Friday, December 19, 2014

The noise of history

'All around me there was an incredible rushing noise, which I knew was composed of shouting and screaming and firecrackers and stamping hoofs, but sounded to me like a great wind, like history'
(Hari Kunzru, My Revolutions, 2007)

Grosvenor Square, London, 1968

Kunzru's quote is from his novel of late 60s/early 70s radical politics, in which the narrator describes taking part in the anti-Vietnam War demonstration by the US Embassy in London's Grosvenor Square. But that exhilarating noise of history, the sound of the crowd in motion, has been heard in many times and places.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Nine Funerals of the Citizen King - Henry Cow

Henry Cow's 'Nine funerals of the Citizen King' is a track on their 1973 debut album 'Legend' and signalled the radical critique which they carried forward until breaking up five years later. The lyrics reference Lewis Carroll ('the Snark was a Boojum' from his poem 'The Hunting of the Snark'), Gertrude Stein ('a rose is a rose is a rose') and Shakespeare ('O, gentlemen, the time of life is short!...An if we live, we live to tread on kings', Henry IV, Part 1).

The latter was also quoted in Guy Debord's 'The Society of the Spectacle' (1967), and as the song refers to the 'spectacle of free' I wonder whether Henry Cow had been reading Debord. If so they were ahead of their time - the first English translation of 'The Society of the Spectacle' was made by Black & Red (Detroit) in 1970, but it was certainly not widely known. The line 'we'll work to live to buy the things we multiply, until they fill the ordered universe' could have come straight out of Debord, or even an Angry Brigade communique from the same period.

Nine funerals of the Citizen King

Down beneath the spectacle of free
No one ever let you see
The Citizen King
Ruling the fantastic architecture of the burning cities
Where we buy and sell...

That the Snark was a Boojum all can tell
But a rose is a rose is a rose
Said the Mama of Dada as long ago as 1919

You make arrangements with the guard
Halfway round the exercise yard
To sugar the pill
Disguising the enormous double-time the king pays to Wordsworth
More than you or I could reasonably forfeit the while...
Double-time the king pays to Wordsworth
More than you or I could reasonably buy...

If we live, we live to tread on dead kings
Or else we'll work to live to buy the things we multiply
Until they fill the ordered universe

Once upon a time my punky self would have dismissed this as 'prog'. But I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now.

Oh and they played a benefit for Brixton Socialist Club in 1978.

Monday, December 15, 2014

1984 Chronicle of a Year Foretold: February

A chronology of events in the UK

See previously: 

Welcome to 1984 
January 1984

Wed 1 February – print unions and News International agree deal to resume printing of The Times; Sogat 82 calls off blacking of Radio Times on day BBC takes them to court – union members had refused to distribute Radio Times as part of a dispute with Maxwell’s British Printing and Communications Corporation over redundances – as  a result BBC switched printing to Hunter Print in the North East, but the boycott continued (GH 2/2)

2 February: Gilbert & Page factory at Colney Heath, Hertfordshire, which makes snares and pens, set on fire by animal liberationists (I.2)

3 February: official unemployed figures reach almost 3.2 million

3 February: National Coal Board announces closure of Bogside pit in Fife blaming flooding, ten days after announcing closure of  Polmaise colliery near Stirling blaiming geological conditions  - workers rejected both reasons for closure (GH 4 Feb)

3 Feb  - Shop stewards at Scott Lithgow shipyard on the Clyde reject plans for 2500 job losses as part of potential privatisation and takeover by Traflagar House

Monday 6 February: management issue redundancy notices to 3000 staff at the Highland Fabricators oil platform construction yard at Nigg on the Cromarty  Firth, blaming lack of orders for new platforms (GH 7.2)

Monday 6 February: police visit offices of Friends of the Earth investigating the leak of a Government document about nuclear dumping at sea (GH 7 Feb)

Monday 6 February: Government announces reduction in scale of planned cuts in housing benefit ‘to head of a rebellion on his own back benches’ but remains criticised by pensioners and child poverty organisations (GH 7 Feb)

Monday 6 February: ‘9 people arrested outside London High Court during Animal Liberation Front protest at delay of appeal sentence for Steve Boulding jailed for 15 months last June, for conspiracy to cause damage at lab using animals in experiments’ (I.2)

Tues. 7 February: striking workers sacked at Phillips Rubber Ltd in Manchester.

Wed. 8 February: court orders workers to end occupation of the Sovereign Explorer oil rig in the Firth of Clyde off Largs. The rig was built at Cammell Laird in Birkenhead, but was damaged in gales during sea test. The CL workers  wanted it to be brought back there for repairs, but the company insisted it be taken to a yard in France (GH 9 Feb)

Wed. 8 February: workers a Scotts Bakery, Aintree, Liverpool told they must end four week strike and accept 120 redundances or face the sack (GH 9 Feb)

Thurs. 9 February One day walk out at Scott Lithgow shipyard in response to threatened takeover and loss of 2000 jobs

Thurs. 9 February: Yuri Andropov, General Secretary of Soviet Communist Party (1982-84) dies.

Thurs 9 February: police seize documents from investigative journalist Duncan Campbell and search his house after he is involved in a bike accident (GH 16 Feb)

February 10 February: Michael Hickey roof top protest continuing at Gartree prison after 79 days, protesting innocence in Carl Bridgwater case

Monday 13 February: NUM meeting for delegates from Scottish pits in Edinburgh decides to postpone for a week decision about whether to stage indefinite strike against closure of Polmaise and Bogside colliery, pending a series of pithead meetings. 100 Polmaise miners lobbied the meeting for an all out strike, and some angrily shouted ‘sell out’ at the NUM Scottish leaders (GH 14 Feb)

Monday 13 February: life models at Glasgow and Edinburgh art colleges refuse to pose nude in campaign for better pay and conditions. At the latter, ‘Classes went ahead, and students produced drawings of the clothed models’ (GH 14 Feb)

Monday 13 February: 2500 railway workers stage a 24 hour strike, causing cancellation of at least 75% of trains in Strathclyde area. The unofficial strike organised by the Strathclyde NUR action committee was against plans for driver only trains and automated stations. It was criticised by the NUR leadership as well as management. In a separate dispute, 4000 bus workers went on strike for two hours in protest against planned closure of three bus garages in Glasgow (GH 14 Feb 84)

Tuesday 14 February: a man accused of being a police informer is found shot dead by the IRA near Crossmaglen (GH 15 Feb)

15 February: miners walk out at Seafield colliery in Fife in dispute relating to disciplining of miner; strike at Killoch in Ayrshire in response to management action over overtime ban (GH 16 Feb)

16 February: 17 year old William McDonald found hanged in his cell at Glenochil detention centre near Alloa, the 4th death there in 18 months (GH 17 Feb)

17 Feb: employment secretary Tom King hit by an egg during a protest by Cammell Laird shipyard workers on a visit ot Birkenhead in Merseyside (GH 18 Feb)

Strikers at Cammell Laird in 1984 - they were later dismissed and jailed for 30 days 

Mon. 20 February: strike by miners in Doncaster area following merger of Goldthorpe and Highgate collieries (workers from two pits were not paidbeing the same). Miners also walk out at Manvers Collliery in South Yorkshire in dispute over meal breaks, supported by strikes at six other local pits over the next week.

Mon. 20 February: 16 arrests in clashes between hunt saboteurs and police at harecoursing meeting in Altcar, Lancashire (I.2)

Mon. 20 February: four Greenham women jailed after refusing to pay fines (Insurrection 2)

Mon 20 February: NUM delegates meeting in Edinburgh votes against strike against closure of Polmaise, despite support fro strike by NUM president Mick McGahey (GH 21 Feb) . By this time rumours of hit list of pit closures were rife, but Scottish miners were reluctant to strike on their own.

Mon 20 Feb: strike by scenery makers and shifters at BBC (GH 21 Feb)

20 -23 February: sacked strikers occupy Phillips Rubber Ltd, Manchester

Tues. 21 February: two members of the IRA and  British Army soldier killed in a gun battle between an undercover BA unit and the IRA at Dunloy, County Antrim.

Tues. 21 February: 100 protestors invade the Lothian council chamber in Edinburgh in an attempt to stop the Tory/Alliance cuts budget (GH 22 Feb)

Tues. 21 February: Michael Hickey ends his roof top protest at Gartree, started last November

Wed 22 February: NCB chairman Ian MacGregor knocked to the ground after fence gives away during a  protest by  miners and his car tyres let down in a visit to Ellington colliery in Northumberland (GH  23 Feb)

Wed 22 February: workers vote to continue their week long strike over working conditions at the BP chemical plant in Grangemouth, Stirlingshire (GH 23 Feb)

Wed 22 February: steelworkers strike at Clydesdale Tube Works, Bellshill, Lanarkshire (GH 23 Feb)

Thurs 23 February: student day of action in support of higher grants in Scotland. At least 4000 march in Glasgow; in Dundee 60 students briefly occupy local education department offices (GH 24 Feb)

Thursday 23 Feb: two Greenham women say they are shot at after cutting through fence. An American patrol fired two shots after the women refused to lie face down. They are arrested but unhurt (GH 28 Feb). Government denied shots were fired.

Friday 24 Feb: British ariways cabin crews stage 24 hour lightning strike against 4% pay offer. Some wear 'I am a flying picket' bibs.

Friday 24 Feb: Thatcher's car is hit by an egg during a demonstration by 500 students as she visits Warwick University. A Conservative students meeting with Cecil Parkinson (Trade & Industry Secretary) at Essex University after 'students threw missiles at him and blocked his way' (GH 25 Feb)

Friday 24 Feb: Police and troops saturate the funeral of IRA volunteer Henry Hogan in Dunloy, shot dead earlier in the week. There are scuffles as police block the mourners path - supposedly to prevent IRA firing shots over the coffin (GH 25 Feb).

Sunday 26 Feb: Strike at BP chemicals plant in Grangemouth ends after 11 days with new agreement on working practices (GH 27 Feb)

Tuesday 28 Feb: TUC day of action in support of GCHQ workers - walk outs (mostly half day strikes)  at hospitals, DHSS offices, the Yarrow warship yard, newspapers (leading to halting of all Fleet Street papers), North Sea oil rig at Methil, car factories,. 40,000 march in London from the Embankment to Jubilee Gardens.(GH 29 Feb). GCHQ workers had been given to the end of February to renounce union membership in return for one off £1000 payment - most did. 40 asked to be transferred to other Government departments

Tuesday 28 Feb: animal rights activists in white protective suits and gas masks hand in letter to Ministry of Defence against animal testing at Porton Down Chemical Defence establishment (GH 29 Feb)

Wednesday 29 February: seven Americans begin a world peace walk with a vigil at the Holy Lock US nuclear submarine base, followed by a torchlit procession with supporters to Greenock. They aim to walk to Moscow to arrive on Hiroshima Day (GH 1 March)

Wednesday 29 February: violence involving England supporters in Paris following friendly between England and France

February: Five women go on hunger strike at Durham prison in protest at harsh conditions in Control Unit

Sources: Glasgow Herald (GH), Times (T), Red Rag (RR - a Reading radical paper), Socialist Opportunist (SO - a chronology published at the time); Insurrection (I- anarchist paper);

Meanwhile back in the UK pop charts, these were the top twenty singles in February 1984:

1. Relax - Frankie Goes To Hollywood
2. Radio Ga Ga- Queen
3. Girls just want to have fun - Cyndi Lauper
4. Break my stride - Matthew Wilder
5. Doctor doctor - Thompson Twins
6. That's living (alright) - Joe Fagin
7. Holiday  - Madonna
8. New moon on Monday - Duran Duran
9. (Feels like) Heaven - Fiction Factory
10. 99 Red balloons - Nena
11. My ever changing moods - Style Council
12. Here comes the rain again - Eurythmics
13. The killing moon - Echo & the Bunnymen
14. What difference does it make - Smiths
15. Somebody's watching me - Rockwell
16.Love theme from "The thorn birds"- Juan Martin
17. Wouldn't it be good - Nik Kershaw
18. Wonderland - Big Country
19. Michael Caine - Madness
20. Pipes of peace - Paul McCartney

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Athens Protest and Street Art - December 2014

Some pictures from Athens last weekend:

Demonstrators gather outside the university on 6 December, the 6th anniversary of the killing of 15 year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos by police. Thousands took to the streets to remember Alexis and to express solidarity with his friend Nikos Romanos,  on hunger strike in prison (the hunger strike has now ended).
Later there were clashes, with tear gas and petrol bombs (from BBC News)
Syrian refugees protesting at their camp in Syntagma Square, opposite the parliament building
'We faced death passing the sea, now we're sleeping at Greek streets'

Sunday December 7th - an art students banner on  protest outside Parliament against the setting of a new austerity budget
At least 5,000 (my estimate) took part in the Sunday evening protest
(image from here of a trade union contingent on demo)
Some street art from the Exarchia area: