"Philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point however is to change" - Karl Marx

This blog is my interpretation, I will do everything I can to change the world along those line

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Moving forward in Wales

The Socialist Party Wales annual conference was today and it was a definate reflection of the steps forward we have taken in recent years. The attendence alone not only highlighted the growth but a huge shift in the average age. Despite there being an increase in the number of older comrades in attendence there was a much bigger increase in the number of young comrades.

The first session on British and Wesh perspectives was introduced by Peter Taaffe, General Secretary of the Socialist Party. He highlighted the dramatic changes which had happened to the party in Wales since his last visit 2 years ago, that the party was well placed to live up to the traditions of the welsh working class. Throughout his introduction he pointed the situation currenty facing us both in Britian but also internationally, I'm not going to go through it all as I ay as well just upload a perspectives document if I were to do that but one thing that did stick in my mind was a statistic Peter mentioned about Spain in which he stated that unemployment amongst the youth stood at between 40-45%! Peter went out to point out that despite our relatively small size we were able to accurately predict the crisis at every stage and have been in a prime position to react because of this.

The discussion that followed was excellent, the only problem being time constraints. Various things that were covered in the discussion included an good explanation of why were talk about perspectives, as they are a guide to action. It was generally agreed that Wales despite facing huge job losses already has been cuishioned  up until now as 30% of employment is withing the public sector, but that there will e huge battles to face there after the general election. One speaker highlighted the savage attacks which are already begining in Higher Education and that these battles will intensify after the election, and we have to be prepared for the divide and rule tactics which are begining now. Throughout the discussion from both new and old comrades there was a general emphasis on youth and how to attrack them, pointing out the role that new and enthusiastic comrades play on the mindset of older comrades whuch keeps them going  in the positions they hold in the labour movement. It was also pointed out that there was a need to reach out in particular to young workers in the current period, they will be explioted more so in the future with an increase in insecure temporary and even cash in hand jobs. It was also noted that voter turnout amongst young people is likely to be at an al time low.

Next we had the finance appeal which was fantastic raising some approaching £4,000, and then the lunch break,where Itook the opporutunity to discuss the progress up North with the comrades from Wrexham and Bangor. Before returning just on time for the afternoon sessions.

Alec Thraves introduced the next session on organisation, although it seems that I lost the edge with my note taking by this point. Alec highlighted the growth in the last year or so particularly with the growth Cardiff, the solidification of Newport and the north wales expansion, but went on to highlight the possibilities of the coming year with a third branch in Cardiff, new branches in Swansea, Llaneli, Ammanford and Wrexham. He explained that we are different to all the main parties, that we are not a discussion group , but a combat and activist party. Though stressing the need for a theoretical grounding in marxism as that guide to action. He pointed out that within the conference were several leading trade unionists,pointing out that they all came to that position by the support of the Socialist Party, he highighted in particular Rob Williams and his recent battles with Linimar for his reinstatement, that Rob relied on the support and advice of the party and that within 2 hours of him being dismissed Socialist Party members from all over Wales we stood outside the factory gates. He said "If you take on one member of the Sociaist Party you take on the entire Party, we don't work alone we work together as a unit" He went on to say that it is the youth comrades in the room today will be the ones leading these kind of struggles in the future.

Next we spit up into three commissions, one on trade unionism, one on youth work and the final one on branch building. I went to the commission on youth work which was introduced by Matt Dobson from the youth dept. As there were many new comrades there it was a much more interactive discussion than the others which discussed various issues, such as Youth Fight for Jobs perspective for the national demonstration in Barking and the demonstration planned at the Welsh Assembly as well as other ways in which to build support for the campain. We also discussed the importance of future campaigns within Higher Education which within Wales will be hit pretty hard mentioning some of the things processes which have already began. Overall it was a very posiitve discussion involving many new comrades involving about 20 comrades and as other young comrades had gone to the other sessions and many youth comrades were unable to attend the comference it was a great step forward from about 5 years ago where A welsh youth meeting would typically have only 6 people at it.

We then went make to the main hall for the closing of the conference, both the Welsh Perspectives document and the slate for the Wales commitee were passed unanamoiusly. A raffle was drawn and despite not buying a ticket I won a trotsky t-shirt after complaining no one told me there was a raffle and a comrade gave me one of his tickets. We closed the conference with the singing of the internationale before retiring to the pub. Overall a very positive day which set out very well future perspectives, where we are now and how far we have come and the perspectives for future developments. Aiming to double our membership in Wales within a year.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

You are a Liar and a Murderer!

 Yesterday Tony Blair faced the Chilcot Inquiry over the Iraq war. An issue which had a profound effect on me personally as it was what turned me into an activist, so with my hatred of Blair all clear and out in the open what happened?

The enquiry from start to finish has been a farce declaring from the outset that the findings would not result in any prosecutions. Which brings into question the whole point of the inquiry, if not charges will be brought, if it won't result in a troop withdrawel and it obviously cannot reverse the damage caused to millions already.

Despite this Blair showed absolutely no remorse and the inquiry did not really push him all that much. Afua Hirsch from the Guardian said: 

He responded to a question about the controversial intelligence dossier with a speech about how seriously he takes the nuclear threat from Iran. He responded to a question about weapons of destruction in Iraq with a a reply about military action taken joinlty with Bill Clinton in 1998.

It wasn't restricted to simply avoiding the questions put to him George Galloway went as far as to say 

He was allowed to report that Iraq was in breach of UN resolutions in general and 1441 in particular. But in fact, they weren't in breach of it. There were no weapons of mass destruction..... Blair was allowed to tell a blatant lie.

The whole thing was clearly just for show and it was put incredibly well by Haifa Zangana when she said

Undergrads would have asked more probing questions.

Of course she is absolutely right and as an undergrad myself here coming the more probing investigation albeit confined to my blog. The whole argument about the legality of the invasion puzzles me as it was taken as fact previously that it was. Despite a vote in parliament agreeing to the invasion, the British government had no jurisidcition within Iraq and the UN didn't saction it. Not that the rights and wrongs should be determined by the law of the land.

I guess the argument about whether it was legal or not is focusing on whether the infomation provided was correct or not, but once again wasn't this blatantly obvious to anyone at the time. Blair said the 45 minute claim was a minor point so didn't really matter but it was picked up by the media. Now that may be true except for one important detail, Blair nor any other government official tried to correct the misinformation of the media. Quite happy to ride it out with a Lie. He also stated that it wouldn't have made a difference if the weapons inspectors had been given more time it would not have made a difference, well he's got that right they certainly would not have found any weapons.

By looking at what Blair actually said he made it clear that this was only able to happen in the post 9/11 era and that it was possible to gather the forces to do so! That despite there being no evidence between Saddam Hussien and Al'Qaida (and how would you find a link between a secular regime and religious hardiners?) that he could no longer take the risk with countries who wanted to aquire weapons of mass destruction.  Then went on to say that they did everything to stabilise Iraq, to stop attempts to distabilise the economy by protecting the oil fields.

So it's there that Blair gives us the real reason, Oil its the only explanation why so many barbaric regimes are left alone or become good 'friends'. Throughout the whole process Blair makes it quite obvious to anyone seriously looking at it that here knew what was really going on at the time and just lied for the sake of war. He claims that it has made the world a safer place but once again this is a blatant lie and doesn't really compare well up against the facts

Blair did however tell a couple of truths, the first being that the cabinet were well informed and made the decision collectivey, it is clear that they were all in on it and Blair is just being seen now as an individual to take the blame, not that he doesn't deserve it but the rest of them do too.

The other truth which he tells is that we shouldn't ask the questions of 2003 in 2010, we should be asking the questions of 2010 in 2010. So let's do it. Why are there still 7 years later imperialist troops occupying Iraq as well as Afganistan causing terror and destruction!

Meanwhile it is clear that Blair will walk free without any problems or a care in the world, unfortunately the same can not be said for Joe Glenton who is facing a 2 year sentence for going awol and  refusing to fight in these imperialist wars

Thursday, 28 January 2010

No Shelter

This post is abit late but I thought I would comment on the Christmas No. 1 fiasco. Inspired to write this by my recent research on counter-culture and the resistance against consumerism.

Whilst even Rage Against the Machine jumped on the band wagon and saw this as a way of 'saving' music in Britian, they should really be reminded on the lyrics to their own song No Shelter

The main attraction, distraction
got ya number than number than numb
Empty ya pockets son, they got you thinkin that
What ya need is what they sellin
Make you think that buyin is rebellin'
From the theaters to malls on every shore
The thin line between entertainment and war
The frontline is everywhere, there be no shelter here
Spielberg the nightmare works so push it far
Amistad was a whip, the truth feather to tar
Memories erased and burned to scar
Trade in ya history for a VCR

Cinema, simulated life, ill drama
Fourth reich culture, Americana
Chained to the dream they got ya searchin for
The thin line between entertainment and war

There'll be no shelter here!
The frontline is everywhere
There'll be no shelter here!
The frontline is everywhere
There'll be no shelter here!
The frontline is everywhere
There'll be no shelter here!
The frontline is everywhere

Hospitals not profit full
The market bull's got pockets full
To advertise some hip disguise
View the world from American eyes
Tha poor adore keep feeding for more
Tha thin line between entertainment and war
fix the need, develop the taste
Buy their products or get laid to waste
Coca-Cola was back in our veins in Saigon
And Rambo too, we got a dope pair of Nikes on
Godzilla pure motherfuckin' filler
Get your eyes off the real killer

Cinema, simulated life, ill drama
Fourth reich culture, Americana
Chained to the dream they got you searchin for
Tha thin line between entertainment and war

There'll be no shelter here!
The frontline is everywhere
There'll be no shelter here!
The frontline is everywhere
There'll be no shelter here!
The frontline is everywhere
There'll be no shelter here!
The frontline is everywhere

American eyes, American eyes
View the world from American eyes
Bury the past, rob us blind
And leave nothin behind

American eyes, American eyes
View the world from American eyes
Bury the past, rob us blind
And leave nothin behind

Just stare!
Just stare!
Just stare!
Just stare!

and live the nightmare!

In Particular the line of the song which goes like this

What ya need is what they sellin
Make you think that buyin is rebellin'

It is in this line we find the crux of the problem. We were told that buying a 1992 single which everyone already had either legally or illegally would be able to save musical culture. As if at some point in the recent history we already controlled it!

But what was achieved? Bigger sales and free marketing for the x-factor winner, and huge sales for Killing in the name which is already a huge track played regularly internationally. As both were signed to Sony subsidiaries all we saw was sony cashing it in with loads of free publicity.

Far from being described as a blow against the music industry this couldn't even e described as culture jamming as the track chosen was a worldwide hit and a classic still reguarly played of rock radio and tv stations and clubs throughout the world. The only thing achieved was an illusion in consumerism.

I will keep it short as a discussion on this woud be interesting, but I will post more on counter-culture and culture jamming in the future

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

A Special Kind of Dilema

I now find myself in what I have termed 'A Special Kind of Dilema'. The Dilema in question is not really special at all but I found it to be a much better title than simply'I am very lazy'.

The problem orginates from the very reason I started the blog in the first place the reasons for which are outlined in my first post Everyones Favourite Comrade. However this is where the problem began. It was at this point that I was unemployed and had given up on looking for employment due to my iminent return to education. That in itself was one of the motivating factors behind the blog, as I had not had to write in a structured way since dropping out during my A-levels in 2004.

Upon begining University my blog went very quiet and until a few days ago hadn't been updated since October! I felt I had no need to in someways I guess and in other ways as I am generaly lazy I just didn't bother as I was begining to write essays and so was already back into the habit of writing through this anyway.

However the university setting so far has caused a lot of frustration on my part. This is partly self-inflicted due to my laziness but also because of my distain for the education system. I chose to study Sociology hoping to get a lot out of it,as I did previously studying at both GCSE and A-level (which is where I came into contact with marxism and the Socialist Party). However a number of factors it has not led up to my expectation so far and those factors in no particular order are.

  1. The production line layout of education, while i find many of the lectures interesting I find myself at the end of 1 hour thinking "is that it! just 1 hour on the topic and we come back next week to do it all over again" and this is compounded by the fact that it is geared towards answering specific essay questions which I have found very restrictive in the main, and become disinterested in the subject because it is not the subject that I want to write about.
  2. Seminars- hate is too strong a word to describe this but I have grown to dislike many of my seminars. Not because I do not like the concept of seminars but because it doesn't seem to be working. Instead of a discussion amongst the students more often than not it becomes a disussion between myself and a lecturer with maybe one or two others joining.
  3. Complacency-I have become very complacent with much of the work I have handed in because of the advantages I have over many of my peers having studied sociology for 4 years previously and been an active marxist for 7 years now I appear to  have the edge over the others straight away. Whilst this is true and my grades so far have reflected this my writing style could do with much improvement and my sociological knowledge outside the realms of marxism are less than desirabe.
  4. Most importantly and for all the reasons above I have become lazy and lack drive, putting in little effort or time into assignments which has been aided incredibly by my laziness, and although up until now my grades  have been good I can't sustain this forever and neither will it  improve my understanding.

So after recently reading Blogging, Academia and Sociology over at A Very Public Sociologist it got me thinking about how I can rectify this and how blogging can play a part. It got me thinking and the answer was simple. If the lecture subject is interesting blog about it! If the essay questions are too restrictive, as well as writing the essay, blog away free of the restrictions of the question itsef! If the seminars are simply a back and forth between me and a lecturer then blog about the topic hoping a discussion will follow free from the parameters of the amount of people sat in the room (although restricted to whoever looks at the blog) I hope by doing this and reaching out into the world of political and sociological blogs I will be able to over come my complacany force myself to put the effort and research in which is so lacking and can be noted by my last blog entries Youth Culture which was simply one of my essays I uploaded onto the blog. Although I got a first from it, It is quite evident that it lacks so much. I hope that by putting either some of my work into the public domain or writing articles specificaly for the blog it will improve my work over all and overcome my laziness and complacancy and everything else which I have become dissatisfied with.

So I guess the point I have been getting at is that along with the original 'mission statement' I put forward for this blog. Which is admittedly a very broad scope.

"What topics will this blog cover, well its a political blog but as capitalist society effects every aspect of culture and human interaction in someway that means that this blog will be open to covering any subject matter."

But now my aim is not only to reboot that up but to delve more into sociological aspects as wel and to update much more frequently time permitting.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Youth Culture

I haven't made a post for awhile so I have decided to post one of my recent essay's as I beieve it could be the starting point for an interesting discussion. The essay is not a definitive answer to the question by any stretch of the imagination as ever with academia I was limited by time and space as well as by the nature of the question it self.

Nevertheless I feel that this could be a good starting point for a discussion on the changes of youth culture and its relationship with capitalism.

The question of youth, is one that is ever changing, by the very nature of youth being a stage of life that everyone goes through. A question however of great importance for a very obvious reason pointed out by Giroux 

Any discourse about the future has to begin with the issue of youth because more than any other group, youth embody the dreams, desires, and commitment of a society’s obligation to the future.
(Giroux, 2004)

However the youth are not simply developed in isolation from society as something to mould it in future. On the contrary young people are born into a society already in existence moulded and developed by the material realities around them as explained by Pierre Bourdieu

 '’youth' has been an evolving concept, layered upon layers with values which reflect contemporary moral, political and social concerns'

(cited in Jones, 2009)

It's for this reason that the question of youth cannot be discussed in isolation of previous events that have moulded and developed them and their outlook and expressions. I will explain here how the collapse of the Soviet Union along with the destruction of the manufacturing industry led to a major crisis in youth culture in the early 90's through the rave culture that had developed. Due to the increased alienation and lack of a ideological outlet. The Rave Culture emerged as a political act of defiance, creating their own society their own norms their own values, with sheer disregard for the laws accepted by society as a whole. But as this died down through the enforcement of the Criminal Justice Act and the rise of the legitimate club scene there arose a conflict in youth.

The crisis which arose was on one hand a dual fragmentation into the overtly political in the form of the anti-capitalist movement and the apolitical with the development of chav culture, both of which in reality were very political reactions to the alienation felt most acutely by young people. Alongside this was a stark contradiction, the young people were further fragmented, lost without their own identity, simply holding the identity that had been thrust upon them.

The big change, in fact probably the biggest change which will have changed youth culture forever, is the spread of the internet, which has opened up contemporary as well as historic ideas, values beliefs and norms to a generation who grew up with the internet as the norm. This coupled with the biggest economic crisis for nearly 100 years has had a profound effect and leads to major changes to come.

As the 1990s began the Berlin Wall had fallen and the rest of the Soviet Union had either collapsed or was on the verge of doing so. Their followed a huge ideological extravaganza that capitalism was the only way forward in which society can be run. Encapsulated by the Wall Street Journal which in 1990 simply declared as the headline 'We Won' (cited in Taaffe, 2009). This did not however match the reality of the experiences of young people at the time.

During this period of the so-called global triumph of capitalism the manufacturing industry in Britain had begun to decline and replaced with service sector jobs or unemployment (REFERENCE) in the recession of the early 90s. Leading to increased alienation, as Marx explained they do not see their work as part of their life but merely a way in which to gain the earnings necessary to for subsistence and leisure. (Marx, 1999) Hannah Sell brings this into a modern context by showing that young people were further alienated

The description of working life would apply just as much to the workers in McDonalds. Tesco, call centres on modern building sites or in factories, as it ever did to the weavers and labourers Marx was describing. Instead of making life easier the increase in automation has reduced ever more jobs to mind-numbing repetition and boredom.
(Sell, 2002)

 All this happened in the backdrop of the ideological offensive that capitalism was the only way. Young people had been cut off from a political voice by the closure of the Labour Party Young Socialists in 1988 which previously would have filled out with working class youth.Young people who were alienated and denied a political voice, being told that this was the only way and growing up in Thatcher's Britain to be told 'There is no society' set out to create their own society. In both a form of escapism from the mundane routine of employment or lack of and a political response to their own space, or norms, own values etc. In essence they tried to create their own society and so the burgeoning rave scene filled out.

It was a movement of the abandoned who found a space for themselves in the spaces and gaps left by society in the wake of abandoning a generation.
It occupies the ‘cracks and vacancies’ left by the state, including abandoned industrial complexes, - the detritus of Euro-American post-industrial society. As manifestations of the TAZ, raves are utopian social formations temporarily convened in Turner cracks, crevices and interstices of social structure - in the margins of society.
(John 2004)
It is clear from this that the emergence of the rave culture was an attempt to reinvigorate the abandoned and betrayed areas of society which had alienated young people so much. However this was not simply a case of young people trying to re-establish the forms of society that had been destroyed this was a case of young people trying to create a new society based on their own norms and values as Steve Redhead points out.
It can be used and usually not affect the person’s ability to work the next or the following day. It is associated with politics of pleasure, a hedonism (in hard times) – a pleasure for its own sake in times when moral regulation of youth is pervasive and deep economic crisis is rife.
(Redhead, 1993)
Whilst functionalists would argue that this deviance is necessary in order to maintain a functioning society even going as far as to say 'anomie does not cause deviance, it is deviance which is the solution to anomie' (Blackman 2004) I would turn this on its head and say that the isolation is both the cause of the deviance and that the deviance is also the solution to isolation. Not however that this is the only way in which society could function, but simply that this is the only way in which the current order of society can be maintained. It was for this reason and that the rave culture was seriously questioning the power and authority of society that it was eventually controlled and stamped out. Through the introduction of the Criminal Justice Act which clamped down on illegal raves and through the legitimisation of rave culture in the commercial scene. 
It was through this discourse that young people were conflicted, the young were fragmented and no dominant sub-culture was there to encapsulate the hopes and dreams of a generation. This can be summed up by the rock band Pitchshifter, who point out the alienation felt by youth and the searching for a voice, for a generational statement.
The jobs we get when we graduate from school are stupid, boring meaningless and a dead end to insanity..... Every generation has a statement they wanna call their own, tattoos, piercings, that’s for mums and dads.
(Pitchshifter 2000)
It is in this period which prompted Steve Redford to proclaim that youth as a genre is fast becoming a cliché (Redhead 1995). Whilst this was partially true there was also during this period two phenomena’s that changed things forever.

It was around this period in which the anti-capitalist movement developed, due to the lack of political organisation in workplaces but the relative political freedom and individual wealth that had developed an unique situation developed where young people alienated from society decided to fight back against the capitalist order directly
The kind of workplaces that young people work in often do not have unions. Politically-conscious youth are expressing their politics outside of work, through anti-fascism, through defending their right to party, through involvement in a counter-culture (in which the internet plays a large part). The internet gives young people contact with the world. They form ideas about their place in the world, without attending meetings. The internet makes it possible for young people in the UK to define themselves in relation to struggles for emancipation in Korea or Mexico, without the mediating role of an organisation in their home town or even home country. Lots of internet kiddies know more about the politics of the Zapatistas than they do about the political systems they live under. The Zapatistas are exciting rebels, even the best of the politicians available at home are either dreary careerists or patently unserious.
(Workers’ Liberty, 2001)
This clearly displays that young people are clearly and overtly searching for a political alternative to run society and this happened because of the spread of the internet opening up global ideas to a lost generation who now have the ability to search out those very ideas. It has led to the development of a youth culture with is anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist in nature and one which embraces and even celebrates their differences. This can be summed up in a nutshell by the anti-capitalist musicians Sonic Boom Six who point out that the differences between then are in essence meaningless it’s just about finding your own identity in a failing world. 
Well I remember at the party, a couple years ago, when I saw an MC. He ripped the mic and passed it to me. I learnt a little lesson he helped me to see. It’s not about choosing guitar or the decks it’s about doing it yourself that get’s the respect. So punks say Oi! B-Boys say Bo!
(Sonic Boom Six, 2006)

This form of culture amongst youth has undoubtedly developed because of the rise of the internet which encapsulates all the history and culture available and the click of a button which has led to the acceptance of other styles of youth culture.

Conversely however this was a dual process and the other main trend to flow from this was the emergence of chav culture which has also been a political reaction by this change has occurred in a covert nature. Chavs have also taken an anti-authoritarian stance but one of intimidation coupled with a desire for commodities previously adorned with the middle class. (Atkinson, 2008) ‘Chav culture’ has taken the alienation and frustration of young people in a consumer society and manifested itself in a disregard for authority and a yearning for those consumer goods which they see as defining their status.

Both these dualities which have appeared in youth culture over the last decade are a reaction to the alienation and abandonment felt by young people in the modern world.
One of the worst things of all experiences in capitalist Britain is to be a young person who cannot get work – to have been thrown on the scrap heap before your teens are over.
(Sell, 2002)
Yet these different sub-cultures have manifested themselves in opposing forms. One seeking to change the world and one seeking to simply change their own circumstances. These differences are likely to be exacerbated in the next few years as the economic crisis will further beat down on an already battered generation and it is for this reason that the subject is so interesting as the ideas and objectives of the youth will be the ideas and objectives of the future. 

I have outlined here the developments of youth culture in the last two decades, starting from the conflict in young people, alienated from a society that they were told was the ‘only way’ which manifested itself in a merger of cultural resistance and of a political response in the form of rave culture. But once this began to disseminate there was a crisis in youth. There appeared a young generation angry and disposed with their isolation but with no obvious outlet neither political nor cultural. But this began to change with the fast paced spread of the internet opening up the world to young people and a duality in youth developed. 

Young people were increasingly isolated from society and manifested themselves into to opposing ways, one in which they attempted to change society and another in which they attempted to change their own position in society. These differences are likely to exacerbated in the next few years as the looming economic crisis deepens and the dominant ideas which emerge amongst the youth with be the dominant ideas of the future leading to more changes.

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