Statue of Limitation

How do! / 你好 (nĭ hăo) / Namaste / Welcome!

There’s a financial crisis, then there is austerity, the Grenfell Tower disaster, then a global pandemic, and recessions, and environmental disasters, and climate change, before race battles and financial meltdowns and worries. Oh, there are worries. So many worries. A book written and translated in the 1880s is as ever-relating now as it ever was. We have the translation skills of Florence Kelley Wischnewetzky to thank. Following the 1848 revolutions, Friedrich Engels moved to Manchester for around two decades. Through capitalism he was afforded the luxury of revolutionary ideas.

Friedrich Engels dated Irish immigrant Mary Burns. After Mary’s death, his love passed to her sister Fenian (Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB)) Lizzie. They married on her deathbed. In ways he had a Clark Kent and Superman lifestyle. Between riding in hunts in Cheshire, chasing foxes for fixes, he was slipping money out of his accounts to revolutionaries. This Bruce Wayne on one hand, Batman on the other existence was a huge contradiction. Part knight in shining armour and protector to part capitalist imperialist pig. A life beautiful and ugly in the reflection of contradictions.

“social murder”  – Friedrich Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England

Artist Phil Collins gave Friedrich Engels a home next to HOME in Tony Wilson Place. What was all that about? Our Friedrich Engels was an honorary Manc back in the day. He lived in and around the area for many years. He observed industry at its most brutal and gathered his thoughts in and around the city. The statue of German Friedrich Engels stands outside HOME, an arts and entertainment complex in the heart of the city of Manchester. Phil Colins gave Manchester a piece of its history that is well-documented in paper form, but little seen in the day to day tapestry of the city’s vast structures.

“The way in which the vast mass of the poor are treated by modern society is truly scandalous. They are herded into great cities where they breathe a fouler air than in the countryside which they have left.” – Friedrich Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England

Whereas Engles came from Barmen, Kingdom of Prussia, the artist Phil Collins moved to Berlin, from Britain. Back in 2017, a 3.5 metre monster of a stone statue, fractured and left for ruin was moved from the eastern Ukrainian village of Mala Pereshchepina to Manchester. As part of the Manchester International Festival, it was unveiled as part of a show called Ceremony, featuring songs and dance, with a ditty by the Super Furry Animals’ frontman Gruff Rhys. In an unassuming carpark, the procession moved over to Tony Wilson Place and all around newbuilds sat and towered above old mills, relics of the Industrial Revolution, and people sipped coffee from Starbucks cups and held Tesco carrier bags. The statue passed by Engels’s birthplace in Barmen, Berlin and was subject to great interest.

“The capitalists soon had everything in their hands and nothing remained to the workers.” – Principles of Communism (1847)

Like Christ, Mohammed and many other Gods, their words have been responsible for countless deaths through misinterpretation or abuse. They have been used by the powerful to suppress or enhance those who choose to use them. Think Trump with Twitter, or Elliot Carver (actor Jonathan Pryce) in the 1997 instalment of James Bond, Tomorrow Never Dies. So, having a legacy or words and ideas, a multifaceted figure arrived to Mancunian soil. A now-outlawed sign of communism may now be outlawed in the Ukraine, but in Manchester this statue of Engels symbolises the then, the now and the future. The scar where the statue was severed in half of the waist is clear. The artist Phil Collins had negotiated the statue as a gift from one community to another. Its journey was documented – with a video commissioned.

The writer of The Condition of the Working Class in England, in sculpture form fits in with the spirit of Manchester. A radical, against the establishment and for the people. The concrete structure looms over the paving slabs below, featuring patches of lichens and a broad beard. The very city he once developed his philosophies in has changed much but many social issues remain. The horrific conditions of workhouses have gone, but in the COVID-19 days of capitalism and struggle, new challenges are present. I’m lucky, as are many Mancs, that we grew up later in better times. Our Engels though, he was here when misery and suffering were commonplace.

“Manchester is a meeting point. It represents both the birth of capitalism and the factory system and the magic of capitalism, the magic of surplus value.” – Phil Collins, The Guardian, to writer Charlotte Higgins (30/6/2017).

Engels had such an influence on what would happen in the 20th century that even today, his relevance and legacy is present. This German philosopher, historian, communist, social scientist, sociologist, journalist and businessman understood Dialectical materialism and Continental philosophy whilst remaining a keen advocate of solutions to class struggle. So, on July the 16th 2017, Engels came home and Manchester had a bash to mark the occasion.

As per the ideas of Collins, he shifted a statue from one space to another, and an idea from one place that once embraced communism to one that in all fairness skirts closer to Labour and Socialism than the media would have you think. Now in 2020, we’re seeing statues of slavers, Romans, imperial figures and all under deep scrutiny. Just as Saddam Hussein and Colonel Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi fell, so to, are the busts of Sir Winston Curchill and co. It’s like a historical hunt in the manner of Operation Yew Tree, but without BBC stars. Just like some of the childhood stars of old, even the big guns of history are there to be torn at with our claws. #BlackLivesMatter is opening a whole range of debates and dialogue.

“That the Materialistic Socialists will improve H. [History] for the poor. Their best writer, Engels, made known the errors and the horrors of our Factory System.” –  Lord Acton, quoted in Gertrude Himmelfarb, Lord Acton: A Study in Conscience and Politics (1952), pp. 181–82

It has been around three years since we could dress up like Engels, make banners or talk with academics in the then named Engels Exchange at Tony Wilson Place. The statue still stands. The beauty of history is that it has happened. Now we’re in an era when more and more history is being questioned. That’s good. That’s evolution in action. We have to be careful what we do with our history. Some statues remind us of different times and give us a voice for that period. They don’t always need to be celebrated and respected. They stand as a reminder of progress. All symbols must be questioned. It is our right and instinct as a species to want to be better. History shows us that Marx was more celebrated than Engels. As Engels slaved away writing Marx’s notes and supporting the Marx family, Marx had already departed this world. Engels may have come from a wealthy cotton-mill owning family but his time from 1842 to 1844 was profound.

In memory of those who have died in the workhouses and during this modern austerity.

Sir IDS follows Sir Jimmy Savile

How do, alright?

49081107382_fa15e73c7cHere we go again… firstly Jimmy Savile was a vile and disgusting man who manipulated life and entertainment whilst preying on the vulnerable. Using his image was not an easy choice but it does carry an appropriate image. This man gained a knighthood in an Honours list selected by our state. Others have too. For less and for more. The Honours list is seen as a bit of a joke. Politicians and entertainers are put on a level field with those who do great things for others. Selfless acts placed alongside profiteers and pioneers of their own self-interest.

Do not underestimate the determination of a quiet man. That was his party slogan, because Iain, Duncan and Smith, is and was a dull guy. Iain Duncan Smith celebrated as he passed welfare cuts to society’s most vulnerable people. This Conservative MP has previously claimed breakfasts as part of his expenses totalling around £39. School pupils, under his government were allocated just 7 pence. 557 children could have eaten something for the cost of his breakfast. Didn’t he know Gregg’s bakery do a bacon barm and coffee for about two quid. I doubt this Edinburgh-born former military man would ever be seen drinking a mug of coffee in Gregg’s with the small people.

IDS was caught out lying about his university education at the University of Perugia he later was found to have dropped out of the Università per Stranieri. Later his website claimed fictious qualifications from the Dunchurch College of Management. IDS has been eternally sceptical about the UK’s membership of the dictatorship-like EU (it lets terrorists in), and was supported by Margaret Thatcher, the original Darth Vader of politics. IDS sat with Americans following the September 11th terrorist attacks and backed the invasion of Iraq ( a nation that has dropped in literacy, food availability and domestic fuel usage since the allied invasion). The quiet man turned up the volume in Iraq. Still it kept his wife (the ostensibly impoverished daughter of the 5th Baron Cottesloe) in good money (see Betsygate).

Following his demise as Prime Minister, Iain Duncan Smith seemed to be doing something right. He soon became the Chairman of the Social Justice Policy Group in 2005. It’s reports Breakdown Britain and Breakthrough Britain. Breakdown Britain were noted by the European Court of Justice, as “unfit for a modern democracy” and “verging on frighteningly authoritarian”. Very 1984 indeed. Whilst he re-joined the political foreground he noted a worrying rise in Anti-Semitism in Britain, but on the other hand, called for more British involvement in Iraq.

In 2010, Iain Duncan Smith ended employer’s rights to use mandatory pensionable retirement at the age of 65. On one hand, good. On another, it would mean people working for longer, with fewer jobs on the market. So, to suit longer lives, people need to work longer. In the same year Universal Credit arrived. This was a man who could live on £53 a week, presumably £39 for a single breakfast was a weekly treat. But then, he would have been too busy battling human rights laws and forcing people into work for welfare – and taking wealthy pensioners’ winter payments back without an actual way to do so. But then, he never was good with numbers.

Under his watch, Iain Duncan Smith has seen a huge increase in the use of foodbanks. Non-governmental organisations and charities. Even Oxfam questioned why the seventh wealthiest nation on the planet is struggling to feed its people. And on the 2012 United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities, people on benefits were told they could lose their support. These people with disabilities or  illnesses ranging from cancer to paralysis or mental health would be forced by the UK government to work for free. This announcement came in December, to make for a lovely Christmas and New Year ahead. Personal Independence Payment would work alongside the Department of Work & Pensions, to ensure that being vulnerable could and would have meant death – around 2000 people died. Work your way out of poverty!

“We won’t lift you out of poverty by simply transferring taxpayers’ money to you. With our help, you’ll work your way out of poverty.” – Iain Duncan Smith, Conservative Party Conference, Manchester, October 2012

In 2016, Iain Duncan Smith quit the government. He didn’t like the “government’s austerity programme for balancing the books on the backs of the poor and vulnerable”. Presumably, it was because someone else had found a bigger and more aggressive axe than he could hold. But, forget all these minor problems, because in 2020, Iain Duncan Smith will be knighted for the for political and public service. He joins the late Sir Jimmy Savile (deceased so he is stripped of the title after death), [former Sir] Fred Goodwin, Rolf Harris, spies Anthony Blunt and Kim Philby, Sir Philip Green, Robert Mugabe (honorary knighthood, 1994-2008), Romanian Dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu (honorary knighthood 1978-the day before his execution on Christmas Day, 1989), Jean Else, television entertainer Stuart Hall, Benito Mussolini (honorary knighthood in 1923), Denis McShane, Bishop Donald Shearman, convicted child abuse photographer Chief Fire Officer Francis John Sheehan and Donald Tsang [曾荫权]. There are others including former Prime Minister David Cameron’s advisor Patrick Rock. Every single name in that list is inappropriate – and sadly many were not discovered for years, so who will join the notorious Honours list of shame next? Enjoy your honours.

Ta’ra for now!