Sunday, July 5, 2015
From a Veteran (1964)
Obituary: Harry Gratton (1976)
My Mother (1997)
My mother was attending a secretarial college but she was never to use her secretarial skills because when seventeen she met my father. They were married quite soon, and about a year later my eldest brother was born, but Mum once told me that she was very naive with no experience of the working world, and even less idea of how to be a wife and mother.
During the Second World War years when my younger brother and I were to be evacuated (for the third time) to some, as yet, unknown destination, Mum got a list from our school instructing her about what clothes we should take with us, and I remember that she looked at this list, sighed and said sadly, "I haven't got the money for any of these things." But I think now that the solution was already in my mother's heart.
She took us into town to a well-known department store, and with the help of a kindly assistant, got us to try on coats, shoes and blazers, and then when the assistant had disappeared temporarily, to tend to another customer, she took us each by a hand and led us calmly out of the store and into the street where we caught a tram home . . . still clad in our glorious new clothes. Now at the age of nine I knew that society did not allow people to have anything for nothing. On the tram I said in a small voice, "You didn't play, Mum." She gazed out of the tram window, a pretty woman, ageing prematurely, "Hush," she said, "They've got more than I have. They won't miss it." And that is how it always was with her.
Whenever she felt it to be absolutely necessary she would steal, and always from department stores, never from individuals or small shops. Maybe she took to heart Dad's pronouncement that "property is theft". I remember one freezing winter's evening when there was no coal and no wood for a fire, she left the house, was gone for about an hour, and came back carrying several planks of wood. To this day I do not know the identity of the person whose fence she dismantled and I know it was the ONLY time she deviated from her forays on department stores for theft of a more personal nature, but I still think of the warmth in the house that evening.
To earn a little money Mum played the piano in pubs. I can see her now sitting at the piano, beers lined up on the lid of the instrument, whilst a perfect arch of ash hung down from the cigarette dangling from her lips. But at home she played Beethoven, Chopin and Strauss and we had some wonderful musical evenings. Later she had a dance band, there was a little more money and we were marginally better off.
She was ever conscious of what she thought of as her husband's intellectual and social superiority. Though witty and amusing herself I know that she constantly felt eclipsed by Dad's confidence and knowledge, and as we all grew up and the eldest left home she often became depressed. Then she would steal things she most certainly did not need. One day she was stopped by a store detective and there was a court case, but mum beguiled the magistrate into concluding that there was not enough evidence to prove theft. She insisted that the goods she had stolen were still hers and infuriated the store detective by demanding them back. And she got them!
But the last memory I have of Mum is when she was eighty-five and received a summons for non-payment of her Poll Tax. She was at this time very frail and becoming progressively nervous of going out and of crowded places, and yet she braved a court in South East London where hundreds of others gathered to protest and there she voiced her feelings about the injustice of the Tax. She died tow years later after a lifetime of struggle.
Punk rock's silver jubilee (2002)
“Oh bondage, up yours!” - Poly Styrene
I am not he, nor master, nor lord no crown to wear, no cross to bear in stations.
I am not he, nor shall be, warlord of nations –
these heroes have run before me, now dead upon the flesh piles, see, waiting for their promised resurrection. There is none, nothing but the marker, crown or cross, in stone upon these graves.
Promise of the ribbon was all it took,where only the strap would leave it's mark upon these slaves.
What flag to thrust into this flesh, rag, bandage, mop in their flowing death?
Taken aside, they were pointed a way, for god, queen and country.
Now in silence they lie. They ran before these masters,
children of sorrow as slaves to that trilogy -
they had no future.
They believed in democracy, freedom of speech,
yet dead on the flesh piles I hear no breath, I hear no hope,
no whisper of faith from those who have died
for some others' privilege - Out from your palaces, princes and queens!
Out from your churches, you clergy, you christs!
I'll neither live nor die for your dreams,
I'll make no subscription to your paradise – Crass
Punk rock also brought an exciting and refreshing infusion of women and their points of view into a domain previously dominated by the male crotch. The Au Pairs, Crass, Delta 5, Essential Logic, Penetration, the Raincoats, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Slits, X-Ray Spex are the most obvious examples. Indeed, punk opened songwriting into literally any arena, but the political was rock's last breach of conquest. The Gang Of Four (the very name says it all) was possibly the most famous band to explicitly attack the system. The commodification of sex, the critique of the Great Man theory of history, the disgust with a society of such pervading dehumanizing rules and regulations, the scandals of those in power, and the profiteering of the entertainment industry, were some of the topics attacked in their albums. This was tight, often reggafied, punk that blasted the system with its catchy hooks.
Identity: Individual and Collective (2015)
Party News (1981)
There has at least been some sanity in this month's French presidential election: members and sympathisers of the Socialist Party of Great Britain organised a public meeting in Paris on the subject of universal suffrage and Marxism. Maximilien Rubel gave a talk on how Marx concluded in 1880 that the working class could change universal suffrage from an instrument of trickery into an "agent of emancipation" by mandating socialist delegates to immediately dismantle the state machinery of capitalism and establish socialism. Rubel stressed the importance of working-class consciousness in the transformation of society but when then suggested that we should adopt a reform programme to win support. The logical outcome of reforming capitalism could be seen on the way back from the meeting: large posters with the most absurd and vague slogans lined the streets: "France needs a president. V. Giscard d'Estaing"; "Jobs first: Mitterand for President" ("Socialist" Party); "With Huguette Bouchardeau for the alternative" (Unified Socialist Party); "Let's produce French: Marchais for President" (French Communist Party); and, most bemusing of all, "Now, together, act with Jacques Chirac". The alternative to this array of careerist hypocrites is for us to stop following leaders and cast a vote not for a person or a policy, but for a socialist society. The election issue of Socialisme Mondial, as well as a French version of the Questions of the Day pamphlet Pour le Socialisme Mondial is now available from Head Office.
Wealth in present society is produced only when there is the prospect of a profit; in a socialist society, production would be carried out simply in order to satisfy human needs, whenever and wherever they occurred. The contrast was brought out very well by Mike Cooley of the Lucas Aerospace Combine Shop Stewards Committee, at a conference in March organised by the William Morris Society and the Institute of Contemporary Arts. Several SPGB members took part. Cooley argued that people could create high quality articles through satisfying co-operative work, provided that the priority was use and not exchange.