Firstly, a few words on Castro — I can’t not, really.
Western commentators always define democracy in terms of what is permitted to come out of people’s mouths. Castro recognised that the very first step in the democratic process, especially in a devastatingly poor country as Cuba was in 1959, is to make sure that people have enough to put in them.
That’s why the majority of Cubans are mourning him right now. Economic democracy gives political democracy the opportunity to flourish. I wish Cuba well.
I’m writing this week’s column in France — I’m here for a couple of gigs with my Belgian punk muckers Contingent.
I suspect that in the next few days I’ll have had plenty of discussions about the possibility of a Fillon-Le Pen run off in next year’s presidential election, a prospect which makes Clinton v Trump seem almost palatable.
One more example of a splintered left letting in the right — if the Left Party and Socialist Party united they could well gather enough votes to keep Le Pen out of the second round run-off.
But they prefer to stand against each other, which means that in the second round they may well both have to vote for a hard-right Thatcherite to keep out a fascist. Madness, and shades of the squabbles between the SPD and KPD in the 1930s. For fuck’s sake, learn from history!
After the French gigs on Wednesday and Thursday I came back to Cambridge yesterday for a trades council gig with a very brave and talented woman.
I first met Janine Booth in 1983 when, aged 16, she interviewed me for her fanzine Blaze the evening after Brighton had beaten Sheffield Wednesday to reach the FA Cup final for the first and only time in our history.
She turned into a fine performance poet who joined our ranting ranks in the mid-’80s and then went off to work on the London Underground, become an RMT activist and have three lovely sons with her partner, fellow RMT militant John Leach.
A couple of years ago she started writing and performing again and she is now one of the finest, sharpest and most sought-after performance poets on the circuit.
Words are flowing out of her like a socialist waterfall and she has just published her third book of poetry in two years Her latest, The Age of Discontent is a review of 2016 in verse. It was finished before Fartmouth Trump “won” the US election, but it’s certainly a “That Was The Year That Was” up until then.
My favourites are the self-explanatory Zero Hours, The Eleventh Commandment — don’t cross a picket line — Crazed Loner, about the way mainstream media chose to define murdered Jo Cox’s assassin and, on a much lighter note, Bodily Fluids Interception Team — the amusingly-named poor sods who have the task of cleaning the London Underground during the recently started all-night services.
Janine was due to be touring all over the country in support of her new book but a few weeks ago was diagnosed with breast cancer and has just had an operation.
Despite this, she was on stage alongside Grace Petrie and myself in Cambridge last night. Bravo. But of course all the cancelled gigs mean no chance for people to get the book — poets like us sell most of our work at live gigs or online rather than in the shops.
It comes with a CD of her performing all the poems live and you can get both, plus her other two excellent books of poetry and publications about autism in the workplace, the disastrous PFI Underground debacle and the Poplar council rising from janinebooth.com. Xmas present suggestions par excellence.
Talking of Xmas, not for the first time my socialist singer-songwriter mate Robb Johnson asked me to play fiddle on one of his recordings a few weeks ago. But this one is a bit different.
At the time of writing it is 10/1 to be the Xmas No 1. You may well have heard about it already and it’s available to download from December from facebook.com/corbynxmassingle/.
Tomorrow (Sunday) I am at the Albion Pub in Penarth — fitting, since I’ll just have watched BHAFC v Cardiff — and tomorrow I’ll be at Loves Cafe in Weston-super-Mare.