Stand Back Socialist! Stand Back!

‘The Will of the People’ would be nothing more than the whim of the tyrant mob, the most blind and ruthless tyrant of all’ – Father Kane

‘All hail, then, to the mob, the incarnation of progress!’ – James Connolly

Business owners and establishment politicians are often represented as the “incarnation of progress” in modern society.  The public is often portrayed as a mass or “mob”, unworthy of making decisions or of the responsibility to change history.  In 1910, James Connolly eloquently and passionately conveyed how it was and is the public – ordinary people together in force and solidarity – who have made the significant changes and improvements in society throughout history.

In 1910 James Connolly wrote Labour Nationality and Religion in response to a discourse against Socialism by Father Kane in Dublin. Father Kane referred to the will of the people, essentially, as the will and rule of the ‘mob’.  Connolly embraces the word mob and uses it to encapsulate the positive role it has played throughout human history.

I thought it would be interesting to share this ever-relevant discourse here, starting with Father Kane’s impression of the public, and then Connolly’s response to it.

Father Kane on socialism and the “mob”:

In Socialism there could be no healthy public opinion, no public opinion at all except that manufactured by officialdom or that artificially cultivated by the demagogues of the mob. There could be no free expression of free opinion. The press would be only the press of the officials. Printing machines, publishing firms, libraries, public halls, would be the exclusive property of the state. We do not indeed advocate utter licence for the press, but we do advocate its legitimate liberty. There would be no liberty of the press under Socialism; no liberty even of speech, for the monster machine of officialdom would grind out all opposition – for the monster machine would be labelled, ‘The Will of the People’, and ‘The Will of the People’ would be nothing more than the whim of the tyrant mob, the most blind and ruthless tyrant of all, because blindly led by blind leaders. Brave men fear no foe, and free men will brook no fetter. You will have thought, in your boyhood, with hot tears, of the deeds of heroes who fought and fell in defence of the freedom of their fatherland. That enthusiasm of your boyhood will have become toned down with maturer years in its outward expression, but mature years will have made it more strong and staunch for ever, more ready to break forth with all the energy of your life and with all the sacrifice of your death in defiance of slavery. You may have rough times to face; you may have rough paths to tread, you may have hard taskmasters to urge you toil, and hard paymasters to stint your wage; you may have hard circumstances to limit your life within a narrow field; but after all your life is your own, and your home is your own, and your wage is your own, and you are free. Freedom is your birthright. Even our dilapidated modern nations allow to a man his birthright – freedom. You would fight for your birthright, freedom, against any man, against any nation, against the world; and if you could not live for your freedom, you would die for it. You would not sell your birthright, freedom, to Satan; and I do not think that you are likely to surrender your birthright, freedom, to the Socialist. Stand back! We are free men. Stand back, Socialist! God has given us the rights of man, to our own life, to our own property, to our own freedom. We will take our chance in the struggle of life. We may have a hard time or a good time, we may be born lucky or unlucky, but we are free men. Stand back, Socialist! God has given us our birthright, freedom, and, by the grace of God, we will hold to it in life and in death.

Connolly’s response:

After you have done laughing at this hysterical outburst we will proceed to calmly discuss its central propositions. To take the latter part first, it is very amusing to hear a man, to whom a comfortable living is assured, assure us that we ought to tell the Socialist that “we will take our chance in the struggle of life…

How can a person, or a class, be free when its means of life are in the grasp of another? How can the working class be free when the sole chance of existence of its individual members depends upon their ability to make a profit for others?

The argument about the freedom of the press – a strange argument from such a source – is too absurd to need serious consideration. Truly, all means of printing will be the common property of all, and if any opposition party, any new philosophy, doctrine, science, or even hair-brained scheme has enough followers to pay society for the labour of printing its publications, society will have no more right nor desire to refuse the service than a government of the present day has to refuse the use of its libraries to the political enemies who desire to use those sources of knowledge to its undoing. It will be as possible to hire a printing machine from the community as it will be to hire a hall. Under Socialism the will of the people will be supreme, all officials will be elected from below and hold their position solely during good behaviour, and as the interests of private property, which according to St. Clement are the sole origin of contention among men, will no longer exist, there will be little use of law-making machinery, and no means whereby officialdom can corrupt the people.

This will be the rule of the people at last realised. But says Father Kane, at last showing the cloven foot, “the will of the people would be nothing more than the whim of the tyrant mob, the most blind and ruthless tyrant of all, because blindly led by blind leaders”. Spoken like a good Tory and staunch friend of despotism! What is the political and social record of the mob in history as against the record of the other classes? There was a time, stretching for more than a thousand years, when the mob was without power or influence, when the entire power of the governments of the world was concentrated in the hands of the kings, the nobles and the hierarchy. That was the blackest period in human history. It was the period during which human life was not regarded as being of as much value as the lives of hares and deer; it was the period when freedom of speech was unknown, when trial by jury was suppressed, when men and women were tortured to make them confess crimes before they were found guilty, when persons obnoxious to the ruling powers were arrested and kept in prison (often for a lifetime) without trial; and it was the period during which a vindictive legal code inflicted the death penalty for more than one hundred and fifty offences – when a boy was hung for stealing an apple, a farmer for killing a hare on the roadside. It was during this undisturbed reign of the kings, the nobles, and the hierarchy that religious persecutions flourished, when Protestants killed Catholics, Catholics slaughtered Protestants, and both hunted Jews, when man “;made in God’s image” murdered his fellow-man for daring to worship God in a way different from that of the majority; it was then that governments answered their critics by the torture, when racks and thumbscrews pulled apart the limbs of men and women, when political and religious opponents of the state had their naked feet and legs placed in tin boots of boiling oil, their heads crushed between the jaws of a vice, their bodies stretched across a wheel while their bones were broken by blows of an iron bar, water forced down their throats until their stomachs distended and burst, and when little children toiled in mine and factory for twelve, fourteen and sixteen hours per day. But at last, with the development of manufacturing, came the gathering together of the mob, and consequent knowledge of its numbers and power, and with the gathering together also came the possibility of acquiring education. Then the mob started upon its upward march to power – a power only to be realised in the Socialist Republic. In the course of that upward march the mob has transformed and humanised the world. It has abolished religious persecution and imposed toleration upon the bigots of all creeds; it has established the value of human life, softened the horrors of war as a preliminary to abolishing it, compelled trial by jury, abolished the death penalty for all offences save one, and in some countries abolished it for all; and to-day it is fighting to keep the children from the factory and mine, and put them to school. The mob, “the most blind and ruthless tyrant of all”, with one sweep of its grimy, toil-worn hand, swept the stocks, the thumbscrew, the wheel, the boots of burning oil, the torturer’s vice and the stake into the oblivion of history, and they who to-day would seek to view those arguments of kings, nobles, and ecclesiastics must seek them in the lumber room of the museum.

In this civilising, humanising work the mob had at all times to meet and master the hatred and opposition of kings and nobles; and there is not in history a record of any movement for abolishing torture, preventing war, establishing popular suffrage, or shortening the hours of labour led by the hierarchy. Against all this achievement of the mob its enemies have but one instance of abuse of power – the French reign of terror – and they suppress the fact that this classic instance of mob fury lasted but eight months, whereas the cold-blooded cruelty of the ruling classes which provoked it had endured for a thousand years.

All hail, then, to the mob, the incarnation of progress!

Thoughts on Liberals And Brexit

Just a thought on much of the so-called “liberal” view of the Brexit result recently.  This group of generally liberal people who were genuinely horrified and shocked by the Brexit result and the racism and ignorance that they saw as being fundamental to it. The group is often represented by personalities such as Sir Bob Geldof, the singer and campaigner, who is paid a great deal of money to attend talks on poverty (reportedly $100,000), and who compared the 1916 Irish Revolution to ISIS terrorism.

There have been protests from liberals in support of overturning the result of the referendum decided by the British public.  There has been a campaign to make those who voted to leave the EU (mostly working-class people) to look rather stupid; things such as the insinuation (and even direct assersions) that Leave voters didn’t know what the EU was because “what is the EU?” was reportedly top of a Google search in the days before the referendum.  Nevermind that those internet searches could have been mostly Remain voters for all we know.  I would argue that it was Leave voters who most clearly understood the EU as they weren’t caught up in the convoluted idea that the EU can be reformed, nor were Leave voters distracted by the far-right rhetoric.  In a sense, it was much of the Remain campaigners and voters who became distracted by the far-right, as they chose to vote to Remain in the EU merely because it was the opposite to the stance of detestable UKIP and kin; the Blairites in Labour also took the view that, “anything the far-right does, we’ll do the opposite”, which turned out to be a disastrous stance for Jeremy Corbyn and others on the left-wing of the Labour party, (although, I will speculate, that Corbyn was privately in favour of leaving the EU).  Labour’s failure to stand for a Leave vote, created confusion and disillusionment for working-class voters on the left.  It was a massive own-goal at the time.  But things have changed in the short time since then with the resignation or dismissal of many of those Blairites on the right-wing of the Labour party who, up until recently, have dominated the party’s policy.  The liberal perspective was likewise reduced to “what is UKIP doing? – We’ll do the opposite”, rather than to ask what the situation at hand actually was.  Of course, the Brexit referendum pitted elements of the British and European bourgeoisie against each other too, as some believed to Remain was beneficial for their profits, and others thought Leaving to be beneficial for theirs.  There perhaps no better example of this than the conservative party, which was divided throughout the whole campaign.  Working-class Leave voters at least understood that the EU is an anti-democratic, anti-worker and racist institution that cannot be reformed.  Have a look at the excellent video below about why one working-class area of Britain chose to vote Leave.

I would argue that it was Leave voters who most clearly understood the EU as they weren’t caught up in the convoluted idea that the EU can be reformed, nor were Leave voters distracted by the far-right rhetoric – as many of the Remain voters were who chose to vote to Remain in the EU.  Many argued to vote Remain merely because it was the opposite to the stance of detestable UKIP and other far-right and racist groups; the Blairites in Labour also took this view, which turned out to be a disastrous stance for Jeremy Corbyn and those on the left of the Labour party, (although, I will speculate, that Corbyn was privately in favour of leaving the EU, as he has always stated that the EU is anti-democratic).  Labour’s failure to stand for a Leave vote, created confusion and disillusionment for working-class voters on the left.  It was a massive own-goal at the time.  But things have changed in the short time since then with the resignation or dismissal of many of those Blairites on the right-side of the Labour party who up until recently have dominated the party’s policy.  The liberal perspective was likewise reduced to “what is UKIP doing? – We’ll do the opposite”, rather than to ask what the situation at hand actually was.  Of course, the Brexit referendum pitted elements of the British and European bourgeoisie against each other too, as some believed to Remain was beneficial for their profits, and others thought Leaving to be beneficial for theirs.  There perhaps no better example of this than the conservative party, which was divided throughout the whole campaign.  Working-class Leave voters at least understood that the EU is an anti-democratic, anti-worker and racist institution that cannot be reformed.  Have a look at the excellent video below about why one working-class area of Britain chose to vote Leave.

Labour’s failure to stand for a Leave vote, created confusion and disillusionment for working-class voters on the left.  It was a massive own-goal at the time.  But things have changed in the short time since then with the resignation or dismissal of many of those Blairites on the right-wing of the Labour party who up until recently have dominated the party’s policy.  The liberal perspective was likewise reduced to the argument, “what is UKIP doing? – We’ll do the opposite”, rather than to ask what the situation at hand actually was.  Of course, the Brexit referendum pitted elements of the British and European bourgeoisie against each other too, as some believed to Remain was beneficial for their profits, and others thought Leaving to be beneficial for theirs.  There perhaps no better example of this than the conservative party, which was divided throughout the whole campaign.  Working-class Leave voters at least understood that the EU is an anti-democratic, anti-worker and racist institution that cannot be reformed.  Have a look at the excellent video below about why one working-class area of Britain chose to vote Leave.

Of course, the Brexit referendum pitted elements of the British and European bourgeoisie against each other too, as some believed to Remain was beneficial for their profits, and others thought Leaving to be beneficial for theirs.  There is perhaps no better example of this than the Tory Party, which was divided throughout the whole campaign.  Working-class Leave voters at least understood that the EU is an anti-democratic, anti-worker and racist institution that cannot be reformed.  Have a look at the excellent video below about why one working-class area of Britain chose to vote Leave.

I’ve heard some well-educated open-minded liberals say that not enough people voted, and others say that too many people voted and a decision of such magnitude should not have been left to the public.  The former ignores the fact that the gap would have been bigger on the side of Leave had more people exercised the vote, because more working-class people would have voted; the latter is simply undemocratic.

Screenshot 2016-07-08 at 14.40.11
A liberal commentator of Brexit on Facebook.

Another “liberal” minded person on facebook equated the decision of the majority of British people to “pissing in their pants to keep warm”, and his friends then went on to back him up, speaking of the “racism” of all of the leave voters.  The hypocrisy and irony of their own bigotry was indeed lost on them in their self-righteous and confused comments.   I suppose, to be fair, he did claim not to have understood the decision himself.  An example of bigotry borne of ignorance surely.

To those “liberals” who championed the idea that the EU isn’t perfect, but argue that it can be reformed – that reformist experiment has already been tried.  Greece attempted the experiment when they tried to implement anti-austerity measures while remaining inside the EU, believing a capitalistic Europe, through the EU could be reformed.  And look at how the EU dealt with the Greek people who dared to stand up for themselves!

The Irish “liberal” (and liberals in general) like to see themselves as open-minded, high-minded, considered, righteous, progressive and agrees with aspects of both left and right.  They consider themselves as having common sense and like to “get things done”.  They see themselves as representing the reasonable, balanced view, that considers everyone’s interests in a practical way.  In this way the liberal could be framed as representing the best of both worlds, the happy middle-ground, but in doing so, it is really nothing; they understand neither the forces driving capitalism, nor the experiences and interests of the working class; liberals are interested in improving conditions for others if possible, but not at the expense of their own privilege and position.  Generally, the positions they do help to improve are those who are already privileged or wealthy.  So they are tacitly in favour of privilege, class division, hierarchy and inequality.  The liberal respects hierarchy and division as long as they are in on it, mingling amongst it.  Look at the middle-class (generally liberal) professions in the legal and corporate areas for example.  The liberal’s fair-mindedness is so fragile, that when their position or interests are challenged they denounce the majority of voters of an entire country as stupid and racist when the vote’s result is not to the liberal’s liking, whereas the Marxist actually analyses it.

What about this for back-handed racial and class-based condescension from actor Jeremy Irons:

We have a history of immigration. We are made up of Anglo Saxons, Normans, Celts, Vikings, West Indians, Pakistanis, you know, thank God for them – you can get a pint of milk at eleven o’clock at night most places

Yes, it’s fun to work until eleven o’clock at night.  “We’re just glad you could get your pint of milk Mr. Irons, Sir.”

Liberals see socialism as misguided, unreasonable, unnecessary and dangerous.  They bar the doorways to this progressive alternative for human-kind, and then they  wonder why the far-right reactionaries are gaining followers and influence through the window.   Liberals prop up institutions like the EU, which are antagonistic to the interests of the working class, they under-mine credible leaders on the left, such as Jeremy Corbyn who have always opposed the EU, and then they are astonished that the politicians taking the lead are opportunist, populist, nationalist and racist!

Now, liberals should ask themselves – is this the extent of liberalism?

I’ll leave it with Sir Bob Geldof, who, in many ways sums up the “principles” of the modern liberal.

‘I’ll shake hands with the devil on my left and the devil on my right to get where we need to be.’ (Irish Times)

And in regard to having principles, Geldof, referring to Jeremy Corbyn whom he said should step-down despite Corbyn having a massive democratic mandate from Labour members:

‘He’s a principled man but if you’re the leader of a party you have to… park your own principles’

The liberal view: park your principles.  Analyse nothing.  Stand for nothing.  Evil motivations must be considered too.

Making Sandwiches

I Worked Hard For It All, Without Help From Anyone.

She was working from home alone and had become slightly hungry.  She thought about her options from what was available and resolved to make a ham and cheese sandwich.  All the necessary ingredients were there in her cupboards and fridge – her favourite bread, cheese, style of ham, butter, sauces etc. – and so she began preparing them.  Finally, when the sandwich was as she prefers a sandwich to be, she ate.   She made her lunch and ate it.  Following her satisfying lunch she was fuelled to do all of the other activities that she did during the day (with the aid of quite a bit of coffee).  It had fuelled her to continue to work hard and get on with her life for a little longer; fuelled her towards hitting more of those targets and the rewards promised to her for her hard and important work.  A step closer to that bonus, securing that commission and getting that new high-powered German luxury executive saloon.  But there is a background to her sandwich which has been neglected.

A few days earlier she ordered groceries online from her local grocery store (because being a busy person, she had no time to go to the shop).  Some of those groceries would become her sandwich ingredients.  A woman whom she would never meet received her order and processed it. That person gave the order, in turn, to her colleague who collected the groceries as they were listed; she spent about 40 minutes gathering them in a trolley.  Once they were all collected and verified, the order was arranged in bags and crates for delivery to the home of the sandwich loving lady.  At the appointed time, a delivery driver – one of three on duty in the shop at that moment – would lift the crates into his van and deliver them to her home.  When the customer signed for the delivery, the delivery man was the only person whom she had contact with throughout the process.

A day before the delivery, the bread, cheese, ham, butter, sauces and everything else was packaged in the facilities of the respective food companies and delivered to grocery stores all around the area.  Packaging people packaged, delivery drivers delivered to shops and supermarkets. Prior to the packaging process, bakers baked the bread (with everything that that involves), cheesemakers made the cheese (with everything that that involves), butchers – and people working for meat companies – oversaw the production of the pre-packed sliced ham, and creameries and sauce factories were filled with employees doing various things to mass-produce butter and sauce.

Prior to that, the bakery company needed to order the ingredients to bake bread, the creameries needed ingredients to create cheese and butter.  All the different producers needed the tools to make products from their ingredients, and they needed engineers, technicians, IT experts and mechanics to ensure the tools and machines continued to work efficiently.  Prior to that, countless people did countless things to make all of this happen.

How many people does it take to make a ham and cheese sandwich?

When she considered what to eat for lunch that afternoon, the process would have been more or less the same had she decided to have a salad or a chocolate bar or anything else.

invisible working classWe are all connected.  We are all part of something called society, doing something which contributes to one another’s lives.  All of what we have is only made possible due to the work of others and this simple fact is generally ignored.  The working-class, producing all of this essential stuff, receives no media coverage for their achievements and thankless drudgery, and will never experience owning that luxury executive vehicle.  None of us – however hard working – has achieved anything on our own.  It has been made possible by the efforts and struggles of countless humble people.  They carry this out daily, invisible.  The very expression of our individualism – and we are all different and unique and wonderful – is dependent on each other.

Food for thought the next time you make yourself a sandwich.

 

 

Everything Depends Upon The Job

‘You are free and that is why you are lost’ – Franz Kafka

Whether causal or coincidental, I have happened upon a trough of relative disillusionment and fatigue at about the same moment I endure a spell of inactivity.  I’m sure I will exit this phase, but for now my hobbies and passions are on hold, and I am existing almost without purpose.  The love of my partner is perhaps my only significant motivation.  A rather dreary opening paragraph, but never fear!

Evaluation

Regarding my lack of writing, I feel there are multiple reasons for this, a few from the top of my head are:  Lack of confidence in my ability to write knowledgeably on a given topic; Lack of a given topic in which I am currently deeply involved and that may be of interest to other people to read about; lack of energy and money; lack of structure and discipline; feeling too much pressure and trying too hard to write something that is worthwhile (this can inhibit anyone from writing anything at all); lack of a justification for spending time writing and reading when we are poor and money is not gained from such activities – and the feeling of guilt that stems from dedicating so much time to such artistic and intellectual pursuits when money is what is needed.  Time for spending with family, friends and loved ones is also in demand – how can I write when my love wants to spend time with me on her day off?  The grass needs to be cut too, and I almost always forget to hang the clothes up for drying.

I have stopped playing music.  Stopped listening to music.  Stopped learning German. Despite my socialist viewpoint, I have become less active with politics.  I have become lackadaisical with my reading, and much else.

At the moment, I am frustrated by all this, but, as yet, I am not too worried.  Firstly, I am developing my perception and approach to writing.  Ironically, this facilitates less writing as it requires more reading.  Also, I am using this period of personal uncertainty to question and re-evaluate my life-goals.

An Existensial Crisis?

Most pertinently, I am waiting to start a new job.  Hopefully, it will be the beginning of something new; I know that the recent few years have been consistently disappointing and that my jobs have not been very fulfilling, to say the least.   I have worked too hard, tried too many things, and I probably expected too much.  I put far too much effort and time into some areas, and not enough into others.  I was naive and too ambitious – if one can be too ambitious.  Perhaps my priorities were unwise, but I based my dedication upon the passion and ambition I had for different interests so that I might be successful with them – I was working towards a dream.  In that sense, I think it would be too harsh to say my priorities were completely wrong.   Nonetheless, I needed to slow down and reassess some things.

The first step in resuming activity will be Monday, the first day in the new job.  I pray it will not be as disappointing as my recent roles.  I am not so naive as to think that the disappointment of my recent jobs was not to do with the larger economic and political conditions of Ireland (and Europe) which allow for such exploitative and low-paying positions to be created by employers.  Employees suffer in uncertain and worrying limbo – I am not so naive as to think that my new position will not also be subject to external forces.  Nevertheless, I hope my next employer at least provides the foundation upon which I can begin to live my life in a more fulfilling and ambitious way again; enabled to try my best.

I’m not lost because I’m “free” – I’m not lost at all, though I may feel like that.  I’m simply trapped, grounded by very real circumstances.  It is clear what I need: reliable job, decent money, definite structure, relative security, defined purpose, hobbies, random fun and relaxation.  Society provides the means of achieving those things and can do so depending the economic and social-political conditions.  You are not lost because you are free, you believe you are “free” because you are lost.

Despite the aforementioned, one must do one’s best when the opportunity arises.  I hope that after Christmas, I will have money and that my new job is consistent and (as far as such a position can be) rewarding.  That’s step one.  Step two is establishing myself in the role and my first month’s pay.  After that, I aim to develop more structure in my life, and therefore with the life of my partner whom I love and am dedicated to.  Upon this improved structure I can build goals for my job, my career, and my hobbies.  I can develop my talents and interests further and therefore write about them.  Who knows what will happen?

But everything depends upon the job.

The Spanish Civil War, Documentary Series (All Episodes)

For those of you interested in modern history and politics, you may struggle to find a documentary series as good as this on the Spanish Civil War, from Granada T.V., circa 1983.  I’ve included links to all six episodes below.  The Spanish Civil War is now seen by some as the prelude to the Second World War, being the first major conflict against fascism.  Incidentally, I recommend George Orwell’s Homage To Catalonia, as an excellent first-hand account of the fighting and politics of the civil war.

Episode 1: Prelude To Tragedy

Episode 2: Revolution, Counter-Revolution and Terror

Episode 3: Battleground for Idealists

Episode 4: Franco and the Nationalists

Episode 5: Inside the Revolution

Episode 6: Victory and Defeat

On Optimism: Why Carry On, When You Can Change The World?

Why keep
Why keep “calm” and carry on hiding…

Isn’t it ironic when those privileged people in power, tell the poor and homeless and unemployed to be “positive” about what those privileged people are doing?  As if those who are exploited and poor will have a sudden change in their circumstances if they are happy about the fact that those at the top of our society are doing better. Are those on minimum wage supposed to put on a happy face and naively trust those at the top to voluntarily throw them a few extra crumbs from their profits?

Perhaps it is the case that those privileged people in power forget that the policies they implement are generally making things worse for those who are currently struggling, whilst simultaneously making things better for their other rich friends; corporations get away with paying virtually no tax, while there are families homeless on our streets, or living from their cars.  People who have sacrificed so much for a crisis they had no responsibility for are being told to be positive about such an economic situation.  We are told the money will eventually trickle down from the top, but actually wealth floods from the bottom up. The truth is that this system which we call capitalism, is a rotten system indeed. Admitting that is the first positive step.  Admitting that much at least, we recognise our denial and naivety in ever having had faith in such a system.

...when you can get angry and fight back
…when you can get angry and fight back

I’ve often been accused of being an optimist, and indeed I believe I am.  I think socialism is an inherently optimistic philosophy, whose advocates stand up strong together and declare, “look at this rotten system we slave for and struggle under – let’s change it for a better world for all”. What an optimistic, positive thing! And then those few in power who are profiting and doing quite well through capitalism say, “oh why do you have to be so negative”.

Those in power want you to be optimistic, confident and pro-active, but only about what you can do to increase their profits or protect their interests.  Don’t dare apply the same qualities to making the world a better place.

Reformism or Revolution?

reformismSomething I have noticed every now and then, in some form or other, is the fundamental question: Reformism or Revolution?  This subject cropped up most recently in a blog by a teenager who has become politically engaged.  I left a brief response on their article in relation to this topic, which I think is worth sharing here.  I have my own opinions on this ideological concept which I left aside from the comment below.  However, I am likely to return to this subject in greater detail in the future.

‘Firstly, you have a very good blog here. Although you are 16, it seems that your thoughts are quite advanced – your articles evidently have much consideration put into them.

However, I would like to ask a few questions based on the above article that I think are worth considering. But, before that, I also have to ask, are you suggesting that it is better to reform capitalism or fix it?

If we are suggesting the task is to ‘fix’ capitalism, we must ask ourselves, what is broken with it? Therefore, what is capitalism, and is it worth fixing at all?

If we can answer those questions, we may come to one of either two conclusions: Capitalism is a generally good thing, which has gone awry, and therefore, worth fixing, or, capitalism is generally a bad thing, in which case it is worth changing. If we come to the latter conclusion, we might consider one of two things: Reforming capitalism over time into some other form of organising and running society (reformism), or, a revolution which would bring about more immediate change.

When coming to your own conclusions on this, I would consider the history of capitalism throughout the world since its emergence around 250 years ago. What has been its general social, economic, and political trends? I would also ask the same questions of reformism and of revolutions throughout this period, in such places as France (which has had many), Germany (1918-1919), Russia (1917), Spain (1936), Ireland (1916- c. 1923). In reference to the comment above about Stalin, Mao Zedong and that ‘communism might just be best left on paper’ – this is a cliché and lazy answer which ignores the reality of why social movements and revolutionary movements come about, and what they mean or what they are. One might ask instead, “what is communism, and has it ever been achieved?”…’

– See more at: http://www.politicalpeopleblog.com/revolution-no-thanks-political-reform-yes-please/#sthash.mRXbIYg4.dpuf

The World’s Most Controversial Topic – The Ordinary Life

It’s easy to confuse “what is” with “what ought to be”. Especially when “what is” has worked in your favor – Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones

What am I writing about?

Blogs today often have an “about” section.  For now, for various reasons, I am not going to have an “about” page.  Instead, I will use my early articles to give a sense of what you might expect from this blog.  This article is about what I will write about – you will obviously get a sense of who I am from it too.  To that end, it seemed appropriate for me to tell you about my some of my own influences, as I will incorporate, to an extent, a derivative of their styles (albeit, probably a poor one!).  I thought it would also be fun and indulgent.

Writers who have inspired me were concerned with more than action-packed narrative and building tension – the kinds of things that one is taught of in school.  Some of them did not use exciting first lines which would “hook the reader in“; some of them did.  Many of my favourite influences did not pander to the reader but instead demand the reader to commit to them, and you could estimate from the first line or paragraph (and the width of the book) just what kind of experience lay ahead of you either way.

All of those writers wanted to convey a message about the world in which we live.  Their message, whether literal or underlying, had a purpose they were propagating. This is an inherently political act.  The theme that many of my influences incorporated was based on the complexities of simple everyday living.  Their subject was the ordinary anonymous life.  Simply put, they were concerned with how the majority of people who live and work within a given society are affected by that society; by its mores, laws, politics, and economics.  In our epoch, this theme is inseparable from the issue of class.

what i am probably not

There is nothing wrong with escapism; secret agents desperate to avoid the next World War, superheroes with supernatural powers, or witty detectives solving crimes at bourgeois soirées.  Such larger-than-life entertainment is essential in its own way.  Nor are escapism and socio-political stories mutually exclusive categories, as Game of Thrones exemplifies, it being both an action-packed fantasy and, at times, quite an insightful social commentary, as is the brilliant V For Vendetta.  But I doubt I’ll be falling under the same categories as Agatha Christie, Frederick Forsyth or Ian Fleming, and I certainly do not have  the illustrative skills of a graphic novelist.

what i might be

I am more concerned with the theme of class – the issues that face the “99%”, the proletariat.  I don’t know if that subject invokes the same sense of escapism, excitement and sheer entertainment as the other authors I have already mentioned, but it carries a strong message, and people evidently relate to it.  I believe it has proven timeless.

If not as dramatic as other forms of fiction, discussing class issues has historically been a controversial subject, and I believe – given contemporary events around the world – it is as controversial as ever.  Many great writers have been exiled, imprisoned, assassinated, or have had publishers decline their work.  Class division is the most imposing obstacle to true equality, freedom and progress in the world today, and that makes it dangerous.

Perhaps for those reasons, stories which raise the issue of class-divisions are not necessarily ones that are propagated by the “mainstream” or encouraged by teachers in schools or writing classes.  Marx may be the world’s most referenced author, but his works are not usually stocked on the shelves of Eason.  For various reasons, discussion of such a topic is implicitly, if not openly, repressed by society.  Thus, the issue of class is not always present.  Either, we are not class-conscious, or because, in our pursuit of social advancement we are reluctant to write or say anything which might compromise our progress as individuals.

Despite all this, “class” is not a new theme, or an under-discussed theme; nor is it considered a strictly “mainstream” theme, although writers who have explored this subject are renowned.   Some  of these writers and books are listed below.  They have literally changed my outlook on life and have educated me profoundly.

a fun list of some of my favourites (who you should read if you haven’t done so already)

George Orwell is one of the most famous writers within this genre.  Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair), spent much of his career writing on (and fighting for) issues concerning ordinary people; his non-fiction Down and Out in Paris and London is a relevant example, as is his fictional 1984, whose protagonist, Winston Smith, is virtually anonymous in a totalitarian society; even more anonymous than Smith are the ‘proles’ whom the state hardly considers worth monitoring. (Orwell’s Politics and the English Language is an educational read for any writer who is concerned with communicating effectively and conveying an important message, as is his essay Why I Write – both of them discuss the inherently political nature of writing).  Anyway, Orwell is an influence.

Robert Tressell’s classic The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists portrays the everyday challenges of working class people from their own perspective (an achievement I have not seen any novel do as effectively since).  Tressell’s novel was published by his daughter posthumously, and it became very popular.  It has been called the socialist’s bible and is credited with “winning the 1945 general election for the Labour Party“.  Today, it is rarely discussed in the media or mentioned along other classics, but many, including myself, consider it a life changing book.  Notably, Orwell considered it a ‘book that everyone should read’, and declared that ‘a considerable novelist was lost in this young working-man whom society could not bother to keep alive’.

Not so proletarian, but relevant, is John William’s novel Stoner, which chronicles the lonely and anonymous life and death of struggling writer William Stoner – it illustrates the quiet unnoticed life many of us live, and describes the intricacies of one’s existence which can hinder fulfilment, contribution, and acknowledgement in the world.

Steinbeck’s simple folk-story The Pearlpowerfully describe the dramatic events in the lives of poor working people, as does Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea.  Both of these stories tell of humble people struggling to obtain the unobtainable in a cruel and unfair world.  In The Pearl, the chimera Kino and Juana struggled to reach for, turned out to be very monstrous indeed.  For me, these stories touched on the concept that “everyone can achieve whatever they want, if they only work hard enough”, and expose it as a delusion.

James Joyce’s novels and short-stories, such as Dubliners, were based on the intrigue, beauty and obscenity of everyday life and unknown people.  Another Dubliner, James Plunkett, wrote one of Dublin’s greatest novels Strumpet City, based on the build-up and events around the 1913 Lockout.  Plunkett’s story explores the lives of a cross-section of society; privileged middle-class landlords, clergy, struggling working class, and the completely destitute; the tramp Rashers Tierney, who is almost invisible to the world around him, is one of the most striking characters of the novel.

The list of related books, stories, authors related to such a topic goes on and on – Dostoevsky, Trotsky, Plato, Marx, Chomsky… – but I could not omit just one more of my significant influences, Victor Hugo.   Hugo had a more romantic and dramatic view on the life of the ordinary person, as he painted vividly throughout his epic Les Miserables.  That tremendous novel was written from a bourgeois point-of-view, but nevertheless, from the point-of-view of a writer who knew the value and importance of discussing topics that are a reality for the majority of people.  Hugo himself evolved over the course of his life from being a conservative royalist to a more radical republican.  He wrote Les Miserables while in exile in Guernsey.

So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age—the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of women by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night—are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless – Victor Hugo

I believe that the world can be a place where love, understanding and collaboration – not profit – are the driving forces of human progress, and I would like my writing to be indicative of that sentiment.  From what I have experienced, the proletarian life – that unacknowledged entity – is the fundamental force for creating an egalitarian and productive world, through a powerful movement of solidarity and democracy.  The working class is potentially the strongest force for change.  Class-consciousness is key to achieving that change.  What more exciting subject, or worthy subject, is there to write about?  And what more accurate and relevant perspective is there to write from? As a writer, or as a reader, why be oblivious of that great, limitless content?