Bloggery: I don’t know how I missed the fact that my friend Tom Henri has a blog, “Unsettling Social Work”, aimed at “developing a critical sociology of social work”. The latest entry, from September, is the full text of his Guardian article on the summer riots in Lewisham, my corner of London. Moving to a totally different topic, have I recommended Critical Kabbalist before? The tin says "Reflections on studying Kabbalah and its relation to questions of spirituality, art, music and politics." But that doesn't really capture the interesting intersection of negative theology and communist theory.
A local blog for local people: I've been meaning to write about the campaign against Domino's Pizza in Honor Oak Park. I hope to do so soon, but in the meantime, go sign the petition (and read a little there about the issue). Also, local readers, go and watch A Screaming Man, which is supposed to be awesome, at the Brockley Jack Film Club on Monday night (the image above is from the film). Also of interest to both my local and non-local readers, here's Principia Dialectica on a Marxist showdown in the Brockley Barge: Urban rides: Potholing in south London. Meanwhile, rigorous academic research says Brockley Central is good for you.
Libraries:Talking of Crofton Park, it is incredibly depressing these days to go into our "social enterprise"-run "community library", slowing dying away in the shell of our wonderful old municipal neighbourhood library. I was incredibly irritated to read this Torygraph article by Peckham resident New Labor ex-librarian John McTernan, whose columns I normally like. The sub-editors, presumably, are responsible for the header and strapline: "Liberal whingers are wrong – we should shut our libraries: Middle-class liberals are fighting to keep libraries open out of condescension for the less fortunate and guilt that they, like everyone else, no longer use them." But McTernan is responsible for the nonsense that follows: "When did you last go to a public library? No, really, when? It’s probably a good few years – and if so, you’re not alone. From one year to the next, nearly 60 per cent of us don’t go to libraries at all. In fact, fewer than one in five adults in England go more than once a month." For a start, this misses out the children who go to libraries, in much higher numbers than adults, and surely the real core users. Even so, and accepting that these numbers are accurate (he doesn't say where they come from), aren't the 40% of the adult population who are library users, and the 20% who are regular users, important? And the additional few percent who'd also be users if the libraries weren't being emptied out and closed down? He claims that we don't need a gateway to international literature when you can buy from Abebooks, which is like saying we don't need the BBC because you can buy DVDs on-line. He claims that "every kid has a desk at home", which is not the case in Crofton Park and surely not the case in Peckham either. Lewisham and Southwark libraries are heavily used by teenagers (mainly black, as it happens) using the desks and computers to do schoolwork, and closing the libraries is a real insult to them. North London and Oxford libraries that get celebrity endorsements might be the concern of liberal whingers, but down here where fewer authors come we really need our libraries.
Anti-capitalism/RCPWatch: My last post on the Occupy movement mainly included positive commentary, but I have enjoyed reading Spiked's more jaundiced view. (Tim Black: V for Vacuous; Brendan O’Neill: Occupy London: a ragbag of political conformists; Nathalie Rothschild: The rage of hip consumers; Nathalie Rothschild: Is this Monty Python’s Occupy Wall Street?) They obsessively point out (e.g. here) that the movement can't really be radical because it is endorsed by Ben and Jerry, the president of the US, and Anglican priests. A very fair comment indeed. However, makes me wonder about Spiked's own empty claim to radicalism, given its writers are so widely disseminated by the super-establishment Daily Telegraph and the BBC, given sinecures by the Tory mayor of London and so on. They also reveal something of their esoteric Leninism in this article, where they attack the movement for its leaderlessness.
Real political leadership represents the embodiment of an ideal, a goal, which people subscribe to and are willing to fight for. In eschewing leadership, or rather in celebrating the objective reality of a lack of decent leaders, the occupiers are actually turning their noses up at idealism and political purpose, at the very basic idea of having a goal and a strategy for achieving it.[...] Here, we can glimpse what the celebration of leaderlessness really represents: an accommodation to the dearth of visionary thinking on the modern left.True, visionary thinking is sorely lacking on the modern left, but this is not an argument for throwing our hats in with a Leninist cult run by the "visionary" Frank Furedi, which is Spiked's underlying if rarely spoken agenda.
Zionism/anti-Zionism... and the British labour movement: Nick Cohen on the foul smell of Britain's anti-Israel trade unions. Alan Johnson on Labour Friends of Israel.
Zionism/anti-Zionism... and Gilad Atzmon: Joseph W on Atzmonism as this century's Protocols. Lucy Lips on the nadir of the anti-Zionist Jews. Ben Cohen on John Mearsheimer And The Scandal That Wasn’t.
Fascism and anti-fascism: Alan Johnson on Matthew Collins' Hate.
Non-progressive socialism: Interesting post on Jon Cruddas, Blue Labour and BNP economics from Paul up North.
Conspirationism: At the weekend I was disappointed to see the latest Ziocentric conspiracy theory emerging from a source I expected better of: the claim that Liam Fox was a useful idiot for Mossad, pushed by Ian Bone of all people.
I've had a busy week: I might have blogged a little too much this week. If you missed them, go back back and read my posts on when anti-Zionism isn't antisemitism, Occupying Wall Street and London, the English Defence League and its Jewish Division, and Gilad Atzmon. Contested Terrain also took up the anti-Zionism/anti-imperialism/antisemitism issue, and I cross-posted part of my Occupy post there too.
Music: Finally, here's the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan singing "Mast Nazron Se".