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Review: Memoirs of a Revolutionary – by Victor Serge

memoirs of a revolutionary

This is one of the most remarkable books I have ever read, a first witness account of some of the most important world events of the first half of the twentieth century, a rich period for revolutionary events and the author, Victor Serge, a Belgian born Russian, is perfectly poised to give detailed personal encounters with many of the key protagonists. Serge is a revolutionary, who participates in the Russian Revolution from 1919 as a core Bolshevik. He meets and works with Lenin and Trotsky and his European roots make him critical to the emerging infrastructure of Soviet Russia. Serge writes often with a critical frankness of the core movements of which he is part, a fact that later endangers him as (correctly identified by the author) the Revolution seeps into Totalitarianism, culminating in the great Stalinist Purges of the 1930s. Initially the book flirts with the rising tide of working class socialism in Western Europe. Paris is a hotbed for leading international figures of the Left. Later, in Barcelona, Serge makes key contacts that will come into fruition for his analyses of the Spanish Civil War. From there he embarks for his never seen before motherland (his family were anti-Tsarist exiles). The post 1917 revolution is enduring its honeymoon, yet the whole survival of the Bolsheviks comes within a blink of an eye as the Civil War almost leads to their destruction in Petrograd as the Whites make gains. Serge, as he moves up the ranks, rapidly becomes disillusioned with the turn that the Revolution is taking. He warns against the Cheka and GPU. He is a peaceful man and holds onto the non-violent tenets of socialism. Later, when the party splits – Serge is a key figure in the alliance against the Party Centre and Politburo, which culminates in his expulsion from the Party and exile in Orenburg. His suffering in prison shows how lucky he was to retain his life, in a period where the executioner’s bullet was only ever a step away and was freely used. Serge’s fame as an author, especially in France, managed, through international outcry, to keep him and his young family away from the true harshness of life as an exile and ultimately secured his freedom back to Western Europe. The outbreak of world war was predicted by this great political visionary. His tracts against Stalinism often made him an enemy of…

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Brexit and Mental Health

brexit

Brexit, like it or not is a reality. 54% of the public voted in a referendum for us to leave the EU. I watched with despair as events unfolded and was almost praying for us to stay in as I feared that a Brexit decision could really send my End Of Terror situation spiralling out of control. Post-Brexit, if I believed in restricting people’s liberties for thought crime and nowt else and I had the power as a psychiatrist, then maybe I’d be sentencing 54% of the population for section detainment in mental hospitals for making a completely irrational decision in voting, a decision I believe that long term will make the entire UK suffer, economically, politically and more importantly, to End Of Terror, within the mental health system. Why the big fear, you may ask? Firstly, one of the core components of EU membership is that EU citizens have access to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. This court, although I’ve never used it personally, acts as a safeguard for human rights. I’ve always dreamed of getting over to Strasbourg and felt that it would be one of the only places in which to get justice for End Of Terror. I will never realise that goal. But,many good things have come from Strasbourg over the years and indirectly it has safeguarded all those unnecessarily under the cosh, detained in UK mental health institutions. One piece of legislation that has been delivered through the presence of the EU Human Rights Court, is our own country’s Human Rights Act (1998). This Act came into being under the supervision of the Tony Blair government and basically enshrined EU Human Rights legislation into British Law. I have always felt that the Human Rights Act is incompatible with the Mental Health Act. The fundamental freedoms it enshrines are usurped once the Mental Health Act is invoked. I have constantly tried to argue a Human Rights case for myself, even in the Mental Health Tribunal Courts, quoting the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights and referring to Strasbourg and indeed the Human Rights Act. Most debate, however, falls on deaf ears, and the tribunal courts tend to favour the misplaced incorrect mindset of Mental Health Workers who generally claim that the Mental Health Act is more important than any human rights legislation and overrides it. Treatment against consent is my main bugbear…

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Review: Voices from S-21 – Terror and History in Pol Pot’s Secret Prison – by David Chandler

voices from s21

Tuol Sleng or S-21 was the secret prison of the communist Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Comrade Duch and his workers put to death in S-21 over 14000 enemies of the State. These enemies of the party centre were treated like they were subhuman and animals and eventually all prisoners were ‘smashed to bits’ or annihilated. Like the horrors of the Nazi death camps, the Stalinist Soviet Purges or Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Pol Pot spared no sympathy for those that stood in his way. Once transferred to S-21, a prisoner could expect to have to fully denounce any fellow conspirators and confess totally to either real crimes or most often perceived imaginary ones. The use of torture was inevitable and screams from the prisoners kept neighbours in Phnom Penh up all night. Documentation for S-21 was immense and workers had to detail every confession and their actions to appease the Party Centre bosses and give the detainment and ultimate executions a quasi-legal framework. The author does a very thorough study of that evidence that is recovered and has interviewed the few survivors that escaped after the fall of the Khmer Rouge. Chandler attempts to explain the inhumanity. His obvious sympathy for the victims extends into attempts to understand the mindset of the guards. The psychological insights are profound and this most disturbing case study serves as a warning to our race over any future mistakes that can be made when places like S-21 spring up and crimes against humanity are perpetuated. This dark tale of horror is a compelling read and I have given it a five star rating.

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