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Priceless December 28, 2017

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Loving the examples of edits of a notorious never to be published book… My sympathies are entirely with the editor. I’ve done some horrible jobs in my time, worked for people I’ve not necessarily liked etc, but that job there? Urgghhhhh…

Forgetting fascism… December 28, 2017

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Reading this in the Guardian a while back about the work of The Central Office for the Investigation of National Socialist Crime which continues to seek to bring Nazi’s to trial, there was a paragraph that set me thinking:

The question of whether Nazi trials should continue in spite of the increasingly unrealistic odds of success – whether the work of the Central Office remains essential, or if it needlessly litigates crimes that belong to the past – lingers over the Ludwigsburg headquarters. “How much does Germany need to do to render justice on its own prior crimes?” Pendas said. “And how long does it need to make those kinds of efforts?” These questions have haunted Germany since the war’s end, but have gained renewed currency with the rise of rightwing populist movements such as Alternative for Germany, which may become the third-largest party in the German parliament after the country’s upcoming September election, though the party’s support has declined in recent months. Earlier this year, an AfD politician called for Germany to stop atoning for its Nazi crimes.

And another:

Yet the very fact of the Central Office’s continued existence is a testament to the gravity and extent of Nazi crimes, a reminder of just how much is threatened by the rise of reactionary nationalism both in Germany and abroad. In the US, parallel institutions are under threat of closure. The Trump administration has plans to close the State Department’s modest Office of Global Criminal Justice, which is tasked with supporting international prosecutions for perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide; its director, Todd F Buchwald, has already been reassigned. As his predecessor, Stephen J Rapp, told the New York Times earlier this year, “The promise of ‘never again’ has proven hard to keep.”

It seems to me that there’s been a sort of forgetting about fascism and Nazism – that somehow they’ve been, in the early part of this century and perhaps in the latter part of the last one, reduced in terms of the historical political uniqueness from the worst ideologies imaginable to, to some degree, merely an extension rightwards of the right.

On another blog a while back I got into an interesting discussion with a self-described ‘nationalist’ who was defending those protesting at the removal of a statue at Charlottesville against what he saw as the violence of antifa. To him there was nothing odd about the protestors being far right or outright fascist, nothing about their presence that invalidated or delegitimised (in any sense) the proximate issues at play. Their ‘freedom of expression’ was sufficient to wave them through as long as they weren’t ‘violent’. It seemed to escape him that fascism and Nazism are intrinsically and overtly ‘violent’ political ideologies.

Now granted, he could have been pretending such innocence, but I think even were he doing so, that there is a broader issue of forgetting. And ironically (given this is the right we’re talking about) a degree of relativism – in other words fascists and Nazi’s are explicable, or even acceptable, because others are as bad (or worse).
None of this is novel, Nazi’s and fascists have always struck a pose as defenders of the ‘nation’ albeit a very constrained definition of the nation, but perhaps what is is how relatively widespread this sentiment is – and perhaps that explains how easily it all has meshed with anti-immigrant sentiment, or concepts of ‘nationalism’.
The question is how this manifests politically. We’ve seen how those who are anti-immigrant have flirted with the far right, and vice versa, but are residual barriers falling between those, and is it a case that the far right is becoming, as it were, respectable and viable as a political home?

Consider too the AfD’s complaint expressed in the quote above – that Germany should stop ‘atoning’ for Nazism. On one level that’s obvious – individually and collectively Germans today are not responsible for Nazism. However, turning it around I’d argue that Germany provides the potential of an exemplary voice in terms of pushing back against fascism and Nazism because it experienced that directly. And in that sense this is where the AfD line is so wrong, because Germany can be (and in some respects is) a beacon shedding light on this area in a way others can’t. Not because of some intrinsic propensity of Germans to fascism and Nazism, but rather because if it could happen there it could happen anywhere, and that’s the danger.

Small wonder the AfD are exercised by this because their policies while still falling far short of fascism, though some statements have not been lacking in extremism, have commonalities that are – shall we say – problematic, and they know this. How much easier for them if the history of Germany didn’t exist. How much easier if they just had a blank sheet rather than the reality of a guide from history as to how certain dynamics tend to work out.
So, in a sense the old line about ‘never again’, is absolutely correct in all its meanings. But that seems to me that that means ‘never forgetting’ and that means also keeping a sense of that history alive.

Signs of Hope – A continuing series December 28, 2017

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Gewerkschaftler suggested this recently:

I suggest this blog should have a regular (weekly) slot where people can post happenings at the personal or political level that gives them hope that we’re perhaps not going to hell in a handbasket as quickly as we thought. Or as the phlegmatic Germans put it “hope dies last”.

Misplaced documents? December 28, 2017

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It’s almost that time of year again when the papers both here and elsewhere detail newly released files from state archives. Well, some files anyhow. Many thanks to Gearóid Clár for pointing to this in comments…

Thousands of government papers detailing some of the most controversial episodes in 20th-century British history have vanished after civil servants removed them from the country’s National Archives and then reported them as lost.

Documents concerning the Falklands war, Northern Ireland’s Troubles and the infamous Zinoviev letter – in which MI6 officers plotted to bring about the downfall of the first Labour government – are all said to have been misplaced.

Other missing files concern the British colonial administration in Palestine, tests on polio vaccines and long-running territorial disputes between the UK and Argentina.

And:

Almost 1,000 files, each thought to contain dozens of papers, are affected. In most instances the entire file is said to have been mislaid after being removed from public view at the archives and taken back to Whitehall.

An entire file on the Zinoviev letter scandal is said to have been lost after Home Office civil servants took it away. The Home Office declined to say why it was taken or when or how it was lost. Nor would its say whether any copies had been made.

Nothing to see here. Move on. Entirely unsuspicious.

As Gearóid notes, a good time to release bad news…

Talking about infiltration and dirty tricks… December 28, 2017

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I don’t know how many of us have been following the fall of Tory Damian Green closely – to be honest I wasn’t aware of all the details involved – but got to say that as more information emerged, and in this article in particular in the Guardian some of it has been extremely illuminating.

One of the most curious aspects has been what has been characterised as a feud between former Met officer Bob Quick and Green which led to Green’s resignation as deputy prime minister.

But check this out:

The reasons why Quick raided Green’s Commons office nearly nine years ago can be traced back even further, to a day in 2006 when a young civil servant called Christopher Galley, working in Jacqui Smith’s Home Office, was allegedly told by Green, then opposition immigration spokesman, to get “as much dirt on the Labour party, the Labour government, as possible”.

Galley had been introduced to Green by his then boss, the shadow home secretary, David Davis, whom he had approached saying he was a committed Conservative and was willing to leak material. Galley had also mentioned he wanted a “parliamentary job” with the Tories.

And:

Over the next two years, during which time Galley got a job in the home secretary’s private office, he passed at least 31 separate documents, some classified restricted, from the heart of the Home Office, including from the private office inbox and the private office outer safe.

Green made maximum use of the documents to secure headlines damaging to Labour in the Daily Mail, Sunday Telegraph and other papers on immigration, criminal justice and other Home Office issues.

This sustained and high-profile campaign went far beyond the normal trade in leaks between whistleblowing civil servants and opposition MPs. In the belief that as many as 40 other documents involving national security had also been leaked, the Cabinet Office called in Scotland Yard.

And:

As head of SO15, the counter-terrorism command, which also took on politically sensitive operations, Quick was given the job to investigate. A Cabinet Office investigator pinpointed Galley as responsible for a handful of the leaks but none of them involved national security material.

Keir Starmer, as director of public prosecutions, advised SO15 that an Official Secrets Act prosecution was not possible but that Galley may have committed a crime of misconduct in public office.

So that:

Quick pressed on and first arrested Galley, then secured a warrant from a judge to search Green’s constituency office and his home. The police arrested Green at his home on 27 November 2008 for “aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring misconduct in public office” by Galley.

And then without a warrant Quick raided Green’s Commons office. This was regarded as ‘wildly overstepping the mark’ and while Galley was dismissed from the Home Office the conclusion was that he hadn’t leaked national security documents (though his wish to get a parliamentary job and so on would appear most problematic etc). Quick resigned himself relatively soon after over an inadvertent leak of national security documents and all was quiet until a month or so ago when the porn on the computers story came out, with Green denying – inaccurately – that any had been found. Perhaps he assumed that Quick’s raid was so discredited that any information gleaned from it would be regarded as tainted or inadmissible.

But in the current febrile context that was an assumption too far. Note this following:

By the time the Cabinet Office inquiry concluded that Green had made “inaccurate and misleading statements”, May had little choice but to sack her friend, whom she has known since Oxford University. The PM made clear she remained unhappy with retired police officers leaking confidential details of their investigations, but it will now be left to the information commissioner to decide what, if any, action is taken against Quick and Lewis.

Well, indeed. But the events that triggered this appear extremely curious and the fact that some names that have achieved an even greater political prominence were so clearly central is – if not curious, perhaps telling.

Today I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Music I liked from 2017 December 27, 2017

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Tracks and albums released this year that I really liked. Some are individual songs or instrumentals, others are great but reflect equally good albums they are drawn from. None of this is meant to be the best – there’s plenty of publications that will give you steers in that regard. Nor is it just the stuff I heard this year. There was a lot I was tempted to put in that I didn’t in the end – for example Demian’s Milestars is almost there but not quite, Anton Kubikov likewise, The Horrors, Endless Boogie, Farflung, Majeure, The Church, and others provided excellent sounds but not perhaps quite there yet – or perhaps listening to them in the future they’ll become constants on the iPod.

So, in no particular order but starting with…

Thundercat – ‘Show You The Way (feat. Michael McDonald & Kenny Loggins)
Kind of brilliant, as is the album.

Brian Jonestown Massacre – Dropping Bombs on the Sun
Mentioned during the year, an album I keep going back to.

Jay Som – Take It
Really like this, at 22 she’s on her second (first large-scale label) album. It’s a mix between lo-fi, pop and in places shoe gaze. Well well worth a listen.

Beroshima/Frank Müller – Mad World
Reliably excellent and check out the split EP which this is on with two fantastic tracks from M.R.E.U.X.

Delia Gonzalez – Vesuvius
Mentioned this in despatches earlier in the year and still listening to it.

OMD – The Punishment of Luxury
Commercial sure. And about commercialism.

Night Sins – Crystal Blue
With a guitar line nicked from the Sisters Alice and a general gothy vibe I like this much more than I should…

Kelly Lee Owens – Bird
Another one that got a TWIMBLT during the year.

Jane Weaver – The Architect
And another! The whole album is great. And a residual Hawkwind connection of which there is no sign at all in the music
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=keXHh0lr2y8The Architect

EMA – Aryan Nation
From the genuinely harrowing Exile in the Outer Ring here EMA offers a great takedown on contemporary US politics and culture and a fine song quite apart from that. She’s a constantly challenging artist.

And as a sort of bonus or interval, Pharmakon’s Sentient
An unsettling two minutes and 20 seconds of sound rather than music. And arguably the quietest moments on her album.

Charles Manier – The Lions of Rojava
Thumpy, that’s the best term I can think of, reminiscent of U-ziq, but louder. And very very likeable.

Kölsch – Push
Third of a sequence of techno concept albums which Rune Reilly Kölsch has produced with composer Gregor Schwellenbach. Reflective, definitely, and to my ears some of the keyboard stabs sound very New Order like, but tracks like Push are oddly evocative of the year the album is focused on – with a stern, almost but not quite bombastic aspect (think some of Black Dog) and hints of post-punk here and there.

Quaeschning and Schnauss – Flare
Straight from their tenure in Tangerine Dream Ulrich Schnauss and Thorsten Quaeschning offer something both Tangerine Dream like and entirely of the moment.

T. Raumschmiere – Juli
Heimat by T. Raumschmiere, from which this is taken, is a great piece of work. Techno, sure, but suffused with emotion.

Slow Place Like Home – Echoes (feat Feargal McKee)
I really like SPLH – one of the finest Irish acts about. From their album released this year this is a characteristic track with Feargal McKee of Whipping Boy joining in.

Slowdive – Star Roving
Atypically fast and all the better for it. Another album I’ve liked more and more each time I revisit it. I noted before Rachel Goswell’s voice is less evident than it used to be but still a very strong album.

Wire – Playing harp for the fishes
From their latest album that guitar sound that kicks in at 17 seconds…

Jesus and Mary Chain – Song for a Secret
Didn’t catch them on either of their visits to Dublin this year but this song, feat. Julie Barber has, like the album really grown on me.

Robyn Hitchcock – I Want To Tell You About What I Want
His best album in quite a few years and this is a great great track.

Turbonegro – RockNRoll Machine
Turbonegro have a new album out next year. And late in the year they released this AC/DC inflected track as a taster – filled with their usual sarcastic/satirical approach.

Kepler Ten – Ultraviolet
Oddly enjoyable UK prog revivalists. I read in Classic Rock that these guys have a pedigree being former members of the UK’s leading Rush tribute act. I can believe it. And they’re all the better for it.

Nik Turner – End of the World
Nik Turner, drawn from a very jazzy album – and in elegiac mood. I find this oddly moving.

Ex Eye – Xenolith (The Anvil)
Jazz and metal meet yet again and like what they see in each other. Opinions will vary on this but I like it a lot.

The Comet is Coming – Start Running
From the cheerily named Death to the Planet album/EP this is great – spacey jazz.

Xosar – X(osar) Files
Whether you buy into her obsessions – and you may not, her take on spacey house is something else. Love it.

State infiltration… December 27, 2017

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Interesting if perhaps somewhat overblown column by Owen Jones here from a while back about the potential for an establishment push-back against a Corbyn government… I say perhaps overblown until Jones noted the following:

And unlike, say, the Attlee government, Labour’s leaders believe that political and social change cannot simply happen in parliament: people must be mobilised in their communities and workplaces to transform the social order. That, frankly, terrifies elite circles. Labour’s opposition to US dominance and a reorientation of Britain’s foreign policy is also viewed as simply unacceptable.

And:

Here are threats to a Labour government to consider. First, undercover police officers. I’ve interviewed women who had relationships with undercover police officers with fake identities. They were climate change activists: the police had recruited individuals willing to sacrifice years of their lives and violate women to keep tabs on the environmental and direct action movements. f they were keeping tabs on small groups of activists, what of a movement with a genuine chance of assuming political power?

What motivates people to ’sacrifice years of their lives’ like this? That’s actually a dual question – firstly in terms of how they can do so, and how the state can through certain institutions bring forward such people. And what of the broader question as to how this impinges on left approaches or left governments?

Christmas Week What you want to say – 27th December, 2017 December 27, 2017

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As always, following on Dr. X’s suggestion, it’s all yours, “announcements, general discussion, whatever you choose”, feel free.

Records. A slight return, or not? December 26, 2017

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I mentioned last year how there had been a reprise for records. Indeed a number of posts across the year pointed to how they had come back into vogue. Not sure if this was a straw in the wind but Tiger in Dublin for a while stocked hard rock and dance classics. And yet, I was in there recently and no sign of ‘vinyls’ as some now call them.

On the other hand in other media reports it said that sales were more buoyant than ever.

So which is it? Is it that vinyl sales have hit a critical mass and that’s now here to stay?

I’m genuinely curious, and for many reasons. It’s difficult to think of a format that was thought long obsolete coming back into usage, at least in this high-profile, fashion.

Left Archive: The Captive Voice – An Glór Gafa, The Voice of Irish Republican Prisoners of War, Vol 8 No. 3 Winter 1996 December 26, 2017

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To download the above please click on the following link.CAPTIVE VOICE 8 3 1996

Please click here to go the Left Archive.

Many thanks to the person who forwarded this to the Archive.

This publication is a unique addition to the Archive. As the preface notes:

The Captive Voice/An Glór Gafa is a quarterly magazine written in its entirety by Irish Republican POWs currently being held in Ireland, England, Europe and the US. It is publish by Sinn Féin’s POW Department. Irish republicans have always recognised that resistance to British misrule does not end upon their arrest. The battles to be fought and the tactics to be employed may change but the enemy remains the same.

Unsurprisingly given this is a Winter edition there is a strong focus on Christmas and prisoners. There is also a concentration on issues of interest to prisoners – extradition, and so forth. And mention is made of Antonio Gramsci and his Prison Notebooks in relation the ‘politics of cultural struggle’. There’s also an article with the accounts of Basque political prisoners.

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