Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

Thursday, November 19, 2015

From The Kinks to Parliament in London

Standing in the rain in front of Big Ben and the British Parliament

Last night just before entering the theatre for the wonderful musical about the early years of my favorite rock-and-roll band The Kinks

Last night Dave Webb took his son and I to the Harold Pinter Theatre in London to see the award winning musical called Sunny Afternoon about the early years of my favorite band called The Kinks.  The three-hour show frequently brought tears to my eyes as I watched actors playing band leader brothers Ray and Dave Davies go through their many struggles to make music their way - having run up against the power of the music industry.

As the hits began to mount up for The Kinks during the early-1960's 'British pop Invasion' songwriter Ray Davies wanted to write more meaningful music about the world around him - not just the money producing 'boy meets girl' tunes that make it to the Top of the Pops.  The show used the band's music to bring these issues to the audience with Ray's character even once declaring "We are a Socialist band," as they ran up against the greedy corporate forces in the music industry.  They were banned from playing in the US for a period of four years during the crucial mid-60's for refusing to play along with the pay-to-play game then rampant in the American music scene.  This ban helped put the Kinks into relative obscurity as they were largely kept out of the vast American market.  On the good side though it made it possible for Ray to create the kind of music that he wanted to make despite the demands of the industry.

I didn't want the show to end and as we made our way to the London home of longtime peace legend Bruce Kent, where we were to spend the night, the songs kept playing in my head for hours.

Earlier yesterday Dave took me to Leeds Beckett University (he formally taught Peace Studies there before recently retiring) and I spoke to more than 30 students in a talk organized by the current department teachers.  I got more questions from that assembled group of students than I'd ever had from any college audience which reflected well on the current Peace Studies staff at the school.

This morning we made our way from Bruce Kent's home on a bus and then the underground to the Parliament building in London where a room had been reserved for my talk by a member of the House of Commons.  Twenty folks turned up for the meeting which featured a discussion about the Pentagon's military space program and how it is today being used to project global dominance on behalf of the interests of corporate capitalism.

A big issue in the UK right now is Trident nuclear submarine/missile replacement (upgrading) that is estimated to cost more than 137 billion pounds.  New Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has long been against Trident and is trying to advance a national debate about the costly and dangerous nuclear program - especially during this time of austerity budgets.  My question to the group inside Parliament today was: "Does Britain have the satellites in space, and the ground stations around the world, to direct the UK's Trident missiles to their targets?"  The answer was a clear NO.  My next question was then, "Who does the UK rely on to direct Trident nukes to their target?"  The answer of course is the Pentagon.  So in my mind that means that the UK is essentially subsidizing at the rate of 137 billion pounds a new US weapon system.  During these days of severe human needs cut across the UK do the citizens really want to hand the US military the gift of four new nuclear subs that the British government does not really control?

Tonight I speak at the University of London School of Oriental and Asiatic Studies (SOAS) about the Navy base currently being built for US warships on Jeju Island, South Korea and the role that installation will play in the US military 'pivot' to provocatively control China.

Just for your listening pleasure here is one of my favorite Kinks songs - which was not part of the show last night.


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