:: Wednesday, July 30, 2003 ::

Blogging the Fest

The Edinburgh Festival and Fringe will be blogged, with facilities for user reviews of shows etc. Nice idea. Meanwhile the Edinburgh People's Festival continues to gather media attention. All the media are looking for a fresh angle on the festival to fill the supplements and special shows they have set up. The latest was last night which saw SSP MSP Colin Fox on Newsnight Scotland.

Newsnight Scotland Newsnight Scotland

:: Alister | 11:42 am | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (0) comments

What we believe (this month anyway)

Peter Bagge, one of my favourite comic artists on America and the war. (in a dodgy libertarian journal)

:: Alister | 11:09 am | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (0) comments

:: Monday, July 28, 2003 ::

This blog was one year old in June. And I missed the whole thing. Been fun so far. Let's see where it goes next.

And at last blogger produce a blogthis favelet for mac. Cool.

:: Alister | 4:16 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (0) comments

:: Friday, July 25, 2003 ::

You can get a preview of another of the articles from the forthcoming Frontline 10 at the Word Power website

The Cameronians and the Reclaiming of Scotland's Revolutionary Tradition: A response to 'Discovering the Scottish Revolution 1688-1746'

This is one of two responses to Neil Davidsons controversial book that we will be publishing.

Word Power is Edinburgh's great radical bookshop which has survived against the odds and now has a cool online ordering service.

:: Alister | 4:54 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (0) comments

The article below is my dot.communism column for the forthcoming edition of Frontline magazine.

Online Revolution

When the first printing presses began to publish seditious literature, attacking the church and the establishment, they changed history. Many believe that Martin Luthers protestant revolution would never have happened without the new medium of printing. The English revolution was also a media revolution marked by the appearance of a plethora of radical pamphlets which quickly spread throughout the country. The historian Christopher Hill, writing about the English civil war noted the direct relation between the explosion of printing from 1640-1642 and the radical upsurge that led to Cromwell and more radical groups like the Diggers and Levellers.

"A printing press was a cheap piece of machinery. Broadsides were read in taverns even to the illiterate-- and to the rank and file of the New Model Army. So all sorts of heresies were spread abroad -- Socinianism, the Koran, free love, polygamy, divorce, the perfectibility of man. Above all, uncensored printing offered the possibility of choice between alternatives and ended the state church's monopoly of opinion-forming." C. Hill Some Intellectual Consequences of the English Revolution, 1980, p.49

Could the internet offer a similar radical jolt today?

In Frontline 8 dot.communism looked at the blogging phenomenom. Blogging is a simple technology that allows users to set up a weblog. This is just a website that can be regularily updated easily by the user.

One of the most popular uses of blogs has been daily comment on the political issues of the day. This was popularised by largely pro-Bush 'warbloggers' in the US. As the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq unfolded they gave daily comment and analysis.

Blogging came into its own during the Iraq war when a young blogger 'Salam Pax' in Baghdad gave regular updates about the bombing, the invasion and exactly what was going on for ordinary Iraqi's. When the electricity in Baghdad went off so did the blog. People who had read his work and felt they had got to know Salam were worried, had he died in the bombing? A few weeks after the end of the war Salam re-appeared. Now he writes occassionally for the Guardian.

One aspect of blogging which has emerged is 'fisking'. This originally referred to a dissection and criticism of the writings of Robert Fisk, the radical journalist. But it has since come to mean any such treatment of journalists and politicians by individual bloggers or teams of them. Of course the left as well as the right can use this method. Collective teams of activists, connected through email and the web, can combine their ideas to provide rapid reaction to the lies and distortions of the press. The SSP has seen its share of these and maybe its time we took up a bit of 'fisking' to hit back.

But the politicians (and journalists) have been getting on the blogging bandwagon themselves. There are now two MP's and a number of councillors who write a daily blog. Labour MP Tom Watson and Lib Dem Richard Allan both have blogs. It's a great way to keep constituents updated.

In the US, Howard Dean, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination is also participating in a blog. And US political bloggers are gearing up for a massive effort during the presidential primaries.

But there are dangers for politicians, journalists and spin doctors. Blogging cuts out the middleman. It exposes the blogger accountability from the electorate - the nurse in the hospital, the trade unionist, the school kids in the classroom.

How many times have you read an article by a journalist, in an area you have some knowledge on, and thought 'what a load of rubbish'. Now you have a greater voice, some input.

But is blogging even a partial democratisation of publishing? Is it, as some claim, helping to fulfill the potential of the internet, that accidental creation of capitalism, as a liberating tool?

Of course there are real problems with a view of democracy that depends not only on the financial means to own a computer but also on having the technological nous both to find the information you need, and to participate in the process.

However let's remember that in 1640 most people outside of London couldn't read. It didn't stop the publishing revolution and its profound effects on human society.

The houses of parliament recently saw a meeting called by bloggers and blogging politicians to examine the phenomena and its potential.

To date however the Scottish Parliament has not shown much initiative when it comes to information technology. The parliament website provides useful resources but its all one way traffic. E-democracy is still just a buzz word.

The SSP to its credit has its own blog on our news site - http://scottishsocialistparty.info/. Maybe we will see some of our MSP's getting in on the act as well?

:: Alister | 1:55 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (0) comments

:: Wednesday, July 23, 2003 ::

Refreshing the Parts Other Festivals Don't Reach

EPF poster

Poster by the multi-talented JohnR

A bit of a relaunch for the Edinburgh People's Festival site. Check it out for the latest on all the events that are coming up. Please note that ticket numbers are limited for some events so move fast.

The local press are interested in organising a big debate on culture and the arts in the city, with the EPF v's the establishment. Promises to be good. We are keen on the condition that the event is held in Wester Hailes.

:: Alister | 2:17 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (0) comments

:: Monday, July 21, 2003 ::

Edinburgh People's Festival

Things are cranking up for the People's Festival with two good pieces in the press at the weekend. The festival attempts to bring the Fringe back to its roots and to stop the yuppification of culture in our city. From comedy to art exhibitions to ceilidhs to a clash tribute band the EPF has it all.

Sunday Herald: People’s fest to challenge ‘elite’ Fringe

The Observer: People's Festival to challenge 'corporate' Edinburgh Fringe

For the latest info on the Festival see: Edinburgh People's Festival Website

:: Alister | 3:27 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (0) comments

Political Blogs in the Grauniad

Well done the Grauniad for relabelling me left, instead of centre. I was getting a right slagging.

:: Alister | 10:55 am | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (0) comments

:: Saturday, July 19, 2003 ::

Pride Scotia 2003



:: Alister | 11:15 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (0) comments

:: Friday, July 18, 2003 ::

Police hunting Kelly find body

Police searching for Dr David Kelly, the government adviser named as the possible source for the BBC's report claiming the government "sexed up" a key intelligence dossier on Iraq, found a man's body today.

And a thousand conspiracy theories were launched. Hopefully we will see an end to Blair and Campbells spin which is making them look more and more ridiculous by the day. Hell, they're even making IDS look like a statesman (not to me, but for 'middle England' maybe.) Meanwhile in Iraq the body count rises and the troops morale drops further.

:: Alister | 11:53 am | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (0) comments

:: Thursday, July 17, 2003 ::

Not Funny: The Cost of War

Funny: Google Ya Radge

:: Alister | 12:32 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (0) comments

:: Wednesday, July 16, 2003 ::

Workers Web Pioneer

Todays blog attention has led me to a number of new blogs. And here's a great one, Sometime contributer to the Scottish Socialist Voice Eric Lee


As his site points out:

Eric Lee is one of the world's leading experts on trade unions and the Internet.

His 1996 book, The Labour Movement and the Internet, published by Pluto Press, was the first in its field.

The website he founded in 1998, LabourStart, remains the leading international trade union website.

In addition to co-ordinating the LabourStart project, Eric Lee provides a number of consulting and design services for the trade union movement in Britain and internationally.

:: Alister | 5:14 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (0) comments

Political blogs: a brief guide

A new guide to political weblogs in the Grauniad

"A neatly designed blog with extensive photo galleries. Alister Black's site has many good points, and covers "conspiracy theory" stories the mainstream media doesn't usually touch."

Now I'm listed as a centrist, together with lib-dem Nick Barlow, whilst self-confessed Blairite and war enthusiast Harry Steele/Hatchet is listed as a lefty! Don't know who is more upset about that one. Sort it out Grauniad. Hmmm, both the Grauniad and the Committee for a Workers International think I'm a centrist, mayhap they don't mean quite the same thing. At least they dropped the "humourless" thing, and I don't cover that many conspiracy theories do I? Do I? Huh? Did MI5 tell you to say that? Did they?

Talking of blogs welcome to 4glengate a new socialist blog from lovely Leicester.

:: Alister | 12:02 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (0) comments

Why Did the Anarchist Cross the Road?

Anarchist deconstruction of lightbulb jokes.

  • How many anarchists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

  • Five. One to screw it in and four to screw up.

  • How many George Bushes does it take to screw in a light bulb?

  • Bush: I resent that question. I’ve answered that before, and I think the media are keeping this thing alive. I think the American people are tired of light bulb jokes.

  • How many Trotskyists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

  • One to look for someone to screw it in and 25 to chant, “Fight the Darkness.”

  • How many pacifists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

  • None, they just start a “coping with darkness” support group

  • How many environmentalists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

  • None. We don’t know yet what effect all this artificial light will have on the future of humankind.

  • How many dadaists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

  • To get to the other side

:: Alister | 12:01 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (0) comments

:: Monday, July 14, 2003 ::

Keep On Keepin' On

Redskins tribute album

Jeez but nostalgia is raising its head, cobweb shrouded and smelling faintly of boiled sweets, this week. Last time it was Ted Grant and now someone is putting out a Redskins tribute album. Vinyl only which is nice, except not so easy to rip to MP3 and somewhat tricky for those whose 'record players' haven't been used for some years. I guess it also restricts the target market to 30something lefties like me as we are the last generation still to own 'record players', superstar DJ's excepted.

The Redskins were public schoolboys from Surrey, who got involved in a tiny Maoist (or Hoxhaist, leftist trainspotter opinion is divided) group who ran around buying landrovers for Ethiopia. Unsurprisingly they left this bunch for the Socialist Workers Party, moved to Yorkshire and started speaking with Northern accents, bless 'em. In case I sound negative, I loved the 'skins at the time and saw them live a couple of times. Had all their stuff, including the fantastic CNT records compilation containing unionize/lean on me.

In 1984 my family were heavily involved in the miners strike and at the tender age of 15 the 'skins had a big effect on me, as did Billy Bragg. It is easy to forget that the 80's were a time of social upheaval in Britain, an intensely political time. Today's media would have you believe it was all red braces, enormous mobile phones and 'the hitman and her'. History being written by the victor.

Anyway, props to Bazza in Middlesborough for the comp and the website.

And speaking of the SWP..

Formations for the Next Left by Mike Marqusee, looks at the future for the English left.

:: Alister | 12:32 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (0) comments

:: Friday, July 11, 2003 ::

Ted Grant is 90

Ted Grant is 90

'Who is Ted Grant?' one or two of you might ask. Well he is probably best known for being the founder of the Militant Tendency. He was one of the 'big three' of British Trotskyism along with Gerry Healy and Tony Cliff. Now he has outlived them both. His early work on the movement in World War 2 is well worth reading, in his book 'The Unbroken Thread'. He also contributed enormously to building a serious working class socialist organisation in Britain.

In my days in that organisation he was lionised. Until split time came when we suddenly discovered previously unknown tensions in the leadership. The internal documents spelt out a sorry tale of squabbling over who got the biggest office. No, seriously. But the big issue was the Labour Party. Ted and his Socialist Appeal comrades are still in there battling away in their own dogmatic way. Ted's economic perspectives are still apocalyptic and everyone outside their tiny organisation is still 'a sectarian on the fringes of the labour movement'.

There are dozens of stories about Ted and I could tell a few myself. But for now I will just say 'happy birthday Ted' and hope you have many more.

:: Alister | 3:31 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (0) comments

:: Tuesday, July 08, 2003 ::

You know when you've been Tengoed

Yo La Tengo live Edinburgh 7/7/03

Yo La Tengo, live at Edinburgh Liquid Rooms 7th July 2003. The very punctual group (missed the first 20 minutes) seem to have added a free-jazz/hendrix wig-out element to their indie melodies. Art or wank? You decide. The band seemed more at ease with the closing acoustic version of Big Day Coming, and so did the audience.
Press Reviews: Scotsman Review :: Evening News Review

:: Alister | 12:01 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (1) comments

:: Saturday, July 05, 2003 ::

Edinburgh People's Festival

A whole week for this years EPF, after last years David Sneddon find, who knows what stars we will uncover? Check the link above for the official programme. Bringing culchur tae the schemes and fae the schemes.

:: Alister | 6:58 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (0) comments

Bad Taste Toys

Bad Taste Toy

This toy submarine is in somewhat questionable taste. Made in China, bought in Malaysia from a market doing a brisk trade in tourist souvenirs and Bin Laden t-shirts (seriously).

:: Alister | 6:45 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (0) comments

:: Wednesday, July 02, 2003 ::

RMT on the move

PolitX notes:

Thankfully there is one Union that has remained awake throughout. The RMT, lead by Bob Crow. He’s angry – very, very angry. It seems that National Rail needs to trim 2,000 jobs from the work force. That figure represents about one seventh, this announcement following hot on the heals of National Rail’s Fat Cat payments that ran just a little under two million.

In what can only be described as a we’re-not-gonna-take-it-anymore, Mr Crow let rip. Firstly branding Tony Bliar and his band of merry men as “war criminals”, the union announced that it would support pretty much anyone who is capable of annoying New Labour. And for good measure it cut New Labour funding to £12,500pa.

Let’s hope more Unions follow suit…

And so say all of us. Blairite bloggers have been stunned and on the defensive, "Crow is a mad communist" they complain, "the RMT will lose influence". Of course the decision was taken by the union as a whole.

And what influence has the trade union movement got for the barrel loads of cash they have given to New Labour? Some limited rights to join a union and a minimum wage pegged way below the European decency threshold. At the same time the draconian Thatcherite anti-union laws remain in place. Privatisation is central to New Labours ethic as is kissing big business' collective arse. The FBU have been treated the same by New Labour as the way the Tories would have treated them. A New Labour minister in Scotland even described striking firefighters as "fascist bastards". He better hope he never leaves the chip pan on.

One of the interesting things is that the RMT have been quite eclectic in their choice of new groups to potentially sponsor, the SSP first and foremost but also the Greens, Plaid Cymru and John Marek the independent Welsh AM. What they all have in common is the fact that they do have electoral credibility.

Sadly missing is any of the English left, notably the Socialist Alliance. Crow told the BBC "In England at the moment, we haven’t an alternative and that’s why we are sticking with New Labour,". The Mirror has this Bobby Law, who represents London Underground, said Labour had betrayed workers. He said: "We are going to have to bang heads together so we have an alternative in England." About time. Whether the English left will respond to this wake up call remains to be seen.

More on this at SSP News

:: Alister | 2:10 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (0) comments

:: Tuesday, July 01, 2003 ::

Pedro the Lion, live Glasgow Studio 29th June 2003

Pedro the Lion, Glasgow Studio

Pic HenkZ.

Pleasant Sunday afternoon gig in nice wee venue. Interesting substitution of bass player with iTunes on a laptop. Highlight the closing song 'Backwoods Nation' (mp3 here) written September 13th 2001 about the racist backlash in their native US. Pedro the Lion

:: Alister | 4:27 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (2) comments