X-Mas Update

December 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!,

Unfortunately I am going to be quite busy for the next two weeks or so with Christmas, followed quickly by a holiday to New Zealand. This is only unfortunate in that I won’t be able to update this blog much until I get back on the 11th of January.

But don’t fret there are plenty of things that will be posted when I get back including a review of Umberto Eco’s new book The Prague Cemetery, something on Billy Elliot ( 🙂 ) and the development of both social realism and weird fiction.

In the mean time keep your spirits up with this little tune:

TONY
Can you hear it in the distance?
Can you…sense it far away?

GEORGE
Is it old Rudolph the Reindeer?
Is it Santa on his sleigh?

TONY & GEORGE
It’s heading up to Easington.

It’s coming down the Tyne.

Oh! It’s bloody Maggie Thatcher and Michael Heseltine!
So Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher
May God’s love be with you
We all sing together in one breath
Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher
We all celebrate today
Cos it’s one day closer to your death

They’ve come to raid your stockings
And to steal your Christmas pud
But don’t be too downhearted
It’s all for your own good
The economic infrastructure
Must be swept away
To make way for business parks and lower rates of pay, so…

Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher
May God’s love be with you
We all sing together it one breath
Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher
We all celebrate today
Cos it’s one day closer to your death.
And they’ve brought their fascist bootboys
And they’ve brought the boys in blue
And the whole Trade Union Congress
will be at the party too
And they’ll all hold hands together
All standing in a line
Cos they’re privatising Santa
This merry Christmas time, so…
Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher
May God’s love be with you
We all sing together in one breath
Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher
We all celebrate today
Coo it’s one day closer to your death.

Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher
May God’s love be with you
We all sing together in one breath
Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher
We all celebrate today
Coo it’s one day closer to your death.

LITTLE GIRLS
Oh my darling, Oh my darling,
Oh my darling Heseltine
You’re a tosser, you’re a wanker
And you’re just a Tory Swine.

Who is the Monster in ‘Frankenstein’?

December 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

With the class divide in society increasing and a generalized anti-capitalist sentiment starting to develop in many countries once again, I think its an opportune moment to glance back at Frankenstein, a monstrous tale ridden with class. A novel I think that forces you to consider the question of who is and who isn’t the monster in our society.

Who is the real monster in Mary Shelly’s Gothic classic Frankenstein ? I’m reminded of the opening to the Walt Disney classic The Hunchback of Notre Dame where a riddle is posed about the story that follows, ‘who is the monster and who is the man?’

The answer to the question and the riddle is shaped by your position in society. In Frankenstein we have two primary contestants for the title of monster, on the one hand Victor Frankenstein, an upper class liberal intellectual driven to create what he comes to see as an abomination, and on the other hand the ‘Monster’ itself, a creation abused and rejected from its ‘birth’ and therefore driven to seek revenge upon human society and its creator in particular.

The most obvious answer , I suppose, is that Frankenstein’s Monster is the real monster of the text. However the Monster can only be portrayed as truly monstrous from a certain point of the view, that is from the viewpoint of the wealth elite such as Victor Frankenstein. For them the Monster is a nightmarish vision of anarchy and revolt with it’s roots in bourgeois and elite society’s terror of the growing anger of the working masses, whose action have sprawled out of the control of the authorities.

In order to grasp this we have to examine the context in which Mary Shelly was writing. Frankenstein was first published in 1818 and so was born into a world of class conflict and rapid industrialization. In the decades leading up to the creation of the novel, the Luddite movement in Britain arose, responding to the worsening economic conditions of the industrial laborers. The Luddites ‘attacked and destroyed machines that were intended to replace human labor, particularly in the trades of weaving and stocking-making.’ Shelly was directly connected to the politics surrounding the Luddite movement through her friend Lord Byron. Byron had used his maiden speech in the House of Lords to attack the savage reprisals against the Luddites that had been proposed by the Tory’s. Also, Mary Shelly’s husband, Percy Shelly, was concerned with the radical politics of the time.

In this context then the Monster takes on a particularly political light. For just like Victor, the ruling classes of Europe have created in the working masses a monster outside of their control, or in the words of Karl Marx ‘What the bourgeoisie produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers.’

You can look at this connection between the Monster and the industrial proletariat in another way, from the point of view of the created rather than the creator. In Marx and Engels’ The Communist Manifesto, they describe how ‘hateful… and embittering it is’ to live under capitalism, to be in a world dominated by someone else. Likewise, in the Monster’s final speech towards the very end of the book (and of course throughout) we hear it say ‘ I miserable and abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on’. The source of his anger is directed towards his creator not only for spurning him but because Frankenstein ‘dared to hope for happiness; that while he accumulated wretchedness and despair upon me he sought his own enjoyment.’ How alike is this to the worker in Marxist theory who feels anger towards the system not only because she/he is oppressed but because the capitalists are living it up at their expense. The literary critic, Paul F’linn puts it this way ‘Just as Frankenstein’s creation drives him through exhausting and unstinting conflicts to his death, so too a class called into being bu the bourgeoisie and yet rejected and frustrated by it will in the end turn on that class in fury and vengeance and destroy it.’

The other candidate for the monster status is Victor Frankenstein, the creator of the Monster. Shelly’s critiques of Frankenstein’s actions are quite sharp, and it is not just the character that she is critiquing but I would argue the  bourgeois class he represents. Frankenstein is driven to create life in order to prove the unbeatable power of reason over the world, he says that ‘Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and poor a torrent of light into our dark world.’ At first Frankenstein appears as a heroic liberal intellectual par excellence, with a beautiful family, nice upbringing (at one point Victor Frankenstein says of his parents that ‘I was their plaything and their idol’.), and despite the tragic death of his mother, Victor comes out as enduring pain and woe.

Once he has created the Monster, however, Victor starts to develop into a rather off-putting and unattractive hero. He collapses into a kind of sickened state following the creation of the Monster, and when the Monster starts to take his revenge against him he feels only contempt and revulsion at its existence. So when Frankenstein meets the Monster again he says, ‘Begone, vile insect! Or rather stay, that I may trample you to the dust!; And When the Monster finishes his story of abuse and isolation and asks for Victor to create another Monster as a mate, Frankenstein similarly replies ‘Begone! I have answered you; you may torture me, but I will never consent.’ The Monster is able through reason and argument rather than ‘torture’ to sway Frankenstein to his side temporarily, only to have Victor destroy the mate once it is created and betray the Monster yet again.

For those who sympathize with the Monster’s plight then, it is the creator who comes off looking like the monster.

If you are sympathetic to the rule of authority, to the rights of the elite to do whatever they want and to hell with the consequences, then you are likely to agree with Frankenstein that despite his wrong doing in creating this Monster, the only just thing to do now is end its life. However if you are a part of, or identify with the creation rather than the creator, if when you read about the development of the Monster’s life and can feel some empathy, if not see some similarity, then I would argue this will profoundly shape your understanding of who is the real monster in Frankenstein.

So for you ”who is the monster and who is the man?’

Elsewhere on the Net

December 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Elsewhere on the net, happens every second Monday and gives us some space to have a look at fiction, non-fiction, blog posts and political commentary from around the place.

First of all everyone should check out Christmas Island/ They Kill Them a dual poetry reading by Amanda Anastasi and Ben Solah. The video is embedded below and more can be found out about this on Ben’s blog Blood and Barricades. The performance concerns the plight of refugees in Australia and those who are responsible. For more refugee poetry related stuff check my review of ‘Inside Out’ by Mohsen Soltany Zand.

 

I also think an early plug for the Marxism 2012 conference is in order. The conference will be run over 4 days during the Easter weekend in Melbourne Australia, Thursday April 5th – Sunday April 8th. As well as including over 70 sessions and international guest speakers on a huge range of topics there is also going to be a session on Emile Zola’s Germinal: A novel of working class struggle. So check out the new interactive session timetable and get your tickets booked!

Reading the Riots is a brilliant study on the London riots that broke out this year based upon 270 interviews with rioters, it examines the economic and politic roots of the revolt of the poor that shook England. Here’s one of the many amazing quotes: “We had [the police] under control,” said one 21-year-old London rioter. “We had them under manners for once. They never had us under manners. We had them on lock. On smash. Running away from us. We weren’t running from the police. They was the criminals today. We was enforcing the law. Getting them out of our town because they ain’t doing nothing good anyway for no one.”

It would also be terrible not to mention the inspiring protests in Russia at the moment against Putin’s ballot tapering and the general crisis of economics and democracy in the country. The guardian has some okay coverage on the movement but informed reportage in English is lacking.

Comic Book writers and Occupy Wallstreet

December 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

Frank Miller, writer of the comic books 300, Sin City and now some pile of crap called Holy Terror (where superheros battle evil Muslim terrorists), has once again revealed his right wing hysterical beliefs with an attack upon the occupy protests in the US. Here is a quote from Miller:

“Occupy” is nothing short of a clumsy, poorly-expressed attempt at anarchy, to the extent that the “movement” – HAH! Some “movement”, except if the word “bowel” is attached – is anything more than an ugly fashion statement by a bunch of iPhone, iPad wielding spoiled brats who should stop getting in the way of working people and find jobs for themselves.

Oh and it continues with all the usual abusive nonsense from someone who has decided to take the side of the rich and powerful. Not content with elitism Miller moves on to war mongering anti-arab racism with comments like:

Wake up, pond scum. America is at war against a ruthless enemy.

 Maybe, between bouts of self-pity and all the other tasty tidbits of narcissism you’ve been served up in your sheltered, comfy little worlds, you’ve heard terms like al-Qaeda and Islamicism.

 And this enemy of mine — not of yours, apparently – must be getting a dark chuckle, if not an outright horselaugh – out of your vain, childish, self-destructive spectacle.

Now none of this horseshit should come as much of a surprise, Frank Miller’s ‘graphic novels’ are childish reactionary fairy tales. Alan Moore the writer of comic books such as V for Vendetta, From Hell and Watchmen said of Miller’s comics that ‘I thought the Sin City stuff was unreconstructed misogyny; 300 [a 1998 comic book series] appeared to be wildly ahistoric, homophobic and just completely misguided. I think that there has probably been a rather unpleasant sensibility apparent in Frank Miller’s work for quite a long time.”

Sin City is a pretty typical film noir gore fest with prostitutes armed with machine guns thrown in and an unhealthy dose of vigilantism, while 300, as Moore says, purposely takes out an suggestion that Spartans were anything other than heterosexual and makes out their enemies as evil sexual deviants from the ‘east’.

When the revolutions of 1848 broke out Victor Hugo for all his love of the people and hatred of poverty ended up shooting down communist workers on the barricades. It’s moments like these when social and economic crisis leads to resistance and people actually stand up for themselves that people are pushed to take a bloody side, yes even creative types. Alan Moore, despite the fact that V for Vendetta for instance has a lot of elitist nonsense and Guy Fawkes should hardy be anyone’s hero, has taken the right side, Frank Miller has pegged his coat tails to a system of greed, corruption, inequality and oppression and will be brought down just like the system he so dearly loves.

Miller’s comments are here

Alan Moore’s here

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