Monday, 30 July 2018

The culture of the left

The UK has had a left wing movement for almost 200 years.

It's far older than modern neo-liberal conservatism which originated in the 1970s and 80s and it's far older than fascism which originated in the 1920s and 30s. The roots of the left in the UK go back centuries earlier amongst the peasants of the middle ages. Left wing thought amongst certain groups of people and in certain areas of the country has very deep routes.

During all that time certain ideas have become classic left wing positions and have formed key parts of a left wing cultural outlook which is distinct from the kind of sterile fabricated British national culture - drinking tea, being overly apologetic, complaining about the weather etc. These positions reach out beyond economics and electoral politics and into the soul of our movement.

Despite this, outside of our movement people are often totally confused by us, even the rest of the working class, those people in whose name we are struggling!

The positions we take on many issues can almost seem like a random collection of intentionally contrarian views but below the surface, if you dig down to the roots you'll see that it's all connected and it all makes sense. Let's examine some of them:

Peace/ Anti-war
The left wing are anti-war because we see most wars as being fought in the interests of the rich, and yet it's working people who are sent to fight and kill each other. We believe that working people have common interests all over the world and shouldn't align themselves with, and ultimately fight and die for, the interests of rich people just because they are from the same country as them.

More specifically to the UK the left have a view that this country is an imperialist nation (a rich country which exploits people and resources from poor countries) and therefore any wars it fights tend to be in the interests of maintaining this dominance and crushing resistance to it. This means the left will sometimes even support the forces that the UK military is fighting against.

Sometimes the left wing position on this can solidify into a general anti-military outlook, a cultural disgust at anything to do with the UK military. We make no apologies for this even if it looks disrespectful it is a natural outworking of having a full understanding of the place of the UK military in maintaining global imperialism.

All left wing people are against the monarchy, by definition (it was the original definition of what it meant to be 'left wing'). The monarchy is the epitome of unearned and undeserved wealth and it encourages nationalism as opposed to identifying with the global working class' interests. It's a relic of the feudal past which has no place in the present or in our future. The royal family are figureheads for nationalism and sometimes participate directly in the imperialist wars this country fights in order to inspire others to do the same. They also have a central role in our political system - not primarily through exercising their will personally but due to the fact that the power of the crown is absolute, the crown is sovereign and it's power can be wielded through the monarch's 'prime minister' in an absolutist anti-democratic fashion (such as deciding to drag the whole country into war without consulting anyone).

Traditionally the royal family has been a bastion of reactionary views (racism, sexism etc.) and have slowed progress in combating these views in society at large. More recently they have attempted to clean up their image. A key difference between left wingers and modern 'liberals' is a refusal to be taken in by a facade. The left will settle for nothing less than abolition!

Again, similarly to the above anti-military outlook, the anti-monarchist position becomes a cultural outlook for the left, with songs and art about it's abolition being celebrated and a tendency to be disgusted when faced with anything to do with royalty.

Internationalism/ Anti-nationalism
As already hinted at, anti-nationalism is very important to the left. The false idea that working people have common interests with the wealthy people who run the country and become rich from exploiting their hard work is dangerous and is the main idea competing with socialism for the hearts and minds of the working class.

Anti-nationalism can also become a part of a left wing cultural outlook too and will include a derision of national flags, anthems and other symbols and often a lack of enthusiasm for national sports teams which only seem to reinforce the vertical lines than divide us up by race and by nation pitting us all against each other and obscure the horizontal lines of class.

Some people find this a stumbling block, where would people get their sense of identity from without national pride? Elitist liberals claim that we should look to ourselves as individuals for the source of our pride insisting that the unenlightened working class only embrace nationalism because we're all personal failures. This is bollocks, the left offers alternatives. From pride in the history of our movements, pride in what we've achieved to things like anti-fascist sports teams to get behind, we cheer on huge protest marches and when someone 'sticks it to the man' we're all behind them. There is a place for solidarity and pride on the left, in things we've all done and made together and it's much more meaningful that basing in on 'the nation'.

The left wing are primarily concerned with efforts to unite the global working class and overthrow capitalism. It isn't possible to do this without addressing the internal issues within the global working class such as the oppression of women by men or the oppression of people of colour by white people and other forms of bigotry. Global working class unity cannot be done on the terms of the relatively privileged sections of working class, it must include everyone and it has to be something that we sort out for ourselves this is about working class solidarity, not learning upper class manners.

The left wing have a particular understanding that the roots of racism lie within the capitalist system itself. Capitalism produces huge amounts of wealth and technological innovation in comparison to it's predecessor feudalism - whilst it still gets to a point where it hampers further development and is incapable of sharing out the fruits of the development fairly. For a variety of reasons (none of them involving any inherent superiority of the people) capitalism and industrial development began in countries where the majority of the population were had pale skin. This led to the conceptual invention of a 'white' race and other races of 'black' people and brown people. Racist ideas about the superiority of white people were invented in order to justify the imperialist empire building of the European and North American capitalist states. These made it easier to convince white people within them to fight and kill people of colour from other countries in wars where necessary. Racist ideas also helped to convince them to move away from any ideas that they might have common interests with the global working class and instead to believe that they were special and superior to others which in turn helped them to accept their lot as being relatively poor and powerless themselves in comparison to the rich and powerful people who ran their countries.

Capitalism requires a massive industrial workforce. When industrial development occurs families no longer work within their own homes or on their own land together but go elsewhere to factories and offices and down mines etc. In general men have traditionally gone out to do these kinds of jobs and have been encouraged to think of their wives at home as a free source of labour to look after their needs, bear them children, raise and educate the children  as well as often having to do other, less well paid and less secure jobs. This has caused men to view women as less than equally human - as objects to be used, which also encourages sexual violence and objectification of women.

In terms of both racism and feminism the left has sometimes struggled to find unity and at times both men and white people within the left have been guilty of only very superficially abandoning the ideas they were initially socialised into - i.e. to feel superior to everyone else. In general though the left has attempted to form an anti-racist and anti-sexist cultural outlook challenging assumptions, sexist and racist jokes and traditionally having an aversion to using things like pornography or paying women for sex as these are seen as a product of women's oppression and objectification

Whenever fascism rears it's ugly head championing racism, sexism, nationalism and any other form of bigotry they can dream up - the UK left are there on the front line actually doing something about it. Whether that has meant volunteering to fight Franco in the Spanish civil war, volunteering to fight ISIS with the Kurds in the Middle East or showing up on the streets of towns and cities all across the UK when a mob of fascist bullies comes out we're always there.

Perhaps more than any other strand of what it means to be left wing anti-fascism has had the biggest cultural impact. Anti-fascist bands, boxers, festivals, sports clubs etc. etc. are popular across the left.

The left are usually passionate environmentalists. Environmentalism is relatively new in comparison to a lot of the other positions we hold most of which have their roots in the 19th century. Environmentalism only really took root as a key issue in the late 20th century - the reasons for this are that it was at this time when human activity reached a state where it was at genuine risk of destroying the natural ecosystem of the planet and also the point at which our scientific capabilities reached a point where we could understand what was happening. The left are not the only ones who care about the environment - you'll find conservatives and liberals chatting about it too and attempting to recycle more or buy more sustainable products. The left takes the fight to where it matters - capitalist corporations destroying the planet that we all share in common to make private profits.

Abandon culture based on plastic nationalism, twee ideas of what it means to be a man or a woman, race etc. embrace a left wing culture and feel part of something real.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Our Struggle - A Gallery

The last helicopter out of Saigon as the communists win their struggle against imperialist aggression.

Sometimes you just feel you should put together a gallery of classic photographs depicting our global struggle against the capitalist system and make them all black and white for extra effect.

The Zapatistas in Mexico

The Easter rising in Ireland 1916

Che and Castro after the Cuban revolution

The hammer and sickle is raised over Berlin as Nazi Germany is defeated in the anti-fascist war

The American National Guard kills a peace protester in Kent State university 1970

Marina Ginesta - a communist militant during the Spanish Civil War

The Black Panthers
A YPJ revolutionary fighter during the war against ISIS

As always, all images are stolen.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness

Science and special revelation

Isn't it amazing when you read the Bible and notice information that God had revealed to humanity long before we incorporated it into our wider scientific framework?

It seems like for the main part God allows us to build up most of our scientific knowledge up through our own process of hypothesising and experimenting, gradually making rational sense of the universe around us. Sometimes he does reveal things to us directly though.

I find it fascinating that Genesis 1 records the order in which God created life on earth as largely matching the order that was eventually accepted into our scientific understanding of the world by evolutionary biologists, thousands of years after it was first written down. It's not even particularly important to the story that it be accurate in that way, but still it is.

More and more Christians are accepting that science is a complement to our faith, that through learning and discovering we really do encounter God, whether it's through seeing what he has made or discovering patterns and processes that can help us to accurately predict things that are going to happen in the future - no longer needing to only rely on special revelation through prophesy but being able to say things like what the weather will be like in a few days time or exactly when and where the next eclipse is due. Unfortunately though, few have dared to take this beyond the natural sciences. The Bible gives a lot of important information that has later been incorporated into our understanding of social science too.

Social science applies the methods of the natural sciences to the study of human society and human history. The difference when it comes to social science is that we're all part of human society and history is still unfolding every day. This makes social science a battleground.

The best and most rigorous social science is often purposefully brushed aside and discredited because it makes predictions about the future fate of certain wealthy powerful sections of human society and gives new tools for understanding human society to the poor and the oppressed who, it is feared, may then use them to their advantage.

The poor will inherit the earth

One of my favourite bits of special revelation is the fact that the poor will inherit the earth.

It comes up in Psalm 37:11 and is repeated in a new way by Jesus in Luke 6:20 when he says that the poor will inherit the Kingdom of God (a new revolutionary society promised by Jesus in which those who are now 'first' will be 'last' and those who are now 'last' will be 'first').

I've mentioned this theme in other recent blog posts so in this one I want to just focus in on one aspect that I haven't covered before; why is it that God has specifically chosen the poor (James 2:5) - and not the rich - to carry out the revolutionary tasks of transforming this world?

It all hinges on 2 Corinthians 12:9 which reads: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness". Paul records God having spoken these words to him at a dark time, in the midst of his angst and suffering. Paul then learns to accept and embrace his weakness and even to boast in it. God's power to 'reconcile all things' (Colossians 1:20) does not flow through human strength and power.

The poor and the oppressed and the exploited masses of the world have been chosen because only through them can God's power be made perfect, only through their weakness can it triumph. In 1968 Paulo Freire explained this in his work Pedagogy of the oppressed:

"It is only the oppressed who, by freeing themselves, can free their oppressors. The later as an oppressive class can free neither others nor themselves. It is therefore essential that the oppressed wage the struggle to resolve the contradiction in which they are caught; and the contradiction will be resolved by the appearance of the new man: neither oppressor nor oppressed, but man in the process of liberation."

Back in 2 Corinthians we read: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" 2 Corinthians 5:17

So what of the rich is there nothing they can do to play a part in this? Let's leave it to these guys to explain how that works:

Friday, 13 July 2018

Stop Trump

Stop Trump - A report

On the afternoon of the 13th July I joined hundreds of thousands of people in marching through London in opposition to Donald Trump the far-right president of the beating heart of the global capitalist-imperialist system, the USA.

It was the biggest protest I've ever been on, thousands of home made signs, music, chants speaches etc. even though I ended up going on my own because it was all a bit last minute I was really glad I had the chance to participate, in just a small way in standing up to the head of the monster.