Questions from a Worker Who Reads

November 24, 2014 at 1:47 am (Uncategorized) ()

I was thumbing through a book of Brecht’s poems today and came across this one. Hadn’t read in a a long time. Worth reprinting. (this from the Marxist International Library)

Who built Thebes of the 7 gates ?
In the books you will read the names of kings.
Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock ?

And Babylon, many times demolished,
Who raised it up so many times ?

In what houses of gold glittering Lima did its builders live ?
Where, the evening that the Great Wall of China was finished, did the masons go?

Great Rome is full of triumphal arches.
Who erected them ?

Over whom did the Caesars triumph ?
Had Byzantium, much praised in song, only palaces for its inhabitants ?

Even in fabled Atlantis, the night that the ocean engulfed it,
The drowning still cried out for their slaves.

The young Alexander conquered India.
Was he alone ?

Caesar defeated the Gauls.
Did he not even have a cook with him ?

Philip of Spain wept when his armada went down.
Was he the only one to weep ?

Frederick the 2nd won the 7 Years War.
Who else won it ?

Every page a victory.
Who cooked the feast for the victors ?

Every 10 years a great man.
Who paid the bill ?

So many reports.

So many questions.

Bertolt Brecht


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New York, You’re Killing Me

November 23, 2014 at 4:32 pm (Uncategorized) ()

When I go to New York, I often talk about the “Curse of New York.” The first time I went to New York was in 1986, and since then I’ve at least a dozen times. And over this time,  I’ve had flights cancelled by storms (we sat on the runway for over two hours), had flights delayed by hours, got caught in a blackout, suffered from serious illness, fallen while alighting from a coach (that’s for all you all Healyites out there), and so on. But I continue to chance my luck.

I went to New york twice this year; not bad. I was in New York for a weekend in June without incident, so maybe I got cocky. About a month after the trip I was talking to my younger sister and discovered she had never been to New York.  My wife and her brother take trips all the time: right, I though. Taking my sister to the Big City.

Friday night, we took a Porter flight into Newark Liberty then a bus into Manhattan. No real problems except that I have a tiny 50s style ray-gun key ring at which airport security frowned. Oh, and the staff at Newark were fairly unhelpful in giving directions to the bus, but I digress.

We stayed in mid-town, and our hotel was a short walk from the Port Authority bus station. My sister thought it would be a good idea to go to the Empire State Building Friday night (it’s around the corner from our hotel), to check one thing off of the list right away. Good idea. I’ve been up the Empire State Building twice, but never at night, and I have to admit the night views pretty impressive. Still, a voice in my head muttered quietly: It’s 11:00 at night and you’re eighty stories above the ground. It’s freezing and you don’t have a hat. Is this wise? In retrospect, I should have listened to that voice.

Saturday morning,  we went uptown to the Guggenheim. We went to see the Zero exhibit. 1050′s European avant-garde artists. It wasn’t exactly what I expected, but a lot of the art and installation were pretty cool.

Then came the best part of the trip, a walk through Central Park. I’ve been to the park on other occasions, but the weather was perfect and the leaves hadn’t dropped yet. A glorious blend of autumn colours  made for a great moment. The old Chinese guy playing the Tennessee Waltz at Belvedere Castle made for another moment too.

But alas, the strains were already starting to tell. When we returned late afternoon to the hotel, I noticed the begging of a cough. Was this the curse of New York? But we persevered. In the evening I fulfilled a long-time goal: a drink in the White Horse Tavern. The White is of course the bar where Dylan Thomas drank his last.

On Sunday, we walked the High Line, and wandered through Chelsea (past the hotel), down through Greenwich Village and headed over toward the Bowery. And then my sister got sick too. We headed back to the hotel, but the tide had turned. I later headed over to Staten Island to meet a friend (sorry JG, I wasn’t exactly well). It’s a not a trip to NY unless you ride the Staten Island Ferry.

And then it was back to Toronto. Two week later, I’m still sick. I missed a number of days at work the following week, and the hacking cough is still with me.  (sorry again JG, I wasn’t as well as I let on later) New York is a great city. It’s my go-to getaway town. Lots of favourite places and shops, but man, do I ever have bad luck whenever I go.

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To Our Readers

November 16, 2014 at 7:12 pm (Uncategorized)

This statement was published recently on the IP website.

In all small political groups, there are occasional episodes of dysfunction; Internationalist Perspective is not immune from this and, indeed at our annual conferences over some years, all of our members have voiced such concerns and we tried to get to the roots of the problems. The dissatisfaction felt about the quality of our collective work is shared and, if we want to suggest a major cause, it is linked to the general difficulty in being able to carry out revolutionary work in the present phase of capitalism’s development. We won’t here go into that general matter, but we do want to describe some recent difficulties.

In International Perspective 57, dated Fall/Winter 2012, we published the first part of a text entitled ‘International Perspective and the Tradition of the Communist Left’ (IP&LCT). It was presented as a draft text and the brief introduction to it declared an intention to adopt such a document at our next conference which was to be held mid-2013. In Internationalist Perspective 58/59, dated Winter 2013/2014, the introduction to parts 2 and 3 of this document stated that:

“In a series of three texts we developed our critique of the Communist Left and, at the same time, spelled out our own views on the questions they confronted and which still confront us today, ranging from theoretical to practical: how can we understand social reality, history, the periodization of capitalism, crisis and revolution. … …

At its conference last summer, IP collectively discussed, amended and approved the three texts. IP does not have a platform, but this series is the most comprehensive exposition of our positions since ‘The world as we see it in IP#27 (1994) (readers who compare the texts will notice our considerable evolution since then).”

However, towards the end of 2013 it became apparent that there were widely disparate views about the status of this work. For some, IP&LCT was a landmark in the exposition of our positions but for others the document constituted only a discussion text. How these two perspectives co-existed for the several years during which time the document was re-drafted by several comrades (and discussed thoroughly at the 2013 conference) is still a mystery to us all – and one we must solve. So, for the avoidance of doubt, we have to say that the statement that this series is a ‘comprehensive expositions of our positions’ is wrong and that IP&LCT cannot be regarded as the view of IP as a whole. So, we continue to discuss. Sadly, one of our comrades has resigned during the period when we were becoming aware of the differences within us.

This difficult situation has brought several repercussions. On the negative side we are no longer capable of producing Internationalist Perspective in two languages – so we shall no longer publish the French review. Perspective Internationaliste 58/59 was the last one. For now. We have, however, decided on some actions to move our work forward:

We have recognised the need to have a reference text to provide a coherent exposition of our shared views. Discussion has begun and we would hope to have it agreed at our next conference mid-2015.

The website will become the principal means of publishing our work. It is currently being rebuilt (long overdue) and we aim to have it live by the end of this year.

We are trying to get to the bottom of the dysfunctions that have affected our work. Although not the underlying cause, our dispersion has created difficulties (we have four native languages and seven time zones between us) and we shall try to be very conscious of the state of our various discussions.

We believe Internationalist Perspective has made a worthwhile contribution to the development of Marxist theory and has endeavoured to intervene in social struggles to the degree we could. All of us in Internationalist Perspective wish to continue with this activity.

Internationalist Perspective

(Agreed unanimously)

October 2014


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Inactivity Update

November 16, 2014 at 7:08 pm (Uncategorized)

A hectic week at work, a quick trip to New York and then a week of illness has meant that I haven’t posted anything in over a fortnight. But, that’s coming to an end, so expect to see things up with a little more regularity now.



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Music Notes October 2014

October 31, 2014 at 11:17 pm (Uncategorized)

Short list this month, as I’ve been super-busy.

1. The Allah-Las – Worship the Sun

Braver boys than me that’s for sure. Garage-like sixties noise. Playing Toronto later this month. The Horseshoe I think.

2. The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds

The last one before it all started to come apart (Parts of Smiley Smile not withstanding) .  But, it’s a good one this one. “God Only Knows,” “Wouldn’t it be Nice,” “Don’t Talk,” and many other simply fantastic moments. What’s nice too is that you get both the stereo and the mono version. (I go back and forth to which I prefer. The mono is so warm, but the stereo has a grandeur to it that’s hard to ignore. Just listen.

3. Camper Van Beethoven – Key lime Pie

The final CVB album, although maybe not since the band are touring again. Folkk, punk, rock and a bunch of other weird things. No, it doesn’t have “Take the skinheads Bowling.”  They do have many other fine songs you know!

4. Pavement – Brighten the Corners (Nicene Creedence edition)

The fourth installment of discordant pop music from Pavement. Less experimental than Wowee Zowee, but not as rockist as Crooked Rain, and some fun covers (the Fall, Echo and the Bunnymen). The thing that stuns me about these albums is just how much extra material Pavement always seem to record.  Well worth seeking out.

5. And congratulations to Wilko Johnson. Now apparently cancer-free. Don’t know who Wilko is? Oil City Confidential. The story of Dr. Feelgood.

Next month a full slate. Maybe more.

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Communicating Vessels #26

October 27, 2014 at 2:03 am (Uncategorized)

The new Communication Vessels just arrived at the post box, and now I need to take a day off of work to read it.

CV is one of those magazine which you need to savour. Beautifully illustrated, and filled with interesting articles of a surrealist bent, but not necessarily surrealist. Thumbing through, there’s a couple of pieces I’m already anxious to read: a piece on the decline of the post office and a piece of film noir.

CV is available by donation. No web site, no email.

Write to PO Box 2048, Tuscon, Arizona, 85702.

You’ll be glad you did.




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The World Slows Down

October 25, 2014 at 10:17 pm (Uncategorized)

Never a dull moment, is it?  This week there were two attacks labelled “terrorist” in Canada that saw the deaths of Canadian soldiers. While the government has quickly announced new security measures including earlier “detainment” of “suspects” (uh huh), no convincing evidence has come forward that the attacks were related or connected to or inspired by ISIS. What they did have I common were two lonely, rage-filled loners. We’ll see.

I’m going to be in New York in a couple of weeks with my sister, so it didn’t fill me with much joy that New York has recorded its first Ebola infection with a doctor who was in West Africa. Still, I lived through two SARS outbreaks here in Toronto without much impact on my life. I’m certain this case will have next to no impact, but still, even one brings a cloud.

Lastly, the municipal election is the day after tomorrow. Surely there must be some way to reduce the time limits on these things. It seems as if it’s been on forever. As the Chow campaign still struggles to get out of the station, John Tory seems almost certain to be elected, and Doug Ford continues to try to fill the void left by his brother by keeping his foot firmly in his mouth. A few weeks back, when question about alleged anti-Semitic slurs made by his brother, Doug responded by naming his Jewish, er, friends. Make that workers. This week when caught referring to a Toronto Star reporter as a “little bitch,” he unconvincingly argued he was referring to another little bitch, not that reporter. Oh, that’s OK then. Hmm.  I can’t wait for that to be over.

But as we wade through these mountains of crap, something else. My son turned 11 today. As I was walking the dog this morning, I do most of my best thinking walking the dog, I thought back to his birth. It’s one of those moments when you feel the universe shift. (It happened with my daughter too). And it makes all of those other painful moments we have to endure, a little easier to take.

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Sharon Van Etten in Toronto

October 23, 2014 at 6:31 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

Ooh, this is way late, and there’s a lot to more important stuff to cover too, but if I don’t publish this now I never will.


I’ll send you a love letter straight from my heart, fucker. Do you know what a love letter is? It’s a bullet from a fuckin’ gun, fucker. If you receive a love letter from me, you are fucked forever. Do you understand, fuck? I’ll send ya straight to Hell, fucker!

Whenever I listen to a Sharon Van Etten record, I get the feeling she’s channeling Frank Booth from the movie Blue Velvet. There’s a rawness, a danger in her words that approaches the fearsome Frank. And earlier this month Ms. Van Etten brought that danger to the Opera House.

New Zealand’s Tiny Ruins opened the show. The three-piece played an engaging pop-folk set, which unfortunately was drowned in the cavernous Opera House. The set started well, but I came to feel that it would have worked a lot better in a club like the Rivoli. (I remember a similar experience seeing the Cowboy Junkies at Ontario Place years back).

The first Sharon Van Etten song I heard was “Serpents” from her Tramp album. It’s not a representative song. It’s far punkier than most of her stuff, but it hooks you just the same. The Opera House set contained a lot of material from her new, and quite simply amazing album, Are We There. Van Etten joked with the audience between songs and then song after song astounded. For her final encore, she played the heartbreaking  “Every Time the Sun Comes Up.”

I was really looking forward to the show, since the last few times Van Etten came to town, I’d been unable to attend. It was worth the wait.

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The Price of Gas

October 15, 2014 at 12:48 am (Uncategorized)

Hey, post number 800!

As with most other motorists, I drive with one eye on the road and one eye of the price of gas. And if there’s one thing I know, it’s that  any problem, anywhere in the world, means the price of gas will go up.

  • Vladimir Putin gets a cold – prices go up.
  • Sanctions against Iran – prices go up.
  • Rain in Texas – prices go up
  • And of course, holiday weekend, prices go up

Well yesterday was Thanksgiving in Canada , and for the last couple of years, gas prices for regular have been between $1.30 a litre and $1.39 a litre (sorry, if you don’t understand the metric system, but it really does make more sense. Join the rest of the world. And yes, I am spelling it litre) 

Yesterday, the price of gas nearest me was $1.16 a litre!

To make matters more confusing, the fact that ISIS is making millions of dollars a day from the oil fields it controls makes me wonder. Is ISIS reducing the price of gas, and would people be in such a panic over ISIS if it meant continued cheap gas?

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Fall Leaves Fall

October 5, 2014 at 8:26 pm (Uncategorized)

Whenever I watch murder mysteries on TV, it’s the person walking their dog who discovers the body. I never really thought about that until I started walking my own dog. We travel the neighbourhood several times a day, and I’m struck by the umber of times, something new, something not quite the same, catches my eye on the trip.

Last week, in the early evening I was walking the dog. The most common route we take brings me past a seniors’ centre, and as we went by we walked into a shower of red and orange leaves drifting gently from an overhanging tree. It was fall.

It’s funny how it sneaks up on you. From summer’s gentle fade in late August into September and back to school, the possibility of Autumn never really seems to register for me. Then, there’s a brief moment of brilliant colours and we begin the trudge toward Winter.

The morning after the leaves fell the roads were covered with decay. The weather was colder.  About a third of the way through the walk, I became acutely aware of the need for a scarf and gloves. There’s no sense feeling nostalgic for those now lost days, there’s other things ahead.

Pumpkins and Halloween decorations now dot the houses.

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