gdh cole

What news from Thee Faction?

We’ve not been keeping you abreast of stuff. So here’s the news.

On Wednesday 22nd May we’re quietly playing the Buffalo Bar in Islington, to celebrate Billy Brentford’s birthday. Want to come? Just turn up and tell them on the door why you’re there. No charge, but it’s a party so keep it comradely. Joanne Joanne are playing too. They’re epic.

On Sunday 26th May we’re playing the Now We Are festival in  West Bromwich. Get your tickets here.

The next day we release our new single. Better Than Wages. It’ll be available for free, here on our website. In the meantime, here’s the video:

Then, on June 1st, we are playing our great friend and comrade Attila the Stockbroker’s Glastonwick Festival. We’re playing last, on the Saturday night. Which the bourgeois end of the music industry might call ‘headlining’. We call it ‘going on last on the Saturday night’. You have to come to this. And when you do make sure you catch Grace Petrie and Robin Ince and Attila and everyone else. But especially Steve White and the Protest Family.

Then on the 6th July Thee Faction, The Protest Family, Attila, and all sorts of others will be playing the Matchwomen’s Festival in London. It’s going to be free and ultra comradely. Come.

And then we release the new album.

goog politics stretched

After which we all club together, bring down capitalism, and build something much better. Just as Marx and GDH Cole intended. But this only happens if everyone plays the game. So join us.

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Nylons says you’re coming to the DDRofRnB

Cos it’s your duty to the cause, the class and the revolution. So that’s settled. You’re coming. Need more convincing than a threatening pose from Nylons? Crikey. You’re made of stern stuff. Then you’ll need to read this. It’ll take 5 minutes. And then you’ll come. Here’s the details. Order tickets in advance. More efficient.

 

We’ll be playing this, of course:

 

 

and this

 

 

and we’ll all be hoping that Colour Me Wednesday (on first) will be playing this

Next DDR of R’n’B: June 7th. Half Moon, Putney. Thee Faction with Colour Me Wednesday

Comrades. We have a new favourite band. Or a new favourite new band. They’re called Colour Me Wednesday. We like them so much we have invited them to join us at the DDRofRnB in June. It’s a very special DDRofRnB coinciding, as it does, with Billy Brentford’s non-bourgeois birthday. There will be special guests. But none as special as Colour Me Wednesday. You haven’t heard them? Then press play on their ‘Purge Your Inner Tory’:

Colour Me Wednesday are a force for good. Come and support them at the DDRofRnB. June 7th. Thee Faction are on too, of course. We’ll be playing lots of new songs from the new album. It’s not entirely impossible that copies of the album will be available. But it’s unlikely. It depends whether we can, yet again, demonstrate the efficiency of socialism in the face of slow motion, wasteful capitalism. Let’s see.

Get your tickets in advance. It’s cheaper and more efficient.

We’ll be playing this, of course:

 

Mumford & Sons? Loyal to their class.

 

So, you’re a bunch of musicians. You’re getting a lot of stick from journalists and commentators of quality (Simon Price, for example). They’ve spotted that you’re the sons of the ruling class, that you were laden with privilege from birth, and that you’re part of a network of remarkably similar musicians, of remarkably similar backgrounds, who are dominating popular culture. Now, no one has to be all about where they’re from. Marx, Engels, Paul Foot, Tony Benn…even GDH Cole went to the same school as Noah and the Whale, a couple of Mumfords, and George Osborne. It’s not where you’re from. Its where you’re at. But if you’re Mumford & Sons the onus has got to be on you to demonstrate which side you’re on. Surely, at a bare minimum, you must be aware that most of the people buying your bland, meaningless, self-indulgent, therapeutic records share neither your background nor your indifference to economic affairs.   OK, you watch them on the telly playing the festivals and the front ten rows are populated by punters who look like 2014’s fresher intake at Goldman Sachs and McKinsey. But they’re shifting a lot of units, those boys, and they surely feel some responsibility towards the people at the sharp end of austerity Britain who might mistakenly believe that these Mumfords offer a diversion from the crisis. They’re out there meeting people. Are they learning nothing?

‘Cos tonight (14/3/12), comrades, Mumford & Sons are playing the White House. Playing air-banjo out in that audience will be David Cameron, William Hague and George Osborne, proud to see the best of safe, white, ruling class British music on that Washington stage, comfortable that the Brit musicians on the stage will be people they’re easy in the company of, people whose dads are probably friends of theirs. Mumford & Sons playing the White House is the embodiment of the cultural logic of this Tory-led administration, and of British capitalism in general. Musicians are no longer the minstrels the ruling class hire for the occasion. These days they recruit their own. It’s safer that way. They’re part of the racket.

Now you can still choose not to be part of it. These Mumfords fancy themselves as being of the folk tradition. That which brought us Woody Guthrie, say, or Joe Hill. The folk tradition has a long, proud history of facing down power. Is that relevant today? Fucking right it’s relevant today. Just check out Grace Petrie or Steve White and the Protest Family. That’s proper folk music. Mumford & Sons are offered choices. Let’s face it, they’re offered far more choices than most musicians. And they consistently – really consistently – take the wrong ones. In the war of position they had a side chosen for them by upbringing. But they can still choose to change sides. Plenty have. Plenty do. Mumford & Sons don’t.

So tonight they play the White House. While, in July, Grace Petrie, Steve White & The Protest Family and Thee Faction will all be lining up at the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival. You see the difference? You see why Mumford represent everything that’s wrong?

Does it matter? A bit. But not much. Remember, when you’re looking to change the world, don’t call on rock’n’roll. Call on GDH Cole.

GDH Cole on Guild Socialism

This might not pump all of your ‘nads. But it blimmin’ should do. Comrade Waterhouse has been on. He’s alerted us to this pamphlet. It’s the transcript of a speech GDH Cole made to the Fabian Society in 1919.  It’s all about Guild Socialism.

Now, as you know, the Guild loves Guild Socialism. Absolutely bloody loves it. And the optimism of both the intellect and the will reflected in the first part of this pamphlet is so exciting. There was a time when, with the Russian revolution but two years old, the possibility of Guild Socialism was genuinely imminent. Let’s recreate that optimism, brothers and sisters. Let’s make it happen.

Where’s GDH now? We need him. But, in his absence, we just sing about him.

Now, if you need to hear us do so, come down to our next gig. It’s going to be brilliant. Mods Against The Cuts at Blow Up! August 13th. Denmark Street. Do not miss this. You’ve got our new album? Y’know that song ‘Only Marxism Leninism Can Set You Free’? Y’know how top notch the piano is on that? That’s cos it features Ivan Chandler, pianist to Dusty Springfield, Lulu and others, back in the day. Well, he’ll be playing with us. Yup, he will be onstage with Thee Faction. Do not miss this gig. Under any circumstances.

See you there, brothers and sisters.

Important announcement about Up The Workers!

Do you own a copy of At Ebbw Vale? If you do, and you haven’t received a vital email from Thee Faction this afternoon, you need to email us at theefaction85@googlemail.com . Put the codeword “GDH Cole” in  the subject box.

Sorry to be so cloak and dagger about this. But it is really important that you do this. It is absolutely in your interests to act on this advice. We can’t say very much more except that we might be able to help you own the most important record ever to be released some time before anyone else, and with approximately double the value. A ‘comrades only’ deal, if you like.

So email us now. You will be very very pleased that you did. We kid you not.

Nostalgia of the Future: a Baby Face interview and exclusive chance to hear five new songs

Comrade

You know we have a new record coming out soon. You are anticipating it eagerly. Well, here is your chance to check out five of the songs, and to hear an exclusive interview with Baby Face.

Nostalgia of the Future has long been our most approved podcast (though there is very close competition from Planet Mondo, The Proper Gander, SSP Campsie and others), so it will be no surprise that we granted Billy Reeves this interview. It turned into a discussion of some of our favourite socialists, including Raymond Williams, GDH Cole, Karl Marx, Thomas Frank and Leon Trotsky. Have a listen.

Further news on the record itself will be up soon. But we can at least tell you the title:

Up The Workers, or, Capitalism is Good For Corporations That’s Why You’ve Been Told Socialism is Bad All Your Life.

Quick update on stuff

Quick bulletin on what’s been going on:

  • How is the ‘new politics’ working out for you? If you voted liberal, we hope this new way of doing politics that Clegg banged on about is pretty much what you feel you signed up to. We were told we were old fashioned during the election, and that what everyone wanted was a new way of doing things, beyond the old labels and battle lines. It now seems we’re cutting edge, and class war is back in fashion. Didn’t take long. So: are you part of the problem or part of the solution? And which do you perceive Clegg and his gang to be? There’s a clue here, where a Liberal MP decides to lay into a constituent for no apparent reason. Apparently questioning the Royal Wedding being part-funded from the public purse is an inappropriate thing to take up with a government MP. Arrogance of power kicks into action quickly, doesn’t it.
  • Did you see the interview with Comrade Bob Crow in the Guardian? It’s solid gold. Best bit? The interviewer sneering at Crow’s definition of class: Crow calls himself a Marxist, and as such is typically maddening. A lot of what he says makes sense – but then he goes and spoils it by saying something that bears almost no resemblance to reality. His commitment to the working class is passionate, but when I ask him to define the working class, he says, “Those who have to go to work and sell their labour to their employer,” which would apply to practically everyone, including multi-millionaire bankers. Why can’t liberal see beyond the narrow confines of liberalism? It’s boring, and much of the space given to the Crow interview is wasted on bourgeois concerns that are of no interest to Crow, or us. You need to read it, though. The interviewer, the always awful Decca Aitkenhead, seems to be labouring under the impression that Crow ought to have some kind of responsibility to TfL’s customers. Again, weird liberal preoccupations that bear no resemblence to the real world. Aitkenhead is now very firmly on Thee Faction’s list.
  • You might also have missed the news that Britain is now ‘more Thatcherite than in the 80s’. It’s a crap headline, and entirely false. The survey they refer to actually shows that we have no faith in capitalism’s flagship institutions – the banks – and have higher faith than ever in trade unions. But the bourgeois press report it their way, as you might expect.

Antidotes to the above:

  • Come and watch us sing and play. Saturday 18th December we’re playing at the Garage. It’s an Uncle Bob’s Wedding Reception reunion. Should be brilliant. We’ll be playing new songs – the sountrack to the fightback. Come along, listen, and dance. £6 in advance, £8 on the night. Wear your best clothes, as always. Scruffiness is bourgeois.

 

  • Buy our record. At Ebbw Vale is still available. £8.50 gets you a CD, a free slab of 12″ vinyl, and a badge. If things are getting you down. this record is going to make you feel a whole lot better.

 

  • Seek out a book called GDH Cole and Socialist Democracy by AW Wright. It’s great stuff. As you know, we can’t get enough of GDH Cole – the sensible extremist, as he tagged himself – and this book is amongst the best we’ve found on him. Might be tough to find, but we got ours from our very favourite left-wing second-hand bookseller: Left on the Shelf. We’ve been buying books from the comrades at Left on the Shelf since it was just an occasional, mailed-out, photocopied list of books. But now they’re online and full of treasures. Check out the ephemera section – if anyone wants to know what to get members of Thee Faction for xmas, we would all love some of those old posters and badges. But we digress – the point is the AW Wright book on GDH Cole. It’s great stuff, and you need to read it.

 

  • Spend the xmas period gathering together a huge gang of people to bring to our new club: the DDR of RnB at the Half Moon in Putney on 21st January. Treat it as a massive gathering of the clans. Imagine a room full of socialists, all dancing and drinking and celebrating, with Thee Faction on stage, and DJs of the calibre of Billy Reeves on the turntables. An unmissable treat.

That should do you for the moment. See you all on Saturday at the Garage. It’s going to be fantastic.

GDH Cole and Guild Socialism. A Beginner’s Guide

A lot of you who have bought At Ebbw Vale have been asking who GDH Cole is. He gets mentioned on the sleeve, and is, apparently, a bit of a mystery to many of you. For his low profile you can blame an array of people. The Left in the 60s didn’t think he was very sexy – when you’ve got Marcuse and co to market, a rather stuffy old Brit who did a sideline in detective fiction doesn’t quite have the caché you’re looking for. The Labour Party never thought he was very sexy either. He knew all the right people, and was a prominent Fabian, but his blueprints for a better tomorrow weren’t quite in line with the democratic socialist orthodoxy of the moment. He was talked about as having a ‘Bolshevik soul in a Fabian muzzle’. Not the kind of guy the Labour Party were likely to make a song and dance about (though, weirdly, Labour List has published a piece about him today, pointing out that Cameron’s Big Society is just a bourgeois version of GDH Cole’s Guild Socialism). And the rest of the British left simply never knew how to categorise him. He was non-communist, but clearly Marxist in his analysis. That didn’t appeal to the CPGB. He was against a strong state, and had no truck with State and Revolution type thinking, so the Trots didn’t like him much either. Overall, there was no one who was likely to keep the GDH Cole momentum going after he’d left us.

We, of course, have always tried to. We’re a Socialist R&B band. We employ a Marxist analysis of history. But our vision of a better tomorrow is not necessarily informed by communists. Indeed, we have always seen history like Marx, the immediate struggle like Gramsci, and the vision of a better tomorrow like GDH Cole. The three pillars of Thee Faction’s thinking.

You all know how to apply Marxism as a critical tool. You all understand the nature of the war of position, as outlined by Gramsci. But the release of At Ebbw Vale has shown us that you don’t, necessarily, know your way around GDH Cole. So here is the briefest of guides to his way of thinking. There’ll be more of this, should it interest you, in the weeks and months to come. Think of today’s post as a very simple beginner’s guide.

GDH Cole was born in 1889. Between then and his death in 1959, he effectively did all the things you’d expect a man of the British Left to do. He wrote for the Guardian, the Left Book Club and the New Statesman, he ran the Fabians, he was huge in the cooperative movement, he was a Professor at Oxford, he taught Wilson and Gaitskell (not well enough, of course), and he was the inspiration behind Professor Yaffle in Bagpuss (if we tell you that his wife was Margaret Postgate, that might explain why). But so far this is a fairly standard portrait of a solidly Establishment British left-winger of the Webbs, Orwell, HG Wells, GB Shaw type. What separated Cole out from the rest of the gang?

The answer is: Guild Socialism. A million and one blueprints for socialism exist. Most lead unavoidably to Stalinism, because they hand everything over to the State. Guild Socialism doesn’t. That whole area of life that exists between the individual and the state is what needs to be democratised: Civil Society. So where Stalinism destroyed all the space between the individual and the State, ensuring that the State was everything, Guild Socialism offers a path to a socialism where the State is almost nothing.

Guild Socialism is a libertarian socialism for democrats. It’s a way of democratising civil society. The emphasis is on democratising the workplace, and all the other associations we find ourselves a part of when we walk out of our front doors. We self manage everything. Yup, there’ll still be a State. But it won’t have that much to do – just mediate between the different guilds and deal with criminal law. It’s the logical conclusion to the British cooperative movement. It’s socialism as it should be. Imagine – your workplace is democratised. As is the bus service to your workplace. As is the club you drink in after work, and the library you get your books from after that. All of which must work out ways of organising society to make sure all can thrive.

A month or three back we recommended that you read Darrow Schecter’s Radical Theories. There’s great stuff in there on Guild Socialism. But if you can get your hands on any of Cole’s original stuff, read it. It’s great. Avoid his detective novels, mind. They’re deadly dull, as befits a man who Beatrice Webb reckoned had no sense of humour.

Anyway, hope that clarifies things on the GDH Cole front. When you hear about the Big Society, or other daft attempts by the bourgeois state to abdicate responsibility for what goes on in civil society, remember that there is a way of doing just that, but without the abdication of state responsibility, without the moral abacus of the market, and without it being a patronising, top-down gesture. It’s called Guild Socialism, and it rocks like a motherfucker.

Eyes left. We describe ourselves as a Guild, see. Because we try to run ourselves along Guild Socialist principles. Relations between Thee Faction and Soviet Beret are a superb example of life under Guild Socialism. Things are not always harmonious. But they are democratic, and we’re all empowered. Can the same be said of Sony Records and its music-making-minions?

Guild Socialism. Get ready for it, cos it’s on its way brothers and sisters.

What will it be like after the revolution, Daddy?

Marx gave us a great big bag of tools for looking at the world, and an understanding of how history works. What he didn’t do much of is tell us what it’s all going to be like once the age of capital is done and dusted. We’ve seen one attempt at it – the Stalinist one – and it wasn’t a lot of fun. But that particular branch of Marxism-Leninism has never been our only option. There’s tons of really fun-looking post-capitalist visions. We in Thee Faction have a tendency to concentrate on the analysis of the now, and counter-hegemonic strategies that might get us to the world of joy and hope which will follow. But we don’t, perhaps, talk enough about how we might design that vision of a better tomorrow.

We have all, of course, waded through libraries’ worth of books on this stuff. We don’t necessarily recommend that you do the same. Instead, our old friend and comrade Darrow Schecter has written a book (well, he wrote it 15 or so years ago), which handily digests lots of these competing ideas into one beautifully written guide to our options for the post-capitalist world, concentrating on the politicisation of civil society as the means towards it. That is to say, Comrade Schecter is well and truly with us on the Gramscian counter-hegemonic strategy front.

Thee Faction make no secret of their own preference for Guild Socialism, of course – and there’s a splendid chapter on that peculiarly British vision of a socialist society. As Bertrand Russell put it: ” The best practicable system, to my mind, is Guild Socialism, which concedes what is valid both in the claims of the State socialists and in the syndicalist fear of the State, by adopting a system of federalism among trades for reasons similar to those which are recommending federalism among nations.” This is, perhaps, our main reason for including a portrait of Russell on the walls of the DDRofR&B, along with other socialist and R&B figures of note. Ruskin, Morris, Penty and, perhaps most importantly, GDH Cole, all contributed to the formation of this set of ideas which look most attractive to Thee Faction as a post-capitalist way of life. Indeed, we try to organise Thee Faction along guild socialist lines.

But it isn’t up to us, any more than it’s up to these fellas at their university desks. It’s up to you to build post-revolutionary society. Comrade Schecter’s book just gives you some ideas. He takes us a on a tour of: revolutionary syndicalism, anarchism, council communism, guild socialism, market socialism and green, post-industrial socialism. You can treat it as a pick’n’mix, brothers and sisters. No need to pick one of these wholesale. When capitalism falls there will be much talking and debating, and all of these ideas will be in the mix. But now is as good a time as any to start planning. It won’t be long now.

Comrade Schecter has always been a Chicago punk-rock kind of guy – he always preferred The Effigies or Naked Raygun to Thee Faction back in the day. But we’re pretty sure there’s still room in his heart, along with all the space taken up by GDH Cole and Antonio Gramsci, for some Socialist R&B. Comrade Schecter, we salute your handy guide to post-revolutionary society.