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greengalloway

As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Tales from the Punkside-out now!


I have chapter in this.

An eclectic collection of academic articles, personal recollections, short stories, artwork, poetry and more. An anthology of work about Punk written by the survivors and by those who want the world to see not just the writings of those who were in the bands, but by those who were the supporters of the punk movement. 

Available now for £8 plus post and packing from Lulu. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Practical Idealism: the Common Weal and Civil Society



Common Weal- Practical Idealism for Scotland.

On 30 July 1971 Jimmy Reid, chair of the shop stewards committee at Upper Clyde Shipbuilders held a press conference where he announced

This is the first campaign of its kind in Trade unionism. We are not going on strike. We are not even having a sit-in strike. We are taking over the yards because we refuse to accept that faceless men  can make these
decisions. We are not strikers. We are responsible people and we will conduct ourselves with dignity and discipline. We want to work.

Over the next decade, the UCS occupation was followed by more than 260 worker occupations across the UK. [Alan Tuckman ‘Workers’ Control and the Politics of Factory Occupation’, Haymarket Books, 2011] As well as these occupations, in 1974 the Lucas Aerospace Shop Stewards Combine Committee began working on an alternative Corporate Plan designed to save 3600 jobs threatened by re-organisation. The alternative plan was for Lucas to move out of the military market and begin producing social useful products including kidney dialysis machines, electric cars and wind turbines.

The potential for a radical shift in manufacturing industry from a focus on the pursuit of profit to  production for a sustainable future  was set out by Victor Papanek in his 1971 book ‘ Design for the Real World-Human Ecology and Social Change’,  by David Dickson in 1974 with ‘Alternative Technology and the Politics of Technical Change’ and by Godfrey Boyle and Peter Harper in 1976 with ‘Radical Technology’. As ‘Practical Idealism’ puts it [p.119]

Design and innovation are at the forefront of our hopes for the future. A new generation of designers of all sorts is challenging the old order. Do products have to be mass-manufactured in sweat shops? Do the goods in our houses have to harm the environment in which we live? Must things be designed to wear out? Can’t our communities be planned with good spaces to play in?

These are good questions and taken altogether ‘Practical Idealism’ sets out a range of proposals which challenge and offer practical alternatives to the ‘Me-First’ economy and society we live with today.

Reading through ‘Practical Idealism’, the proposals set out seem eminently sensible and reasonable. The contrast is between an economy based on ‘social provisioning’  and an economy based on ‘social extraction’. Social provisioning is described as ‘the process for taking resources (raw materials and skills) and turning them into things that people need and distributing them to people that need them. Social extraction is ‘the process of taking out of society as much wealth as possible in the shortest time possible with the least investment possible.’ [p.38]

Back in the early 1970s it seemed that social provisioning was the future and social extraction was the past. But then, with election of Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Reagan in the USA, social extraction gained the upper hand in what David Harvey has called the neoliberal counter-revolution. This counter-revolution saw the end of the post-world war two social democratic consensus, when the gap between rich and poor had begun to narrow. Since 1980, the gap has once more widened, returning us to the extremes of wealth and poverty which marked the early stages of the industrial revolution.

In the heyday of the UK as a world power, the process of social extraction was matched by the physical extraction of coal, the fossil fuel which powered the industrial revolution. The fear that Britain’s coal reserves might run out was tackled Stanley Jevons in 1865in ‘The Coal Question’. In his conclusion, Jevons argued against attempts to conserve Britain’s coal reserves for the future.

The alternatives before us are simple. Our empire and race already comprise one-fifth of the world‘s population; and by our plantation of new States, by our guardianship of the seas, by our penetrating commerce, by our just laws and firm constitution, and above all by the dissemination of our new arts, we stimulate the progress of mankind in a degree not to be measured. If we lavishly and boldly push forward in the creation of our riches, both material and intellectual, it is hard to over-estimate the pitch of beneficial influence to which we may attain in the present. But the maintenance of such a position is physically impossible. We have to make the momentous choice between brief but true greatness and longer continued mediocrity.

UK coal production peaked at 292 million tons in 1913, the same year that shipbuilding on the Clyde peaked when 756 973 tons of ships were launched. The eclipse of Britain as a great power since 1913 should have led to the reform and re-invention of the UK as a medium if not mediocre nation. The immense wealth which began flowing from the North Sea oil reserves in the 1970s could have been re-invested in the UK’s infrastructure and in the renewal of our manufacturing industries.

Instead the wealth was wasted in a futile attempt to restore Britain’s greatness by reversing progress towards social provisioning through a return to an economy based social extraction. The answer to the ‘oil question‘ was the same as Stanley Jevons answer to the coal question- maximise extraction now.



The Prologue to ‘Practical Idealism’ states that ‘This is not meant to be a case for or a case against independence but only a case for a better Scotland’ [Prologue p.4] but it is very difficult to see how a better Scotland can emerge as part of a united kingdom which is still haunted by the spectre of Stanley Jevons’ vision of ‘true greatness’. For a better Scotland to emerge, civil society must become self-aware, become conscious of itself- of ourselves. ‘Practical Idealism for Scotland’ is a significant step-forward in this process.

Why is it significant? To understand why we need  to go back to an unintended consequence of the Union of 1707- the Scottish Enlightenment. The Union of 1707 created an anomaly which separated political power, now concentrated in London, from Scotland’s intellectual resources - its universities, its Church and its legal establishment. In a development of world historical importance, the Scottish Enlightenment emerged out of this new situation, contributing major advances to philosophy, to political, economic and social theory, to aesthetics and to scientific and technological knowledge.



While Scottish Enlightenment thinkers were keen to distance themselves from the religious ‘enthusiasm’ of the seventeenth century and from Scotland’s medieval past, the  idea of civil society developed by Adam Ferguson and Adam Smith contained elements drawn from pre-Union Scotland. Civil society was held to exist between the private realm of individuals and families and the political realm of the government and the state. Civil society was also the realm of economic activity. From this developed the later liberal and current neoliberal belief that government and the state should not interfere in economic activity.

Translated into French and German, the ideas of the Scots thinkers became part of a European wide enlightenment and also influenced  political thought in what was to become the United States of America. However, the French Revolution led to a reaction against the more radical aspects of the Scottish Enlightenment. So when Robert Burns composed ‘Scots Wha Hae’ in August 1793 during the trial in Edinburgh of Thomas Muir and William Palmer for sedition as supporters of the French Revolution, Burns had to hide ‘the glowing ideas of some other struggles of the same nature, not quite so ancient’ within a song about the Battle of Bannockburn. Muir was sentenced to transportation for 14 years and Palmer for seven.



While Burns was a radical poet, Professor Dugald Stewart was a leading light of the Scottish Enlightenment. But  in 1794, William Craig, a senior judge and Lord of Session, wrote to Stewart asking him to retract a section of ‘Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind’ which Craig believed might ‘unhinge established institutions’. Stewart refused to do so and denied that he was encouraging revolution.

Although the more radical ideas of the Scottish Enlightenment were muted in the nineteenth century, the combination of James Watt’s steam engine and Adam Smith’s doctrine of free trade transformed Britain into the world’s first industrial nation.

In 1818, after the end of the Napoleonic Wars but before the industrial revolution had taken root in Germany, Georg Hegel was appointed Professor of Philosophy at Berlin University in Prussia. Hegel was deeply influenced by Scottish Enlightenment thought, including James Steuart and Adam Smith’s theories of political economy as well as the idea of civil society. However, in Hegel’s version, civil society emerged out the disintegration of the family as the focus of ethical life and in turn a rational state would  emerge out of civil society as the ‘actuality of the ethical idea’. The ethical aspect of the rational state would limit the destructive extremes of wealth and poverty found in a civil society based on economic self-interest.

In an essay on the English (British) Reform Bill of 1831, Hegel argued that the minimal reforms contained in the bill would still leave most of the archaic elements of Britain’s constitution in place. Landowning aristocrats would still dominate a minimal (‘external’) state. This in turn might lead opponents of the status quo to inaugurate not reform but revolution. Hegel died in November 1831. Had he lived he might have developed his political theories to include an active role for the organised industrial working class in the movement from civil society to the rational state. Instead it was left to Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx to adjust Hegel’s political theories to include the proletariat.

Since the 1832 Reform Act and further constitutional reforms which extended the electoral franchise, the British revolution Hegel, Engels and Marx all anticipated has been avoided. Under pressure from an increasingly organised working class, the British state began to become more rational. But since the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979, narrow economic interested centred on the City of London have ‘re-captured’ the state. Gradually these economic interests have managed to reverse the social democratic policies pursued first by the Liberal party and then by Labour and Conservative governments during the post-war consensus period. In Scotland the response to the Thatcher era was a revival of the idea of civil society. It was pressure from Scotland’s civil society which led to the establishment of a devolved Scottish Parliament in 1999.



The crisis of capitalism which began in 2008 and the policies of austerity pursued by the UK coalition  government have revealed the limits of civil society and of devolution- without provoking a British Revolution. Instead, with the movement towards Scottish independence, a dramatic solution to the constitutional contradictions of the British/ UK state identified by Hegel in 1831 is underway. This revolutionary reform will cut the constitutional Gordian knot by dissolving the Union of 1707.

In this movement, the active involvement of civil society in the Yes campaign has the potential to create a rational state based on a written constitution as the actuality of the ethical idea. If this occurs it would truly be, in Hegel’s language ‘a world historical event’. However, before this can happen, civil society in Scotland must first overcome -negate- the negativity of the No campaign. To do this civil society must become self-aware, become conscious of its limitations and contradictions and find the will to re-invent itself. Common Weal’s ‘Practical Idealism’ is an essential part of this process.

At the same time, the Radical Independence Campaign have been pursuing a strategy recommended by James Foley and Pete Ramand in ‘Yes-The Radical Case for Scottish Independence’ [Pluto books, 2014]. This strategy involves actively canvassing areas of high social deprivation where voter registration and participation are low. Voters in these areas have become increasingly alienated from the Labour party as it has become part of the neoliberal consensus. By accepting what Mark Fisher calls ‘capitalist realism’ in the 1970s-that there is no alternative to the re-establishment of the conditions for capital accumulation and the restoration to power of economic elites- the Labour party has become part of the problem rather than the solution.

For the Yes campaign to win in September 2014, the majority of current and former Labour voting Scots will have to be persuaded that an independent Scotland  offers the best chance of achieving their aspirations for a more rational (post-neoliberal) state. But a yes vote on 18 September will mark the beginning not the end of the real struggle to secure Scotland’s future. As Foley and Ramand ask, will Scotland’s elites ‘freely surrender their existing privileges’? Without coercion, will they submit to the ‘common good’? [p. 64]

In Hegel’s model, Scotland’s elites would be compelled to surrender their privileges as part of the process through which civil society, as economic society, gives way to the rational state. The ethical idea of the rational state is that economic activity must benefit all of its citizens, not just an elite. A state in which only a few benefit from economic activity would not be a rational state.


Unfortunately, such absolute idealism runs smack up against capitalist realism. Under capitalist realism a rational state which attempts to minimise the extremes of wealth and poverty is an impossible state. Under capitalist realism, the state does not exist to secure the welfare of all its citizens. It exists to maintain the conditions for capital accumulation and the power of economic elites. But what Hegel argued 200 years ago, looking at the USA and the UK was that they were forms of civil society, not states. That capitalist realism - and the No campaign- cannot imagine the possibility of anything beyond civil society does not mean that a rational Scottish state is impossible. It just reveals their collective poverty of imagination.

To conclude.

Although the Scottish Enlightenment was the product of an intellectual elite, it was an elite alienated by the Union of 1707 from the new centre of political power in London. This distancing led the Scottish Enlightenment to two related modern concepts- civil society and political economy. Conservative reaction to the French Revolution cut short further evolution of these ideas in Scotland and the rest of the UK. In Germany they were developed by Hegel who argued that the limitations and contradictions of a civil society focused on economic self-interest justified by political economy would give rise through reform to a rational state.

Reflecting on the apparent inability of the UK to properly reform itself and become a rational state, Hegel evoked the spectre of a British Revolution. Engels and Marx added a new element to Hegel’s notion of civil society - a revolutionary class struggle. The crisis of capitalism which began in 2008  and the policies of austerity pursued by the UK coalition  government have revealed the limits of civil society and of devolution- without provoking a British Revolution. Instead, with the movement towards Scottish independence, a dramatic solution to the constitutional contradictions of Britain identified by Hegel in 1831 is underway. This revolutionary reform will cut the constitutional Gordian knot by dissolving the Union of 1707.

In this movement, the active involvement of civil society in the Yes campaign has the potential to create a rational state based on a written constitution as the actuality of the ethical idea. If this occurs it would truly be, in Hegel’s language ‘a world historical event’. However, before this can happen, civil society in Scotland must first overcome -negate- the negativity of the No campaign. To do this civil society must become self-aware, become conscious of its limitations and contradictions and find the will to re-invent itself.


Significantly, there parallels between this process and the Marxist concept of ‘class-consciousness’. The Radical Independence Campaign’s contribution to the Yes campaign is an ongoing attempt to re-engage Scotland’s working class communities with the political process, a process which can be described as ‘consciousness-raising’.

Common Weal is not directly engaged with the Yes campaign, arguing that their proposals ‘[are] not meant to be a case for or a case against independence but only a case for a better Scotland’. Common Weal’s proposals have their roots in the progressive ideals of the 1970s, in the movements for industrial democracy, socially useful production and what was to become the Green movement. These movements had the potential to deepen and extend the social democratic post-war consensus but were blocked and then suppressed by the neoliberal counter-revolution.

Shared by both Common Weal and the Radical Independence Campaign is a focus on the recent past which has been dominated by the neoliberal counter-revolution. However, since, neoliberalism has its roots in Scottish Enlightenment theories of political economy and civil society, we should be aware that our debates and discussions about Scotland’s future are also haunted by the ghosts of Hegel and Marx.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

the end of alienation and the revolution of everyday life


 the end of alienation and the revolution of everyday life

Recently I was interviewed for 90 minutes for a research project on punk. The focus was on what influence my engagement with punk /anarcho-punk has had over the past 30 + years. As I was answering the questions I realised that punk/anarcho-punk had not directly influenced my political views. By 1976 I was already a self-confessed anarchist. Although I then, through 1977/8, became fascinated by punk, that interest would probably have faded if I had not met up with the Kill Your Pet Puppy collective at an anarchist [Persons Unknown] meeting in late 1979.

But, as even a brief flick through the pages of Kill Your Pet Puppy shows, KYPP stands apart from both Crass inspired fanzines and straight anarchism. The inspiration for KYPP was derived from the revolutionary aspirations of the surrealists and situationists, mixed with hints of gothic occultism. Looking back, KYPP was /is a potent record our lives and histories against ‘the false spectacular memory of the unmemorable’.

Another side of the deficiency of general historical life is that individual life as yet has no history. The pseudo-events which rush by in spectacular dramatizations have not been lived by those informed of them; moreover they are lost in the inflation of their hurried replacement at every throb of the spectacular machinery. Furthermore, what is really lived has no relation to the official irreversible time of society and is in direct opposition to the pseudo-cyclical rhythm of the consumable by-product of this time. This individual experience of separate daily life remains without language, without concept, without critical access to its own past which has been recorded nowhere. It is not communicated. It is not understood and is forgotten to the profit of the false spectacular memory of the unmemorable. [Society of the Spectacle, Guy Debord, 1967, #157]

What we were resisting was our alienation. What we were celebrating were our utopian desires which we took for reality because we believed in the reality of those desires.



Fast forwarding to the present, I was reminded of the situationists when I found this passage in David Harvey’s new book  ‘Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism’.

The traditional Marxist approach to the revolutionary transfor mation to socialism/communism has been to focus on the contra diction between productive forces (technology) and social (class) relations. In the lore of traditional communist parties, the transi tion was seen as a scientific and technical rather than a subjective, psychological and political question. Alienation was excluded from consideration since it was a non-scientific concept that smacked of the humanism and utopian desire articulated in the young Marx of The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 rather than through the objective science of Capital.
This scientistic stance failed to capture the political imagination of viable alternatives in spite of the passionate beliefs of adherents to the communist cause. Nor did it provide any spiritually compelling and subjective (rather than scien tifically necessary and objective) reason to mobilise arms in a sea of anti-capitalist struggle. It could not even confront the madness of the prevailing economic and political reason (in part because scien tific communism embraced much of this economic reason and its fetish attachment to production for production’s sake). It failed in fact to fully unmask the fetishisms and fictions peddled in the name of the ruling classes to protect themselves from harm. The tradi tional communist movement was, therefore, in perpetual danger of unwittingly replicating these fictions and fetishisms. [Harvey, 2014, p. 269]

The situationists’ ‘spectacle’ is our alienation from society, from ourselves. Instead of actively participating in the construction of our own lives, in the making of history, we have become observers and spectators, watching our unlived lives pass before us. Punk- or at least the version I found via Kill Your Pet Puppy- was the negation of alienation. In this version of punk the DIY ethic was applied not just to the making of music or fanzines, but to the lives of the participants. To become a punk was to reinvent yourself as an actor rather than a spectator.

What the Harvey quote implies is that this process was and is ‘revolutionary’ even if traditional Marxists -and anarchists- do not recognise it as such.

Coming back to the present, the political struggle I am engaged with now is one which, unlike punk, is unambiguously  a history making struggle. On 18 September 2014, voters in Scotland have the chance to create a new nation-state. What is interesting about the Scottish independence referendum is the contrast between the Yes and No campaigns.

The No campaign is a top-down campaign. To get its negative message across it relies on newspapers and broadcast media. In contrast, the Yes campaign is relying on thousands of local activists who are organising meetings, canvassing and leafleting in their communities to get its positive message across- supported by hundreds of internet sites. If the Yes campaign wins in September, it will have done so by overcoming voters’ alienation from the political process. If a new Scotland is born on 18 September, it will be a DIY Scotland, a Scotland created by its citizens.

In their attempt to overcome alienation, radical punks turned first to squatting and then to travelling. These moves extended the brief experience of liberation achieved through collective participation at punk gigs.  Through squatting punk became a continuously lived experience, something closer to a counterculture than a music based subculture. Within the ‘underground’ network of squats which extended across London and other cities, participants were able to reinvent themselves as full time rather than part time punks. This movement echoed  that of the pre-punk  radical counterculture.



 In the early seventies, the pre-punk radical counterculture gave rise to the first free festivals. As the number of free festivals increased, by 1976 it became possible to spend the whole summer travelling from festival to festival. By the early eighties, many punks began to adopt travelling as an alternative to squatting. Kill Your Pet Puppy 6, published in June 1983 documented the transition as it described a journey from a punk squat in London to Stonehenge free festival. KYPP was successor to punk fanzine Ripped and Torn which was first published in October 1976.

However, the mass arrest of 500 travellers en route to Stonehenge on 1 June 1985 , along with other events from that year- the eviction of Molesworth peace camp in February and the crushing of the Miners’ Strike- revealed the limits of  the alternatives to alienation. As Margaret Thatcher had proclaimed ‘There is no alternative’. For what David Harvey now call the neoliberal counter-revolution  demanded the forcible re-imposition of alienation.

This is an important point. While the Miners’ Strike fits within a class struggle narrative and the eviction of Molesworth peace camp was part of the Cold War struggle against the Soviet Union, the attack on the free festivals and the travellers suggests that the neoliberal counter-revolution was also a cultural counter-revolution, one which was continued through into the nineties when the focus was on acid house raves and road-protestors. So while traditional Marxists may have neglected the importance of alienation [see Harvey quote above], the neoliberals did not. They understood that the hegemony of capitalism depended on eliminating the (by now) punk infused counterculture and its Situationist inspired efforts to negate alienation.

The pre-punk counterculture relied on a combination of  alternative media, including music and its own underground newspapers and magazines, to reproduce itself- with  some help from LSD/acid. The punk and post-punk counterculture likewise was able to reproduce itself  by similar means. Within these countercultures, the alternative media were more trusted than the hegemonic media which demonised the countercultures via a repetitive stream of ‘folk devil / moral panic’ news stories.

It is interesting/ significant that a similar situation has emerged in the context of the Scottish independence referendum. As James Foley and Pete Ramand spell out in their book ‘Yes- The Case for Radical Scottish Independence’ [Pluto, 2014],the driving force behind the campaign for Scottish independence is not nationalism but opposition to the neoliberal counter-revolution. At the same time, while support for independence is strongest among poorer Scots/ people living in Scotland, it is more than a straightforward class struggle campaign. Many non-working class people living in Scotland are also alienated from a UK political structure which is moving further and further to the right. If this group could vote for a UK level form of north European/ Scandinavia social democracy, they would do so. But since the Labour party have become a neoliberal party, this option is not available. Therefore the option of voting Yes to the Scottish National Party’s version of social democracy within an independent Scotland is appealing.

At the same time such potential (former Labour) Yes voters are being turned off by the unremitting negativity of the No campaign. Fortunately the Yes campaign is able to reproduce itself via social media, the internet and thousands of small scale / community level public meetings. The No campaign are unable to match this grassroots ‘countercultural’ movement. What the No campaign can and are doing, through their complete control of the media, is radicalise  the Yes campaign. As the No campaign reveals itself to be a front for the neoliberal State, the Yes campaign is having to confront the everyday reality of alienation.



As the countercultures discovered, the act of self-creation is the negation of alienation. The difference is that what is being created in Scotland is not a large group of empowered individuals, but a new nation. In a talk I gave to Radical Independence Dumfries and Galloway, I argued that the Yes campaign represented Scotland’s civil society which was in the process of creating a rational state as ‘the actuality of the ethical idea’. The phrase is Georg Hegel’s, taken from his ’Philosophy of Right’ (1821). Hegel had borrowed the idea of civil society from the Scottish Enlightenment. Civil society was held to exist between the private realm of individuals and families and the political realm of government and the state. Civil society was also the realm of economic activity.



The idea of civil society emerged out of the alienation of Scottish thinkers from the shift in political power which followed the Union of 1707. Without a Scottish state centred on a parliament in Edinburgh, most of Scotland’s former elite- including its intellectuals- were physically separated from  the new centre of power in London. Without the French Revolution, the Scottish Enlightenment may have eventually nudged the UK state towards a rational form. Unfortunately, reactions to the French Revolution and the later struggle against Napoleonic France saw the rationality of the Scottish Enlightenment as dangerously subversive. Then came the Industrial Revolution which established capitalism as the dominant power, rooted in economic alienation.

In Scotland the impact of industrialisation was immense. For over 100 years, iron and coal were mined to feed the furnaces which produced the iron and steel which  were made into ships and locomotives. These industries are virtually all gone now but,  until very recently, their legacy survived in support for the Labour party. What Scottish voters expected from the Labour party was progress towards a rational state exercising democratic control over the economy. By aligning itself with the neoliberal UK state  as part of the No campaign, a crisis of legitimacy has overwhelmed the Labour party in Scotland. The Labour party in Scotland have been revealed as a conservative organisation, holding back and suppressing aspirations for the democratic control of the economy. Without the deadweight of the Labour party, via the grassroots yes campaign, civil society in Scotland is rediscovering its radical, even revolutionary, traditions.

But is a rational state anything more than an ideal? The way I look at this question is shaped by the problem of climate change. Our knowledge of climate change is scientific knowledge, which is a form of rational knowledge. It should be promoting rational debate about how best to make the transition from economies based on  energy from fossil fuels to economies based on energy from renewable sources. This debate had the potential to begin in the 1970s when advocates of ‘radical’ or ‘alternative’ technology proposed a shift towards renewable energy sources. These proposals were understood to be part of the radical restructuring of society imagined by the counterculture.



The problem then and now is that such a restructuring of society would require an economic system focused on minimal or zero growth- which would make existing models of capitalism, which depend on ‘infinite economic’ growth, impossible. In the 1970s, climate change was an obscure theoretical possibility and was brushed aside during the neoliberal counter-revolution. Now climate change is a reality which challenges neoliberalism. The reaction to this challenge has been an attack on science and rationality. What the attack on the science of climate change shows is that the neoliberal project is an irrational project and that neoliberal dominated states like the UK and the USA are irrational states. Such states, in order to continue ‘business-as -usual’ are prepared to sacrifice the interests, the future, of their citizens for the short term profitability of the corporate elites which have captured these states.

What has obscured the irrationality of the neoliberal/ capitalist world order in the past has been the lack of any absolute choices between the world as it is and the world as it must become. Climate change is an absolute. Global temperatures are rising, the oceans are warming and the polar ice caps are melting. Working back from this absolute, we can re-understand  the radical counterculture (including punk) as a rational response to the absence of a future. However, following Hegel, we can also now see the consequences of the counterculture’s failure to recognise the necessity of rationalising the state. The persistence of irrational states which fail to impose democratic control over capital now threatens not only the heat death of modern civilisation but also the liquidation of capitalism in a drowned world.

On the other hand in all my years as a keen countercultural I never came across the idea of the/ a rational state. Or mentions of Hegel. My discovery of Hegel came via stray mention that he had  read and been influenced by Scottish Enlightenment political economists and social theorists. I have been reading up on Hegel’s political theories about a rational state because part of the discussions about Scottish independence involve a plan to create a written Constitution for the new state. Which conflicts with the more anarchist aspects of the counterculture and also with the ‘independence as a class struggle‘ aspects of the radical independence campaign.



Is it possible to embed social and economic justice with a written constitution so strongly that the new Scotland becomes a rational state rather than an ‘external state’ (Hegel’s term) or neoliberal state?  That a written Scottish Constitution would be full of fine words but the reality of economic power in the new nation would prevail (realpolitik). There are proposals to crowd-source  the Constitution, to involve civil society via a continuation of the Yes campaign in its formation, but unless such participation can be maintained over time, the interpretation and actualisation of the Constitution will revert to ‘experts’, to lawyers and other members of the professional class. Thus the people or citizens of the new state will once more become alienated from  their/our nation. The Scottish state would still be an external state rather than a rational state.

To end, for now, on a positive note, it does seem that the unremitting negativity of the No campaign and its full spectrum projection is pushing the Yes campaign to towards Hegelian ‘[collective] self-consciousness’. This is potentially a revolutionary development which picks-up from the frozen moment of modernity when conservative reaction to the French Revolution stopped the Scottish Enlightenment in its tracks.

I guess that is my next job. I need to write up my research on the Scottish Enlightenment and show the links to Hegel and then on to the present/ near future. I have already covered some of the ground in my talks at Radical Independence Dumfries and Galloway meetings. Quite a challenge to make it relevant though.



.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Alternative Sex and Greenham 1983


Alternative Sex was an anarcho and feminist zine published in October 1983 from 103 Grosvenor Avenue London N5. The magazine was collectively written by Val, Nicky, Illyane,Angie, Beck, Steph, Jenny, Griet, Debbie, Mouse, Lorraine and Lou. It was put together at 96 Brougham Road which was one of a row of squatted houses in Hackney.

103 Grosvenor Avenue was one of 4 houses in the Islington based Black Sheep Housing Co-operative.103 was also home to two members of the Mob and All the Madmen Records as well as two other fanzines-  Kill Your Pet Puppy and the Encyclopaedia of Ecstasy. Andy Palmer of Crass lived in one of the Black Sheep Houses as did Bob Short of Blood and Roses.[I think!]. I have also added two pages from Vague 15 written by Anna and Maria about Greenham. Anna and Maria also lived in one of the Black Sheep Co-op houses at the time. Click on the pages to enlarge them

























The next two pages are  by Anna and Maria from Vague 15 about the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp. The contact adress given is 109 Corbyn Street which was another of the Black Sheep Housing Co-op houses. The last image is of Pinki (on the left) at Greenham in 1983. 






Do I need to add any thing to this blog post? Does it need to be interpreted? To be contextualised? I am wondering because I know that punk/ anarcho-punk is now the focus of several academic/ historical studies and part of at least one university course. 

But it isn't just history. Hagar the Womb who were a musical manifestation of Alternative Sex have reformed so to end with here is a clip of Hagar playing live in March 2014.







  



Friday, April 18, 2014

Vague- the revolution of everyday life


Here is an opening extract from Tom Vague's reminiscences - for more look here

As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a vagrant – unemployed, on the road, unattached, unaligned, undomesticated, etc. I left school aged 16 in July 1976 during the heatwave, on the 200th anniversary of American independence, at the time of the Israeli special forces raid on the hijacked plane at Entebbe to free the hostages, the Montreal Olympics, and punk rock. ‘Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive but to be young was very heaven’; albeit nearly a hundred miles away from the action. I was there in 1976, as much as I was in 1966 when I broke my arms swinging from a tree after England won the World Cup.
And here is some more- about Vague Number One

In 1978 I went back to Salisbury Tech College to do a building studies course and duly started Vague fanzine; for something to do, other than attempting to play guitar or sing, rather than with any literary aspirations. The original Vague editorial team consisted of the cartoonist Perry Harris, the Dutch poser Iggy Zevenbergen, Sharon Clarkson and Chris Johnson from the art college, and Jane Austin and Christine Nugent from Mere. The first Vague office was Iggy and Sharon’s place on Nelson Road. Other notable figures on the early Salisbury punk rock scene were Terry Watley, Spanish Alf, Bournemouth Christine, the catering punks Martin Butler and Tim Aylet, the black post-punk artist Dave Somerville, Mike Muscampf (who went on to the goth group Dormannu), the punk jeweller Simon Loveridge, and our hippy correspondent Frank Stocker. Our local pub was the Star and later the Cathedral; the record shops were Derek’s in the George Mall and Wilmer’s.
Inspired by Tim Aylet’s Channel 4 fanzine, post-punk and reggae – Ants, Banshees, Joy Division, Pop Group, PIL, Slits – in 1979 we launched Vague on the world. The first few issues were co-edited by Perry, Iggy and me; I assumed more or less total editorial control by the 3rd or 4th issue with Jane and Chris Johnson as assistant editors. On the back cover of Vague 1, Iggy, Alf and Dave Somerville are pictured outside the common room between the tech and art colleges on Southampton Road. The first issue was designed and printed by Mark Cross from the art college, who went on to design album sleeves. The second issue was photocopied down Fisherton Street. Perry’s ‘Lovable Spiky Tops’ cartoons best documented the evolution of Vague and the Salisbury scene; attempting to put on gigs, avoiding bikers, Teds, rockabillies, squaddies, smoothies, young farmers, etc.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

1985...in England's dream a nightmare...2005


This is an article I wrote for International Times, published in 1986. 

It is rather bleak, but then the year had begun with the eviction of Molesworth peace camp followed by the Battle of the Beanfield in June. I then spent a couple of months living on travellers' site-Greenfields farm just outside Glastonbury with survivors of both events. I mention 1 June and Stonehenge surrounded with barbed wire in the article. Twenty years later I produced my own IT as a 'Beanfield Memorial'. I will add it below. 





International time -IT- began in 1966 and continued on through punk into the eighties. There is a complete archive here. The last issue was in 1994- apart from this one.