Thursday, 5 February 2015

Syriza is Greek for Hope

“Tis not enough to help the feeble up, but to support him after.” Timon of Athens.

I have been ill with a nasty chest infection but that has not stopped me having a smile on my face. Put there by two remarkable events. As a Black Country bloke I was chuffed that the poor relations of Black Country football, Walsall FC, at the 127th attempt have finally made it to a Wembley final.

Who cares what the trophy is or who they play. If any town needs a lift it is Walsall. Economically they have never recovered from the manufacturing jobs slaughter of the Thatcher years. It’s not much but it’s great that the dispossessed get a day in the sun.

The other is the news from Greece. Despite everything Syriza have won the election. This is the most important election victory in Europe for the left in the Neo-Liberal era.

The fact that such a movement has been necessary represents the total failure of European Social Democracy. The only thing that is keeping it alive is inertia. No longer a movement it has sold its soul to neo-liberal economics and neo-conservative politics.
The great SPD in Germany are supporting Angela Merkel!  Mario Renzi the PM of Italy and leader of the Democrats, is described as the Tony Blair of Italy. In Spain PSOE has fallen from grace due to economic mismanagement and corruption.  The mighty PASOK reduced to a rump. And as for Francois Hollande and the French Socialists what a disappointment! 

It looks naïve now to assume that social democratic parties would take a strong stance in defence of their working class supporters. Whilst the rich get away with murder the Social Democrats mutter incoherent pathetic austerity-lite policies, desperately trying to sound “responsible”, policies that tinker around the edges (the Mansion Tax!) in fear of upsetting the ruling elite.

An elite that gets richer on the backs of those below, by cutting wages, slashing benefits, crushing unions, avoiding tax and by diverting a huge proportion of our national wealth to financial speculation.

They have also used their wealth to reshape the policy world we hear their words in the voices of Mandelson, Blair, or Milburn everyday on how we should dilute and moderate demands that are already so feeble as to be meaningless.

What is on offer here?  Well the difference between a future with George Osborne or Ed Balls seems to be choice in the method of execution. Osborne offers the hangman’s noose. Whilst Balls offers us the slower method of being garrotted.

The end result is of course the same. For the traditional far left too has failed. Even in states with large Communist and Workers Parties they have little traction with the electorate, the IU in Spain, the PCF or the KKE have made little headway.

People are crying out for change and yet there is no voice for the food bank user or the bus passenger, for the zero-hour contract worker, in short for the victims of the cruel hoax that is austerity.

This pain has been expressed by the rise of the nationalist, populist rightwing UKIP, but whose fault is this. I fear the Labour Party has been insensitive to the pain of those disorientated by globalisation or hurt by austerity. Labour’s tragic reaction to the Scottish Referendum shows that it is incapable of renewal.

Thank goodness then for Syriza, whatever happens now they have already changed the game. Alexis Tsipras is breath of fresh air. What they have achieved, I know in remarkable circumstances, is amazing. This is a study in effective leadership. In understanding the situation and building an effective response. The press have patronised and underestimated him and the movement at every turn.

This is not a one man band either. After studying maths and statistics, Greek Finance minister Yanis Varoufakis received his economics doctorate from Essex University. He was a Fellow at Cambridge, Lecturer at Sydney University before returning to Greece as Professor of Economic Theory at the University of Athens. He describes himself as an “accidental economist”. I wonder what this makes George Osborne?

The solidarity model of party organisation is also one we can learn from. Some complain that they do not use the “left-wing” politics playbook. As if our methods have go us anywhere.

As Paul Krugman points out if anything the problem with Syriza’s plans is that they are not radical enough. Debt relief and an easing of austerity may not be enough to create the growth they need but the Greeks are not yet ready to leave the Euro.

“Still in calling for major change, Mr Tsipras is being far more realistic than officials who want the beating to continue until morale improves. The rest of Europe should give him a chance to end his country’s nightmare.”

My fear is for a Labour election victory on a small share of the vote with its present policies. That would lead to disaster. We have failed to change their policies from within. Pressure now needs to come from without. The way we can help both Labour and Syriza is to stop our bickering on the left and build our own anti-austerity party. I know we are not Greece but if they can pull together thirteen parties surely a UK Syriza is the best way “to support him after”.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

China, Russia and the Price of Milk

At last Ministers have begun to wake up to the crisis in the dairy industry. The fear in many rural areas must be that the Tories will let dairy farmers go the way of coal miners.  
Interestingly there is one Conservative MP trying to stop this happening. I have some sympathy for the challenges that Jim Paice is the chair of First Milk, the Dairy Farmers Co-operative is having.
The dramatic changes in world milk prices have created a multimillion-pound cashflow hole in First Milk and for the1,300 farmer members who have been called upon to help bail it out. For these farmers they are tough times having their payments delayed and to be asked for a big increase in capital contributions to the Co-op is a double whammy!
For all dairy farmers the problem is that milk has become a globally traded commodity. Prices went up when new markets opened up in Russia and most importantly in China. With more women working and a series of crises in domestic Chinese supply the door was opened up for the large players to enter the Chinese market.
However what goes up can also come down. The round of price cuts in Europe began when Arla the huge transnational Scandinavian, German and British co-op announced last August it was slashing milk prices because weak prices had been made worse by the retaliatory sanctions that Russia has imposed on the EU.
This is on top of record UK output and the cut throat prices amongst UK supermarkets which often see milk sold at prices cheaper than water. It may seem like a left wing cliché but the crisis in the industry can be traced back to Mrs Thatcher.
Farmgate milk prices used to be set by the statutory Milk Marketing Boards, covering England and Wales and Scotland. The boards established prior to the War bought milk from farmers and sold it to processors and dairies. This perfectly rational system of natural monopolies was destroyed when the Tories, those champions of the countryside, abolished them in the Agriculture Act of 1993 leading to the collection and distribution of milk for processing being deregulated.
Since then global influences have increased. About 10% of the world’s milk is globally traded in the form of milk powders, cream, butter and commodity cheddar. Prices are set in three big producer areas in the US, the EU and New Zealand.
One of the world’s largest co-ops is the New Zealand Dairy co-op Fonterra. It is the worlds leading global milk processor. Processing over 15 billion litres of milk a year in New Zealand together with 2 billion litres from Australia and nearly 3 billion litres from Latin America. 

Fonterra own GlobalDairyTrade which is an auction platform for internationally traded commodity dairy products. Its website says it was “Established in 2008 to provide a reliable, transparent, price discovery platform for globally traded dairy commodities.”  The auctions occur twice a month, bringing together hundreds of qualified bidders from more than 90 countries, with a range of sellers from Europe, USA, India, Australia and New Zealand.

Now the Chinese economy has been slowing reducing the demand for imported milk much of which comes from New Zealand so this has affected the price Fonterra can get for their milk releasing it onto the world market.

Meanwhile the EU price for milk set in Euro’s so farmers have also to be currency speculators then from April 1st the EU milk quota system ends meaning Europeans can increase production just in time for a global slump in the industry.

Dairy farmers now find themselves not knowing how much milk to produce or how much they will be paid. They have to keep their eyes on the weather, the cost of fertiliser and on economic growth in China.

We are self-sufficient pretty much in the UK in liquid milk although we do import around £1.3billions worth of cheese, butter and yoghurt. If we allow theses trend to continue it can only lead to the destruction of more dairy farms and increase the pressure for the introduction of mega-dairies at only knows what cost to animal welfare and the landscape. 

There is a powerful argument that we have abrogated responsibility for our food security to the EU who cares more for the spivs and speculators in international markets. Clearly we need to regain control of our agricultural sector from the EU so we can rationally plan for the future recreating a properly regulated modern milk marketing system.

In the short term British dairy farmers need stronger co-ops. Farmers Weekly recently argued that, “There’s a thought that British farmers don’t do co-ops like their continental cousins, that they take a shorter-term, more individual view.” Well if that is their view it can only lead to their destruction.

Fonterra and Arla co-ops are serious players in the industry; there is surely a lesson here for First Milk farmers get behind their co-op.  

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Libraries to Blame for Recession

Clearly it can now be revealed that the main cause of the great financial crash of 2008 was the fact that we had too many libraries. Thank goodness the government has bought this scourge under control and has now turned the tide both in the number of libraries and the numbers using them.

The huge unregulated financial institutions speculating in complex derivatives which many of them did not understand have had to be bailed out with huge quantities of taxpayer’s money due to the reckless lending of too many books by public libraries.

Clearly access to the unfettered lending of books has to be bought to a halt. This unsecured lending encouraging reading and education has done untold damage to our nation. Who knows what the scale of the problem could have been if we had a well read literate population. 

Fortunately we are now imposing some serious restrictions on library lending, by closing libraries altogether where possible and restricting the opening hours of the remainder. These timely actions should bring a halt to unfettered reading.

This seemed to be the sub-text to George Osborne’s Autumn Statement. Of course it is not just libraries that are to blame but the whole of our public services.  He and many of his supporters in the media seem to have been convinced that that the initial crisis was caused by irresponsible public borrowing.

Never let the truth get in the way of a good story. The conditions for crisis were created by a system of production that goes on strike whenever there are insufficient profits. This was hidden by excessive private sector borrowing and lending in particular by over-leveraged banks.

Eventually profits from credit-fuelled speculation in the stock market and in property, using financial instruments of mass destruction ceased to deliver. The collapse of this bubble led to massive falls in output and therefore in tax revenue.
Government deficits are a consequence not the cause of this mess. When the real estate bubble burst corporations and banks slashed spending in an attempt to pay down their debts. Perfectly rational but just like in the 1930s self-defeating, profits continue to fall. Falling profits have lead to a private sector investment strike.
The resulting investment collapse has lead to an economic depression that has worsened the public debt. At a time when the private sector is engaged in a collective effort to spend less despite in many cases sitting on huge piles of cash public policy should not be making things worse by big cuts in government spending (or big increases in tax rates on ordinary people).
After doing the right thing in rescuing the banks that caused the economic crisis conventional policy wisdom has quickly switched the focus onto government deficits. The result is that fiscal policy is reinforcing the dampening effects of private sector spending cuts. Monetary policy cannot solve this problem as interest rates are close to zero besides the problem is the profitability of the private sector not the lack of credit.
It is not even the right policy to propose a medium-term plan for reducing the government deficit as Labour has done. Based on cuts and tax rises as it is front-loaded and will further delay recovery and be self-defeating, indeed the IMF has studied 173 cases of budget cuts in individual countries and found that the consistent result is economic contraction.
There have been a handful of cases in which fiscal consolidation was followed by growth but this was due to currency depreciation in a strong world market. Current global economic conditions make this scenario highly improbable.
What is needed is more public investment not less. Only investment can increase productivity and growth and in this equation the government deficit is irrelevant.
In the Autumn Statement Osborne was crowing about the level of our economic growth (let us park for a moment how this largesse was shared across the population). When we break this down we can see that there where some extraordinary factors driving it. The corrupt bankers paying back to their customers £23 billion they had fraudulently received in “mis-sold” PPI insurance, the adoption of the new European national accountancy standards which include the growth in prostitution, illegal gambling and drug dealing and of course all the extra borrowing.
Bizarrely it is only the latter Osborne finds offensive or indeed immoral. Even with crime and corruption on the increase growth for next year is predicted at being lower than this.
Some of my old Labour friends have accused me of being too hard on Gordon Brown and too soft on Osborne. Brown was well meaning but misguided, Osborne is a sociopath. For me there is a clear distinction. Of course Labour is better than the Tories but I fear the danger with Ed Balls economic strategy is that Labour will do a “Francois Hollande” promise little and deliver less inadvertently opening the door to the far right.

So Farewell Gordon Brown!

As Gordon Brown disappears into the dustbin of history as the man who saved the Union it is appropriate to take a look at his significance. There is no doubt that he was both the architect and builder of New Labour’s economic policy which has been so difficult for Ed Miliband to shake off.

This is probably because he has persisted in dragging the dead weight of Ed Balls around with him. Balls not only represents the Brown legacy but offers little hope that Labour has learned anything from those years.

My own view is that history will be much kinder to Brown the Prime Minister than to Brown the Chancellor. This is probably the exact opposite of the popular perception. Brown the Prime Minister may have offered up a Freudian slip in the Commons when he said he had “saved the world” but to a large extent he had.  When the banks teetered on the edge of collapse in 2008 he did the right things in saving the banks and putting up taxes.

It is worth remembering that the economy was returning to growth before George Osborne put the brakes on with his first emergency budget and derailed the whole process destroying billions of pounds in lost output.

That is only a small part however of Brown’s record. He was a slavish supporter as Chancellor of Alan Greenspan who for 18 years was boss of the US Federal Reserve. The man who finally admitted when the Banks where collapsing that he had found a flaw in the theory.  A flaw that had been obvious to most of us for years.

Having pursued policies of deregulation and liberalisation Greenspan had now found "he made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organisations, specifically banks and others, were such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms”.

In pursuing the same policies and making London a safe haven for rogue global capital Gordon Brown turned the City in to the world’s largest tax haven.

One of his daftest ideas and one the establishment continue to praise him for was making the Bank of England “independent”. One of the greatest triumphs of the post-war Labour Government was the nationalisation of the Bank of England. The idea that the policies pursued by the bank can somehow be de-politicised is fatuous. At this level economics is politics.

What’s more an independent bank for years kept UK interest rates higher than those in mainland Europe doing untold damage to Britain’s manufacturing sector. Brown managed to destroy one and half million manufacturing jobs in the process.

As well as liberating the City and the Financial Services sector to do its worst his next crime was the way he structured the welfare state to create a set of subsidies to the private sector. His complex web of in-work benefits kept workers trapped on low pay and subsidised bad employers. Simultaneously housing benefit grew as private sector landlords had a field day ratcheting up rents to milk the subsidy.

What’s more because ordinary people received next to no benefit from his largesse they did not thank him at the ballot box for this spending.

There are other examples the way that private sector provision of care for children and the elderly has fallen in quality and risen in cost. A week does not go by without some scandal in these private services. He was truly naive in thinking ownership did not matter and you could use regulated markets to achieve better services for the public.

Clearly Blair and Brown both had a malign influence in the Labour Party he was ruthless in rooting out any opposition to his policies and spent an inordinate amount of time jousting with Blair in placing his cronies in safe parliamentary constituencies.

It is clear now that the golden years of Brown’s Chancellorship can now be seen as being funded by fool’s gold. The entry of China into the world economy reducing the costs of manufactures and ushered in a period of low inflation and individual spending was funded by a tsunami of debt. Rather than abolishing “boom and bust” he facilitated it.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Unity is Strength

You don’t hear much about Wakefield. The Rugby team, Trinity, haven’t won much since the early sixties. Their old Belle Vue ground formed the backdrop to that cracking film This Sporting Life probably the best sports film ever made.

Wakefield has at last got something to cheer about. It is undergoing a cultural renaissance. It began with the opening of the contemporary art gallery, the Hepworth, the name is taken from one of the city’s most famous daughters, Barbara Hepworth, that giant of post-war sculpture. That may come as a surprise unless you know that Wakefield is home to the iconic Yorkshire sculpture park.

Opening in 1977 its 500 acres of open air galleries includes works by both Hepworth and that other great Yorkshire sculptor Henry Moore. The renaissance continued with the opening of Wakefield One the new council emporium which included a new library opened by Jarvis Cocker in 2012 and a new Museum opened by David Attenborough in 2013.

Personally I preferred the old museum building and I don’t like the way the council talks about the citizens of this great Yorkshire City as customers but hey a new library at a time of austerity cannot be a bad thing.

Another well known Wakefield venue is the category A prison which is the home of some of Britain’s most dangerous criminals. Being a prison officer does not mean however that you are conservative. Wakefield’s officers have a very radical past as they where responsible for founding the Wakefield Industrial Co-operative Society back in 1867.

The society grew quickly and by the turn of the twentieth century was ready to expand its central premises. Following a design competition Abraham Heart of Wakefield won with his vision of Unity an intriguing mixture of gothic and Flemish architecture. The extension took three years to build and included a magnificent hall.

I am sure that an architectural critic would tell us that this building is a jumble of styles full of ornate craftsmanship, glorious stained glass and chock full of co-operative symbolism. This building should not work but somehow it does.

Sadly in recent times a place for everything from silent movies, to wrestling, symphony orchestras to ballroom dancing was in a terrible state of repair. The venue for so much of Wakefield life looked like it would go the same way as the Wakefield Co-op Society.

That is why I am so pleased that the icing on the cake of this cultural rebirth is that of Unity Hall. Forty years after the Wakefield Co-op disappeared the building was taken over by the local authority but only partially used then in 1994 the council sold the building then for a few years it was used as a place for music students to learn their trade.

It was still a music venue during the late 1970s and early 1980s; it attracted some of the biggest acts in the glam, punk, post-punk and heavy metal era. The Specials, Boomtown Rats, Human League, The Skids, The Only Ones, Iron Maiden, Penetration, Eurythmics and Def Leppard had all strutted their stuff at Unity Hall.
In this era its claim to fame is as the first place The Pretenders ever played. Unity Hall, 1978 supporting Wakefield power-pop band Strangeways, is one for the rock history books.
Fans who had loved these gigs and the place and seeing the state it was in began to try to save it. What turned these aspirations into a serious project was Chris Hall. He was a consultant on property developments but realised that there needed to be a new way of developing cultural businesses through co-operatives.
He started working on Unity Works, the name for the redevelopment project in 2010 and created the co-op that could deliver what everyone wanted the following year, becoming the Development Director and Chair.
Since 2011 when a Community Benefit Co-op was established, with membership/shares at £200 each working in partnership with the City Council they put together a £4.4million scheme to completely reclaim the hall.
It has worked and they have done a magnificent job. The venue is amazing with a 600-seater major hall and 150-seater minor hall. The renovation has uncovered many original features such as floor mosaics, the incredible roof in the main concert room and even an original lift sign.
As well as a terrific concert venue, it has office space, an art gallery, independent retail space and conference facilities. The work is not quite complete. Phase two will see a bar and café, expected to open in December.
This month the Year Zero festival saw the Damnned return to the stage of Unity for the first time since 1981.  This old venue is better than ever and very much alive and kicking. And here is one for all our diaries, Remembering the Miners Strike, a day-long national event supported by the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign and the NUM ay Unity Works on 7 March 2015.
This building now looks great a combination of the best of the old and the new and it has made one old co-operator very happy that an iconic co-op building has been co-operatively saved and put into co-operative use!

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Co-operative Folk Lament World War One

I had a fabulous time at the Derby Folk Festival. At one point it did not look like it would go ahead, after a fire at the Assembly Rooms, however a large marquee in the market place saved the day.  Bill toppers included Steeleye Span, Show of Hands and Kate Rusby. Lower down the bill however there where some real showstoppers including an outstanding performance from the wonderful Martin Simpson and a lovely laid back slot from Americans Dana and Susan Robinson.

The most moving performance by a long way however was that of In Flanders Fields by vocal trio, Barry Coope, Jim Boyes and Lester Simpson. They have been stalwarts of the festival for a long time and one of my personal favourites. That is not just because they release their music on the co-operative No Masters Voice label their vocal harmony singing is sublime and they combine a mastery of the genre with tremendous wit and biting social commentary.

The folk world generally has produced some of the best musical offerings to mark the centenary of the First World War and as you would expect from folk artists generally from the bottom up. Rob Johnsons with Gentle Men his family history of the war to end all wars is very good indeed so is Show of Hands Centenary a mixture of song and poetry from the period.

Coope ,Boyes & Simpson’s is a very substantial piece of work it is both moving and funny and  marks a twenty year collaboration not only with the history but the place of Flanders itself. Piet Chielens, Co-ordinator of the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres argues that they have been at the forefront of the commemoration in the West Flemish Front Region for twenty years. Their body of work on the war can be seen as a “lieu de mémoire”.  Indeed in Flanders, he says, no artistic initiative seems to have been more successfully involved with the theme than that of this trio.

In their show they bring together eye-witness accounts, contemporary poetry and songs specially commissioned for the town of Passchendaele’s Peace Concerts. The albums title, In Flanders Fields takes its name from the poem written by John McCrae who was killed on the Western Front in the First World War. Ironically the poem was used in army recruitment and its references to poppies made them an important part of later commemoration. 

In the live shows the pieces between the songs are as well chosen as the songs themselves quips from contemporary music hall song, to extracts from the Ypres Times, the satirical paper produced by the soldiers in the trenches, as well as poetry and letters home.

They give voice to the poor bloody infantry and their contempt for the sergeant majors and officers. Never afraid to prick the bubble of the pompous they create a rounded image of the war that is deeply moving.

Visiting Belgium for twenty years changed the life of Jim Boyes in particular who now lives there. Going over regularly since the 70s, but by becoming involved in Peace Concerts Passchendaele, he got to know a lot of people in Belgium and it soon became his second home.
His involvement with the Flemish folk scene began when he had released a solo album called Out The Blue, it was the first thing he had done on the co-operative No Masters label which he had set up with John Tams.
Piet Chielens who wrote for the Flemish folk magazine called Gandalf had known of Jim since his time in Swan Arcade. He reviewed the album which contained a song Down On The Dugout Floor that he had written after a visit to play the Dranouter Folk Festival, near Ypres.
When Piet started the Peace concerts he invited Jim to go over and play with some Flemish musicians. Once there he was asked if there was anyone else that Jim would like to involve. He had just started working with Barry and Lester eventually they took part in five different Peace Concert productions in Belgium and England, performing on former battlefields like Hill 60, among the memorials at Tyne Cot and at the request of the town of Passendale for their eightieth anniversary commemoration of the battle.  Many of these performances are now contained on In Flanders Field also working with Piet there is also an impressive book to go with the two CD’s.
At Derby they mocked the Guardian’s description of their work as post-modern folk. More like ‘post-mortem’ they said. Sadly there is nothing post about this work, as we embark on another war, it is strikingly contemporary.
This work is beautiful, funny, passionate and angry and a terrific antidote to much of the jingoism that marks the centenary. They argue that, “the more we learn about war, the more important it becomes to sing about peace.” Get to see them perform if you can and lets hope that’s what everyone who hears them learns too.

Onward and Upward

I was enjoying reading Britain’s Communists the Untold Story by John Green where he seeks to correct the malign mainstream account of the contribution that Communists have made to British life.  At one point he talks about how authors who where members of the party are now remembered despite their party affiliation or because of their subsequent anti-communism.

In the latter category he places Edward Upward. Now Edward was a member of the party for sixteen years from 1932 until 1948 but left because he felt it no longer to be a Marxist Party and irretrievably reformist.

You may disagree with Edwards’s assessment but this does not make him an anti-communist. Edward was a very distinguished author who mingles surrealism with realism to create incredibly vibrant novels and short-stories.

He had an extraordinarily long life living until he was 105. In his youth he began a life long friendship with Christopher Isherwood knew Auden and Virginia Wolf with his early work being published by the Hogarth Press.

In 2009 that “drink soaked former Trotskyist popinjay” (according to George Galloway anyway), Christopher Hitchens went in search of Edward who was hiding in plain sight on the Isle of Wight after his retirement as a school teacher. During his teaching life he remained politically engaged undertaking editorial work for Ploughshare, the journal of the Teachers' Anti-War Movement.

The encounter between Edward and Hitchens was published in Atlantic Monthly on appropriately the 1st May, 2009.

In a vicarage-style house not far from the railway station in the small town of Sandown, Upward received me and led me to a side room. He explained without loss of time that the main rooms of the little home were out of bounds because his wife, Hilda, was in the process of dying there. “I shall miss Hilda,” he said with the brisk matter-of-factness of the materialist, “but I have promised her that I shall go on writing.” Attired in gray flannel trousers, a corduroy jacket, and a V-neck jersey, he reminded me of something so obvious that I didn’t immediately recognize it. On a table lay the Morning Star, the daily newspaper of the Stalinist rump organization that survived the British Communist Party’s decision to dissolve itself after the implosion of the Soviet Union. It is entirely possible that Upward was the paper’s sole subscriber on this islet of thatched cottages and stained glass and theme-park rural Englishness. Seeing me notice the old rag, he said, rather defensively, “Yes I still take it, though there doesn’t seem much hope these days.” When I asked him if there was anyone on the left he still admired, he cited Arthur Scargill, the coal miners’ thuggish leader, who was known to connoisseurs as the most ouvriériste and sectarian and demagogic of the anti-Blair forces in the Labour movement. Yet to this alarming opinion he appended the shy and disarming news that the last review he had had in the Morning Star had been a good one, precisely because it stressed that not all his work was strictly political. “It particularly mentioned my story ‘The White-Pinafored Black Cat.’” I inquired if he was working on a story at that moment. “Yes I am.” “And may one know the title?” “It’s to be called ‘The World Revolution.’” At this point and in this context, I began to find the word surreal recurring to my mind.”

I think Edward comes out of this encounter rather well whilst Hitchens confirms George Galloway’s assessment. Edward does not sound anything like an anti-communist although Hitchins most certainly does and one wonders what the true purpose of his journey was.

In recent years Edwards work has been published by Enitharmon press who have issued a series of critically acclaimed stories as well as memoirs of Isherwood and Auden.

Probably his greatest work was the trilogy, The Spiral Ascent, (In the Thirties, The Rotten Elements and No Home But the Struggle) described by the Guardian as, “without doubt Upward's central work; unfortunately it is also the most misunderstood, and today it languishes out of print.” It is a indeed a remarkable work and fortunately it is relatively easy to get second hand copies.

One of his characters in the short story, A Ship in the Sky (from the Unmentionable Man, Enitharmon, 1994) has an encounter with a fellow passenger on a ship,
“And why do you think you are lucky to meet me?”
“Because my closest friends and I have always admired you as one of the very few left-wing imaginative writers of literary ability who have not betrayed their principles.”

Sounds like the perfect epitaph to me.