Monthly Archives: January 2015

Churchill: Bastard

churchillThis week saw the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s funeral. An opportunity like this to ram home ruling class propaganda, via one of the Brit establishment’s most revered totems, was never going to be passed up. Especially with those uppity Greeks getting all left wing, recently, and sticking two fingers up to the bosses’ austerity measures. Why, you can almost feel poor Winnie burling in his grave.

Here’s a wee reminder of the real nature of the man. An excerpt from my book Look Back in Anger: The Miners’ Strike in Nottinghamshire 30 Years On.

Winston Churchill, not yet airbrushed by revisionist history as the valiant defender of British freedom and implacable foe of Nazism,  was responsible for a key part of the Government’s propaganda offensive [during the 1926 General Strike]. And who better? His CV included ordering troops into Tonypandy in 1910 when, as Home Secretary, he broke the resistance of striking miners in the Rhondda, the creation of the brutal and sectarian Black and Tans in Ireland and, predating Hitler by some years – a man upon whom he would lavish fulsome praise and admiration*– advocated the enforced sterilisation of the poor and their incarceration in purpose-built labour camps.

Under Churchill’s editorship, the Government’s official strike bulletin, The British Gazette, was, frankly, unhinged in its attacks on the TUC, entirely consistent with the establishment’s fervent belief that the General Strike was merely a precursor to outright Bolshevik insurrection. Churchill immediately grasped what the General Strike meant for Britain’s ruling class: “Either the country will break the general strike, or the general strike will break the country.” The hysteria continued. The Communist Party General Secretary, Harry Pollitt, was jailed for ‘seditious intent and incitement to mutiny,’ Churchill cranked-up the attacks in the Gazette and the BBC was conscripted as a partisan arm of the Conservative Party, point-blank refusing to broadcast any alternative view, from either the TUC or the Labour Party, that might counter the avalanche of disinformation and outright untruths raining down from the Government. “I do not agree that the TUC have as much right as the Government to publish their side of the case and to exhort their followers to continue action. It is a very much more difficult task to feed the nation than it is to wreck it,” he remarked with a notable absence of that fabled British sense of fair play.

*”Those who have met Herr Hitler face to face have found a highly competent, cool, well-informed functionary with an agreeable manner, a disarming smile, and few have been unaffected by a subtle personal magnetism. Hitler and his Nazis have surely shown their patriotic ardour and love of country.”

“One may dislike Hitler’s system and yet admire his patriotic achievement. If our country were defeated, I hope we should find a champion as admirable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations.”

Moving away from my book, here’s a few more examples of Winnie’s thinking and world-view.

“I do not understand the squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poisonous gas against uncivilised tribes.”
Writing as president of the Air Council, 1919

“It is alarming and nauseating to see Mr Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the east, striding half naked up the steps of the viceregal palace, while he is still organising and conducting a campaign of civil disobedience, to parlay on equal terms with the representative of the Emperor-King.”
Commenting on Gandhi’s meeting with the Viceroy of India, 1931

“I do not admit… that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America, or the black people of Australia… by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race… has come in and taken its place.”
Churchill to Palestine Royal Commission, 1937

“We must rally against a poisoned Russia, an infected Russia of armed hordes not only smiting with bayonet and cannon, but accompanied and preceded by swarms of typhus-bearing vermin.”
Quoted in the Boston Review, April/May 2001

“The choice was clearly open: crush them with vain and unstinted force, or try to give them what they want. These were the only alternatives and most people were unprepared for either. Here indeed was the Irish spectre – horrid and inexorcisable!”
Writing in The World Crisis and the Aftermath, 1923-31

“The unnatural and increasingly rapid growth of the feeble-minded and insane classes, coupled as it is with a steady restriction among all the thrifty, energetic and superior stocks, constitutes a national and race danger which it is impossible to exaggerate… I feel that the source from which the stream of madness is fed should be cut off and sealed up before another year has passed.”
Churchill to Asquith, 1910

“You are callous people who want to wreck Europe – you do not care about the future of Europe, you have only your own miserable interests in mind.”
Addressing the London Polish government at a British Embassy meeting, October 1944

!So far as Britain and Russia were concerned, how would it do for you to have 90% of Romania, for us to have 90% of the say in Greece, and go 50/50 about Yugoslavia?”
Addressing Stalin in Moscow, October 1944

“This movement among the Jews is not new. From the days of Spartacus-Weishaupt to those of Karl Marx, and down to Trotsky (Russia), Bela Kun (Hungary), Rosa Luxembourg (Germany), and Emma Goldman (United States)… this worldwide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilisation and for the reconstitution of society on the basis of arrested development, of envious malevolence, and impossible equality, has been steadily growing. It has been the mainspring of every subversive movement during the 19th century; and now at last this band of extraordinary personalities from the underworld of the great cities of Europe and America have gripped the Russian people by the hair of their heads and have become practically the undisputed masters of that enormous empire.”
Writing on Zionism versus Bolshevism in the Illustrated Sunday Herald, February 1920

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Presto

Mozart is reputed to have considered rhythm to be the most important element in music. One might wonder if the idiosyncratic, mercurial genius that was the late Glenn Gould would have agreed.

What prompted this train of thought was an early morning listen to Bach’s Italian Concerto. I’m a harpsichord snob but, on this occasion, I’d picked out a recording by Sokolov; purely for the rip-roaring final presto. I was taught that presto means to play as a quickly as possible. Far too many recordings of the the Italian Concerto fall apart when the musicians hit that all-important final movement. Instead reconfiguring it as a stately mid-tempo dance. This is to wreck some of JSB’s most exhilarating writing. The right hand should be a blur; hence Sokolov. But then I remembered I’d got Gould doing the thing. Now this is how it should be played. It’s executed at a, frankly, insane pace and is all the more grin inducingly-enjoyable as a result.

On this evidence, Gould must surely have considered tempo to be the most important element in music. While never, for even a moment, sacrificing melody or rhythm.

The presto kicks in here at 10:06. Put your seat belt on.

Henrik Larsson: King of Kings

Despite my unshakeable life-long devotion to the cause of Alloa Athletic I’ve always had a large soft spot for Celtic. Definitely my second team (with Hibs being the third).

In all the years I’ve watched The Bhoys there hasn’t been a spell I’ve enjoyed as much as the seven seasons Henrik Larsson played for the club. 242 goals in all competitions means Larsson will forever enjoy legendary status at Paradise. Not for nothing is he revered among the Parkhead faithful as The King of Kings.

There are those who sneered at his achievements; a big footballing fish in the tiny bowl of the Scottish game, they said. How wrong such people were. Scoring against his old side in the Champions League for Barcelona, the class, dignity and character of the man was plainly in view when, clearly stricken, he refused to celebrate his goal, only to be met with a standing ovation from moved and appreciative sections of the Celtic fans.

On a three-month free loan to Man U in 2007, his goals against Aston Villa in a third-round FA Cup tie, plus Premiership and European strikes against Watford and Lile OSC, prompted a delighted Alex Ferguson to remark, “He’s been fantastic for us, his professionalism, his attitude, everything he’s done has been excellent. We would love him to stay but, obviously, he has made his promise to his family and Helsingborg and I think we should respect that – but I would have done anything to keep him.”

But it wan’t just the goals. Larsson was the complete footballer with one of the sweetest first-touches you’ll ever see. Even Huns boss, Dick Advocaat was forced to say, “Larsson is one of the best strikers in Europe, maybe the world. If you watch Batistuta, he is sometimes not seen for 90 minutes but then he scores two goals. Larsson has even more, because, besides being a good player and goalscorer, he has a tremendous work rate.”

So here, then, are all 242 goals the Swedish King scored in his seven-season stay at Celtic. Watch and enjoy. I doubt you’ll spend a more pleasurable fifteen-minutes all day.

2014: Part 2

001_rev1.inddNew year, new start eh? Well, no; not really. 2015 has rolled over pretty much from where 2014 left off. 2014, Part 2 you might say.Which is to say deadlines, deadlines and assorted stresses and strains. Plus ça change and all that.

I break off from the word-mine only to apprise you of a couple of things of note. Of note, that is, to me but also, perhaps, to some of you fine folks out there in Readerville, too.

First up is this month’s most excellent issue of Bass Guitar Magazine. As well as the usual high-quality offerings from our team of crack writers there is my own humble contribution. I don’t usually make a song-and-dance about my BGM gig but this month is a little different. I recently had the pleasure – and it was indeed a pleasure – of talking to Squeeze bassist, John Bentley. An all round gent and top bloke, he had plenty to say about his latest solo offering plus sharing some great stories from his Squeeze days. One can become very bored, very quickly, talking to ego-tripping rock stars so John was a very refreshing change. Modest, cheerful and interesting he was a delight. Read all about it when the shelves are hit later this month.

Got my new book coming out on April 1st (a highly appropriate date, some might say, given the subject matter). For all sorts of reasons I can’t say too much about it at the moment but more info on this very soon.

I’m delighted to be published, once more, by Five Leaves Publications and if the new offering is only half as well-received as last year’s Look Back in Anger I shall be a very contented scribbler. I was truly thrilled by the response to and support for the book and I hope the new one hits the spot for you guys as well.

In other news I attended an exclusive invitation-only soirée this evening. The guest of honour was a very happy young lady who clearly had a blast. Security was understandably tight but I did manage to smuggle out a photograph of her beautiful self. From later on in the proceedings, when she was clearly in an advanced state of, ah, refreshment. Which I include here for your delectation.

Faecake

Which only leaves me needing to thank you all for your support and consistently-amusing correspondence, throughout last year, and to wish you and your loved ones a very Happy New Year for 2015.

Favourite Books of 2014

I’d like to resist end-of-year best of lists but it’s a regular feature of the writing gig. I did, though, quite enjoy putting this one together for my publisher, Five Leaves, for their New Year newsletter.

They didn’t necessarily want the favourite five published in 2014 but the favourite five we writers read, or even re-read, during the year.

Here’s my unedited list, all of which are available from Five Leaves Bookshop.

The Lost Key – Robert Lomas, Coronet

Thanks to Dan Brown, Freemasonry has rarely ‘enjoyed’ such publicity as that of recent LOST keyyears.

The ancient secret society (or the ‘society with secrets’, as it’s English ruling body, the United Grand Lodge of England would prefer you have it) has historically been the subject of fevered hysteria and paranoid conspiracy theories.

Here long-standing Freemason, scientist and author Robert Lomas lifts the lid on the secret rituals and their purpose as he sees it. In so doing he has constructed a truly fascinating narrative. The Lost Key is where science and mysticism meet, where religion and facts collide and where the reader is taken on an esoteric journey from the Big Bang, via the temples of ancient Egypt, medieval Scotland and Renaissance Europe to the present day.

If you thought Freemasonry was a bastion of establishment reaction and an excuse for monied gentry and corrupt coppers to indulge in silly pantomime with fine wine and good food at the end of the evening read this and be prepared to re-evaluate everything you thought you knew about ‘The Craft.’Fascinating, challenging and gripping.

Anarchists Against the Wall – Uri Gordon and Ohal Grietzer (editors) AK Press

AATWAnd the best place for ’em some of my more tankie-inclined friends might suggest. But seriously… Anarchists Against the Wall are an anti-Zionist body of Israeli anarchists wedded fast to the Palestinian cause, Anarchists Against the Wall are a group of genuinely principled and courageous activists risking beatings, shootings and imprisonment on an almost daily basis operating, as they do, right at the sharp edge where the Zionist apartheid wall runs.

This small, independently-published edition collects a number of essays and observations by its members and offers an insight into the politics, activities and motivations of this heroic band of men and women.

Inspiring, uplifting and highly recommended.

Darkness, Darkness – John Harvey, William Heinemann

Former DI Charlie Resnick’s final case. The Nottingham-based copper, now retired andJH working as a civilian support officer, takes on the case of a woman who disappeared during the miners’ strike of 1984/5.

The strike provides a strong backdrop to a typically adroitly-spun yarn by the supremely talented Harvey. Set, obviously, in Nottinghamshire where the working majority wrecked the strike and ensured Thatcher’s victory over the Tories’ traditional class enemy, Harvey skilfully treads a fine line between the two sides as does his fictional hero Resnick.

The Resnick series deserves to be ranked alongside Rankin’s Rebus books and here Harvey weaves a poignant, elegiac narrative which is no less than he and Resnick deserve.
As swan-songs go this takes some beating. Beautiful, aching and deeply satisfying.

Intifada: The Long Day of Rage – David Pratt, Sunday Herald Books

IntifadaSunday Herald journalist, David Pratt, has produced here nothing less than a masterpiece of observational journalism.
Based in Israel/Palestine at the start of the first Intifada, and for the succeeding eight years, he records his experiences, observations and thoughts in compelling style.

While there is a refreshingly honest admission of sympathy for the Palestinian cause Pratt is too good a journalist to allow his work to become mired by bias. While the man’s empathy and compassion shines through his professional objectivity and dispassionate eye remain intact.

No one can fail to be deeply moved by this book.

The Enemy Within: The Secret War Against the Miners – 30th Anniversary EditionSeumas Milne, Verso Books

The sub-title is a little confusing. It’s actually twenty-years since this book first appeared.EW The ‘30th anniversary’ refers to the three decades since the strike started.

With a wealth of new material and an extended introductory essay Milne’s classic account of state abuse and the dirty tricks deployed against former miners’ leader Arthur Scargill and the National Union of Mineworkers is as rage-inducing now as it ever was.

From a technical point of view this is truly superb investigative journalism. While Milne is far and away the best journalist currently writing for an English daily this must have taxed even him. A complex and bewildering saga is nevertheless rendered easily readable and the reader will be shocked, appalled and angered at the disgusting campaign of frame-ups, lies and corruption orchestrated by the three-headed monster of security services, press and government. Read it now.