are groups. Thee Faction see themselves as a guild - a collective who create, market and sell the fruits of their members labours for a fair price. A fair trade, socialist guild. A group unlike some of the groups of my youth who promised much, but have disintegrated or ossified without delivering. Or worse still, have taken the money , thanked the fans and now lie beside their Californian pools, calcifying their arteries with the stolen spoils from disaffected, optimistic youth. I sound bitter, and perhaps I am. Ian McCullough nor Jim Reid have led the revolution and Morrissey has become as establishment as spam and The Big Yin's bum joke.

You see, I was a political indie kid back in the eighties. Unlike the Goths and the desperate, dispirited youth of today, the indie kids of the eighties, us Thatcher hating, angry young people, had hope. We had groups and singers who even if they didn't sing political lyrics, the movements they seemed to be part of seemed to challenge the status quo. Even Spandau Ballet not only had a name influenced by the most infamous political prisoner in history, but they released an album influenced by the Troubles in Ireland.

Thee Faction was a group in those days who along with the more famous Red Wedge collective, spat and shouted at the conservative mayhem meted out on the population of the UK. The Beat sang, "Stand Down Margaret." Elvis Costello, "Shipbuilding" and "Tramp the Dirt Down." Billy Bragg promised us a "Great Leap Forward," Dammers "Specials" warned the world of the Ghost Towns created by the monster that was last ditch capitalism and the Smiths wanted to chop Thatchers head off in "Margaret on the Guillotine." Thee Faction implored people to join a union and railed against the capitalists manufacturing consent through keeping us ignorant. (See HERE for a review of their first album "At Ebbw Vale.")

Alexis Petridis, rock music critic for the Guardian said of the 1980s, "Britain was turning, in a really dramatic way from the liberal, post-war consensus. Thatcher was far right enough that the National Front vote collapsed. [Thatcher] was a very easy figure to demonise." But then Petridis also said, when asked if a similar wave of anti-government sentiment would ever stir the music scene again, "People are pretty much contented with their lives now." To be fair that was a few years back when New Labour was giving the people just enough to keep them from rioting. Now we have a vicious Tory Government who is seemingly unafraid to throw more and more people into the clutches of poverty in order to feed profit.

And we have a re-awakening of interrogatory culture. As Thee Faction say on their sleeve notes, "Bourgeouis "Lyrics" will always lead up a cul-de-sac... [we] strive for a pure aesthetic with meaningful communication and a sense of beauty."

Thee Faction are a lesson - an independent spirit, who cannot be identified with Thatcherism in the way the independent labels back in the eighties could be. They own their means of production. They Rock for enjoyment, and they rock to share an interpretation of the world that we need nowadays - one that also shows an alternative path. Real alternative music that sings, "Capitalism is good for corporations; that's why you've been told socialism is bad all your life."

Guthrie and Seeger, Lennon and Baez, Dylan and Crass changed views through song. Thee Faction do just that through sheer force of polemic, joy de vivre; fun. 366, their opening track, shouts at us that we have to be unafraid to speak out. Be a nonstop agitator, 366 days of the year - shout to power - until we have a competent economic system right here! Deft Left tells those who may have thought we had gone away to look again - we are still here regardless of the onslaught by the capitalist press and media. It opens with the lines, "what happened to the anger, when we were fighting Mrs Thatcher ... we are going to make a new start..." and now is the time to do that.

The Left are coalescing in the fight against the cuts in local "Save Our Community Centre" type organisations, through to the UK wide, Coalition of Resistance and the strengthening unions (lets not forget that Unions are the biggest working class organisations we have, even after the Thatcher/Major/Blair years of attack and anti-union legislation). And Lefties can still coalesce around music.

Music is dangerous - as the frequent banning of records and bands through the eighties and nineties should illustrate. Bands challenging the ideas of the ruling class like Crass or even Frankie Goes to Hollywood were kicked off the middle class Radio One airways. The Sex Pistols could not be seen to be the number one rock group of 1977 as they were challenging the accepted hegemony - that of "we the British People LOVE our Queen!" Frankie was holding one defiant finger up to Mary Whitehouse and the middle class ideas of hidden sex - wrong sex - outlawed sex. Our country is very much a country dominated by the ideas and sensibilities of the class that control all. In fact this can be said of the Neo-Liberal, globalised capitalist world we live in. Conservative ideas rule supreme, and Murdoch, Lord Rothermere and Richard Desmond ensure, to paraphrase Marx, the rest of us who have no way to disseminate ideas to the masses are subject to the ideas of the rich and powerful. Cameron et al are recognising this hegemony is under threat, and already calls for social networks to be closed down during times of civil unrest are becoming the thoughts that are being promoted as the ideas of society. This is a plain lie. Society wants and needs a more democratic media - and it is creating one. Society is bigger than Cameron, Murdoch and the marketplace. Thee Faction have recognised this and sing about our state of being - "you are just a Customer, you consume..." consuming all, we are told is what we need. The illusion of choice. 25 different but the same washing powders sold by the same two companies. More anti-union laws. More anti-young people legislation. More censorship. More Cowellesque pop nasties. They only rule supreme because our legislation protects property first and profit is the new god.

Thee Faction warn the Tories not to make us Angry - we are not going to be fooled any more that we are "all middle class." Fewer and fewer people are fooled as more and more people realise they are paying for the bankers crisis. £700bn of our hard earned taxes bailed them out. They have paid us back only £2bn, yet still ensure they get hold of bonuses that most of us won't accumulate from our main salary/ wage in twenty years of buckling down and accepting the guff that "we are all in this together."

What's the solution? Well, Thee Faction has one. They are not wallowing in the now. They don't sing of the current dystopia and leave it at that. They believe industry should be controlled by the unions - or guilds - worker collectives. They believe we should challenge the current hegemony and they believe we should be coming together in socialist political parties to do that. Their songs are permeated with references to the Socialist theorist, historian, economist and writer of detective novels, GDH Cole, a man whose ideas are worthy of promotion. A man who once said, "I became a Socialist because, as soon as the case for a society of equals, set free from the twin evils of riches and poverty, mastership and subjection, was put to me, I knew that to be the only kind of society that could be consistent with human decency and fellowship and that in no other society could I have the right to be content." A man who so hated capitalism, he would not accept interest on his money from the bank. A man who wanted the capitalist system smashed. A man who said socialists should not give up being levellers. Something the current Labour Party seems to have forgotten (amongst a few other founding principles).

One of my favourite songs on the album is "Only," sung by Kassandra Krossing. "Voting on its own wont set you free. Smashing Starbucks windows wont set you free..." timely lyrics in the time of the coalition Government made up of the Tories and the party people voted for so they could protest against the Torification of the Labour party. A time when people are totally dismayed by the capitulation of the Liberal Democrats to the vicious austerity the Tories are imposing on working class people. A time of continued unrest from student riots through to the police violence sparked/ consumer/customer themed riots a couple of weeks ago. "I want to wake up in a world where no one has too much... voting alone won't set you free, nor will singing this little song along with me..."

Perhaps the kudos of Mike Reid or Mike Smith banning a record won't set us free either.

Thee Faction URGE you to do something - whether it be joining the party or agitating 366 days of the year or dumping your Conservative, UKIP friend. "What you have here is anti-capitalist music... Wage Labour? Their idea. Boom and Bust? Their idea. The waste, the inefficiency, the boring illusion of choice, ALL THEIR IDEA. You want Life Liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Join our party." I agree. "Up the Workers."

This record is a joyous celebration of socialism a definite five red stars from this reviewer... or are reviews bourgeois?

I disagree on one political point on the record only, and that is, feedback is NOT bourgeois.

The Jesus and Mary Chain were banned by the BBC twice, comrades.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Owen Jones at Glasgow University

On sunday 22 August 2011, Owen Jones, the author of "Chavs; the demonization of the working class," visited the student occupied Hetherington Post Grad Club in Glasgow. This video is an hour of a much longer conversation that was led by Jones.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

These yobs were badly brought up...

Latest HuffPost opinion piece.

Watching the responses to the riots and the behaviours they have demonstrated, I have come to the conclusion it is how they were brought up. How can anyone who has been brought up in a loving household do what they have done and are continuing to do?

The Judges who have been passing sentences on behalf of the Cameron Government to those involved in the riots last week were mostly (if not totally) middle class Oxbridge educated white men. At a guess, quite a few of these, just like our Cabinet Ministers, suffered at the hands of the disgraceful Private Education System, and by having just too much money..

David Cameron, a man who has little to look up to, and acts that way, is a perfect example.
Thrown into care at the age of seven (in Heatherdown Preparatory School), he excelled in his academic work, but made terrible choices in his private life. He got into trouble over drugs and fell in with a bad crowd. Any working class boy at that time (circa 1980) caught as part of a cannabis dealing ring as has been alleged, would have went to court at the very least. The thing about this is; his family were minted, so even though he was part of a crowd who regularly smashed up commercial premises or set fire to them, he managed to scrape by without the equivalent of an ASBO.

But why the trouble in the first place? Surely there was no lack of male role models? Yes - an absent father and mother, but surely the institution into which he had been incarcerated at such a young age had lots of men teaching and gardening and cleaning up after him... hmmm... perhaps the fact the role models were cap doffing and relying on the Cameron family dosh explains a lot?

I wonder what he thought of those who bowed and scraped and laughed at his stupid jokes? Did he realise they were wanting to please so his family would not stop paying his way through their place of work?

I watch Cameron every week in Prime Ministers Question time, and he very eloquently bullies and rarely answers a question. There lies the valued in his circles. Debating is rarely something to be won by logical evidence. It is to be won using literary devices and verbal insult. Can you imagine how conversations went during his time at Oxford as a member of the Bullingdon Club? How those old Etonians bantered? How they verbally jousted? How they bullied and how they classified those with less than them (a telling tale of Cameron's thoughts of the "lower orders" comes in the book, "Chavs - the Demonisation of the Working Class," by Owen Jones, David Cameron was quoted making a comment about his daughter coming home from a party looking like she'd "fallen out of a council house.")

The trouble with those who have been fabulously linguistically educated is they brilliantly, eloquently speak and write absolute drivel, though well hidden in the fat, trite words. More and more I listen to the Old Etonian gangs who are in power speaking in calm, measured tones, telling us using almost poetically, which makes it oh so convincing- the most illogical mince you could imagine.

"Sir Causal Dyslexic-Moronicham, what do you think caused the riots?"

"Oh, most empitatically superfluent wibbleness and Huber-octacolly rubellanestically jumpulagressively evil lack of morality and hoodies. Jail them all for 50 years and pour me a G and T, theres a good chap!"

Now, when these morons speak, because we have been tuned to think posh accents and fat words are good, and working class accents, and smaller words are less good, people defer to the posh accent. Listen to Boris as a prime example of a prat saying nonsense in a posh way and then getting his way!

These poshos who have been brought up by teachers and nannies and who have been told by all around them, "Oh Tarquin, your mummy and daddy would be so proud!" (if they weren't out shooting some dopey animal that has been bred to fly into their gunsites in order to be praised by the paid lackey who collects their killings for them) have a problem. When these people, educated to think they are never wrong- and educated not to think beyond the FACT they are better by the sheer FACT all in sundry around them doff the cap and clean up for them and tell them how wonderful their night with the Buller men, blowing up toilets must have been, then you end up with people who are devoid of empirical logical empathetic thought.

Listen to how these so called educated arseholes speak to each other. It is all about linguistic upmanship. Presentation, rather than any empirical evidence. Prime Ministers Question Time in the UK is all about that- and Cameron is the worst at it. When he can't answer a question with a rational answer, he resorts to name calling. It's how they talk to each other from the moment they are thrown out of their house by their drink sodden parents and into boarding school to the day they are carried out of the House of Lords.

The ruling class (because that is what we have again after a twentieth century in which there had been a little progress in having working class representatives) are calling for army on the streets; teenagers to be locked up for months and months on end; Wembley Stadium to be a huge, holding centre and there are calls to make poor people even poorer by slashing their benefits and turfing them out of their homes. Also- these poshos have jailed people who said something silly on Facebook for four years; someone with no previous convictions who stole a bottle of water for six months and all sorts of other serious over reacting (weird how the racists from the BNP or EDL who post on Facebook are never arrested).

Boris Johnston said it is foolish to give economic and sociological explanations to understand these riots.

Listen to Boris as a prime example of a prat saying nonsense in a posh way and then getting his way!
 Perhaps it wasn't poverty that made him set buildings on fire and trash businesses. At a guess, his income wasn't slashed, nor his home taken from him and he certainly was never given a custodial sentence. And as for Nick Clegg, the arsonist who went on to be the Deputy Prime Minister nodding dog... I wonder can any of these men empathise with their victims or with those who committed similar crimes last week? Clegg, in a radio interview certainly could not see the similarities to his own larks at setting other people's property alight.

But, hey!

They became the trouble makers they are only by chance of birth. It isn't their fault surely?

To understand the ills of our society, one has to look at how these arseholes view us, and in turn treat us and perhaps relate it to the diabolical way they were brought up. The disdainful language they use to describe working class people has turned from the language of demonization (Chav, Ned, Oik.Pikey etc) to the recent description of protesting youth both during the student protests and last weeks riots as "feral scum" (feral is a word used to describe animals - a word for a section of our society that describes them as animal - less than human. We exterminate feral animals. Dangerous times or stupid words?) through to how they truly believe that "we are all in this together" - them directing the theft of our taxes to pay off their banker chums and their "mistaken expenses" and us coughing up with barely a peep. Don't forget Cameron was found to be wanting during the expenses robbery, but instead of him "doing time," he got off with paying it back. Perhaps that option should have been given to the 23 year old woman who had NEVER had a previous conviction - who had NEVER been let off the hook for a drugs offence and trashing restaurants - who was handed a six month jail sentence for stealing a bottle of Evian.

Turf them out of Number Ten, I say. Cut their benefits by imposing a 70% tax on their massive incomes and judge them harshly on the harm they are meting out on working class people across Britain.

Or perhaps I am just an inverted, intolerant snob who can't see that they really need our help?

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Thee Faction... get some socialist R&B

I reviewed Thee Factions previous album At Ebbw ValeHERE and will review their new album Up the Workers OR: Capitalism is good for corporations; that's why you've been told socialism is bad all your life,  in the coming days.

In the meantime, if you would like a free copy - I have one to give away!  To claim it, send me one sentence on how you are fighting capitalism, to plottracer@googlemail.com.  The winner will judged by me to be the person who has a suggestion that we can all take up and use. Ends 18 August.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Share this - the BBC will never play it again...

Darcus Howe, London political activist (and pensioner) tells it as it is...

Monday, 8 August 2011

When I ask why are they poor, they call me political...

Published on the Huffington Post site.

The statement from the journalist on News 24 brought on a familiar feeling of paralysis. He said to a local commentator amidst the Tottenham/London riots, "It's not the time to be making political points."

Back in 2005, as a political activist, I was giving out leaflets as 225,000 people converged on Edinburgh to protest about Poverty, advertising a political meeting later in the day and with information as to how poverty could really be made history. Geldof and Bono had rallied all of these people together to click their fingers and wear white (we, on the other hand, were wearing red teeshirts with "Make Capitalism history" emblazoned on them). They had been told by texting their names to a special number (yes, we had mobile phones back in 2005), their name would appear on a big electronic list at the front of the rally in the Meadows. This would ensure that Gordon Brown and Tony Blair and George Bush and all of the other world leaders would bring an end to world poverty. People believed it. It seemed at the time, that the whole world had come together to change the world for ever. And all done by the non-political act of a click of a finger or sending a text.

Lots of people took a leaflet from me. Some thanked me and read it; some shoved it in their pocket along with the tens of other leaflets from all of the other campaigns wandering around Edinburgh. Some dodged me, or in Glasgow parlance, "dingyed" me, which didn't offend me. You see, when you are an activist giving out leaflets, you are giving something valuable to another person. Educating them; inviting them to come and learn. This small act of philanthropy, to the activist, is one small way to change the world. It makes you feel good.

When you are walking in the street and someone thrusts something in your hand, you have been given another piece of pocket junk.

Some people spoke to me and asked me questions, which was fine. I liked to chat to people about the issues. I felt quite happy standing in the sun, amongst that crowd who were there for noble reasons, imparting our knowledge.

And then three people dressed in their best white teeshirts and with well coiffed hair and expensive trainers approached me. One well spoken guy was obviously their spokes person.
"Hey mate. I really think what you are doing is disgusting!"

Disgusting. There was I, like him, making poverty history by texting and clicking and giving out leaflets (ok, he wasn't giving out leaflets - he was someone who was to receive knowledge from me in my act of benevolence).

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"This isn't a time to be making political points. It is a disgrace you are trying to make this political!"

Now, to be honest, I can deal with political hecklers. I have no problem in debating and discussing ideas and opposing ideology. But I wasn't ready for that. How do you explain to someone, succinctly, that of course Poverty is a political issue? That those world leaders in the big fancy hotel in Auchterarder are making political decisions about money we have all earned and about how much of our money should go on arms/border controls and wars and how little of it to give out to people who need it. It hadn't dawned on me that people at this demonstration didn't think that the issues were political.

The same kind of paralysed disbelief hit me this evening when BBC reporter, Julian Worricker was interviewing someone on the streets of London. During the interview, he said to the guy that, surely this was not the time to make political points after the interviewee had mentioned the poverty and joblessness and how the cuts were hitting hard in Haringey. All evening we had heard statements from Tory politician after Tory politician saying the riots were caused by "bad people," yet to try to contextualise the unrest was being wrong... being political.

What has led to this strange idea that we should not politically analyse problems of poverty? That we should not disagree over solutions? That we should not hold people to account when they take wrong or mistaken decisions?

This problem of fear of making political battle does not seem to be equal on both sides of the political argument. It is the left who seem to be hampered by this political paralysis.

Dom Hélder Pessoa Câmara said, "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why are they poor, they call me a Communist." The new derisive term used is, "you are politicising this."

In America, the only people who were seemingly allowed to make political announcements or accusations over the debt ceiling were the right wing, Fox TV lauded Tea Party, while Obama struggled to come up with concession after concession. His trying to compromise with them led directly to the biggest fall in the stock market since 2008 and a down grading of the USA's credit rating. We were subjected to hardass Republican after hardass Republican condemning the democrats/commies, yet after the Tea Party led crash, there have been no Democrats spitting tacks at the sell out - no political lefty bulldog saying "enough of this!" Just more concessionary words from Obama the castrated communist.

Twitter is being blamed for the London riots. But my twitter feed (usually full of lefties whispering about how bad the cuts are, while the left political establishment sit on their hands as, in actual fact, they believe in the same cuts agenda, only slower) had loads of Tories blaming the poor for their situation. Some of the vile comments I read blamed "socialism" and the "socialist" councils the areas are run by.

"Society doesn't ghettoize these people. They gave free education which we pay for. Do it to themselves expecting state to pay."

"10yr old looters? Created by scum to live as scum. Don't make pathetic excuses for criminality"

"Poor boroughs maybe burning. Fires are the progeny of the people you think should get taxpayers money.Scum rioting!"

"London does not need police lines! London need police batons to deal with these vandals & criminals. Put them in concentration camps."

These are tweets from one prominent Scottish Tory supporter. Others from right wingers urged a fight back - a call to arms, arming the shop keepers and bringing in the troops.


But there were few - if any - Labour Party members spitting tacks at how the cuts have closed 8 out of the 14 youth clubs in Tottenham in the past week alone- and the target to meet the cuts agenda is 75% of them; or the fact that only back in September last year, Home Secretary, Theresa May said, "We can cut police budget without risking violent unrest;" or that the firemen and ambulance drivers risking their lives on the streets of London have had their pay frozen and pensions decimated.

Or no-one was asking Nick Clegg, as Deputy Prime Minister, does he feel the Liberal capitulation within the coalition has allowed the Tories to bring on this summer of violence as he said they would in April 2010?

Where were the people shouting that this place has the biggest unemployment in the city? There is 1 vacancy for every 54 jobseekers? An unemployment rate of 8.8%, the highest in London and eighth highest in the country? Some of the worst deprivation ion the UK?

Instead we had local Labour MP, David Lammy making statement after statement after the initial riot, that this would harm property prices in the area, that this would harm business.

And nothing, in his first reactions, about the social causes of this unrest.

Where are the Bernie Grants, the old style Labour politicians who stood up for the people who have been ghettoised and demonised for years and years? Where were the political leaders calling for heads to roll because the disgusting cuts -political acts - that have made living in these areas even more intolerable? Where were the politicians calling for investment in jobs and education in the area? They were no-where to be seen because they don't want to challenge the seemingly obvious fact that this was caused only by bad people, or so the rightwing tabloid (and BBC) narrative says. Bad poor people who need to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. And to say otherwise would bring the wrath of the only people allowed to make political statements - the right.

Where are the Politicians with the policies that will make poverty history?

Don't politicise poverty. They are bad people. We are all in this together.

We need our politicians to start spitting tacks, shouting, banging tables with fists. We need angry women and men verbally hauling the politicians over the coals. We need to hear people asking the right questions over and over and over again. We need to ensure the right who have taken over the Labour Party and the Condems do not get away with making statements that these riots were caused by some bad people.

This was a situation that came from a build up of social factors inflicted upon this community by Thatcher through to Cameron. We need to "politicise" the argument and stand strong.

Compromise with the right has led us to where we are financially and socially at present. We need people standing up for the good people of London and Birmingham and Glasgow - the victims of the trickle up society - the people who have been forced to live in further austerity as the bankers debt is socialised and the riches are held tightly by sociopathic offshore island profiteers.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Scottish Independence – it’s up to the Working Class.

(this is my first blogpost for the Huffington Post UK )

When I first came to Scotland from Northern Ireland, I was struck by the political engagement here.
Where I was used to Republicans and Nationalists, and as an addendum, lefties (including the Labour Party) being castigated as nothing more than filthy, murdering, dirt, the political engagement here and honesty around independence and working class politics was refreshing.
Now, there will be some of you thinking, "of course if you have come from a divided place like Northern Ireland, anything else will seem normal." Well, perhaps, but what I noticed was that almosteveryone was engaged in class politics. When I lived in Northern Ireland, the middle classes were the only people represented by the political parties, from the Conservative Unionist Party to the centre left SDLP. Few people talked of "the Working Class," or indeed, "class" at all. Politics in Northern Ireland is changing, what with two predominantly working class parties in power, but still with problems of sectarian identity.
People in Scotland have the same identity markers as Northern Irish people, that is, lots of them know their religious tribe. I have had rabid Orange neighbours here in Scotland, as well as grim faced, "Our day will come," Scottish accented Irish Republicans. The thing is though, even though Irish sectarian politics pervade Scotland, from its football teams through to its straggly Orange and Republican marches - the "politics" change when you talk to people about Scottish politics.
Two aspects of Scottish politics struck me having come from a very middle class mid-Ulster town. One was the predominant self identification of a huge proportion of people as "working class," and secondly a real sense of engagement with their working class history.
Two examples. A couple of years back, I was sitting in an A&E department in Glasgow's Southern General Hospital after an accident with a screwdriver. The Southern General is in one of the most deprived areas in the UK, a place where the Thatcher Government ensured became a place of desperation as they destroyed the UK manufacturing base. Having worked in Govan, I knew it as a place with real cultural depth, but also a place where all of the social "problems" came together in one large town.
A drive through Govan, 14 years after the manufacturing hating Tories were driven from power (to be replaced by the genetically corrupted New Labour Party), the scars are all too clear to see. In the afternoon on any given week day, young men and women can be seen ducking and diving their way through survival. Govan is a place devoid of work, and today's teenagers and twenty-something's are two or three generations down the line in a world of survival in a community without work. Govan was once a proud, thriving community where families were raised on incomes from the Shipyards of the Clyde and where young people followed in their parent's footsteps into apprenticeships and lifelong work.
Young people in Govan are some of the cleverest I have ever met. This is not shown in school results - but in survival skills. When I worked there nearly ten years ago, one of six year old girl I knew, who lived with her drug addict mother and older brother, used to manage to get herself and her brother to the school breakfast club every morning. This was in despite of the fact her mother may at times have been completely out of it for days. What middle-class child of six walks to school, never mind gets themselves ready and in school for 8am?
The shame of the present Government is that the programmes that were making a difference to this young girl and her family are being eroded or stopped. Breakfast clubs are no longer free and the universal free school meals (probably the only hot, nutritious meal she and her brother got in a week) have been stopped. I have many stories of young people "pulling themselves up by their bootstraps" despite the decimation the right wing Tories and their off-spring, Neo-Liberal New Labour have meted out upon their communities.
Back to the Southern General. As I waited for a doctor to see me, two guys dressed in the colours of one of Glasgow's teams that have, let's say, "problems with Irish sectarianism" and smelling as if they had been on the Chablis until the early hours of the morning, sat down beside me. One of them had what looked like a white sock, soaked in blood, wrapped around his hand. Their accents were pure mad Weegie. The derisive word for working class, young, poor and casually dressed in Scotland is Ned - a title not unlike "Chav" or "Poor white trash" or "trailer park," all terms used to denigrate the poor. Most Glaswegians are proud "Weegies."
These guys, chewing their chewing gum and speaking to each other loudly, slurred and unselfconsciously will be the types the Tories and BUPA will price out of medicine. One of them looked at me. I was wearing a teeshirt with a picture on it of a working class Glaswegian political figure from the early twentieth century.
The potential patient smiled a gappy smile and said, "John Maclean, man. He gave an immigrant his last coat and then died of pneumonia. He wiz a good guy, man."
As we waited, we had a superb conversation about Maclean and socialism. These guys knew the problems they were immersed in and they knew what had led them and their community to destruction.
My second example was just recently. In the past few months we moved house to a place where teachers, doctors, Scottish Daily Mail reporters and engineers live side by side in streets of red sandstone houses. A place where when I lived in a similar area in England, people called themselves "middle class." A place that would have no identity problem in Belfast. It would be a Unionist area, a place voting for a Conservative candidate. It would be a safe place to openly identify as Tory in either of those other contexts. When we first arrived here, we felt like imposters. My dinged, scraped 10 year old car sat (sits) on the driveway in silent or broken exhaust roaring competition with huge 4x4's and large German company cars.
During the Christmas break, one of the neighbours invited us to a party where we met the rest of our neighbours. We spent most of the evening chatting to a group of people who had lived here for times ranging between 20 years through to a few months. As the conversation developed, as always with my wife and me, it turned to politics and the upcoming Scottish Election. Thinking I was going to be the only lefty in the room, I made a few general "controversial" statements about what should happen in Scotland (Independence, socialism etc). No-one batted an eyelid. One Engineer said, "I always vote left. I'm working class." Another small business owner agreed. And what was universally agreed was that the Scottish New Labour Party had let the Scottish working class down.
My point in my first blog-post for the HuffPost, is that Scottish Independence and consequently a left wing Holyrood Government is inevitable - but only if it is an independence fit for the working class.
The Scots are very canny political animals. They vote for what makes life best for the majority, rather than the politics of the individual. And this has a long lineage. People here remember their working class history from the women led Rent strikes in the early 20th Century, through to the legacy of Margaret Thatcher. They remember the fact that they haven't voted for a Tory Government in generations, yet have Tory policies imposed by their English neighbours over and over again, or at the very least have the party they DO vote for diluted by so called "middle England." Some things are unforgivable.
Presently, the party that reflects the aspirations of the working class is the SNP. The SNP, the nationalist party, have in the past few years, taken a veneer of working class values and policy and were rewarded at the Scottish Elections in May with the whole of Scotland. The SNP are not a natural lefty party - in fact their old nick-name was the "Tartan Tories" - they are a coalition of people who want Independence, and the leaders of the Party have realised that in Scotland, the only way to take the Scottish Working class with them is to cloak themselves in that identity.
As soon as the SNP give too much to neo-liberalism and the rich, they will crash and there are signs that the Scottish people are noticing cracks in the party with their corporation-tax policies and their love-in of the billionaire Donald Trump.
But what they have to know is the working class in Govan and Bearsden are paying attention.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Entrophy (2)

I've been painting...

Entrophy (1) HERE