From Bob's archive: Optimism and pessimism, January 2011
There is an added note of poignancy in that the "recent victim of the government’s slash and burn approach to the public and voluntary sectors" mentioned in the first section was my friend Shaun Downey, who died some months later, after having been made redundant in the post-2008 cuts.
I am not republishing the whole post, just some short extracts, with some corrections.
My themes for this edition are optimism and pessimism. You all know Gramsci's adage, "optimism of the will, pessimism of the intellect" (actually, he took it from Romain Rolland). Gramsci was condemning the anarchists for their intellectual optimism about human nature and about the masses' capacity for self-emancipation, which for him was a key justification of the need for a Leninist-style vanguard party to tell the masses what to do.
As one recent victim of the government’s slash and burn approach to the public and voluntary sectors writes, 2011 is going to be a very bad year. Not a week goes by when I don't hear from a friend or acquaintance that they've got their redundancy notice or, if they're lucky, just a cautionary redundancy notice. And these people, in Hemingway's phrase, are the "very good, the very gentle and the very brave" - while the un-good, un-gentle and un-brave in the world of finance are rolling in it once more. Or, as Norbert puts it, "Britain today is akin to living three hundred thousand fathoms under a sea of wealth, that’s if you consider that we have the highest levels of income inequality for over half a century. Household and personal wealth of the top 10% of the population is 100 times greater than that of the poorest 10% and 30% of children live in poverty." In this context, the struggle against the austerity regime is surely the highest priority for blogging and non-blogging socialists in the UK, and in the other countries where the social sector is similarly being eviscerated. [...]
Turning from the local to the global, Terry Glavin, Canadian social democrat, is blogging about Iran, from the perspective of working class solidarity, in a post entitled “Will you be a lousy scab or will you be a man?” While my location in inner South London gives me cause for pessimism, Terry's more global perspective gives him cause for optimism. He sees a coming convulsion led by the youth, things getting better, and an "anti-totalitarian surge". Kellie Strom also highlights the same anti-totalitarian wave in the Mediterranean.
Other bloggers with good posts on Tunisia's "jasmine revolution" include River's Edge (on the socialist role), Latte Labour (on the UK media coverage), James Bloodworth (on the American connection), Terry again (on the Islamists), Mick Hall (pessimistically hoping it won't be more of the same), The Commune and Phil. A choice phrase from Phil: "Saudia Arabia, long the Costa Brava of forcibly retired tyrants". The (over-optimistic?) conclusion: "With sustained struggle and determined action, the dictatorial obscenities of the Middle East could be entering their final days. Let despots everywhere tremble as the revolutionary gale howls about their ears."
Probably the best blog for resources on Tunisia is Airforce Amazons, although Entdinglichung is also good of course. And from Phil I see Tunisia Scenario. Oh, and Egypt is the next one to watch.