Machineries of Hope
We've marched so many times against it's excesses;
for miners, their futures' black as coal dust;
for printers removed from their pungent presses;
for the pickers of fruit, the decaying must
of strawberries, sweet as nostalgia.
We broke our innocence on picket lines,
those working class machineries of hope,
and played the game of seeing better times.
But in the bramble patch of Capital,
it's anarchistic growth a tangled path
of easily commissioned cruelties,
we foundered. Yet still we feel, like Chartists
and the Communards, we fought for love.
Listen, over the horizon, hear our songs.
A St. Patrick’s Day contribution to Ronovan’s decima challenge No.49 with Shock as the prompt word on the C rhyme line.
St. Patrick's Day 1850
Eight hundred years and Irish folk
will still endure the iron fist,
will still find courage to resist
violation by England's yoke.
With savagery it's tried to choke
the lifeblood from the Irish flock;
in famine days arranged to block
the shipment of much needed wheat;
ensured the genocide complete,
St. Patrick weeping, feigning shock.
A contribution to ronovanwrites Decima Challenge #47 with Start as the prompt word on the A rhyme line.
As Capital tears us apart
and profits from labourers' toil,
we seek, in the tillage of soil,
a flowering, welcoming heart.
So let me suggest, as a start,
production, now owned by the few,
is freed from the oligarch's screw,
communalised, structured and planned,
with redistribution of land.
Society reborn anew.
It's fourteen years since we stopped smoking in the pub;
ripping out a Rizla, folding in Old Holborn,
liquorice papers the favourite, with a fibrous roach,
the air grey as a smoker's lung, like a descending fog,
bar lights filtering through this self-imposed fug.
Yet the wonderousness of rolling a perfect, cylindrical fag,
with the correct compaction for a satisfying drag,
whilst caressing a pint of cider, an Ambrosian delight,
a draught between each toke of carbon monoxide death,
is a smoky reminiscence of a joyous freedom from
an engine conditioner's workshop, where trichloroethylene
induced psycho-dramas and a high-stepping gait
were hazards to avoid; a far more noxious environment
than the public bar of The Ferryman's smoke smothered walls.
So every night at ten o'clock, the five of us would meet,
Darren, Ady, Roger, Mark and me in that bar,
a raucous drunken reprisal of the night before;
Strongbow, Stella Artois, Irish Stout, combustible
conversation, rollies flying off the fingers
for the final hour and on into the lock-in;
years before the lock-down, smiles our only masks.
It's fourteen years since then and I've cast off the coughing,
revivified the lungs, moved Up North, the air
a pristine Pennine flavour now the mills are gone,
a butchered working class wandering the estates
and the soot blackened pubs, but smoking now outside
of the freshly painted tap rooms, in the dog-end littered street.
My hands are free of grease, my lungs purged of tar;
perhaps a pint of light mild slips down better for that.
But now the hazard to be rid of are the neo-liberal thugs
who blight we workers lives with their oligarchic cant;
that is, until the red flag flies from all town halls.
1st September 1939-2019
You can see what Auden meant,
Sitting in one of his dives
Eighty years from here,
Supping the depth of his pain
To the bottom of his glass;
He felt Enlightenment's loss
Like a tumour in his brain,
The darkness closing in,
Conspiracies of hate
Calculating the lives
They can forfeit to the cause.
The darkness was allayed
By millions sacrificed;
These men and women died
On the walls of Stalingrad,
The beaches of Normandy,
In parched El-Alamein,
Building a better world
From the ruins of ancient sites;
The remnants of the maimed
The Enlightenment reclaimed
On the bones of the betrayed.
So a fairer world was built,
At least, the industrial West,
The proceeds of capital
Shared more evenly
As espoused by Keynes;
Of all the utilities,
For wages and conditions,
Public health for all.
Meanwhile, the nagging guilt
Was to be assuaged
By countries taken back
By to whom they had belonged
Before their exploitation;
Hundreds of millions wronged
By thievery, rendition
Of their mineral wealth
To imperial banks
And oligarchic frauds.
For forty years it seemed
As if the Enlightenment
Was slowly creeping back;
Community on the rise,
Public policy aimed
At homes and jobs for all;
Equality was the prize,
Ordinary folk in thrall
To the prospect of a life
Free from poverty;
Then Thatcher stuck in the knife.
She twisted it to the core,
Clawed back the progress made,
Stole the hard wrought goods
We'd moulded from the ashes
Of our predecessors' bones:
For another forty years,
Destroyed our hopeless dream
Of a world-wide social state
Where workers are not abused;
Instead, we've ended up
With homeless paving the streets.
What little wealth we had
Has been stolen by the rich,
The bloated oligarchs
In their shining, slippery towers,
Lauding themselves, their acts
Leading to our planet
Destroying itself at last;
They feast upon the bones
Of the poorest of the poor,
Squashed beneath the heels
Of these cannibalistic powers.
Bemused, bewildered, betrayed,
The ghosts of those who fought
To build that world of light,
Defeat the fascist fiends
Of whom Auden despaired,
Weep into their graves
Their sacrifice as naught;
The avarice unfurled,
We mourn it was not stayed.
Yet love is what they taught;
This struggle never ends.
Revealed religion is a way
of mapping out the road to peace,
seeking to have love increase
until the judgement day.
Who judges though is hard to say;
there's much opinion on that theme,
which strand is paramount, which scheme
affords the greatest sway.
There're many actors in the play,
their scripts confuse and agitate,
add little to the great debate
of whom to disobey.
Rabbis, priests, muezzins, grey
with worry if they've got it right
in their promotion of the fight
for souls, are rarely gay.
They, no doubt, fret that they'll betray
their version of a vengeful god
who's liberal with the wrathful rod
in this grim affray.
Yet most of us, we know we're clay.
Uncertain but yet hardly blind,
we raise our children to be kind,
then quietly decay.
(A view from the UK- source: The Morning Star.)
WE don’t know with any certainty which representative
of the contending factions in the US ruling class will be
head of state for the next four years and thus commander-in-chief of a military force that is larger than its biggest rivals combined.
This question matters greatly to people in the US who are
the victims of a mismanaged, even sabotaged, public-health
response to the Covid-19 crisis, who face runaway unemployment, continuing racist violence, a renewed assault on
their union rights, civil liberties and women’s reproductive
rights and a sordid system of migration controls that leaves
tens of millions in precarious and low-paid jobs subject to
arrest and deportation. And voteless.
It matters less to billions of people throughout the world
for whom the choice of which imperialist warmonger
resides in the White House make little difference to the
way in which the US affects their daily lives.
Whether they live in a Latin American barrio, a bombed
out Middle-Eastern village or scratch a living from a
scorched patch of African savannah the fine distinctions
that appear so great to the liberal commentariat in the
western press appear trivial.
The liberal consensus about US democracy and the ridiculous rhetoric about this imperial behomoth being the
“leader of the free world” looks even more shaky as Trump
insists that before the vote is counted he has won, that not
every vote can be counted and if it is it is thus fraudulent.
As this election demonstrates, despite the illusions that
liberals harbour about US democracy, the presidential electoral system – devised originally to provide a firewall to
protect slavery – is not designed to give a perfect expression
of the popular will.
What is distinctive about this, and the previous election, is strikingly similar to the situation in our country.
The binary nature of the political system is breaking
down under the impact of the structural crises of the capitalist system and the consequent divisions in the ruling
In both Britain and the US, elements in capital have
struck out to assert class interests that depart from the
priorities the biggest sections of monopoly capital regard as
inviolable. In doing so they have sought, with some success,
to win over more working people than traditionally align
themselves with any section of the ruling class.
The US election turns on the working class in mid-western industrial states that voted twice for Obama on the
expectation of a change that did not come — and opted for
Trump last time because his rhetoric on jobs and incomes
resonated more than did Clinton’s neoliberal class arrogance.
Julius Nyerere, the first president of independent Tanzania, is said to have remarked that the US was, like his own, a
single-party state, “but with typical American extravagance
it has two of them”.
The two capitalist parties of the North American bourgeoisie are shape-shifting creatures that, as do all parties,
reflect the way in which capital reorganises production
and thus social life.
Workers’ jobs are outsourced to low-wage economies
and sacrificed to Wall Street and the City of London and
this has changed the ground on which class and political
struggle is conducted.
In both the US and in Britain capital temporarily set aside
its own divisions and asserted its corporate and ideological power to marginalise the challenges that Sanders and
Corbyn both represented.
On both sides of the water the prospects for the left
depend critically on the re-entry of the working class into
politics in its own interest and not as the auxiliaries of
either tendency in the ruling class.
Call to Prayer
Muezzins seem to have it cracked
by mewling out across a town
incoherence to attract
a midday kneeling down.
Rabbis rattling out the Torah
on Fridays at the synagogue,
less of peace, their stories more a
Clergy, with their clanging bell
disturbing Sunday morning rest,
preach invocations raising Hell
dressed in it's Sunday best.
All these Abrahamic chancers
hector and intimidate
idealists seeking only answers,
love, but learning hate.
Five thousand years of murder lie
upon conflicting interests.
The bloody tortures vilify
these cynical requests.
From the Erotic to the Idiotic
In starting this I'm feeling somewhat scared.
Ottava Rima is a form that's been
Used to good effect by poets who've fared
Rather better than I have; have been seen
To well succeed by being well prepared,
Writing something comic or obscene
To voice complaints or a criticism
Couched in a caustic witticism.
The master of them all of course was Byron,
Trundling on for sixteen thousand lines,
Mainly, it appears, with a hard-on;
All through Don Juan you can read the signs.
I hear some say though, 'I do beg your pardon,
Where's the evidence he so inclines
To write throughout in a sexual fervour.
He's less like Eros, more of a Minerva,
Goddess of verse, wisdom, strategic warfare.'
I suppose that's true to a large extent
But what, after all then, do we care
About the character of his true intent
in being so satiric, with such flair?
It's very unlikely that he would repent,
Retract his underlying eroticisms,
Replacing them with courtly mannerisms.
So, just as Byron sought to undermine
Hypocrisies inherent in his times,
Should we not then, also sharply shine
A piercing light today on similar crimes
Committed not in your name, nor in mine;
Those negligently, cruel paradigms
Of power, designed for the hegemonic,
The devious, deviant, selfishly moronic?
Johnson, Bezos, Bolsonaro, Trump,
To name but four of the perpetrators,
Head a stinking army, nay a rump,
Of psychopathic, snivelling people haters,
Hoovering up the profits, as the slump
Is hitting labourers, the wealth creators,
Driving millions into destitution,
Smothered by a capitalist pollution.
This Ottava Rima effort is pathetic
Compared to Byron's brilliant Magnum Opus
In which he is poetically athletic,
A swirling cauldron filled with hocus pocus,
Learned, comic, endlessly eclectic,
Never losing pertinence or focus.
Would he were here now with his sharpened claws
To scratch the eyes out of those bloated boors.
But he, of course, was more a Tory than
The politicians and poets he sought to trash.
Raised more a lord than a common man,
His sympathies are, likely, less to clash
With the monsters of our devious plan
Than we who would indict them in a flash.
To use his searing wit, all things Byronic,
Could undermine our aims. Now that's ironic!
But the plot to use a sharp Ottava Rima
To savage all things oligarchical,
Is pregnant in this adolescent scheme, a
Side swipe at the trad monarchical
(Perhaps I'm just a poor deluded dreamer)
State that's verging on the farcical.
As Lenin had it, there's a fine solution:
In Greece, Byron died for Revolution!
Let's take them one by one, these devious infants:
So Johnson first, designated Boris,
Building, despite himself, a stout resistance
In us common folk who've not read Horace
As he has. At least, that's his insistence;
More a classical flower, than a florist,
Vainglorious popinjay we should require
To shuffle off into his own satire.
A blockheaded buffoon, an unctuous creep,
A man who lied his way to head the Tory
Party, while most of us were fast asleep,
Infighting among ourselves, (another story),
Elected to oversee the State's upkeep
But acting like the Womble Tobermory.
Yet underneath his foolish, clown-like antic,
Flows a dark and dangerous semantic.
It's a strain reflected in that Bezos creature,
An exploiter making depredations on
Each worker picking a book, or other feature
To reinforce his empire, Amazon.
'Do as I command, or I will beat 'yer!'
They just cannot do right for doing wrong
Inside his evil factories of the cursed.
His form of exploitation is the worst.
Designed to manufacture profits, obscene
By any standard of civil or moral code,
The employment contracts he's invoked have been
Introduced to undermine, erode
All human dignity at work. We've seen
A fetid jubilation, a la mode,
Among the tax avoiding oligarchy
Celebrating his malign malarky.
So what of Bolsonaro? What a jerk!
A fascist placeman, product of a coup
Displacing all the socialising work
Done to favour those, like me and you
Who don't own either Jaguar or Merc,
In the favelas. So we ask, just who
Will, one day, bring this criminal to trial,
Wiping off his vile and hideous smile?
Of course, the situation in Brazil
Is mirrored in those South American states,
Where humanising work, used to instil
Just distribution, is overturned. The fate
Of millions of the poor, drowned in the swill
Produced by CIA-backed gangster mates
Of US President (The Gangster) Trump,
That preening, self-regarding Heffalump.
Trump as President, you'd hardly believe it!
Yet perhaps the Yanks really do deserve 'im.
Not those, of course, those that would retrieve it
But all the racists, those that would preserve 'im
to mouth the hatred as they do conceive it.
Most of us, it's true, would rather swerve 'im,
Stoutly chuck him into History's litter.
(At the risk of sounding satisfyingly bitter!)
But I'm justly sad that such could be elected,
Whose message is crude, insanely autocratic.
Instead of tending to those who should be protected,
He'd rather promote the semi-automatic.
Let's hope there'll soon be sense, he's deselected
And we see the last of this phoney aristocratic,
No good piece of putrefying shit.
(I hope I haven't overstated it!)
I'll now conclude this Italian form of verse;
I do not have the stamina of a Byron.
I know it's bad but it could get much worse,
Won't earn me any pension to retire on!
Be fearful, though, you despots, you who curse
Humanity: you will feel the iron
In our depleted souls eventually.
You'll be overthrown and we'll be free.
The Shield Wall
When the enemy attacks we do our best
to thwart it's worst intentions, to protect
the ones we love from those heinous crimes.
Collectively, we can recall the times
when mutual love was founded on respect,
solidarity being the crucial test.
We're now, somehow, in defensive mode,
the gains we made are cruelly taken back
to feed a monster gleeful in it's pride,
hubristic, a skipping, gloating stride
as it mounts a frontal, brute attack
upon the sense of our social code.
We know, these days, this disease will fail
to undermine our will to carry on,
though now the bugle blows for our retreat.
The occupation of each local street
is temporary, this blight, it will be gone,
we will re-energise, we will derail
the fatuous assertions that it makes.
We'll be like the warriors of old
who linked their shields together in defiance,
sought in each other, comradely reliance,
disciplined, brave and self controlled,
ready when our spirit reawakes.