“This is going to be harrowing”, I said to myself as I set out to see Black 47, the newly released film about the Irish Famine. In the event it was much less harrowing than I expected. Indeed parts of it were almost fun. But this is hardly to the film’s credit.
Of course it is very good that there is now a film about the famine — amazingly for the first time ever.
Bob Light’s powerful tribute to John Berger (February SR) contained the claim, “There is no objective way to define what good art…is.” This raises interesting questions.
Clearly the merits of works of art cannot be measured in the same “objective” way as a person’s age or height. But societies (and individuals — including Berger and Light) do make aesthetic judgements and it is a mistake to imagine that these are purely subjective, individual or arbitrary.
I should start by declaring an interest — as a socialist in Ireland where the largest mass movement since the War of Independence has been over the issue of water charges, almost any book dealing with “the politics of water” is bound to demand attention, especially as Mike Gonzalez himself made a contribution to launching the Right 2 Water campaign back in early 2014.
But leave that special interest aside. The fact is that this is a fascinating and very useful analysis which is of international relevance.
The radical left in Ireland has formed an alliance to field 40 candidates for the general election set for April 2016.
The two main forces on the socialist left, the Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA) and People Before Profit (PBP), are putting together a unified parliamentary group to maximise the left vote in the upcoming April 2016 general election.
This alliance illustrates the space that has opened up in Irish politics.
The recent Euro and local elections showed the left making major advances and gave proof of a substantial process of radicalisation in the Irish working class.
For more than 80 years politics in the Republic of Ireland was dominated by two Tory parties, Fianna Fail (FF) and Fine Gael (FG). The lead was played by FF which was the governing party for 61 out of 79 years between 1932 and 2011.
The counter-revolution in Egypt, together with the confused outcome of the upheavals in Ukraine, has revived the old argument that real popular power is impossible. John Molyneux explains why this is wrong.
The state of the world - with climate change, poverty, wars, racism and much else - is such that it is not easy for our rulers to persuade people that everything is alright. But they don't need to. All they need to do is persuade people that there is nothing they can do about it. This is why, when it comes to justifying capitalism, inequality and war, the mantra of: "But you can't change human nature" has always been popular with the powerful and drummed into the heads of ordinary people.
Towards the end of last year, unelected "technocrats" were installed in power in both Greece and Italy. John Molyneux argues that while capitalism came into being with grand claims about universal freedom, each expansion of democracy has had to be fought for - and is never completely secure.
In the 21st century all politicians, almost without exception, proclaim their commitment to democracy. This goes not only for the likes of Obama, Sarkozy, Merkel and Cameron, but also for Nick Griffin of the fascist BNP. Even the most obviously anti-democratic political forces and organisations say they believe in democracy. So the Swedish fascists call themselves the Swedish Democrats while Mubarak's party in Egypt was the National Democratic Party.
Chris Harman, Bookmarks, £16.99
When Chris Harman died so unexpectedly in Cairo last November, the whole international socialist movement lost one of its most outstanding writers and theoreticians. This makes the rapid publication of this first volume of Chris's Selected Writings especially welcome.