The Story of a Lake by Negley Farson

“But he felt afraid to write. He did not want to awaken his own imagination to the world he was trying to leave behind him. Out here he might be living an illusion of some sort, perhaps? But at any rate, it was just as real and its pleasures were just as tangible as any he had experienced before he came here.”

The short meditation on writer’s block is atypical of a grand realist narrative. The neglected novel in question has a strong flavour of Ernest Hemingway about it. Certainly, the themes of drinking, adventure, politics and womanising could have featured in a text by the famous writer.

However, Farson lacks the succinct style of Hemingway. Nevertheless, the author has a sympathy for ordinary people which is winning. Moreover, Farson has the ability to make politics come alive. His warmth for the sincere George Lansbury is refreshing, while his contempt for cynical opportunists remains of enduring relevance.

The foolish participation of sections of the Labour Party in imposing cuts during an economic crisis is worth remembering now. Furthermore, it is essential to recall how Ramsay MacDonald caused a disastrous split by joining the National Government. The Labour Party is facing huge challenges today, but addressing them properly is only possible if loyalty to the leadership becomes more prevalent.

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Can Corbyn find his inner Keanu Reeves?

Being a principled Labour leader during a period of hysterical nationalism is tough. The unremitting hostility of the bulk of the UK media means that Jeremy Corbyn has stumbled into The Matrix. Following on from the Enlightenment philosophy of Immanuel Kant, he must “dare to know.”

Corbyn took the first brave step decades ago. When he listened to Tony Benn, he took the red pill. As Morpheus explained to Neo in The Matrix:

“You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.”

The philosophical problem is that neither Karl Marx nor Jean Baudrillard can guide Corbyn to safety. The economic determinism of one and the postmodern theorising of the other are insufficient tools when standing up against the ideology of nationalism. Corbyn should keep supporting international nuclear disarmament and remind people of the glitch which sent a British missile in completely the wrong direction. He must continue to ignore the patriotic militarism of left journalist Paul Mason.

Only in this way can Corbyn retain his authenticity and hope to discover his inner Keanu Reeves. The bullets are there to be dodged. Sometimes the theory can only be discovered in action.

Blair Unbound by Anthony Seldon et al.

The popularity of Jeremy Corbyn among a section of the Labour Party membership can be understood by a perusal of this text. Hastily written, the book contends that the performance of Tony Blair was largely successful between 2001 and 2007. It makes this controversial case by using opinions culled from members of the establishment on both sides of the Atlantic.

The argument is a curious one in that it focuses largely on foreign policy. Given the catastrophe of the Iraq War, this seems to be a really problematic perspective. However, Blair may be credited for his role in the peace process in Northern Ireland. Further, he allegedly made significant progress on climate change. Nonetheless, the hubris of Blair appears evident in his undistinguished part in the Middle East Peace Process.

To a typical Labour Party supporter, the early achievements of Blair may have far outshone his later policies. It seems perverse to imply that introducing the minimum wage and the windfall tax on the privatised utilities was not more progressive than attacking the income of people reliant on incapacity benefit. However, Anthony Seldon et al. are distracted from ideology by their concentration on the practicalities of governance processes.  Hence the verdict of Blair on his record is repeated instead of being examined critically:

“There is only one government since 1945 that can say all of the following: more jobs, fewer unemployed, better health and education results, lower crime and economic growth in every quarter.”

Choruses from The Rock by T.S. Eliot

T. S. Eliot can be perceived as an elitist poet. His work often seems remote from the mundane aspects of life. This is in part because of his explicit religious commitment. However, the complex language which the poet employed is also something of a barrier to the understanding of many readers.

Nevertheless, one of his remarkable creations breaks with the conventions of his famous poems. This specific work was composed during the Hungry Thirties. Eliot might not have endured the horrors of unemployment, but by 1934 he had been involved in sectors like publishing and banking. These prosaic experiences could have helped him to appreciate some of the anguish associated with the Great Depression.  He wrote:

“The lot of man is ceaseless labour,

Or ceaseless idleness, which is still harder,

Or irregular labour, which is not pleasant.”