Firstly, an apology for barely keeping this blog ticking over the last year - in my defence all I can say is that this failure has in part been for good reasons; namely, a slow awakening of the British working class movement amidst a year of riots, resistance and revolution has inevitably meant an intensification of the level of activity (by which I mean offline 'real life' political activity) for any Marxist who takes what Marx said about the point being not simply to interpret the world but to try and change it seriously. Another slight problem, as Andy Zaltzman
noted, has been that 2011 has been a relatively difficult year to satirise: 'For satire, as the rogue bastard offspring of news, it's been a year in which jokes have scarcely dried in the notebook before being rendered obsolete by the breakneck speed of More Stuff Happening.'
'It's been a year in which – with riots, revelations of the full grotty extent of the phone-hacking mega-blooper, and the continuing failure of those most responsible for the economic crisis to eat their share of the blame cake – Britain's moral compass has been spinning frenziedly...At the centre of it all, driving the economic vortex that is controlling public life, are "The Markets", a merciless, amoral, almost mythical force, behaving with the irrational self-indulgence of a particularly obstreperous Greek god. Politicians seem resigned to the fact that there is nothing they can do to appease the monster in our midsts, other than pray for mercy and occasionally sacrifice things to it (money, dignity and principles, mostly). All of this has made for rich, if unsettling, material. But perhaps the greatest challenge facing the satirist this year is how to satirise a world that seems so intent on satirising itself.'
During the phone-hacking scandal, for example, I was trying to think of one person in the UK who would be safe from the 'criminal-media nexus'
that is News International so I could spoof that - and settled on the Queen - thinking surely the News of the World
wouldn't risk daring to try and do over the official head of state - only to find that, yep, they tried to do over even Queenie
. I then thought about doing a whole series on the Murdochs as the Corleone's in a new Godfather-esque series, but then even the decline and fall of the Murdoch Empire seemed suddenly old news as the Eurozone imploded and riots erupted. Anyway, there are still certain things that I feel I owe to the readers of this blog - and one of them is the annual Histomat awards...
2011 Histomat International Heroes/Heroines of the Year
: The people who fought and died - and continue to fight and die - for democratic rights across the Middle East and North Africa this year - in particular Mohammed Bouazizi, the guy whose self-immolation in Tunisia last December inspired a wave of political revolutions which have themselves inspired millions more...
: The international Occupy Movement
which has grown this year out of the inspiration of Tahrir Square - once again proving in style that at the start of the 21st century, anti-capitalism is definitely an idea whose time has come...and whose popularisation of slogans about the 99% vs the 1%
have put the question of class division and injustice at the centre of that movement.
2011 Histomat International Idiot(s) of the Year
: Those neo-liberal politicians across the US and Europe who continue to insist against all the evidence that worshipping the free market, enforcing austerity packages and making structural adjustment programmes make any economic sense as a way of getting out of the current capitalist crisis
: Anders Brevik, Nazi terrorist and mass murderer.
2011 Histomat National Heroes/Heroines of the Year
: Those 2.6 million public sector workers - mainly low-paid women - who struck on November 30 in the biggest strike Britain has seen for decades - delivering the ultimate lie to the idea that the organised working class
no longer has relevance or power - even though it is increasingly clear that one one-day strike will not in itself be anywhere near enough to win on the question of defending pensions.
: PJ Harvey, whose anti-war album Let England Shake
deservedly won this years Mercury Prize. I also have a soft spot for the comedian Jonny Marbles, for managing to pie Rupert Murdoch at his parliamentary hearing.
2011 Histomat National Idiot of the Year
: David Starkey
seemed to have this in the bag until Jeremy Clarkson stole it from him late on. As I think Ed Byrne first noted, Clarkson really deserves be taken out and shot in front of his family as a nice Xmas present to them. Speaking of public executions in Britain - and other 'national idiots' - the Met police have again really excelled themselves this year with the killing of several black people - including Mark Duggan
- whose death sparked the riots in August.
Joint Runners up
: David Cameron - incidentally also part of the Clarkson/Murdoch/ Tory super rich 'Chipping Norton set' - for his 'active, muscular liberalism' which seems to mean declaring war on workers and Muslims at home and Afghans and Libyans abroad - and also Nick Clegg
, for going along with pretty much all of Cameron's shit without so much as a whimper over the last year.
2011 Histomat Socialist Bloggers of the Year
: When I wrote about Arthur Ransome and the question of journalists and revolution
back in early January, it all seemed a bit abstract. Then the Tunisian and Egyptian Revolutions exploded, and since then numerous revolutionary journalists have come into their own - but the award has to go once again to the comrades
in Egypt for their work in the last year reporting from the frontline of the struggle - a struggle that still continues
- and the team behind the MENA Solidarity Network
: Lenin's Tomb
- another sterling year's work.
2011 Histomat Most Incredible Quote of the Year
: ''a force of nature, a phenomenon, a great man"
- Tory Education Secretary Michael Gove on Rupert Murdoch even after the phone hacking scandal broke
2011 Histomat Most Idiotesque Quote of the Year
: ''No riots here, just quiet, ever-deeper misery'' - headline of Nick Cohen's Observer
column on August 7th discussing the state of politics in the UK - the day, er, riots erupted.