We have reached the level of the dark times of the early Middle Ages. The need to reflect on this. The extreme difficulty of reflecting on it. -- Victor SergeLots of the blogs I have followed for a long time seem to be slowly dying, but there are new ones out there, and old healthy ones, and ones that are not so new but new to me. Here are a couple that have caught my eye lately.
The Spanish Prisoner
This is one I've been following for a long time, but inexplicably have almost never linked to. It's the blog of West Coast left-wing artist and writer Evan Kornfeld (who tweets here). He blogs most frequently on film, but also on politics. Two sample recent posts: this must-read post on the Guardian peddling disgraceful Saudi exceptionalism and apologetics for sexism, this on the odious CounterPunch-hyped right-wing crank Craig Paul Roberts. In fact, the post-left idiocy of CounterPunch is a frequent target of Evan's, as an example of the wider trend to "political cretinism" in the US.
The (Dis)Loyal Opposition to Modernity
This is another (kind of) left-wing, US-based blog. It's a group blog, but the main contributor is one Skepoet (C Derick Varn, who tweets here). It suffers from too many words, and is mainly of interest to those already inside the closed world of Marxist philosophy and critical theory, but I find a lot of its material extremely interesting. The motto is "Urgently, Angrily, Skeptically, Critically, Dialectically, and Honestly", and are unusual in their milieu for engaging with religion, and in fact with a range of different religious traditions. Two sample posts: on the awfulness of CounterPunch and its late Alexander Cockburn and his baleful influence (yes, I admit one of my own obsessions) or this more arcane one on Talmudic Judaism and council communism. Off-site, here is a long essay by Skepoet on "popping the left":
The point of “popping the left”... is not to be anti-leftist. To be anti-leftist is to focus on the “left” — Marxist, Trotskyist, Situationist, labor Zionist, anti-imperialist, anarcho-syndicalist — and to reflect a myopia that not only blurs but also corrodes. The billion points of light or a thousand flowers which spend more time gossiping about each other and writing 16 point strategy broadsheets on how to best organize Cadres after Occupy or how to make an American Syriza or to talk about how evil tankies, Trots, greens, and infantile leftists actually are. To constantly denounce “the left” makes about as much sense as to complain constantly about advertising: the pathologies that exist in the left milieu aren’t just the product of that milieu, they are also a product of the society that produces that milieu. The point of “popping the left” is to see beyond oneself into the wider world and to ask questions of the who, when, and why of history.
...A guiding light is not a map or a program or a set of vocabulary words and rubrics to apply to complicated historical movements. Materialism means dealing with what is here, historical means looking with one eye to the past and another to the possibility of a radically different future.
Whisky and Tea
I don't know why I haven't been linking constantly to Mark Crawford's blog, as it's completely up my street and as I write this I notice I am on the small but perfectly formed blogroll. It's from this side of the Atlantic, and I guess you'd characterise it more as centre-left. Mark (who tweets here) recently left the Labour Party in protest at Ed Miliband's betrayal of the Syrian people, and his post (entitled "Not in My Name") on his reasons for leaving is absolutely superb. Here are some sample passages from the blog. From a post on Russell Brand:
Socialism makes the modest suggestion that welfare should not depend upon the charitable donations of the rich and religious to the deserving poor, a view that holds petty paternalism and charity as insults to human dignity – what Marx called the soothing of the heart-burned aristocrat. It’s why charges of hypocrisy are so ludicrous: “champagne socialism” is an attempt to vomit egalitarians out of public discourse with a pithy remark, alluding, apparently, to the miso soups and lattes over which they denounce the bourgeoisie. (I can only afford cava myself but we’ll let that pass.)From a post on Syria:
What Kerry calls “armchair isolationism” is quite important: it requires no effort on the part of the person sitting in the armchair, making it much more effective than the “armchair general” metaphor that reactionaries like to jump on.And from the Labour resignation post:
By a soft rhyming of history, to paraphrase the late Seamus Heaney, just as Attlee was forging alliances against fascism his predecessor was joining it for tea. First Hitler, and then Mussolini, the pacifist George Lansbury paid visit to all the leaders of Europe in 1937 believing them “children of one Father”. Reminiscing shortly before his death, Lansbury remained determined that “Christianity in its purest sense might have had a chance”; he had grasped perhaps a little too confidently Hitler’s commitment to an old man to a World Peace Conference under the chairing of Roosevelt. Lansbury’s failed nomination to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1940, the year of his death, was tragically fitting – it seemed to admit with a sigh of regret that, though the dove is peaceful, he cannot change the nature of the lion.
If some of the blogs above suffer from using too many words, this (new) one is admirably pithy. Like the blogs above, it is in some sense politically homeless (the only honorable place to dwell, as Jogo puts it). Like me, the blogger Daniel Rivas Perez (who tweets here) is a fan of Victor Serge, as well as of Camus. Here's some sample phrases:
Whether or not Marxism is the future for Pakistan or for anywhere else—it isn’t—it is important to note and support those forces that work towards secularism, equality and justice in a country, and to oppose those which… don’t.
[Russell] Brand conflates globalisation with immiseration, as though no global poverty existed before there were textile factories and Coca-Cola bottling plants. This is absurd. No left-wing argument can be coherent without first recognising that the predominant economic system has achieved great things; this does not preclude criticism of that system.
The Drowned and The Saved
This is another new blog. Alex Bjarnason (who tweets here) blogs about the Holocaust, politics and the Middle East from a centre-left Zionist point of view. The blog features regular round-ups of stuff that's out there (such as this or this). This is the launching statement:
Primo Levi (31/07/1919-11/04/1987) was an Italian Jewish chemist who fought in the resistance before being caught and deported to Auschwitz. He survived, spending thirty years as a chemist in industry, and achieved great acclaim as a writer, making some of the key literary contributions to our understanding of the Holocaust. He is one of my heroes, as a writer and survivor; this blog is inspired by his memory and named after one of his books. The devotion of survivors like Primo to bear witness is now being passed to our own generation- something I hope to contribute to in this blog.
I will write about more than the Holocaust, reflecting my own interests in politics, human rights, Israel and the Middle East, and beyond. The recent death of Norm Geras, who wrote NormBlog, forced me consider the importance of blogging and need to find my own voice. The British Left remains in a strange place, and after re-reading the Euston Manifesto, I think its rallying call is more important than ever. This blog will be the beginning of my contribution to winning the battle for a left that truly supports social justice, solidarity and equality.