though cowards flinch, it doesn’t necessarily make them wrong

I was quite surprised yesterday to read this post on Though Cowards Flinch, a blogsite which has for quite a while been just about solely Paul’s preserve.

Something very few people know is that I was actually added as an author to the site, probably from other times when it seemed I might not flinch in a cowardly manner.

The surprising thing about yesterday wasn’t the content of the post itself, written by Dave Semple – whose requiem for the blog he started a little after I started my own explains how he escaped onto the open web from behind the walled garden of Labour’s blogging platform, a virtual community where both of us had previously exchanged words, verbal fisticuffs and on occasions substantial doses of mala leche.

In fact, reading back through some articles on the blog which I had used to ultimately make my way out of Labour’s cocoon, I stumbled across this one on what I called the porous versus the non-porous web.  In turn, it led me to an old one of Dave’s, on new media.  It makes for good reading, and sadly – in many respects – seems relevant to today.  Sadly in the sense that we still engage in a broadcast medium, where virtual community and the stomping of webby pavements has really not managed to fulfil its early and engaging promise.

Perhaps the promise never existed.  Perhaps it was only ever a chimera.

Yet when Dave, in his blog’s requiem from 2012, has argued that blogging is all too likely to equal an airy-fairy commentariat of armchair disciples, given to irrelevant opinions, he doesn’t absolutely convince with his example.  His writing is always sternly coherent (I always imagine my paternal grandfather, his round spectacles, his unfashionable moustache and his Esperanto politics), and so it is that in Dave’s very own condemnation of wordy revolution, he shows us precisely the power a wordy revolution can exhibit.

So if he can do it, why not others?  And if his blogging can win elections, why can’t others?

It would seem then, with what happened yesterday, that even Dave recognises this truth.  As I said at the top of my post today, it wasn’t the content that surprised me but what happened to the meta:

  • a long list of interesting blogs was summarily removed from the blogroll, and reduced to only two;
  • the two that remained are clearly interesting blogs, but not the only interesting blogs on the matter;
  • I was removed as an author from the blog which I had never posted to, but which I had read avidly and commented on occasionally in its first few years of existence;
  • a link to my old blog was also removed (password-protected for a year or so I admit – though not the RSS feed – as I tried to work out what to do with it.  It’s now available in archive form for whatever legal and constructive purpose anyone wants to put the material to);

It is, of course, the right of any content and website owner to do with their content and their website whatever they wish to do.  So I’m not questioning this issue at all.  But I am wondering what such actions – never cowardly, always brusque, inevitably disagreeable to the bourgeois sensibilities – mean for the future of the political dynamic Dave’s uncowardly politics aims to drive.

He argues that there can be no accommodation with Capital (the capitalisation is his, not mine; probably Marx et al’s, too – anyone wish to confirm?).  I can understand this point of view intellectually, and yet I’m not sure it leads automatically to the violence – verbal, figurative, political, literal – which I feel he’s looking to propose.

I tweeted a few days ago my resistance to the building of a movement around the figure of one leader, as well as posting a rather wry analysis of what Jeremy Corbyn’s comms remind me of.  I find this kind of process resistible whether I agree with the politics of the leader or not.  And, ultimately, as the Labour Party is hollowed out by the Corbynites in much the same way as the Blairites did a generation before – ie reshaping a pre-existing and historically complex org for clear and well-planned purposes & politicking (hijacking also comes to mind as a concept – but maybe that’s an inevitable dynamic of all politics which, in times of real crisis, aims/claims to renew) – there will be serious pain.

The violence I fear on the horizon is comparable to the violence already committed in the name of “greed is good” economics.  And in proposing, in blogging, in defining and refining its nature, Dave has already accommodated – perhaps better said would be appropriated – the violence Capital has made its own.

It may be inevitable, too – though it’s never going to be my way.  The violence I mean.  And people like Dave know it.  And people like me know people like Dave see no other way.

The lockdown of Though Cowards Flinch is just one example of this.

But then all’s fair in war.

And war.


  1. Dave S · August 12, 2015

    Hi Mil,

    As you’d expect, no apologies from me.

    That you can equate what Blair and Corbyn did and are trying to do to Labour, as in this paragraph of yours…

    “And, ultimately, as the Labour Party is hollowed out by the Corbynites in much the same way as the Blairites did a generation before – ie reshaping a pre-existing and historically complex org for clear and well-planned purposes & politicking (hijacking also comes to mind as a concept – but maybe that’s an inevitable dynamic of all politics which, in times of real crisis, aims/claims to renew) – there will be serious pain.”

    …really just proves that you’ve totally lost your way. Corbyn doesn’t want a hollowed out Labour Party – he wants a Labour Party open to the masses. Yes that is a drastic reshaping – and it’s far from clear that it’s possible – but I note there’s no comment from you of the content of this plan, only of the form, which you think resembles what Blair did.

    It doesn’t. It is precisely the opposite – it undoes the closing down of Labour as a vehicle for the working class to take some control of our lives. In previous years I’d have blogged a response at you, but this isn’t news. This is very very old, this debate.

    • Miljenko Williams · August 13, 2015

      Hi Dave

      Didn’t write this expecting apologies, nor think they are required. I was just making some observations about the democratic instincts of a mild example of lockdown. You’re right: the rest of it is an old old debate. But so is your approach, intellectual apparatus and dynamics. Not to say they’re wrong necessarily. I just think there are other ways. But I do accept we shall never agree.

      • Reddest Tape · August 13, 2015

        Democracy involves both violence and tyranny. It cannot be sustained without these. Every decision of a majority is an exercise of tyranny. So when you get all judgmental like this – and it is a passive-aggressive judgment you are attempting to render here, you might do well to remember that. Ambivalence is not a valid political choice. You can pick a side or you can continue to be irrelevant, with clean hands.

  2. Miljenko Williams · August 14, 2015

    @Reddest Tape (ie Dave Semple?): Don’t agree entirely. Certainly not to the extent that we need to do everything in our power to exacerbate the tyranny. And I don’t think we have to, which is in fact the non-passive/aggressive approach I am taking.

    You’ll have read it before I’m sure, but I always revert to Peter Levine at moments like this:

    More on how I see our democracy’s recent (ie since the 1970s) decline here, including references to Occupy and Los Indignados, as well as our own 2015 general election:

    Yes. I know for you this’ll probably be detail, but here I *am* taking sides, even if they’re not the sides you conceptualise; and the side I take is an inclusive *and* efficient process of democracy. Maybe not yet achieved almost anywhere in the world – but on the other hand whither Marx et al? You’ve waited long enough to achieve your goals; others can wait just as long to achieve theirs, no?

  3. Pingback: if i were a big clever capitalist … | blinking ti . me

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