SIXTY years ago today I came into this world. I’m very happy to be here and am still trying hard to do everything I can in my own small way to make it a better place.
I’ve earned my living as a radical poet and musician for 36 years, doing something I love and would do as a hobby if it wasn’t my job. I have had the opportunity to share my opinions with thousands, and to make a tiny contribution to some of the great political battles of the last 40 years. That makes me very lucky. I’m especially happy to be here since two years ago I had the sort of medical news which made me think I might not. So another big thank you to the NHS and to my wonderful wife Robina. Tonight there will be a very loud and undoubtedly messy celebration at my harbourside local in Shoreham and I hope that the Seagulls will have given me an early present of three points at West Ham last night. But I’m not counting on that!
And then it’s back to the gigs and the campaigns — a fundraiser for Brightlingsea Labour Party next Thursday, another one in Frome a week later, a spot at the Do Not Go Gentle Literature Festival in Swansea on November 3 and at the Liberating Arts Festival in Exeter the next day, Rochester and Plymouth coming up soon and loads more before the end of 2017. All details at attilathestockbroker.com.
Of course, the most important birthday at the moment is the centenary of the Russian Revolution and I’ve been amused at some of the confusion on the left about celebrating this.
For me, it truly was 10 days that shook the world, ushering in a new era for mankind, one of hope, justice, progress and enlightenment for all, not just a privileged few.
I’m absolutely no apologist for the likes of Stalin or Pol Pot and the unspeakable brutality which happened at their hands was absolutely not, as some on the right would day, the inevitable result of that rightful uprising of 1917 against poverty and oppression, any more than the big business-bankrolled rise of Hitler was the inevitable result of the industrial revolution or the Spanish Inquisition the result of the teachings of the early church.
That revolution didn’t just make life better for millions of workers whose lives it touched directly, it showed the callous, bare-faced exploiters in the capitalist world the power of organised labour, put the fear of God or, rather, Lenin into them and made them ready to make concessions and inspired a whole generation of the poor to challenge their self-appointed “masters” and change their conditions for the better.
And it is no coincidence that since Gorbachov’s badly needed reforms were hijacked in the USSR and the baby of socialism thrown out with the bathwater of bureaucracy, the power of global labour has decreased massively and that of global capital grown.
The disgusting and ever-widening extremes of wealth and poverty we now see in this country would never have come to pass if there was a visible, viable and humanitarian alternative currently in existence. There isn’t right now, but there could be — that’s what history teaches us.
I saw the core of that alternative myself first-hand during four years touring the GDR and many hours talking and working with the people fighting for real democratic change there, as opposed to takeover by the West, joblessness, poverty and exploitation. And I see it in so many of the activists I meet at my gigs. We should be inspired by our past — not, as some have sadly done, make excuses for it. Or, as a few others do, boldly declare that everything was perfect. It most certainly wasn’t.
So happy birthday to the 1917 socialist revolution. And me.