Anyone who follows or followed this blog can hardly have failed to notice that, with one exception, it has fallen silent since October 2010. Those who have followed it previously will also know that silences are a not uncommon occurrence and are a result of my depressive episodes. However, although 2011 was a very bad year, an absence of 20 months cannot be accounted for by illness only, nor have I spent my time since that time in a continuous depressive episode. So what accounts for the length of this absence over and above my depression? I realise that this is a question of negligible general interest, but since I have always contended that part of my reason for blogging is as a therapeutic activity, I have no compunction about assaying an answer.
I think that the reasons are three-fold…
- A fairly momentous change in my personal circumstances.
- The fact that I have been doing other things (of which I will write in a separate blog or blogs).
- After a while it becomes much harder to start writing again: one loses the habit and it seems that composing even a simple piece is a monumental effort. I also get into the habit of thinking that anything I do write has to be of a high standard. In truth this is absurd – much better to write something, even if it is trivial and ill thought out, than to fall into a habit of silence.
This particular blog is going to comment, fairly briefly, on reason (1) given above. During the first half of 2011 Chris, my wife, was wrestling with the problem of whether or not she should apply for voluntary redundancy from Birmingham Central Library, where she had worked for nearly 40 years. I am certainly not going to discuss the many aspects to her choice but will just say that it was an extremely difficult dilemma. I thought that my own role during this period was to preserve, as best I could, strict neutrality so that she would not be influenced by me. I admit however that I was absolutely delighted when she decided that she would retire.
Unfortunately the immediate consequence was that her workload and the pressure she was under vastly intensified. The second half of 2011 was thus something of a nightmare for her, and for me because during most of this period I was quite ill and thus unable to give her the support that she needed and should have expected. Being incapable of offering help to someone you love when they need it is a wretched sensation. But all things pass and finally, just before Xmas 2011, she left work piled with presents and the most lovely send-off imaginable.
While this was an enormous relief, it is also true that it meant we have had to spend the first months of 2012 working out what this new life would mean for us financially, practically and in every sort of way. Without going into tiresome detail it would be true to say that we have made a few mistakes and are still feeling our way; the change to being able to spend all our time together is a massive one. In terms of my writing this has meant yet further delay even when I have had periods, as I have this year, of comparative good health.
I hope that the foregoing offers some account of the personal reasons behind my silence. In order that this blog should not be wholly self-centred I will also comment on the politics of the last 20 months. I now feel that I belong to something of a ‘lost generation’ – too young to have participated in the struggles of the late 60’s to mid 70’s, I am now too old and weary and ill to participate in the sudden and unexpected upturn which we have witnessed and are witnessing in the 2010’s. I say ‘sudden and unexpected’ but have not good Marxists and socialists always said that upturns will be sudden and above all unexpected. In the event the first spark in the UK came from an unlikely source – students. How often have we been told that the era of student activism and radicalism was completely dead and all today’s students were concerned with was material acquisition. Yet there on the streets of central London in late 2010 were large demonstrations full of anger and fire, self-organised and apparently coming from nowhere. Internationally something even more extraordinary happened in 2011, something which surely no-one would have predicted – the emergence of a massive protest and resistance movement in the USA. The Occupy movement in the US is perhaps the best of all possible proofs that the sources of the upturn will be unexpected.
In addition to events in the UK and US there have been revolutionary movements in Arab countries, most impressively Egypt, and the inspirational refusal of the Greek people to accept austerity and the decree of the bankers and their political lackeys, a movement which looks to inspire Spain, Italy and other southern European countries. Returning to the UK in 2012 we had the largest public sector strike for many decades on the one hand, on the other the Festival of the Oppressed represented by the riots (which utterly terrified the ruling class and its temporarily overwhelmed apparatus). All these take place against a backdrop of the continuing deep crisis in the capitalist system, which is proving itself quite incapable of curing the ills it created for itself during the banking collapse. The only sad thing is that the organised left in the UK seems incapable of benefitting from these changes. In the case of the Socialist Workers Party this came from their misidentifying an upturn in the anti-War protests of about 10 years ago and therefore putting themselves in hock to reactionary Islamism. This particular manoeuvre shows to me that certain values – atheism, feminism, sexual freedom, anti-homophobia – are not to be regarded as optional ‘add-ons’ but are integral to a proper socialist analysis and ethos (although as I now firmly consider myself an anarcho-socialist perhaps I am in no position to comment on the contortions of Leninism).
Despite this caveat I am sure that the struggles provoked by the continuing global collapse of capitalism will continue to multiply and spread – even if I have absolutely no idea where the next spark will be, either in the UK or internationally. My own distance and lack of involvement in these events make me a mere sideline observer however – I take much of my information from the magnificent blog of Harpymarx (http://harpymarx.wordpress.com/) who is involved and writes much better about them than I ever could.