Wednesday, October 27, 2004

John Peel R.I.P

John Peel. Does anything more need to be said?

Here's a transcription of a little known work - John Peel as the Radio in Fm Einheit's Dante's Inferno. This comes from Canto V.
Good evening. This is 93.5 FM and it's Radio Inferno again. I'm John Peel, your favourite dj and guide to all these nights and noises. It's Good Friday in the year 1300 in the Middle Ages and we've got something special coming along for you out there. The sun's not yet up so tonight's programmes will be broadcast to you straight out of hell.
We're going down. The time is about 7 o'clock and Dante and Virgil have just arrived at the gate of Hell where they read the inscription upon it. They enter and find themselves in the Vestibule of Hell. Passing quickly through they reach the river Acheron.
Listen. Here we go.

This is a wonderful, amazing, chaotic, awesome piece in many languages (Latin, Italian, German, English and possibly others). It's Dante's Inferno with Marcel Duchamp and John Cage. It's experiments with sound. It takes you places you have never been. If you only know English with the cd booklet and John Peel's Radio you can just follow it. Well worth a listen.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Wolves and Other Things in the Woods

Bush-Cheney 04 recently ran a campaign focussing on the nasty things in the woods that are going to get Americans if they don't vote for Bush-Cheney. This campaign drew loads of comment. For those who haven't seen it here are the story boards.

(Hat tip Harry's Place)

Monday, October 25, 2004

StWc as Reactionary Anti-Imperialists.

Harry's Place has a good piece from the Alliance for Worker's Liberty on the politics of the Stop the War Coalition.
To quote from the piece
Those who howled down al Mashadani and would not let him speak — the meeting had to be abandoned — were, some of them anyway, people who think of themselves as Trotskyists (though the SWP, which has done most to create the political hysteria in which such things happen, has criticised those who shouted him down).

In fact they are true Stalinists, and not only in their thuggish disregard for free speech. They stand squarely on the Stalinist tradition in their attitude to the Iraqi working class and to the fate of the newly reborn Iraqi working-class movement.

They say they are anti-imperialists, and their objection to al Mashadani is that the trade union movement which he represented at the the ESF meeting does not call for the immediate withdrawal of US and British troops from Iraq; that it does not side with the military activities of the combination of Islamic fundamentalists and Saddamites who make up “the resistance”.
. . .
The evidence is that most Iraqis do not support the “resistance” — those who set off bombs in Baghdad without warning and with the goal of killing as many Iraqi civilians as possible. Not even the brutal stupidity of the US occupying forces has so far driven them to such a despairing conclusion.

Certainly the new Iraqi labour movement has not reached such a conclusion. The Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions believes that the establishment of some sort of bourgeois-democratic system — even with the continued presence of US and British troops, which they oppose — is a better way forward for the Iraqi people. In that they are entirely correct.

Socialism would be better. But if the working class is not yet able to win socialism, then the IFTU is right that the establishment and consolidation of the sort of bourgeois-democratic rights that now exist de facto, despite the bloody chaos in Iraq, and without which the trade unions cannot survive — that that is the best possible option for the Iraqi working class. They are right not to rush to despair and commit the social, political and trade unionist suicide which the idiots of classless “anti-imperialism” urge on them.
The policy which the kitsch left urges on the Iraqi workers is a policy of political and possibly physical suicide. These “militant idiots”, despite what they intend, are with their classless and nameless “anti-imperialism”, for practical purposes, simply reactionaries.

They are erstwhile socialists in process of inadvertently redefining themselves as “anti-imperialist” reactionaries.

The root of it is that they are people who now operate almost entirely with negative politics. They know what they are against. Apart from a vague and undefined, and increasingly “classless”, socialism, they do not know what they are for. By negative repulsion against the USA and Britain, they back themselves into a de facto unity with the politics of downright anti-working class reaction.

What I find most distasteful about the StWC and their supporters is their belief that they claim to know what Iraqis want. And what the Iraqis want is the slaughter of Iraqi civilians. Any Iraqi wanting anything other than the pre-packaged opinions of the StWC must be a "quisling" or a "collaborator". It must be good having such a sure world view where all things are split into binary oppositions: good vs evil; "resistors" vs "collaborators". And you know which side you are on (if you don't know you can always find out what you should think from the "What We Think" column in the paper) and those on the other side are excommunicated from "The LEFT". And so it goes. And so it goes. And so it leads to the slaughter of Trade Unionists. And so it leads to the slaughter of Socialists. And so it leads to the slaughter of heretics. And so it gets as far as it can from Marxism as a theory/practice of human liberation. And so it goes.

*Update* For further discussion on this see Hak Mao and SIAW. To quote from SIAW
Can we be bothered to try to teach these hankerers after ideological purity the simple moral lessons that even a child could grasp, in the childish language that might reach them - that it’s better for a Good Thing to be done by Bad People than not done at all; that you can tell something about what a person (or a sect) is like by the people they choose to hang out with; and that standing back while the other kids are fighting, then claiming to be the best mate some of those kids could hope to have, will not and should not make you popular in the playground?

AWL are in danger of being neither one thing nor t'other1; being run over; picking splinters from their collective bum. There's a quote I can't find online from the designer of the programming language C++, Bjarne Stroustrup, that when he hears the words "pure" and "purity" he can't help thinking of storm troopers.2

1The phrase I seem to recall from a galaxy far, far away is Neither Washington Nor Moscow but International Socialism.
2Geek alert. Stroustrup was responding to a criticism by Bertrand Meyer that C++ is not a "pure" object oriented language.

Saturday, October 23, 2004


Hak Mao has a splendid piece on Cats in the annals of Marxism.

Came across an amusing pome by Paul Murphy on Slavoj Zizek that contains the lines
my cat says she's Eva Braun

a soapstar, Hollywood bunny
androgynous vamp from the Louise Brooks era
my cat knows Slavoj Zizek
speaks to him on the phone daily
Lacanian fur, her Electra Complex
unknowable triangles - mother, father, Brookes kitten.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Pere Ubu and 3D It Came From Outer Space

What could be better? Pere Ubu "improvises a live soundtrack to Jack Arnold's cult, sci-fi classic 'It Came from Outer Space'".

On tour, in the UK, at the start of November. A wonderful, strange and awesome experience guaranteed.

Go see - in 3D.
As an extra reason to go - every ticket comes with *FREE* 3D glasses. Wow.
Go and book tickets.You know you want to.

How could a band operating on these principles be anything but splendid.
  • Don't ever audition.

  • Don't look for someone.

  • Don't seek success.

  • Choose the first person you hear about.

  • Take the first idea you get.

  • Put unique people together. Unique people will play uniquely whether or not they know how to play.

  • Delay Centrifugal Destruct Factors for as long as possible then push the button.

  • Pere Ubu's music is a disorienting mix of midwestern groove rock, "found" sound, analog synthesizers, falling-apart song structures and careening vocals.

    Buy tickets - *NOW*.

    The dates are here.

    November 5th - The Ocean, London

    Nov 7th - Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

    Nov 8th - The Arches, Glasgow

    Nov 10th - The Dome, Brighton

    Nov 11th - Lighthouse, Poole

    Nov 12th - Colston Hall, Bristol

    Nov 13th - Arts Centre, Warwick

    Wednesday, October 20, 2004

    The Higher Edukayshun

    Rullsenberg has a splendid piece on the student as consumer. It's almost as if there were a need for an updating of On the Poverty of Student Life
    Once upon a time the universities had a certain prestige; the student persists in the belief that he is lucky to be there. But he came too late. His mechanical, specialized education is as profoundly degraded (in comparison to the former level of general bourgeois culture)(4) as his own intellectual level, because the modern economic system requires a mass production of uneducated students who have been rendered incapable of thinking. The university has become an institutional organization of ignorance. “High culture” is being degraded in the assembly-line production of professors, all of whom are cretins and most of whom would be jeered by any audience of highschoolers.** But the student, in his mental menopause, is unaware of all this; he continues to listen respectfully to his masters, conscientiously suppressing all critical spirit so as to immerse himself in the mystical illusion of being a “student” — someone seriously devoted to learning serious things — in the hope that his professors will ultimately impart to him the ultimate truths of the world. The future revolutionary society will condemn all the noise of the lecture halls and classrooms as nothing but verbal pollution. The student is already a very bad joke.
    What was that again
    someone seriously devoted to learning serious things — in the hope that his professors will ultimately impart to him the ultimate truths of the world.
    No. Many students become students so they can jump to the next stage of life as a young professional. The professor's job is to spoonfeed them knowledge so they can get the grades required for the fast track into middle class careerdom. They have no interest in "learning serious things".

    Grumble. Grumble. Young people of today. When I was a student we were occupying the Winter Palace and storming the Admin Building. That Bronstein,... what ever happened to him?


    A place that shall not be named, okay "Socialist" "Worker", has a brief appraisal of the life and times of Vladimir Mayakovsky. As such brief introductions go it goes. But what's this. "On 9 April 1930 he read his poem “At the Top of My Voice” to students who shouted him down for being obscure." Maybe so, but the source for that is fairly obscure (i.e. I can't find it). The reports of Mayakovsky's readings of At The Top Of My Voice I've read all say the piece was greeted by applause.

    My words
    are not used
    to caressing ears;
    nor titillate
    with semi-obscenities
    maiden ears
    hidden in hair so innocent
    . . .
    . . .
    We opened
    Marx and Engels
    every tome,
    as in our home
    we open wide the shutters,
    but without reading
    we understand alone,
    whose side we're on
    and in which camp we're fighters.
    And not from Hegel
    did we learn
    our dialectics.
    That burst
    through interclashing conflict
    into verse,
    when under fire
    the bourgeois
    ran from our attacks,
    as we
    once also ran from theirs.
    . . .
    . . .
    above the band
    of skin-flint grafters
    in rhymes,
    I'll lift up high,
    like a Bolshevik party-card,
    all the hundred books
    of my
    ComParty poems!

    What's obscure about that?

    (extracted from Mayakovsky and His Poetry, comp, ed, trans Herbert Marshall. Bombay: Pilot Press, 1955).

    Monday, October 18, 2004

    The road less travelled. . .

    Harry comments on the unpleasant path taken by the "Left" over the past 18 months.

    Several weeks ago The Guardian carried a review by Sir Ian Gilmore of a book on Brown and Blair (by James Naughtie). The next week the SWP stalwart Keith Flett wrote how Gilmore's criticisms could have come from a RESPECT pamphlet and how it is impossible to criticise Blair from the Right. He obviously has not come across these people at

    As far as I can tell these see themselves as Old Conservatives who dislike Bush, and have a whiff of anti-semitism about their politics. Witness this piece on the film Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear, & the Selling of American Empire. Although disparaging of all left-wing trappings at the showing the author approves of the revealing of the "key role played by the neoconservatives in agitating for and rationalizing the invasion of Iraq". In this revealing passage
    I really really like this movie, but it isn't without faults. Where Hijacking Catastrophe falls down is in its analysis of the Clinton years. They don't mention the Iraq Liberation Act, passed in the Clinton era, and with full Democratic party support, which first proclaimed "regime change" as a matter of official policy. Nor do they mention, even in passing, the pioneering role of the Clintonites in pushing the idea of "humanitarian" interventionism, as in Haiti, Bosnia, and the former Yugoslavia. The neocons may have been largely out of government during the Clinton years, but this is to ignore the neocon network inside the Democratic party. If the Weekly Standard is the flagship organ of the neocon GOPers, then its Democratic party equivalent is The New Republic, which has been practically the house organ of the War Party since the days of Woodrow Wilson. Two of the leading Democratic presidential primary contenders, Dick Gephardt and Joe Lieberman, vocally supported the decision to go to war, and continue to do so. All this goes politely unmentioned, along with the decades-long history of the neoconservatives, which is nowhere even touched on. Yet it's common knowledge they're all former "Scoop" Jackson Democrats, with their intellectual forefathers (Irving Kristol and Max Shachtman) coming straight out of the Trotskyist sects of the 1930s and into the Democratic party.
    it does seem to make the appalling connection "neocon" equals Jew and this war is but a Jewish conspiracy against the true interests of the American politic.

    As far as I can tell this site is connected to the von Mises Institute and Lew Rockwell, organisations based on restoring the old Conservative traditions (whatever they are).

    Their opposition to war is possibly based on the stance that "Successful wars send the message that our freedoms are secured only by armed agents of central power, and many are tempted to cede control of their lives to the executive state that prosecuted the war" (Llewellyn H Rockwell Jr) from the site (I have lost the specific detailed link). So war is bad as it encourages people to support a big state. There's a principled stand for you.

    Sunday, October 17, 2004

    TUC, Iraqi Trade Unions and the ESF

    The TUC have issued a statement on the appalling treatment of the IFTU and Subhi al Mashadani at the European Social Forum.

    Whatever happened to plurality? Has someone been appointed as a Grand Inquisitor to seek, find and destroy purveyors of heterodoxy on the "Left" (whatever that means anymore). Where are the "39 Articles of Faith" you have to sign up to to be a member? Who agreed them or did they just appear in the culture by a process of osmosis. Sure, there are a basic set of core beliefs, including, in no particular order: human rights, liberty, equality, anti-racism, ant-fascism, fratern/soror-ity, anti-slavery, dignity, respect(all of which have universal application). [This is not a complete list but just some that spring to mind]. People should not be witch-hunted because their application of an ideal does not fit with that of others. People and organisations invited to something like the ESF should be treated with respect and not denied a platform by self-righteous bigots.

    Saturday, October 16, 2004

    Iraq, Trade Unions and the ESF

    It looks like things have been fun at the ESF.

    A splendid post on a meeting at the ESF on the IFTU.

    Another splendid post on StWC and the SWP becoming "apologists for terrorist reactionaries".

    Yet another splendid post on an Early Day Motion condemning the StWC for calling the Iraqi Trade Unions "quislings".

    And before I vanish in a cloud here's another splendid post also on the ESF, trade unions and Iraq.

    Wednesday, October 13, 2004

    Musical recommendation of the day

    Today's musical recommendation is Ver Tanzt? by Black Ox Orkestar. This can be summed up as Yiddish folk-punk or just a damn fine thing. As the label says
    Evenly split between instrumentals and vocal tunes, the debut album of Black Ox Orkestar is a hypnotic blend of pieces pulled from various Eastern European songbooks, along with some originals. Lyrics are in Yiddish and speak forcefully about the bloody history and intractable contradictions of Jewish dispora and 'return'. The record is of appeal to anyone who appreciates melancholy, minor-key melodics and folk music unburdened by antiseptic production and/or cheap sentimentality.


    Rullsenberg rants from a personal perspective on pensions and asks the question "How do you save when your income barely covers your essential outgoings (food, housing costs, work travel - family expenditure)?".

    All may not be as gloomy as forecast. You may not live to pick up a pension. Actuaries believe that "there is no certainty that their children and grandchildren will see a similar, continuing, improvement [in life expectancy to match that of their parents and grandparents]".

    The report from March 2004 found that those born between 1925 and 1945 have had a rise in longevity. However those born after WWII have had no increase in their expected longevity.
    "The future course of mortality rates for younger adults is subject to considerable uncertainty", due in particular to potential threats such as a resurgence of infectious diseases or the much-discussed obesity 'epidemic'.
    So live fat, die young, eat burgers, smoke tabs, base jump,wrestle alligators and save the cost of setting up a pension.

    As Rullsenberg comments that post should be in "irony bold".

    The median income for a single person in this country is about 200 pounds (UK) a week. After paying housing costs, heating, transport, food , clothes and other luxuries how are you expected to save for a pension that might never come?

    Monday, October 11, 2004

    Hemingway and Saddam

    The Iraq Survey Group report reveals that Saddam identifies with Santiago from Hemingway's The Old Man and The Sea in his desparate failed attempt to save his catch, a marlin, from sharks.
    "Saddam tended to characterise, in a very Hemingwayesque way, his life as a relentless struggle against overwhelming odds, but carried out with courage, perseverance and dignity . . . Much like Santiago, ultimately left with only the marlin's skeleton as the trophy of his success, to Saddam even a hollow victory was by his reckoning a real one."

    Imagine Saddam sat at a lap top computer doing a personality test, "which literary character are you?". Answering the questions and getting the response "You are Santiago from Hemingway's The Old Man and The Sea".

    "Damm. I so wanted to be Michael Corleone from Puzo's The Godfather".


    Tristram Hunt comments on an interesting serendipity. In 1957 King Faisal of Iraq, invited Frank Lloyd Wright to design a new opera house for Baghdad. The design was ready when along came the 1958 revolution and the opera house never got built. Not wanting to waste his efforts Wright offered his design to a new client. The Baghdad Opera House was built as the Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium at Arizona State University - the location of this week's debate between George Bush and John Kerry.


    Jacques Derrida died over the weekend. The Grauniad has a leader praising his achievements
    He should be remembered as a profound thinker who made a lasting contribution to intellectual discourse.
    Deconstruction, in terms of literary theory, springs from a simple idea that originated with Friedrich Nietzsche: that any text is open to an infinite number of interpretations. That makes it possible to ignore the author's intentions, stated or otherwise, and examine a text for meanings that would otherwise be uncomfortable or hidden. This thought is little different to some of Ludwig Wittgenstein's ideas, but by concentrating on epistemology he avoided the obloquy heaped on Derrida. . .What was important was that deconstruction held that no text was above analysis or closed to alternative interpretation. It is no coincidence that it came into vogue in the 1960s and 1970s, when many cultural and social institutions were being challenged. As a result, Derrida became popular among those willing to question the sterile idea of a "western canon" who wanted to expand literary discourse so that writers such as Mary Elizabeth Braddon could sit alongside the Brontes. Thanks to Derrida, many new voices were heard.

    The Grauniad obituary includes a summary of his life and thought including
    For him the fact that moral values cannot be expressed as simple rules of conduct increased, rather than decreased, the importance of our ethical responsibilities.
    The obituary elides,as obituaries do, over the most disgraceful part of Derrida's life and work:
    The discovery, in 1987, of his friend Paul de Man's collaborationist wartime journalism was a personal blow to Derrida.
    The first three chapters of Jon Wiener's splendid anthology "Professors, Politics and Pop"1 give a detailed account of Paul de Man's collaborationist past in war time Belgium together with a discussion of his supporters, especially Jacques Derrida, in late twentieth century academia.
    In brief, de Man wrote 170 articles for the Belgian paper Le Soir when the paper "was stolen and controlled by the occupiers, the directors and the editorial board of our newspaper having, on the contrary, decided not to collaborate"2.
    In his defence of de Man Derrida emphasises de Man's youth, 21 years old, at the time of writing the anti-semitic collaborationist articles. This may be a supporting argument but here the defence cannot rest.
    De Man's problems continued when he lied and tried to keep his pro-Nazi, anti-semitic writings secret.
    "Derrida answers that telling the truth would have been a "pretentious, ridiculous" gesture for de Man, one that was "indiscreet and indecent," a "pointlessly painful theatricalization". Moreover telling the truth "would have deprived us of a part of his work" because it "would have consumed his time and energy". Thus de Man did the right thing when he hid the truth about his past. Telling the truth should be avoided because it is time-consuming: that is a morally bankrupt argument."3
    Wiener goes on to criticize Derrida for denouncing the press as "full of hatred" when all they did was to report the news on his friend.
    The conclusion one is left with is that what de Man did - collaborate with the Nazi occupiers of Belgium - should be understood and forgiven, but what de Man's critics have done - commit "reading mistakes" - should be condemned as unforgivable. Outside the circle of de Man's most committed defenders, few readers will find this argument persuasive".4
    Derrida let his duty to friendship override his ethical responsibility to accept, reveal and condemn de Man's Nazi, anti-semitic, collaborationist past.

    Notwithstanding the de Man affair, perhaps Derrida's most interesting work was Spectres of Marx and the volume of responses Ghostly Demarcations. (Comment on Spectres of Marx coming soon).

    1Wiener, Jon. Professors, Politics and Pop.London: Verso.1991
    2Ibid p16
    3Ibid p18
    4Ibid p22

    Saturday, October 09, 2004

    Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

    Friday, October 08, 2004

    Universal Rights

    A splendid piece by Hak Mao on the sexual abuse trial in the Pitcairns.

    Rights have to be universal and cannot be "relativised" away. "Cultural difference" cannot be used as an excuse for rape, torture and other abuses.

    Thursday, October 07, 2004

    Naomi Klein on Iraq

    Naomi Klein answers her critics.
    I was accused of making "excuses for the theocrats and misogynists" by Nick Cohen, in the Observer, and of being a "socialist-feminist offering swooning support to theocratic fascists" by Christopher Hitchens, in Slate.

    All this manly defence of women's rights is enough to make a girl swoon.Yet it's worth remembering how Hitchens rationalised his reputation-destroying support for the war: even if US forces were really after the oil and military bases, he reasoned, the liberation of the Iraqi people would be such a joyous side-effect that progressives everywhere should cheer. With the prospect of liberation still a cruel joke, Hitchens now claims that this anti-woman, anti-gay White House is the Iraqi people's best hope against Sadr's anti-woman, anti-gay fundamentalism. Once again we are supposed to hold our noses and cheer the Bradleys for the greater good, or the lesser evil. There is no question that Iraqis face a mounting threat from religious fanaticism, but US forces won't protect Iraqi women and minorities any more than they have protected Iraqis from torture in Abu Ghraib or bombs in Falluja. Liberation will never be a trickle-down effect of this invasion because domination, not liberation, was always its goal.
    Just a point, but what does Klein mean by liberation?
    The Iraqi people are liberated from Hussein's fascist/Ba'athist tyranny. In that sense Hitchens's is right. Is there any sense in which he is wrong? Klein appears to be arguing that the occupation is a new tyranny from which the Iraqi people need liberating. In a country at war with itself (progressives versus reactionaries) where the reactionaries have most of the guns internationalist minded progressives need to support some independent policing action.
    Klein goes on to argue
    Progressives should oppose the attack on Sadr because it is an attack on the possibility of a democratic future. There is another reason to defend his democratic rights: paradoxically, it will help to stem religious fundamentalism's rise.
    This is like supporting the democratic rights of someone who is likely to abolish democratic rights. No. No. No. Democratic rights are universal and permanent. Voting to abolish democracy is profoundly undemocratic - it denies democratic rights to future generations. Democracy is a good thing. Democracy is worth fighting for.

    Harry's Place makes some more good points.

    Monday, October 04, 2004

    Delgados and Sons And Daughters

    Last night I went to a splendid gig. The Delgados supported by Sons and Daughters. One of those gigs that just lives on in the memory. Go read this review and listen to the Delgados and Sons and Daughters.

    A Cloud In Trousers, Part IV

    Part IV

    Maria! Maria! Maria!
    Let me in, Maria!
    I can’t suffer the streets!
    You won’t?
    You’d rather wait
    until my cheeks cave in,
    until, pawed by everyone,
    I arrive,
    toothlessly mumbling
    that today I am
    amazingly honest.

    as you see
    my shoulders droop.

    In the streets
    men will prick the blubber of four-story craws,
    thrust out their little eyes,
    worn in forty years of wear and tear
    to snigger
    at my champing
    on the hard crust of yesterday’s caress.

    Rain has drowned the sidewalks in sobs;
    the puddle-prisoned rougue,
    all drenched, licks the corpse of the streets by cobbles clobbered,
    but on his grizzled eyelashes
    on the eyelashes of frosted icicles,
    tears gush from his eyes
    from the drooping eyes of the drainpipes.

    The rain’s snout licked all pedestrians;
    but fleshy athletes, gleaming, passed by in carriages;
    people burst asunder,
    gorged to the marrow,
    and grease dripped through the cracks;
    and the cud of old ground meat,
    together with the pulp of chewed bread,
    dribbled down in a turbid stream from the carriages.

    How stuff a gentle word into their fat-bulged ears?
    A bird
    for alms,
    hungry and resonant.
    But I am a man, Maria,
    a simple man,
    coughed up by consumptive night on the dirty hand of the Presnya.

    Maria, do you want such a man?
    Let me in, Maria!
    With shuddering fingers I shall grip the doorbell’s iron throat!


    The paddocks of the streets run wild.
    The fingers of the mob mark my neck.

    Open up!

    I’m hurt!

    Look my eyes are stuck
    with ladies’ hatpins!

    You’ve let me in.

    Don’t be alarmed
    if a mountain of women with sweating bellies
    squats on my bovine shoulders
    through life I drag
    millions of vast pure loves
    and a million million of foul little lovekins.
    Don’t be afraid
    if once again
    in the inclemency of betrayal,
    I’ll cling to thousands of pretty faces
    that love Mayakovsky!
    for this is the dynasty
    of queens who have ascended the heart of a madman.

    Maria, come closer!

    Whether in unclothed shame
    or shudders of apprehension,
    do yield me the unwithered beauty of your lips:
    my heart and I have never got as far as May,
    and in my expended life
    there is only a hundredth April.

    The poet sings sonnets to Tiana,
    but I
    am all flesh,
    a man every bit
    I simply ask for your body
    as Christians pray:
    Give us this day
    our daily bread!

    Maria give!

    I fear to forget your name
    as a poet fears to forget some word
    sprung in the torment of the night,
    mighty as god himself.

    Your body
    I shall cherish and love
    as a soldier,
    amputated by war,
    and friendless,
    cherishes his last remaining leg.

    you won’t have me?
    you won’t have me!
    The once again,
    darkly and dully,
    my heart I shall take,
    with tears besprinkled,
    and carry it,
    like a dog
    to its kennel
    a paw which a train ran over.

    With the heart’s blood I gladden the road,
    and flowering it sticks to the dusty tunic.
    The sun, like Salome,
    will dance a thousand times
    round the earth - the Baptist’s head.

    And when my quantity of years
    has finished its dance,
    a million bloodstains will lie spread
    on the path to my father’s house.

    I shall clamber out
    filthy (from sleeping in ditches);
    I’ll stand at his side
    and, bending,
    shall speak in his ear:

    Listen, mister god!
    Isn’t it tedious
    to dip your puffy eyes
    every day into a jelly of cloud?
    Let us why not
    start a merry-go-round
    on the tree of what is good and evil!
    Omnipresent, you will be in each cupboard,
    and with such wines we’ll grace the table
    than even frowning Apostle Peter
    will want to step out in the ki-ka-pou.
    In Eden again we’ll lodge little Eves:
    and this very night, for you,
    from the boulevards, I’ll round up
    all the most beautiful girls.

    Would you like that?

    You would not?

    You shake your head, curlylocks?
    You’re frowning, grey brows?
    You believe
    creature with wings behind you
    knows what love is?

    I too am an angel; I was one
    with a sugar lamb’s eye I gazed;
    but I’ll give no more presents to mares
    of ornamental vases made of tortured Sevres.
    Almighty, you concocted a pair of hands,
    for everyone to have a head:
    but why didn’t you see to it
    that one could without torture
    kiss, and kiss and kiss?!

    I though you a great big god almighty,
    but you’re a dunce, a minute little godlet.
    Watch me stoop
    and reach for the shoemaker’s knife
    in my boot.

    Swindlers with wings,
    huddle in heaven!
    Ruffle your feathers in shuddering flight!
    I’ll rip you open, reeking of incense,
    wide open from here to Alaska!

    Let me in!

    You can’t stop me.
    I may be wrong
    or right,
    but I’m as calm as I can be.
    again they’ve beheaded the stars,
    and the sky is bloody with carnage!

    Hey, you!
    Off with your hat!
    I am coming!

    Not a sound.

    The universe sleeps,
    its huge paw curled
    upon a star-infested ear.


    Friday, October 01, 2004

    Iraqi Trade Unions

    In the Grauniad Sami Ramadani dismisses "pro-occupation Iraqis masquerading as supporters of free trade unionism and self-determination in Iraq."

    Is it not possible to be both in support of the occupation (in the short term) AND in support of free trade unions and self-determination? If so then there is no "masquerading" going on. Or have the rules of logic just been changed?


    While accepting Norm's criticisms I appreciated Gerald Kaufman's display of invective:
    the simple rural yeomanry ..., contains so high a proportion of fascist-minded, racist, foul-mouthed, brutalised, larcenous scum.

    Almost as good as this by Mayakovsky:
    Gobble your pineapple,
    Chew at your grouse,
    Your last day is coming, you bourgeois louse ...

    Aleksander Rodchenko

    Will at a General Theory of Rubbish comments on a futurist exhibition currently in Glasgow.

    It appears that much of the Rodchenko material comes from this splendid exhibition at MOMA NY in 1998.

    Some of Rodchenko's most interesting work was done with Mayakovsky. In the early years of a better nation they worked on advertising that answered "both a pragmatic and an ideological imperative . . .: on the one hand, to sell state-manufactured products, which would help to strengthen the Bolshevik regime financially; and on the other hand, to sell the regime itself, which would help to produce new, ideologically transformed subjects (and, presumably, better customers)."1

    1 "The Propagandizing of Things". Leah Dickerman.Aleksander Rodchenko. New York: MOMA NY, 1998. 71

    A Cloud In Trousers, Part III

    Part III

    Ah, wherefrom this,
    how explain this
    brandishing of dirty fists
    at bright joy!

    She came,
    and thoughts of a madhouse
    curtained my head in despair.

    as a dreadnought founders
    and men in choking spasms
    dive out of an open hatch
    so Burlyuk, panic-stricken,
    though the screaming gash of his eye.
    Almost bloodying his teary eyelids,
    he crawled out,
    and, with tenderness unexpected in one so obese,
    “It’s fine!”

    It’s fine, when a yellow shirt
    shields the soul from investigation!
    It’s fine,
    when thrown at the gibbet’s teeth,
    to shout:
    “Drink Van Houten’s Cocoa!”

    That instant
    like a Bengal light,
    I would not exchange for anything,
    not for any …

    Out of the cigar smoke,
    Severyanin’s drink-sodden face lurched forward
    like a liqueur glass.

    How dare you call yourself a poet,
    and twitter greyly like a quail!
    This day
    brass knuckles
    split the world inside the skull!

    who are supremely worried by the thought:
    “Am I an elegant dancer?”
    Look at my way of enjoying life –
    I –
    a common
    pimp and cardsharp!

    On you,
    steeped in love
    who watered
    the centuries with tears,
    I’ll turn my back, fixing
    the sun like a monocle
    into my gaping eye.

    Donning fantastic finery,
    I’ll strut the earth
    to please and scorch;
    and Napoleon
    will precede me, like a pug, on a leash.

    The earth, like a woman, will flop on her back,
    a mass of quivering flesh, ready to yield;
    things will come to life –
    and their lips
    will lisp and lisp:

    the clouds
    and other cloudy things in the sky
    will roll and pitch madly
    as if workers in white when their way
    after declaring a bitter strike against the sky.

    More savagely, thunder strode from a cloud,
    friskily snorting from enormous nostrils;
    and, for a second, the sky’s face was twisted
    in the Iron Chancellor’s grim grimace.

    And someone,
    entangled in a cloudy mesh.
    held out his hands to a café;
    and it looked somehow feminine,
    and tender somehow,
    and somehow like a gun carriage.

    You believe
    the sun was tenderly
    patting the cheeks of the café?
    No, it’s General Gallifet,
    advancing again to mow down the rebels!

    Strollers, hands from your pockets –
    pick a stone, knife, or bomb;
    and if any of you have no arms,
    come and fight with your forehead!

    Forward, famished ones,
    sweating ones,
    servile ones,
    mildewed in the flea-ridden dirt!

    Painting Mondays and Tuesdays in blood,
    we shall turn them into holidays.
    Let the earth at knife’s point, remember
    whom it wished to debase!
    The earth,
    bulging like a mistress
    whom Rothchild has overfondled!

    The flags may flutter in a fever of gunfire
    as on every important holiday –
    will you, the street lamps, hoist high up
    the battered carcasses of traders.

    I swore,
    fought to fasten
    my teeth into somebody’s flesh,

    In the sky, red as Marseillaise,
    the sunset shuddered at its last gasp.

    It’s madness.

    Nothing at all will remain.

    Night will arrive,
    bite in two,
    gobble you up.

    Look –
    is the sky playing Judas again
    with a handful of treachery-spattered stars?
    Night came.
    Feasted like Mamai,
    squatting with its rump on the city.
    Our eyes cannot break this night,
    black as Azef!

    I huddle, slumped in corners of saloons;
    with vodka drenching my soul and the cloth,
    I notice
    in one corner – rounded eyes:
    the madonna’s, which bite into the heart.
    Why bestow such radiance of the painted form
    upon a horde infesting a saloon!
    Don’t you see! They spit
    on the man of Golgotha again,
    preferring Barabbaas.

    Deliberately, perhaps,
    I show no newer face
    amid this human mash.
    am the handsomest
    of your sons.

    Give them,
    who are mouldy with joy,
    a time of quick death,
    that children may grow,
    boys into fathers,
    girls – big with child.

    And may new born babes
    grow the hair of the magi –
    and they will come anon
    to baptise the infants
    with the names of my poems.

    I, who praised the machine and England,
    I am perhaps quite simply
    the thirteenth apostle
    in an ordinary gospel.

    And whenever my voice
    rumbles bawdily –
    then, from hour to hour,
    around the clock,
    Jesus Christ may be sniffing
    the forget-me-nots of my soul.

    A Cloud In Trousers Part II

    Part II

    Glorify me!
    For me the great are no match.
    Upon every achievement
    I stamp nihil

    I never want
    to read anything.
    What are books!

    Formerly I believed
    books were made like this:
    a poet came,
    lightly opened his lips,
    and the inspired fool burst into song –
    if you please!
    But it seems,
    before they can launch into a song,
    poets must tramp for days with callused feet,
    and the sluggish fish of the imagination
    flounders softly in the slush of the heart.
    And while, with twittering rhymes, they boil a broth
    of loves and nightingales,
    the tongueless street merely writhes
    for lack of something to shout or say.

    In our pride, we raise up again
    the cities’ towers of Babel,
    but god,
    confusing tongues,
    cities to pasture.

    In silence the street pushed torment.
    A shout stood erect in the gullet.
    Wedged in the throat,
    bulging taxis and bony cabs bristled.
    Pedestrians have trodden my chest
    flatter than consumption.

    The city has locked the road in gloom.

    But when –
    nevertheless! –
    the street coughed up the crush on the square,
    pushing away the portico that was treading on its throat,
    it looked as if:
    in choirs of an archangel’s chorale,
    god, who has been plundered, was advancing in

    But the street, squatting down, bawled:
    “Let’s go and guzzle!”

    Krupps and Krupplets1 paint
    a bristling of menacing brows on the city,
    but in the mouth
    corpselets of dead words putrefy;
    and only two thrive and grow fat:
    and another besides,
    apparently – “borsch.”

    soaked in plaints and sobs,
    break from the street, rumpling their matted hair
    over: “How with two such words celebrate
    a young lady
    and love
    and a floweret under the dew?”

    In the poets’ wake
    thousands of street folk:


    thousands of street folk:

    You are no beggars;
    how dare you beg for alms!

    We in our vigour,
    whose stride measures yards,
    must not listen, but tear them apart –
    glued like a special supplement
    to each double bed!

    Are we to ask them humbly:
    “Assist me!”
    Implore for a hymn
    or an oratorio!
    We ourselves are creators within a burning hymn –
    the hum of mills and laboratories.

    What is Faust to me,
    in a fairy splash of rockets
    gliding with Mephistopheles on the celestial parquet!
    I know –
    a nail in my boot
    is more nightmarish than Goethe’s fantasy!

    the most golden-mouthed,
    whose every word
    gives a new birthday to the soul,
    gives a name-day to the body,
    I adjure you:
    the minutest living speck
    is worth more than what I’ll do or did!

    It is today’s brazen-lipped Zarathustra
    who preaches,
    dashing about and groaning!
    our face like a crumpled sheet,
    our lips pendulant like a chandelier;
    the convicts of the City Leprous,
    where gold and filth spawned leper’s sores,
    we are purer than the azure of Venice,
    washed by both the sea and the sun!

    I spit on the fact
    that neither Homer nor Ovid
    invented characters like us,
    pock-marked with soot.
    I know
    the sun would dim, on seeing
    the gold fields of our souls!

    Sinews and muscles are surer than prayers.
    Must we implore the charity of the times!
    We –
    each one of us –
    hold in our fists
    the driving belts of the worlds!

    This led to my Golgothas in the halls
    of Petrograd, Moscow, Odessa, and Kiev,
    where not a man
    crucify him!”
    But for me –
    all of you people,
    even those that harmed me –
    you are dearer, more precious than anything.

    Have you seen
    a dog lick the hand that thrashed it?!

    mocked by my contemporaries
    like a prolonged
    dirty joke,
    I perceive whom no one sees,
    crossing the mountains of time.

    Where men’s eyes stop short,
    there, at the head of hungry hordes,
    the year 1916 cometh
    in the thorny crown of revoluthions.

    In your midst, his precursor,
    I am where pain is – everywhere;
    on each drop of the tear-flow
    I have nailed myself on the cross.
    Nothing is left to forgive.
    I’ve cauterised the souls where tenderness was bred.
    It was harder than taking
    a thousand thousand Bastilles!

    And when,
    the rebellion
    his advent announcing,
    you step to meet the saviour –
    then I
    shall root up my soul;
    I’ll trample it hard
    till it spread
    in blood; and I offer you this as a banner.