Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Weekly Bulletin of The Socialist Party of Great Britain 131

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the 131st of our weekly bulletins to keep you informed of changes at Socialist Party of Great Britain @ MySpace.

We now have 1560 friends!

Recent blogs:

  • Marx on terrorism and censorship
  • Is Britain Going Fascist?
  • Did Jesus ever live?
  • Quote for the week:

    "My dialectic method is not only different from the Hegelian, but is its direct opposite. .... With him it is standing on its head. It must be turned right side up again, if you would discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell." Marx, Afterword to the Second German Edition of Capital, 1873.

    Continuing luck with your MySpace adventures!

    Robert and Piers

    Socialist Party of Great Britain

    The Hell That Is Poverty (1999)

    Theatre Review from the November 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard

    Love On The Dole by Ronald Gow and Walter Greenwood. National Theatre.

    I remember my mother telling about Love on the Dole when I was growing up in Manchester. Walter Greenwood had pitched his novel about the evils of unemployment, and the grinding poverty that is its inevitable accompaniment, in Hanky Park in Salford. The family home was still in Salford, close to Hankinson Park where Greenwood was born, and when I read the novel as a young man there were still dozens of Hanky Parks in the grimy old town: the night school I attended three times a week was close by one such example; Lowry used others as the subject material of his paintings; and Granada TV identified and tarted up another which became Coronation Street. But until a few weeks ago I had never seen Ronald Gow's play of Greenwood's novel. It was revelation.

    Throughout the year, under the banner of NT 2000, the National has been "charting and celebrating the progress of drama through the 20th century, as represented by 100 plays". In the main these celebrations have been, regrettably, modest in nature, typically consisting of a couple of extracts from the chosen play, and conversations perhaps involving the author and original cast members. But now three plays which had proved popular earlier in the series, and which had never been produced at the National, had been chosen for "full readings" on the stage of the Lyttleton. Love on the Dole was one of these.

    I confess I was unprepared for the impact of Greenwood and Gow's play. With only a few props and with scripts to hand the cast quickly transported us to the early 1930s and to events which on the one hand appeared as though through the mists of time, and yet on the other seemed achingly familiar. "Aw, God, just let me get a job," pleads Mr Hardcastle, with furniture pawned and his daughter about to sell herself as a prostitute. And later in total despair, as he dropped to his knees and beat the floor in helpless frustration, crying "God, gimme a job," I couldn't but remember Alan Bleasdale's Boys from the Blackstuff, and Yosser's plaintive catechism which somehow summed up the 1980s, "Gissa job, Mister. Gissa job."

    It says much for the power of the play that actors like Alison Steadman and Jack Ellis, Kathy Staff and Julie Legrand, were prepared to invest time, energy, and commitment in a single performance on a wet Monday evening. A couple of weeks later when I returned to the National to buy a copy of the script I discovered that the man at the cash desk had taken a small part in the production. He told me that the actors had been amazed at the impact of the play on both themselves and the audience. "We could see that people were clearly moved by the reading, as we were ourselves."

    Love on the Dole may be belittled because it was written as a novel rather than as a play, but on the evidence of this reading it is one of the most important pieces of drama of the century. Its authenticity is clear. Its characters are real, and their concerns are our concerns. It speaks to people because it paints a picture of life as it is; life as it will continue for as long as the mechanics of capitalism hold sway, and periodically determine that countless millions of people will be thrown on the dole.

    And one final note. Not for the first time the programme is revealing. First performed in 1934, by the end of the following year Love on the Dole had been seen by more than one million people on stages up and down the country. But the British Board of Film Censors would not allow "this very sordid story in very sordid surroundings" to be filmed in the 1930s. Two years after the Board reached its decision the same members of the working class whose sordid story had been so powerfully described in Love on the Dole, but seen as unsuitable for filming, were being invited to volunteer to fight in the Second World War—in defence of freedom and democracy, of course.
    Michael Gill

    Chomsky on (A) Global Super-Power (2004)

    Book Review from the July 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

    Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance. By Noam Chomsky.

    This is the latest in a long line of books by Chomsky on US ‘foreign’ policy. Like the others, it presents a devastating critique of the American ruling class’s support for dictatorships and readiness to use military might to get their way.

    One of the key points of this text is the extent of the USA’s current ambitions. With effectively no rivals, the US can aspire to ‘permanent global hegemony by reliance on force where necessary’. This strategy involves ‘preventive war’: invading (or just threatening to invade) countries which step out of line or present any kind of challenge to US power. The US has a virtual monopoly of large-scale violence, can almost do what it likes in the global arena, and intends to keep things this way.

    While the exact degree of US aims is new, it is of course just an extension of previous policies. In the early part of the 20th century, British companies were driven out of Venezuela, leaving US firms in charge of its vast oil industry (as they still are today). While other countries were weakened in the Second World War, the US emerged as economically dominant and strategically secure. It moved to gain effective dominance over the Middle East, which had the extra advantage of giving it control over Japan’s energy supplies. In 1958, independent Arab nationalism was fought with help from Israel and Turkey, while the same year mass slaughter in Indonesia “eliminated the mass-based political party of the poor and opened the doors wide to Western investors” . This last quote unfortunately reveals one of Chomsky’s shortcomings: his uncritical enthusiasm for reformist anti-Western movements which in reality stand for a more nationalist version of capitalism. (This kind of logic has reached its nadir in his endorsement of John Kerry for US president, as a lesser evil than Bush!)

    In more recent years, the US has consistently supported tyrannical dictators and then claimed credit for their overthrow. At the same time it has done its best to undermine any government that did not bow down before it, as in Cuba and Nicaragua, leading to the conclusion that the US is ‘a leading terrorist state’. Domestically, the tactic has been for whichever faction is in power to maintain it by instilling fear in the population – 9/11 of course made this much easier. At the same time, the government has cut back on welfare spending, from schools to social security. Chomsky’s summary of all this is:
    “Maintaining a hold on political power and enhancing US control of the world’s primary energy sources are major steps toward the twin goals that have been declared with considerable clarity: to institutionalize a radical restructuring of domestic society that will roll back the progressive reforms of a century, and to establish an imperial grand strategy of world domination.”
    Note that this passage again shows Chomsky’s support for allegedly-progressive reforms which in fact do not challenge the power of the capitalist class or modify the subordinate status of workers.
    The ambitions of the US rulers are no longer confined to terra firma, as they wish to extend their control to space. This is not an arms race exactly, as the US is the only real competitor in the militarisation of space. Ballistic missile defence (BMD) is yet another tool for global dominance, designed to make the US practically impregnable yet able to strike almost anywhere. In some variants, BMD will be so all-embracing that the US will effectively ‘own’ space (the jargon is ‘full-spectrum dominance’). US hegemony is apparently seen as more important than mere human survival (hence the book’s title).

    Chomsky’s persistently ironic style will not be to everyone’s taste, but his book does give a thorough picture of the leading superpower’s plans for all our futures.
    Paul Bennett