Militant Thistles

polemical poetry to prickle the politics of "permanent austerity"

atos Poor Doors Sheriff Stars spikes

thistles stretch their prickly arms afar

Black Triangle bedroom tax Disrupt and Upset

Christopher Norris

Still let me not wax too pious on

That point about behaving as kindly or lovingly as we can

Toward those in our own family or clan,

Or those – lovers especially – with some foregone

Claim on our affection. Truth is, I

Messed up in that respect and certainly won't try

To act the part of one who shone

As an example that good socialists can hold high

With pride. I treated not a few

Of my own best comrades, women included, worse than

I'd care to admit here in front of you.


Then there's the other side, the way

I so often misjudged things in the political-strategic line.

Just ask those old comrades of mine

Who'll confirm this auto-critique by having lots to say

About my many and well-known faults

Of didacticism, lack of empathy, and constant assaults

On those who'd sit through a Brecht play

And find nothing that exalts

The human spirit or yields, as Aristotle taught

Ancient Greek and modern bourgeois audiences, the fine

Idea of tragic catharsis that kills critical thought.


So – my point in all this – I'm no

Role-model or source of 100% reliable advice,

Whether it's a matter of being nice

Enough to other people or getting stagecraft to go

Along with dialectics, yet managing to grip

Your audience without having the whole thing tip

Over into bourgeois pathos. Still I’ve some wisdom to show

For the portions of my life that weren't just an ego-trip

But spent fighting fascism in the two, very different forms

It took during my lifetime, making me twice-

Over the right weather-man for these latest political storms.


First Nazi Germany, then the US post-war

With McCarthyism rampant, witch-hunts everywhere,

And talk of the red scare

Thrown at us artists and thinkers who dared to explore

The resemblances – though of course the differences too –

Between what we experienced in our new

Place of domicile and what we remembered from before

Our going into exile, as the Nazi menace grew

And the hate-word 'communist' took its place,

Along with 'gypsy', 'trade-unionist', and – most lethal – ‘Jew',

In the House-Painter's plan to get his Volk more living-space.[1]

Chris Norris is a philosopher at Cardiff University and lives in Swansea. He has published many books about philosophy, literary theory, and music along with several collections of poetry including For the Tempus-Fugitives (Sussex Academic Press) and The Winnowing Fan (Bloomsbury), both in 2017.

Now you've this bunch of gangster-types

Who sound, from what you say, like they're nearly as bad

As some of those swine we had

To cope with back then even if the leopard's stripes

Have somewhat changed since even fascism has to adjust

Its strategies to changed circumstance and must,

For a while, make sure it pipes

Tunes of the well-known and popular sort it can trust

The Fox News viewers to go along with until

Its power-base is strong and the brainwashed majority glad

To blink at any evil in the name of the popular will.


'Well, that was a tough one while it lasted,

But don't rest on your laurels yet, you men.

Although we all stood up and stopped the bastard,

The bitch that bore him is in heat again.'[2]


That's from 'The Resistible Rise

Of Arturo Ui', the parable-play – OK, the didactic Lehrstuck – I wrote

About Hitler in the guise of a cut-throat

Two-bit Chicago gangster whose violent rule and eventual demise

Are shown as having come about solely through

The too-long failure to do

Anything decisive about it by a whole bunch of victims wise

After the event but so convinced they'd screw

Up any effort to get shot of him along with his fellow thugs

And their protection racket that they failed to organize

Any collective resistance and were taken for mugs.


In some ways you've got the worst

Of bad situations: not just a strutting fascist moron

Whose ranting you can shut the door on

Temporarily but, in this man Trump, perhaps the first

In a whole new breed

Of mass-mediatized demagogues claiming to lead

And speak for whatever grievances are nursed

By large sections of a populace guaranteed

To revile everything that reminds them of an old,

Decrepit 'liberal' order that they've declared war on,

And to cheer those scheming bastards by whom they're thought-controlled.