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What you want to say – 2nd September 2015 September 2, 2015

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

Cancel games on Sunday morning so everyone can go to Mass September 1, 2015

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Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 16.13.30
From this months Alive!
Aside from everything about it…… In Dublin at least, matches have to be played on a Sunday morning in all codes as there are not enough pitches to cater for all the scheduled matches.

After Irish Labour? September 1, 2015

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I’ve been thinking a lot about organisational continuity – and this dovetails with a piece in the current issue of The Phoenix on a certain high profile LP TD whose future seems uncertain ;) – good issue which I’d recommend. It is, of course, something that those of us on the left tend to have a fair bit of direct experience of, or experience of the opposite. In fairness left parties, and left/republican, parties aren’t unknown for fetishising same, even when one has to think that sometimes the reality is akin to an aircraft across twenty or thirty years which is refitted refurbished and has parts replaced to the point where little or nothing is the original. Is it still the same aircraft. Yes and no.

But what of times when structures and organisations suffer grievous pressures. One need only look at the Green Party to see both the positives and negatives of those events. The GP has no national representation. But it did see a number of councillors elected at the last local election. Green shoots indeed after the catastrophe that was 2011. Will the GP eventually bounce back? I’d think that we’re looking at its departure from national politics for a while. Perhaps a prolonged period of time and one that means it has near no chance of participation in government for longer again.

And so what of Labour? What of a Labour party that hit just four or five TDs at the next election. No longer sufficient to have certain privileges as a party/group in the Dáil (for which you need seven). Possibly eclipsed by RENUA and/or the Social Democrats, though I wouldn’t bet the house on either of them doing that. Most certainly overshadowed multiple times by Sinn Féin.

Their only clear path to state power as a sort of adjunct to whatever ruling coalition is in power. But surely, surely, there would be some residual antagonism to that from members, wouldn’t there be? Or would it be so beaten after such a result that it would want that ever elusive quality of relevance and therefore would see its interests as having a seat – a seat(!) – at Cabinet level.

So much for a social democratic programme. And what of the future? It would genuinely be a rump. Could it depend upon a union movement already looking at Sinn Féin and not finding them anywhere as uncongenial as they once were? The membership? Presumably much depleted. And note too the numbers of councillors it lost last time out – 81 seats less, down to 51 (once they mocked SF for that number). That too tells a story of problems.

Their head office, dependent to finance its personnel and activities on revenue streams from TDs and members, suddenly curtailed (the Green Party famously had to give up on their previous offices and office staff after the last election).

And worse again aspects of their identity, and approach, taken up by other formations, some Independents, perhaps the SDs (albeit that too has problems), perhaps more clearly SF in terms of a sort of social democratic programme.

It would be foolish to predict that they would disappear entirely. But parties do falter and ultimately fail. I’ve noted this before, the seeming permanence of the 1970s dispensation with a two and half party system with Labour as the half now seems unbelievably archaic – something that will almost certainly not be seen any time soon again.

There’s another angle to this (well many angles actually). Once some thought that by removing Labour from the equation there would be more opportunities for the further left. It’s a sort of inverse of the opposite approach of formations merging with the LP. Well, we saw how adding DL to the LP mix didn’t exactly increase the size of the merged formation. And similarly rather than the further left benefiting alone one could make a case that many have seen positive outcomes across the spectrum from the weakening of that party – perhaps most obviously SF, but also the SDs, etc, etc. Perhaps that points to unintended consequence, or the realities of an electorate that seemingly goes in many directions.

Class has a lot to do with contempt September 1, 2015

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Some fascinating observations on UK politics revealed here in the Guardian this morning in relation to Hillary Clinton’s emails. The focus on the Miliband’s – David and Clinton got on well so it seems, and the leadership election of the brother was a shock. Mandelson and Miliband’s rivalry. Warnings over the arrival of the Tories in power…

And what of this from long time advisor Sidney Blumenthal?

Before the election, Blumenthal also wrote scathingly of Conservative leader David Cameron, telling the secretary of state: “Cameron would be superficially friendly and privately scornful. Class has a lot to do with the contempt. A Cameron government would be more aristocratic and even narrowly Etonian than any Conservative government in recent history.”

That very British ’emotional attachment’ to Northern Ireland. September 1, 2015

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Very interesting snippet in a profile of Teresa Villiers, the Northern Ireland Secretary in the SBP this weekend.

Villiers is the public face of a Conservative administration in London that has little interest in the North, says Jonny Byrne, a lecturer in politics at the University of Ulster.
“She is simply the face of a government that will do anything and everything to keep Northern Ireland out of Downing Street, and to ensure that devolution survives. The Tories didn’t sign the Good Friday Agreement, it was a Labour document. It was constructed by a Labour point of view,” says Byrne.

What do people think, is that true re the GFA/BA document?

“Sinn Féin and the DUP talk about Tory cuts. They don’t talk about government cuts. The British government is being framed as a Tory government,” says Jonny Byrne.
Villiers has never constructed a positive image of herself, or her role in the North. “She has been associated with negativity ever since she came here,” says Byrne. “She is the face of a British government that has no emotional attachment to Northern Ireland, that has no attachment to the Good Friday Agreement.”

I can’t dispute that last, and I suppose that the idea that the Tories only support it so far as it minimises their involvement in the North is interesting. Certainly that point about them having ‘no emotional attachment to Northern Ireland’ is worth considering further too. For if not them then who in British politics actually does have a genuine deep-seated attachment to NI?

The ’10 best revolutionaries’ August 31, 2015

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Did anyone see this in yesterday’s Observer. Ed Vulliamy offered his 10 ‘best revolutionaries’. 

Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara

Maximilien Robespierre

Rosa Luxemburg

Mahatma Gandhi

Toussaint L’Ouverture

Mary Harris ‘Mother’ Jones

James Connolly

Emiliano Zapata

Frantz Fanon

Leon Trotsky

Any additional names that should be in the mix?

SF and coalition with FF? Apparently not. August 31, 2015

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Interesting that this was the message from Mary Lou McDonald on Saturday (and reported last night in the IT). In the course of a conversation with the IT about the situation as regards the IRA she made some salient points, not least that:

“It’s 1994 since the first ceasefire, we’ve been through the whole issue of decommissioning and the weapons being put beyond use, the final statement of a ceasing of operations,” she said.

“I think what you’ve witnessed is very irresponsible politicking north and south
“This is absolutely bizarre, for so-called leaders such as Micheál Martin and Joan Burton to be so absolutely irresponsible and so cravenly opportunistic in their public pronouncements.”

But also this, which links back into the politicking point – in relation to those in FF talking about a possible SF/FF coalition:

“That would be a decision for the Sinn Féin Árd Fheis, I think we’ve made clear that we want an alternative, progressive, left-of-centre government. I don’t see Fianna Fáil forming a part of that.”

There may well be an element of making a virtue of necessity. On current polling data such an outcome seems remote. But there’s also the point that such statements from her and others in SF does tend to lock them further into a context of not being able to enter any such centre right coalition without clearly contradicting those self-same statements. One has to presume that she and others in SF are entirely aware of that. And indeed of what has happened to parties that have been perceived to have broken pre-election promises, even those hedged with caveats.

Third London Labour Film Festival – looking for short films August 31, 2015

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Thanks to the person who forwarded this:

We’re looking for short films about working people.
View this email in your browser
The third London Labour Film Festival will screen a selection of labour-related shorts throughout the film festival which takes place next month.

These short films will be screened between the feature length films.

We would like to invite you to be part of this.

We are asking people to submit short films to the festival.

The films and videos submitted can be made in the UK or anywhere in the world.

The films will be labour-related, they can be about any and every aspect of work, as well as those issues affecting unionised workers and those not represented by unions.

The selected (winners) will be chosen by a global panel of judges and shown as part of the festival.

The shorts selection competition is open to anybody. The purpose of the contest is to discover the hard work of filmmakers whose voices have yet to be heard.

The winners selected to be screened will be determined by a global panel of judges.

Deadline for entries: 8th September 2015

Click here for full details and an entry form.
Thanks — and please spread the word!

Russian contemporary culture and the White Generals August 30, 2015

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I very much liked this piece by Perry Anderson which was linked to during the week (and many thanks to the person who did so). A lot to reflect on – not least his views on the Ukraine conflict and perceptions of same more broadly. But culturally and politically, what of this?

What the impact of this revival of the Church has been on the culture at large is another question, but it is clearly not marginal. The author of the best-selling title of 2012 was the Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov, an intimate of Putin, and producer of a popular television documentary chronicling the decline of Byzantium under the corrosive moral influences of the West. His Everyday Saints—‘simple, luminous tales of ordinary Christians’—sold over a million copies in a year. Not everyone was spellbound: to the indignation of its admirers, it did not quite win the country’s Booker Prize. But within the intelligentsia itself, in one—usually, though not invariably, somewhat higher—register or another, religion is in vogue. Russian cinema offers some of the most striking examples of the cross-breeding of retro-nationalism with neo-pietism in the service of the regime. At the box-office end of the market, blending commercial spectacle and middle-brow pretension, is Nikita Mikhalkov, the country’s Steven Spielberg. Once a caryatid of the Soviet cultural establishment, after the fall of the ussr he swiftly announced his conversion to Christianity; secured official funding for his patriotic blockbuster The Barber of Siberia, in which he himself plays an imposing Alexander iii; moved on to maudlin narratives of White Generals of the Civil War era; and in 2005 produced a fawning film-portrait of Putin in honour of his 55th birthday, depicting him as a latter-day—but by no means everyday—political saint. [34]
At the more austere end of the spectrum, where few concessions are made to popular taste or understanding, the cinema of Alexander Sokurov—widely regarded as Russia’s greatest director—mingles necrophilia and mysticism with homages to political correctness of the day. After reverent icons of Yeltsin and eldrich bestiaries of Hitler and Lenin came a glowing portrait of Hirohito as a quiet embodiment of imperial dignity emerging from his palace to the fatherly respect of MacArthur (Sokurov has explained that Japan, after all, had to expand into China). There followed a celebrity tour of the Tsarist past, hinting that if European culture was to be saved, it would be in the Noah’s ark of the Motherland, topped off with a sentimental apologia for the war in Chechnya, Alexandra, starring former diva Galina Vishnevskaya—‘Tsarina’ for the director—as a grandmother telling a Chechen lad to ‘ask God for intelligence’, instead of muttering about independence. This chauvinist parable won Sokurov an audience with Putin, and lavish state backing for his next venture, a phantasmagoric version of Goethe’s Faust. [35]
The better younger directors are less given to this kind of accommodation to power. But even an auteur of such independence as Andrei Zvyagintsev, no friend of the regime, has felt it necessary to avow the Christian faith behind his breakthrough, The Return, and garb his recent attack on official corruption of church and state alike, Leviathan, from a biblical wardrobe as a modern tale of Job. Lower down, there are few depths contemporary Russian cinema has not plumbed. Leading hits include The Island—tale of a repentant monk, who after committing lethal treason at German order during the war, has become so holy that nature itself departs from its laws in his presence; The Admiral, depicting the White supremo Kolchak in a ne plus ultra of schmaltz as a tender lover executed by the Bolsheviks, his corpse sinking cruciform into the Siberian ice; and The Miracle, scripted by Sokurov’s screen-writer Yuri Arabov, the ‘true story’ of a young girl who casts away her mother’s icons except for Saint Nicholas, whom she takes to a louche party—and there, as she dances clutching it, is frozen motionless for her impiety, until months later Khrushchev arrives and gives the grudging go-ahead for an exorcism to liberate her, murmuring as he flies back to Moscow, ‘A miracle—such beauty: as if an angel has flown’. The cultural sump of this sort of Russian cinema makes even the worst films of the Soviet era look presentable.

I’m not well up on how the White’s are regarded in Russia since the fall of the Soviets, but to judge from this there’s a sort of wholesale reevaluation of them, even if only in what appears to be a nostalgic/emotional way. Most of us here of whatever persuasion on the left (and personally in that conflict I still have a sneaking regard for Makhno, for all his faults) would tend to view the White’s as reactionary, at best.

Has anyone any knowledge of this trend in Russian culture?

Yet more on Jeremy Corbyn August 30, 2015

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Speaking of bizarre, here’s an odd piece by Nick Cohen in regard to the British Labour Party contest. I’ve always thought, and I know I’m not alone on the site in this respect, that in relation to a range of matters Cohen, whatever his approach in regard to Iraq etc in the 2000s, was fairly on the nose. Perhaps less so in recent times.

It’s very curious because it seems to echo other strands of thought, as with this:

But maybe there are good as well as shabby reasons why Corbyn’s past has failed to detach supporters from his cause. Until now the hypocritical, and in my view despicable, strain of thought that Corbyn represents has been dominant in the universities, the arts, political comedy and much, but not all, of the left-wing media. In what passes for liberal culture it is commonplace to condemn Western crimes while ignoring or excusing the crimes of anti-Western regimes and movements. But, politically, what artists and academics think has had little effect. The attitude of a British government that puts arms contracts before human rights in its dealings with, say, Saudi Arabia mattered far more for the glaringly obvious reason that it was in power and the Left was not.

And:

Not just Corbyn and his supporters but much of the liberal Left announce their political correctness and seize on the smallest sexist or racist “gaffe” of their opponents. Without pausing for breath, they move on to defend radical Islamist movements which believe in the subjugation of women and the murder of homosexuals. They will denounce the anti-Semitism of white neo-Nazis, but justify Islamist anti-Semites who actually murder Jews in Copenhagen and Paris. In a telling vignette, Corbyn himself defended a vicar from the supposedly liberal and tolerant Church of England who had promoted the conspiracy theory that Jews were responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

Discussing it with the person who sent me the link we wondered how much longer Cohen would self-describe as ‘left”…

When the far Left shades into the far Right, I am tempted to hug the centre and treat it as our best protection against the poisonous and the deranged. Respectable commentators have urged Labour members to do the same. They failed to understand that in Labour’s case the centre ground is as polluted as any derelict site.

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