Saturday, June 30, 2018

Dinosaur chic in the Jurassic world

 Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom: general release, 2018 PG-13 
 By New Worker Cinema Correspondent
 The term dinosaur is often a by-word for anything either actually dead or in some way out of date.  A few years ago anyone who suggested that rampant privatisation, or perhaps said that the water industry should be taken back into public ownership, was described as one.
  These creatures actually died out about 65 million years ago probably the result of an asteroid hitting the planet. But in the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World franchise, through very clever genetic engineering, they have been brought back to life. 
These films, based on the books of Michael Creighton are a more traditional type of science fiction; in many ways closer to the original science fiction stories such as Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. These stories exaggerate the scientific possibilities and play on the fears, generated by them, of the contemporary age.
The opening scenes make parallels between an imagined re-extinction of the dinosaurs on a Costa Rican island and actual species faced with extinction. We see Dr Ian Malcolm, played by Geoff Goldblum, who features in the earlier Jurassic Park films, argue against a rescue plan for the dinosaurs. Arguing for a rescue plan are a kind of dinosaur Greenpeace led by Claire Dearing, the lead character in the earlier Jurassic World.
The most recent film Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, like most action adventure films, has its heroes and villains. The heroes are, of course, Claire Dearing, a corporate events organiser played by Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World, Spider Man III and As You Like It).  She is aided by Owen Grady, a former US marine played by Chris Pratt (Jurassic World, Guardians of the Galaxy and The Lego Movie) and they are assisted by a computer nerd and some kind of eco-vet. But it is the film’s villains that pose the more interesting questions. 
The film gives the impression that capitalism, and more to the point giant entertainment corporations, are entities created by kindly, paternalistic old men with philanthropic ideas who just want people to enjoy themselves, provided, of course, if they can afford the entrance fees. This wonderful system is somehow spoilt by nasty, bean-counting accountant types who ruin it all by wanting to make a profit.
 Anyone with a knowledge of capitalism’s history over the last few hundred years might have noticed that making a profit might just have played a small part it the system’s inner workings.
  Watching the film brought to mind the institution of the theme parks. The first were set up in in the USA by the thoroughly sinister Walt Disney; who far from being a nice old man who just wanted people to have fun was, in fact, an anti-Semitic, union-busting racist.    
The film’s villains are essentially the bad capitalists. Those who appear really bad are Russian arms dealer types who wish to use dinosaurs for military purposes. But people have been using animals for military purposes since the Bronze Age; although this was mostly tameable mammals as opposed to predatory reptiles. 
In one of the scenes dinosaurs are auctioned off for large sums of money. The creatures start to run amok and well, eat people. This is what many of the audience, like the crowds in the Roman arena, have been waiting for. It is in this scene that one of the cowering billionaires pushes his wife, girlfriend or other female consort into the path of a somewhat angry carnivorous monster.     
The film contains not only good and bad capitalists but also good and bad dinosaurs.  An example of one is Blue, a velociraptor trained and reared by Owen Grady, who actually becomes a character in the film. I almost laughed out loud when I saw back footage of Grady with the dinosaur behaving more like a kitten or a puppy.  Now, I’m not dinophobic but velociraptors were highly dangerous, predatory reptiles not capable of the emotions shown by mammals. Still it is science-fiction, after all.
Suffice it to say the film does contain a lot of nonsense from an ideological perspective and from what could be described as ‘Science Comedy’. But if you are at a loose end and are able to see through much of the nonsense (and if you are reading this paper you probably can) it still might be worth a visit to your local multiplex.     

Friday, June 22, 2018

Fun for all ages!

By Carole Barclay

Once the playground for the Prince Regent and his jaded aristocratic mates in the 18th century Brighton has continued to re-invent itself over the decades to retain its position as the paramount resort of the south coast. Entertainments range from the traditional seaside attractions of the pier and amusement arcades to the bohemian world that revolves around the art festivals, the gay scene and the student world. Brighton’s race-course, dog-track and football club are there for the sporting fraternity while the conference centre has been the venue for all the major political parties and many of our unions for decades.
For many visitors their first impression of ‘London-by-the-sea’ is the concourse of Brighton station. But under the arches of that vast Victorian pile is a hidden gem – a toy museum that spans some 200 years of children’s entertainment.
The Brighton Toy and Model Museum is a treasure trove for the young and the young at heart. Founded in 1991, the museum has over 10,000 toys and models on display. Some go back to the Prince Regent’s day but most of the exhibits focus on the golden age of toy making during the first half of the 20th century.
There’s the inevitable Meccano sets and the construction toys that were the precursors of the Lego mania of today. But this was the era of the train set and they dominate the main gallery which also includes a wonderful working model railway along with the toy cars, planes and boats that were a constant feature of boys’ comics until computers came along. Girls are not completely ignored. And the collection of prams, dolls and doll’s houses as well as puppets and soft toys reflects the market that sadly reinforced the female stereotype that was perpetuated by the education system until well into the 1970s.
Though the evolution of toys tells a story in itself this museum is largely a mecca for model makers and collectors of all ages. Vintage toys, with prices ranging from a few pounds to those in three or four figures, are on sale by the in-house work-shop which restores many items that will later appear in one of the galleries.

The Brighton Toy & Model Museum is at 52-55 Trafalgar Street, Brighton, Sussex, BN1 4EB. It’s well-signed posted from the station and it is open from 10:00 to 17:00 from Tuesday to Friday and from 11:00 to 17:00 on Saturdays, It’s closed on Sundays and Mondays. The basic admission charge is £6.50 but there are concessions for students, disabled and senior citizens.

Beware of Imitations

  Review by Robin McGregor

Labour Briefing: ISSN 1757-6776 £1.00 per issue or £25.00 annual subscription from: The Red Hall, 11 Grosvenor Road, Broadstairs, Kent, CT10 2BT.

 Labour Briefing has a long and confusing history which could easily fill this whole page and make a good cure for insomnia. It began as London Labour Briefing in 1980. It was sometimes known as Labour Left Briefing eventually becoming Labour Briefing in 2007. Fortunately dropping the word “Left” did not signify any change of political direction.
 Undaunted by its diminished influence during the Blair years it has outlived other voices of the Labour left such as Socialist Campaign Group News and even the venerable Tribune magazine. In 2012 it became the organ of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), to which the NCP is affiliated. Some members of the original editorial board who were unhappy with this decision even produced their own journal with the same title just to cause confusion.
 In 2014 this Briefing took over the Citizen, the voice of the Campaign for Socialism which is the equivalent of the LRC north of the border.
 Early contributors included Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone. In 1982 it carried an article arguing against the expulsion of Militant Tendency supporters from the Labour Party from the pen of an obscure young Labour councillor in Haringey called Jeremy Corbyn.
            The June issue of what has now become an elegantly produced substantial monthly of 32 almost entirely ad-free pages carries news and features from across the country and abroad.
            This issue has interesting post-mortems on the recent local election results including an in-depth analyses of the north London borough of Brent which notes that Labour’s vote actually increased from 36.3 to 39 per cent despite media claims that their results were “catastrophic”. It was here that that a prominent pro-Zionist Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) councillor claimed that alleged Labour antisemitism cost the party votes. The author points out that the complainant received the lowest personal vote of the three Labour candidates in his ward and that other places with a high Jewish population such as nearby Hackney saw an increased Labour vote. There is also an interesting critique of the JLM from a Jewish Voice for Labour spokesperson.
  There is much on internal Labour Party affairs such as the mechanics of the forthcoming leadership of the Welsh Labour Party. This sort of thing is not to everyone’s taste, but with the left having made important gains in the past two years these things matter much more than in the days of Tony Blair.
  Housing looms large, including a long piece on women and the housing crisis. There is news on anti-racist campaigns, recent industrial disputes including fast food workers and traffic wardens in Hackney, and the grammar school controversy among others. Book reviews and a piece on the relevance of pop music for political struggles round off the issue.
  It has to be said that Labour Briefing is most definitely “Labour”. Its stance is firmly that of left-wing social democracy. This is particularly marked in the articles on international affairs.    
             Anyone seeking trenchant Marxist-Leninist analyses is going to be disappointed. But this issue contains an article by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx, something not seen since the Labour Party published a centenary version of the Communist Manifesto in 1948!

The future of socialism

 By Andy Brooks

NCP leader Andy Brooks took part in an international seminar titled “Marxism in the 21st Century and the Future of Socialism in the World” in Shenzhen in People’s China on 28th May. Over 100 leaders and representatives of 75 communist parties from 50 countries from around the world met to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx. This is the New Communist Party of Britain’s contribution to the debate.
Andy Brooks with a Bangladeshi comrade at the conference
 No one would disagree with Chinese President and Chinese communist leader Xi Jinping who said: “Marxism has not only profoundly changed the world, but also China”.
Marx and Engels stand out among the great scholars and revolutionary leaders of all time. They showed the working class and all oppressed people the way to emancipation from oppression and exploitation. They proved scientifically the possibility and the necessity of building a new society free of exploitation, oppression and poverty, with production, science and culture at the service of the people. Their research on class struggle, socialist revolution, socialism and communism has become the science of the development of nature, society and human thought.
Marx and Engels never expected to see socialism in their own lifetimes. They did, however, believe it was inevitable.
The bourgeois gurus who talked about the ‘end of history’ and a new golden age of capitalism, consigning socialism to the scrap-heap of history once the former Soviet Union had succumbed to imperialism and counter-revolution, did so because they were sure there was a new gateway to more global conquests opening up. They have been proved wrong as the flames of the October Revolution continue to blaze in People’s China, Cuba, Democratic Korea, Laos and Vietnam. Nevertheless we, as communists, have to try to understand why Soviet power failed while the people’s democracies whose economies were not directly linked to the USSR survived.
Though the Bolsheviks, led by Lenin and Stalin, showed that it was possible to build socialism in one state the USSR that was established following the communist victory in the civil war was a unique state, a union of socialist republics based on Soviet power. It was not the model for the people’s republics that were established during the revolutionary upsurge that followed the Soviet victory over fascism in the Second World War.
People’s democracy, based on communist united front policy, was an acceptance of the role of forces beyond that of the working class in the building of the new people’s governments. All communists accepted that this was a transitional period along the road to socialism whose length would be determined by the balance of class forces and the economic demands of each specific country. But the people’s democracies of Eastern Europe, whose economies were speedily integrated with that of the USSR, embarked on a programme of rapid collectivisation of the land, nationalisation and socialisation of society that seemed to work at the time but was ultimately tied to the performance of that of the Soviet Union.
In China, the people’s government established in 1949 initially followed the Soviet-led example of Eastern Europe but that failed to take into account the concrete conditions in the country – the poorest in the world in 1949. Subsequent attempts to use exhortation to boost production in the Great Leap Forward and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution also failed in the long-term so the decision of the Communist Party of China to adopt a policy of reform and opening up was perhaps the only alternative in the late 1970s. 40 years later we can assess what has been achieved.
China is now the second largest economy in the world. Millions upon millions of people have been lifted out of poverty while the opening up has given China access to the high technology needed to enable China to provide concrete assistance to the peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America and enable  the country to play a greater role in enhancing stability and peace throughout the world.
We meet today in a world where the primary contradiction is between American imperialism and the rest of the world it seeks to dominate. The imperialists preach about the superiority of the capitalist system, which they call freedom. But it freedom only for the exploiters to continue to rob and plunder working people across the globe to ensure that a tiny handful of parasites can live the lives of Roman emperors on the backs of the millions upon millions of working people.
The imperialists claim they stand for intellectual freedom but it is the freedom of the straitjacket and the dungeon. They preach this freedom with their Stealth bombers, their special forces and their economic blockades against all those who dare to stand up for themselves. We see what the ruling class mean by freedom in occupied Palestine, on the streets of Syria and the hills of Afghanistan.
They say we have free speech and live in a democracy but its democracy and freedom only for them. In fact bourgeois democracy is democracy only for the exploiters. It’s dictatorship in all but the formal sense for the exploited. Bourgeois elections, when they are held, are used so that the smallest number of people can manipulate the maximum number of votes.
But wherever there is oppression, there is resistance and now imperialism is on the defensive. Capitalism is in the throes of a deep crisis -- the slump that began in 2008 and continues still without any sign of real recovery.
In the opening words of the Communist Manifesto in 1848 Marx and Engels said “A spectre is haunting Europe - the spectre of communism.” That spectre is still there, despite all the twists and turns of the past 150 years. Now it haunts the entire globe because socialism is still charting the future in Asia, in Democratic Korea, People’s China, Vietnam and Laos and the Caribbean island of Cuba.
While millions of people scrabble to earn a living just to keep a roof over their heads a tiny elite live lives beyond the reach and often beyond the imagination of most workers.
Only socialism can end this. Only through socialism can the will of the masses, the overwhelming majority of the people, be carried out. Only socialism and mass democracy - not the sham democracy of the bourgeoisie or the myths of the social democrats, end the class system and free working people from their slavery.
Under socialism there will be no exploitation. Everyone will have decent housing, a job, good education, a truly free national health service and a decent pension when the time comes to retire.
There will be no more slums. No more poverty, racism, discrimination or bigotry. There will be culture, sports, arts and entertainment for all, by the masses and for the masses. The old decadent culture of selfishness, individuality and competition that pits worker against worker will go. Workers in their plant, office or collective will have an important role to play.
The destruction of the environment by capitalism will be replaced by planned sustained production for use, not profit.
There will be no more white-collar and blue-collar divisions and no more dead-end jobs because every job will have a value for society. Hours will be less and workers will have more recreational time; time to appreciate life, to discover and debate, to play or travel, time to ponder, time to create.
Socialism will unleash the great potential of working people to build a new and better society for themselves and the generations yet to come. Marx and Engels spent much of their creative lives in Britain as practical revolutionaries as well as great thinkers. They knew they would never see socialism in their own lifetimes but they never doubted the inevitability or the necessity for change. And the torch of freedom that fanned the fires of the Paris Commune and the flames of the 1917 Russian Revolution continues to blaze in Asia and the Caribbean.