Tag Archives: politics

The Voice Of The People

This poem was published in The Northern Star and Leeds General Advertiser, 4 December, 1841. This was a Chartist newspaper published between 1837 and 1852, and best known for advancing the reform issues articulated by proprietor Feargus O’Connor. The paper published poetry from poets such as Shelley as well as poems sent in by working class readers.

The Voice of the People

Tis the voice of the people I hear it on high,
It peals o’er the mountains – it soars to the sky;
Through wide fields of heather, it wings its swift flight
Like thunders of heaven arrayed in the night.
It rushes still on, like the torrents wide roar;
And bears on its surges the wrongs of the poor.
Its shock like the earthquake shall fill with dismay,
The hearts of the tyrants and sweep them away.

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Asian Girl

Breaking The Silence is a book of writing by Asian women put out by Centerprise in 1984. In it various women, identified only by their first name, wrote of their experiences. The work is in English as well as a handwritten in their mother tongue. There’s writing in Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi, Hindi, and Urdu.

When You Don’t Feel Like A Foreigner

It is never easy being a foreigner in a country; it is even more difficult when you don’t feel like a foreigner.

I am an Asian girl, originally from India, though I was born here in England 18 years ago. I live in relative comfort in an exceptionally nice area of town, with all the amenities and many of the luxuries at my disposal. I enjoy my life here and would find it difficult to imagine living in another country.

I think people in all spheres of life are bound to experience prejudice at one time or another, be it for their race, colour or creed but perhaps we are subject to prejudice in all these areas. I have found that there are two main types of prejudice, the kind that is expressed in loud explicit and often violent tones, and the other a more subtle though no less expressive type. The former I do not experience directly very often and as yet never in its violent form. It is intimidating to have to walk past a group of young ‘skinheads’ and suffer being called names such as ‘smelly paki’ or ‘chocolate drop’ or have to cross the road to avoid a group of older ‘skinheads’. I believe these human beings who look and sound as they do are as much a pest to English people as they are to us Asians.

The second form of prejudice is the type I encounter with my good friends. My best friends are all English and white. Phrases like ‘I don’t think of you as being an Indian, I mean you don’t smell of curry or speak with an Indian accent’. Often they astonish me in their naivety of thinking that all Indian are like that. Another interesting example of prejudice amongst friends is a conversation I had with a boy I was going out with at the time. He simply adored me and I him but he could not accept my being superior to him in any way. We were discussing our ‘O’ level results and although he did not do as well as me he insisted that had he worked harder or even worked at all he would have done better than me. I thought at first that this was because I was a girl, but from later conversations I realised that it was because I was an Indian girl.

Parental care, to all appearances , is much more protective and thus restrictive in Indian homes than English ones. From my own experience I find it extremely annoying especially since my friends are not treated in the same way. My parents insist on knowing where I am when I do out, though not necessarily who I am with, what time I will be home and how I am getting home. Whereas my friends are allowed to walk home after a party, although they must tell their parents at what time they’ll be home. Personally I find this an overprotective part of my parents’ nature, but of course, having spoken to many other Indian girls in my college this constitutes complete freedom in comparison to them. Naturally since most of us are influenced to a high degree by the views of our parents, maybe many of my own ideas are simply extensions of those of my parents and often my own ideas are in conflict with my friends.
Marriage of course is a major topic of conversation for girls of my age, since hopefully, within the next few years we all hope to be married. My friends find my marriage arrangements interesting because they are never sure whether or not a marriage is to be arranged for me. My views on this subject have changed over the years. Until a few years ago I felt arranged marriages to be very unromantic and I couldn’t understand how couples could be content with this arrangement. I then began speaking to girls who considered an arranged marriage to be acceptable, in some cases even desirable, Having increased in years and experience my views have been somewhat tempered. I now believe that, from reading recent statistics, ‘love’ marriages are not more successful than arranged marriages; however, I feel that I should have a complete choice in the man to whom I am to spend the rest of my life with, the chance to make up my own mind about the person I could be happy with, the freedom to decide my future be it right or the wrong choice.

Religion is a subject which many of us have no choice about. If one is born into Hindu, Muslim or Christian households, one is compelled to live by rules and traditions dictated by that religion. Personally I do not believe that religion is in any way a wonderful thing. Blind faith in anything is short-sighted but following traditions when they are not your true beliefs is perhaps worse.

I am an Indian girl in England and the conflicts this causes are sometimes quite frightening but I would rather live in England with all the faults than anywhere else.

Rita

Cold In England

This poem in support of the Republicans fighting the Spanish Civil War was published in the Daily Worker, 22 December, 1938.

Cold In England

It’s bitterly cold in England today
And I crouch over a heaped-up fire and still
Can’t get warm.

Over there in that front line held by a miracle
An army shaped by a people’s will,
Crucible-tested,
Faces, with stern but hungry jaws,
Well-fed, well-clothed barbarians,
And shivers – with cold, not fear …
Somebody opens a door and the icy wind
Cuts through the room and the razor-thrusts my back,
Can’t get warm.

Over there they will jump out of bed tonight
– They are hungry, had no supper before they lay down –
They will put on those summer frocks and hide underground
They will be cold with the gnawing cold of ill-clad hunger,
Before they are cold with the peaceful cold of sudden death
Sent from the sky by the well-fed barbarians.

Shall I ever get warm again?
Can I ever be warm again?
Not till my comrades and I Have sent that foodship,
Sent those clothes,
To carry warmth,
Warmth of body,
And the rich warmth of comradeship,
Warmth.

It’s bitterly cold in England today
And I crouch over a heaped-up fire and still
Can’t get warm.

H. M. King

Anarchism 1962

This look at British anarchism comes from Anarchy, number 18, August, 1962.

The Anarchists: From Outside

Brief article by Nicholas Harman on aspects of the contemporary UK anarchist movement in 1962.

ANARCHISM is “permanent revolution”, easier to define by its opposites (fascism, capitalism, communism, for instance) than by its positive qualities. It is no longer (if ever it was such a thing) a movement of bearded central Europeans stuffing, with tears in the eyes, indiscriminate bombs into letter-boxes in order to bring society crumbling about our ears. Nor, perhaps, is it the movement of wet idealists that it may indeed once have been; anarchists now may well argue for the abolition of present forms of social organisation, though not because they believe that men will, if left alone, run their lives successfully. The contemporary anarchist may resist rule by others simply on the grounds that others are too stupid and too self-interested to be allowed to run any lives other than their own.

Such a pessimist would, in Britain now, belong to one of the individual-anarchist groups. On another wing of anarchism, equally respectably descended from Proudhon through Bakunin, come the remaining anarcho-syndicalists, believing in control by the workers of units of production, and often campaigning (perhaps together with members of the Independent Labour Party) for a re-humanisation of the trade unions. Anarchists, of whichever wing or of neither, are extremist libertarians; they are in revolt against large-scale organisation because it has failed to provide for the sick and the old, because it has failed to produce beautiful things, because it has destroyed human relationships between human beings, because it has blighted sex or craftsmanship or kindliness. The main centre for anarchist thought in Britain is a bookshop in Fulham; the main organs of anarchist thought are the weekly FREEDOM and the monthly ANARCHY. The latter has a circulation of some 1,000 in Britain and 1,000 abroad; but the quality of the writing it contains deserves better.

For anarchism has among its supporters far more than its share of dons, writers, architects, typographers, and other applied artists (not unexpectedly, the best jazz musicians in Britain are apt to turn up to blow at the Anarchists’ Ball). Schools run on anarchist principles have won themselves, together with the salacious interest of the popular Press, the respect (as experiments, if not as achievements) of many non- anarchist educationists. The social malaise expressed by so many disillusioned social-realist writers in Britain (say, Colin MacInnes, Alan Sillitoe, Adrian Mitchell) has been hailed by anarchists as a vindication of what they have been saying for years: American beatnikery, as distinct from the British bowler-hatted trad jazz variety, represents a similar disillusion with society.

This, no doubt, is the growth strain in anarchism. For anarchists have found in the Bomb the ultimate support for the proposition that the State is always wicked. To sit down in front of the American and Russian embassies and in front of the Ministry of Defence all at once would be the ideal act for an anarchist of our time. Whitehall, the Bayswater Road, and Grosvenor Square are too far apart for this to be possible; but the anarchists, rather than any more conventionally organised political movement, can claim sincerely that the young sitters from the art schools of Britain are with them in spirit — whether they know it or not.

NICHOLAS HARMAN
(Political Quarterly, July-Sept. 1962).

No Medals

Seven years after the end of the Spanish Civil War, the French government at last granted passports to Spanish refugees in June 1945.

No Medals

The reluctant hours
Gathered to the restless days,
The limping weeks, the crawling months,
Till seven, seven years
Have gnawed at hearts,
And the great ones, burdened with decorations,
Give papers to prove them free.

Let us not call them heroes
– there are too many heroes –
But let us call them men,
They who cherished a dream
And did not ask for medals.

Of those that fell
Few had flowers on their graves,
And the flowers are long withered,
And blown dust on the wind.
These, and those that lingered,
In the twilight between Life and Death
– we few at least shall remember them.

Hugo Dewar

Hugo Dewar, 1908 – 1981, was a Trotskyist and poet. This poem appeared in his 1981 Bookmarks collection Arsy-Versy World.

To The Anarchists

This poem Anarkhistam in the original Russian appeared in Burevestnik, 5 March, 1918.

To The Anarchists

The time has come
To throw off the yoke
Of capitalism.
All fetters,
Commissars,
Generals,
Tribunals,
And priests.
For order
And science
And laws –
What are they?
Invented
From boredom
By great men
In cabinets!
The old world
We’ll destroy
And wreck
And burn!
Not ‘order’.
We’ll build,
Without it
We’ll live!
But the great
Commune
To bayonets
Cannot fall!
Before it
On their knees
All will bend,
Even authority!
So quickly
My brothers
Let’s raise
The black flag!
And grasp
The hand
Off all
The oppressed!

Viktor Triuk

Rush Hour Crush

This exert is from David Holbrook’s essay Magazines – with special reference to the exploitation of pseudo-sexuality, that was part of the Pelican sociology book Discrimination and Popular Culture, 1973.

People travel vast distances to work (and on the journey they read manic journals and magazines, which supply them with sensations). They move from one meaningless sprawl to another, for the inner city environments become increasingly impersonal and ugly. There, they are largely engaged in meaningless tasks, which offer them no sense of personal value. They are offered relief from the meaninglessness of their work and environment by office flirtations, pin-up and pop-singer cults, film and television talk, cosmetic and fashion preoccupations.
As Denise Levertov writes:

In tiled and fireproof corridors
the typists shelter in their sex;
perking beside the half-cock clerks
they set a curl on freckled necks.
The formal bird above the doors

is set in metal whorls of flame.
The train goes aching on its rails.
Its rising cry of steel and wheels
intolerably comes, and fails
on walls immaculate and dumb.

Comptometers and calculators
compute the frequency of fires,
adduce the risk, add up the years.
Drawn by late-afternoon desires
the poles of mind meet lust’s equators…

(Typists in the Phoenix Building)

On such pursuits the modern office or factory worker often spends a disproportionate amount of income, in a desperate search for a sense of identity and meaning. Yet, as we know, people also yearn for much more exacting, or romantic, or challenging opportunities – as youth does especially. At home, the mother, alone in her comfortable, efficient, and hygienic living-box, often suffers from isolation, frustration, and boredom. She has few opportunities to find something meaningful to which to devote her life, beyond herself. As the suburban dweller ranges farther out from the city centre the tedium and strain of commuter travel and the lack of meaning in his work and lesiure – all threaten him with dehumanizaton. So, he bravely tries to find meaning in his family life, or in what social life he can find, amid the deficiency of provision for creative leisure, or service or ‘giving out’. But his life tends all the time to make it more and more difficult to find individuality, humaness and meaning, and this schizoid dehumanization is felt increasngly in all the great populations of suburban sprawls from Tokyo to Greater London.
In such cultural deserts the periodical press can only superficially and temporarily relieve the cultural starvation of the population at large. The first Daily Mail speaks in an editorial of being designed for commuter travel, in 1890. Since then, increasingly, the mass media have educated us to believe that the solution to the problem of life is through the acquisition of personal possessions and sensations, and implicitly, that an acquisitive attitude to all experience is a valid one. That we find the point of life through acquiring things or even experiences is a lie, and it is this deceit implicit in popular commercial entertainment which makes it nihilistic in effect, by contrast with the true arts and live entertainment.