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Sputniki January 5, 2008

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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Darlings, answer me this. The nice girl who sells coffee at Teddington Station earns, say, sick squid, sorry, six quid an hour. That’s an estimate but based on loosely empirical evidence as I just walked in on the Russian checking fantasy job listings for when we move, upon the flight of pigs and above my corpse, to London. So the nice girl – Spanish, I thought – earns six quid an hour. How long do people in England work? 40 hours a week? And there are probably 4-and-a-half working weeks a month, so that’s 180 hours a month which comes to – oh god, the calculator’s miles away and I’m on the laptop – erm, 1080 pounds a month. Before tax and national insurance, which accounts for about a third, doesn’t it? So that’s, erm, 360 gone, so she’s left with about 700 quid. Darlings, tell me, how the fuck, in London, does she not die of starvation in ten seconds? Or is that what happens, and the turnover of nice, young ladies selling coffee at Teddington Station is one a day? Or is she perhaps helped to avoid public transportation costs by being given a cardboard box in the corner and a dusty, filthy, threadbare blanket to keep the chill from her bones? Because she can’t afford to live in Teddington and it costs 700 quid to travel one stop from there in either direction, which, in any case, only gets you to another leafy suburb which she couldn’t afford to live in. I asked the Russian if I should propose marriage and take her away from all this (or that) but poverty and squalor for poverty and squalor is not a good swap and, anyway, perhaps she likes London, and, anyway, then our train came and we’d been waiting so long that taking it was too good an opportunity to miss, even if I did miss out on getting married for my troubles.

I was reminded of the benefits of being able to understand what people say and thought it has perhaps not come about by chance that people in one place speak the same language. Such a brilliant idea! Eavesdropping is my favourite thing in the world apart from internet access and I’m bored of only being able to half-eavesdrop Germans. And, anyway, all Germans ever complain about is how expensive everything is, which isn’t juicy enough for a seasoned eavesdropper.

“Yuh, yuh,” said a boy who looked like he might have been in Prince William’s class at school loudly into his telephone. “Yuh, yuh, I’m pretty bloody ready for that, yuh.” He got off at the same stop as us and I was dreading when I finally got a good look at him – so far I had only seen his floppy blond hair, tall, aristo stature and ludicrously long luggage – skiing! – and heard him yuh – that he would have the annoyingly good Merchant Ivory looks that that type often annoyingly has. “Yuh, can you open the barrier please?” (Muffled response from TfL person behind glass, perhaps suggesting the passenger insert his ticket into it.) “Yuh – and with petulance – but it’s in my bag. Can you just open the barrier please? I’m going to miss my flight.” Before I could check whether he was a dish or not, I had my own trouble with a machine saying something about oysters and by the time that was sorted in a haze of fluster, sweat and foundation-laying-for-an-argument-with-the-Russian, he had dashed off with his long luggage dragging behind him like the train on Princess Diana’s wedding dress.

“Dunnee look luvly?” I said to the Russian, who pointed out that I was wrong to even check if he was beautiful and that he had all the beauty I needed… We finally caught up with the skier and there was nothing Merchant Ivory about him at all.

“Fuck off, you fat, ugly cow,” I screamed at Lindsay Davenport. I don’t even think she is a fat, ugly cow, particularly, but relationships can make you say the rudest things, as I explained to my brother and sister, who happened to witness the moment, and they forgave me my intemperate outburst. “Don’t you love her?” asked some random person who leapt to Lindsay Davenport’s defence. “Of course I bloody love her, but it’s just all so exhausting.” And I slumped onto the sofa. “Stop being gay,” the Russian said within everyone’s earshot. A mouse fell off the lampshade onto my shoulder…

“I sink my braazer is autist,” presently said the Russian, who received a special mention in the best newcomer category at last year’s world social autism awards. I’d worried as much myself. I’d sent an unnaturally gushing New Year’s text to my quasi-brother-in-law saying that I INSISTED he come to London with us on our next trip. “Tomorrow I drive to babushka,” came his less gushing reply.

“So, zis button must be svitched on and zis vun off for remote-control to vörk and…” continued the Russian explaining the thornier difficulties of how to change channels in my mother’s spectacularly low-tech abode. “Darling, I’ll never change channel in this house ever in my life. Instead, work out how long it’s going to take you to finish explaining this to me and just repeat ‘I love you’ over and over for the corresponding time instead.”

Planning now to snuggle up for a good bout of lovely, London-induced, cosy man-illness for the rest of the winter. Happy New Year!

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Comments»

1. annie - January 5, 2008

Hurrah! You’re back. I know, I don’t understand how people survive on less-than-minimum wage in London. I suspect by doing bed-shares (sharing a bed in shifts) like in Down and Out in Paris and London or something.

How are the famille? I prescribe ginger and lemon tea for that man-illness, whatever it is.

2. SG Times - January 5, 2008

Perhaps I can tempt you up to the dairy lands of the north? With all the Turkish barbers and Polish butchers, it’s almost like being in Berlin. Except there’s better telly. I mean, ‘Can Fat Teens Hunt’ and a channel deicated solely to the theme ‘Little People, Big World’? I’d gladly live on 700 quid a month and be even happier to spend it entirely on TV tax and baked beans.
Um, anyway, drinks?

3. bowleserised - January 5, 2008

I actually lived on less than that in London. That’s why I still never check my bank balance. The memory of it… Oh God.

So pleased you’re back and on fine form. When are we going to meet up so I can play you crazy Raaassian music?

4. MountPenguin - January 5, 2008

Doesn’t the UK have an ultra-low tax band or something now for those mortals not earning silly £££? (I’ve never actually worked there, so I’ve no idea how the system works).

5. narrowback - January 5, 2008

don’t know much about low income survival strategies for london but from personal experience in nyc & san francisco it can be and is done. reside in marginal neighborhoods, mutilple roomates, a less than optimal diet, perpetual debt. seems like an edgy lifestyle when young but a drag as one gets older

6. Blonde at Heart - January 5, 2008

So the holiday was to your mum’s? How nice of you.

As for the coffee girl, if the law in the UK is the same as in Israel, she can live in a small, mouldy flat in one of London’s seedy suburbs, and pay really low rent as the workplace pays for her tube rides.

7. D.Z. Bodenberg - January 5, 2008

The word on the streets is that most coffee sellers would love to live in Israel, BaH.

8. pleite - January 5, 2008

D.Z., Israel does sound a rather more generous place than the UK, doesn’t it?

…BaH, I am sure this young lady enjoyed no perks, like free public transport, whatsoever. Mind you, she didn’t seem majorly gloomy or anything, but I presume that was because it was her first day and the effects of hunger hadn’t clicked in yet. When she had a free second between customers, she was off washing windows and doors and turning down proposals of marriage.

Narrowback, yes, she had age on her side. I suppose there was all that sharing and debt and malnutrition but the rent is still a bit of a mystery and I can’t work out how she wouldn’t be spending a good chunk on transport. But, yes, people do it, so it must be doable.

Penguin, not to my knowledge, though I think there is talk of wanting to introduce a lower tax band, or increase the threshold so that those earning a pittance would pay no tax at all. Maybe it’s already happened. I can’t believe employers can still get away with cash in hand in this day and age, at least not somewhere as officially and addressably and solidly existing as a café.

B., can’t leave the house till November. Unless it’s to do something utterly free and within walking distance. Like listening to Raaassian music, actually. At your within-walking-distance house. What can it be? Not Alla Pugacheva? (No, she’s not crazy at all.)

SG, a million apologies, but I’ve already absconded. But I promise I didn’t see a single soul when I was in London, so please don’t think I flitted in and out and saw everyone in the world but you. Because I didn’t. Honest guv. In fact, I didn’t even see one sibling, which my family, of course, thinks is scandal of the century, but I think it will be perfectly fine seeing her next time, whenever that will be. But I so can’t manage my London trips.

Annie, darling, thank you. We’re moaning and groaning and drinking tea and swallowing pills like nobody’s business, which is all perfect. I love being ill, as long as it’s not stomachy. Or eary. Or toothy. Or backy. And I’m dreading when I finally get sciatica, as everyone tells me it’s much the most painful thing in the world, though they have, admittedly, all been men and I’m actually not bad at pain which, I think, comes from having an all-too-close acquaintance with asthma which, while not painful, can be supremely unpleasant. Sorry, what am I on about? Yes, come to Berlin again. It’s the only way I can ever get to see anyone. Or on neutral ground. Like, um, the Pyrenees. (Bumped into a pal in the airport on the way back, mind.)

9. MountPenguin - January 6, 2008

Another theory: she could have been in London to learn English and was working to top up her savings or something. (I used to have a “job” in Tokyo as a student which was actually paid in lieu as a rent reduction which would have worked out to a ridiculously low hourly wage, but it was good Japanese practice and only for a few months, so I didn’t mind).

10. pleite - January 6, 2008

Penguin, yes, I think you’re right. She must have been in London to learn English and this was pocket money. It did make me think, though, that classifying the Poles as economic migrants was, at least as far as London was concerned, a bit odd. Can there really be money left from what they earn to send home or save up to buy a ranch in Silesia at some point in the future?

Anyway, fucking beautiful place, London.

11. D.Z. Bodenberg - January 6, 2008

Surely it’s only ‘doable’ – the current ‘British way of life’, I mean – as almost everyone’s (that I know in Britain anyway) got a shed-load of debt; of the kind that’s (thankfully) very much the exception over here. Not just a mortgage, or a student loan of a good 15,000 quid plus, but credit cards, overdrafts, etc. Of course, if you start working life with such a massive debt after going to college, a few credit cards and another few thousand minus on the bank statement won’t make any much difference, and make it all the easier to ‘buy’ a flat/house, and also having so much credit makes you credit-worthy and able to get more.

12. IsarSteve - January 6, 2008

It’s good sometimes to sit back and to thank goodness that we made the move to Germany… Of course, the Germans are always running themselves and the country down.. I sometimes think they don’t realise how good they have it.
Yes, it’s not all honey and roses here and in any system there will always be people at the bottom.. that said, we definitely live easier, more contented lives in Germany than in the U.K.

One of my relations in the “Home Counties” recently wanted to put their house “on the market” so that they could “cash in” on some of their equity. They had a rude awakening when they discovered that overnight it was worth quite a bit less than they thought.. and bang went the holiday in 2008.
In 1997 I applauded the end of the Tory years of smash and grab.. and stupidly hoped for a better future. But what has gone on since then has made my Social Democratic Heart very sad. All four parts of the U.K. now have different Parliaments, as well as different ways of electing them; the House of Lords still “half exists”. The country is in a bl…dy mess.
I expect a revolution or perhaps a break up of the country (England will go its own way) at some time in the next ten years.. :o(

13. d.z. bodenberg - January 6, 2008

I expect the “UK” to collapse at some time in my life, and why not (and the EU probably too, but that’s another matter indeed). But the worrying thing is the ‘way’ England will go, if Scotland and Wales aren’t there to calm it down a bit….

What political parties would control an English parliament for ever? Fascist, far-right, conservative, Christian Democrats, anti-European/foreigners, ‘national socialist’, vaguely Social Democratic Blairish types, and a smattering of probably Islamiscist fellow travellers, Greens and the odd Stalinist in the opposition?
Possibly with the Windsors as the heads of state. And then the north might break off from the south (or vice-versa), and Cornwall might declare independence too. It’ll be one long real-life version of ‘Passport to Pimlico’.

Luckily, I was never a social democrat, I suppose, so I was never disappointed by New Labour. Their organisational methods (generally: banning lots of things and lots of ‘information’ campaigns, often run together with big business) were very evident inside ‘New Labour’ from the moment Blair had himself parachuted, thanks to the Evening Standard and sections of the Murdoch press and the London media set, into the Labour leadership. I’m still a bit miffed, though, that the Blairite thing about ‘lowering people’s (i.e. traditional Labour voters’) expectations’ about what a Blair government could achieve, and continuing to blame as much as possible on Thatcher, worked as well for them as it did. I suppose having the trade union leaderships firmly in the government’s pockets was vital on that front.

14. IsarSteve - January 6, 2008

New Labour was/is never Social Democratic… that’s why it doesn’t work..!!

It’s pure Tory… tending more and more towards Facist control freakery..

15. pleite - January 6, 2008

I can’t remember when I first noticed Nu Labour control-freakery, or if their control-freakery is a continuation in a long line of control-freakery. I remember wankers telling us not to look at the eclipse when that (nearly) came to London in 1999. Wankers. But I could just dismiss that as wankery, whereas I as much as mind the instructions I see and hear now. But everyone thinks it’s wank, don’t they?

I have a friend whom I call Nu Labour S_, such is his fervour, and he assures me everything is perfect and the future’s bright and that Tony was the best person in the world etc. Can’t understand his passion quite. He even drinks.

Isar, I think I sort of categorise myself as a Social Democrat too, though I don’t know my arse from my elbow and I don’t know whom I’d vote for if I was in the UK now. (I’ve given up on trying to get a postal vote, especially as it’s in a bit of London where I know no-one and where I last lived about 20 years ago.) Life here certainly seems easier than in London. Better living conditions. Though if insane money’s your bag, London’s obviously the place for you.

DZ, dunno about the break-up of the UK. Wales seems disinclined to go its own way, and I don’t think anything other than a slim majority has ever been in favour of Scottish independence. I suppose English nationalism is what would be the ultimate death-knell, but that’s a very dormant beast, isn’t it? Or almost no beast at all? (I’m not that much counting people who fly crosses of St. George outside their houses.) (And I deliberately uninterest myself in Northern Ireland’s status to annoy my family.) But these things can happen quickly once the ball gets rolling. I suppose Scotland’s the place to watch for the foreseeable future. Obviously the ramifications are massive if it did ever happen. Wales being Belarus, reluctant to trudge into independence. England being… can’t bear to compare it to Russia. Speaking of which, I haven’t been further left than social democrat for almost ever, and I think Russia was the nail in my properly leftist coffin. Not that it was leftist when I lived there, of course, but I can’t help blaming the Soviet Union for laying the foundations of that world.

16. d.z. bodenberg - January 6, 2008

An independent Wales could never ‘work’. Neither could Cornwall. Scotland will have great problems when the oil and gas vanishes (as is rapidly happening). And England? What’s does England actually produce these days? On what basis does it’s economy run? Banking? Call centres? Coffee chain stores? The medija? Law? I know that Germany is an exception (an anachronism, even) amongst the G8 states and within the (old) EU, i.e. it’s an ‘industrial’ country that still actually has a pretty high percentage of people working in industry, with a GDP based on those industries, but how can countries that actually do (manafacture, produce, sell) little of much use whatsoever economically survive? I really don’t get it. Therefore, when Scotland, Wales, England, the North, Cornwall and Rutland all finally get their long-awaited independence from each other (Rutland already being much further on that front than The North, England and Cornwall), hopefully, they’ll surely all form (after a few wars, possibly) a Federal Republic of Mainland Britain*, as they won’t be able to get along without each other. And start making some stuff, as when a war’s on, imports tend to be a bit tricky. People only start wanting ‘independence’ (which can’t work in an international economy anyway, unless you want to shut the borders and introduce import controls) when something is badly amiss in the system of government, usually a lack of noticeable or actual democracy (or if the population has been pumped full of nasty nationalist poison for a longer period of time, which means I worry about all those St. George’s flags somewhat more than if they were all Union Flags). When the BNP give up on the “British” part of their nationalism, that’ll be the end of the UK as it is. As the BNP is currently splitting and expelling itself all over the place, it will be interesting to see what comes out of it. The rise of Garry Bushell’s “English Democrats”?

New Labour is essentially the old SDP – a right-wing section of the “old Labour” party which after helping Thatcher win the election in 1983 at the time she was most unpopular (ok, the Falklands did help, too, but I think without the ‘gang of four’ she might not have had longer than one term – or at least Britain would be a very different place – possibly one more like Germany – today). Whether that means they were genuinely ‘social democratic’ or not, I dunno. I don’t think they did/do ‘genuine’… On the other hand, since Thatcher, the Tories aren’t Tories either, are they? Blair and Thatcher, and therefore, most British politicians, represent the free market coupled with the (for this essential) strong arm of the (police, not welfare) state. These ‘old’ labels mean little anyway at the moment, as those who use them to describe themselves don’t hold any collective viewpoint, let alone an ideology, they choose their party card like I might choose my washing powder (though I do choose my washing powder only on the price per wash, where as politicians tend to choose on how best to further their careers, but you get the idea).

* this is essentially the position, incidentally, of an old social democrat, i.e. Lenin. And Wales as Belarus is probably a good comparison. Ron Davies as Lukaschenka?

17. IsarSteve - January 6, 2008

Well, thanks for sharing your opinions.. It does make me quite glad that my life is more than half-over (I hope). I don’t want to live to be 97.. Although the idea of a Margaret Rutherford (Boudica) type sticking up for England as she did for Pimlico, is quite a nice thought.

I suppose I think of myself as being Social Democrat or middle-of-the-road because I’ve always been a “Peaceful Pilgrim” and the thought of street fighting à la lefties and faschos was never my thing.

I too think the break-up will start in England and there is already a ground-swell feeling going in that direction. It might be held back a little by banning the Daily Mail and Richard Littlejohn (what an apt name), but I think a break-up is inevitable.

I think N-Labour (I wonder how they will choose to brand themselves at the next election) is mostly responsible for this by introducing differing voting systems in the “regions”. I’m not allowed to vote anymore in the U.K. as I’ve lived away for more than 18 years, but I honestly wouldn’t know who to vote for anyway. The Liberals..? nah much too jolly-hockey-sticks for me.. The Greens..? nah too Anti-Europe.. The New-Cons..?? nooope…Thatcher would consider Cameron a wet. And Gordon Brown and his party… pass…!!

18. marshaklein - January 7, 2008

I think London is the most expensive city in Europe by a mile (if not the world) and can never understand why so many Brits complain about the cost of things “abroad”. Having said that, I think I am too old and rubbish at adapting to new things to live outside UK now.

19. IsarSteve - January 7, 2008

It’s not just that London or even England is expensive.

But it has more to do with what we Krauts* call:

das Kosten-Nutzen-Verhältnis… or being taken to the laundry.

I think it’s called Rip-off Britain these days..

*At least I feel as if I am..

20. pleite - January 8, 2008

Oh wank, I just went and lost a comment on myself.

Isar, my New Labour insider tells me Gordon is still happy enough with the brand. And I’m unsure about the break-up for now though, again, these things can happen quickly once the ball gets rolling. But I don’t think there’s much of an appetite for it yet, and, if those Brits can maintain that pragmatism I think they’re meant to be famous for, perhaps they’d find it all a faggot above a load, especially bearing in mind how interdependent everyone is in today’s version of the economy. Perhaps there’ll be further tweaks to the ‘constitution’, but I reckon they’ll still plod along together for another good while yet.

Marsha, I couldn’t imagine upping sticks again now either. Not for another new place, at least. Maybe to go back to the UK – eek – but not to go off to Rwanda or Croatia or somewhere unknown and adventure-requiring… And I spent a ludicrous amount of non-existent money in London. Still livid just thinking about it.

DZ, I had slightly forgotten of the existence of Garry Bushell. Is he actually affiliated to that party? I am also slightly mystified at how unmakey economies function, although imagine that banking must make such a fortune that it is enough to keep this part of the current boom-and-bust cycle going. I don’t actively encourage Wales, or Rutland (Rutland? Really?) or Cornwall to go their own way, as I think that might be wank, in a way, though I wouldn’t object, either, if that’s what they decided, though I DO think there is something to be said for governing smaller units. Would probably be a pain if the whole world (unless it was schengenny) was made of countries the size of Luxembourg, but I’ve got a feeling it’s a good move to govern as locally as possible… Dunno who’d make a good Welsh Lukashenka. Who’s got the best comb-over in the principality?

21. d.z. bodenberg - January 8, 2008

Yes, Bushell has even stood for them in an election, and could well stand for Mayor of London this year.

I don’t actively encourage Wales, or Rutland (Rutland? Really?) or Cornwall to go their own way, as I think that might be wank, in a way, though I wouldn’t object, either, if that’s what they decided,

You know that’s Lenin speaking (or writing, I must get rid of those Collected Works our neighbour used to use as a makeshift decorating table) again?

22. pleite - January 8, 2008

Christ, do you mean I am a reincarnation of Lenin? Which would make sense, a bit. At least in explaining away why I got involved with Russia in the first place. (I’ve always claimed it was because I was a young communist and liked the literature, but I think I was lying on both counts.) I think I basically believe in the right to self-determination, though obviously that can cause more problems than it solves. I’ve seen folk arguing against independence for Kosovo, whereas I’m sort of half-heartedly for it, but then those against say, and I think this is a fair point, “Well, OK, but as long as the same principle is applied to the Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina who want to secede from there and join Serbia proper.” So it’s cans of worms all over the shop. And no one-size-fits-all solution. And imagine trying to redraw Africa’s borders along ethnic (not that a state has to be ethnically homogeneous, of course, and Somalia is Africa’s most (or only, dunno) ethnically homogeneous country, and they don’t want to be one particularly) lines, rather than the ones the French and we kindly gave them.

I trust you liked Bushell’s opening gambit, “To be born English is to have won first prize in the lottery of life”? I wouldn’t be voting for him, if I could vote.

23. d.z. bodenberg - January 9, 2008

I like Bushell and support the English Democrats “in the way a rope supports a hanging man”. But that’s enough Lenin quotes (on the Bolsheviks’ attitude to the Labour Party. No wonder they weren’t allowed to join…).

I agree with you on self-determination (also on Kosova). If the majority want it, let ’em have it. It may well be madness, but let them find it out for themselves, then they’ll probably want to join up – voluntarily – with those from whom they detached a while beforehand; which is a much better pre-condition for a functioning state or federation than any compulsion, even if achieved through some war/conquest hundreds of years ago. The Tsarist Empire was “the prison house of nations” and the idea behind them getting independence was that then they would voluntarily join a (in some sense socialist) federation with each other, and even with Russia. Stalin was against this though, and despite being Georgian, always a greater-Russian chauvinist. The things I read at work (Sibag Montefore’s latest. Including the first-ever Stalin poetry translations into German).

On the reincarnation of Lenin… a lot of Leninist theory seems to be to be just common sense (I won’t talk about the practice here), and a lot of those people and organisations who call themselves “Leninist” are a lot less Leninist on this issue than you or I seem to be. You: a young communist? Hm, that would explain a lot about me too. I read War and Peace when 11 (have no idea any more what it was about though), but also A Day in the life of Ivan Denisovitch. I wasn’t a Stalinist, then I suppose. I think I liked the snow and the funny letters best of all.

24. pleite - January 10, 2008

Have you come across Kropotkin on your travels through Russia’s past? He might be your bag. A sort of polite revolutionary who also thought there’d be no need for compunction and that people would happily come on board a communist roadshow once they saw for themselves how good it was.

Is that Young Stalin book a good read? I don’t think I’ve read anything more than articles by Mr. Sebag Montefiore – top name – and remember that he said (or wrote) once something along the lines of thanking god every day that, as a Jew, he was born in England. I couldn’t take his wife seriously when I read some article by her. Her life sounded too ludicrous. But I’ve only just realised – thank you wikipedia – that she is Tara Palmer-Tomkinson’s sister.

Solzhenitsyn was one of my Russian starters-for-ten too.

I suppose all claims for self-determination are wildly different from each other. Can’t see what compromise solution can be found for Kosova – I’m happy with an a if you are – when Serbian authority is clearly anathema to the majority. And they are such a massive majority. I’ve got a feeling the Kosovars were just about tolerably not too dissatisfied in the old Yugoslavia. And that one of Slobo’s first, three-fingers-in-the-air, Srbija-Srbija, rabble-rousing, inflammatory speeches was in Pristina.

25. d.z. bodenberg - January 10, 2008

Well the Kosovars were vaguely satisfied under Tito, but once he died, Milosevic abolished their autonomous-within-Serbia-status with the stroke of a pen, or as you state, with a chetnik-salute and a rabble-rousing speech in the first half of the 1980s (1982?).

Kropotkin? I’ve never read any of his stuff, but all I’ve ever heard about him was enough to make me not want to. Apart from his own background,anyone who preferred bombings to all that tiresome stuff about winning the majority (or anyone) to political ideas, or even to bourgeois democracy, is more than a bit suspect. He also strongly supported (I think) Russia in the First World War against Germany, i.e. was a national chauvinist, and I have a vague memory somewhere, that he marched into a town hall somewhere (alone) once and declared himself the new leader. With no support from anyone. If I want to pin my political flag to a flagpost like that, I could might as well join the Real IRA or even the Irish Socialist Republican Movement, or some mad German post-Baader/Meinhof bombing-to-communism/communism-through-bombing outfit. No thanks.

On the good side, he wrote the Encyclopaedia Britannica articles about Russia, and helped found Freedom Press (and therefore their anarchist bookshop off Whitechapel High Street – a place where you can go ask as much as you like, as a politically-interested teenager, if they have any books about Lenin and Bolshevism from an anarchist viewpoint – i.e. criticism – and they (the bearded, sandal-wearing, old, male staff, looking not unlike Kropotkin, funnily enough – they probably had a load of bombs under the table) will fail to have any whatsoever or know of where you can get them, but would be willing to offer me books on the environment or a subscription to their worthy but very, very dull fortnightly newspaper. I always found that strange, as I’d expect an anarchist bookshop to actually try and take on their larger, more influential, political enemy on the left, with some ideas. They were probably just all too old and jaded.

I’ve only read bits of Young Stalin, but Leon seemed to find it quite entertaining/interesting. Read all about the pock-faced Georgian’s youthful conquests, there were apparently many (that’s an abridged version of the Deutschlandradio review).

26. narrowback - January 11, 2008

are you sure you’re not confusing Kropotkin with the Captain from Koepenick?

my first exposure to the chap was through a hippie-ish record store named after him and run by a semi-famous american blues guitarist of anarchist persuasion… sparked my curiousity.

“Young Stalin” is the next up on my reading list so don’t ruin the good partsd

27. d.z. bodenberg - January 11, 2008

Both are similar, though I suspect that Kropotkin had a better uniform.

28. pleite - January 11, 2008

But look, Narrowback! He remained in Berlin unangemeldet! That outdoes any of his other crimes. I’ve pursed my lips and put on my glasses especially.

DZ, I must have got Kropotkin all wrong. I thought he was a peaceful revolutionary. But my brain is mush and that was all 10 years ago… Does that bookshop still exist? It sounds like a nice place to go and curl up in a fusty armchair on a winter’s day.

29. d.z. bodenberg - January 12, 2008

No armchairs, if I remember rightly. And damned cold.
The website’s here: http://www.freedompress.org.uk/ , disproving the myth that anarchists are ‘modern’ when it comes to the internet and such technology.

30. pleite - January 14, 2008

It says somewhere that that site they link to somewhere or other – sorry, on rubbish laptop. Can’t be bothered to be more thorough – features articles from their own paper and other libertarian sources. I’ve always thought libertarian applied more to small-stateness from the righty, not Marxy point of view, or does that page aim to cover a wider range of views than I’m crediting it with? (The red star makes me thinks it’s a Marxy kinda place.)


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