26 February 2014


Shots-web-very-smallAaaargh! Press is pleased to announce the publication of a new edition of  Shots From the Hip by Charles Shaar Murray as a Kindle e-book. It's available from Amazon here

First published in 1991, it is a collection of Murray's legendary journalism on music and much, much more from the 1970s and 1980s in New Musical Express and elsewhere. The Guardian described Murray as 'one of the best British writers on pop music, and this is a compilation of HIS best' – and it's published here with a new introduction by Joel Nathan Rosen and a new afterword by CSM himself.

19 February 2014


The survey the Co-op is asking us all to complete is just like Tony Blair telling Rebekah Brooks to set up an inquiry with a pre-ordained outcome.

I've just done the bloody thing. You can't express the opinion that mutualism is a good thing in itself and should be encouraged, and all the questions on whether the Co-op should be involved politically are about whether "big businesses" in general – rather than member-controlled consumer organisations – should make political donations.

This is a shocking travesty of consultation that deserves nothing but contempt. YouGov should be ashamed for putting out such an amateurish and slanted questionnaire (though I'm sure they were only following orders).

Of course, the Co-op needs to change ... but "modernisation" in the sense of adapting to the cant of the day on market forces and becoming even more like every other rapacious capitalist corporation is the last thing it needs.

Do the survey, click on the most socialist options on the multiple-choice questions – not that there are many – and then complain to Co-op HQ that the new management has got it as wrong as the last lot.

10 February 2014

STUART HALL 1932-2014

Stuart Hall, who has died at the age of 82, was one of the most important intellectuals of the British left – and of the black Caribbean diaspora – for nearly half a century. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he had a major role in the New Left that extricated radical socialism from the prison of the Moscow line; in the late 1960s and 1970s he went on to become a pioneer in the development of the sociology of media and popular culture; and in the 1980s and 1990s he played a crucial part in reorienting left thinking in an age of capitalist triumphalism. He wasn’t always right, but he will be sorely missed.

9 February 2014


All right, I've been faffing about for ages with this ... but it's now all pro and shiny. Connect at www.aaaarghpress.com – and buy all our books.

7 February 2014


On Monday 10 February Charles Shaar Murray is doing his bit to raise money for the marvellous alternative radio station Resonance FM in a session on the state of music journalism. It’s been organised by the good guys: Neil Denny and Little Atoms, Soho Skeptics, The Pod Delusion. It’s at the Slaughtered Lamb pub in London’s trendy Clerkenwell, 34-35 Great Sutton Street, London EC1V 0DX. Doors at 7.45pm, starting 8pm. Tickets here. More details here. There is no need to bring a physical ticket – they’ll have names on a list. There will be a bar! Be there or be square.

6 February 2014


Paul Anderson, Tribune column, 7 February 2014

Labour’s relationship with the trade unions has always been a problem.

The formalities of it date from 1918, when Labour was still, essentially, a means of getting working-class men (no girls allowed) elected to parliament – and when there was a vast number of trade unions, most of them either small or very decentralised. The party then drew up a new constitution (which also included the vague promise of socialism in Clause Four) giving the unions the defining role in the new structure at every level except electing the parliamentary leader.

The deal started to look creaky within a few years, as Ernest Bevin created a giant general union by amalgamation, the Transport and General Workers, in which power was concentrated at the top – and then other big unions, representing miners, engineers, railwaymen, local authority workers, more or less successfully emulated the T and G’s transformation into national centrally managed bureaucracies.

Union barons became fixtures in Labour politics, controlling local parties through their surrogates in much of the country and wielding decisive influence over the party conference – and between conferences they ran the National Executive Committee.

There’s no romantic narrative of class struggle. From the late 20s until the 50s, the unions were mostly bastions of the Labour right; in the 60s and 70s the left took control of many unions. But until the 80s the unions’ position in the party was taken as read by just about everyone – members, the party leadership and most MPs – as a fact of life. Yes, the block vote was ridiculous, yes the union bureaucrats acted as if they owned the show … but the unions had no role in leadership elections and they weren’t (generally) a co-ordinated bloc on policy. Anyone could get around them when necessary (well, most of the time).

Two things changed that happy world: Labour’s internal constitutional reforms introduced in 1980, which created an “electoral college” for leadership elections in which unions had a third of the vote; and the collapse of trade union membership as Tory Britain deindustrialised.

Changing the leadership election system was a left cause, the key victory of the idiotic left insurgency led by Tony Benn after Labour’s 1979 general election defeat to Margaret Thatcher. But it was a very dodgy business. Until 1993, actual members of trade unions had no right to vote unless their union boss decided otherwise. Fat blokes in pubs ruled supreme. It was a blessed relief for Labour that Neil Kinnock and John Smith were elected by massive margins under the system – and that the challenge to Kinnock from Benn in 1988 was so completely, utterly and totally inept in every respect.

Much more important, however, was the impact of the collapse of union membership during the 1980s and 1990s. There were 13 million trade union members in 1979: now the figure is half that. The main reason was simple: the closure of production in mining, steel, engineering; technological change in office work, printing, film and TV. And the way unions responded was simple too: merge.

Of the 6.5 million union members today, roughly half are members of three: Unite, with 1.4 million; Unison, with 1.3 million; and the GMB, with 600,000. Add the shop workers, the teachers, the civil servants, postal workers and construction workers and you’re over 5 million.

That makes Labour's federal structure particularly difficult to sustain. I’m all in favour of the old Wobbly slogan of one big union – but amalgamations create a problem for a national social democratic party with affiliates. Federalism works only with a plurality of engaged organisations. There’s a point where an affiliate gets too big.

Unless Labour is prepared to say that Unite and Unison should dictate policy it has to change its rules. But that’s only part of the issue.

In general, given a choice, you don’t put idiots in charge of anything – but with very few exceptions, Britain’s unions do just that. They are appallingly run. Their leaders are the worst we’ve seen for years and their research departments largely inept. When was the last time a trade union report made a headline? With very few exceptions, they’ve done bugger-all organising for years and years.

Useless unions deserve no role in Labour politics. And we’ve got spectacularly useless unions right now. Ed Miliband is going for change where it’s least necessary. His experience in the 2010 leadership election obviously matters to him, but he would have won anyway. And under his proposed changes there is nothing to stop Unite or Unison sending out voting recommendations to their members...

He should have got rid of the block vote at party conference.