SO THE Russian revolution debate rumbles on. Each sect has its own position, rather like the thing itself, but these days it’s on Facebook rather than in the streets, which reflects the spirit of the age — in the West, anyway. Not a pike or a rifle but a keyboard and an army of emojis.
At least no-one gets hurt.
Of all the varying positions, it’s the Trots who irritate me the most, presenting Leon as a kind of cuddly idealistic teddy bear juxtaposed with the brutal psychopath Stalin. Remember Kronstadt, anyone?
The revolution was bloody, fractured and, from start to finish, full of contradictions and awful errors. But it remains for me one of the most progressive acts in the whole of human history. Let’s stop arguing now and concentrate on ousting this useless, clueless Tory government and building socialism in the here and now, shall we?
On the road again last week. Started in Frome — my first-ever gig there — with a rip-roaring night in support of their local Labour Party, supported by a brilliant outfit called Beef Unit who sounded like a very, very amusing and rather more tuneful version of The Fall.
Then to Swansea and a long cycle ride round Swansea Bay followed by a spot at the Do Not Go Gentle Festival, run in honour of local resident Dylan Thomas.
This is a proper poetry festival, held in a vibrant part of a modern city, not up its own arse in a wine-glass strewn ghetto, and showcasing people who use words to provoke and inspire rather than in a self-indulgent academic exercise. Luke Wright was as incisive and blisteringly funny as ever, with loads of new material and I was pleased to hear and meet Oliver Lomax, a young working-class poet who manages to write poems for the page which work well on the stage –— always a difficult task, whichever way round one is attempting it.
His first collection, 18 Poems, is well worth a read. Congratulations to Pierre Donahue and all involved in this wonderful festival.
From there I went to Barry for a lunchtime anti-austerity Unison rally in the constituency of the Tory Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns. He didn’t turn up, surprise, surprise. There I met Neville Southall, Welsh goalkeeping hero and, these days, committed Labour activist but I didn’t get to hear him speak because, after a short set, including my poem about the Aberfan disaster which got a huge, emotional response, I dashed back to the Liberty Stadium in Swansea to see the Seagulls get another three points.
We were the pundits’ favourite to finish bottom and we’re eighth in the table at the international break. That’s not at the bottom. It’s in the bosom. A lovely, lovely place to be.
After, on to Exeter for the Liberating Arts festival — a thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring event — and I finished off the weekend in Plymouth alongside my old buddy TV Smith. Good times. Next week I’m touring central London, playing the Borderline with fantastic Aussie songwriter Mick Thomas on Thursday and Covent Garden’s Seven Dials Club for a Labour fundraiser on Friday. And next Saturday I’m supporting poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy at the Old Market in Hove.
Finally, a few words about King Blues frontman Itch Fox and his new book 101 Haikus. He is one of the most talented songwriters and wordsmiths I’ve ever met. Sadly, he is now also one of the most controversial — drink, drugs and some self-acknowledged appalling behaviour has lost him many of his fans.
Now, he says he’s clean. His talent is still there and this beautifully produced book, along with the King Blues’s raw and honest new album The Gospel Truth, proves it. He has a way to go to win back the trust of a lot of people but I for one am not going to dismiss him and his work out of hand and I wish him well.
As the haiku has it: “Life is so hard/No wonder we get fucked up/And pretend we’re fine.”