I’ve had the strangest headache/migraine for the last twenty or so hours. For much of it I’ve wanted to scream maybe three seconds out of every fifteen, and it hasn’t gone away for more than forty-fove minutes at a time, except, I suppose, after I finally managed to get a few hours of sleep. It was there again when I woke up. The pain is on the outside edge of what I guess is my brain, about an inch forward of my right ear, and each time is very sharp and sudden - the other seconds, no pain at all, no dull ache, everything feels fine. I feel like one of those people at the start of House who display some weird symptom right before the camera drives right into their head and they collapse onto the ground. Next thing they’re somewhere between early Cronenberg and the kind of Oliver Sachs case study people base operas on.
Incidentally, I once had a doctor who was very obviously a junkie - I never saw it, but apparently it reached the point where he would shoot up in his office with an increasing proportion of his patients before his world fell totally apart. He wasn’t any kind of brilliant diagnostician, actually, but he would sell you an excellent script. Once his drug problem reached the point where he had to supplement his income by selling prescriptions and anything else he was empowered to provide or could get his hands on, junkies flocked into his place by the dozen, and soon enough undercovers were waiting outside his practice to snatch ‘patients’ and sweat them the five minutes it takes to get ninety-nine percent of drug addicts to roll, and then junkie-doctor was gone, no longer a free man and de-barred (quasi-inside jokes for anyone who knows what I’m talking about). When it comes to fucked-up doctors, junkies are like sharks, swarming in until there is nothing left to rip off the carcass, then moving on until another doctor miraculously screws their own life up enough to become useful, which means, of course, that desperate drug addicts become financially useful to the doctor as well. A generally quite short high-wire performance. Of course, most people who are doctors have a lot more in the way of nets to catch them than your average junkie likely to make use of such a decline and fall. This has been a community service announcement. I just want everyone to know I’m pro-family and anti-drug.
I have an appointment at the Carlton Clinic at 2:30. Meanwhile my head feels like it might rupture my skull.
Communist Headache was the name of a British ultra-left publication in the nineties, a couple of copies of which John Hutnyk sent me in 1995, and which are now lost along with almost everything else I had back then. I don’t remember much about Communist Headache except that it was a very cheaply made A4 mag and advertised a t-shirt which just had the words “I ♥ surplus value” on the front.
Actually, now that I think about it, the magazines and papers which John would send me from Britain back then had a pretty big influence on my politics and (hence) life: most obviously, Aufheben; the frequently excellent and now long gone Here & Now, which put out a nice supplement when Debord died; the now defunct Red Action, the ultra-left zine Proletarian Gob, the now-defunct but still much-despised Revolutionary Communist Party’s very glossy Living Marxism/LM magazine and their other, short-lived magazine focussed on workplace issues; even the Revolutionary Communist Group’s appallingly punctuated title Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! made it into his packages and my reading; the (then) Provisional Central Committee of the (still) Communist Party of Great Britain’s Weekly Worker, often excellent materials from the unfortunately defunct Colin Roach Centre and from Anti-Fascist Action…and literally many many more.
Given the quality of far Left publications in Australia (almost uniformly awful) and the fact that the net, though existing, was hardly functioning as it is today, this was the only way I could really get access to the British far left, and a sense of a whole array of debates and ideas, and of efforts at engagement and organisation, of struggle and resistance.
What does it mean that so many of these groups and publications are often defunct (Here & Now, the Colin Roach Centre, AFA, Red Action) or have become even less impressive (the dominant tendencies in the RCP/Living Marxism morphing into Spiked! website and the Institute of Ideas, Red Action to the extent some members submerged themselves into the Independent Working Class Association)? Declines in certain forms of radicalisation and notions of the political, in some places amongst some people, are certainly not necessarily a bad thing, and certainly exciting an interesting things have happened this millenium. But it does reinforce the fact that anything truly exciting will probably come from somewhere outside of the familiar and expected, rather than emerge from traditional labour movement organisations or what most might consider the obvious ’social movements’.
Maybe this is more obvious in the broader Left in Britain, starting with the decline of the Labour Left and the ever-duller roles of trade unions and also of the student movements. The splits in and declines of both the Scottish Socialist Party and Respect - Left groups which had managed to achieve parliamentary representation - maybe reflect tendencies to exhaustion and incoherence of certain tendencies to Leftism: contradictions in social democratic nationalism and personality-based electoralism in the first instance, and parallel divergent socio-economic bases and political agendas in the case of Respect, where community leaders and business people, often the same people, seem to have found a political trajectory making even an opportunistic SWP politically too radical, as well as competitors for whatever lame-ass spoils people who play in that kind of politics want to seize their shares of…