Culture clash

Kick over the statues

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“Theory is grey my friend but the tree of life blooms forever green”, as Lenin put it quoting Goethe. It means that society, class struggle and politics do not develop in simple linear ways but in surprising and unforeseeable forms requiring new tactics and analysis.

History does not move at a uniform pace and in direct ways: it jumps, stops and doubles back on itself. At times it feels less like a tree and more like a bramble patch. Not only that but new movements and social developments do not express themselves directly but often in old forms and languages.

Caitlyn Jenner: muddle on the left

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Just possibly readers of Socialist Review may not be acquainted with the Kardashians and so may also be unaware that one of the show’s participants, 1976 Olympic gold decathlete Bruce Jenner, now Caitlyn, has recently come out as transgender.

Millions have watched interviews and read articles about her transition and social media has been buzzing. Much reaction has been supportive, but some has been hostile.

Neighbourhood predators

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Gentrification is often described as a tale of David and Goliath where local residents and local businesses struggle to keep their heads above water against a rising tide of global corporate chain stores and heartless property developers.

It is the ground offensive in capitalism’s war on the poor, a street by street up-marketisation of shop fronts, housing, public space, goods and services. It is market speculation and commodity trading in culture and community that drives inequality and class segregation.

The dark heart of West Germany

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Günter Grass, novelist, poet and human rights campaigner, died in April aged 87. He was called the conscience of Germany, or more accurately West Germany. But at the heart of both the writer and the state lay a dark secret that has haunted his reputation. He was born in 1927 in the “free” city of Danzig, a port between Germany and Poland, today Gdansk in Poland. Its free-ness was a state given after the First World War as a price paid by Germany for its defeat.

Safe spaces?

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The cancellation of feminist comedian Kate Smurthwaite’s gig at Goldsmiths College in February — possibly out of fear of protests by other feminists over her views on sex work — has escalated into a row over who is allowed to speak on campuses and who decides.
Different examples are being lumped together with little clarity. A recent article in the Guardian is a good example:

All white on the night

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The arts establishment struggled to explain the lack of black and Asian actors shortlisted for the British film industry’s Bafta awards last month.

Benedict Cumberbatch managed to stuff a foot in his mouth, saying, “As far as ‘coloured’ actors go, it gets really difficult in the UK, and a lot of my friends have had more opportunities [in the US] than in the UK, and that’s something that needs to change.” Of course, Hollywood’s Oscars didn’t show any sign of recognising the array of non-white talent either, with an equally unrepresentative crop.

Satire should spear the powerful

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The savage killing of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and journalists by terrorists in Paris is utterly contemptible, but not inexplicable. For me as a cartoonist this seemed to be horribly close to home. As the great cartoonist Joe Sacco commented immediately after the massacre, “This is my tribe”. Sadly, the ensuing media storm has done little to explain and a lot to foment division and put the blame upon “backward” Islam and Muslims in general.

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