David Betteridge

David Betteridge

David Betteridge is the author of a collection of poems celebrating Glasgow and its radical traditions, 'Granny Albyn's Complaint', published by Smokestack Books in 2008. He is also the editor of a compilation of poems, songs, prose memoirs, photographs and cartoons celebrating the 1971-2 UCS work-in on Clydeside. This book, called 'A Rose Loupt Oot', was published by Smokestack Books in 2011.

This is the News
Friday, 26 April 2024 19:29

This is the News

Published in Poetry


This is the News

by David Betteridge


Household Cavalry horses run amok
through London streets,
their riders having lost control.

Most days:

Multitudinous rivers of sewage run amuck
through England's brown unpleasant land,
water companies having declined
to exercise control.

Any day soon:

Civilisation finally goes to fuck,
the world's blood-soaked and shitty governments
having been allowed to exercise too much control.


The People rise.
There is a shift in power,
being civilisation's last and only hope.
Workers' control becomes the norm.

Happy birthday Robert Burns!
Thursday, 25 January 2024 20:02

Happy birthday Robert Burns!

Published in Poetry

Here's tae the man's life -
its drivin root, its rise, its faur reach –
and tae the great hairst he gather'd in!

Here's tae the wark -
the high skill, the luve, the daurk hours -
that he pit in!

Here's tae the words that he gar'd flow -
a muckle stream -
frae his hert's ferment and his mind's still!

Here's tae the faur-travellin o' that stream!
Here's tae its carried gowd!
Here's tae the lang and future legacy
ane sma' life endow'd!

A Babel of Thoughts: Creon, Antigone and Mandela
Tuesday, 26 December 2023 09:28

A Babel of Thoughts: Creon, Antigone and Mandela

Published in Cultural Commentary

In each new outbreak of conflict in the world, there are different sets of structures of feeling at work, that is to say ways of thinking about issues whereby one’s hopes and fears and likes and animosities colour one’s thoughts. They draw on experience and on imaginings, sometimes productively, sometimes counter-productively – even frighteningly so, in other people’s opinion.

Beow is attached a downloadable pdf with my essay and new poem, “A Babel of Thoughts”. It is an attempt at getting inside the heads and hearts of a variety of people’s structures of feeling, as revealed in testimonies spoken on TV or written in the press, or given directly to me, or gleaned from forays into the pages of literature, all in the context of the appalling Israel/Gaza catastrophe. This is, I know, no substitute for political analysis. It is, rather, a complement to such an analysis, justifying – and being justified by – the point made in this website’s title, Culture Matters.

Friday, 26 May 2023 08:28


Published in Cultural Commentary


Some thoughts on solidarity, democratic deliberation, and class struggle

by David Betteridge


Cartoon by Bob Starrett


Whoever is without fault among us, let them be the first to take a wedge, and hammer it  into our body politic, which is also our heart and soul and mind politic.  Let them look for a fine crack and turn it into one that is gaping wide.  Let them go on with their hammering until they have opened up as many fault-lines as they can find. Let them do that, whoever is without fault, claiming freedom of expression, and crying See me, I am the naked truth, or something like that; otherwise, let us hold back and think twice, and when divisive talk runs amuck, let us think more than twice.

How many times must we go down to self-defeat, making enemies of our friends, monstering them, wearing badges of difference so angry and so foregrounded that they kill off chance after chance of maintaining a needful solidarity? 

United, we keep from falling.  Not falling, we keep from failing yet again in our long march towards our long dream of transforming our world, and finding good ways of living in it.

There can only be one “Us”, which is our class-in-the-making, working to become the active agent “We” in History’s next turning of the page.


Stop hurting, comrade!  Stop hurting allies and allies-that-might-be, and, in so stopping, give yourself some respite from self-harm,  for with every breaking of a bond, with every comrade lost, you wound yourself, and are the less.  We are all the less.

Opposition is true friendship, said William Blake. That adage needs some interpreting: true friendship in pursuance of our politics has its own true form of opposition, which is a dialectic of ideas, and not of divided folk. 

Following the protocols of a quiet determining, we might take inspiration from the practice of certain deer who live in the semi-deserts of sub-Saharan Africa. When the wind whips up a storm, the deer crouch down and gently blow the sand from each other’s eyes.


There is one fault-line, and only one, requiring to be opened up, being integral to our politics, because written into reality. That is the fault-line that separates Capital in all of its manifestations

from Labour in all of ours; and there is only one wedge, also integral, that we need take to hammer home.


Image derived from El Lissitzky (1919)

May Day poem: The Promise of the Year
Monday, 01 May 2023 12:42

May Day poem: The Promise of the Year

Published in Poetry

The Promise of the Year

Poem below by David Betteridge, poster above by Walter Crane

May Day: the day when the promise of the year
reproaches the waste inseparable from the society of inequality...


Come greet the dawn and stand beside us.
We'll live together or we'll die alone…


The sun also rises.

Smoother than clockwork,
round the cycle of the seasons,
infallibly and quietly,
it lights our lives and labour,
showing us our way to go.

our forebears welcomed winter’s solstice
more joyously than even summer’s longest day.
Its kick-starting of New Year each year
seemed instance, proof and promise
of life’s momentous beating-back of dark
and death, hope driving out
and cleansing all decay.

Now, in our present age,
in our calendar of significance,
better than either solstice, first
and most dear stands Labour’s borrowing
of Beltane: May Day,
no longer singing only Nature’s growth
and green, but Labour’s, too:
a chance to celebrate our entry into history,
our starting-off on a brave new track,
our beating-back of centuries
of night-times of confusion,
that beset us yet, our driving-out
of every kind of dungeons’ dark
and spirits’ death:
May Day!

Our sun also rises.

Thursday, 27 April 2023 18:20


Published in Poetry


by David Betteridge

Being human means throwing your life entirely
on the scales of destiny, while rejoicing
in every sunny day and every beautiful cloud...

- Rosa Luxemburg

Sleeping is hard, with the mind so troubled;
also hard is staying awake when fear exhausts us
and tests us on a sharp edge of waiting,
as we listen for the next whine and thump
of a bomb that may be the last we hear.

Will we ever see the sky again,
and enjoy the singing of birds?
Will we feel on our skin the freshness
of breeze and rain?
Will we walk this way or that
at our own sweet will,
unconcerned and unconstrained?
Will we ever get out of here?
Only with luck, and with the help
of others; till then we are trapped,
deprived of light and food, even
of clean air to breathe, and space
in which to move.

What can we do meanwhile
in this agony of heavy time
and long fear?
We can wait with hope, keeping safe
certain thoughts and words
that are precious, keeping them alive
and warm, using them in speech,
and, as here, in written form:
thoughts and words that would otherwise
be maimed or bled of meaning
or snuffed out: thoughts and words
inimical to war, and to the roots
of war.

And we can sing, marking the hours
and days like nights that we must spend
in this bombed basement
in our former town.

What shall we sing?

We shall sing songs in praise of skies
and birds, and all the things of Nature
that delight, and all the things of Culture,
too, that inform our building
of a just state, countering, both in self
and others, deadly hate.

Can such songs prefigure and sustain
the dreams that yet may visit us,
supposing we can snatch renewing sleep?
And can our dreams in turn prefigure
and sustain the way our lives proceed,
supposing we survive, shaping
first our championing of peace
and then its flourishing in deed?

Forward, from our species’ origin
in green savannahs, a long march
has stumbled, guided by a vision
of what might be, injured often,
but keeping going, even as it bled.
Listening hard, we hear its echoes -
Peace! Peace! it calls - and we view,
in History’s sad book, the glimmers
of the better times to which
that long march strove,
but never led.

Besieged, bewildernessed,
huddled here, being the latest victims
of the latest war, we are conscripted
at a stroke to join our predecessors
in their slog of hope.
Peace! Peace! we call
from our virtual place of prominence
at the stumbling column’s head.

Singing, dreaming, holding fast to life
and to every attribute of life,
we have no choice but to beat back death
hourly, and with it, in our basement,
death’s accomplice, dread.

Five Ways Of Thinking About Society and Politics
Saturday, 04 March 2023 09:17

Five Ways Of Thinking About Society and Politics

Published in Poetry


by David Betteridge, with drawing above by Bob Starrett

Three of the five ways of thinking expressed below
are overly deterministic, and therefore dangerous;
the other two ways are better...

He is a reckless driver and a wrong-headed
philosopher. I would sooner ride in his car
than follow his lead in politics.

- After Bertolt Brecht


There was a taint at source,
that kept renewing:
that was how our killing flaw,
in mind, and hand, and heart,
was ever-present, age on age,
from our species’ very start.

No later tributary could flush away
the heaped contaminants that infected us,
giving us our propensity to ill;
and they are ever-present, ever-active still.

Virtue might feature sometimes
in our rhetoric, even in our dreams,
but, incurably it sickens,
victim of a fact of life
that no force on earth redeems.


Round and round
goes the hateful, fateful wheel.
It takes us up - oh look, the views! -
and then, of course, just as quickly,
brings us and our visionings
back to ground.

On and on, relentlessly,
there is no change,
no chance of progress ever,
always the same old shit, round
and round, and there is no way
of stopping it.

This is the world’s great carousel
that over-rides and undermines our politics.
It is a gift and curse from Hell.


Good and evil:
imagine every instance of the first
recorded in the form of a pebble
or, better, a grain of sand,
then placed, as it occurs,
in a giant balance
in the right-hand pan; likewise,
imagine every instance of the second,
placed in the opposing one.

How often has the balance been
in equilibrium, or how seldom, rather?
And, just supposing that the balance
tips towards the good,
how soon before the rival camp contrives
to pile a desert opposite,
and so restore the evil bias as it stood?


Wanting peace, it is better
that we ask our enemies’ followers
to cease their following
than that we seek to start a war.
Better, too, that we ask ourselves
how long and what our enmity is for.

Wanting plenty, it is better
that we sow a more fecund seed
in a more fertile soil
than that we force two meagre harvests
from the same tired field,
with twice the toil.

Wanting new answers
to inform our striving for a kinder life,
it is better that we frame new questions,
entering new arenas
for the conduct of our mental fight.


Things change.
We make them change;
and, in doing so,
we ourselves are changed.

Such work requires of us
that we deploy the best
of everything that time has given;
that we annul the worst,
especially the worst within us;
and that we transmute the rest.

Root, stock, and branch,
in these dark days, we have no choice
but to pursue such three-fold acts
of supersession, exerting every atom
of intelligence, every syllable of art,
and so give back to the heartless world
its heart.

A Culture That Fulfils
Wednesday, 23 November 2022 12:08

A Culture That Fulfils

Published in Poetry

A Culture That Fulfils

by David Betteridge

The compassion of the oppressed for the oppressed
is indispensable… I beg you, take the spade
and not the knife.    - Bertolt Brecht

John the Jellyman came to my door;
John, a.k.a. the Wine- and Vodka-man,
or John the Cheese, or Leek, or Bean,
depending on the time of year;
John, near-neighbour, pensioner,
and practitioner of a gentle creed.

He had a gift for me today, a jar
of jelly that he’d made from wild apples
and wild sloes;
and he brought me kindness, too,
asking Was I well and Was there any help
that I might need?

Labour intensive:
that’s what his jelly is,
with days spent in the country,
sourcing the fruits required,
and hours in the kitchen,
achieving the sweet and bitter balance
and the viscosity

The apples came, he told me,
from an avenue of trees
that run beside a disused railway track.
These are trees grown from the pips
in apple cores
that long-dead passengers had tossed
out through the carriage windows
as they passed.

The sloes he harvested
from a low-leaning blackthorn copse,
shaped by prevailing winds from off the sea.
It yielded its copious berries easily to John,
as to any forager who goes that way,
as John, in turn, gave his labour’s fruits
to me.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, but all too near,
there are other men, in essence like our kindly John,
but rendered so unlike by ill-division,
fear and hate, and history.
Too readily, they visit their own neighbours’ doors
and lands, bringing not gifts or help
but the burn and bomb and bleed and maul and rape
et cetera of war.

The sum of the world’s wrongs weighs
the world’s imbalance down, and further down.
When will the world’s peoples rise,
resist, rethink, and organise?

John the Jellyman, come again
and knock my door; come any time.
You restore in part my heart and hope
for our poor conflicted humankind.
From your example, I infer that a brain
and hand that has learned to kill
might also learn to build -
given a better place and time -
a people’s culture that fulfils.

Nine Propositions Regarding Capitalist Politics
Sunday, 16 October 2022 16:20

Nine Propositions Regarding Capitalist Politics

Published in Poetry

Nine Propositions Regarding Capitalist Politics

by David Betteridge

For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken...
- Mark 4:25

One It is easier to win an election than to run a

Two It is easier to ruin an economy
than to bother to do due diligence

Three It is easier to blame others for our crimes
than to admit any error ourselves.

Four There is no lie too big or too blatant
that a politician should refrain from uttering it.

Five It is better to pile extra burdens on the poor,
even to the point of killing them,
than to countenance losing our riches.

Six There is no disaster that may befall a nation
that does not present a good opportunity for us to make profits.
Where such an opportunity does not exist,
it falls to government to create one.

Seven There must be no end to our freedom to pursue profit,
and no end to the power that safeguards that freedom.
Where voices are raised in opposition,
we must buy them off, or rubbish them, or crush them.

Eight Life is to be seen, and lived,
as an arena for competition, not cooperation.
Blessed are the strong.

Nine Tiger, tiger burning bright
In the jungle of the Right.
What mortal mind or agency
Dares challenge our supremacy?

The Day and The Hour
Wednesday, 07 September 2022 09:06

The Day and The Hour

Published in Poetry

The Day and The Hour

by David Betteridge



What distinguishes the worst of architects from the best
of bees is this: that the architects raise their structures
in imagination before they build them in reality...
- Karl Marx

Where there is no vision,
the psalmist sang,
the people perish.

Has our vision retrospective scope, we ask,
with eyes in the back of its memory's mind?
No? Then it falls short, vulnerable from behind.

Has our vision close scrutiny of things
that may not seem at first significant -
things that are routine, or in the dark,
maybe at the head of leadership,
or in our ranks, or in the corners
of our unexamined hearts:
things that can turn to danger, quick as a wink?

Experience instructs us:
before we act, think!

Has our vision a future tense, keen
to look across to tomorrow's further shore,
to envisage what might be different from today,
and how, in our journey there, we might follow
the best-considered way?

As a sculptor sees the contours of a statue
already shaping in an uncut block of stone,
or as an athlete first conceives a lift, or jump, or throw,
or run, and holds it within the grasp of mind,
cherishing it even before the act begins,
so, as a wise saw says, each last one of us must think
and feel, even in the welter of our present woes,
as if we were already citizens of a better land,
in its early days.


What if that other voice we all know so well responds by saying,
"We say no, and we are the state"?
Well we say yes – and we are the people.
- Canon Kenyon Wright

Purblind, some of us let a clown run rings
around us, unaware his circus act had allies
massed in his defence, brigade upon brigade
of adepts in the wars of both position
and manoeuvre, weaponised.

Not seeing straight, or thinking straight,
we set our sights on wrong goals,
and, forsaking loyalties
and purposes and roots, got bewildernessed
in ruinous wrong ways.

As the clown banged his tin drum,
even if we did not see the peril in its signs,
how did we not hear the horror
in its beat, its dead-march that betokened
the breaking of laws and lives,
as again and again has happened
in carnivals of evil down the years?
How did we not smell the reek
that our enemies' cruel arrogance exudes?
Why did we not sense earlier the creeping-up
and worsening of our fears?

Never as now have our enemies
so carelessly self-revealed
their empty souls and ravening greed,
their two-facedness,
their lethal recklessness in word and deed.

These hellish handcart drivers,
untroubled by any fear or shame,
these crass demolishers of culture,
these sociopaths in smart suits,
these devotees of global smash and grab,
ignorant or contemptuous of history and its gains,
these strangers to sanity and to truth,
these bringers of death,
see how they stand now: exposed as guilty,
red-handed, few options left, run out of breath.

Now's the day, and now's the hour,
Burns wrote, and sang.
Given our enemies are in disarray,
disuniting into faction fights, imperilling the safety
of the state, then we have one clear choice,
in fact it is imperative:
as one to make a stand, contesting the continuance
of their misrule, asserting our claim of right
to governance, at last, of this beleaguered land.


The most beautiful of all doubts is when the downtrodden
and despondent raise their heads
and stop believing in the strength of their oppressors...
- Bertolt Brecht

In a flash, in a flood, from memory's store,
from a remembered Bible story book,
a picture comes to mind:
Pharaoh's troops in turmoil, tossed
with their weapons and their useless chariots
by the Red Sea's power.

Like matchstick men they meet their end
as walls of water - that had parted long enough
to let Moses and his people through -
now thunder on their hostile heads.

Now's the day, and now's the hour,
for both the victorious living
and the disarmed dead.

Was this a scene that Brecht envisaged
when he wrote his poem praising doubt,
noting how "invincible armies" can be put to flight,
"headlong", while "impregnable strongholds" fall,
and ancient errors, valorised as truth,
are in the end put right.

In praising the doubt that tests decisions
"like a bad penny", Brecht dispraised the doubt
that is despair, that even under danger
asks too many questions, fearful to act,
opting out.

Divers exploring the Red Sea's bed found
shell-encrusted chariot wheels down there,
relics of an era's end and a bold new chapter's start,
when a page was turned, from foul to fair.

What relics from today's divisions
and impending shift of power will future history retrieve,
to put in picture books or heritage museums:
keys to safe deposits, maybe, and yachts,
and limousines, and other trappings
of a wasteful Few, juxtaposed with the sad remains
of a Many cast aside, like shards, in early graves
or battlefields, to be rendered back to view,
emblems of a time when a people
almost perished?

Best evidence of all will be,
growing from its early days to a mature peace,
a new-made land, negating what we now see,
living proof that where there's vision,
we, the people, flourish.


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