Thursday, November 29, 2007
Under the new amendments added to the constitution, sexual orientation will be added to the categories protected under human rights.
The amendments will also make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, age and health condition.
The strike comes even after the Vietnamese government boosted the minimum wage for workers in foreign-owned companies by 25% in 2006.
According to the BBC, the average worker in the plant makes about 20% more than the minimum wage, but rising prices have cut into the value of take home pay.
The Vietnamese plans to raise the minimum wage another 12% in 2008.
Wow imagine if our government raised the minimum wage as needed instead of every ten years. Also, imagine if our government sided with workers, or at least remained neutral instead of siding with the companies as under the Bush administration.
Reviewed by Thomas Riggins
This is an important work and the editor's blog is a good place to discuss it as a preliminary to a review article for PA. Over the next few weeks I will be making entries one chapter at a time (there are sixteen). Comments are invited, especially from anyone who has read the book and wants to critique my take on a chapter, but anyone is welcome to comment.
Short's epilog is a mixed bag. It was written around eight years ago in 1998 or 1999 so some his ideas about "capitalism" in China may be dated. But to the point.
About a month after Mao's death Hua Guofeng arranged to have the Gang of Four arrested and removed from power. Within two years Deng had been both rehabilitated and had ousted Hua from power.
Short says Mao was correct in his view of Deng Xiaoping. Deng "was a 'capitalist-roader all along -- and the moment he was in a position to do so, he began dismantling the socialist system Mao had built and putting a bourgeois dictatorship in its place. There was indeed a bourgeois class within the Communist Party and the country did indeed 'change its political colour.'
The problem with this assessment is that at the time of Mao's death and Deng's rise to power, there was no bourgeoisie in China capable of coming to power. Neither Deng nor any other CPC leaders or functionaries owned the means of production in China-- which were basically state owned or owned by communes. In terms of a Marxist understanding a bourgeois dictatorship in China would have been impossible. Even today, while a bourgeois class has come to exist in China, it is far from having control of the state apparatus.
Deng and the CPC embarked on a program to modernize China simply because the anarchy of he Cultural Revolution (and the general backwardness of the country) had left the economy in shambles. Socialism requires an advanced modern economy to have any chance of ultimate success. The CPC under Deng made a quite orthodox decision to open up China and use the market (ultimately controlled and directed by the state) to overcome feudal backwardness. This was a process initiated by Mao himself when he invited Nixon to visit.
In 1981 the CPC rendered a verdict on Mao's role. It was the same verdict he himself had rendered on Stalin-- i.e., he was 70% correct and 30% wrong in what he had done. Short spends a lot of time going over the question of how many people died as a result of Mao's policies. The numbers who died under Hitler, Stalin, and Mao are compared.
These numbers are all contentious and ultimately meaningless and unverifiable. Great historical transformations are not the result of this or that individual. Revolutions and wars are like hurricanes and earthquakes. They break out as a result of forces and pressures that build up over time and are ultimately independent of the human will. Is Lincoln responsible for all the deaths of the Civil War? Is President Johnson, this one foolish individual, the cause of all the deaths from the Vietnam War?
Neither Stalin, Mao nor Hitler ever personally killed anyone.[It is actually obscene to compare Hitler with Mao or Stalin]. Would their policies have been possible without the mindset of the people who followed their leadership and shared their values: a mindset created by the previous history of Russia, China and Germany and the development of capitalism and imperialism. Is Adam Smith responsible for all the deaths due to the transformations brought about by the wars over markets and resources waged by the invisible hand?
These two sentences from Short point up the confusions. Mao's "rule brought about the deaths of more of his own people than any other leader in history." "The overwhelming majority of those whom Mao's policies killed were unintended casualties of famine." The fact they were unintended, Short says, "puts him in a different category from other twentieth-century tyrants."
Individual leaders must of course accept responsibility for their actions. But the contexts that they are forced to confront cannot be ignored. That is why when all is said and done, Short is correct to conclude that, "A final
verdict on Mao's place in the annals of his country's past is still a very long way off."
This view is the view of most of the Chinese themselves. It is echoed in the special issue of Beijing Review of October 5, 2006 on the 30th anniversary of Mao's death ["Mao Today: How does his legacy still influence China?"]
His legacy is really "in flux." One article tells us how "the little red book" is used by the new Chinese capitalists for inspiration! One was able to get market share from foreign capitalists "by adopting Mao's military tactic of 'using the countryside to encircle cities.'" It seems many Chinese companies urge their workers to study Mao for his "spirit of rebellion" and innovative thought. This information comes from a section entitled "Mao as business guru." If US corporations want to remain competitive, I suggest their CEO's start reading Mao at once!
Elsewhere the article says the poor read him because they want to regain the social benefits lost in recent years. A university professor is quoted: "Mao is still the most popular among the farmers, many of whom face growing hardship 'Through holding memorial activities for Mao, the farmers hope the gap between urban and rural areas will narrow.'" Mao as a god!
I will conclude with a quote from Gao Hua of Nanjing University: "Mao's phenomenon is the outcome of China in a transitional period, from an imperial country to a republic . At the turn of the new century, China is facing new challenges , which requires new thinking and new systems. So all the reflections on Mao should be future-oriented."
By Joe Sims
A prominent item in the news this morning is
At stake is the issue of term limits for the country’s president, the current constitution allowing for only two terms. Those is the US who might see this as a drift toward undemocratic rule might remember that only after the long reign of FDR did the US adopt term limits for the presidency. Are term limits universally a good thing? It depends. Each country is different and should determine its own policy on the matter without outside interference. Readers should take note that a senior
In the case of
Venezuela’s experiment then should be settled on its own term in keeping with the dynamics of its own revolutionary process, one in which the leadership is relatively new, and the party political institutions still forming. In this regard, as an outside observer looking in, it seems caustic “either-or” comments may not be helpful. For example, when
However that said, it’s the issue for
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Newspaper headlines can be so misleading. One I saw this morning really got my goat. It read, “Blacks Prefer Hillary”. The article however, told a completely different story, namely that Obama enjoyed great support from African Americans, but feared he was unelectable because of racism. Senator Clinton on the other hand was seen as the most electable of the Democratic candidates. Widespread apprehension and cynicism about racism was therefore turned into a “preference” for the Democrat's now favored candidate, a telltale twist indeed.
The findings published in an article in a St. Louis on-line rag, were based on a poll taken by the Joint Center for Political Studies. Noted Black scholar Ron Walters, commenting on the findings stressed the importance of the upcoming Iowa vote. According to Walters, Iowa was a “must win,” for Obama. African Americans, in his view, will draw long-term conclusions about the viability of the Illinois senator’s campaign. If the numbers hold up, and Obama maintains his lead, Blacks will see this as providing great heft to the campaign. Objectively it would be a great blow against racial intolerance. Black support bolstered by such a victory would then view Obama as a winning alternative, as opposed to an insurgent protest vote. Should this happen, all bets might be off. Watch out, South Carolina!
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
The Women's Section of the ANC on Monday gave the nod to Jacob Zuma as their preferred candidate for president of South Africa's leading political party. In yesterday's blog on the subject, it was suggested that their preference might be current ANC president, Thabo Mbeki. Zuma now has the lead in 6 provinces as compared to Mbeki's four. The choice of Zuma by the Women's League is surprising both because of their recent resolution calling for a female candidate and also lingering doubts about a rape charge that the ANC deputy president was acquitted of last year.
South African news reports indicate that Mbeki has said he is still very much in the race, notwithstanding provincial meetings over the weekend and the choice of the Women's League. Clearly a dramatic new chapter in South African politics is opening.
"GREECE : STRIKES AGAINST PENSION CHANGE BEGIN" so begins a World Briefing entry by Anthee Carassava in today's New York Times International section (11/27/07).
The capitalist neoliberal assault on worker's rights in the EU is not confined to France. There is a general trend, since the fall of the USSR and the Eastern European worker's states, to roll back the gains of the European working class since the end of WW2.
The reasons are the same in Greece as in France. "Striking teachers marched through Athens streets, part of a planned wave of strikes against what unions describe as government plans to raise retirement ages and cut benefits to millions of future retirees."
It's not just the teachers. The journalists union was supposed to go on strike today for 24 hours, and a GENERAL STRIKE [why don't we have those here?] is "scheduled for Dec. 12."
In the same World Briefing, the AP reports that doctors in Italy have walked off the job across the country. "Unions representing 135,000 medical workers called the walkout to protest stalled negotiations over contracts."
More strikes are planned by other unions, AP reports. A "series of strikes on Friday... are expected to idle many trains, ferries and planes, as well as buses and subway trains."
The most effective fight back would be an EU wide coordinated GENERAL STRIKE committee as more attacks on the workers in other EU countries are being planned by the corporations and capitalist elites and their governments.
These comments are based on Adam Tooze's review of the Davies book [Europe at War] in the TLS of 11-16-2007. Tooze has a low opinion of both the book and of Davies' scholarship. This is why.
Davies has a right wing revisionist view of the history of WW2 and uses his book as the basis for an attack on the USSR wherein he argues for the moral equivalency of the USSR and Nazi Germany. "The war in Europe was dominated by two evil monsters, not by one. Each of the monsters consumed the best people in its territory before embarking on a fight to the death for supremacy."
Tooze says Davies' "unrelenting revisionism" needs "a disciplined presentation of reasoning and evidence." Davies book fails this test. Some of the statistics and casualty figures he uses, especially concerning loss of life caused by the allies in the air war, to bolster his arguments are BOGUS. He mentions a nonexistent air raid on Berlin, for example and cites some figures "preferred only by propagandists of the extreme right."
Tooze says it "is hard to take seriously" some of Davies' assertions. It appears that Tooze rejects "moral equivalence" but points out that Davies' is really beating a dead horse. The consensus of Western historians for the last generation is that "Stalin's Soviet Union was an oppressive regime of extreme brutality."
A second major point Davies wants to make is that the Eastern Front was more important than the Western. This too has been settled for a long time. It "was Stalin's forces," Tooze writes, "that played the main part in the battlefield defeat of Hitler's Wehrmacht."
Davies book is also notable for "imprecision about sources and methods." In general, "Davies fails to make good on his polemical intent." But Davies does put forth some information that Western readers in general are probably unaware of. We tend to think that D Day was the greatest military operation of WW2. But D Day was not as important as Operation Bagration on the Eastern Front. Launched by the Soviet Union on 6-22-1944, "This assault," Tooze points out, "which resulted in the destruction of an entire German army group in a matter of weeks, is widely regarded as the single most dramatic operation conducted by any Allied army in the entire war."
However, since the Red Army can do no good, Davies attributes the victory of Operation Bagration mostly to Lend Lease and Soviet numbers, "the familiar excuse of the Wehrmark."
For those of us who have read Michael Parenti's work on the exaggerated numbers of people killed by Stalin [Blackshirts & Reds: Rational Fascism and the Overthrow of Communism, City Lights Books, San Francisco, 1997], Davies bogus numbers will be all too familiar, especially his use of "Robert Conquest's discredited numbers for the famine of the 1930s...." In any event, Davies' attempt to find a "moral equivalence" between the Nazis and the Soviets doesn't hold water and is just an example of right wing JUNK HISTORY being passed off as scholarship. Tooze is no friend of Stalin, but he concludes we can't really understand the complexities of WW2 and the Eastern Front "if we adopt Davies 's moralistic lens."
You can read more about Norman Davies in Wikipedia, from which this tidbit comes: "Davies’ historical treatment of the Holocaust was cited as a factor in a controversy at Stanford University in which Davies was denied a tenured faculty position for alleged 'scientific flaws'." Stanford!
Monday, November 26, 2007
It appears the nominations process in the race for the next president of South Africa’s African National Congress has produced a veritable dead heat, with Jacob Zuma securing a slight lead. According to press reports, Zuma has been nominated in five provinces and Mbeki four. A News/24 story reads:
“Zuma now leads the nominations race, with five provinces supporting him to Mbeki's four. In KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma got 580 votes, Mbeki nine. In Gauteng, Zuma walked away with 263 votes, Mbeki 94. Nationally, Zuma received a total of 2 270 votes and Mbeki, 1 396. Zuma also garnered support from Mpumalanga, the Free State and the Northern Cape. The ANC Youth League gave him their backing last week. Mbeki won nominations in the Eastern and Western Cape, Limpopo and the North West.”
Officers for the ANC are nominated at local branch meetings and confirmed by provincial conferences. Delegates then go to the national convention pledged to a particular candidate. However, it seems that just as in US party conventions, ‘pledges” are not iron-clad and anything could happen. The ANC Women’s League is supposed to nominate its candidate today and it is widely expected Thabo Mbeki will be their candidate (the women’s and youth league’s are considered “provinces” for the purpose of national conventions). The two candidates will then have five provinces each.
Should Zuma win the presidency of the ANC and later become the standard bearer in the 2009 election it is likely that the current policies of the country will not change significantly. On the other hand, new political processes will surely be set in motion by the election. Before any of this happens however, the Limpopo province ANC Congresses must first have its say. It will begin on December 16th and will be covered by this reporter for the PWW and PA. Stay tuned.
comic relief qualities. The Republican party, faced with a "shortfall"
in campaign contributions for the 2008 congressional elections, is
actively recruiting very wealthy people who will be able to finance
their own campaigns. Now this is a reverse of the traditional practice,
namely, very wealthy people interviewing politicians like Richard Nixon
in 1946 and Ronald Reagan in 1965 and getting them to run for public
office with promises to finance their campaigns. It is also a bit of a
throwback to late 19th century early 20th century congressional
politics, when progressive journalists, both denounced and praised as
"muckrakers," called the U.S. Senate a "Millionaires Club" and some
Robber Baron types sought political office as a better way to protect
their investments and eliminate the middle man politicians whom they had
But as Marxists, we and our readers can take a few serious points from
this. Both political parties represent or have as their "investors"the
capitalist ruling classes, the Republicans for generations its most
reactionary, anti-labor, and openly chauvinist sectors. Given the
disasters that have characterized the Bush administration, investing in
the Republicans in 2008 means investing in policies which have weakened
the U.S. economy, not only in regard to working peoples living
standards, but also in terms of the value of the U.S. dollar, U.S.
power in the IMF, the escalating U.S. trade deficit and U.S. capital's
loss of domestic and foreign markets to competitors(something that the
development of multi-national capital doesn't wholly eliminate) and
most of all public acceptance of the administration's policies.
Investing in the Republicans in 2008 is bad for business, so bad, the
the GOP's usually large financial edge(it has been the "first party" of
industrial/finance capital in terms of active support in the U.S. since
at least the 1880s) may evaporate entirely as the Democratic market(at
least as represented by Democratic Leadership Council Democrats) becomes
a safer investment.
Of course, if there were strict and serious restrictions on the use of
money in campaigns along with public funding of campaigns and media
access for minoritiy parties and candidates(along with a system of
proportional representation rather than our winner take all vote for the
lesser evil and hope for the best system) we would be living in a de
facto democracy and none of these issues would be relevant. Then we
might even be able to judge a Republican Millionaire on his or her merits!
read more | digg story
Reviewed by Thomas Riggins
This is an important work and the editor's blog is a good place to discuss it as a preliminary to a review article for PA. Over the next few weeks I will be making entries one chapter at a time (there are sixteen). Comments are invited, especially from anyone who has read the book and wants to critique my take on a chapter, but anyone is welcome to comment.
CHAPTER 16 "Things Fall Apart"
We are now coming to the end game. The minor pieces have been swept from the board and the major pieces remain be to carefully paced around the King. After the Ninth Congress (1969), Short tells us, that in the PB there were two antagonistic players with about equal support-- namely Lin Biao and Jiang Qing.
They had basically the same politics, so their struggle was over raw power, "to win the Chairman's favour." Mao thought he could control the situation, but, as Short will explain, the rivalry between Lin and Jiang "would blow apart all Mao's carefully laid plans to ensure that his policies survived him."
Short now tells us how Lin Biao fell from power. After Liu Shaoqi was removed from the scene there was no one who was "Head of State. "Lin tried to get Mao to take that post. Mao got it into his head that Lin was trying "to kick him upstairs" into a ceremonial post and trying to take the actual ruling of China himself.
In August 1970 at a CC plenum, Lin gave a speech praising Mao as a "genius." The next day Chen Boda, an ally of Lin, attacked Zhang Chunqiao, an ally of Jiang Qing for being covertly against "Mao Zedung Thought." Chen then proposed Mao for Head of State with Lin as deputy Head of State.
This however backfired, as Mao considered Zhang as one of his allies, not simply the ally of his wife. He denounced Chen (who was soon purged) and definitely refused to become "Head of State." In fact the post was abolished. "In formal terms," Short writes, "Lin himself emerged unscathed." But, Short says, he made a big mistake not to have "made a groveling self-criticism" to Mao about how his allies, led by Chen, could have acted the way they did.
Mao became suspicious of Lin and decided to reduce some of his power as Defense Minister. By August of 1971 Mao was ready to act. He took a special train to Wuhan and stopped along the way to talk to political and military leaders about the Chen Boda affair of the previous year. He suggested that Lin Biao was also partially responsible for the factional fight
Chen had tried to start.
Word of these meetings got back to Lin and his followers in September. Lin's son Lin Liguo was active in convincing his father that they should flee to the Soviet Union before he ended up like Liu Shaoqi! So Lin and some of his family fled in a military aircraft which was only partially fueled!
The flight was reported to Mao but he ordered the air force to do nothing. "The skies will rain;" he said, "widows will remarry; these things are unstoppable. Let them go."
They got as far as Mongolia before the fuel ran out, then the plane crashed and everyone was killed, Lin, his son and wife, his driver and another five people. Sic transit.
Short is a little hard on Mao in the aftermath of all this. He tries to read Mao's mind, a risky procedure for any biographer. All we know is that Mao became very depressed and was bed ridden for two months "with high blood pressure and a lung infection." Short says this was "psychosomatic." and he was really just unable to handle the fact that Lin and fled instead making obeisance to him. Short himself, later makes remarks that indicate that Mao's illness was far from self induced. He says for instance that Mao was suffering from "congestive heart failure" and a few months later when he passed out it was due to his still infected lungs. Neither of these are "psychosomatic."
Mao was, however, in a funk. First Liu and now Lin. It seemed to be bad news for anyone Mao chose to succeed him. Throughout the Party and in the country, except for zealous Red Guard youth, Short says the fall of Lin produced a "general cynicism." What changed the situation was the announcement that President Nixon was going to visit China-- this "after" as Short says, "twenty years of unblinking hostility."
I'm not going to go over all the backdoor dealings that led up to this meeting. It began, as some of you might remember, with Ping Pong Diplomacy, when a US Ping Pong team was invited to China (a thaw) and culminated with Nixon's trip in February 1972.
The trip resulted in two major changes in the world configuration of forces. It signaled that China had come of age as a world power and was going to be integrated into the world system (it eventually replaced Taiwan on the UN Security Council, veto and all) and it meant the end of Mao's phantasy that China would be a beacon unto the nations as the new world revolutionary center.
Nixon, who knew what he was doing, wanted to be open with China because he knew the US was going down in Vietnam and he hoped friendship with China would slow down or prevent other dominoes from falling! Short quotes from an article Nixon wrote a year earlier where he said the US should deal with China "as a great and progressing nation, not as the epicentre of world revolution." And this is what has come to pass.
A telling moment in the meeting between Mao and Nixon is recounted by Short. Mao said to Nixon, "People like me sound like a lot of big cannons. For example, things like 'the whole world should unite and defeat imperialism..." -- after this comment both Zhou Enlai and Mao "laughed uproariously." The giant Red Star over China was becoming a white dwarf.
Mao was also thinking of a new successor. Past experience would indicate this was not an enviable job. He decided on Wang Hongwen (who ended up in the Gang of Four), a 39 year old CC member from Shanghai "whose General Headquarters had engineered the Cultural Revolutions first 'seizure of power' almost six years before."
Mao also realized that he had better start "rehabilitating" the "old guard" if he wanted to have stability and experienced people handling the country after he was gone. So he brought back "the number two Party person taking the capitalist road"-- Deng Xiaoping -- as a vice-premier.
In 1973 the 10th Party Congress took place. This Congress put into motion Mao's plan for a "mix of radicals and veteran cadres to rule China" when he departed. Wang Hongwen was ranked #3 after Mao and Zhou Enlai. Later he put Deng in charge of the PLA. His grand plan was to have Deng run the government and Wang the Party with Wang having ultimate authority. Short says that Mao's plan was finally in place by the summer of 1974 but "again it would turn out to be a house of cards."
Now another bout of factional struggle broke out. Mao, Short says, was trying to do the impossible by melding together the radicals and the veterans. The symbolic union of this plan was the partnership between Wang and Deng. "The fatal flaw in the logic of Mao's arrangements," Short writes, "came from the tension inspired by his contradictory impulses towards radicalism and reason."
To use a crude dialectical analogy, the opposite trends symbolized by Wang and Deng were not really transcended in the new synthesis represented by the Tenth Congress. The synthesis was really held together by the force of Mao's authority so it was artificial, and exterior rather than an immanent synthetic growth and reconciliation from within the Party. Now Mao's health was failing, he was to be in a bad way for the last two years left to him. Whenever his hand was relaxed due to his ailments the two groups represented by Wang and Deng "grew into warring factions."
A month before the opening of the Tenth Congress, Mao had opened an initiative for a big campaign to attack Confucius. Ostensibly this was really to attack the remaining followers of Lin Biao. It was claimed that Lin Biao was an admirer of Confucius and, Short says, "of the feudal landlord system that the sage extolled in his writings." [Historical note: Confucius did not leave behind any writings nor did he "extol feudalism. What we actually know about his thought comes from the Analects, a work compiled by his followers-- Cf. my "Confucius: A Marxist Dialogue" archived on my blog or at PAEditors Blog.].
Short thinks that Zhou Enlai was the real target and that Mao was following the Chinese precept of "pointing at the locust tree in order to revile the mulberry." Confucius was not really the problem, nor was Lin. It appears that the real instigator of this movement was Jiang Qing and her manipulating of Mao.
Jiang Qing accused Zhou of "being impatient" to replace Mao. Mao thought this ridiculous and, Short says, told Zhou and Wang Hongwen that it was Jiang Qing who was impatient to be rid of him. Zhou was very sick with cancer and was beyond plotting against Mao. Since the 30s he had been loyal to Mao in any case. Probably due to his illness Zhou gave up his foreign minister role to Deng Xiaoping. Meanwhile, the struggle against Confucius "became a full-fledged national movement."
But Jiang Qing used this movement for her own factional purposes, which were to undermine Zhou and keep Deng from getting too much influence so that she might assume the real power after Mao was gone. Mao figured this out and struck back.
Short recounts that at the PB meeting of 17 July 1974 he stated that Jiang Qing "does not represent me, she only represents herself." He also attacked his nominal successor Wang Hongwen, who was a weak reed and instead of staying above the factional struggles had joined with Jiang Qing. Mao denounced Wang for being "in a small faction of four people." This was the origin of the famous "Gang of Four" [Wang Hongwen, Jiang Qing, Zhang Chunqiao and Yao Wenyuan.]
After this meeting, the Gang of Four, instead of learning from Mao's rebuke, redoubled its efforts to undermine Zhou and Deng. Mao began to think of Wang, his number 2, as a fool. As a result he promoted Deng and gave him more authority, saying he was "a person of extraordinary ability with a firm ideological standpoint." After January 1975, the CC meetings were no longer chaired by Zhou [too sick] or Wang [Mao was going to dump him] but by Deng [but not for long!].
Nevertheless,Mao still dreamed of a unified leadership. So he wanted one of the radicals to have power too, as "a counterweight to Deng." Wang was a fool, so he was out. Jiang Qing "was the kiss of death" as too many of the rank and file were against her. Yao was too inexperienced. That left Zhang Chunqiao, so he "was appointed Second Vice -Premier [Deng was First] and head of the PLA General Political Department.
Since it was obvious Zhou was very sick and on his way out, the anti-Confucius movement tapered off. Instead the Gang of Four concentrated on Deng. Mao, however, wanted a united party and a program to modernize China to prepare for the 21th Century. He and Zhou, Short writes, drew up a program "for modernising agriculture, industry, defense and science and technology before the end of the century, so that our national economy will be ... in the world's front rank."
Deng and his allies went to work to get this new program off the ground and up and running. His work was attacked by the Gang of Four as "empiricism" -- "a code-word for Deng's emphasis on solving practical problems rather than giving attention to politics and ideology."
Mao, who wanted unity in the Party now, attacked the anti-empiricists as "dogmatists" and stated that both sides were examples of Revisionism. He also soon realized that Zhang would not be a good sucessor so he decided on a more neutral figure, Hua Guofeng.
Meanwhile, the Gang of Four kept up its anti-Deng struggle. At this time, Deng made a slip. The message Mao was getting was that once he was gone Deng would renounce the Cultural Revolution.
So Mao asked Deng to give a report and judgment of the CR. Deng thought it was 70% correct and 30% wrong (Short says this was his usual formula in evaluating things [very mechanical it seems]). He "politely declined' the assignment. Mao surmised that Deng did not want to go on record saying anything really positive about the CR.
This led to Mao's opinion that "the capitalist-roaders are still on the capitalist road." By the end of 1975 Deng had not lost his positions, but "for all practical purposes ... had been stripped of his responsibilities."
[It is interesting to note that Deng did eventually come to power, reject the Cultural Revolution and, many think, firmly put China on the capitalist road. Yet the road he took fulfilled Mao's program to put China in the front ranks of the world's powers. What road China is on is a matter of dispute.]
In early January 1976 Zhou Enlai died. There was a spontaneous out pouring of grief from the Chinese people that took Mao and the Gang of Four leadership by surprise. A low key funeral had been planned but the people staged unofficial demonstrations of grief. On Jan. 15 Deng gave the official eulogy "but it was to be his last public appearance."
In April, Hua Guofeng became First Vice-Chairman of the CPC and the Premier of China. It was obvious that Mao was failing (he died five months later) and the Gang of Four was not happy with the idea of the chairmanship going to Hua. Short says, however, that it was the "arrogance and stupidity" of Jiang Qing which would ultimately lead to the downfall of the Gang.
Mao died on September 9, 1976. The journey of a thousand li that had begun on December 26, 1893 was over. It had lasted 83 years, 8 months and 14 days.
[The final installment of this review is coming up]
Sunday, November 25, 2007
No Country for Old Men
Screen play written and director by Joel and Ethan Coen
Based on a book by: Cormac McCarthy
In case you're wondering, don't wonder anymore. The Coen brothers have done it again.
And, in case your wondering about the book by Cormac McCarthy, the 74 year old writer with a growing cult following, and the film, put that out of your mind. I read most of the book before seeing the film interpretation by the Coen's and then went back to finish the written word by McCarthy. The synergism between the book and film was amazing.
The Coen brothers, Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem showed their admiration for McCarthy on a recent Charley Rose [PBS TV].
And, in case you're worried about too much violence you must keep in mind some reality. There is violence and there is violence. This is time of US violence in the Iraq War, the history of the Vietnam War and the legacy of the World Wars and the Korean War. Now, that is violence. Add to that the crises and violence being perpetrated in the Middle East and other regional wars along with the massive poverty and exploitation. The violence that the Bush Administration continues to perpetrate in New Orleans.
True there are too many films with clearly gratuitous violence with the accompanying special effects and music to highlight the violence. This is not this Coen film. Coen films have a level of violence that don't glorify the events nor overly dramatize them.
The lead character of Anton Chigurh, McCarthy's unusual yet specifically named, does have a remembrance of Hannibal Lechter of the Silence of Lamb's, but he is quite a unique killer. Played by Spanish actor, Javier Bardem, Anton reaches a level of deep, yet shallow existence. He is the frightening guy you would not want to cross.
Bardem's fellow actors, Tommy Lee Jones, Sheriff Bell, and Josh Brolin, Llewellyn Moss, share the spotlight. This is Jones' second great performance on 2007 [the Valley of Elah the first], sort of reminds filmgoers of the year that George Clooney had in 2006. Brolin is also having a busy 2007. He plays a crooked cop in the film, "American Gangster."
The McCarthy story of found illegal money is not a new one. And, the story of killers being chased by the law is also not a new line. Maybe that is why the McCarthy book and the loyal depiction of the book by the Coen's is so unusual. The book reader and filmgoer understand that the story goes beyond the characters and their dialogue.
The cinematography and film editing is also quintessential Coen brothers. This is film that is a must for filmgoers.
PS For Enthusiasts of Bardem, it was interesting to learn from his on line biographers that this shy actor has some very definite viewpoints. He said that in his homeland Spain, if same sex marriages were made legal, I'd, "get married tomorrow, just to fuck with the church."
I'm Not There [A Personal Memoir of Bob Dylan]
Written and Directed by Todd Haynes [Co-writer Oren Moveman]
November 21, 2007 Release Date in NYC
The only way Bob Dylan fan can tolerate this film is by repeating time and time again the advice of the film's Co-lead writer and director, Todd Haynes: These are my personal feelings and observations of the Bob Dylan phenomena.
For those seeing, like me, the film who lived the entire public life of Bob Dylan, and still do, you have to keep those thoughts always at the forefront. By doing that you can really enjoy the wonderful acting performances by an array of creative performers who clearly assembled to be part of this major film event. The film is selling out all through NYC.
For me, the film performance of the highly successful folk singer Dylan soon to be rock performer with his first English performances by Cate Blanchette was nothing short of amazing. Her facial and body rhythm is Dylan, Dylan, Dylan.
Haynes started off the film with a great performance by a youthful African-American actor, Marcus Carl Franklin, playing the early years of hobo Woody Guthrie. Casting Franklin in this key role was pure genius.
Julianne Moore's Joan Baez is perfectly casted and performed. Other Dylan period performances by Christian Bale and Heath Ledger are on the mark and true to the period of time of the Dylan world.
The actual names of Dylan, Baez, etc are not used in the film. Only Guthrie's name is used.
But, if your looking for a Bob Dylan film that explains more of this life and times you would do better to see the Martin Scorsese great film "No Direction Home." In that film, Dylan himself explains many parts of his life.
But, if your looking for a film to hear some of Dylan's best songs and see some great performances, don't miss this one. Just don't get too bent out of shape if the on-screen film doesn't conform to what you would like to see.
Dejavu All Over Again? Or When Will We Stop Believing with Herbert Hoover that "The Economy is Fundamentally Sound"?
by an article in the _New York Times_ Week in Review Section titled,"
Recession? Trying to Guess What Happens Next." Peter Goodman, the
article's author, was generally non-committal, repeating contemporary
conventional wisdoms, without much insight. But what struck me as an
historian was how reactionary the contemporary wisdoms had become.
Goodman, citing contemporary economists, made the point that an economic
crisis might lead Americans to start saving again, "living within their
means." At the beginning of the depression, economists and conservative
politicians(including Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, whose detaxation
and anti-regulation policies contributed to the severity of the crisis)
contended that the depression(which they kept on underestimating in both
its severity and length) wasn't such a bad thing. It would encourage
Americans to live more frugally, avoid reckless investments, live within
their means. Unfortunately, such contentions only strengthened the do
nothing attitudes of those in power, as things went from bad to worse to
Frankly, the U.S. economy has been geared to the general population
living well beyond their means through most of the postwar period. The
Installment Plan is about that. Recessions/Depressions mean declining
purchasing power, rising unemployment, and ensuing real wage reductions
for those who keep jobs, producing a vicious cycle. The last thing it
produces is increased savings, I remember a man listening to a speech
from a government official in the early 1930s imploring him to "buy and
buy now" to fight the depression, answering "buy with what?" The short
answer to Goodman today would be "save with what" given the mountain of
consumer debt already hanging over the American people.
Restructuring that debt in the interest of the people, reducing the
usurious rates millions pay(perhaps, nationalizing the banking system)
and of course, restructuring imports and exports as part of an
industrial policy aimed at producing and protecting jobs and mass
purchasing power is real(and of course, socialist) solution to the
questions that Goodman and economic conventional wisdom he cites
raise. The New Deal government, which was not of course socialist, did
raise questions about longterm reforms through a much higher level of
regulation, fiscal policies aimed at sustaining purchasing power by
protecting labor, and public employment for the unemployed. That of
course only took place after the severity of the depression and mass
resistance led by the left and the Communist party made it possible.
Hopefully, labor and the left will be able to act long before the crisis
reaches the magnitude that it did in the early 1930s.
AUSRIALIAN Labor Hits the Ground Running
It is predicted that three-fourths of the ministers in the new Rudd Government in Australia will be trade unionists. Amazin!
This came from the fact that the single most unpopular part of the Howard government was its draconian Industrial Relations policies.
The first order of business will be to roll back the Howard WorkChoice program.
Also, a main focus will be focus on the educational programs that essentially destroyed the teaching profession in Australia. It seems like right wing government, like Howard�s idol, Geo Bush, [NYC Mayor Bloomberg not a distant 3rd] focus on destroying the ability of young people to think for themselves. This area will be a top priority for Rudd and the teachers unions.
The ACT, Australian Council of Trade Unions, will have in the drivers seat in these early days of the Rudd government.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
With election results in, there will be a new day for labor in Australia. The pro-Bush, Anti-labor Howard governement is finished. In what was supposed to be a close race, labor and its allies lead the way to a landslide victory.
Rolling back the massive anti-labor laws and policies is its next step.
Friday, November 23, 2007
stock of recent events that I have looked at in the past as mass media
particularly has portrayed them.
First, there is Pakistan. The Musharraf dictatorship continues to
make a mockery of the rule of law with a wink and nothing more from
the Bush administration. A new Supreme Court(the leadership of the
old one is under arrest) has approved the dictator's new election
plans, thousands remain in jail as Musharraf proclaims the necessity
of having an unfree election in order to protect "democracy," and mass
media here continues to portray Musharraf as someone whom Bush has
personal loyalty to and trust in, a buddy, like Rove or Gonzalez.
Meanwhile, former ambassadors to Pakistan, policy planners who are
good imperialists all, are commenting in the media that it is time to
rethink Musharraf, to dump him given his huge liabilities, since, as
one former ambassador noted, the U.S. government has a relationship
with "the Pakistani army and people," but not Musharraf.
The last statement is very telling. Pakistan has been essentially a
military dictatorship through most of its history, on the model that
the U.S. actively supported in Latin America through the twentieth
century and sought to export to Africa in the cold war period.
Musharraf is by no means the wost of these thuggish tyrants(compared
to General Zia, in the late 1970s and 1980s, who played a leading role
in the attack against Afghanistan when it was led by Communists
seeking to carry out a socialist revolution, he might be considered a
"democrat") but the Pakistani people are fed up with his regime and
the longer the Bush administration, his principle supporter in the
world, continues to run interference for his regime, the worse it will
be for both the Pakistani people and peace in the region. On a
positive note, Pakistan has been suspended from the British
Commonwealth. Progressives in the U.S. should keep this story
alive(since it is beginning to fade from the headlines here) and
demand an immediate end of U.S. economic and military support for
The occupation of Iraq continues to cost more and more Iraqi, U.S. and
other lives every day, more than two thirds of the American people
now oppose the war(a percentage in the polls similar to what Richard
Nixon faced in the Vietnam War when he launched his phoney
"Vietnamization" policy aka sharply reducing the number of U.S. troops
in Vietnam while greatly expanding both bombing and widening the war
into Cambodia)and the war has already cost more than one half a
trillion dollars(not counting for inflation, which of course has been
very substantial since the 1970s, the Vietnam War cost an estimated
150 billion from the 1965 escalation to the 1975 collapse of the
Mass media today, while it is more pervasive, with cable TV and the
Internet, than it was during the Vietnam War(press and network
television were the media sources) is if anything less critical than
it was of the Vietnam war, at least in the post 1968 period, although
Nixon was able to deflect much of that criticism with his "peace with
Bush on the other hand is still talking about winning the war, even
though it is an occupation whose purpose should be winning the peace.
The media is still talking about the successes of the "surge," and
how to train Iraqis to do the fighting, as there is no policy or
blueprint for U.S. withdrawal. Although I feel like biting my tongue
when I say this, Bush's policy is a lot dumber than Nixon's, not more
brutal in what was in Vietnam a war and a much bigger conflict than
the present one in Iraq, but far less purposeful.
Nixon was playing for time, seeking to improve relations with the
Soviets and Chinese to limit their support for the Vietnamese, drop
more bombs than had been dropped in WWII and Korea to force the
Vietnamese to accept a settlement on U.S. terms, namely, the survival
of the South Vietnamese state that the U.S. had created in the 1950s.
That policy increased greatly the casualties in Indo-China and failed
miserably to sustain the Saigon regime, but didn't undermine the
larger Nixon-Kissinger detente policy, which sought to restructure the
cold war and de-emphasize U.S. unilateral military interventions
Bush in Iraq really has no policy or any apparent understanding of what a
policy would be. The U.S. military is literally doing its own thing,
the Iraqi government, such as it is, is doing its own thing, the U.S.
private contractors are doing their own thing, the U.S. diplomatic
corps seems separate from the U.S. military, everybody is cutting
deals with everybody else, and millions of Iraqis, the so-called
"middle class" on which the "American Dream" of making the world free
and democratic has long rested, have fled the country.
In the Vietnam war,the Right hypocritically blamed both the anti-war
movement and the "liberals" in Washington for "tying the hands of the
military" and losing the war. Incredibly, the Bush administration
and the Right generally is doing the same thing today, even though
this war and occupation was entirely the result of the Bush
administration's policy and Bush has done everything he has wanted to
do over the last four years with no real Congressional oversight and
restrictions. The Vietnam War, progressive historians often note, was
an example of the disastrous consequences of cold war ideology and
policy, that is, the demonization of "international Communism," the
accompanying denial of the rights of colonial peoples to
self-determination if that self determination led to socialist
victories, and the belief that the right combination of economic and
military power could solve all problems.
The Iraq occupation so far is an example of the contempt that Bush
administration has for U.S. public opinion, a contempt so great that
it has failed to even pretend to modify its policies as Johnson and
Nixon did when faced with comparable opposition, its apparent belief
that it can do whatever it wants regardless of the consequences and
make real whatever it says is real.
When people act that way, it is usually seen as an example of mental
illness rather than strength of purpose. Unlike Vietnam, where the
cumulative effects of disastrous policies mobilized greater actions
and protests, there is a danger that the disasters in Iraq will have a
numbing effect, that people will get used to passively opposing what
is happening and doing little as more and more death and destruction
is carried forward on a daily basis. Progressives should not only
seek to heighten protest, but connect protest with policy, push the
Democratic majority in Congress in a presidential election year to act
boldly(as an admittedly much larger majority did in in ending the
draft, repealing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, and enacting the War
Powers Act during the Nixon administration)and prepare the war for
both the rapid end of the Iraq occupation and the abandonment of the
policy which produced it to begin with.
There is one under reported piece of bad news which may be most
important in this post Thanksgiving period. Both Japan and China, the
leading purchasers of dollars and holders of the American debt, are
diversifying their holdings, moving away from dollar purchases, as the
U.S. economy and currency becomes less and less attractive. Time is
money and one of the hidden effects of the Vietnam War was that it
permitted U.S. competitors, Japan particularly, to begin to out
compete the U.S. in areas like automobiles and consumer electronics
where the U.S. has been virtually unchallenged in global markets
previously. A decade after the end of the Vietnam War, the U.S.,
thanks largely to the Reagan administration's spectacular increase in
military spending(to end the "Vietnam syndrome") and equally
spectacular tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy("supply side
economics" to provide incentives for investment that would solve all
economic problems) had gone from being the leading creditor nation in
the world to being the leading debtor nation in the world.
Today, a good deal of the American debt is held by foreign governments
and investors. Time is still money and the Bush administration's
disastrous policies have more than doubled that debt, which today is
in excess of 10 trillion, undermined government support for scientific
research in a wide variety of areas that impact negatively on the U.S.
economy, from stem cell research to questions of energy and global
warming, and in effect made the U.S. economy less competitive and the
U.S. more vulnerable to the very "free markets" and unregulated global
economy which it literally worships as much as its religious
supporters worship God.
To end on a "positive note"(my tongue is very deep in its cheek)
concerning a topic which I have written about in the past, the federal
government has indicted Barry Bonds for lying to a federal grand jury
investigating the use of steroids in professional sports, where
deregulation and a lack of restriction on individual initiative to out
compete and out produce all rivals is subject to prosecution(where
there must be a "level playing field," as nineteenth century liberals
used to say, in support of the sort of economic and social reforms the
Bush administration rejects everywhere else). Although a progressive
friend of mine has called the Bush administration, "Reagan on
Steroids," I doubt the indictment will extend to the White House.
The Stavitch Bike Trail extends for 10 miles on the Mahoning River, just south and a little east of Youngtown, Ohio past the giant ruins of Republic Steel and Youngtown Sheet and Tube Company and alongside a railroad track that connects the post-industrial towns of northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania.
The trail is bike enthusiast’s dream: an almost level terrain save one or two inclines, and combines shade, sun and solitude. It’s isolated, yet connected, rural, but just minutes away from the urban slums scattered throughout the once proletarian landscape. Along the rusted out valley fast moving railroad trains keep company with the slow drift of the river. Squirrels and rabbits compete with butterflies tracing themselves back and forth through pussy willows blowing in the wind. On the other side of the railroad track, a Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco billboard backs a barn-like structure across a town square and the city’s courthouse.
About four miles down the trail, a rustle in the trees reveals a brown flurry in flight, a five to six foot wing span sailing across the path and into the forest. Following in its wake, another hawk soars noiselessly in pursuit, twinning its partner’s movements, dancing through the trees. The sun’s comes out from a behind a cloud, a small yellow butterfly skirts the path, a train whistles somewhere down the tracks.
And then, a turn in the road. Suddenly there’s a hint of darkness. Has the sun lost is race with the clouds? A look up reassures, but then to the left along the path, black bushes decorated with an even darker fruit and in the distance pools of stagnant algae-filled water from which rise the rotted trunks of trees, like so many fingers grasping. A look down upon the winding path reveals it: first, a star circumscribed with a circle and in each of three triangles the number 6 ; and a second later, three hooded figures and under them the letters KKK and chalked in white beneath, “the Klan rises again.” For a moment the breath catches in the throat and even in movement, the world stands silent and still. And then through the screaming silence, a sudden screech and the hawks rise away and into the trees.
Trains/Subways suspend Strike; Students Continue; Judges and Lawyers Prepare for Strike
Under pressure from their leadership, the CGT local leadership in the Paris Metro and on the railroads has agreed to suspend their strike until the middle of December. The agreement was reached when the Sarkozy government agreed to meet and negotiate with leadership of CGT and other labor federations.
A leader of the CGT Paris metro union made it clear that this was a �suspension.� He said if the negotiations do not go as they wish, the strike would commence again. This time the strike would be at the very center of holiday shopping season.
The stakes are large: Sarkozy�s goal is to extend by 3 to 5 years the age when retirement is possible; and to reduce the pensions by as much as 20%.
Reports from various sources indicate great frustration from the workers in railroads and subways that they struck for 10 days and gained nothing.
University students are still blocking the entrances of over 46 university sites effectively closing those schools. This is over half of the universities.
And, 30 to 40 high schools in Paris are closed by striking students.
Judges and Lawyers
With the threat of closing of 30% of courts, judges and lawyers will be demonstrating next Tuesday against the Sarkozy government.
Royal No Help
Nicholas Sarkozy�s Socialist Party opponent, Sigoney Royal, in the elections last presidential May made it clear that she does not oppose his goals, just his methods of gaining them. She just says that he is too harsh.
Stay tuned. Clearly the strategic patience of local unions and their members will have more to say about the final agreements that are reached by their leadership with the Sarkozy government. And, in upcoming congresses of the labor federations, they will have even more to say.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Election results will not be known until Saturday nite, but the way it looks now, the pro-Bush, virulently ant-labor Howard government in Australia has seen its last days. The Labor Party needs 17 seats, but they should do far better.
The head of the Rail and Bus union is looking forward to this change so that labor can get rid of the oppressive labour laws that Howard imposed in the last period of time.
Knocking out Howard delivers another severe blow to the Bush legacy.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
I wrote with some enthusiasm a few days ago about Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez’s proposals about reducing the cost of oil to developing countries. As a long admirer of Venezuela’s revolutionary process, a process that is writing a new chapter in the book of socialist theory and practice, I always take delight in Chavez’s propensity to “stick-it-to" US imperialism (even while sometimes cringing at the tactics) and the boldness with which he carries on the fight to champion the world’s wretched of the earth. His idea about the lowering the price of oil made on the eve of the OPEC summit, was such a moment, brilliantly conceived and executed. It took the moral and political high ground.
That said, I must admit after reading reports of the OPEC summit and the united front stance of Venezuela and Iran on anumber of key points with growing sense of unease. It seems not just a coincidence of views. Chavez it appears visited Teheran after the OPEC meet, the fourth such visit in two years. Readers might recall that Iran’s president visited Venezuela after the UN General Assembly in September. Confronted by a common enemy in US imperialism, it seems the two countries are practicing a variety of “ the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
As a US citizen, internationalist and defender of Venezuela’s revolution against US imperialist intrigue I would in no way, shape or form, presume to tell them how to make their revolution or choose who to associate with in the international anti-imperialist and peace movement. It must be recognized that were it not for Bush White House’s attempt to run roughshod over both countries such alliances, even unseemly ones, would not obtain. The US peace movement – which no doubt must include the broad movement against the extreme right as expressed in the 2008 presidential contest – despite its growing strength and sophistication, has not been able to compel a redirection of US foreign policy.
Still as partisan of the left and working-class movement, I cannot help but shudder at how an Iran/Venezuela scenario might play out and be used to the disadvantage of the progressive movements of both countries and by US imperialism to the detriment of all. Iran certainly is no friend of democracy. And while one must stand completely against any attempt by extreme right in the US to invade its shores and occupy its oil fields, under the guise of a “nuclear threat,” no one should have any illusions about the nature of the regime ruling that great country. It should be recalled that Iran’s president during his recent NY visit claimed incredibly that there were no homosexuals in Iran. It should be further recalled that the Teheran government recently hosted a motley conference of Holocaust Denial chief among who were Ku Kluxers and US Nazis. Not surprising in a country that bans its left and communist forces and still does not afford women equal rights.
All this in sharp and glaring contrast to people’s Venezuela whose new constitution promises to outlaw discrimination against lesbians and gays along with legally acknowledging its important African ancestry and population, items that must make the right-wing extremists of the world froth at the mouth. One doesn’t have to reach far to conjure what portends from an alliance of the left with Teheran: 20th century history abounds. The right-wing propaganda machine will have a field day with this one. And that’s what concerns me. At the end of the day, it makes our fight harder here and I don’t care what anyone says, but it is here that the battle must be won. Is anybody listening?
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Labor Unity in France Destroying Sarkozy's Vision
The unity of the French labor movement is destroying the vision that Nicholas Sarkozy and his corporate leaders had for France. A France whose workers work longer and have 30% cut in pensions is part of their vision. The French workers, students [university and high schoolers] and their unions have another vision.
Trying to use his election victory as a springboard, Sarkozy has challenged French workers and students and they are more than meeting that challenge. Sarkozy's popularity poll was 71% three weeks ago, the numbers are now 51%, dropping 5% in the last three days.
Amid very confusing reports from the commercial, international media the gas, electric and public servants joined striking transport and transportation union today, Tuesday, the advanced warned national day of striking. CNN, BBC, and Reuters are offering very poor reports of the events. The reports keep saying the much less than the 100% of workers in each of these sectors are on strike, but then they have to add, the whole systems are shut down.
65% of all universities are shut down; and the high schoolers are similarly on strike.
The words from my French Connection is "this is Very Big." There is no need to compare to the strikes of ten years ago, these are in different times, but they are very bid.
Jean Solbes a university instructor and member of the CGT Executive for High Education from Montpellier University are also on strike. He reported that, after saying he would not meet with all the unions, Sarkozy caved in and a national meeting is planned for tomorrow, Wednesday.
Solbes said that the next question, "How to Continue?"
Monday, November 19, 2007
What in the hell is the matter with Iowa? Folks out there must not be listening to the rest of America. Barack Obama is leading in a close Iowa polling contest, says the most recent Washington Post/ABC poll. Today’s (Monday, November 19th) Washington Post writes:
“Illinois Senator Barack Obama gets the support of 30 percent of likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa, compared to 26 percent for Clinton, 2.2 percent for former senator John Edwards and 11 percent for New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.”
Poll results show Obama rising and Clinton slipping, with the Illinois senator showing strength on issues of Iraq and health care. Obama is even running even with Clinton among Iowa women, drawing 32 and 31 percent respectively. What is going on? All of the pundits and experienced people, including some who ought to know better, have been acting like it’s all wrapped up. One event this writer attended recently barely even mentioned Obama causing one person to ask, “Did Obama drop out of the race? Did I miss something?”
Obama’s strong showing in Iowa ought to give progressive, and left-wing working-class people reason for pause. One, it might if maintained on election day, set a new trend for other state contests. But even failing that there are important ideological issues relating to race and gender that are involved. Consider that the state is 95 percent white and only 2.3 African American. Both Obama’s and Clinton’s, strong showing there says a lot about where an important section of America stands on racism and sexism. Add Edwards strong third place and Richardson’s 4th place with 11 percent and you’ve got a very healthy trend in democratic politics (that’s with a small “d”.)
So what the hell is going on? Obama strong showing in the polls show voters looking for “new ideas” and “new direction.” And remember, the last 3 winners of the Iowa caucuses went on to win the nomination. That’s Clinton, Al Gore, and John Kerry. But Senator Obama will never do that, right? It appears that some are out of touch and don’t have their ears to ground, either that or Iowa’s not listening.
Reviewed by Thomas Riggins
Meghnad Desai is the Director of the Centre for the study of Global Governance at the London School of Economics, and Marx’s Revenge is his screed to the glories of globalization, free trade, and the everlastingness of capitalism. This is the on-line version of the review, slightly revised, from the print version.
Desai's thesis is not only that globalization is good for us, but if Marx were around today he would give it his blessing and reject as reactionary the anti-globalization movement that arose out of the demonstrations in Seattle. Marx’s “Revenge” is thus, while it may seem as if Marxism got a kick in the teeth with the collapse of Eastern European socialism and the U.S.S.R. and with the untrammeled rise of globalization, actually this is all happening in accord with Marx’s theory of the development of capitalism. It is a proof, not a refutation of Marxism. (But not your grandmother’s Marxism).
Briefly put, Desai’s argument goes like this. Marx saw capitalism expanding over the whole surface of the globe and it would not be replaced until it was no longer able to grow and develop. The attempt to build socialism in under developed areas resulted in the creation of distorted and backwards regimes which were actually forms of a primitive kind of state capitalism unable to successfully compete, over the long haul, with “free market” forms of advanced Western style capitalism. “[T]he USSR was a Third World country.”
Globilization is the historically necessary development of world wide capitalist integration and must be completed before “socialism” is even on the agenda. Globilization is thus progressive and humane in so far as it is the most advanced type of economic system for the foreseeable future. “Capitalism provides the means for eliminating poverty.” (War, famine, and AIDS will eliminate the poor, you can’t poverty without them.)
In fact, socialism may never be on the agenda since capitalism will eventually collapse only if it has unsolvable internal contradictions which will make it break down and necessitate its replacement. But we have today a better understanding of the internal dynamics of capitalism than in Marx’s day, and ways have been found to eliminate or resolve such contradictions so that capitalism can hang around forever.
This interpretation is based on Desai’s understanding of Marxism and just what capitalism is and what socialism is (and isn’t). If he has a confused and screwed up understanding of these subjects his theory can be dismissed as just so much hot air and capitalist apologetics.
The following doesn’t bode well for him. Early on he tells us there were two main types of socialism in the 20th Century. They were communism (USSR) a “variant of social democracy” and fascism (Germany) “the other variant of socialism” [which] “for many, held out real promise.” It seems that all you have to do to qualify as a “socialist” for Desai is use the word in your party name “National Socialists”. This does not show a high level of analytical understanding.
Desai realizes that the future of capitalism depends upon the law of the declining rate of profit. It is this law which eventually dooms the system. For capitalism to survive it must suspend the operation of this law not merely, as Marx thought, retard it. The solution, according to Desai, is provided by Keynes. Demand can be stimulated by government spending which will allow for profitability and thus escape from the law. Governments have learned how to construct capitalism with a human face it seems.
We are further informed that. “By the late twentieth century, the imperialist episode in world history had passed.” As for Lenin’s Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, we are informed that it begins with “muddled thinking” and is “not by any means Lenin’s most cogent work.” Desai knows very well that if Lenin’s views in Imperialism are still relevant his own theory is off course. But who today, looking at US foreign policy and the continuing economic exploitation by both Europe and the US of the Third World (Desai says “alleged” exploitation), with any understanding of how capitalism works could believe that the era of imperialism has passed?
What else can we “learn” from Desai? That America’s “only imperial experience” in the nineteenth century “was the Spanish-American War.” But then how did two-thirds of Mexico end up American? Genocide against Native Americans doesn’t seem to rate as “imperial” behavior. We are also told that Black Americans have become “a full part of civil society.” Finally, the struggle is over!
More importantly, Desai often misreads Marx. An example from page 141 of his text where he completely misses the meaning Marx intends in the following passage from Capital. He quotes Marx as saying, “the degree of exploitation of [the] wage labourer remains indecently low” in America.
Desai makes much of this quote and wonders how American capitalists can make profits with “indecently low” rates of exploitation. But Marx’s comment is meant to be satirical not literal. He is making fun of the views expressed by E.G. Wakefield in his England and America and its portrayal of “the abstemious capitalist.”
Desai gives Trotsky credit for the theory that revolution might break out in a country that is the “weakest link” in the capitalist system (which had already been put forth by Marx and Engels long before Trotsky).
I could go on, the book is replete with historical errors, misunderstandings of Marx’s writings, and perverse readings of contemporary history. Such as insinuating that the violence at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago was caused by student protesters (it was a police riot), or maintaining that the IMF can’t see to it that their economic policies don’t hurt the poor in developing countries because it has “to respect the sovereignty of these countries.”
Finally, the Great Depression is blamed on Stalin [there is no end to the evil of this man]! It was brought about by agricultural oversupply “thanks to Soviet collectivization and dumping by Russian farmers.”
In summary, Marx’s Revenge lacks credibility as a theoretical contribution to the understanding of the nature of the present day processes of globalization.”
I recently spoke about the virtue of on-line publishing before a gathering of thoughtful, forward thinking revolutionary people and as I looked out into the audience, was startled at the doubtful stony faces at a table before me. I was making the point that a qualitative change has occurred with the coming together of several technologies: print, video, radio, tv, telephone etc, into one interactive platform that can be held in the palm of one’s hand: a veritable revolution in communication is at hand, a revolution in which the working-classes vanguard should lead the way. Clearly some in my audience were very unimpressed. A few days earlier, I received a note vigorously protesting PA’s plan to increase its on-line activity and eventually (sooner rather than later) go over to “treeless production,” that is, make a small contribution to stop killing forests. A dear friend and comrade wrote and said, “Say it aint so! Is the REAL PA going to disappear?
I was reminded of these incidents when reading this morning Newsweek magazine’s lead story on the future of books. I encourage everyone to read it (in print or online). Here again a revolution is occurring that has the potential to change the very nature of thought and action. In short, it appears that the book itself is being reinvented. According to the story, Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos, says that the e-book is here and will soon be in everyone living room, bedroom and (yes) bathroom. The new e-book, enabled through a new handheld computer called “Kindle” (sorry but the story is well-done advertising puff piece for Amazon) brings together new technologies like E-ink to create an easily readable screen interface that closely resembles a book’s printed page. Not only that, but “Kindle” by utilizing new wireless technology used by cell phones, will have the advantage of being continuously online, allowing readers access to the internet and the possibility of engaging other readers, research materials and sources. This, combined with the rapid digitizing of books (Google is taking the lead with over 80,000 complete books online), is creating the conditions for the rapid transition of books from print to the internet and with it, completely new forms of thought, writing and interaction. And it will be extremely cheap, if not free. Even, the author suggests, the exalted place of the Author, as lonely autonomous isolated figure writing in isolation, is bound to undergo change, as writers and readers, interact on drafts and manuscripts through blogs, chats and other interactive features. New collective forms of intellectual and creative intercourse are emerging at starling speeds.
You would think that Marxists, advocates of “scientific” socialism as they are, would be on the cutting edge of these technologies and innovations. But somehow there seems to be an overwhelming Luddite weight on some, dragging the conversation down by alleging that somehow print (paper) is somehow more “material” and therefore more “working-class.” All manner of excuses are given: digital divide etc, for not wholly embracing and getting on board the digital train. This in spite of the fact that the majority of internet users are people with incomes of between $30,000 and $70,000.
I wonder what is the basis for such thinking? I’m worried that unless there is a change, the communist and socialist movement will end up like Tower Records, shuttered and boarded up, with a for sale sign blowing in the wind. But who will want to buy it? (For those who don’t know, New York’s famous Tower Record store went out of business, unable to compete with downloaded digitized music on the internet). What do readers think?
Sunday, November 18, 2007
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Saturday, November 17, 2007
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Friday, November 16, 2007
Under the right wing government of Nicholas Sarkozy, the unions, student movement and the general population are facing a stiff struggle. In there third day of major strikes the labor and students movements have decided, as of today, to keep their strikes going throughout the weekend. On Tuesday, November 20th, other government workers in the electrical, gas and other public industries have voted to join the strike.
It is reported that the students and faculties have shut down 39 of the 82 public universities. Almost all universities in France are public. In 8 places the police have unsuccessfully attempted to break their strike.
The socialist lead unions, the CFDT, as was widely reported began to crack under the pressure of Sarkozy, but the membership declined to back down.
Similarly, the CGT leadership, similar to what they did a couple of years ago, attempted to move away from the strike, but again, the membership declined. The refusal to back down from the strike was lead by the head of railway workers union, the SNF workers. The CGT has a major Congress in a few months.
Both militant strikers were helped out by ultra-right anti-worker stance of Sarkozy.
Sarkozy actually is invoking the name of Margaret Thatcher in attempting to break the unions.
That the German transportation unions joined in with their French comrades was a great help.
A good idea for trade unionist and activists in the USA would be to contact their local media demanding more coverage of these events in Europe; and to use their internet services to find out what is happening. Keep in mind that Sarkozy has a tight grip on almost all print and TV/radio media in France. This includes the ever dangerous Polls that try to convince striking workers that their efforts are not supported by the general public. Polls in France are even more unreliable than in the USA.
Pensions, employment programs, health benefits and other human need programs that European workers and unions have fought for and are trying to expand are at risk. The general French population knows this.
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Thursday, November 15, 2007
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Wednesday, November 14, 2007
The effects of high oil prices cost you more than just at the pump and in inflation of the prices of other commodities whose costs are tied to transportation and the price of gas.
Heating oil and natural gas prices are jumping, driving up the cost of heating our homes this winter. And Bush just callously vetoed a bill that would have provided additional funding to assist working families in paying for rising home energy costs.
In addition to the fighting for better assistance to pay home energy costs (by calling on Congress to override Bush's veto), here are a few tips from the Sierra Club to help increase the energy efficiency of your home or apartment and control costs:
1. Make sure your doors and windows are sealed with weather stripping or caulk. (Like your mama used to say, "Are we heating the outside?")
2. Seal your heating ducts. (May require hiring a contractor, but some states will give you a tax break.)
3. Use thick drapes or curtains on your windows. Most heating loss goes through your windows. Open drapes in the day, and close them at night.
4. Lower your thermostat to 68 degrees. I know it's not warm. So put on a sweater, add a blanket, and get a little closer to your partner (or cat). Turning down the thermostat 5 degrees can lower your bill by 10 percent.
5. Circulating heated air with a ceiling fan on slow speed can help keep your house warmer and use less heating energy.
6. Fireplaces aren't very efficient ways to heat your home, but if you have one use it with artificial logs made of wood, recycled cardboard, or even coffee grounds (no paraffin! It's petroleum-based and emits greenhouse gases.)
7. Finally, use an insulating blanket for your water heater and wash laundry in cold water to reduce energy usage to heat water. (One household can eliminate more than a thousand pounds of greenhouse gas emissions in a year just by washing in cold.)
Stay warm and stay in the fight!
The Georgia AFL-CIO represents more than 100,000 in over 350 affiliated local unions.
The resolution passed Oct. 17th at the convention held in Augusta celebrating the 125th Anniversary of the Georgia AFL and the 50th Anniversary of the merged Georgia AFL-CIO.
When the resolution passed, Charlie F. Key, Financial Secretary-Treasurer of the state federation, said, “How can anyone in good conscience not know that healthcare is a basic necessity of life and is enshrined in those three tenets of the Declaration of Independence ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. We currently see the results of having too many uninsured. Grady Hospital in Atlanta and Memorial Hospital in Savannah are facing serious budget shortfalls because the number of uninsured patients is increasing rapidly.”
H.R. 676 would institute a single payer health care system in the U.S. by expanding a greatly improved Medicare system to every resident. HR 676 would cover every person in the U. S. for all necessary medical care including prescription drugs, hospital, surgical, outpatient services, primary and preventive care, emergency services, dental, mental health, home health, physical therapy, rehabilitation (including for substance abuse), vision care, chiropractic and long term care. HR 676 ends deductibles and co-payments. H.R. 676 would save billions annually by eliminating the high overhead and profits of the private health insurance industry and HMOs.
HR 676 currently has 86 co-sponsors in addition to Conyers. It has been endorsed by 336 union organizations in 48 states including 93 Central Labor Councils and Area Labor Federations and 26 state AFL-CIOs.
For more information see: HealthCare-Now.org
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The Venezuelan president added that such a policy would be a marvelous way of redistributing the world's wealth. He expected to encounter "hard positions" on the subject at the OPEC gathering. Meanwhile India's Times newspaper reported that King Juan Carlos of Spain had told Chavez to "shut up" at a South American international conference. Chavez had called one of Spain's leaders a fascist for supporting the 2002 coup against him. If only Spain's King had told Bush to shut his face, when he commented that those favoring Congress budget were "like children with a credit card." joe sims
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
As the world celebrates the 90th anniversary of the October Revolution, Russia is preparing for parliamentary elections. According to press reports, Putin’s party, United Russia, is expected to dominate. This by virtue of the Russian president’s near monopoly over politics and the media. Significantly, only two parties, Putin’s and the Communists candidates will overcome a 7 percent hurdle needed to guarantee entry into the Russian Duma. Other liberal, right and centrist parties are apparently too split up to easily overcome the electoral bar. Russia communist parties too are confronted by the unity obstacle and are split up with at last count over 10 different parties, albeit with 4 or 5 carrying significant memberships.
Perhaps the Communists will make an issue of Putin’s dictatorial style as it was recently reported that Party leaders in Novosibirsk were investigated by state security services for printing jokes told about Putin in a party newsletter. Apparently it was felt humor about the Russian president was “inappropriate.” Communist Party leader Zuganov might consider auditioning for Comedy Central, even if arrested, shows might be aired by satellite and on-line, giving the media-starved left some much needed publicity. Stay tuned to politicalaffairs.net for interviews conducted by CPUSA leader John Bachtell, who recently returned from Moscow’s Red Square celebrations.
Musharaff has declared a state of emergency, imprisoned thousands, including the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and done this all in the name of "democratic transition"(if this is the road to democracy, what does democracy mean).
What is important about Musharraf's antics (besides the oppression of the Pakistani people) is that he is Washington's henchman, like a lower underworld crew chief, and he knows that he must satisfy the big bosses in Washington, even while he tries to skim and scam them for his own interests. Musharraf's identification with Washington is so extreme that he, in his state of emergency declaration, crazily compared his act to Abraham Lincoln's limited suspension of Habeas Corpus during the U.S. Civil War, and also sounded Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush blaming "judicial activism" for his actions.
Today, he gave an interview the New York Times, that continued his comical servility. Criticizing his major mainstream political opponent, Benazir Bhutto (former Prime Minister and daughter of an overthrown and executed Prime Minister) who he has put under house arrest, Musharraf accused her of "producing negative vibes, negative optics"(I don't know what negative optics are, but in general I imagine the general was trying to sound cool for an American audience). Musharraf then pulled out a New York Times op ed piece that Bhutto had written at the very beginning of the crisis,
Musharraf mocked her, challenged her right to serve as Prime Minister under a two term rule that he forced through as dictator, as if to tell his Washington bosses not to dump him and back Bhutto (which seems to be where the U.S. would like to go, not because Musharraf is a tyrant but because he is an ineffective one).
Bush called upon Musharraf to take off his uniform and hold elections. Musharraf obediently took off his uniform and said he would resign as head of the army (he is yet to do it) and pledged to hold elections. But at the same time he stepped up arrests, repressed rallies and demonstrations, and, in the interview had his gaudiest moment when he said "the emergency is to ensure that elections go on in an undisturbed manner," i.e., the opposition will not be able to campaign, ballots will be cast at the point of guns, and Musharraf will either win or declare another state of emergency.
Washington is continuing the charade, "pressing" Musharraf to end the state of emergency, and calling him "indespensible" in the "war against terrorism," and Musharraf is playing his part, pocketing the money, making excuses for his military's failures to fight the Taliban and Al Quaeda, making statements worthy of George Bush, i.e., people like the state of emergency, human rights activists who call for elections don't vote themselves, and belong in jail for disturbing the peace.
There has been relatively little commentary about Pakistan in the U.S. on the left, but the issue is really important. Musharraf is like the military dictators whom the U.S. first supported in Latin America and then everywhere during the cold war period to both preserve and protect U.S. corporate interests and fight revolutionary movements. The Washington consensus is that, as Franklin Roosevelt said about a Latin American dictator in the 1930s, "he's a son of bitch, but he's our son of a bitch." This policy almost always leads to increased instability, not stability, intense hostility to the United States, which for many translates into hostility to both the U.S. government and the American people, and also endless interventionism to prop up such regimes.
Pakistan today would be a good place to launch a progressive U.S. foreign policy. That would mean withdrawing support from Musharraf entirely and working with India to achieve a regional developmental policy that would bring all the nations of South Asia closer together and reduce the poverty and corruption that the religious right feeds on. It would also mean working through the United Nations and through civilian institutions, not the military, for the region, since the Pakistani military, like the military in many poor countries, is deeply implicated in the economic exploitation of the masses, often controlling sections of the economy through various subterfuges.
Machado, Trujillo, Batista, Chiang Kai-shek, Mobutu, Diem et al, previous Pakistani military dictators Ayub Khan, Yaya Khan, General Zia, Saddam Hussein,the Greek military Junta of the 1960s and 1970s, and many others, not to mention the Shah of Iran, and the apartheid government in South Africa. History has proved over and over again that these "indispensable" leaders are not only very dispensable, but the longer Washington supports them, the more dangerous and destructive the situation becomes.