Monday, December 31, 2012

Quotable

The NRA's entire narrative revolves around fantasizing about killing people -- killing the "bad guys." It is propped up by fear and paranoia about runaway "gang members" (which as a bonus is probably racial coding) who are going to break into your home while you're there (also statistically unlikely) so you need a gun to protect your family -- protect them by blowing away the bad guys. To purchase a gun in the unlikely chance that you would need to use it against an armed intruder or in a public shootout is to fantasize about violence in a much more real and dangerous way than those who fire up their video-game consoles. 
 

I'm not usually one for posting stuff from Google

I'm not usually one for posting stuff from Google, but shall make an exception today for Clara Schumann:

Considered a child prodigy, her first concert was at the age of 11. Upon further research we realized there was also quite an amazing story beyond what she's most widely remembered for. She was an outspoken and courageous woman who followed her heart and fought for who and what she believed in. In sixty one years of performing, she forever shaped the classical music genre and was one of the first pianists to perform by memory, setting the stage for future performers.

Beyond her own performance career, Clara was a teacher and a mentor to students. Additionally, her and her husband raised eight children while also developing their own musical careers. I knew Clara was a truly exceptional person when I read that at age 29 she marched to the front lines of the May Uprising in Dresden (one of the final events of the Revolution of 1848), straight past a group of armed men to rescue her children. She then turned around and marched right back through the pack and out of the city. She was truly a dedicated, passionate and strong-willed person and it's evident in her work, how she was with her family, and in her everyday life.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Never Forget

On Dec. 29, 1890, a Lakota encampment on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota was attacked by the U.S. Army and close to 300 Native Americans were murdered in the Wounded Knee Massacre. Read more: http://bit.ly/6JEaOQ Beginning on Feb. 27, 1973, Wounded Knee was the site of a 71-day standoff between the American Indian Movement (AIM) and federal law enforcement officials. Here is a segment from the film We Shall Remain on Wounded Knee history: http://to.pbs.org/9O6AqP Here are resources on Native American history and contemporary issues for teaching outside the textbook: http://bit.ly/OgMHYa Image: We Remember poster by Bruce Carter, 1974, Library of Congress collection.
Linkage

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Quotable: Zapatistas Edition

Yesterday marked the end of the Mayan calendar and the beginning of a new cycle. It may also have marked the beginning of a new cycle of resistance in Chiapas to the resurrected hegemony of the PRI.
Linkage

Friday, December 21, 2012

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Ten Year Itch

I've never been one to commit to anything for more than a few years, and a decade is my absolute maximum. Well, this blog - under one name or another - has been around for nearly 10 years. That's too long. So, I am thinking of turning this one into an archive, or deleting it, and starting up a new one.

I can think of any of a number of reasons to do so - not the least of which being that it would be that I am not in the same place (literally or figuratively) I was when I started this one. Given that this one had some team members at one point, it was sort of all over the place. A new blog would be a chance perhaps to have some content and linkage that is more focused.

When and if that happens, I'll make some mention. Let's say that I have a concept in mind, that would certainly be in character.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A reminder

It's damn difficult to spend as many years as I have on this rock without being in some way affected by HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) - either by becoming infected one's self, or by knowing some of those who have. The paranoia that I recall all too well a small handful of decades ago has long since passed, but the terrible suffering and willful ignorance thereof has continued unabated. Never forget.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Jodi Dean sez

The more neo-liberalism has entrenched itself the more we have been hear­ing this lan­guage of demo­cracy, as if par­ti­cip­a­tion was going to solve all prob­lems—but this is a fantasy because the fun­da­mental truth is that it is not going to solve these prob­lems. Keep­ing all the activ­ity in the demo­cratic sphere makes it seem as if people are busy, engaged etc. without ever affect­ing the basic struc­ture. It’s a fantasy because it func­tions like a screen.

The rest of the interview can be found in: Saying ‘We’ Again: A Conversation with Jodi Dean on Democracy, Occupy and Communism. (h/t wood s lot)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Solidarity with Russian leftists

TODAY, WE, the representatives of Russian leftist organizations, turn to our comrades all over the world with an appeal for solidarity. This call and your response to it are very important to us. Right now, we are facing not just another instance of dubious sentencing by the Russian "justice" system or another case of a human life broken by the encounter with the state's repressive apparatus.

Today, the authorities have launched against us a repressive campaign without precedent in the recent history of Russia, a campaign whose goal is to extinguish the left as an organized political force. The recent arrests, threats, beatings, aggressive media attacks and moves towards declaring leftist groups illegal all point to the new general strategy on the part of the authorities, much more cruel and much less predictable than that of recent years.

The massive protest movement that began in December 2011 radically changed the atmosphere of political and social passivity established during the Putin years. Tens of thousands of young and middle-aged people, office workers and state employees began to appear on the streets and to demand change. On December 10 and 24, 2011, and then on February 4, 2012, Moscow, Petersburg and other large cities became the sites of massive rallies, demonstrating a new level of politicization of a significant part of society.

The "managed democracy" model crafted by the ruling elite over many years went bankrupt in a matter of days. Political manipulations ceased working in the face of real politics, born from below. The movement, whose demands were initially limited to "honest elections," quickly grew into a protest against the whole political system.

After the elections of March 4, 2012, in which Vladimir Putin, using a combination of massive administrative pressure on voters, massive falsifications and mendacious populist rhetoric, assured himself of another term, many thought that the potential for protest mobilization had been exhausted. The naïve hopes of the thousands of opposition volunteers, taking on the role of election observers in the hope of putting an end to voter fraud, were crushed.

The next demonstration, which few believed would succeed, was scheduled for the center of Moscow on May 6, the day before Putin's inauguration. And on this day, despite the skeptical predictions, more than 60,000 people showed up. When the march approached the square where the rally was to take place, the police organized a massive provocation, blocking the marchers' path to the square. All those who attempted to circumvent the police cordon were subjected to beatings and arrests.

The unprecedented police violence produced resistance on the part of some of the protesters, who resisted arrests and refused to leave the square until everyone had been freed. The confrontation on May 6 lasted a few hours. In the end, over 650 people were arrested, some of whom spent the night in jail.

The next day, Putin's motorized procession headed for his inauguration through an empty Moscow. Along with the protesters, the police had cleared the city of all pedestrians.

The new protest movement had demonstrated its power and a new degree of radicalization. The events of May 6 gave rise to the Occupy movement, which brought thousands of young people to the center of Moscow and held strong until the end of May. Leftist groups, until then peripheral to the established liberal spokesman of the protest movement, were progressively playing a larger role.

Read the rest here. Consider it a reminder that nearly a century after Red October, the call for an alternative to capitalism remains loud and clear.

Wonder where the anti-austerity protests are happening?

via

More details here and here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Quotable: William Blum on Socialism in the 1990s

This is a small book chapter by William Blum, Will humans ever fly? Smashing socialism in the 20th century:
Imagine that the Wright brothers' first experiments with flying machines all failed because the automobile interests sabotaged each and every test flight. And then the good and god-fearing folk of the world looked upon this, took notice of the consequences, nodded their collective heads wisely, and intoned solemnly: Humans shall never fly.

Fact: Virtually every socialist experiment of any significance in the twentieth century has been either overthrown, invaded, or bombed ... corrupted, perverted, or subverted ... sanctioned, embargoed, or destabilized ... or otherwise had life made impossible for it, by the United States. Not one of these socialist governments or movements -- from the Russian Revolution to Fidel Castro in Cuba, from Communist China to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua -- not one was permitted to rise or fall solely on its own merits; not one was left secure enough to drop its guard against the all-powerful enemy abroad and freely and fully relax control at home.

It has become commonplace amongst politicians, economists, industrialists and media that the answer to the question -- Is socialism dead? -- is not only "yes", but is self evidently so. They seem to accept a priori the curious equation that if the Soviet Union is dead, so must socialism be dead, if not all things progressive. And many on the left seem to be buying into this oddity. This equation not only ignores the past described above, but ignores the present reality as well, for since "the end of communism/socialism", communists and socialists have been elected to the highest offices in the land and/or won control of parliament in more than 20 countries, including many in the former Soviet Union and its Eastern European bloc. Consider the following sample:

Hungary

In May 1994, four years after being voted into near oblivion, Hungary's former Communists swept back into power. Under their new name of the Socialist Party, they won 209 seats in the 386-seat parliament. "The strong showing of the Socialists," said the New York Times, "was attributed to widespread discontent with Hungary's first efforts at a market economy."{1}

Poland

In September 1993, the Democratic Left Alliance (DLA) -- composed of the former Communist Party and other socialist groups -- won the parliamentary election and formed a new government.

In March 1995, former Communist Party official Josef Olesky became the Prime Minister.

In November of the same year, Aleksander Kwasniewski of the DLA, and a former minister in the Communist regime, defeated Lech Walesa for the presidency.

Bulgaria

In June 1990, the former Communist Party, renamed the Bulgarian Socialist Party, won control of Parliament and filled the offices of president and prime minister. Before the year was over, the BSP was ousted in what amounted to a coup, engineered and financed by the CIA front, the National Endowment for Democracy.{2} The party then won re-election in December 1994, with a former Communist Party official becoming prime-minister.

Albania

March 1991, a Communist government won national elections overwhelmingly, but, as in Bulgaria, a general strike and widespread unrest, financed again by the National Endowment for Democracy, brought on the government's collapse.{3}

The current ruling party, the anti-communist Democratic Party, stays in power and keeps the Socialist Party (the former Communists) out only through elections so fraudulent that even the Clinton administration has been obliged to express its regrets about the "numerous irregularities" which "marred these elections".{4}

Italy

In April 1996, a Left-Center coalition, composed of the Democratic Party of the Left (the former Communist Party) and the Communist Refoundation Party, won a majority of seats in both houses of parliament. The Democratic Party of the Left holds the majority of cabinet seats as well.

Romania

Ion Iliescu, a former Communist who led Romania since the fall of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, to whom he was a close adviser, has won election to the presidency continuously since 1990.

Slovakia

Vladimir Meciar is the Prime Minister and the head of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, the main party in the ruling coalition. His party won power in 1994 on a strong anti-capitalist platform, winning 34% of the vote, more than three times that of the second place party.

Lithuania

Algirdas-Mykolas Brazauskas, former First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Lithuanian Communist Party, was elected President in February 1993. His party, the Lithuanian Democratic Labor Party, the successor to the Communist Party, has won a majority of seats in the parliament.

Czech Republic

The left-wing Czech Social Democratic Party came in a close second in parliamentary elections held May 31/June 1, 1996. The ruling conservatives need the support of the Social Democrats to govern. The parliament elected the leader of the Social Democrats as its new chairman.

Portugal

In October 1995, The Socialist Party won the general election. The following January, the SP candidate, Jorge Sampaio, won election as President -- the first time both the government and the president have been of the same political party since democracy was restored in 1974.

Tajikistan

In November 1994, Imomali Rakhmonov, former Communist, was elected president and is still in office.

Estonia

In March 1995, the voters decisively ousted the pro-market ruling coalition in favor of a coalition advocating greater commitment to social protection and vowing to rein in "cowboy capitalism". This coalition is still in power, but it has not abided by the voters' mandate, ruling more from a center-right perspective.

Russia

Despite numerous highly questionable practices of Boris Yeltsin and his media (plus the best efforts of the United States), the Russian Communist Party, during the period of 1994-96, was the largest single bloc in the lower chamber of parliament. One of its members was the speaker. Former Soviet Communist Party Politburo member, Yegor Stroyer, was chosen chairman of the upper house of parliament. The party's leader, Gennady Zyuganov, came in a close second in national elections in 1996.

Cyprus

In May 1996 parliamentary elections, the Communist Party won 33 percent of the vote, coming in second to the 34.5 percent won by the governing center-right coalition.

Sri Lanka

August 1994: A Socialist alliance (People's Alliance Party) was the top vote getter in parliamentary elections.

India

A coalition, variously described as leftist and center-left, came to power in May 1996 elections. Leading Communist Party officials were picked to head the powerful Home Ministry and the Agriculture Ministry, the first Communists to be part of an Indian government since independence in 1947.

Nepal

In November 1994, the King appointed as Prime Minister, Man Mohan Adhikary of the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist-Leninist, after the party won a plurality of seats.

Ecuador

In July 1996, a populist candidate, with strong support among the poor and disenfranchised, Abdala Bucaram, won the presidency with some 54 percent of the vote. [His regime turned out to be not progressive at all.]

Iceland

In June 1996, left-wing politician Olafur Ragnar Grimsson was elected president with 41 percent of the vote, to his right-wing opponent's 29 percent.

Postscript

The electoral trend described above in the former Soviet republics and Eastern European satellites, reflecting broad dissatisfaction with the newly-introduced capitalist way of life, was not permitted by the United States to blossom into progressive social change or simply to go where it might go. Washington intervened in these countries in the many ways Washington is expertly practiced at.
Although these words are a little over 15 years old, they offer a prologue to the present. We are now nearing the probable end of the most recent phase of capitalism (its long demise started late last decade), and are in the midst of a transition away from the US as a hyperpower. We are also in the midst of a revival of anti-capitalist leftism throughout the world.

Some of the nations have changed, and the names have changed, but the song seems pretty similar. These days, we might be discussing a bloc of socialist and center-left nations in South and Central America, or the rise of Syriza in Greece, a revived New Left movement in Latvia, or any of a number of other anti-capitalist movements throughout the US and Europe. As was true in the 1990s in the wake of the collapse of the USSR, parliamentary and extra-parliamentary efforts by socialists have been mixed, but persistent. There has been a revival in interest in Marx and Marxism in the academy since the dawn of the current century, after such research being somewhat moribund since the 1980s. Change is in the air, intellectually, in the parliaments, and on the streets. Suffice it to say, such revivals do not go unchallenged, and if past is any indicator, the global CEO class has plenty of dirty tricks up its sleeve.

All that said, I'd offer a rejoinder: We are not going away, and remain a living reminder that contrary to conventional Villager "wisdom", a new world is truly possible.

Note: The chapter I printed was made available by William Blum on his website, and I am including it in full in the spirit of fair use. I've purchased and read some of his work in the past, and would certainly have no qualms in directing interested readers into exploring more of his work.

Bolshevik Revolution

While preoccupied elsewhere, I realized that the date of the 95th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution just recently passed. To think, barring a some catastrophe, I shall be alive for the 100th anniversary in a few short years. So much has changed in that intervening period. The USSR has come and gone. And yet the ideas espoused by Marx, Engels, Lenin, and others continue to be discussed, acted upon, and lived. The struggle continues...

Hoping

I noticed this post over at The Crow's Eye a few weeks back. I don't know if it is Jack Crow who is sick, or a loved one. In any case, since I cannot leave a post over at his blog, I'll offer some good vibes from here instead, in the hopes that it gets read by the intended recipient. By all means, "ride well for as long as you can."

Ian Welsh is optimistic

After reading his postmortem of the Indecision 2012, I have to say that the future's so bright I need to wear shades. This bit in particular:
The Republican party are reactionaries, who want to repeal the 20th century.  The Democrats are conservatives.  There is no major left wing party in the US.  Since avowed left-wingers won’t even vote for third parties in states where Democrats will win for sure, like New York, third parties can be written off for the time being, especially on the left.  If there is a third party which will rise, it will be on the right.
We have two major parties - one that is essentially fascist (and I don't use the term lightly), as I don't know how else to characterize a party that is fundamentally nationalist, corporatist, and wed to religious fundamentalism. The other is akin to the UK's Tories. I have plenty of liberal/progressive friends and acquaintances who would take offense at that characterization. But given the last 20 years especially, I really don't know how else to characterize a major party that has bought into neoliberal capitalism hook, line, and sinker. There is no organized left wing in the US. We have sporadic spontaneous movements (in the sense that Lenin might use the term), but nothing that is really sustained. That is, to make a huge understatement, a problem. I've said for a long time that those of us who are anticapitalists need to realize we have a lot more in common, put aside sectarian differences, and march together (both literally and metaphorically). The time to do so is now.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Indecision! Indecision! Indecision! Postmortem! Postmortem! Postmortem!

I noticed that from a more liberal (what we used to say back in my day) or progressive (what is the current terminology) perspective, Avedon Carol offered her own postmortem, and links to even more lib/prog postmortems.

Indecision 2012 postmortem mania!

Another by Lenin's Tomb:
But there is still a profound problem. For all that there was a healthy debate in parts of the Left, none of the third party challengers had much to show for their efforts. The Green Party, as the most likely challenger from the left of the Democrats, got a fraction of a percent. There was no serious momentum for the Greens or any other left candidate, although some long established activists like Joanne Landy backed the campaign. Most left liberals, people like Michael Moore, rallied behind Obama rather than risking a repeat of 2000 and the ensuing Bush presidency. Lesser-evilism won the day. This means that much of the left's energy has gone into producing this result rather than organising to force a popular agenda on the White House whoever its inhabitant might be. This means that the Democrats' political control of the working class isn't going to be challenged in the near future. This means that the dominance of the 1% isn't going to be challenged in electoral terms. This means that the reconstruction of the US empire continues, with Obama's supporters thus far largely not taking to the streets. And it's a vicious circle. The longer the Democrats' monopoly on the left-of-centre vote continues, the more the idea is perpetuated that any attempt to break this monopoly is a pointless indulgence, a propagandistic idea that will at best waste time and at worst let the Republicans in.

The rational kernel in this harangue is that a third party alternative can't just be declared; the election results show this. Electoral realignment is invariably a product of a profound politicisation in the base of society, generalising from a number of concrete struggles and antagonisms, whereby people learn in practice that they need to break from their dominant party. There have been several high profile struggles in the US in recent years, but these have either tended to reinforce the dominance of the Democratic Party in the working class, or they have been defeated (often both, as in Wisconsin). So, absent the outbreak of a series of unpredictable social conflicts, popular fights over repossessions, racism, reconstruction after Sandy, jobs, public sector 'reform' and so on, any third party challenge is unlikely to get very far. This rational kernel is, of course, what gives a respectable sheen to what is otherwise reflex loyalty and bullying.

One can only hope that the customary election and post-election interval, during which the majority of the US Left shuts down its activities and campaigns in order to get Democrats elected, will be mercifully brief on this occasion.

Indecision 2012 postmortem

One of the better summaries can be found here: The capitalist crisis, Obama's re-election and the US Left. It's a useful reminder that lesser-evilism can only take us so far. American politics is clearly very dysfunctional. On the one hand, we have a right-wing that is so out of touch with reality that its base can be convinced that billionaire NYC mayor Bloomberg is representative of an anti-capitalist hard left. If you can believe that, you need your meds adjusted. Just sayin'. At the same time, it is clear that although there are some legitimate lefitst stirrings here in the US (see for example the Occupy movement that sprang into existence in the fall of 2011), we really don't have a truly organized left with a coherent theoretical orientation capable of making any meaningful changes - either in a parliamentary or extra-parliamentary sense. We only know that we as a nation rejected a more bitter form of neoliberal capitalism (combined with radical authoritarian nationalism) for a softer neoliberal capitalism with some semblance of social tolerance. Not exactly change we can believe in.

Blog I'm feeling

biblioklept

Thursday, November 1, 2012

One take on the Left Press:

Tendance Coatsey:

Frances O’Grady is again  at the front of the latest Chartist (November), and Coatesy on French anarchism and Algeria at the back.

The left press certainly embraces a diversity of views.

Some notes, from a personal standpoint.

  • There are still ‘party papers’ in the UK. Notably Socialist Worker and the Socialist. They have reports on their campaigns and – in the case of the latter – some valuable reports on Trade Unions. Their primary objective is to ‘build’ their organisations.
  • When they report on international issues their views reflect support for their satellite factions. Even their more serious publications, such as (SWP) International Socialism, follow this strategy. For all Alex Callinicos’ many merits and the virtues of his close associates such as “toffy nosed” (as his comrades call him) Sebastian, they have not escaped from the James Cannon ‘Building the Proletarian Party’ approach .
  • The Morning Star is an important resource for information about unions and has some international news. Not everybody may agree with their stand on the EU, which some regard as little Britisher. Nor indeed the CPB’s inability to come to terms with its past.
However the hard-core activists read the following
Weeklies:
  • The Weekly Worker. Its international coverage, on Iran, Israel, and – at the moment – Tobias Abse’s articles on Italy, is on a par with journals like Le Monde Diplomatique. It is a real focus of serious Marxist debate.
  • Solidarity. The AWL may not be everybody’s cup of tea. But they have a base in the workers’ movement and their paper is solid stuff. Their material on, for example Welfare Reform, is excellent. They publish some of the best articles about North Africa by Maghrebian socialists.
Journals.
  • Labour Briefing (LRB). The relaunched Briefing contains brilliant articles, such as a long article on decriminalising prostitution, one by Viento Sur on Spain, and developments in the Labour Party.
  • Chartist (see above). Chartist is the point where democratic socialists of all kinds can express themselves.
  • The Commune. A real effort at relaunching workers’ self-management.
People may note that there is considerable cross-over between many papers (obviously we exclude the SWP and SP publications).

Many of the same people write for the Weekly Worker, Briefing, Chartist, and so forth.

These are the real democratic socialist media, based on activists and intellectuals,  working together.

Above all the publish writing by people who directly know what they are talking about.

Read them!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Well, yeah, Ayn Rand was a stunted adolescent

Obama sez:
Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we'd pick up. Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which we're only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else, in which we're considering the entire project of developing ourselves as more important than our relationships to other people and making sure that everybody else has opportunity – that that's a pretty narrow vision. It's not one that, I think, describes what's best in America. Unfortunately, it does seem as if sometimes that vision of a "you're on your own" society has consumed a big chunk of the Republican Party.
Point taken, insofar as it goes.Not all of us at that age who felt "misunderstood" (which is a fairly common affliction among adolescents in the US) felt the need to pick up Ayn Rand's books, or even worse take her writings seriously. I do suspect (and since I don't have data, this is merely a hunch) that Rand's books had some currency among those born toward the end of the Baby Boom (which would include Obama) and those who comprise Generation X. Although a lot of these young men and women might have come of age during the era of Raygun, not all of them were conservative in the sense we would have used at the time. Heck, more than a few otherwise liberal-leaning friends seemed to love to sing Rand's praises while I was in college. I sought answers elsewhere. Why? At some point, I made an effort to read through some of her work and that of Leonard Peikoff and quickly realized that a society idolizing selfishness would crumble like a house of cards. Maybe being around at a point when American punk was becoming little more than a meaningless fad, and becoming quickly disillusioned with the countercultural scene in general, I had little use for mere individual rebellion. Maybe there seemed something almost pathological in Rand's writings that I could not quite place my finger on at the time, but which others later have brought into sharp relief. Maybe I had a hunch - one that would prove largely correct - that even those who called themselves "liberal" or "progressive" who bought into Rand's narrow vision would end up tainted by it. In the last three decades, we have what were in the 1990s called the "New Democrats" to show for it. Even our "progressives" bought into the myth of neoliberalism to a large degree - an economic perspective that is largely predicated on a narrow vision of "freedom" that is essentially one of unfettered selfishness.

Obviously I am not planning to fall into the trap that our contemporary US "progressives" are equivalent to our contemporary US movement conservatives. They are not. There are varying flavors of neoliberalism as we have learned - some more toxic than others. What I can state is that our newest generation could do themselves and everyone around them a huge favor and - if they find themselves feeling "misunderstood" - that they seek answers elsewhere. Ideally, they should look for authors who understand the critical need for solidarity, for grasping the sheer amount of connectedness between us all. Most of all, look at the influences that my generation and the one before us revered, and consider them cautionary tales, failed experiments never to be repeated. Sneering your way through life, which is what so many of the more privileged members of my age cohort did and still do, is no way to live. If you really want to rebel, if you really want to "stick it to the man", try banding together and doing something that improves the lot of more than just your selves. In other words, do what we all have to do once we hit 18: grow up.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Neoliberalism Kills

Read Part 1 and Part 2. The second article in the series provides a nice ballpark definition of neoliberalism. This stuff is pretty familiar to me, but it may not be to many. Just remember that what you don't know helps the 1% to hurt you.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Interesting question

Kurt Newman asks:

The query is this. If we were to assemble a list of Marxist historians of the United States, with the provision that we limit such a list to people who are both alive and active, what would the result look like?
Based on the responses in the comments, there would appear to be quite a few. H/t

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Quotable

Herbert Marcuse sez
“Alienation” is the constant and essential element of identity, the objective side of the subject — and not, as it is made to appear today, a disease, a psychological condition. Freud well knew the difference between progressive and regressive, liberating and destructive repression. The publicity of self-actualization promotes the removal of the one and the other, it promotes existence in that immediacy which, in a repressive society, is (to use another Hegelian term) bad immediacy (schlechte Unmittelbarkeit). It isolates the individual from the one dimension where he could “find himself”: from his political existence, which is at the core of his entire existence. Instead, it encourages non-conformity and letting go in ways which leave the real engines of repression in the society entirely intact, which even strengthen these engines by substituting the satisfactions of private and personal rebellion for a more than private and personal, and therefore more authentic, opposition. The desublimation involved in this sort of self-actualization is itself repressive inasmuch as it weakens the necessity and the power of the intellect, the catalytic force of that unhappy consciousness which does not revel in the archetypal personal release of frustration—hopeless resurgence of the Id which will sooner or later succumb to the omnipresent rationality of the administered world — but which recognizes the horror of the whole in the most private frustration and actualizes itself in this recognition.
My emphasis added. I've been pretty critical of the hyperindividualism that so much characterizes our culture. Marcuse and others like him provide the grist for the proverbial mill for those wanting to push back and fight for a more substantial resistance.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Happy "Day of Indigenous Resistance"

2004: Venezuelan youth in Caracas tear down the statue of Christopher Columbus on Columbus Day and rename it the Day of Indigenous Resistance.
Sounded a bit nicer than saying "Happy Genocidal Slave Trader Day" (although it would be an accurate enough characterization).

image and caption via

Sunday, October 7, 2012

¡Viva la Revolución! Hugo Chávez wins!

I really don't know much more than that, beyond the preliminary reports that Chávez won approximately 54% of the vote in his re-election bid. I'll have something more solid with links later. Right now, I can breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Update:

Here's the link to the news!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Planning to vote within the bourgeous system this year?

This is probably as good as any advice as you'll get:

Things I consider when voting within the bourgeois democracy:
1. Who do people of color, LGBT, people in poverty, immigrants, women, religious minorities, and the proletariat see as the better option for addressing their concerns and improving their status within society and the workplace. Listen to them.
2. Who is more likely to socialize means of production, whether in the event of an economic crisis or not.
3. Who is more likely to raise the class consciousness of the workers, whether in the candidate’s rhetoric, speeches, or policy.
4. Do not let political party affiliation nor ideology factor into the decision.

Black October 1993

I was a much younger person when Yeltsin's reign of counter-revolutionary terror truly began in earnest in October 1993, with, of course the usual wink and nod from then-President Clinton. The human suffering that ensued was incalculable. Those who were part of the uprising have not forgotten. Nor should we.

The uprisings occured in what Badiou might call an intervallic period that was still in its early stages (it was around this time that we were being told that "history" had "ended" and that neoliberal capitalism was inevitable). Given more recent events a couple decades hence, it appears that the rebirth of history is at hand. Interesting times, my friends. Interesting times...

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"Blessed are those who struggle..."

"...oppression is worse than the grave. Better to die for a noble cause than to live and die a slave."

A few lines from the classic tune by Last Poets (from their excellent album, "Delights of the Garden", released in 1977), and a means to remind my readers that today is the anniversary of Nat Turner's birth. He was the leader of the August 21, 1831 slave rebellion in Virginia, and he shall never be forgot.

Via Fuck Yeah Marxism-Leninism.

Monday, October 1, 2012

RIP: Eric Hobsbawm

Last year, historian Eric Hobsbawn published what would turn out to be his final book, How to Change the World: Marx and Marxism 1840-2010. I had the pleasure to read it during some vacation time I took last December, and have had occasion to post the odd quote from the book, as well as to share an interview in which he discussed his views on the uprisings in the Arab world, Europe, and the US last year. Many of us from my particular age group would have been exposed to Hobsbawm's work for one reason or another, and I would highly recommend checking into his major works.

It is with sadness that we learn of his death. BLCKDGRD sez:
His Age of Tetrology (Revolution, Capital, Empire, Extremes) heavily influences my reading of the world. Here's an article from 1977. Here is a book review he wrote on the Hungarian Revolution. Here's Eagleton on Hobsbawm. Here are all Hobsbawm's pieces in NYRB.
I do have a few notes intended as a review of Hobsbawm's final book. At some point - though probably not until I have some more vacation time coming - I'd like to sit down and share a few thoughts about it.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

About comments

I've finally had to make the switch from Haloscan/Echo to something else. I am trying out Disqus. We'll see how well it works out. One side effect is that because of how I had apparently set comments in Blogger, when I sync up comments either with Blogger or with Disqus, all comments show up as authored by me, Don Durito. Not much I can do about that, other than look through the data file I downloaded from Haloscan and at some point when I have a moment to breathe, either somehow change the identities to the appropriate commenters, or at least edit the comments to make note of proper attribution. Given my exceedingly tight schedule (as I am sure you've noticed given the dearth of posts in recent months), it'll be a while. All new comments will get attributed properly though. I've seen to that.

Quotable

"We are connected to the past, present and future, just as we are connected from Melbourne to Vladivostoc. Nothing is preordained, everything we do matters, everything we do makes a difference."

- Anonymous anarchist 2012

Monday, September 17, 2012

One Year Ago Today


Say what you will, but the actions launched last September 17th by Occupy were only the beginning. Until the underlying problems caused by neoliberal capitalism are addressed, agitation by extraparliamentary organizations will continue to be necessary.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Calling them out:

Michael Moore sez:

I wanted to say something before the day ended about the call by Desmond Tutu that Bush and Blair be tried for war crimes. Finally someone of note and respect has said the unspeakable. There is no question that these two men should face a judge and jury for invading another country that wasn't attacking of threatening them or their people. The two of them took their countries to war for a variety of reasons that had NOTHING to do with self-defense. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians lost their lives. These two men knew the evidence was being cooked for them because they asked for their advisers to give them some reason so they could declare war. Military contractors made millions. Billions. Criminal. Let's ask the World Court to bring these two up on charges - make them answer for this disastrous debacle. No one - NO ONE - is above the law.

The odds of that transpiring, of course, are exceedingly long. In fact, I would practically die of shock if it happened. It shall not be forgotten what Bush & Blair wrought.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

No Justice for Rachel Corrie

Glenn Greenwald:
Parallel to that, an Israeli judge Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit against the Israeli government brought by the family of Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old American student and pro-Palestinian activist who was killed by a military bulldozer in 2003 as she protested the demolition of a house in Gaza whose family she had come to befriend. Upon learning of the suit's dismissal, Corrie's mother, Cindy, said:
"I believe this was a bad day, not only for our family, but for human rights, humanity, the rule of law and also for the country of Israel."
Despite Corrie's wearing a bright orange vest, Judge Oded Gershon, in a 62-page decision, ruled that the bulldozer driver did not see her and her death was thus an accident. He went on to heap blame on Corrie for her own killing, arguing that, contrary to what "any reasonable person would have done", she "chose to put herself in danger" by trying to impede "a military activity meant to prevent terrorist activity".
I figured this would be a longshot at best for her family. Still it is, to say the least, disappointing. The language suggesting that the families she and the organization she was with were defending were in any way, shape, or form terrorists is appalling. There are no words.





Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Syriza shines a light -- radical left organises for power

Like a swan moving moving forward with relaxed confidence while paddling furiously beneath the surface, Syriza, the radical left coalition that could become the next government of Greece, is facing enormous challenges calmly but with intensifed activity.

In the palatial setting of the Greek parliament, Alexis Tsipras, the president of the radical left coalition Syriza’s parliamentary group, opens the first meeting of its 71 new deputies with his characteristic mix of cool and conviviality. At the same time, across Greece, other Syriza activists are organising neighbourhood assemblies, maintaining "solidarity kitchens" and bazaars, working in medical social centres, protecting immigrants against attacks from Golden Dawn, the new fascist party that won 7 per cent of votes in the election, creating new Syriza currents at the base of the trade unions – and kickstarting the transition from a coalition of 12 political organisations (and 1.6 million voters) to a new kind of political party.

In the midst of all this they still find time to cook, dance, debate and organise at a three-day anti-racist festival. This annual festival, now in its 16th year, was founded with 40 organisations to "intercept", in the words of Nicos Giannopolous, one of its driving forces, "the growth of nationalism and racism in the early nineties". In its aims, principles of organisation and the plural culture that it promotes, it symbolises the strength of the internationalist civil society that Syriza has both helped to build and of which it is in good part a product. Now more than 250 organisations and parties are involved in organising the event and more than 30,000 people of every age and ethnic origin pour into the still-public space of Goudi Park in Athens.

A common focus in all this activity is how to turn the electoral support for Syriza into a source of self-organised social power for change, as well as to build on it as the electoral path to government. When, on May 6, Syriza won 17 per cent of the vote in the general election, most activists were stunned. After all, three years ago the alliance had only just scraped past the 3 per cent barrier to parliamentary seats, with 4.7 per cent. By June 17, when the second election saw Syriza’s vote rise to 27 per cent, members had begun seriously to imagine their coalition in government.

h/t

Solitary confinement: Torture chambers for black revolutionaries

Former Warden of United States Penitentiary Marion, the prototype of modern supermax-style solitary confinement, Ralph Arons, has stated: "The purpose of the Marion Control Unit is to control revolutionary attitudes in the prison system and in the society at large."

One of these revolutionaries is Russell "Maroon" Shoats, the founder of the Black Unity Council, which later merged with the Philadelphia chapter of the Black Panther Party. He was first jailed in early 1970.

Hailing from the gang-war-torn streets of West Philadelphia, Shoats escaped twice from prison system, first from Huntingdon state prison in September 1977 and then again in March 1980.

Shoats' escapes - the first of which lasted a full 27 days, despite a massive national search complete with helicopters, dogs and vigilante groups from predominantly white communities surrounding the prison - earned him the nickname "Maroon", in honour of slaves who broke away from plantations in Surinam, Guyana and later Jamaica, Brazil and other colonies and established sovereign communities on the outskirts of the white settler zones.

Still, it was not until Shoats was elected president of the prison-approved Lifers' Organisation in 1982 - the closest thing to a union for inmates, through which they demanded basic rights such as proper visiting hours, access to legal documents and healthier food - that the prison system decided he was a "threat" to administrative stability and placed him in solitary confinement.

For the past 30 years, Maroon has been transferred from one "torture chamber" to another, where his best efforts to interact with his fellow prisoners or resurrect his old study sessions for the younger generation are thwarted at every turn.

In 2006, the US had an incarceration rate for black males that was more than five-and-a-half times greater than that of South Africa at the end of the apartheid era in 1993.

Yet most mainstream authorities on the prison system in the US - such as the eminent scholar Michelle Alexander, whose book The New Jim Crow suggests that the prison system is racially "biased" - do not come close to touching on the phenomenon of political prisoners, let alone on the inmates who take up the cudgels on behalf of their fellow detainees and attempt to carve out niches of justice in a massive chamber of terror.

h/t 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Quotable

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. ~~ Emma Lazarus

RIP Alexander Cockburn

Alexander Cockburn, best known for his regular column at CounterPunch, recently passed away after a two-year struggle with cancer. Although I found some of the positions he took to be rather maddening (his climate change denialism comes most readily to mind), he was a welcome gadfly in an age when we can use all the gadflies we can find.

Friday, June 29, 2012

It's been quite a week

I'm still trying to process everything while in the midst of completing some other projects. Obamacare apparently did not get knocked down by the Supreme Court. Although the ACA was never my ideal means of attaining the goal of universal healthcare (something that the rest of the civilized world takes as a given), it struck me as better than nothing. The status quo prior to 2010 would, if I recall correctly, have led eventually (i.e., sometime this decade) to the big healthcare conglomerates (insurance companies, hospitals, pharma, etc.) demanding a bailout. Basically there was a positive feedback loop that was in place that was unsustainable. Taking insurance for a moment, the companies would raise rates, then lose some of their customers. This would lead them to raise rates again, and lose even more customers. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.  In my more normally cynical moments, I referred to the ACA as a "bailout with benefits." Basically, we're giving these industries a bunch of new customers, and getting something in return in the way of some significant guarantees of access to those services. Given the realities in DC, this was probably the best we were going to get. I'm guardedly more optimistic that the stage has now been set for a more palatable set of reforms down the road than I have ever been, and considerably more optimistic than I would have been had the ACA been struck down this week. Had it been struck down, I am reasonably certain that no leader in their right mind would touch health care reform for another couple decades. We as taxpayers would have still ended up bailing out the health care corporations, and even more millions of human beings would have suffered needlessly. For now, I breathe a sigh of relief. It's a start.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Quotable (political fiction edition)

"The point of historical research is not to dispossess the present, but to disillusion it: to strip away self-serving myth and fatal ignorance, in order to see more clearly how we got here, and what it really cost, and how these costs shape – and distort – our responses to reality. Otherwise, we are blind – easy prey for the abusers of power and their murderous deceptions."
Chris Floyd

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Arguably the one Wisconsin recall postmortem you should read

Check out pink scare's take:
But this entire way of thinking about what happened yesterday misses the mark.

In reality, the vote wasn't a referendum on Scott Walker. Voters weren't asked to simply appraise Walker's policies in the abstract. As always, they were asked to choose between the political lines put forward by Walker and Democrat Tom Barrett. The result, then, has to be evaluated in light of those two choices and what voters took them to represent.

Perceptions aside, what did each candidate actually represent? Those liberals most disturbed by the result tend to almost entirely ignore the politics of the Democrat challenger. They've attacked those who didn't vote for the Democrat as dupes who simply don't understand the nature of their own interests, but they've said almost nothing about whose interests Barrett stood up for. Of course, liberals are quite right to say that the interests of the vast majority of Wisconsin's 99% do not align with the politics of union-busting and austerity pedaled by Walker and the Republicans. But what they don't acknowledge is that their interests didn't align with the Democrats either.

As Socialist Worker noted recently, Barrett and the Democrats conceded to Walker on every single issue that brought people out onto the streets of Madison in the first place:

During the Senate recall races last summer, Democrats quietly dropped restoring collective bargaining and union rights from their campaign speeches
In this spring's primary to choose a candidate against Walker, other Democrats attacked Falk, a former Dane County Executive and the labor leadership's favored candidate, as being in the pocket of unions.
In an op-ed supporting Barrett, former Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz jabbed at Falk: "A candidate beholden to big unions is no more appealing to independent voters than one who answers to the Koch brothers."
During a debate with Walker, Barrett made a point to mention that he was not labor's candidate. Rather than put up a defense of unions, the Democrats have treated them as supporters of "special interests" and an embarrassment.
Barrett has ceded further ground to Walker on austerity. Walker's rationale for budget cuts has been a familiar one: the state is out of money and needs to control its expenses. Yet despite the fact that Wisconsin's corporations are taxed at a rate below the national average--and that the current tax burden is primarily on Wisconsin's middle class rather than the rich--Barrett made no attempt to challenge Walker's claims.
Instead, Barrett emphasized that he won't increase taxes on corporations and the wealthy. He told a Milwaukee radio station, "It is certainly my hope that by the end of my first term, at the end of my second term, and at the end of my third term that Wisconsin will take in less tax revenues from its citizens and businesses each year."
While Barrett says he will reverse corporate tax cuts that Walker passed in January 2011, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that "he doesn't want to raise taxes beyond the levels they were at when Walker took office." This means that while Barrett could shift some priorities around, he wouldn't be able to restore most of Walker's cuts, including $1.25 billion taken from education and $500 million from Medicare.
Now, I was out on the streets of Madison when the uprising was white hot. I was joined by hundreds of thousands of other people who chanted, "How to fix the deficit? Tax, tax, tax the rich!" and "They say cut back, we say fight back!". I saw thousands of people who had no direct personal connection to public sector workers stand up and defend their sisters and brothers who were under attack.

If you'd have said that unions were a "special interest group" on par with corporations you would have been booed. If you'd have said that taxing the corporations is wrong and cuts to social services are necessary, you would have been mocked.

But, as we've seen, these were precisely the positions taken by Democrats in the recall campaign.  
We are so very much in need of our own equivalent to Syriza here in the US.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Slavoj Žižek · Save us from the saviours

I've been meaning to post this excerpt by Žižek for a while, but got a bit sidetracked:

The prophets of doom are right, but not in the way they intend. Critics of our current democratic arrangements complain that elections don’t offer a true choice: what we get instead is the choice between a centre-right and a centre-left party whose programmes are almost indistinguishable. On 17 June, there will be a real choice: the establishment (New Democracy and Pasok) on one side, Syriza on the other. And, as is usually the case when a real choice is on offer, the establishment is in a panic: chaos, poverty and violence will follow, they say, if the wrong choice is made. The mere possibility of a Syriza victory is said to have sent ripples of fear through global markets. Ideological prosopopoeia has its day: markets talk as if they were persons, expressing their ‘worry’ at what will happen if the elections fail to produce a government with a mandate to persist with the EU-IMF programme of fiscal austerity and structural reform. The citizens of Greece have no time to worry about these prospects: they have enough to worry about in their everyday lives, which are becoming miserable to a degree unseen in Europe for decades.

Such predictions are self-fulfilling, causing panic and thus bringing about the very eventualities they warn against. If Syriza wins, the European establishment will hope that we learn the hard way what happens when an attempt is made to interrupt the vicious cycle of mutual complicity between Brussels’s technocracy and anti-immigrant populism. This is why Alexis Tsipras, Syriza’s leader, made clear in a recent interview that his first priority, should Syriza win, will be to counteract panic: ‘People will conquer fear. They will not succumb; they will not be blackmailed.’ Syriza have an almost impossible task. Theirs is not the voice of extreme left ‘madness’, but of reason speaking out against the madness of market ideology. In their readiness to take over, they have banished the left’s fear of taking power; they have the courage to clear up the mess created by others. They will need to exercise a formidable combination of principle and pragmatism, of democratic commitment and a readiness to act quickly and decisively where needed. If they are to have even a minimal chance of success, they will need an all-European display of solidarity: not only decent treatment on the part of every other European country, but also more creative ideas, like the promotion of solidarity tourism this summer.

via

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Stay classy, Dan Riehl

About a couple years ago, I made a brief post about Dan Riehl's sexism, aimed at a Republican Senator whom he disliked because she was insufficiently right-wing. Although I have few kind things to say about Sen. Murkowski's politics, I would certainly advise against referring to her as a bitch, or any other demeaning label.

Suffice it to say, he seems to exhibit a pervasive pattern of behavior that quite frankly anyone with more than a functioning brainstem should find abhorrent. Various bloggers at LGF have been documenting Riehl's latest handiwork. If one gets the impression from reading through the various tweets and posts that Riehl and his buddies are a bunch of creepers, one is largely correct.

I know that a lot of right-wing bloggers were making a big deal about Hustler mogul Larry Flynt's  rather disgusting parody photo of S. E. Cupp. A couple observations. One: there is a double-standard at work, in which the same right-wingers who would have no problems at all objectifying women whom they identify as "leftist" (which usually is a catchall for anyone who is moderately reformist) get bent out of shape when one of their own tribe is objectified. Two: I see a lot of attempts at false equivalence at work. The logic is that Larry Flynt's latest atrocity is evidence that "the left" is just as bad in their treatment of women as "the right". Never mind that I have yet to meet either an anticapitalist leftist or a moderate to liberal reformist who approved of Flynt or his magazine, Hustler, or have considered him one of their own. Flynt is a capitalist who is in the business of playing on the basest sexist impulses of our society in order to make a profit. Riehl is a blogger who buys into the base sexism of our society and exploits it in order to get more hits for his blog. Both are symptomatic of a bigger problem - namely our own society's profound fear of and hostility toward women, and one in which there is not only a great deal of individual sexism, but sexism built into the very structures of our society.

As someone else has already said:
Where conservatives look at the Hustler “parody” as indicative of liberal contempt for conservative women, feminists see a larger problem about how women are treated that affects everything from health insurance to how much you take home on your paycheck. To have condemned Limbaugh for his sexism in the same unconditional manner would have been a distraction, because the real problem isn’t sexism, it’s liberals. For feminists, sexism is the problem, period.
Precisely. Sexism is the problem, period.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Global May Manifesto

It's up via The Guardian. Since I am reasonably sure they would want the message spread far and wide, I am reproducing it in full:
We are living in a world controlled by forces incapable of giving freedom and dignity to the world's population. A world where we are told "there is no alternative" to the loss of rights gained through the long, hard struggles of our ancestors, and where success is defined in opposition to the most fundamental values of humanity, such as solidarity and mutual support. Moreover, anything that does not promote competitiveness, selfishness and greed is seen as dysfunctional.

But we have not remained silent! From Tunisia to Tahrir Square, Madrid to Reykjavik, New York to Brussels, people are rising up to denounce the status quo. Our effort states "enough!", and has begun to push changes forward, worldwide.

This is why we are uniting once again to make our voices heard all over the world this 12 May.

We condemn the current distribution of economic resources whereby only a tiny minority escape poverty and insecurity, and future generations are condemned to a poisoned legacy thanks to the environmental crimes of the rich and powerful. "Democratic" political systems, where they exist, have been emptied of meaning, put to the service of those few interested in increasing the power of corporations and financial institutions.

The current crisis is not a natural accident; it was caused by the greed of those who would bring the world down, with the help of an economics that is no longer about management of the common good, but has become an ideology at the service of financial power.

We have awakened, and not just to complain! We aim to pinpoint the true causes of the crisis, and to propose alternatives.

The statement below does not speak on behalf of everyone in the global spring/Occupy/Take the Square movements. It is an attempt by some inside the movements to reconcile statements written and endorsed in the different assemblies around the world. The process of writing the statement was consensus-based, open to all, and regularly announced on our international communications platforms. It was a hard and long process, full of compromises; this statement is offered to people's assemblies around the world for discussions, revisions and endorsements. It is a work in progress.

We do not make demands from governments, corporations or parliament members, which some of us see as illegitimate, unaccountable or corrupt. We speak to the people of the world, both inside and outside our movements.

We want another world, and such a world is possible:

1. The economy must be put to the service of people's welfare, and to support and serve the environment, not private profit. We want a system where labour is appreciated by its social utility, not its financial or commercial profit. Therefore, we demand:

• Free and universal access to health, education from primary school through higher education and housing for all human beings. We reject outright the privatisation of public services management, and the use of these essential services for private profit.

• Full respect for children's rights, including free childcare for everyone.

• Retirement/pension so we may have dignity at all ages. Mandatory universal sick leave and holiday pay.
• Every human being should have access to an adequate income for their livelihood, so we ask for work or, alternatively, universal basic income guarantee.

• Corporations should be held accountable to their actions. For example, corporate subsidies and tax cuts should be done away with if said company outsources jobs to decrease salaries, violates the environment or the rights of workers.

• Apart from bread, we want roses. Everyone has the right to enjoy culture, participate in a creative and enriching leisure at the service of the progress of humankind. Therefore, we demand the progressive reduction of working hours, without reducing income.

• Food sovereignty through sustainable farming should be promoted as an instrument of food security for the benefit of all. This should include an indefinite moratorium on the production and marketing of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and immediate reduction of agrochemicals use.

• We demand policies that function under the understanding that our changing patterns of life should be organic/ecologic or should never be. These policies should be based on a simple rule: one should not spoil the balance of ecosystems for simple profit. Violations of this policy should be prosecuted around the world as an environmental crime, with severe sanctions for those convicted.

• Policies to promote the change from fossil fuels to renewable energy, through massive investment which should help to change the production model.

• We demand the creation of international environmental standards, mandatory for countries, companies, corporations, and individuals. Ecocide (wilful damage to the environment, ecosystems, biodiversity) should be internationally recognised as a crime of the greatest magnitude.

2. To achieve these objectives, we believe that the economy should be run democratically at all levels, from local to global. People must get democratic control over financial institutions, transnational corporations and their lobbies. To this end, we demand:

• Control and regulation of financial speculation by abolishing tax havens, and establishing a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT). As long as they exist, the IMF, World Bank and the Basel Committee on Banking Regulation must be radically democratised. Their duty from now on should be fostering economic development based on democratic decision making. Rich governments cannot have more votes because they are rich. International institutions must be controlled by the principle that each human is equal to all other humans – African, Argentinian or American; Greek or German.

• As long as they exist, radical reform and democratisation of the global trading system and the World Trade Organization must take place. Commercialisation of life and resources, as well as wage and trade dumping between countries must stop.

• We want democratic control of the global commons, defined as the natural resources and economic institutions essential for a proper economic management. These commons are: water, energy, air, telecommunications and a fair and stable economic system. In all these cases, decisions must be accountable to citizens and ensure their interests, not the interests of a small minority of financial elite.

• As long as social inequalities exist, taxation at all levels should maintain the principle of solidarity. Those who have more should contribute to maintain services for the collective welfare. Maximum income should be limited, and minimum income set to reduce the outrageous social divisions in our societies and its social political and economic effects.

• No more money to rescue banks. As long as debt exists, following the examples of Ecuador and Iceland, we demand a social audit of the debts owed by countries. Illegitimate debt owed to financial institutions should not be paid.

• An absolute end to fiscal austerity policies that only benefit a minority, and cause great suffering to the majority.

• As long as banks exist, separation of commercial and financial banks, avoiding banks that are "too big to fail".

• An end to the legal personhood of corporations. Companies cannot be elevated to the same level of rights as people. The public's right to protect workers, citizens and the environment should prevail over the protections of private property or investment.

3. We believe that political systems must be fully democratic. We therefore demand full democratisation of international institutions, and the elimination of the veto power of a few governments. We want a political system which really represent the variety and diversity of our societies:

• All decisions affecting all mankind should be taken in democratic forums like a participatory and direct UN parliamentary assembly or a UN people's assembly, not rich clubs such as G20 or G8.

• At all levels we ask for the development of a democracy that is as participatory as possible, including non representative direct democracy .

• As long as they are practised, electoral systems should be as fair and representative as possible, avoiding biases that distort the principle of proportionality.

• We call for the democratisation of access and management of media. These should serve to educate the public, as opposed to the creation of an artificial consensus about unjust policies.

• We ask for democracy in companies and corporations. Workers, despite wage level or gender, should have real decision-making power in the companies and corporations they work in. We want to promote co-operative companies and corporations, as real democratic economic institutions.

• Zero tolerance of corruption in economic policy. We must stop the excessive influence of big business in politics, which is today a major threat to true democracy.

• We demand complete freedom of expression, assembly and demonstration, as well as the cessation of attempts to censor the internet.

• We demand respect for privacy rights on and off the internet. Companies and the government should not engage in data mining.

• We believe that military spending is politically counterproductive to a society's advance, so we demand its reduction to a minimum.

• Ethnic, cultural and sexual minorities should have their civil, cultural, political and economic rights fully recognised.

• Some of us believe a new Universal Declaration of Human Rights, fit for the 21st century, written in a participatory, direct and democratic way, needs to be written. As long as the current Declaration of Human Rights defines our rights, it must be enforced in relation to all – in both rich and poor countries. Implementing institutions that force compliance and penalise violators need to be established, such as a global court to prosecute social, economic and environmental crimes perpetrated by governments, corporations and individuals. At all levels, local, national, regional and global, new constitutions for political institutions need to be considered, as in Iceland or in some Latin American countries. Justice and law must work for all, otherwise justice is not justice, and law is not law.

This is a worldwide global spring. We will be there and we will fight until we win. We will not stop being people. We are not numbers. We are free women and men.

For a global spring!

For global democracy and social justice!

Take to the streets in May 2012!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Say hello to

AntiCapitalists...which is now up and running. While you're at it, make sure to read the latest from Pham Binh.

And yes, I am just about to emerge from hiatus. As i mentioned before, I have no shortage of things to say. I merely had a shortage of hours in a day. Hopefully I can soon weigh in on developments in Europe, Eric Hobsbawm's most recent book (last year's How to Change the World, which I had completed reading last December), among other things. Give me a few days to regain my bearings.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Day

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

It would seem I am on hiatus

I'm not so much at a loss for words as I am lacking in hours in a day. I should be posting fresh content on a more regular basis in a few weeks once I clear my desk a bit. If a few spare moments are available, I'll add my two cents on a few items of interest to me. Otherwise, check back early next month.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Murdered by capitalism

Note found on Syntagma suicide victim:
Dimitris Christoulas, the man who took his own life using a pistol on Syntagma Square, in central Athens, on Wednesday morning, left a suicide note, state media has reported.

"The Tsolakoglou government has annihilated all traces for my survival, which was based on a very dignified pension that I alone paid for 35 years with no help from the state. And since my advanced age does not allow me a way of dynamically reacting (although if a fellow Greek were to grab a Kalashnikov, I would be right behind him), I see no other solution than this dignified end to my life, so I don’t find myself fishing through garbage cans for my sustenance. I believe that young people with no future, will one day take up arms and hang the traitors of this country at Syntagma square, just like the Italians did to Mussolini in 1945" the note said.

Georgios Tsolakoglou was the first collaborationist prime minister during Germany's occupation of Greece during the Second World War.

The reference has been widely interpreted as a comparison between the wartime collaborationist government and the current government of Lucas Papademos.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

RIP Adrienne Rich

When we do and think and feel certain things privately and in secret, even when thousands of people are doing, thinking, whispering these things privately and in secret, there is still no general, collective understanding from which to move. Each takes her or his own risks in isolation. We may think of ourselves as individual rebels, and individual rebels can easily be shot down. The relationship among so many feelings remains unclear. But these thoughts and feelings, suppressed and stored-up and whispered, have an incendiary component. You cannot tell how they will connect, spreading underground from rootlet to rootlet till every grass blade is afire from every other. This is that "spontaneity" that party "leaders," secret governments, and closed systems dread.
Adrienne Rich passed away at the age of 82. The quote above comes from First World, Ha Ha Ha! The Zapatista Challenge, edited by Elaine Katzenberger.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Quotable

Some people are old at 18 and some are young at 90. Time is a concept that humans created.
Yoko Ono (1977)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Quotable

“Where ideas are concerned, America can be counted on to do one of two things: take a good idea and run it completely into the ground, or take a bad idea and run it completely into the ground.”
—George Carlin

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Of all the stupid....

Look, as a leftist, I'm no fan of Obama's politics. I'm all in favor of criticizing his policies, his ideology, and his followers. However, I'm with LGM on one thing: trying to turn the readings Obama assigned to students for a course he taught into a scandal is just plain dumb.

Now maybe things have changed since I was a student way back in the day, but here's the way college courses work. On the first day of class you get a syllabus, which has all sorts of info about the course that most of us students find boring and would have preferred to ignore. Among other things, you get info about what the required readings are for the course. There may also be a list of suggested readings. You go to the bookstore, purchase the requisite book or books for the course, and go on your merry way. If you value your GPA, you start reading and make sure to show up for class. Otherwise, you let the books collect dust while you focus on perfecting your mad beer pong skills.

It should come as no surprise that when I took a Comparative Religions course, I and my classmates were assigned a set of selections from numerous major world religious scriptures, including the Qur'an. The course on Political Philosophy included numerous books, such as Plato's Republic, Hobbes' Leviathan, and Marx and Engels' The German Ideology. The text assigned for the Philosophy of Feminism I took toward the end of my college career covered a variety of major feminist philosophical perspectives. The course called Oriental Philosophy (which primarily focused on Chinese philosophies) included a very brief treatment of Mao. If one were to take a course on Marx and Marxism, one can readily imagine reading Das Kapital at bare minimum. Typically the reading lists were very obvious. It would have been impossible to imagine the course functioning without those particular readings. They were, after all, the classics. Even when the readings didn't seem immediately obviously relevant, their relevance would often be revealed as a semester progressed. I took a course on Existentialism where we read some selections from the work of Ryle and Wittgenstein - neither of whom would ever be mistaken for existentialists, but were necessary to read if we were to follow how that particular professor approached the work of, say, Jean-Paul Sartre. Any student with a modicum of intelligence would understand that there is a vast difference between a professor assigning a particular author's work for a course and actually endorsing the perspective that author took on a particular topic. In my Political Philosophy class, the prof certainly covered Marx and Engels because of the importance of their work, but it was always pretty obvious to me that he really had no use for either Marx or Marxism. I'm sure I could go on. The point of a four-year college education is to be exposed to a variety of thinkers and in the process learn how to critically evaluate what one is reading and hearing. In the case of a graduate or professional level course, like the sort that Obama was teaching, the point is to learn the information needed to be an effective scholar or professional practitioner within one's chosen specialty.

If one really wants to be indoctrinated, I'd strongly suggest going to a private religious school, or simply watch and listen to the inane ramblings of political and religious extremists who assure their audiences that they have ALL the answers.

George Carlin sez

Click the pic to see it in its original size.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Help needed

Not for me, but for Arthur Silber. In a fair and just universe, Arthur would have a lucrative book deal and we'd be reading his latest best-seller, or catching his latest interview on a talk show. Instead, he barely scrapes by. I will contend that there are very few bloggers (or columnists for that matter) who write consistently thought-provoking essays - the sorts of words that defy the reader to challenge and rethink deeply-held assumptions. I for one sleep better knowing he's around, turning our empire's sacred cows to hamburger. I know a few of my five readers are familiar with Arthur's work. If you have some change to spare, send some his way. Thanks.