Archive for the ‘Cultural studies’ Category

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Canterbury Socialist Society presents “Workers Against War” – a public lecture on this history of the Workers’ Movement opposition to the First World War.

Every year ANZAC Day commemorations seem more like war propaganda than the last – and we aim to provide a touch of counter history: that of sedition, desertion, rebellion, refusal, and fraternisation of workers on the front.

We are very pleased to welcome for a second time guest speaker Dan Bartlett. Dan is a historian whose research with Voices Against War focused on New Zealand opposition to the First World War. Dan will be focusing on the activities of Socialists in Christchurch during the war years.

Socialist Society chair Tom Roud will speak on the tension and eventual split in the international workers’ movement over the question of supporting one’s own ruling class in the war. He will be focusing primarily on the (more…)

by Don Franks

It was a stinking hot afternoon down at Fords Lower Hutt assembly plant when one of us deliberately smashed a new truck windscreen. The truck trim line was a small non-automated section where four or five painted cab shells got fitted out each day, their windows fixed in place by skilled use of a big rubber hammer.

A worker would tap around the edges of the glass, on this occasion whacking it hard in the middle so it shattered. This meant work in the area had to stop until a cleaner’s union guy was located, had made his dignified way across to us and methodically swept up all the pieces. That process took a good twenty minutes, during which we were able to enjoy a break.

Of course we didn’t pull that stunt too often or it would have looked suspicious. There were other, less dramatic ways to get a break.

This time as we sat watching (more…)

Jacinda Ardern & Clarke Gayford: first-ever privileged, First World, white, middle class couple to have a baby

by Susanne Kemp

Forget the war and repression in Syria.  Forget the massive protests against the theocratic regime in Iran.  Forget mass hunger and poverty across the Third World.  Forget the millions of refugees.  Forget the women (and men) of the world labouring for a pittance in horrendous conditions in factories, mines and other workplaces across the Third World.

Jacinda Ardern’s ability to ‘work’ and give birth is very much a middle/upper class privilege built, in part, on the super-exploitation of the Third World; but don’t expect liberals to talk about this

For the NZ ‘mainstream media’ none of this counts for much.

You see, Jacinda Ardern and Clarke Gayford are going to have a baby.  Judging by the gush it would appear that they are the first-ever highly-privileged First World, white middle class couple to be doing so.

No First World, privileged, white, middle class people have ever had a baby before.

Presumably this is why TV broadcaster Hillary Barry tweeted, (more…)

Michael Wolff, Fire and fury: inside the Trump White House, Little, Brown 2018, pp336, retailing for $NZ34 at  The Warehouse and just over $2o from the Book Depository (free delivery); reviewed by Paul Demarty

The appearance of Michael Wolff’s extraordinary account of Donald Trump’s presidency has already become the pre-eminent succès de scandale of 21st century letters thus far.

The White House response has been trenchant and hysterical, with the president denouncing it as a complete fiction, and the latest in what the book reminds us is a long line of press secretaries reinforcing the condemnation. Legal action is threatened against Wolff, publisher Henry Holt and – not uninterestingly – Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon. It is surely more than mere gratitude that led Wolff to thank in his acknowledgements, pointedly, the libel lawyer he hired to give Fire and fury a once-over. The truth is that Trump has blundered directly into what is now called the ‘Streisand effect’, whereby attempts to suppress some item cause it to spread more rapidly among outraged enemies.1 Even British readers, whose much trumpeted national veneration of liberty reaches no further than the door of the libel courtroom, will benefit from the samizdat PDFs circulating online once Trump’s legal team cast an eye over the Atlantic in pursuit of a cheap victory.

Peculiar

What we find, in whatever format, is a very peculiar book, albeit compulsively readable, droll and frankly horrifying. The sourcing of various anecdotes in here is a particular problem, to which we shall return; certainly, there is a great deal of eyebrow-raising material, which will be confirmed or refuted in the coming months and years. If even a third of it is true, however, Americans are living through some of the most preposterous events in modern political history. Certainly, those looking for evidence that Trump is not what he often appears to be in the presentation of his hated enemies in the media – a narcissistic, vindictive man-child, a demonic cross between King Joffrey of Game of Thrones and (more…)

“A gunman clad in all black, with a ballistic vest strapped to his chest and a military-style rifle in his hands, opened fire on parishioners at a Sunday service at a small Baptist church in rural Texas, killing at least 26 people and turning this tiny town east of San Antonio into the scene of the country’s newest mass horror.” – New York Times

by Don Franks

In the present climate it’s easy to forget the fact, but United States history is extremely rich in democratic and radical traditions. Along with giant landmarks such as the civil rights movement, anti-Vietnam war movement and Stonewall there’s the legacy of a radical US labour movement. The heroism of the IWW, where countless organisers were hounded and several of them tortured to death and the struggles of farmworkers, rail workers, miners, eruptions like the Great Flint sit down strike of the 1930s.

In terms of selfless devotion to other human beings, many thousands of working class Americans have a record second to none.

Today, our constant image of the United States is of a deranged people mindlessly and viciously at war with each other.

It has been sixteen years since the 9/11 attacks. Since then, the US government has maintained a   (more…)

This year is the 50th anniversary of the partial liberalisation of anti-gay laws in Britain.  The reform applied to England and Wales, but not Scotalnd or the part of Ireland still incorporated in the ‘United Kingdom’ – nor to the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.  The reform also did not extend to the armed forces or the merchant navy.  In the article below, a longtime British marxist and former activist in the gay liberation movement looks at the significance of the law change – then and now.  

by Mike McNair

Under the 1967 Sexual Offences Act homosexuality between consenting adult males in private was no longer an offence. ‘Adult’ was defined as someone over the age of 21; and ‘in private’ was subsequently defined by the judiciary: homosexual acts were only permitted in private property and there had to be only two people present. In a public place like a hotel it would still be an offence. Given the limits of the 1967 act, I did not expect anything like the scale of celebration there has been around its 50th anniversary.

In addition we have had a brief rush of publicity around a group of LGBT anarchists forming a fighting unit alongside the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria against Islamic State. Rather startlingly, the Daily Mail on July 25 ran the headline, “These faggots kill fascists” – a photo showed them raising the rainbow flag in Raqqa.1

This story of a very small group of volunteers has been all over the mainstream media. There has been, I think, a valid argument, presented on Al Jazeera by a Syrian-Palestinian woman activist, that this group was in substance holding up the flag in favour of the general frame of western intervention in Syria, rather than having any realistic expectation that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) will display strong and persistent solidarity with lesbian and gay rights.2

But the coverage demonstrates that this summer’s celebration of gay rights is very broad. The story is that our modern liberal society has liberated lesbians and gay men from the chains of medieval oppression. Alongside this celebration, LGBT issues, just like women’s issues, have been made into an instrument for the justification of dropping bombs on foreign countries.

In this context it is worth looking a little bit further at what has been celebrated: the 1967 Act, what followed it and what went before it. As I have said, it decriminalised homosexual conduct between consenting males over the age of 21. Even though the ‘age of majority’ was reduced to 18 in 1969, as far as homosexual acts were concerned, it remained at 21 until 2000.3

The 1967 Act had an interesting consequence, in that it initially led to a substantial increase in prosecutions! Roy Walmsley, a member of the Home Office Research Unit, reported in 1978 that offences for ‘indecency between males’ recorded by the police had doubled since 1967, and the number of persons prosecuted trebled between 1967 and 1971. Most of the additional prosecutions involved two males 21 or over, so it was not primarily about consent, but about the ‘in public’ issue. In 1978 there were wide variations between police areas in respect of this.4

This is by no means the only instance of law reform leading to an increase in prosecutions. The same was true of the reforms of street prostitution (introduced under the Street Offences Act 1959), of the 1959 Obscene Publications Act, and of the 1967 Abortion Act. Nearer to the core of criminal law, it was also true of the various offences under the Theft Act 1968. The replacement of laws which are understood to be ancient, unfair, technical and difficult to understand by new legislation incentivises the police to prosecute – and makes it easier for them to do so. And it makes it easier for magistrates and juries to convict.

I might add that the ‘gross indecency’ offence, which had previously been triable by jury, became, as a result of the Act, triable before magistrates. That increased the number of prosecutions, as magistrates have always been more willing to convict than juries.

Resistance

This is not the whole story, however. There has also been a good deal of judicial and prosecutorial resistance to (more…)