Saturday, 18 May 2013
Radical Book Fair, Conway Hall, London
Well, well - Saturday 11th May 2013 proved to be quite some day for us (well, for Glenn, Alexander and I it did).
Firstly, it was off to get a mower mended - Alex's first mower and him wanting to keep it no matter what (but heavens - got to stop the petrol leak - hence the visit to the shop!).
Then, tea, food and chat in the cafe of the garden shop. Talking about Thomas Paine, Edmund Burke, Mary Wollstonecraft and Roger Scruton. Also, fitting this in with both the Tories search for an ideological base (see Roger Scruton's article in 'The Guardian' of 11th May 2013 -
and Gregory currently studying about the Enlightenment period.
Next, Alex and I go off to the Radical Book Fair at Conway Hall, London - see http://www.artrabbit.com/all/events/event/38821/london_radical_bookfair
(whilst Glenn sadly had to return, for now, to being a marking machine).
Now, what made us decide to go to this? Well, it was Alex looking at the results of the recent local elections in the shires, and the disturbing inroads being made by UKIP (UK Independence Party) and the far right. 'Whatever has happened to the left?' Alex asked. Is there no 'left' left at all? (excuse the irresistible pun). This concerned us on a number of fronts:
1. The actual state of the left.
2. That Alex 'felt' this even though he has us as parents, telling him so much about what is going on, on the left (even though we are obviously very disappointed with the general trend).
3. The power of the media, which is controlled by the dominant, ruling class, which has not only been very successful in helping to put the right in the powerful place that they are now in, but also into manipulating people's minds into thinking that the 'right' is even more powerful and successful than it actually is! And so it all starts to become a self-fulfilling prophesy. No point in getting involved in the left, because there is nothing left worth getting involved with. So, just accept the right-wing agenda and that way of life. So it goes.
So, anyway, the decision was made - we would go to the Radical Book Fair. And what a wise decision that proved to be, and is something that we can now very much build on in a positive way.
The Radical Book Fair. Wow - it was great. Lots of stalls, lots of people, lots of books and some nice, wholesome food. We have been to the Anarchist Book Fair (in fact, Glenn and I went there with friends Elaine and Richard a few years ago) but the Radical Book Fair - that was something new and it was even better.Yes, it was great - bringing the various strands on the left and critical thinkers together: socialists, left labour, anarchists, communists, feminists, critical thinkers etc etc..
On arrival I bumped into Andrew Coburn, from Essex libraries. I got to know Andrew through the Library Campaign which he ran - trying to protect and enhance public libraries and all that. But of course, things aren't looking good on the public library front, but we can return to that another time.
Next - to look at the book stalls. Right by the door - Newham Bookshop bookstall. And what do we find? A book by Martin Hoyles. So what, you might well ask? Who is that? 'Could he be the same person?', I asked myself, I checked the bio info at the back of the book. Yes, it was the same person. My A' Level English Literature teacher from school! Wow!
Now, Martin Hoyles was very inspirational for me in my formative teenage years. Well, we studied D. H. Lawrence's 'Sons and Lovers' with him and it was Martin Hoyles that told us that Lawrence had been influenced by Nietzsche. And it was Martin Hoyles that got us to see Ken Russell's film of 'Women in Love'. And it was Martin Hoyles that got us to go to the Greenwich Theatre and see great plays such as 'The Doll's House' and 'The Cherry Orchard'. And it was Martin Hoyles that got us to see and view English Literature in a good way; enjoying it; thinking for ourselves; engaging with it. Not just digesting text and critics in order to feed it back to the examiners, thereby risking losing our own minds and our enthusiasm. This was so important to me; as fiction has always been such a love of my life. To have that messed up and destroyed by straight-jacket study methods and techniques would have been dreadful. And so, in this way, Martin Hoyles was a great saviour for me.
So, anyway, here was this book by him, on the Chartist Movement.The book is entitled: 'William Cuffay: the life and times of a Chartist leader' (Hansib, 2013). Well, our friend Dave Black has also written a book about the Chartists, so this became a 'must-buy'. I wonder if they have met up or if we could arrange for them to meet up, I thought to myself?
So, purchase No. 1.
Purchase No. 2? One for Glenn - a book with a picture of a boy with a gun on the cover, with the title 'How I killed Margaret Thatcher' . The book was by Anthony Cartwright and published with Tindal Street Press, 2013. A work of fiction. Another 'must buy'. Something for Glenn to read after 'The Game of Thrones' - yes, all 7 of them, so will take him some time. Perhaps, Alex might want to read it too.
Purchase No. 3 - a DVD each of the excellent film 'The Spirit of '45' (http://www.thespiritof45.com/), directed by Ken Loach. Glenn and I saw it at the cinema recently. Gregory also recommended it. Perhaps, this film can do what the left politicians seem unable to do these days - i.e. engage and move people, to work towards a better and a kinder world (rather than a worse and a crueller world). Ken Loach the director of great films, such as 'Cathy Come Home' and ''Kes'. Everyone should watch 'The Spirit of '45' in my view, (bar the ruling class and the enemy - see information about 'What we are fighting for' talk below). Not that we can stop the opposition from knowing what we are up to in that way, but still...
The film showed how the NHS was set up following the Labour landslide after the 2nd World War; and how many of the other state-provisions came into being - e.g. council housing, railways. After people fought for their country and following on from all the death, misery and suffering that people went through, and how brave they had been for their country, something had to be done (or else there might have been riot and revolution). And so the state intervened and did all these wonderful things for the ordinary people. And then Thatcher gets into power, and ever since then, all this good work is being systematically undermined and dismantled. This was what the film showed so clearly. It brought tears to my eyes.
Then, decided - enough purchases for now. Let's look round the stalls. Great variety - Housmans, Virso, Zero, Feminist Library etc etc. Picked up various leaflets.
We missed some of the talks as we got there late, but no matter - 'just enjoy the day'.
Next on the agenda - a talk about Children's Radical Publishing. Excellent. 2 childrens' authors talking about 2 books that they had recently written and published.
Jeanne Willis on 'Wild Child', published by Walker, 2012 - see http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wild-Child-Jeanne-Willis/dp/140632308X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1368862854&sr=8-1&keywords=jeanne+willis+and+wild+child
Sarah Garland on 'Azzi in Between', published by Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2012 - see http://www.amazon.co.uk/Azzi-Between-Sarah-Garland/dp/1847802613/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1368862964&sr=1-1&keywords=sarah+garland+and+azzi+in+between.
Both books were entered for the Children's Radical Book Prize at the fair. Sarah Garland's book won.
In regard to the talks, Jeanne Willis spoke first. She has over 200 books published. Jeanne spoke about and read her latest book, a picture book called 'Wild Child'. It was wonderful. About a child that was able to go off to play and wander all day in the countryside. Jeanne spoke about how she was able to do this with her sister when they were children and how today children are often not allowed/not able to 'run wild' in this way. There is now this great concern with 'safety'. And children are being turned more and more into consumers at ever younger ages.
Whilst 'Azzi in between' focuses on the topic of refugees trying to integrate into the community and the difficulties they face. As it says on the publicity flyer for the book:
"Escaping from her home in a war zone, Azzi has to leave her Grandma behind and embark on a long and difficult journey by land and sea to the safety of a new country. Here, everything is strange to her. How can Azzi learn a new language? How can she make friends at her new school? Will she ever see her Grandma again?"
The book is in a graphic format, thereby making it available to a wider range of ages. Sarah Garland drew the pictures herself.
The talks were followed by questions and comments from the floor. A lady who had recently completed a PhD on children's literature asked a very interesting question. She made the point that the authors were adults, aiming to look at the world through the eyes of children. She said that all that was fine, but wondered what the authors thought to the idea of children getting more involved; with children's thoughts and ideas being valued in this way. The 2 authors seemed to be struggling with this one, so I then suggested the possibility that gifted children could work with adult authors such as themselves, but that this can be very difficult as publishers need to get material published as quickly and efficiently as possible, in order to enhance their profit margins. I was thinking here, in particular, about Victor growing up, being encouraged by his teacher to publish and so much wanting to do it; putting so much effort into it, but how we were not able to achieve it on our own. Jeanne Willis said that if a gifted 9/10 year old contacts her she provides them with information about how to get their stories published, so everything is fine. They can become successful writers; no worries and all that. But I think that Jeanne is being rather romantic here. For most children, it is a lot more complicated and more difficult than that. Perhaps, Jeanne has not come against the rawity of capitalism in the way that we have!
I wanted to say something about Jeanne's book; how wonderful it is but how it is much more difficult for urban children to be able to wander off all day and have these wonderful adventures. I also thought about Glenn and D. H. Lawrence who were bought up by or near the countryside and were able to wander off like this as children and enjoy all the plants, flowers and wildlife etc. Whilst, as an urban child, I was much more confined and could not have such great adventures. Although, I did play in the street - skipping, 2 balls, he, hop-scotch etc. And so I turned to my story books. But I never got to say that in the end; oh well, not to worry.
Next talk: ' What we are fighting for'. This was 4 men talking about their recently published book 'What we are fighting for: a radical collective manifesto', edited by Federico Campagna and Emanuele Campiglio (Pluto Press, 2012). This was also excellent. So much so, that one person at the end of Federico Campagna's talk said that he had been waiting to hear something like that from the left for 30 years. Wow! So what was so important and significant about this? It was the tone of the deliveries, in particular, with the emphasis being on how to defeat the right.
Federico Campagna made it clear that he thought that we were in a War, but that the left do not realise this enough. Thatcher realised this, which was why she was so successful. The left, on the other hand, are too concerned with being tolerant, considerate and peaceful.
Now, whilst we must obviously be against capitalist and imperialist wars, this should not lead us to being against the idea of war in general, he said, when it comes to thinking strategically (as opposed to actually using weapons and killing people). But Victory is what we are after; and the aim is to win; it is not just about a beautiful gesture. The enemy - is someone that has to be defeated. This does not mean that, as individuals they might not be nice people; but one has to differentiate between individual people's personalities, and what side they are actually on/representing.
Also, that we need to be fully aware of the fact that the 'right' have control of 'reality engineering', with PR, advertising, tabloids, TV etc., so they have so much stacked up in their favour in this way. So, we need to know what we are up against.
In addition, we sometimes need strategic disengagement, to enable the left to set longer term goals. Thus, a multiplicity of strands is needed, and different terrains. One man said, for example, that he saw the SWP as his ally but not his comrade. Also, how we are often complicit in our own subjection to power. And that if we can't protect our own Labour party how ever can we defeat capitalism? I thought this was a very good point; well, they were all good points. So, we need a different strategy. The left also needs to work together through the different strands, focus on attacking the actual enemy, with the aim of winning and victory, rather than the left having in-fighting amongst itself. In contrast, 'resistance' is no good as an aim; it just means that one is resisting dying. Something far more positive is needed. We thought it was all really good and very much got to the heart of the matter.
Unfortunately, the session over-run, so there was no time for questions and comments. But Gayle Chester, from the Feminist Library, and acting as Chair, made a closing comment though, which I thought was very unfortunate, to say the least. She asked where the women's voice was; now, as far as I am concerned, this once again, is dividing the left; the very thing that the editors and writers of the book were aiming to overcome. Oh well, such is life.
The contributors in the book include Owen Jones, David Graeber, John Holloway, Nina Power, Mark Fisher, Franco Bifo Berardi and Marina Sitrin.
Then, on to the book prizes. Nina Power was one of the judges. Now, Glenn told me to look out for her and her book, 'One Dimensional Woman' (Zero Books, 2009). She is also a Philosophy lecturer. We wanted to buy this book, and also 'What we are fighting for' - but both were sold out at the fair! Wow - shows how popular they are. I did talk to someone, though, that runs 'The Fuse Book Club', a monthly book club on left non-fiction works, held at Housmans Bookshop. So, perhaps, will get involved with that. Looks interesting, but have to see.
So, all in all, what a great day. We had a bite to eat. What next? We didn't just want to go home. It had been such a wonderful day.
So, what next? Go and watch a film? Go and see a play? Go and see a musical? We wandered round. We went in the Arts Theatre at Leicester Square for a tea. Should we see the play, a love story, that was on there? Alex thought not; he wanted something that had more fire in its belly; preferably something that exposed some of the horror of capitalism. We ended up at Piccadilly Circus. Noticed that 'The Place Beyond the Pines' was still on in one of the cinemas. I told Alexander that Glenn said it would be a good film. We knew nothing much about it; but we went for it - purely going on Glenn's recommendation (not that he had seen it - he was just going on the reviews). But what a winner it turned out to be. It was sensational; it was amazing. Addressing class issues; addressing police corruption issues; addressing the 'Eternal Return of the Same' issues. I would certainly really recommend it. It stars Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes and Ray Liotta. See:
Came home tired but very satisfied and happy and gave the various goodies to Glenn.
P.S. A few days later, I could not resist it - I had to read 'How I killed Margaret Thatcher' by Anthony Cartwright. A very good book, although not quite what I had been expecting. The story was told through the eyes of a 9-year old boy. The author was born in 1973, so I suspect that what he was describing was the type of Thatcher-world that he saw as he was growing up as a boy. Co-incidentally, Anthony Cartwright has also worked as an English teacher in schools in East London.
Take this great paragraph as an example from the book, following on from the boy Sean talking about Thatcher taking away the school milk:
"She must really hate us, I think. You can see if you watch her on telly or even if you hear her voice coming out of the radio that we make her angry. At least, someone makes her angry. Even when she said that Saint Francis stuff, it was like she was telling everyone off. Things are getting out of hand. She wants to stop people going to work, let all the factories close. That's what my grandad says. I want to know why. I don't know what we've done to upset her, but we've done something. If we know why she's angry maybe we can stop her." (p. 86)
The whole book also got me thinking; why did she so much want to destroy various communities - close factories, shut down industries, force pubs and libraries to close in villages etc? And why did she and do the Tories want to make ordinary people pay for their health care and schooling etc? I thought it was just that they did not care about the ordinary people; were not bothered about what happened to them, as their concern is with defending the interest of their own class. But perhaps there is more to it than that.
Perhaps, Thatcher thought that there were just TOO MANY ordinary people; TOO MANY working class people. Sir Keith Joseph said, at the time, that ordinary people were breeding too much; perhaps, we should take his words more literally.
So, what has happened is that ordinary people and communities have died and are dying through neglect; and this will increase now that the National Health Service no longer formally exists (as from 1st April of this year) and private capital starts to make more and more inroads into the NHS. Then, it will be - do or die; pay or die. So, just how different was Margaret Thatcher from Adolf Hitler, one might start to wonder? Is it just another way of getting rid of unwanted people? What a scary thought. But coming back to 'What we are fighting for', if one has a clearer idea about what the enemy is about, what strategies it is using, and what its long-term goal is, then one is better armed, and more able to defeat the enemy.
'How I killed Margaret Thatcher' is definitely a book that I would recommend.