Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ukraine Positions

Ukraine: The risks of supporting the Maidan protesters is the unleashing of fascism (Svoboda, Right Sektor). If the nationalists can avoid witch-hunts, be inclusive, and leave the far right behind, then that would be positive, but I doubt this can happen, since it would mean abandoning what they are and have fought for. Now rightist identity politics is in power (ostensibly) it usually asserts itself in scapegoating ways rather than reconciliation – the start of this may be the focus on revenge and on Yanukovich, the ousted president.

The deaths that have occurred are sad, tragic, as they always are, but if this is a revolution, then the events have in fact been remarkably peaceful (so far, perhaps), especially given the involvement of the far right as the spearhead..

But it is not really a revolution (so far at least), it is more akin to a coup, with outside interference (EU, USA), in a situation where the masses are fairly passive about politics, due to the particular history of the country.

Historically, Russia has more right to 'interfere' in Ukraine than the EU, and this fact has been trampled on, but we can only support the Russian leaders, who are also only interested in exploiting Ukraine, insofar as they act as defenders of self determination for Ukraine and against sectarianism and terror. In this situation Russia is and would be right to assert itself against the elements of neo-Nazism in the coup and the west.

The peculiar and telling aspect is actually its lack of assertion of such rights and the weakness of the ousted leadership it seemed to be backing.

The latter itself points to corruption and the rule of capitalists in both Ukraine and Russia, they are vying for profit and 'reforms', the Russian bourgeoisie vacillate, not too sure that they would not actually benefit from an even more rightist capitalist neoliberal Ukraine. This is the class dimension of the picture. The Ukrainian 'oligarchs' (big capitalists) think the same, some seeing the EU as a source of new openings and new ways to exploit their working class, others will have ties to Russia.

So we have capitalist powers, including Russia, competing for Ukraine's wealth and strategic position. The hypocrisy of the west's rhetoric can be grasped clearly when you look at Bahrain, with its protests, where the USA has a naval base just as Russia has a naval base in Ukraine (on the Black Sea). The USA did not support the protests in Bahrain for democracy, even allowed the sending in of tanks to quell the popular uprising. The USA has of course far less claims with regard to Bahrain than Russia has to Ukraine, although we must remember Russia also interferes in Syria to support the dictator Assad. All of this is cynical imperialist competition.

Sometimes the western 'soft' Left is confused and confusing about these complications, they stick to Russia like a limpet from the Cold War, and so do the rightists, whose identity politics sees the differences as essential to human nature anyway, so a Ruskie is always a Ruskie and a commie. In fact we have here the two great identity politics opposing in a false dialectic (left v right), and this is always the pincer movement of bourgeois ideology that we see in the mainstream press, because the concept of class is disallowed and they must resort to some other interpretation of global political events. It is an ideological strategy that allows in fascism though, and this is its danger in the present conflict for Europe and the EU, which is edging noticeably towards the far right in its ideology.
Mr Lavrov added that "it is in our interest for Ukraine to be part of the broad European family" but against Russia's interest to "allow the radicals and nationalists who are clearly trying to take centre stage to prevail."http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26333587

Some useful links:

Description of far right Svoboda party


Nuland phonecall on Ukraine


Left-Gramscian interpretation wuth local knowledge


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Bum Rap for the Rapa Nui

Thomas Riggins

A new report in Science News Magazine (1-25-2014) by Bruce Bower details a reevaluation of the view that the Rapa Nuians, the native inhabitants of Easter Island ( Rapa Nui ), were responsible for the collapse of their population and society due to over exploitation of natural resources and the destruction of the rain forest on their island, a view recently popularized by Jared Diamond in his book Collapse (2005).

As Bower reports, the anthropologist Maria Mulrooney has published the results of her studies of the Rapa Nui culture (Journal of Archeological Science, December 2013) based on new radiocarbon dates from archeological sites on the island. She has concluded that after the clear cutting of the forest in the 1500s, to make room for agricultural production, the population of Rapa Nui remained sufficiently vibrant to carry on food production and continue their cultural development.

Exactly when the Rapa Nui arrived on Easter Island is unknown but it was on or before 1200 A.D. or so. Mulrooney maintains they had a thriving culture which was still going strong even after their "discovery" by the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen on Easter Sunday 1722. This would indicate that they had not suffered"collapse" as a result of forest clearance.

Roggeveen reported that the island had about 2000 to 3000 inhabitants he was the first to report on the moai-- the giant statues (erected as religious symbols as part of an ancestor cult) for which the island is famous. They were all in place and standing when he was visiting the island (for less than two weeks). In his short time there he managed to kill a dozen or so natives and so his estimate of the population may be incorrect as many people fled and hid out until after he left.

The Spanish showed up in 1770, claimed the island for King Carlos III, then sailed away. The moai were all standing and the people were still engaged in agriculture. Captain Cook showed up in 1774 and noticed some of the moai had fallen but there was no sign of cultural "collapse."

Bower quotes Mulrooney as saying, "Deforestation did not equal societal failure on Rapi Nui. We should celebrate the remarkable achievements of this island civilization"

Yet the culture did end up almost completely destroyed. After Capitan Cook's visit Europeans visited more regularly in the 19th Century. It has been suggested that Rapa Nui's decline may have been caused by the introduction of European diseases. By the early 1800s most of the moai been toppled and the society had broken up into warring factions.

Peruvian slavers invaded in the 1860s and carried away 1500 of the 2000 or so Rapa Nuians into bondage in the mines of Peru.  By 1878 only 111 natives were still living on the island. 97 per cent of the cultural memory of the people had been lost after contact with the Europeans. The greatest loss may have been that of rongorongo  the native writing system of Rapa Nui and the only writing system created by any Polynesian group. All of those who knew the writing system died in the mines of Peru or from European introduced TB which ravaged the survivors.

Chile annexed the island in 1888. The Rapa Nui were given citizenship in 1966 but they no longer rule on their island. Of the 6000 or so people living on the island today about 3600 are Rapa Nui. The archeologist Carl Lipo is quoted as saying, "The idea of societal collapse on Rapa Nui has long been assumed but there is no scientific basis for it." He is referring to a self induced collapse. Their traditional culture was destroyed, and the people today are trying to reinvigorate it, but it is a bum rap to blame them for the loss of their civilization.

Socialism and Errors

A tentative thesis: 

The Soviet Union towards the end of  WWII made a mistake similar to the one the Paris Communards made who did not raid the Paris central bank (as Marx thought would have been sensible to pay their soldiers, etc), they did not invade Switzerland and confiscate the ill gotten stashes of the European bourgeoisie who evaded the affects of the carnage and continued to play the stock markets. Instead they acted, post war, in an increasingly imperialist fashion, emulating the bourgeois countries, imposing socialism and giving it, therefore, a bad name across Europe. Why leave Switzerland, the bank of the European bourgeoisie and one big bankroller of the Nazis, untouched? It is unfathomable if you are a communist to grasp why any communist would do this. The centre of European capitalism was, and remains, Switzerland. The answer to this question is key.

We are now living, therefore, in the aftermath of a kind of socialist funk, the result of a lack of resolution and theoretical understanding of Marxism. This is why Greece is so fascinating as a case in the crisis. The Cold War policies that made the Allies turn on the local communists who had bravely fought the Nazis meant Greece was facing years of rightist corruption and money lending to support an unpopular capitalism, it led to the reign of the Generals, and then to the joining of the Eurozone and now Greece’s massive debt crisis, all of it still being fuelled by debt.