Tuesday, 24 March 2009

I'll Protect you for the Hooded claw

As the economic crisis maintains its momentum despite the stock exchange displaying its usual bi-polar elements, there are worried glances by the neo-liberals as regards the p-word: Protectionism. This is anathema to the globalisation disciples like Brown, Blair etc yet although all the leaders are protesting against the possibility of bringing back national barriers there are several straws in the wind that shows the big capitalist powers are drawing up their drawbridges.

Sakorzy in France is trying to woo car business back from Slovenia - fellow EU member. As discussed below China have killed off the Coke deal: dead in the sugary water. American Congress puts Buy American steel clause in new public building projects. Oz politicians campaigning against the Chinese state owned metal company buying a huge stake of Rio Tinto mines. Even Britain which under Nulabour was arguably the most globalised part of the global economy - literally everything was for sale- hence why belief that Britain will suffer more than most other countries in recession is urging Banks to lend to domestic customers hence negating foreign investment.

Its all little bits and bobs just now but could mount up particuarly if populist politicians take up the mantle - sadly more likely than the left at the moment given the general weakness of socialism internationally.
In truth free trade was always a bit of a myth - witness the continual failure of the WTO talks but the shift is still significant, particularly ideologically.

In other news Hungary latest to lose PM cos of IMF austerity and Serbia need to go back for more cash with conditions.

Friday, 13 March 2009

2 American Tourists.

I finally saw the new Woody Allen flick - Vicky Christina Barcelona which surprisingly (well to me) was still on at Cineworld. Reviews had said it was the best WA for years which wasnt saying much but it was pretty shallow.
I really enjoyed it the acting was uniformly strong with Rebecca Hall who played Vicky who I had never seen before and Penelope Cruz very good. The setting of Barcelona also did not distract as London did in the last few pretty shoddy films that Woody Allen made.
In part I think this is because it was made clear this is a visitor's movie. It begins and ends in an airport, takes place over a summer and the use of Spanish is at a minimum - in fact this becomes a bit of a running joke between Bardem and Cruz.
I also dont think it's shallow although there are many cliches - the tempestuous artist, the two friends with opposite views of love and life it actually explores many themes. The nature of love and security, what value we put on art and music and the role of Americans abroad. There are no real answers in a sense the ending recalls Manhattan.
Also I think it dispels the idea that Allen has Scarlett J as some sort of muse who he puts on a pedestal. She is portrayed here as a pretty weak and superficial young woman - which she plays excellently - not really an object of desire.
It's also funny which is an advantage. Bardem has some very sleazy chat up lines "What colour are your eyes?".
A partial return for Mr Allen then.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Have a Coke and a smile...

Viz the terrible adverts with insipid pop starlet Duffy with her extolling the virtues of sugary water based drinks. Mind you the corporate evil that Coca Cola represent are admittedly less annoying than those bloody Lenny Henry ones for Travel Inn "I've found something small time - the price!".
Anyway discovered in FT that Coke want to buy the biggest indigenous Chinese soft drink company the China Huiyan Juice group. It would be the biggest corporate take over in Chinese history - big business tends to just use Chinese capitalism as a staging post at the moment. Could be a significant test of the threat of protectionism which Brown has being waxing lyrical about in states.
It already is the 3rd biggest market for Coke in the world but that seems mainly down to population as their pc consumption is only about a third of global average. So the West want to introduce China to the wonders of tooth decay and obesity and of course Duffy!
Bizarre quote though re the biggest "research and development Coke centre in Asia" based in Shanghai- what the hell can you research about Coke! Its fizzy and sweet?

Thursday, 5 March 2009

The Fall-en

Finished Xmas pressie book by Guardian journo on tracking down ex-members of the Fall.

Review below:

I enjoyed some of this book - it is a good idea, gives some cracking anecdotes and quotes about MES through the years and is a good accompaniment to appreciating the different eras of the Fall. The way Smith alternately bullies and nurtures different mostly young talent is quite intriguing.
Yet it is flawed - it is a bit circular in its analysis and offers no real conclusions to MES' modus operandi. It also seems very unwilling to concede on whether he is an alcoholic or not. That wouldnt be so bad in and of itself - the bigger problem is the invasive voice of the writer.
At time he looks like he wants to be writing one of those Andrew Collins/Stewart Maconie type books about his upbringing in the North. This feels bolted on and distracts from the main theme.
The worst bit though is towards the end where he outlines the breakup with his long-term partner. This is self-indulgent tosh - I would love to know what his ex feels about him using a book about the Fall to have a go at her and her new partner! The writer also has throw away line about how he was thrown out of school for bullying as if this were the norm. So good content but pretty unlikeable writer by the end - which ironically could confirm MES' attitudes to artists/musicians.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Resistance or representaion?

On Saturday afternoon I was back at the Caley for the launch of Scottish LRC and people's charter. Report:

The launch of the Scottish Labour Representation Committee saw an audience of around 30 being addressed by John McDonnell MP, Rozanne Foyer full time official with UNITE and Vince Mills - the secretary of the Campaign for Socialism (a left group in Scottish Labour). It was chaired by Kevin Lindsay of ASLEF. There were also a couple of MSPs in the audience - Bill Butler and Elaine Smith.

As well as consolidating the launch of the LRC which has operated at a British level for the last couple of years it was to launch the People's Charter in Scotland. A document that had been drawn up by two lawyers! including Imran Khan following meetings of left groups down south. The idea is to get a million signatures which I guess would be a hundred thousand in Scotland. I say I guess because the meeting fell down a little bit on concrete proposals which Ill come back to.

There was no clear message from the top table - which is the format in which the meeting went. Indeed some of the tensions of the LRC were inherent. Rozanne spoke explicitly of it being a vehicle to reclaim the Labour Party although she did also say that the broader "Labour movement" she was also very positive about the new broad left formation in UNITE which had its founding conference last weekend. Vince however spoke on the Charter and spoke of it being part of a radical coalition for change which would involve other parties and individuals. Indeed he stated the Labour left in Scotland is not strong enough to put the charter into practice. He also stated that the left in Scotland was currently very weak and divided and this could be used to coalesce a movement to reignite that in Scotland. This sort of confirmed Vince's approach that he thinks the Scottish LRC should be not only open to Labour members and parties that dont stand against Labour.

John McDonnell who spoke in quite an open way allowing interruptions and discussions did state the question was not one of representation but resistance. This is a movement I think from when I last saw him speak when he was more open to the idea of left regroupment in a political sense. But at base I would probably agree with him in Scotland (and probably England& Wales) because the left is weaker I dont think any group can claim the hegemony of being the main organisation and thus impose its own programme. If the SSP was at its strength of 2003 then we would clearly be the beacon for this with our programme of building a broad pluralist Scottish socialist party outside the Labour Party, if the left in the SNP were strong they would be the focal point, ditto Left in Labour. But none of this is true so joint activity around these sort of demands I think is positive and may lead in the direction of a new left formation in Scotland - but to be honest that seems a long way away at the moment.

The floor discussion was also reflective of this contradictory position. It was frustrating that 4 of the speakers from the floor were from the SWP but not one of them identified themselves as such Dave Sherry was a trade unionist, Keir McKechnie from Stop the War, Margaret Woods from Campaign to Welcome Refugees and Unite against Racism. Ridiculous really they must have about 80 years of SWP activity between them. Perhaps they think they can get multiple representation on any campaign if they have many different hats. They deflected any serious discussion on strategy and tactics because they just came up with usual bland pronouncements specifically on the British jobs for british workers thing. And they adopted usual patronisng approach - the campaign should call a demo on about a million different things.

Socialist Appeal had a group of 4 there - mostly thru from Edinburgh - they adopted a sectarian approach - it wasn't a transitional programme, didnt mention the need for workers' control or the taking over of the commanding heights of the eceonomy. Very CWI-ish I thought - unsurprising given the political tradition which at one time also included me!

Simon Steel spoke from the CPB and they were positive -seeing it as a plan for action in housing schemes. As did Gregor who echoed these problems.

John Milligan for the RMT spoke quite negatively about the left in Scotland - although he didnt explicitly have a go at the SSP that was implied point I thought and John McD for believing the Labour party could be reclaimed. To be fair though that wasnt really John McD's position at least at this rally. He also spoke about some Socialist Forums that have been taking place in Lanarkshire.

Liam spoke very well about the context of the crisis of capitalism and the environment and how we are running out of time for a socialist solution. This was more frustrating given the weakness of the left across Scotland including the SSP and that campaigns like this were needed to bring these together. A lot of people came up to speak to him at end to say they agreed with it - including Bill Butler!
Solidarity werent there -though Gordon Morgan came to social event after.

So meeting came to quite abrupt end with no clear direction as to what to do next. The format and the dominance of lengthy SW contributions from floor did not allow itself for that. I think a good initiative would be to have a more interactive set up like a Socialist Forum to decide how we campaign on the Charter. Another criticism would be the lack of any real Scottish dimension - the SNP government werent mentioned once for example let alone independence or inviting lefts in the SNP to other. I dont think that should be in charter because it would essentially kill it dead as a broad campaigning tool.

So a mixed bag but on the whole a positive move - it may not progress much under the weight of its own contradictions but I think the SSP should participate in this as much as we can.