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Independent Left: November 30, 2020

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Ciarán O’Rourke reviews The Common Wind: Afro-American Currents in the Age of the Haitian Revolution by Julius S. Scott on the Haitian Revolution on Independent Left.


A very Tory Christmas November 30, 2020

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Rafeal Behr put it very succinctly on the Guardian politics podcast just before the weekend in relation to matters both in the UK and the ROI…

I find this whole thing [the loosening of restrictions before Christmas] very peculiar because when you strip it down to its barest essentials and this is going to sound very cold hearted what I’m going to say but I’m. Just trying to understand the calculation that is going on … because we don’t… we haven’t completely suppressed the virus enough so you can allow people to circulate and risk a high level of contagion the calculation that is really going on here is let’s everyone kind of roll the dice a little bit over Christmas, that’s going to result in some people getting very ill and some people dying – we’ll know how many by kind of February or March but if we sort of minimise that as best as we can then no one is going to really know who rolled a one and who rolled a six and we get Christmas… it’s a very odd political choice to make…one suspects Downing Street’s view on this is steered quite heavily by the view on the Conservative benches in the House of Commons and now much capacity Boris Johnson has to annoy those Tory MPS who really think lockdown is an aberration and everyone should be running around and buying as much as possible…

Left Archive: Starry Plough, No. 9, 1972, Official Sinn Féin November 30, 2020

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

Please click here to go the Left Archive.

To download the above please click on the following link.

This edition of the Starry Plough adds to the collection of Official Sinn Féin material from the early 1970s. There is a varied content, from Rachmanism, through to calls to harass the British army in the editorial.
This argues that:

We appeal to the people, not to lie down under this pressure [from the British Army] but to retaliate in the most effective way they know, by mass peaceful protest.This tactic has proved successful in the past. The British Army are not trained to control thousands of protesting people who can only show passive resistance.The British government can ill-afford another Bloody Sunday.


There is also the transcript of a speech by Des O’Hagan on ‘What is Republicanism’. There’s an overview of 1972, which was, of course, the year that the Official IRA called a ceasefire. There’s a long piece on Irish Women’s Liberation and the last page engages with The Industrial Scene and argues that ‘Derry Docks-Sold Down the River’.


Apologies for the slightly low resolution of the document.

A small monolith November 29, 2020

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Thought this entertaining:

A mysterious monolith has been discovered in a remote part of Utah, after being spotted by state employees counting sheep from a helicopter. The structure, estimated at between 10ft and 12ft high, appeared to be planted in the ground. It was made from some sort of metal, its shine in sharp contrast to the enormous red rocks which surrounded it. Utah’s highway patrol shared images of both the sheep and the monolith.

And:

Hutchings said the object looked manmade and appeared to have been firmly planted in the ground, not dropped from the sky. “I’m assuming it’s some new wave artist or something or, you know, somebody that was a big 2001: A Space Odyssey fan,” Hutchings said.

No attribution to date. Sadly, it has vanished.

Sunday and other Media Stupid Statements from this week… November 29, 2020

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The Irish Times offered this contradictory analysis on Friday:

The Government is expected to launch a major publicity campaign urging people to have a “safe Christmas” after tonight’s expected announcements of a lifting of the lockdown and the reopening of social and economic life. People will be told that “every contact counts” and told to limit their social and family interactions over the Christmas period.

Some ‘reopening’ that.

Same with this:

As Ireland gets ready to reopen for business next week, there is little reason to think a third surge of Covid-19 can be avoided next year.This is the reality of “living with the virus”, when transmission has not been reduced to manageable levels and where the finer techniques for hunting it down have not been mastered.

But hey, apparently nothing to worry about even if the next month is going to bring mixing on a scale unseen in the period since the pandemic first struck…

With no excess deaths in Ireland since May, a sense of proportion is needed. Seasonal factors are helping to drive up cases at the moment, and will ultimately push them down again. The second wave was nowhere near as bad as the first, and the next one should be more manageable still.

Oddly PHE in the UK don’t take such a sunny view and they’ve a more restrictive Christmas reopening.

Stephen Collins is very sure of the following about Joe Biden…

That attachment was evident in his warnings to the UK, before and after his election, not to breach the terms of the Belfast Agreement in the course of the Brexit process. Crucially Biden has a real understanding of this country and does not pander to cliched demands for a united Ireland parroted by some US politicians. Instead he is committed to the shared island approach being followed by Taoiseach Micheál Martin

Huh? That ‘shared island’ approach is not identical to the GFA/BA – indeed there’s an argument it diverges sharply from certain aspects of the GFA/BA.

And this being the season to project any old thing on Biden according to the political inclinations of those doing the projecting, here’s Newton Emerson on the same topic

The phrase that has intrigued most people in Ireland is “we do not want a guarded Border”. For unionists, the words that immediately followed are more important: “We’ve worked too long to get Ireland worked out.” As far as Irish republicans and many nationalists are concerned, Ireland is not worked out. The Belfast Agreement is a transitional arrangement, not a settlement, and Brexit should bring forward its Border poll mechanism.While Biden said nothing incompatible with that, nor did he sound like someone yearning to push for difficult change. The opportunity here for unionists, which precedent suggests they will squander, is to glad-hand around the United States agreeing Ireland is indeed worked out and Biden is just the man to keep it that way.

Speaking of music and magazines… November 28, 2020

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Jason O’Toole was interviewing Gary Barlow, no less, in the Mirror this weekend. Barlow made a point in respect of that subject when he said:

“The funny thing was, the magazines catering to teenagers didn’t mind putting topless boys on the front of their magazines in the early ’90s. It was a very strange time. “This was just before Britpop happened. And so by the end of the ‘80s had come and Kylie and Jason and all those acts had gone, what you had for a couple of years was all these faceless dance acts. Who are Smash Hits going to put on the front? It was almost like they were giving us a chance not because the music was any good – it’s because they could actually put faces on the front of their magazine that people would be interested in. “So we were on the covers of magazines before we had any hits. So image and fashion came first for us.

And:

“And I’ll be honest, it’s always been an area I’ve struggled with. I was never the cool kid at school, I’ve always felt like I couldn’t be trusted to dress myself – I’m just a guy who writes songs. So that’s the bit I struggle with. As you can probably see, as our career advanced and we came back the second time, it was then, all of a sudden, all about the music, coming back as men.

Which led him to the reasonable and very honest conclusion:

“I found my feet then at that point and it felt far more natural for me second time round being in this band than it ever did the first time around.”

I’ve often wondered at that dynamic with that particular genre of music – something that is so heavily invested in youth. And yet people grow older. Both fans and groups. There’s a nostalgic aspect – and that by the way is true across many musical genres, perhaps in some ways or another all. Interesting to hear how one of those at the heart of the process felt about it.

The Music Press November 28, 2020

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crocodileshoes had a comment the other day that really resonated with me.

On the thread about the documentary White Riot C noted this:

A hat tip also to those unsung – except on CLR – heroes, the music press. The term mainstream media hadn’t been invented when I was reading about the ANL but I could read about them in Sounds and the NME.

I’ve mentioned it before, and will again, but for me Sounds, Melody Maker and to a lesser extent the NME, were central in helping shape a world-view. These magazines were far from left-wing, but there were progressive strands that went through them. In a period of Thatcher, and Major, they were oppositional in a diffuse but not unuseful way.

And then there was the broader cultural context of the magazines, bringing ideas that I suspect for many of us would have been locked away in academia and elsewhere were it not for the sometimes pretentious, sometimes naive, sometimes educative, mix that was presented on a weekly basis to readers. I didn’t just read them for the reviews and news and articles but for the style of writing, the sense of like minds and so on. Even today I can list off the top of my head favourite writers and knowing that if x or y or z said something was good, well, chances were I’d like it.

Helen Love had this about the UK music scene, half-parody, half sincere, one suspects. But the press were a key component in that scene.

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… The Bob Seger System November 28, 2020

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Here’s an album that I have a real fondness for. Bob Seger is of course one of the great proponents of roots rock, and while not a huge fan of that particular genre, I have to admit I like his 1970s albums a lot.

Curiously, or not the entry point was – like I’ll bet quite a few people, Thin Lizzy’s majestic live cover of “Rosalie”. But one can fairly neatly map out discrete sections to his career. For example “Rosalie” – a much more intriguing song than Lizzy’s joyous interpretation, at least lyrically – comes from the excellent Back in 1972 album. But that album marked almost an end point of one period for Seger and the albums that follow seem to belong to a distinct phase, increasing success (I seem to recall that he played next to nothing from those earlier albums live subsequently).

But go back to 1968 and his first album under the Bob Seger System name – Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man and one can hear a Seger who was not to reappear in quite this way again. There’s a lot in the mix, and perhaps that’s part of why the eclecticism would be pared back in future. Garage rock? Check. Pychedelia? Check. West Coast? Check. Folk? Check. Motown? Check. It’s all in here and more. Seger had been building up local success in the Detroit area and this points to how.

Listen to the title track, which forges along powered by a John Bonham style drum beat (and a certain G. Frey on backing vocals). Or “Ivory” with its great chorus. “2 + 2 = ?” is a fine garage rock anti-war song. “Down Home” has a real bite to the music and vocals. “Tales of Lucy Blue’s” none more psychedelic opening guitar line propels the song a long. And there’s many more.

Seger would never sound quite like this again. But perhaps this album is a just perfect reflection of the point he was at and the times it was created in.

Signs of Hope – A continuing series November 27, 2020

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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”.

Any contributions this week?

Left Unity and Disunity… November 27, 2020

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I was reading (can’t recall where) that People Before Profit and RISE are currently engaged in talks over RISE joining PBP. I gather that we’ll know more closer to Christmas. Either way it’s encouraging to see proposed unity rather than splits…..

Elsewhere there’s talk of a split in the Spartacist League. They have produced just one Leaflet this year and both Workers Hammer and Workers Vanguard seem to be on hiatus. Anyone any idea what’s happening?

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