Bem Bulletin #4: February 2015 -We Don’t Live In A Democracy Special, starring Lord Fink, Peter Oborne, Jack Straw, Malcolm Rikfind and Capitalism

democracyThis month: we wrote something outlining what for the moment we’re calling Modern Socialism, an attempt at a non-dogmatic, ecologically-sound twenty-first century redefinition of radical Left politics. It’s really what this blog was started for, and it only took us four years to finally get round to it. And that’s about it, because we spent most of February helping someone recover from major heart surgery, so here’s a list of fairly recent posts for you to peruse instead.

Fantasy fascism: how to enjoy action films, despite the politics

Podemos and pragmatic radicalism

Bemolutionary Mix-Tape 2014

Doing It For The Kids: The environment, the future, and whether they have one

The NHS in ‘The Apprentice’ society

That said, given that it’s been such a glorious month for British democracy, we still found the time for an extra-specially long Bem Bulletin to celebrate.

Music: Jimmy Witherspoon & Robben Ford; Paco de Lucia (on the first anniversary of his death) with John McLaughlin

In this month’s Bem Bulletin:

  1. Tax Avoidance for Everyone
  2. Peter Oborne and the Corporate Media
  3. Cash for Access
  4. Taking Liberties
  5. I Married ISIS

Continue reading “Bem Bulletin #4: February 2015 -We Don’t Live In A Democracy Special, starring Lord Fink, Peter Oborne, Jack Straw, Malcolm Rikfind and Capitalism”


Spain (Paco de Lucia and John McLaughlin)

A year ago today, Paco de Lucia died. Here’s some more from him.

Cheese-jazz pioneer Chick Corea’s flabby standard ‘Spain’ was pared down to a rippling duet between flamenco colossus Paco de Lucia and jazzy Yorkshireman turned Indian mystic Mahavishnu John McLaughlin during tours of their Guitar Trio in the ‘80s (initially, the three was completed by Larry Coryell, then Al Di Meola). Corea’s original composition was a schmaltzy samba tune, but quoted the stately adagio from Joaquín Rodrigo’s renowned guitar concerto Concierto de Aranjuez – and although it cuts the quote out completely, this sparsely elegant McLaughlin/de Lucia reinterpretation still manages to be more faithful to the feel of Rodrigo’s piece than the Corea full-band version that lifts the adagio note for note.

Modern Socialism #1: The Craze Not Sweeping The Nation

modern socialist triangle
Not the Modern Socialist triangle, but nice and spinny nonetheless

THE GIST: As the name suggests, Modern Socialism is an attempt to modernise socialism. It’s not about ‘modernisation’ in the toxic, principles-shedding, status quo-pandering New Labour sense of the word. It’s about revamping the radical left into something far more open, accessible, flexible and ecologically-focused.

The Marxes and Engelses of the world thought they’d created a ‘scientific’ socialism, one based on processes and principles they’d divined from studying economics, sociology and history – and that therefore was much better than the wishy-washing moralising of the socialisms that had come before. But a lot of their ‘scientific’ analysis was wrong. A lot of their predictions didn’t come to pass. Meanwhile, it’s always going to be wrong that millionaires exist in a world where people starve.

Rather than some grand, sweeping theory of everything, Modern Socialism needs to be more humble – a values system and a set of priorities used to approach the problems the species faces. A lot of these (appropriately) red lines should be the same ones the Left has always had – egalitarianism, libertarianism, public ownership of crucial services and industries, etc. But there are also areas the conventional Left has tended to neglect, and, unfortunately, they happen to be staggeringly important.

Unforgivably often, left-wingers have ignored immense human suffering in the global South, caused by entirely preventable poverty, starvation and disease. They’ve also been distinctly rubbish about embracing eco-politics on a planet where another hundred or so years of the status quo will probably leave the environment irreparably damaged – and our prospects of survival along with it.

To be properly viable in the twenty-first century, we need a socialism that’s both radically humanitarian and ecological – that takes humanitarian suffering as seriously as it takes anything, and that aims at making genuinely sustainable, egalitarian societies free from dependence on economic growth. Continue reading “Modern Socialism #1: The Craze Not Sweeping The Nation”

I Want A Little Girl (Jimmy Witherspoon & Robben Ford)

Blues foghorn Jimmy Witherspoon lays out a characteristically progressive pre-nup with his prospective ‘little girl’, shocking the inevitable hordes of rich white hippies at the 1972 Monterey Jazz Festival by expressing a willingness to trade cunnilingus for regular dinners of ‘black-eyed peas, red beans and rice, and a little chilli’. His generosity extends so far as to suggest his eventual beau wouldn’t even have ‘to wear nylon hoes’. Ah, the Blues, so earthily compelling, so politically dubious. Jazzy blues guitar wiz Robben Ford sweetly noddles alongside his hollering paymaster.