Friday, 4 March 2011
Monday, 31 January 2011
The US taxpayer gave Mubarak's military $1.3 billion last year, joining the Shah of Iran, the Nicaraguan Contras and Afghan Mujahedeen on the list of colossal fuckups. Congress will do everything possible to avoid giving poor Americans health care, but signs off on this crap every year... there's oversight for you.
Mubarak's Survival Strategy and Looting as Counter-Insurgency, John Robb, owni.eu
The Mubarak regime is attempting to use the fear of chaos to reassert its authority. Here's to hoping this fails!
Al-Jazeera Jounalists Arrested in Egypt, Josh Halliday, The Guardian
Al-Jazeera has probably played a far more important role in the events in Tunisia and Egypt than social media, but all the attention has been focused on the latter. Scared regimes in the region are starting to catch onto this. What's the betting on a satellite TV clampdown in Syria and Jordan?!
Egypt Protests: Israel Fears Unrest May Threaten Peace Treaty, Ian Black, The Guardian
Israel loves its Collaborator in Chief Hosni Mubarak. Perrish the thought that someone powerful may stand up to Israel one day!
Saturday, 29 January 2011
Saturday, 22 January 2011
Pankaj Mishra and Tariq Ali, writing for the New Yorker and New Left Review respectively have written interesting reviews of the recent literature on Mao, with much contention still surrounding the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution. Western academic discourse has been dominated by the legacy of Cold War anti-communist rhetoric in recent decades, painting a vision of Mao as a brutal tyrant and placing the horrors of his revolution on a par with those of the Holocaust and Stalin's Gulag, during the Twentieth Century. History is however usually more nuanced than this account can hope to be and Mishra and Ali succeed in highlighting the attention given to the complexities of Mao's rule in more recent work on the subject. In the context of European, American and Japanese imperialisms, Mishra notes that Mao's most enduring legacy remains the unification and mobilisation of the masses through a uniquely Chinese narrative of lost greatness and renewal, even if his egalitarian ideals may have been subsumed under the banner of mass consumerism. Likewise, for Ali, the historical functioning of Mao's leadership and ideology needs to be properly contextualised. The Chinese Communist Party inherited a legacy of Bolshevik thought that was crucial to its establishment, but proved - as was so often the case - unsuited to the realities of communist rule outside of the Soviet Union:
"The model that new Communists imbibed was the one they encountered in Moscow: a social dictatorship of the Party/bureaucracy that was master of all public life and sustained by institutionalized networks of repression. This was the system put in place when they came to power or even within parties active in the capitalist and colonial worlds. The stifling of debate weakened both Party and state".
In China, Stalinist style purges did not take place, and the Soviet dictum was inverted to become a sustained anti-bureaucratic mass revolution drawing its sustenance from the legitimacy of the collective will; but, Ali points out, Mao's China lacked the representative institutions required to transmit different interpretations of that collective will. What resulted was the failure of the Great Leap and famine in the countryside, with a leadership insulated from the reality of an unfolding human and ecological catastrophe.
The mass demagoguery of the Cultural Revolution likewise demonstrated the anti-bureaucratic currents of Maoist thought, but was rather instigated by Mao and his supporters in a power-grab after they had been sidelined. The effects, Ali notes however, were quite contradictory in many respects, unleashing new concepts of social mobility and patterns of thought, beyond what could have been intended. Mishra also, quotes Amartya Sen on the Great Leap. Sen argues that India has seen worse:
"...despite the gigantic size of excess mortality in the Chinese famine, the extra mortality in India from regular deprivation in normal times vastly overshadows the former".
Roderick MacFarquhar adds that: "what Mao accomplished between 1949 and 1956 was in fact the fastest, most extensive, and least damaging socialist revolution carried out in any communist state." Further, for Mishra a complex and often unfavourable geopolitical climate must be accounted for: "...the uprising in Tibet in 1959, anti-American riots in Taiwan, border clashes with India, the Sino-Soviet rift..."
What therefore are we to make of Mao? The enduring appeal of Maoist ideology no-doubt lies in its appeal to down-trodden populations and its possibilities for communism as a mass-movement as opposed to the Soviet model of top-down bureaucracy and oligarchy, and the inequalities of capitalism. Its failures lie in the demagoguery and dogma associated with a mass-movement that came to centralise power in the hands of a few, with the inability to transmit signals to the centre. We can learn a lot from this. Whilst I would not go so far as to say that Mao is in need of rehabilitation or emulation, the historical record certainly deserves an account that is not still driven by the vagaries of McCarthyism's rhetorical norms over half a century on.
Friday, 24 December 2010
Let us all join with Richard Dawkins at this festive time of year as he highlights the inherent violence of the Christian message. We are all stained with sin therefore god must send his son down to brutally sacrifice himself in order to forgive us. Yay. Humbug!
Image shamelessly lifted from B3ta.
Tuesday, 21 December 2010
The Vince Cable affair raises some interesting issues both in terms of the way today’s revelations emerged and more broadly the substance of the News Corp-BSkyB takeover deal, as well as Vince Cable’s place in government over the past few months. The Telegraph had clearly got no intention of publishing the complete record of Cables' comments with its' reporters, given its antipathy towards the afore mentioned deal, and so it therefore fell on the BBCs' Robert Peston, aided by a whistleblower, to swing the metaphorical axe. I imagine the BBC may live to regret this given the now near certainty of the deal being finalised. But, then again, maybe this is not all that surprising given recent comments by the BBC director general Mark Thompson, saying that Britain needs a channel like Fox News! And likewise, this stinks to high-heaven of Peston, a former Sunday Telegraph editor, 'getting one over' his old bosses. Whilst I'm certainly not in favour of secrecy in general I'd be very much inclined to side with the current Telegraph editors on this one. Given the moral outrage we've seen from the Murdoch Media Empire directed towards Wikileaks and Julian Assange in the past few weeks, it would certainly be difficult to have much if any sympathy if the Telegraph had manage to cover the story up. However, there is more to this story. Although Cable has survived with his job for the time being, the consensus is that this is unlikely to last much into the new year, with friend of the Tories, David Laws slated for a return. One can clearly see in the comments that Cable made to the Telegraph's reporters - whom he thought were constituency members - a clear moral unease and insecurity in the role he has played in the coalition. It has been no secret that Cable has never been the most trenchant supporter of government policy within the Cabinet, and he sought to justify his continued position there to the journalists, talking about 'picking his fights' and saying 'all we can do in opposition is protest'. He likewise talked about Cameron's secret plans to abolish winter fuel allowance, insinuating that he was fighting a valuable rearguard action behind enemy lines. Whilst this may have been the case to an extent one can't help but wonder whether any of this was really necessary in the first place for Mr Cable. He could have stopped this coalition government before it ever got off the ground, and that was definitely the opportune moment... before the juggernaut had started rolling. When he finally loses his job to the neo-liberal Laws, Cable, I imagine, will ask himself whether it was really worth compromising his principles in the first place (surely they're only good as long as they are adhered to, no?) Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end for the coalition, and he'll end up leading a backbench rebellion of Lib Dem MPs, but I think Cable may well have overestimated the influence he actually has. His own influence in government seems to have been increasingly marginalised, and its questionable whether he is really willing to lead a Lib Dem revolt, or even whether the Lib Dem backbenches have any stomach for the fight. Government patronage, with the prospect of a place on the front benches may be too much for many of them. As for the takeover deal itself I find it particularly galling how the European Commission can be so hostile towards Google yet see nothing wrong with Murdoch's dominance of news media in the UK. I think many people on the Left will likely echo my own position that its difficult to have a whole lot of sympathy with the position Cable has put himself in, having kept schtum during the past few months. Whilst I'd relish a 'war' on Murdoch this clearly isn't going to happen any time soon, and although I'd like some positive spin-off from this whole saga, unfortunately the position of the government seems like it may well have been strengthened here. We all know what a government united in its neo-liberal fervour and backed by a strengthened Murdoch Media Empire is likely to entail for the rest of us.
Monday, 20 December 2010
Writing for the New Yorker, Jane Mayer has written a fascinating article describing how funding by Charles and David Koch has been used to promote the Tea Party movement, and deny climate change whilst obstructing pollution control and public health measures in the United States. Mayer points out the irony of Tea Party rhetoric that is directed against 'special interests' in Washington whilst in reality being directed by the mother of all corporate 'special interest' lobbying/financing campaigns (read 'corruption'). Koch industries, controlled by two of the richest men in America, the Koch brothers Charles and David (they kicked their other brothers Freddie and William off the board), has funded numerous think tanks and foundations supposedly offering neutral and impartial policy advice. Rather conflicts of interest have been their modus of operandi writ large, advancing their companies' profit margins above all else. Koch industries has been prosecuted and fined for numerous pollution offences and the robbery of Indian oil - after which they set their private investigators on members of a Congressional Committee - whilst perhaps most worryingly of all, their money seems to have had a very real effect in undermining public confidence in climate change science. Thus, there should be no doubt in any persons' mind as to who is really behind and benefitting from the undermining of serious attention to problems of climate change and conservation; the rich and powerful! I struggle to understand how anyone can care so little about the natural environment of this planet, and its amazing diversity of life. No amount of money could ever make me not give a shit about this planet. It also gets me that the only proposal our planet has for tackling climate change is 'carbon trading' with the creation of another bullshit market. WTF?
Friday, 17 December 2010
N.B: For anyone interested further in the Berlusconi phenomenon, here's a recording of an interesting lecture by Stephen Gundle called, 'Berlusconi in Historical Perspective'.
Monday, 29 November 2010
N.B: Its also interesting to note how the whole Iran issue has been spun already. The Iranians themselves have latched onto this, accusing the US government of being behind the wikileaks releases, and trying to downplay them. Whilst I think this is a bit far fetched, the anti-Iranian consensus revealed by the leaked documents has certainly been leapt upon by Western media, and strengthens the hand of the American right and Israel, in their unending clamour for war.