Raphael’s Relativism

Raphael Samuel Capitulates to Relativism


The late Raphael Samuel, formerly of Ruskin College, is a revered figure on the Britsh Left, one of the founders of the ‘history from below’ movement, of the influential History Workshop Journal, and a key influence on the ‘public history’ historiography promoted by Ruskin College. It is surely significant then that this figure publically declared – at a conference in 1987 to discuss the New Left of thirty years previous – that he had no wish to live in a socialist society, and that what socialism meant to him was the ‘community’ of what might be called ‘the actually existing socialist movement'(see http://www.livejournal.com/users/david_murray/1451.html). Surely it is also unsurprising, as his own historiography is founded on the denial of any disticntion between history and myth, and thus deprives the present of any critical purchase on the past, and thus on itself. This is how he capitulates to rampant relativism: Continue reading “Raphael’s Relativism”


On “Political Correctness”

Letter to a Friend who Bandies this Term

I think that you would strengthen your case (whichever one it happens to be) if you refrained from using the ridiculous phrase ‘political correctness’. I know that I’m not the only person whose first feeling on seeing this is that I will not bother to read whatever text contains it. Because the use of that phrase usually signals a voice which, comically, echoes that victim-stance of which it so often complains and whines that ‘white, het, middle-class  men can be victims too’. This usually boils down to the speaker pretending to feel  oppressed because of disapproval of sexist comments re women, and use of words like ‘nigger’ and ‘shirt-lifter’. Its use is so often prefaced by ‘I’m sorry, but …’; followed by something like ‘I know it’s politically incorrect to say so, but there was slavery in Africa  long before Europeans got there’ – as if the speaker were being a brave heretic, whilst actually mouthing a commonplace (which also obscures the main point). I choose this example for you because of your odious apologetics for slavery. However, I do feel somewhat as you do regarding this sensibility which this phrase tries to capture –  what follows is a first attempt to try to work this out.

What seems not to be noticed by people who use the phrase is the bizarre fact that ‘politically correct’ is the only political label which is solely used pejoratively of someone else. All of the following may be used neutrally, pejoratively, or accepted as self-identity: liberal, socialist, communist, stalinist, trotskyist, nationalist, anarchist, fascist, national-socialist, racist, feminist, masculinist, conservative, reactionary, pacifist … and doubtless others which don’t come to mind at present. But no-one will say, except ironically:  ‘I’m Politically Correct’. There is surely something very strange about this asymmetry. Continue reading “On “Political Correctness””

Picnic in the Ruins

Ruskin College and Fascism


The text below was written for publication in The Trumpet, the Students’ Union journal of Ruskin College. Though this journal had previously published a pro-Hitler article it only published the first half of this reply, omitting any reference to the fascist propaganda they had published. Whether this had anything to do with one one of the editors of the journal being a Pagan is something I will not comment on

The word ‘ironic’ is, we’re told, overused – likewise for ‘surreal’. But I don’t know what other words to use about one aspect of the Burford Levellers’ Day, 15 May,2003. There were a number of men dressed in the uniform of the Parliamentary army of the English Civil War carrying replica period muskets. The irony .. or whatever .. is that many people in the political culture which created Levellers’ Day would wet themselves if working people armed themselves in order, as a community, to suppress muggers, twockers and vandals; or, as a political class, formed militias to defend the transition to a post-capitalist society. Indeed, one of the stalls at Burford was from Amnesty calling for the control of firearms. By whom? By nation States ! So the people are to be unarmed? Because of crime? Not quite. The major UK restrictive legislation on the ownership of firearms was in the 1920s, out of fear that the British working class would follow the example of the Russian Revolution.

This political culture will defend the ‘armed road’ in the past, but now thinks entirely within the framework of the capitalist state. It is wallowing, or rather is drowning, in Heritage. Continue reading “Picnic in the Ruins”

Ruskania, “Political Correctness” and shamradicalism

The Land of Ruskania

The very quintessence of Ruskin College, or ‘Ruskania’ (google [nairn+musil+kakania] if that is obscure) is sociology lecturer (indeed, a lecturer, not a teacher), Mavis Bayton, who looks like a character out of Viz, habitually dressed like Ronald McDonald, with culottes and horizontally striped socks, attempting to state in her dress a difference which is denied in her practice. Like so many of her kind she is a health-freak, once berating a student (not me) for daring to come into her class after having been smoking outside in the open – he still had some atoms of smoke on his breath. The door of her room was covered with ‘right-on’ posters, and adverts for whatever was the cause-of-the-month; one of her icons was the Stalinist gangster Nelson Mandela.

Continue reading “Ruskania, “Political Correctness” and shamradicalism”

How I met Rudi Gloder

WARNING: Contains spoilers for Making History


If you don’t know who Rudi Gloder is then this title will mean nothing to you. If you do know who he is, then you will think me mad. You see, Rudi Gloder is a character in Stephen Fry’s novel Making History. I had been telling my friend Caroline about certain events at Ruskin College; she immediately told me that the central figure in this was like Rudi Gloder, which is why I read the novel. As to whether I really did meet him … we should know in a couple of decades

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Why Marx was not a sociologist


How to not understand Marx


This was written as a response to a handout produced by sociology lecturer Jen Dixon at Rusin College. Her response to this (whinging to the Principal that I had ‘undermined her authority’) replicated that of her colleague Maeve Bayton. The only thing anyone could learn from scum like them was the sham-radical nature of sociology and of Ruskin College. Well actually, that’s not quite true, given that for a fair number of the students there the most important exam is the one for ‘dyslexia’ assesment, cos that gives them a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card, or a ‘Look At Me, I Can Do Fuckall And Still Get A Cert’.

I felt that my attempt to explain why Marx was not a sociologist failed. Let me try again.

Why should anyone call Marx a sociologist? He did not call himself such. He did not address any of the concerns which are those of the sociological tradition. His concern was not with stratification, nor with the ‘problem of order’ nor with the plotless novel of the ‘sociological imagination’.

Continue reading “Why Marx was not a sociologist”