Music Notes June 2012

June 30, 2012 at 10:06 pm (Uncategorized)

Summer’s here and it’s time to open your ears….

1. Joey Ramone – Ya Know?

I was a little nervous about the new Joey Ramone album. Joey’s been gone for over a decade and the appearance of lost albums often means a few tapes dredged up and remixed just to make some money off of a dead star’s rep. However… Ya know is a more than pleasant surprise. It’s a great pop album (I actually prefer the songs which sound the least like Ramones ones), and it reminds us what a great loss Joey’s passing was. Leaving aside an ill-conceived remake of Merry Christmas (who wants to hear Christmas songs at this time of year any way), it’s a good addition to the catalogue.

2. Azealia Banks – 1991

Ooh, Ms. Banks you have such a dirty mouth. If you haven’t heard “212”, you probably only listen to the radio. But do your self a favour and You tube  it. It’s irresistible. The other tracks on this ESP aren’t quite as strong, but still worth adding to your shuffle.

3. Alabama Shakes – s/t

This year’s pick to click. I’m not sure what the trick to being successful is, but I’d guess it has something to do with doing something original with unoriginal ideas. The Alabama Shakes are performing material and music that has been performed thousands of times before, but somehow, it sounds free bad utterly compelling. Rock out.

4 Karen Dalton –1966

A few weeks back I was listening to the Original Seeds CD in the car when Karen Dalton’s “Katie Cruel” came on. We hadn’t reached the end of the first line, “When I came to this town…” when my daughter cried out, “What is this?” Karen Dalton’s voice might be a bit of an acquired taste, but like many other things that need time, it’s worth doing. This third volume of previously unreleased material continues the high standard set by her other releases, and includes a jaw dropping version of Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe.”

5  Sharon Van Etten – Tramp

This is Van Etten’s third album of quiet folk tales, beautifully told. She’s on tour at the moment, but unfortunately I’m going to be out-of-town the night she plays Toronto. It’s only $20 at the Phoenix, July 31.

6. Friends – Manifest!

Very new-wave post-punk sounding New York combo. It took a few plays for it to sink in, but it’s quite lovely.

7. Man or Astro-Man – Project Infinity

Instrumental B-movie sci-fi surf rock. Nuff said.

8. Paul Simon -Graceland (25th anniversary edition)

As unhip as Paul Simple is in some circles (OK, my circles) , this album is something that everyone should own.The new aversion includes some alternate versions and demos as well as a DVD about the album – all very nice, but the original album is all you really need. The mix of Simon’s lyrics and song writing with African sounds is an amazing combination; perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity (it didn’t work so well on the next record if I recall properly). This brings back a lot of happy memories for me.

9. African Head Charge – Great Vintage vol 1.

A friend of mine is going to Africa next week, and i wanted to make her a mix CD, and this one caught my eye. Yes, yes, I know, they’re not from Africa, but I’m establishing a set-up. African Head Charge were part of that stable of overlapping musicians that worked with Adrian Sherwood on On-U Sounds. As essential or as disposable as everything else he did (depending on your perspective – nah, it’s great)

10. Roy Orbison – “Crying”

I was in a book shop on Thursday when this song came on. And everything around me stopped. I stood still and just listened to Roy’s voice. There’s a moment as the song is moving to its climax where his voice is so pure it makes the hairs on your arms stand up. Simply tremendous.

* Possible hypocrisy warning: After panning M.I.A.’s Bad Girls a few months back, it’s starting to grow on me. Guess you were right Richard 🙂

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Gangstagrass in Toronto

June 29, 2012 at 11:17 pm (Uncategorized)

If you’ve watched the excellent FX series Justified, you’ve probably asked yourself who does that arresting (sorry) theme music.

The answer is a Brooklyn-based rap-bluegrass outfit called Gangstagrass. Rap and bluegrass? Every person, I’ve spoken to has had that same reaction, and to be honest, if you’d asked me, I would have passed. Except…well, let’s leave it to the words of Elmore Leonard who wrote the stories upon which Justified is based:

Rench and his friends have done nothing short of creating a new form of music. Gangstagrass takes two types of music that are opposites and mixes them together brilliantly in a way that is natural and enjoyable.
— Elmore Leonard

There’s not much I could add to that.

And now, onto business. About three weeks ago I got a message  from the Gangstagrass mailing list announcing a free show, a private party no less, during the North by North East music festival here in Toronto. All you had to do was to RSVP. The caveat being only the first fifty people would be let in (in total over 175 people RSVPed). A quick email later and I was on the list.

I showed up early. About ninety minutes early,  but with the prospect of missing out on the band’s debut Toronto show and free food and drink on the pool deck at the Hyatt, I was taking no chances.

First up were Philadelphia-based I Am love. Border-crossing problems led to a slightly smaller version of I Am Love taking the stage a little after eight o’clock, but the band were no-less energetic for their reduction in numbers. it. It’s hard to pin down the style as they seemed to shift temp and sound from song to song. Sometimes garage, sometimes a more experimental sound which reminded me a little of Sonic Youth, albeit with less rock orthodox instrumentation. (I should mention they looked way cool too with a sort of steam-punky look)

Next came Brooklyn 35, a collective  represented at the show only by Tristan G. But even if Tristan was on his own,  he certainly tried to involve the crowd. Lots of audience participation raps and plenty of Toronto references peppered his set (though City TV’s Late Great Movies and Speaker’s Corner are long gone). When he said “Brooklyn” we all chanted “35!”

At about ten past nine, with the dying rays of the sun providing the perfect backdrop as Rench and his band mates took us the floor to lead us through an inspired hour of rappin’ and pickin’.

The five-piece burned through material from their new album Rappalachia along with the “hit” single and some old Carter family stuff (though AP may not remember writing that one)

As I said above, the idea of mixing bluegrass and rap doesn’t immediately sound like a winner. But the somehow the countrifed sounds including fiddle, dobro and banjo mesh with the raps to produce an extremely catchy, danceable sound.

Even though with the setting of the sun, the temperature dropped considerably, we didn’t seem to notice. Because of the capacity crowd Gangstagrass played another free show a few days later, which I was unfortunately unable to go to. Nevertheless,  I think I’m pretty safe in saying that those who attended became converts.

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Two Texts on Communisation

June 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm (Uncategorized)

There are two new texts on communisation on the Internationalist Perspective site. click here to see them.

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Notes on Being a Dad 3: The Avengers

June 17, 2012 at 1:39 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

There comes a point in every parental relationship where you make the shift from being cool to being well, not-so-cool.

My daughter has probably made that jump, but my eight-year-old certainly still gives me props, if only for my extensive knowledge of nerd culture as manifested by my still strong interest in comic book culture.

And so eventually we went to see the Avengers..

SPOILER ALERT – although if you haven’t seen the movie by now, I wonder will it really make a difference?

Regular followers will likely be aware that I’m pretty much willing to see anything Joss Whedon is a part of. Who can blame me? Whedon has consistently produced quality work. Still, the Avengers is such a bit budget potential blockbuster, I’m sure many fans though happy that Joss could potentially make a gazillion dollars, were worried that either the film would suck or it would change him.

We’ll have to wait and see how the latter turns out, but as to the former, it certainly doesn’t suck.

Now I don’t know if missing all the other movies that led us to this one (Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Thor) made any difference, but the film thankfully doesn’t spend a great deal of time on set-up. We’re straight into it.

The plot is fairly simple: Thor’s brother Loki seeks revenge for past slights, enlists extra-terrestrial bad guys, all; hell breaks loose. The Avengers stop him. And that’s it.

Still, what makes this film great is not the action sequences (the final battle goes on a little too long for my taste), but the chemistry between the characters, and the clever little asides in dialogue. Sure, Robert Downey Jr gets the lion’s share, but there are plenty to go around.

Some favourite bits of dialogue:

Thor: Loki is still my brother

Black Widow: He killed 80 people yesterday.

Thor (quietly) He’s adopted.

 

Thor: Have you any idea what you’re dealing with?

Iron Man: Shakespeare in the park? (In a theatrical voice) “Doth Mother know you weareth her drapes?”

 

Loki: I am a God!

Hulk (after smashing Loki) Puny God.

 

There’s also quite lovely  cameos by Stan Lee and Harry Dean Stanton.

Several people said to me, “wait until the end” (I’m a bit of a film nerd too, so I always do, but in case you’re considering leaving, don’t). There are two important scenes. The mystery villain is revealed to be Thanos. (I may have gasped – I’m not sure my son was impressed though), and the final one where the cast sits in silence eating schwarmas. (The Thanos scene of course sets up the sequel, but can I hope for a Hawkeye/Black Widow movie at some point? )

So me and the boy were happy. And as I recall that, on Father’s Day, I’m happy again.

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Fathers’ Day Recommendation: Day Tripper

June 16, 2012 at 1:54 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

If you’re giving gifts this year, my recommendation is Day Tripper by Brazilian wunderkinds Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon.

The lead character is a writer. Each chapter tells a story and ends with a death (usually that of the storyteller). Moving without being maudlin, and beautifully illustrated.

C’mon your old man deserves it.

 

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Toronto Anarchist bookfair 2012

June 12, 2012 at 3:22 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

It’s a little under a fortnight away: The Toronto Anarchist Bookfair 2012!

I’ll be tabling Saturday, and am co-hosting a workshop on “left communism” with the Internationalist Workers Group.

More details on their blog

Come by, say hi.

 

 

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Tribalism

June 11, 2012 at 8:26 pm (Uncategorized)

Football season again. During the Ireland vs. Croatia match yesterday, the chant went out”You’ll never beat the Irish…” Unless of course you score more goals than them. Which is what Croatia did. 3-1. OK, there’s the weird offside rule, and Ireland should have had a penalty elsewhere, but what can you do? Croatia deserved to win. 

I wore an England shirt to work today. A red 2006 World Cup shirt with a simple St. George’s cross on it. I can’t do the Union Jack  for the obvious reasons, and while it’s usually the fascists who get worked up about the English flag, I can bend it for football. I tried to avoid hearing the score of the England -France game, but fdidn’t make it out of the building. (In case you haven’t heard, I won’t repeat it here). Almost as much fun as watching the game with friends and beer (which I wasn”t able to do today), is the endless discussions about why your team was

a) cheated
b) bloody awful
c) going to win this year for certain

My favourite part though is waiting for someone to invoke the spirit of 66, or because it’s France some muttered reference to Agincourt. 

It is the beautiful game although the racism shown to dutch players last week make it somewhat less so. 

Enjoy.  

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A Salute to the “Greeks of Canada “

June 11, 2012 at 2:18 am (Uncategorized)

Sometimes even a seemingly small struggle can have far-reaching social consequences. Under an apparently calm surface, a cauldron of discontent bubbles, and the four-month old student-led unrest in Quebec now threatens to become something much broader; a much more dangerous social movement, potentially posing alternative visions of a social order.

Across the globe, these bubbles have risen to the surface: the Arab Spring which toppled corrupt regimes across North Africa; the struggles against imposed austerity in Greece and in Spain; the Occupy movements across North America, and in numerous other revolts. It would be simplistic to try to group these struggles into a generalized revolt against capital, but they reveal deep cracks in the structure, at times paralyzing the rulers’ ability to govern.

Since February 13, 2012 post-secondary students at colleges and universities as well as apprenticeship programs in Quebec have boycotted classes. The issue? The proposal of the provincial government to raise tuition fees by almost 75% by 2017. Quebec has had for many years the lowest post-secondary fees in Canada, making education more affordable to a wider segment of the population. Now, as with many other social programs, that accessibility is under attack. The government in Quebec has put forward a variety of reasons for its plan: The deficit must be brought under control; Quebec’s tuition fees are below the national average; the rise in costs is necessary to improve education in the province; this program is no longer sustainable.

In response to the government’s proposal, the class boycott and the initial protests were organized by three student groups: the FECQ (the Quebec Federation of College students), FEUQ (the Quebec Federation of University Students) and CLASSE (The Broader Coalition of the Association for Student-Union Solidarity). Quickly, the government and its allies sought to paint the protesters as lazy students seeking something for nothing; cradle-to-grave entitlements no longer possible in the new reality.

But what might easily have passed with only a murmur of protest has become a lighting rod of discontent against the increasingly unpopular Liberal government. Quebec premier Jean Charest unwisely and unintentionally invoked the spirit of Marie Antoinette in April when he joked at a gathering surrounded by protesters demonstrating against his polices, “We could offer them a job … in the North, as far (north) as possible.” The audience laughed, but the protests continued to grow. And to spread, throughout the province and throughout the population

Several important features have characterized the struggle against the proposal: The involvement of broader sections of the population outside of students; increased numbers – crowds in the tens of thousands are common; a spontaneous character to many of the protests coupled with an ingenious evolution of tactics – the police have complained several times about protesters use of social media to outwit them. In addition, protesters have staged sit-ins in front of government buildings (at Loto-Quebec for example), blocked traffic in Brossard with concrete blocks and sought to go outside traditional protest channels; lastly, increased brutality by the police – broken bones, beatings and mass arrests have become the norm. The police have resorted to violence to try to curb a movement they cannot control.

On May 18, in response to demands from business that the government get tough with students, the provincial legislature introduced and passed Bill 78. The bill, entitled, “An Act to enable students to receive instruction from the post-secondary institutions they attend,” is a draconian effort to restrict public protests and to cow the students into submission. The law makes illegal any gathering or demonstration over 50 people which does not first seek permission from the authorities. In addition, protesters are required to provide the police with the date, times, routes and location of the actions. Permission may be refused and the police retain the right to change or deny any aspect of proposed demonstrations they do not like. The act called for fines beginning at $1000, but rising as high as $125,000 for leaders of student associations. At the same time, the city of Montreal quietly passed its own bylaw prohibiting the wearing of masks at demonstrations, and those accused of releasing smoke bombs in the Metro were charged with creating fear of a terrorist act – a crime which carries a five-year prison term.

Instead of cowing the demonstrators, the law met resistance. Demonstrations, now technically illegal, continued just as frequently, but with a growing carnival spirit. As with the Latin American cacerolaza protests, the sound of pots and pans banging in discontent is a common symphony. On May 22, 2012 the 100th day of the strike, in defiance of the authorities, crowds took to the street in record numbers. Conservative estimates place the number of participants at over 100,000 in Montreal, while the actual number may have been as high as a quarter of a million demonstrators. While the police initially stood back, eventually the arrests came: The day of the demonstration the police waited until the early hours before the arrests began. On the 23rd, over 400. The next day 100, and it continues. Daily and nightly actions accompanied by arrests.

And as the government tried to break the demonstrators’ spirit with repression, it also tried more subtle methods. On May 24, the government invited the three student groups to meet with them to discuss the situation, hoping perhaps that the students organizations might now be willing to ‘see reason,’ but even before the students had accepted the offer the government announced that neither the tuition fees nor Bill 78 would be on the table. Both sides initially issued positive releases, but within days talks fell apart.

It should be noted though that in addition to the government and the police, the Quebec unions despite their lip service to the struggle have sought to curtail the protests. On the May 22 demonstrations, the unions negotiated with the police for their participation in the demonstration. Also noteworthy, the FECQ and the FEUQ remained with the unions. Earlier in May, these same union federations pressured the student groups to accept a “compromise” position which essentially adopted the government’s demands but with the establishment of a committee including business groups, unions and students to implement the austerity program. In the face of hostility from protesters, the scheme collapsed. At the parliamentary level, the federal New Democrat Party, Canada’s official opposition, has said little about the students except to mutter that this is a provincial matter. This despite the fact that the majority of the NDP’s Members of Parliament are from Quebec; of course, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair was a former Charest government minister.

What is important then, is not the various student forces who would like to lead the struggle, but the way the struggle has unfolded. “A-A-Anti-capitaliste” has been a common chant as well as the French equivalent of “Whose Streets? Our Streets!” It is perhaps telling that while the media has tried to focus on the fleur-de-leys, the Quebeçois nationalist flag, the flag which has dominated the demonstrations has been a small red square. The red square has become a badge of honour, and the same weekend Bill 78 was passed against the students, Mick Jagger, perhaps for opportunistic reasons, and the Quebec rock band Arcade Fire wore the square on Saturday Night Live. Solidarity protests have occurred in other Canadian cities like Vancouver and Toronto, and internationally in New York and Brussels. There is an open militancy which shows no signs of dying away.

Yet, a word of clarification is necessary. For all the talk of anti-capitalism, the students of Quebec, whether consciously or otherwise, frame their struggle in terms of who will pay for the crisis of capitalism. For the capitalists, the answer is in balancing the books through cuts to social services and increased costs for the working class; for the left, which here includes the student leaders, the solution is higher and “fairer” taxes, and making the rich pay. Implicitly or explicitly, this demand will eventually lead to calls for the election of the Quebec nationalist Parti Quebeçois in its Social-Democratic guise (rather than its recessionary one – until it is elected of course). To ask, who shall pay for the crisis of capitalism is to suppose that it can be paid for.

The crisis of capitalism is a systemic crisis whose solution lies in its overthrow and replacement with a system where the law of value has been abolished. Without the abolition of capitalism, the attacks on the working class will continue to grow even if the forms change: unemployment, inflation, loss of healthcare or access to higher education will not disappear even if the students win this particular struggle. We support the refusal of students and workers to endure capital’s attacks, but these attacks will continue until production and exchange for money stops, until the overthrow of capitalism and the value-form.

The ‘Greeks of Canada,’ one media pundit called the student protesters and their allies in Quebec and beyond. Despite the racism of painting the students as the “lazy” Greeks in contrast to the hard-working Germans, was it the insult it was meant to be? Greece has seen massive social unrest as segments of the population have resisted attempts to impose austerity, have fought capital’s efforts to subdue their struggles. The Quebec student struggle can follow that road, but for the students and their allies ultimately to be successful, the protests must continue to spread. They have gone beyond the classroom and into the broader community, but they must go further still. The demonstrations, the occupations, the actions, must also become sites in which a discussion of capitalism and its core structures are the issue. Once that discussion begins, the real political issues begin to emerge.

Fischer / June 10, 2012

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God Save the Queen

June 7, 2012 at 1:59 am (Uncategorized)

Yeah, we all know it was #1 in ’77

 

God save the queen
The fascist regime
They made you a moron
Potential H-bomb

God save the queen
She ain’t no human being
There is no future
In England’s dreaming

Don’t be told what you want
Don’t be told what you need
There’s no future, no future,
No future for you

God save the queen
We mean it man
We love our queen
God saves

God save the queen
‘Cause tourists are money
And our figurehead
Is not what she seems

Oh God save history
God save your mad parade
Oh Lord God have mercy
All crimes are paid

When there’s no future
How can there be sin
We’re the flowers in the dustbin
We’re the poison in your human machine
We’re the future, your future

God save the queen
We mean it man
We love our queen
God saves

God save the queen
We mean it man
And there is no future
In England’s dreaming

No future, no future,
No future for you
No future, no future,
No future for me

No future, no future,
No future for you
No future, no future
For you

 

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Diamond Jubilee – No Thank you Your Majesty

June 6, 2012 at 3:57 pm (Uncategorized)

Ah, I do remember the Silver Jubilee. Glad I’m not in the UK for this one.  From the WSWS. 

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The Diamond Jubilee: A glorification of wealth and privilege

By Robert Stevens
6 June 2012

For days, the British public has been subjected to saturation coverage of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

This diet of carefully choreographed royal propaganda, which included minute-by-minute coverage of Sunday’s 1,000-boat pageant on London’s river Thames and an official pop concert at Buckingham Palace, ensured that any serious news was all but excised.

The mounting economic crisis in Europe, the death of another British soldier in Afghanistan (the 417th to have died since the 2001 invasion), were reduced to footnotes.

The tens of millions of pounds spent on the Royal Jubilee is in stark contrast to the demands of the ruling elite that working people—the target of the most severe austerity measures since the 1930s—must make “sacrifices” for the good of the nation. It is estimated that the cost of the celebrations, including the extra public Bank Holiday, will be around £1.2 billion.

Much of the expense has been on ensuring a security lockdown of the capital. For the Thames Pageant event alone, 13,000 security forces were mobilised, including members of the Royal Navy and Marines, as well as police officers.

Over the past month, London’s 40 square miles have been systematically swept by security forces, including police frogmen carrying out an underwater search of the Thames, to counter the so-called “terrorist threat”. This is on top of the biggest mobilisation of the armed forces in London since the Second World War, already in place in the run-up to the Olympic Games.

The pop concert organised outside Buckingham Palace plumbed new depths of sycophancy and deference. Performing alongside a number of tired, multi-millionaire musicians including Paul McCartney, Elton John and Stevie Wonder, were a host of manufactured reality TV show creations. Just what is one to make of Prince Charles giving thanks to one Gary Barlow, lead singer in the 1990s boy-band, Take That, for organising the event?

In the process of these celebrations, all manner of the crimes of British imperialism were brushed under the carpet. In May, the Queen hosted a tea party of international Sovereign Monarchs to celebrate her Jubilee. Amongst the attendees were the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, fresh from their bloody repression of opposition protests in Bahrain.

At the May 23 Royal Academy “Celebration of the Arts” event to commemorate the Jubilee, Bono, lead singer of rock band U2, thanked the Queen for her reign and visit to Ireland last year. This is the band whose 1982 recording “Sunday Bloody Sunday” song—about the slaughter of 13 innocent people in Derry in 1972 by the occupying British army—is rated as one of the best political protest songs of all time.

What exactly is being celebrated here? According to a recent Brand Finance report, the tangible assets of the royal family, including the Duchy of Cornwall with around 133,658 acres, over 23 counties, are worth an estimated £18 billion.

Today, the financial and social gulf between the UK’s rich and the rest of the population is at record levels. The Sunday Times Rich List, which tracks the wealth of Britain’s richest 1,000 people, records their combined wealth at £414 billion. The Queen herself is worth more than £300 million (a vast underestimation).

The Financial Times was forced to note in a comment that since the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, “society has become far more unequal. After tax, the richest 1 per cent now have 9 per cent of all income, compared with 3 per cent in 1977.”

Now the social position of the working class is being subjected to an even sharper decline as a result of the government’s austerity measures. Millions are without work. Pay cuts and freezes are the norm, while the destruction of social provision—implemented to fund the multi-billion-pound bailout of Britain’s banks in 2008—means many being denied their right to health care, education and social benefits.

In the capital, soup kitchens now feed thousands of people every day, including emaciated and starving children.

Despite the media’s best efforts to present the population of the UK “as all being in it together”, a single episode from the Jubilee made plain the real state of class relations.

On Monday the Guardian reported that a group of long-term unemployed people from Bristol, Bath and Plymouth had been bussed into London and forced to work as unpaid stewards during the Jubilee, as part of the government’s Work Programme.

Up to 30 people on unemployment benefit and another 50 people on apprentice wages were taken to London by Close Protection UK, which had won a stewarding contract for the Jubilee. Given no accommodation, they were told to sleep overnight in freezing cold conditions under London Bridge before being sent to steward the river pageant the following day. The 50 apprentices were paid just £2.80 an hour while in London.

The Guardian, based on accounts from two of the people, reported, “They had to change into security gear in public, had no access to toilets for 24 hours, and were taken to a swampy campsite outside London after working a 14-hour shift in the pouring rain on the banks of the Thames on Sunday.”

One of the females employed as a steward said, “London was supposed to be a nice experience, but they left us in the rain. They couldn’t give a crap … No one is supposed to be treated like that, [working] for free. I don’t want to be treated where I have to sleep under a bridge and wait for food.”

Despite being forced into calling an “investigation”, Close Protection UK managing director Molly Prince defended the use of unpaid workers, claiming, “The only ones that won’t be paid are because they don’t want to be paid. They want to do this voluntarily, [to] get the work experience.”

In truth, many unemployed workers are now being forced into such miserable schemes under the Work Programme, as a means of throwing them off unemployment benefit. Up to 270 voluntary organisations and charities have signed up to the programme.

The pouring of vast political, financial and human resources into the Jubilee celebrations takes place at a time of widespread alienation amongst the mass of working people and youth from the political parties and state institutions.

Support for all the three main political parties has collapsed, while much of Britain’s ruling elite—along with the police—have been exposed through their relations with financial oligarchs, such as Rupert Murdoch, as deeply corrupt.

No doubt the promotion of the monarchy as an institution supposedly above all this stench is intended to remedy this situation. Instead, the glorification of wealth and privilege only proves just how far removed the bourgeoisie is from the concerns and sentiments of millions and brings to mind nothing so much as the final days of the French aristocracy.

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