From the horse’s mouth

20 November 2012

If anyone has any doubts about the racist nature of Israeli society then the following quotes by Gilad Sharon, son of Ariel Sharon should clear the mist from your eyes:

“There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they’d really call for a ceasefire,” he wrote. “We need to flatten entire neighbourhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza” — Jerusalem Post

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A history lesson By William Bowles

25 December 2011 — Strategic Culture Foundation

I don’t remember much about my high school years. Some of the highs (few in number) come back to me but it was mostly lows which probably explains why I don’t remember much. It’s not that I was dumb, I just had no motivation, but I was interested in history, jazz and politics (thanks to my parents) and even won a prize for a history essay as well as starting up the school’s first jazz appreciation society (not appreciated by the school I might add, the head of music tore down my posters).

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In Training By William Bowles

31 October 2011

Some readers may find it difficult to believe that for a brief time during my early, spotty teenage years, like thousands of others of my kind, I hung out out on railway stations collecting engine numbers and ticking them off in my Ian Allen train spotters guide. When I look back on those days, I can’t for the life of me figure out why I did it. What was the attraction?

Perhaps it was the smell of steam and coal, which when mixed in the right combination, is a heady brew, something akin to the best sensemilla to a twelve-year old and by some miracle my Observer’s Book of Railway Locomotives of Britain has somehow survived the years, minus the dust cover unfortunately. A birthday present from my mum in 1957.

Victorian industrial capitalism is now viewed through steam-fogged glasses and it’s been transported to the fictional land of Heritage where the past is embalmed in nostalgia. All those amazing machines, with their pistons, cogs, gears and levers, all whirring away in perfect harmony and best illustrated by the steam engine, the engine of industrial capitalism.

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The invention of the railway network is probably the British Empire’s greatest, and only contribution to world culture but in an irony only possible for capitalism to produce, the railway– that made industrial capitalism possible–was jettisoned in the 1960s as surplus to requirement by those self-same ‘captains of industry’ the railway created in the first place.

Jettisoning the past is a central theme of capitalism, a necessary component if the nature of production is to be continually revolutionized and along with the workers who make it all possible.

When I was a kid apparently lots of boys my age wanted to be engine drivers (I wasn’t one of them), though it was a dirty, dangerous and grossly underpaid profession. But such is the nature of working class camaraderie, a ‘band of brothers’ but it also had its pecking order, with each function clearly delineated by union membership, grade and so forth. And an entirely male preserve.

A few years ago I wrote a piece about the Indian state-owned rail network, the largest in the world, carrying tens of millions of passengers a day and now an integral component of Indian culture in every sense of the word. Not without its problems and contradictions of course, especially as the neoliberal agenda asserts itself.

In the same essay I also wrote the following:

A couple of facts: The Indian Railway is the single biggest civil employer of people on the planet and the then newly-appointed minister of Transport’s first act was to rescind a decision to replace the locally made pottery cups that everyone traveling on the railway uses with plastic ones, because the switch resulted in 100,000 potters being made redundant.

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Now I contend that this is a good example of socialist culture in action. It may not be the most ‘efficient’ enterprise on the planet, it’s bureaucratic beyond belief, the entire network–the biggest in Asia–runs on paper, lots of paper, vast tomes get exchanged between guards when they switch shifts but so what?

The issue here is that the Indian Railway is not only intrinsic to Indian culture but also indispensable, socially as well as economically. It’s not merely an enterprise, for grouped around it are literally millions of people who are not directly employed by the Railway but who service the passengers as well as the railway’s needs. — ‘All Aboard!’

The contrast with the country that invented the railway could not be more stark once the UK decided that the automobile was the new generator of profit. The railway a relic of the 19th century but above all ‘unprofitable’, in money terms that is.

The double-whammy of the Beeching cuts and the privatization of the railways has left the the UK with the most expensive rail fares in Europe and the worst service. This from the country that invented it!

In retrospect however, I wonder if the ‘captains of industry’ are ruing the day they let the former boss of ICI, Beeching lose on the most comprehensive rail network in the world and smashed it to pieces? Literally. Capital infrastructure built over two centuries is not now easily or cheaply replaced but indicates just how short-sighted capitalism is.

 

Capitalism: what a load of rubbish! By William Bowles

18 October 2011

Something has to be done about a world rapidly filling up with the (often poisonous) rubbish that capitalism produces in vast abundance. Rubbish that will be with us for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Even the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is carpeted with the stuff, mostly plastic waste of all kinds. Even the remotest corners of our once, largely pristine planet are now poisoned with the excreta of capitalism’s insane and so far, unstoppable and largely arbitrary productive capacity.

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An Epoch of Rest By William Bowles

17 September 2009

“It is right and necessary that all men should have work to do which shall be worth doing, and be of itself pleasant to do; and which shall be done under such conditions as would make it neither overwearisome nor over-anxious.” — William Morris, ‘Art and Socialism’.

news-from-nowhere-213x300William Morris’s News from Nowhere, his future history of a ‘return’ to an idealized vision of a pre-capitalist society, part feudal, part agrarian socialism, I read when I was a teenager, and perhaps oddly, I also read it as a science fiction story.

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My Dad, me and Nature By William Bowles

5 February 2009

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The badge of the Woodcraft Folk

Unlike most of the kids I grew up with, my folks introduced me to Nature at a very early age and they introduced it to me in very specific ways, especially my father, Roy. Not just trips to the country at weekends, weather permitting, but a view of Nature as all-encompassing including us humans.

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My dad, building microscopes at Baker’s Microscopes

Roy was a self-taught man who had left school at perhaps fourteen or fifteen and like others of his class, time and politics, he felt a deep sense of inferiority when it came to knowledge. Thus he did everything he could to educate himself in all kinds of subjects especially the English language, science, history and of course politics and surprisingly for those days, Nature.

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Book Review: Who said Marx wasn’t Green? By William Bowles

1 September 2007

Book Review: Ecology Against Capitalism by John Bellamy Foster

“An ecological approach to the economy is about having enough, not having more.” — John Bellamy Foster

“For the first time — nature becomes purely an object for humankind, purely a matter of utility; ceases to be recognized as a power for itself; and the theoretical discovery of its autonomous laws appears merely as a ruse so as to subject it under human needs, whether as an object of consumption or as a means of production. [my emph. Ed]” — Karl Marx, Grundrisse

For some of us on the Left it appears that confusion reigns in much of what”s left of the Left, caught up as it is in its own largely petty squabblings, mostly about who said what to whom and when, thus when a book comes along like Ecology Against Capitalism, I feel damn well vindicated!

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Blogopopsicles of the world unite! by William Bowles

3 August 2007

The Web has opened a veritable can of worms as far as the mainstream media are concerned, even so-called liberal journalists seem to feel threatened by the emergence of a global, independent media, the latest one to emerge being Robert Fisk (who I referred to in my last piece). Now whether, as fellow blogopopsicle Chris Cook, publisher of Pacific Free Press opined, it’s because he’s afraid of the technology or, as I offered, because he sees his privileged position challenged by what he obviously thinks of as a bunch of opinionated, jumped up ‘amateurs’ invading his patch, is debatable. I obviously lean toward the latter.

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Completely Carbonated by William Bowles

5 July 2007

Garbage

Well it’s started, in fact it’s more than started and it’s driving me mad. You know what I’m talking about, my fucking ‘carbon footprint’! Every time I hear the phrase, which is every damn day, it really pisses me off.

‘Carbon footprint’ is the new Osama, the new bogie man with which to frighten the kids. And as the campaign gathers speed, awful things happen to your mind; the ‘green virus’ infects you, there is no escape.

So last night I was in the kitchen getting a meal together and I had to open a new packet of spices and as I poured it into a container and then dumped the empty carton into the garbage can a strange feeling came over me; I was thinking about the fate of the empty carton.

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One square metre and a stool By William Bowles

8 June 2007

‘All the freaky people make the beauty of the world’ — ‘All The Freaky People,’ Michael Franti & Spearhead

1 Square MetreFor the most part, television is crap, driven as it is either by commercial interests or in the case of the state-run network, by something that tries to mimic the demographically driven commercial networks. But occasionally good stuff pops up, for example, every year the BBC has this daily programme that runs for three weeks, called Springwatch, based in an ‘organic’ farm somewhere in the West Country. It has hundreds of tiny cameras voyeuristically placed to watch the animals do their spring thing.

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