Friday, 8 August 2008

26th Carnival of Socialism

Welcome comrades, friends and readers to the 26th Carnival of Socialism! Plenty of blogging lefties have been at their Stakhanovite labours in front of their keyboards of late, so it's unsurprising a bumper harvest of bloggage is here and ready for shipping. Revolutionaries, are you comfortable in your armchairs? Then I shall begin.

Most topical of course is the unfolding conflict between Georgia and Russia over South Ossetia. This has understandably excited a good deal of left commentary. Thankfully most blogs have avoided cheer leading one side or the other, with the exception of
Neil Clark, who more or less argues the war should be seen as some sort of national liberation struggle. Other blogs prefer to offer a bit of background (Paul Smith for instance). Given Georgia isn't far from the strategically important Caspian Sea oil reserves, we shouldn't be surprised to see the US government's hand in stirring up tensions. Back Towards the Locus, Boffy, and Andy all acknowledge its behind-the-scenes machinations. Lenin also exposes the truth about the casualty figures.

While we're on the topic of conflict, the potential for an attack by Israel on Iranian nuclear facilities has locked a small section of leftyblogland into a series of bad tempered exchanges. The
AWL's chief theoretician, Sean Matgamna, openly pondered the possibility of whether socialists can condemn a pre-emptive attack by Israel on Iran if it would prevent the latter from acquiring nuclear capability and threatening Israel with those weapons in the future. Their traditional sparring partner on the left, the cpgb responded by saying pre-emptive strikes would have to be nuclear given the level of protection surrounding Iranian enrichment facilities. Cue a polemical shit storm. Shiraz Socialist has been prominently defending Matgamna's position here, here and here, complete with "robust" exchanges in their comment boxes. Replies are by Whatever Happened to Leon Trotsky?, Serge's Fist and Infantile and Disorderly. Tami of Unknown Conscience fame has also replied on Shiraz to a related AWL attack on the Hands Off the People of Iran.

Okay, let's put the polemics away and talk activism shall we? The big protest event of the last week was the climate camp against Kingsnorth power station.
Derek Wall and Scribo Ergo Sum have a thing or two to say about policing of the event. Jim has a round up of some of commentary surrounding the camp, and there's debate and eyewitness accounts in the comments on this post on Socialist Unity. And bringing up the contrarian rear, Jack Ray wonders what the point of it all was.

The main British political story of late continues to be the (boring) rumblings and grumblings around the leadership of the
Labour party. Susan Press notes how two fair weather commentariat friends of Gordon Brown have gone all doe-eyed over David Miliband. Paul Anderson reckons there isn't much chance of Brown getting ousted because of the labyrinthine party rules designed to protect incumbent leaders from Young Turks. That said, he's cautiously supportive of Miliband. I can't think why. It's not as though he has a programme derived from his dad's excellent Socialism for a Sceptical Age stuffed in his back pocket. Lastly Charlie Marks draws attention to the WRP's world-historic intervention into the Labour leadership debate ... the solution is a workers' government, of course!

While we're talking bourgeois politics, the
Tories new moral agenda has come in for some blogging flak. Homo Ludens has a go at David Cameron for blaming the dangerous poor for the recent spate of high profile knife attacks, albeit dressed up in his fluffy liberal Tory language. He argues the left's response to questions of crime would do well to look at the experience of the Paris Commune. Dave Osler has a piece examining Nudge, the latest political "big idea" to hit the streets. David Cameron and George Osborn are reportedly fans. This week also saw Michael Gove attacking lad mags for discouraging responsibility and treating women as sexually available pieces of meat. Septic Isle takes apart some of the assumptions of Gove's argument.

This would be a good time to mention some contributions on gender politics.
Penny Red notes that because our culture is commodified along rigidly gendered and sexist norms, women are constantly on display, conscious or not. She says "When you're a pretty woman, it's easy to feel like your sexuality is not your own, like your body is not your own. It's taken from you, and then sold back to you, every day, by the eyes of a thousand strangers. It makes you feel alien within your own skin. It makes you dissasociate from what you're told is your own sexuality. Since I sharpened up for work and learned to walk in high heels, I don't 'feel' sexy. I just feel angry." A different take on women's bodies comes from Laura Woodhouse. Written partly as a polemic against a school of thought in radical feminism that, there's no other word for it, is transphobic, she argues there are enough shared experiences among women as a sexual underclass, regardless of their individual experiences of womanhood, for women to unite against the discrimination. If some feminists are uncomfortable with the inclusion of trans women, then they ought to have a serious rethink about their politics. It needs to be done too. Violence toward trans women is all too common, as this depressing case featured on TransGriot shows. What kind of feminist would be comfortable lining up with sadistic homophobes in denying trans women the right to define themselves as they choose? On a lighter note, Sadie expertly takes down idiotic comments left in the wake of a Femail article that argues girls should be taught feminism in the class room. You know, stuff like the equal worth of girls and other such dangerous notions.

I suppose it wouldn't be the done thing if I failed to mention the Olympics in the week it spectacularly opened.
Snowball, Militant Worker and Harpymarx say some interesting things about it, sport and capitalism.

There's some miscellany that caught my eye while this was being compiled. In what must be a first,
Enemies of Reason dissects a sympathetic article about immigrants ... in The Daily Mail! Hold your horses though. It hasn't got a lump in its throat about asylum seekers living in vermin infested housing or East Europeans working below the minimum wage. No, it's not happy that a white middle class British family's had a spot of bother emigrating to Canada. It seems appropriate while we're at the reactionary end of the political spectrum to take comfort from the predicament our fascist friends in the BNP find themselves in. Lancaster Unity have been over the accounts, and they make entertaining reading - if that's your kind of thing.

Harpymarx (again!) documents the
government's attack on legal aid. No prizes for guessing what sections of the population will lose out. Louis Proyect reviews two books - one looking at the political economy of the neoliberal attacks on higher education, and the other on organising against university management. They may be written for the US market but there's plenty of interest in the post for anyone involved campaigning against similar "reforms" elsewhere.

When I volunteered for this carnival I asked for contributions on the politics of left blogging. Unfortunately the piece I intended to write has been caught on the horns of blogger's block and will have to wait for another time. Thankfully some comrades stepped up to the plate.
Benjamin Solah says that blogging for him is primarily a personal thing, to help him develop politically as a revolutionary. Mick from Organised Rage looks at the contradiction between the collective political project of the left and the individual position of the socialist blogger, who must effectively promote themselves to get noticed. Slightly related, as Mick touches on it, Leftwing Criminologist note the under-representation of left blogging by students. Just where are all the student lefties? If there are large numbers of them blogging (and there are as I can think of a handful off the top of my head) they're not talking about student issues. All worthwhile stuff that will give my future post on the topic something to digest.

Last but not least
Spaces of Hope has an appeal (featured widely across the interwebs) against South Korean moves to paralyse the country's trade union movement.

And that comrades marks the end of the 26th Carnival of Socialism. But there's no need to be disappointed. There's still plenty of stuff to see in my archives and on all the other blogs featured in this compilation. Plus the next carnival is merely 14 days away! It will hit the streets around the 22nd August at
Jim's place. Red salute!


Infantile and Disorderly said...

I'm not sure I like being described as a CPGB-supporting blog!

Phil BC said...

My bad! I'll change it.

andy newman said...

The article by Organised rage is bizarre, he says:

"we on the left have hardly helped ourselves reach a wider readership, as when posting we are apt to target a readership with similar political views to our own. Whilst this is perfectly understandably, and we all do it, the result is a great deal of navel gazing about the ups and downs of the UKs small far left groups, and the crass stupidity of the Socialist Workers Party, indeed one of the most successful left blogs, Socialist Unity is built around this."

First of all, SU blog has consistently pursued and gained an audience outside the political left - not at all people who already think like us. And indeed we have built a reasonable mainstream audience on that basis.

We consistently take up issues such as prison reform, welfare, constitutional issues, etc, that other blogs don't - and we do get a mainstream audience for them

To argue that SU blog is based around discussing the SWP is a bizarre and frankly self-deluding claim, as very few of the articles are about the SWP.

Leftwing Criminologist said...

i think socialist unity features very many good debates on various issues.

that said there does seem to be an awful lot of heated deabte about the swp and respect on it - it was one of the places to go for the last year or so to find out about the break up of respect too.

no doubt there a quite a few people who came to the blog solely for that reason but hopefully they read the other posts too.

so andy i would suggest there is an element of truth in the claim - but I would say that it is only one part of SU blog.

Infantile and Disorderly said...

Awww, thanks!

Btw, this is a very good collection of links

andy newman said...

Leftwing criminologist

The evidence just doesn't back this up.

I suppose our big gain in readers was originally becasue of our coverage of the Respect dispute, but readership has continued to rise when there is no mention of the SWP at all.

Indeed in terms of ratings, the rows with the SWP clearly put more people off than they attract - which of course is why the SWP flood the comments in the aggressive way they do, trying to intimidate us away from criticising them.

harpymarx said...

Oh thanks for 2 mentions Phil. And a very good Carnival as well (snappy and punchy with some humour...!)Wit and humour is an important part to be able to survive the Left....

Jim Jay said...

Red salute!

Phil BC said...

... is the English translation of zindabad, the common greeting among Indian communists - or so I'm reliably informed!

On the debate about Socialist Unity and the SWP, I would agree it doesn't revolve any more around the comings and goings of the SWP then most other blogs. But because it has built up a large readership it does attract a disproportionate number of comments about SWP-related posts. Partly because of the reasons Andy outlines, and partly because most people on the left outside its ranks has negative experiences and views of the SWP.