Sunday, 1 September 2013

Bombing Syria, Finding a Voice

In his lively but flawed biography of Raymond Williams, Fred Inglis writes of the Thatcherite 1980s: ‘it mattered like mad that there were still a few people capable of a calm courage when a country’s best values were down and out, and defeat so familiar an experience. As long as Raymond Williams and Edward Thompson were still there, still speaking and writing in the splendid rhythms and time-honoured litany of the Labour movement, of common hopes and purposes, of the visible and monstrous injustice and indifference, the cruelty and wrong so apparent in all that mere power and ruling class did, then we could keep up a good heart’. Personally, I would want to add cultural theorist Stuart Hall to that list of two, since he was certainly one of the Left’s best orators in those dark years.


We have some very effective radical voices speaking out today against the continuing neo-liberal assault on working people – David Harvey, Owen Jones, Caroline Lucas and Slavoj Žižek among them, though I think that none of these has quite the gravitas of Raymond Williams himself. But I have a dream (if I may borrow a currently topical phrase) that the William Morris Society might join this roster, that at moments of national cultural and political crisis – from the London riots of August 2011 through Thursday’s Parliamentary debate on bombing Syria without United Nations authorisation to whatever comes our way next – it might find both the political will and the appropriate internal mechanisms of consultation to make public statements from a Morrisian viewpoint, with the weight and authority of Morris’s unique brand of communism behind it – ‘Socialism seen through the eyes of an artist’, as he once memorably phrased it. And if the current Morris Society were to prove incapable of doing this, then we would need an alternative Morris network that can.

3 comments:

Tony Pinkney said...

For more on Stuart Hall, see 'The Stuart Hall Project' at the ICA in September:

The Stuart Hall Project
6 September 2013 - 19 September 2013

£10 / £8 concessions / £7 ICA Members

★★★★ 'a stirring tribute' - Dave Calhoun, Time Out

The new film from award-winning documentarian John Akomfrah (The Nine Muses) is a sensitive and emotionally charged portrait of cultural theorist Stuart Hall.

Venerated in academia for his knowledge of subjects as diverse as Miles Davis, Marxist methodology, the European Union, and American hippies, the now 82-year-old Jamaican-born Stuart Hall is regarded as one of the most inspiring voices of the post-war Left.

Combining extensive archival imagery with specially filmed material and a Miles Davis soundtrack, Akomfrah’s filmmaking approach matches the agility of Hall’s intellect, its intimate play with memory, identity and scholarly impulse traversing the changing historical landscape of the second half of the 20th century.

Director Q&A
Friday 6 September, 7pm
Join us for a Q&A with director John Akomfrah.

The Stuart Hall Project, dir. John Akomfrah, UK 2013, 103 mins, cert. 12A

Kotick said...

Tony, aren't you in your post over-estimating the freedom of movement allowed to an organisation - i.e. the William Morris Society - which is after all a charity and therefore bound by UK charity law not to be political?

Tony Pinkney said...

Dear Kotick, as I understand it, charity law means that you can't be narrowly party-political, not that you can't be a campaigning or politically vocal organisation. After all, think of the National Trust and CPRE campaigning vigorously recently against proposed government changes to planning law. Correct me if I'm wrong!