Cultural Dissent

Eleanor Marx
By Rachel Holmes
Bloomsbury, 2015
508 pages

“Is it not wonderful when you come to look at things squarely in the face, how rarely we seem to practise all the fine things we preach to others?” lamented Eleanor Marx in 1892. 

Karl Marx’s youngest daughter was to be the tragic victim of this truism, as Rachel Holmes explores in her biography that extricates this pioneering revolutionary socialist feminist from the giant shadow of her father.

Lady Constance Lytton: Aristocrat, Suffragette, Martyr
Lyndsey Jenkins
Biteback Publishing, 2015
282 pages

When Lady Constance Bulwer-Lytton was arrested in 1909 for protesting outside British parliament, and went on prison hunger-strike, for demanding women’s right to vote, she was, to prevent an embarrassing political fuss, released early.

This avoided the spectacle of one of Britain’s best-connected aristocrats being subjected to the government’s policy of force-feeding hunger-striking suffragettes.

Of course, die-hard misogynist and self-confessed Donald Trump fan Sam Newman was hostile to the AFL Women’s (AFLW) league infamously calling it “unbelievably stupid and ridiculous” on Channel Nine’s The Footy Show.

It turns out plenty think otherwise.

“Now we’re judging people by their religion — trying to keep Muslims out,” said Stan Van Gundy, head coach of the US National Basketball Association (NBA) team Detroit Piston in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigration and refugees from seven predominantly Muslim nations.

“We’re getting back to the days of putting the Japanese in relocation camps, of Hitler registering the Jews. That’s where we’re heading.”

George Mann is a folk singer from New York. He is also an activist, artist and staunch unionist.

Mann is returning to Australia to perform his inspiring collection of activist folk songs. He is an annual visitor to Victorian Trades Hall and Geelong Trades Hall. He has a dedicated following, especially among the trade unionists who love his rousing rendition of labour movement favourites like, “Union Maid” and “The Internationale”.

I often hear that music and politics should remain separate. I snigger at such a concept; as if they have ever been separate.

Those proponents may as well take the next logical turn and suggest that drugs and pop have never taken the same fork in the road.

Without some form of statement, music would have become as relevant as the novella, or Spanish mime.

Every turn in society has been reflected in the music of the day, from medieval folk to early jazz and blues, to punk and beyond. In some societies, it is one of the few ways of telling how brutal life is.

Palestinian artists, cultural groups and human rights supporters have welcomed the Australian-British singer Natalie Imbruglia’s cancellation of her planned March performance in Tel Aviv and thanked her for deciding to be “on the right side of history, on the side of the oppressed”.

Immediately after contributing to his team’s Super Bowl victory on February, Martellus Bennett of the New England Patriots was asked what he thought about an upcoming visit to Mexico to represent the National Football League (NFL).

“Tear down the wall! Tear down the wall! That’s what I think about going to Mexico,” he cried.

Bennett then became the first of a number of Patriots players to confirm they would skip a visit with President Donald Trump at the White House.

Mapping My Return: A Palestinian Memoir
By Salman Abu Sitta
American University in Cairo Press
2016

Given the centrality of memory and history to the modern Palestinian identity, it is fitting that the number of memoirs and diaries being published by Palestinians seems to be rising.

“The United States has almost 1000 military bases around the world, covering every continent, every ocean,” filmmaker John Pilger says. “China has one!” 

He points out: “The US Pacific Command in Hawaii claims responsibility for 52% of the Earth’s surface.”

The Coming War On China
Written & directed by John Pilger
http://thecomingwarmovie.com
Screening now, visit site for details

The Coming War on China is possibly John Pilger’s best film in years.

In classic Pilger style, the Australian-born filmmaker — responsible for dozens of films critical of great power — depicts the threat the US war machine poses in the Asian region in the context of the rise of China.

English singer Lily Allen unveiled a haunting cover of Rufus Wainwright's 2007 song “Going to a Town” along with a stark video of her performance of the track at the Women's March against Donald Trump in London on January 21,

In an article for The Conversation, Daryl Adair, a professor of Sport Management at the University of Technology, Sydney, makes a pertinent observation regarding the interaction between sport and politics: “It is sometimes said that sport ought to be separate from politics, or that politics should be removed from sport. These sentiments are well meaning – if idealistic.”

Time to Draw the Line
Directed by Amanda King & Fabio Cavadini
2016, 58 minutes
Demand.Film

A new documentary examines the largely overlooked story of the dispute between Australia and its near neighbour – the new state of East Timor.

Oro
Written & directed by Alvin Yapan
Feliz Film Productions, 2016

Oro, the Filipino film written and directed by Alvin Yapan released in December, is based on the 2014 murder of four small-scale miners in Sitio, Lahuy.

For 20 years, Elmer (Joem Bascon) and his men have freely mined in the tiny but gold-rich island of Lahuy Island in the town of Caramoan in Bicol.

The New England Patriots won the NFL Super Bowl 34–28, in the most gobsmacking, unfathomable comeback in Super Bowl history. Down 28–3 against the Atlanta Falcons, they came all the back to win in overtime in Houston, Texas on February 5.

That will mean joy in the White House — as Donald Trump’s favourite American Football team is victorious. It is also joy for Patriots player Martellus Bennett, who won’t be joining the team upon their inevitable White House visit, in protest against the man inhabiting that space.

Revolution in Rojava: Democratic Autonomy & Women’s Liberation in Syrian Kurdistan
By Michael Knapp, Anja Flack & Ercan Ayboga (translated by Janet Biehl)
Pluto, 2016
285 pp., $38.95

Rojava, which is Kurdish for the “west”, is to be found in Northern Syria. In the middle of a conflict zone, marked by the war against the Assad regime, a Turkish invasion and ongoing conflict with the brutal jihadists of ISIS and al-Nusra, the Kurds and their allies are creating a new kind of democratic system.

Janis Joplin.

Janis, Little Girl Blue
Directed by Amy J. Berg
https://youtu.be/YodSfezlpeQ

Janis Joplin, the gravel-voiced Queen of the San Francisco psychedelic music scene, may seem a bit dated to today’s listeners. But this documentary shows just how important she is.

Born into a conservative family in a Texas back-water, she discovered early that she was different. Her sexual feelings towards other girls cut her apart from the rest of the KKK-drenched society.

Having come back from a much needed break with much time spent curled up with books, here are some notes on seven of interest to ecosocialists.

I particularly enjoyed two excellent accounts of the role of trees and other plants in Earth System. The Emerald Planet, by David Beerling, (Oxford University Press, 2007) covers the 500 million years since plants migrated from the oceans.

Protesters hold up a placards in support of Leader of the opposition Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn outside parliament during a pro-Corbyn demonstration in London in June last year.

Alex Nunns’ new book, The Candidate, charts the improbable rise of the socialist Jeremy Corbyn from a long-time backbencher to the leader of the Labour Party.

Hendrix, possibly the greatest-ever rock guitarist, arrived in public consciousness at exactly the right moment. His music summarised the desire of millions of youth to break through to a new society.

Serena Williams and Common discuss race, gender and sport in an ESPN interview.

One of the best tennis players and athletes of all time, US star Serena Williams has been scrutinised so much for being a strong, Black woman that she herself began to doubt her own strength and body, the star told her long-time friend and rapper, Common, in a special ESPN interview last month.

“There was a time where I didn’t feel incredibly comfortable about my body because I felt like I was too strong,” Williams said during the one hour-long ESPN special, The Undefeated In-Depth: Serena with Common.

The Conscription Conflict & the Great War
Edited by Robin Archer, Joy Damousi, Murray Goot & Sean Scalmer
Monash University Publishing, 2016
Paperback, $29.95.

Activist filmmaker Zebedee Parkes, a member of Socialist Alliance who produces content for Green Left TV, won “best short documentary” at the 2016 Sydney Indie Film Festival for his refugee documentary For My Friend In Detention.

Who Rules The World?
By Noam Chomsky
Hamish Hamilton, 2016

Noam Chomsky, who turns 88 this month, revolutionised the study of linguistics in the second half of the 20th century, starting with books like Syntactic Structures (1957) and Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (1965). He remains professor emeritus at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology.

The Business Affairs of Mr Julius Caesar
By Bertolt Brecht
Bloomsbury, 2016
216 pages, $31.99

Like Karl Marx before him, the great German writer Bertolt Brecht had a passion for Roman history — and it shines through in the sadly incomplete text of The Business Affairs of Mr Julius Caesar. He researched it for years before first attempting to write it as a play and then turning to the novel form.

Nazis In Our Midst: German-Australians, Internment and the Second World War
David Henderson
Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2016
197 pages

When World Word II began, Australia’s then Prime Minister Robert Menzies said that it would be “absurd to intern refugees and anti-fascists when they were on the Allies’ side”.

Yet, writes La Trobe University historian, David Henderson, in his case-study history, Nazis in our Midst, this is exactly what happened in Australia during the war.

This year has seen a remarkable renaissance of star athletes in the United States for the first time since the 1960s and ’70s using their hyper-exalted platform to speak about politics.

One person who can speak about these eras like no one else is legendary sports sociologist Dr Harry Edwards, who played a role in advising activist athletes from Muhammad Ali to Colin Kaepernick.

Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century: Globalization, Super-Exploitation, and Capitalism’s Final Crisis
By John Smith
Monthly Review Press, 2016

On April 24, 2013 a clothing factory in Rana Plaza, Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed, killing 1133 workers and injuring 2500 others.

This image of super-exploited, fatally-trapped workers, hemmed in by national borders and racist migration policies preventing them from moving to safer, better-paid work opens John Smith’s book — and illustrates his outrage.

As an openly racist president was elected in the US, artist-activists reacted to Donald Trump across Latin America and the Caribbean. Below is a selection, abridged from TeleSUR English.

***

1. Mexico's old-school rock-rap band Molotov did not miss the opportunity to take a jab at both US president-elect Donald Trump and current Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

The 71-year-old Canadian rock legend Neil Young’s latest song, “Indian Givers”, seeks to raise awareness about the Native American water protectors in North Dakota protesting the destructive four-state Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

Adding to ongoing protests against Donald Trump’s election victory, basketball teams appear to have also come out to play against the US president-elect. At least three NBA teams have said they will not be staying at Trump brand hotels, with other teams expected to follow their lead.

The Milwaukee Bucks, Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks have already stopped, or will no longer stay, in Trump branded accommodation while they are on the road to play against the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls.

The Mexican and US national teams defied protocol on November 11 in their World Cup qualifier as they posed together for a team photograph. The move was a display of unity as US president-elect Donald Trump threatens to tear the two nations apart.

Mexico won the game, hosted in Ohio, with a 2-1 final score.

Normally, football teams pose separately before the game, but this time the players decided to pose together to strike back at Trump’s proposal to make Mexico pay for a wall between the two countries to keep immigrants out.

Ideas for the Struggle
By Marta Harnecker
Can be read at Links International Journal of Socialist renewal

Ideas for the Struggle, a pamphlet filled with lessons for those seeking social change by the Chilean-born revolutionary socialist writer Marta Harnecker, should be required reading for all organisers, political activists and would-be revolutionaries in these troubling and challenging times.

In unity with all at Standing Rock today we do stand
To the many First Nations elders, brothers and sisters protecting their water and lands
Protectors not protestors defending Mother Earth
For they know life with no water has no worth.
It's common sense you know, there is no tricks
Basic science teaches us that oil and water don't mix.
Since this pipeline began nothing has gone right
Explosions, spillages and loss of life
The worst spillage 840,000 gallons North Dakota 2013
Over 18 million people living downstream.

Imagine hearing that your favourite athlete had drowned after being stuffed in the hull of a ship in order to avoid authorities and cross a treacherous body of water. Their goal in this alternative universe was to flee violence as well as earn enough to support their families.

That is exactly what happened to the goalkeeper for the Gambian national women’s football team, Fatim Jawara.

Australian soldiers during the Boer war.

Unnecessary Wars
Henry Reynolds
Newsouth, 2016
266 pages

Australia’s first war — the Boer War in South Africa, 1899-1902 — notes historian Henry Reynolds in Unnecessary Wars, was closely bound up with the uniting of the six Australian colonies into a single nation within the British empire.

This conjunction of militarism, nationalism and imperialism was ominous. Australia has never broken the habit of being at the military beck and call of its imperial managers.

Pages