Monday, 19 December 2011

The picture in the attic

"Cyprus, then, is a locus classicus of destabilization in the age of détente. Its elimination from the scene as a threat to imperial influence involved the systematic manipulation of racial and religious hostilities, the imposition of military despotism in two countries for a total of ten years, the financing of subversion and terror among the civilian population and the risk of a generalized war in the Aegean. It also involved exploiting the political weakness of the indigenous Left. The battle for the Mediterranean is, however, not yet over and those who participate in it may find the Cypriot example rich in lessons and warning."

'Détente and Destabilization: Report from Cyprus', New Left Review, 1/94 (1975)

"The confrontation that opened on the Kuwaiti border in August 1990 was neither the first nor the last battle in a long war, but it was a battle that now directly, overtly involved and engaged the American public and American personnel. The call was to an exercise in peace through strength. But the cause was yet another move in the policy of keeping a region divided and embittered, and therefore accessible to the franchisers of weaponry and the owners of black gold.

An earlier regional player, Benjamin Disraeli, once sarcastically remarked that you could tell a weak government by its eagerness to resort to strong measures. The Bush administration uses strong measures to ensure weak government abroad and has enfeebled democratic government at home. The reasoned objection must be that this is a dangerous and dishonourable pursuit, in which the wealthy gamblers have become much too accustomed to paying their bad debts with the blood of others."

'Realpolitik in the Gulf', New Left Review, 1/186 (1990)

A Hill Of Keynes In This Crazy World

In the era of globalization of production and employment, the reserve army of labor has drastically expanded beyond national borders. According to a recent report by the International Labor Organization (ILO), between 1980 and 2007 the global labor force rose from 1.9 billion to 3.1 billion, a growth rate of 63 percent. Historical transition to capitalism in many less-developed parts of the world, which has led to the so-called de-peasantization, or proletarianization and urbanization, especially in countries such as China and India, is obviously a major source of the enlargement of the worldwide labor force, and its availability to global capital. The ILO report further shows that, worldwide, the ratio of the active (or employed) to reserve (or unemployed) army of labor is less than 50%, that is, more than half of the global labor force is unemployed. 
It is this huge and readily available pool of the unemployed, along with the ease of production anywhere in the world—not some abstract or evil intentions of “right-wing Republicans and wicked Neoliberals,” as Keynesians argue—that has forced the working class, especially in the US and other advanced capitalist countries, into submission: going along with the brutal austerity schemes of wage and benefit cuts, of layoffs and union busting, of part-time and contingency employment, and the like. Ruthless Neoliberal policies of the past several decades, by both Republican and Democratic parties, are more a product of the structural changes in the global capitalist production than their cause. This is not to say that economic policies do not matter; but that such policies should not be attributed simply to capricious decision, malicious intentions or conspiratorial schemes. 

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Folk Music (slight return)

Overall the 80s were a terrible time for British folk. After the rich feast of the 60s and 70s the best bands had broken up, and the best talents had either died (Nick Drake, Sandy Denny), left for the States (Richard Thompson) or were drinking too much (John Martyn, Bert Jansch). Davey Graham and Linda Thompson only recorded one album each in the entire decade.

Musically it had run out of steam, but it was also stuck in a hostile decade. Apart from trade unionism, nothing was made to look more antiquated and 'not wanted around here anymore' than folk.

Still, there were a couple bright spots. The Thompson's last brilliant album together ‘Shoot Out The Lights’, which perhaps should have been an epitaph for the whole scene.

Probably because it was under attack, you could get a great, bitter fight back from Dick Gaughan with 'Handful of Earth' (Melody Maker Album of the Year 1981) and the follow up 'A Different Kind of Love Song'.

And finally there was the Pogues. Because they made it past 1990, had all those songs about drinking and Shane McGowan turned into a 'character' they were partly complicit in 90s laddism and/or retro rock. However, on the first few albums they seemed to have found a way out of the Ralph McTell impasse. No one followed though and they never quite had the skills to take the music somewhere different. Still, better than David Gray.