Viewing posts tagged thatcherism

Red Kangs Are Best

I very much enjoyed the latest episode of the Pex Lives? Podcast, which looks at 'Paradise Towers'.  During it, Kevin and James' guest Jane (of achairforjane? and many fascinating comments - and an amazing guest post on Lost - at Phil Sandifer's blog) suggests a Marxist reading of the story in which the Rezzies are the consumerist bourgeois who ascend a few levels via the system which later consumes them.  Totally valid and satisfying reading.  (And I'm grateful for the lovely shout-out, as always.)

I think, however, that it illuminates a certain interesting ambiguity about what constitutes a  'Marxist reading' or a 'Marxist analysis'.  I know Jane and the Pex Lives boys already know this, so this isn't in any way meant as a criticism of any of them, but I think a 'Marxist analysis' would really have to constitute more than finding some way in which aspects of the narrative function as an allegory of some aspect of the class struggle.  I hold my hands up: that's often what I do here, and it doesn't really cut the mustard.

To do that is to bring Marxist categories to a text, but still to treat ...

6

"I have in my hand a piece of paper," says Mr Stevens, CEO of Global Chemicals, echoing Chamberlain in unconscious admission that his promises of a profitable truce in the class war will turn out to be worthless, "which will mean a great deal to all of you. Wealth in our time!"

The ex-miners, crowded around the gates of the closed pit, are unimpressed.

"When the National Coal Board were forced to close the pit last year..." Stevens begins.

"It were a shame, that was!" heckles one of the workers, in Ignorant Yokel Speak.

"No, my friends," says Stevens chummily, presenting himself as one of them, "we must not be bitter. We must face the facts."

Note the 'we'; the most abused word in political discourse.  As in 'we're all in this together'.

"Coal is a dying industry," asserts Stevens.

The miners shout "Rubbish! Rubbish!"

When it happens in reality, the idea that the mines had to shut because they were unprofitable will be rubbish.  Mining was always subsidised.  

"Oil is our future now and the government agrees with me. They have not only given us the go-ahead for our plans, they have promised us money ...

7

The Doctor has refused Enlightenment.  Turlough is nonchalantly (rather too nonchalantly) picking at his fingernails when the White Guardian offers him a share.

"It's a diamond," he says, staring at the massive, glowing crystal, "The size!  It could buy a galaxy. I can have that?"

The White Guardian tells him he can.

"I would point out," interjects the Black Guardian, "that under the terms of our agreement, it is mine... unless, of course, you wish to surrender something else in its place. The Doctor is in your debt for his life. Give me the Doctor, and you can have this," he indicates the crystal, "the TARDIS, whatever you wish."

Turlough is evidently extremely tempted.  He has to struggle with himself.  When he shoves it towards the Black Guardian, it couldn't be more obvious that he is angry and disappointed with the choice he feels have has to make.

"Here," he shouts petulantly, burying his face, "take it!"

Even so, he does make that choice.

The Black Guardian bursts into flames and vanishes, gurgling and screaming.

"Light destroys the dark," comments the White Guardian.  "I think you will find your contract terminated," he tells ...

18

Everyone is down a mine.

(Incidentally, it's funny how often Doctor Who in the 70s and 80s keeps coming back to mines.  I'm sure it's nothing to do with the fact that coal mining was a key industry in British economic life during these decades, miners were among the most powerful unionised workers in the 70s, and the 80s saw the calculated destruction of the miners' unions and their industry by the Tory government.  Oh ho no.)

Anyway.  As I say, everyone - the Doctor, Romana, K9, Adrasta, Organon and a giant green blob called Erato - is down a mine.  And things are coming to a head.  (Head.  Pit-head.  Geddit?  Never mind.  It doesn't really work anyway.)

Yes, so anyway...  Erato is, as I say, a giant green blob.

"Erato came here fifteen years ago to propose a trading agreement," says the Doctor, while everyone else still reels from the revelation that the blob has a name, a mind and the ability to talk. "Tythonus is a planet rich in metallic ores and minerals...."

There's an interlude here where the Doctor and Adrasta have a little ...

21

Earl plays a C on his harmonica.  It starts a sympathetic resonance in the pipes that stretch under and through the regime on Terra Alpha, like the arteries in a body.  What flows in these arteries is sugarly gloop, the outpourings of the Kandy Kitchen.  It fills the regime with the glucose it needs to survive.  And the regime uses it to kill dissidents or refuseniks or men wearing pink triangles, drowning them in sweetness.  Earl's note causes the encrusted, crystallised, fossilised sugar coating the insides of the pipes to crack and fall.  Tonnes of the stuff falls on top of Fifi, Helen A's savage attack dog and beloved pet.  She sent it into the pipes to kill the Doctor and the Pipe People, the surviving aboriginals on her colony.

"Happiness will prevail," says the artificially fruity voice on the colony tannoy system, "Factory guards are joining forces with the drones to destroy the Nevani sugar beet plant here in sector six. We will keep broadcasting."

This is a revolution.  The killjoys are marching and demonstrating, and having their own melancholy parties in subversion of the rules.  The factories ...

29

Midge walks into the Gym.  You get the sense that it's not the sort of place the old Midge would've visited.  The old Midge would've been scared of the self-defence crowd.

The new Midge is all swagger, in his shades and his shiny jacket.

"Waiting on the Sarge?" he asks the room full of silent, watching, bemused, singlet-and-sweatpants-wearing blokes.  "He's been held up. He asked me to have a little chat with you."

This is a lie.

"I learned a secret today. The secret of success. Thought I'd share it with you."

Midge has been learning all sorts of things.  He's been quarry in a quarry, hunted through a rocky wilderness on another world, stalked by carnivorous beasts.  He chose to survive at all costs.  He killed... not just to survive but for fun, for revenge, for a feeling of power that - one senses - is entirely new to him, a new experience in a stunted and powerless dead-end life.  Of course, in the process, he adopted the viewpoint of the beasts.  The logic of tooth and claw.  The logic of 'fuck you, I'm all ...

Opposite Reaction

The TARDIS Eruditorum blog recently took the opportunity to connect 'The Caves of Androzani' with the 1984-85 Miner's Strike.  In the process, Philip Sandifer (the author of the blog) writes:

...Arthur Scargill, head of the NUM, made an egregious political miscalculation. Faced with an accelerated schedule for closing the pits and afraid that he’d lose the vote, Scargill declined to submit the strike to a national vote. This was against NUM rules and allowed Thatcher to delegitimize the strike, which she wasted no time doing, comparing striking miners to Argentina in the Falklands. 
and...

The propaganda war, combined with Scargill’s inept politicking, kept the strike from gaining broad support with the public, and it ended in failure a year later, leaving the mining industry and union a shadow of its former self. 

Sandifer mentions police savagery and also the wholesale media propaganda assault against the NUM (though he talks about the 'redtops', as though it was a purely tabloid phenomenon).  Ultimately, however, he seems to imply a plague upon both Thatcher's and Scargill's houses.

In the various permutations that this view takes, the heroic resistance of 150,000 workers and their families over ...

BBC Wales


The patronizing use of Welsh stereotypes in 'The Green Death' is evidence of the employment of centuries-old imperial condecenscion.  However, Welshness alone does not straightforwardly equal idiocy in this story.  Rather, it is the conjunction of Welshness with membership of the proletariat which produces characters who don't really have a clue what's going and need everything explained to them.

Clifford Jones and 'Nancy' (note how she doesn't need a surname) are allowed to be efficient and useful only because their Welshness (which entails them using cute provincialisms galore) is offset by their educated, middle-class boffinity and right-onitude.  Meanwhile, Jo marvels openly at her own foolishness in caring so much about the death of a "funny little Welshman" (who kept her alive).  The difference between these Welsh characters - i.e. between the ones who qualify as people and those who don't - is down to class.

The workers in this story are belittled, peripheral figures.  They are profoundly out of touch and their Welshness is but a conduit by which they can be further quaintified.  They miss the big picture, even when the hippy scientists try to explain everything to them. They side with Stevens ...

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