The Bickerstaffe Record

The world beyond West Lancashire

What the Left needs now is love, sweet love: plans for new leftwing publishing house exclusively revealed

01.29.09 | Comment?

I have spent several seconds recently ruminating on Dave Osler’s recent post about the lack of humour in the Left, and on Chris’s retort that the comments on that post left a lot to be desired fun-wise, though I put many of them down to very subtle irony myself. 

On balance, however, I have decided that they are both utterly wrong.  What the Left needs is not more jokes, but more romance. 

After all, Che Guavara is not a T-Shirt based icon for millions because he knew a really good one about a duck going into a bookshop to ask for eggs, finely honed humour though that undoubtedly was.  No, it was his wispy beard and shapely hat.   

And what do those three leftwing groundbreaking thinkers and doers – Franz Kafka, Antonio Gramsci and Harry Potter –  all have in common other than their desire to rid the world of the deeply alienating experience of labour under capitalism?  

It’s not their surprisingly traditional mother-in-law jokes (with a fine line in related pasta-based humour from the Italian revolutionary).  

No it’s their boyish good looks, enhanced by fragile looking specs, which in the end always gets the girl.  Apart from Antonio, who was otherwise detained.  And Franz, who was poorly. 

And what of ‘Red Ellen’ Wilkinson, great socialist MP of the inter-war years and the war cabinet? There is now compelling evidence that she NEVER learnt all the words to Monty Python’s song about a cross-dressing lumberjack, possibly in protest at the unthinking patriarchal attitudes of the Pythons, but that didn’t stop her winning the hearts of many.  Until she died from working too hard. 

I could go on, but my point is made.  The Left intellligentsia needs romance to encourage the proletariat in the necessary Gramscian project for moral and intellectual reform, and I have a very good plan. 

Essentially, I call on all left bloggers to bring their tools of the trade to writing Mills and Boonski novels.  Designed not only as a method of combating the current capitalist crisis through the creation of valued work for you massed blogsmiths, but as part of a great political education project, I will tomorrow be establishing a new industrial-literary complex, from which will pour thousands, millions even, of books devoted at once to the art of love and the science of socialist revolutionary tactics.   

This new initiative will need an element of necessary democratic centralism to start with and I will therefore be boss, with all proceeds of our trade resting initially in my holiday fund, for distribution to revolutionary causes once I’ve worked out how it should be done, after my holidays. 

We need a name with which people can readily identify, and we will therefore be called the Central Romantic Adventure Publishing House, although I expect the acronym to be widely used in time.    

Applications to become an accredited author with the new publishing house should be sent, with the appropriate administrative fee, in an unmarked brown envelope, to CRAP House Publishing, Division of Bribery, Bickerstaffe etc..   Used notes are preferred as we need to keep the state oppressors off the scent for the time being, but please note that Icelandic Krona will not be accepted, however big the envelope, because the revolution may be kicking off there and it is important not to be seen as safe haven for its failing currency at this crucial time.  That would be most counter-revolutionary, and result in commensurate disciplinary action.  

So, before you all get to work sending me your basic plot lines and starting to fill in the texty bits, here are a few guidelines and an example of the kind of stuff I’ll need to receive, properly proof-read and assigned to my copyright, for administrative convenience. 

First, all novels will have three central romantic characters in a triangular love/Marxist doctrine triangle.  Though some variation may be authorised in time, initially one character, whom in the first novel will be called Malcolm, will both be something of an orthodox ‘reductionist’ Marxist and believe himself to be in love with Zita, a headstrong and occasionally incomprehensible Marxist firebrand with a mysterious background in psychoanalytical dabblings and a penchant for referring to The Big Other, sometimes in French.   

After some twists and turns of your own invention, but usually involving plans for a strike, heavy handed tactics by state agents, and some telling revelations about the intellectual relationship between Zizek and Lacan, Malcolm will be betrayed by the ultimately unreliable Zita, only to be rescued from a fate worse than Compass-based liberalism by the strong, steady presence of Ethel, whose character you should develop subtly from the first strike meeting onwards and slowly reveal not just as brilliant in the sack (as is Malcolm, after an unsure start) but also to have a mature intellectual grasp of both the basic immutable tenets of historical materialism and of the capacity to adapt tactics to this particular historic bloc, in addition to a ready grip the use of discourse as a subtle but powerful counter-hegemonic and hegemonic device. 

In this way, all novels will have an in-built structure reflecting the essential dialectical thesis-antithesis-synthesis played out by and through the central characters. I do not wish to curb creativity around the text, but the following sample paragraph  of the kind of stuff I’m looking for  may help. 

‘It was then the realization hit Malcolm, as fiercely as that recent blow on the back of the head from an agent of the state, in which he now fully understood that violence was always inherent.   

‘Yes, yes, he thought. Ethel was the one. Ethel was the one who really understood the dynamic relationship between the ideological superstructure and the essential economic base, and how surplus value was really at the heart both of the so-called postwar economic miracle (as Jessopian ‘spatio-temporal fix’ in the principal form of the welfare state) and now more so much more clearly in ‘raw power’ form in this latest crisis of capitalism.’   

‘Oooh, Ethel’, he swooned, as she folded him in her womanly arms, strengthened by years of proletariat toil, and held him against her beating heart of socialist endeavour.

‘Ethel, tell me again about the relationship between Rosa Luxembourg’s incisive vision of how the working classes can come together in revolutionary force, and the somewhat later but, you suggest, no less relevant writing of Gramsci on intellectual and moral reform within a temporal nation-state context. 

‘Take your overalls off, comrade’ whispered Ethel, huskily, almost Althusserian in her growing desire.  ‘I need to feel your Lukacs compendium’. 

Malcolm moved closer, and as the sun dipped behind the horizon, far to the well metahporical left, Ethel gasped: ‘Now that’s what I call tactical entryism, comrade’.

I hope this helps. All novels should introduce light Shakespearian comedic relief about two thirds of the way through.  Unless otherwise authorized, this should be in the form of two well-meaning but bumbling professor figures, whom you should usually calls Professors Louffe and Maclau ,who will tend to mix up neo-liberal and pseudo-radical concepts a lot, and will  often be ejected from strike scenes by the workers, and this often by the seat of their pants.   

In US-set versions of the novels, the professors should generally be thrown out of a saloon-bar style doorway into a muddy unpaved street, while in more realist British versions they should generally end up in one of those big refuse collection bins the Conservative Council hasn’t collected for ages. 

At least one professor should emerge, crestfallen with a leaking Kentucky Fried Chicken box on her/his head but flattened down into an approximate mortar board shape, to create symbolic image of her/his intellectual immersion in the detritus of capitalism and what mortar boards are used for in the socialism building trade. 

There will be one other important character in all of the novels.  This will almost invariably be a wise, avuncular figure, and generally a rural Labour councillor known for his occasional but hugely insightful blogging.  This character will pop up frequently to gives sage advice on the need for a focus on praxis even in the heat of events, and will generally be able to distil his interpretation of recent events in the novel, both in terms of intellectual development and strike practicalities, into less than 5,000 words, though he should be allowed longer if it casts him in a particularly noble and heroic light. 

In the subsequent film versions, this character should generally be played by left-leaning Hollywood A-Listers George Clooney and, when he gets too old, Johnny Depp.  On no account should Sean Penn be involved, because he is silly. 

This important character should always be absent in the final scene, but adoring reference should be made to the fact that he had to go to an important Internal Overview & Scrutiny meeting, or to sort out an elderly person’s problems with the electricity people. 

So come on, comrades, what’s keeping you?  What do you think I’m skimming your surplus value for, you people?  Get writing, and don’t skimp on the sex – if it was good enough for Kafka’s Marxism-inspired studies in alienation, it’s more than good enough for you lot. 


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