Sunday, August 27, 2006

It's in the tag

The Stropster has 'tagged' me - which is what young people do to each other - and judging by some tags I've seen on the blogosphere the notion has the potential to be extraordinarily annoying. However, this tag is about books AND lists which means I'm keen to get cracking, and am happy to recieve my first ever 'tag' (imagine me typing the word 'tag' in the style of Stephen Fry to get exactly how hip and happening I am)

1. One book that changed your life. Building the party - Tony Cliff *

The first volume of Cliff's biography of Lenin was extraordinarily influential over me, and still is. It covers the period of Lenin's life during the early years of Russian Marxism, leading through the split that led to the formation of the Bolsheviks and into the 1905 revolution.

How you build an organisation in difficult periods and the kind of robust flexibility that's required continues to shape my political activity to this day - although I've subverted it in a way that would have Cliff spinning in his grave and screaming "r.r.r.r.rubbish!!"

One of its key insights, which incidently never seems to have been fully taken on board by the SWP, is the way different parts of the party are influenced by their position inside its structures - and that at different times different parts of the organisation must take prominence. Alas, the SWP cast this aside and 'chooses' to fetishise centralised command structures - inflexibly embracing the very worst parts of the Bolshevik tradition.

It was a toss up between this and Candide, which I read when I was about twelve and adopted it as my Bible despite having completely misunderstood the whole thing.

2. One book that you've read more than once In Dubious Battle - John Steinbeck

Beautiful, if occasionally brutal book, detailing the exploits of a revolutionary called Jim. Cool. I particularly like the bit where the scabs were "kicked apart like cheese", but who kicks cheese?

3. One book that you'd want on a desert island Plans and Instructions for building 47 Boats John Gardner

I've not read it yet - but it could come in handy.

4. One book that made you laugh A Star Called Henry - Roddy Doyle

I almost put this in books that made me cry, but I guess it made me laugh more. Really moving and deceptively clever book. It has shaped my understanding of the Irish Civil War and, to be honest, is probably better than the rather good Wind that shakes the barley which is a film not a book of course.

5. One book that made you cry? Dancers from the End of Time Michael Moorcock

I'm always blubbing, the slightest thing sets me off. The first book I remember making me cry was this bit of froth by Michael Moorcock all about time travellers from the darkly licentious and decadent end of the universe who, as a wheeze, turn up in nineteenth century London.

Our hero, Jherek Carnelian, is sentanced to death for murder and is both amused and uncomprehending by turns. The scene where the parson visits the condemned man's cell had me in floods. In order to please the parson, and unaware of what a death sentance really means, he converts to Christianity and gleefully repents his sins - the joy and horror of parson and jailers combined with his childlike, if wild, desire to please would melt granite.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is the close runner up - but I've had a Steinbeck already - so hard kicked apart cheese.

6. One book you wish you had written

A book I've always had plans to write is "Love under capitalism" but of currently existing books that I wish had been written by me rather than the actual author would be Statistics for Dummies by D. Rumsey because my love of numbers knows no bounds.

7. One book you wish had never been written The book of Mormon.

Any good list must offend at least one religious community. I bagsy Mormons.

8. One book you're currently reading Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said Philip K. Dick

Actually I just finished reading it this morning, but as I haven't started reading another book in the last couple of hours it will have to do. Covers Dick's usual subjects of identity and drug taking and has a particularly dumb hero who thinks he is God's gift.

9. One book you have been meaning to read The Whole Woman by Germaine Greer

I've been meaning to finish Germain Greer's 'The Whole Woman' - which is really excellent - I got it out the library and it is now terribly overdue - doh!

10. Five people to tag

No, it feels too much like a chain letter. However, if you have a blog - read this and would like to take part let me know and I'll add you as a volunteer taggee.

Open invitation

A little while ago I wrote this five books every socialist should read (full list of participants). Coming soon, the sequel, five films every socialist should see, why not get thinking and email me your thoughts if you want to take part.


stroppybird said...

See Jim

i knew you would like this, it brings out the Nick Hornby in you :-)

perhaps as well as a weekend quiz you could do a list of the week or month. Oh dear i am getting anoraky...

Jim Jay said...

Ha - that's weird - I'd been thinking about something on those lines.

Renegade Eye said...

I'm starting to discover people like Tony Cliff. The third camp positions never picked up momentum in the USA.

Trotsky influenced the US SWP, to expel Schachtman.

Jim Jay said...

Hi R.Eye

Yeah Cliff's incredible in many ways - and I genuinely feel honoured to have met the guy, although he told me not once but twice that I was talking rubbish (hence the use of the word in the post)

If you can lay hold of it Cliff's autobiography "A world to win" (last book he wrote i think) is well worth a read.

People have said it's a bit self surving and i suppose it is - but then if i ever write mine it'll be self serving too!

There is a Cliff archive on line here which has it among many others.

Cliff's "Trotskyism after trotsky" is also a good, short summary of the "neither washington nor moscow" position, written with the benefit of hindsight. Worth reading and very easy to get into I seem to remember.

stroppybird said...


What sort of lists ?

Jim Jay said...

Well I hadn't quite formulated my plan as yet, there are different sorts -

quite a few bloggers have random and quite personal lists (what music i'm listening to, word of the day, etc) if i did a random list it would probably be slightly more political than whether i've just had an eccles cake...


or i used to do an email out of a weekly roundup of the news with about a dozen stories from round the world, gtood articles, funny events etc. the blog would be a good place to do that again in a different form.

or i could even try a monthly awards post including blogs, news, personal, etc. to do a more personal version of the prestigious 2005 Socialist Unity awards which was rather fun and got us in trouble (as always)

any ideas?

stroppybird said...

I'll give it some thought...