In the Middle East, a document has been found, threatening violence against British 'occupiers':
A pamphlet warning Britons to leave the Middle East or face death has come to light in a stash of illicit propaganda... It adds: “Most of you have been in this country for quite a long time. You have learned what the word ‘terrorist’ means, some of you may even have come into direct contact with them (and heartily desire not to repeat the experience). But what do you know about them?
Which 'terrorist' group penned this piece? Hamas? Hezbollah? Or somebody else?
Tuesday, 22 July 2008
In the Middle East, a document has been found, threatening violence against British 'occupiers':
Wednesday, 16 July 2008
The Age, Melbourne's leading broadsheet newspaper, has an undeserved reputation for leaning to the left. In reality, the paper adopts a series of often meaningless causes in a tokenistic fashion (such as its support for 'Earth Day'). It is harder to find articles on class struggle, or imperialism, or with an anti-corporate message, or anything else that is recognisably 'left'. On the contrary - if we examine the glossier sections of the paper (particularly the lift-outs and magazines) - the paper is filled with expensive consumer items (and not merely as ads) presumably pitched to well-heeled, middle-aged bourgeois types who are happy to regard themselves as 'progressive'.
It was therefore pleasing to note an article included in yesterday's columns, re-printed from the Washington Post. Its author, Dionne, argued that we are presently at an economic juncture equivalent to the Great Depression of the 1930s, or the stagflation of the 1970s, and that we can therefore expect to see significant challenges to neoliberal economic orthodoxy. Dionne doesn't advocate anything too radical, merely additional 'regulation'.
Let us briefly consider the context of this economic moment. In Australia, inflation is higher than it has been for some years. An ailing labour movement has failed to assert itself in the face of this inflation, and some have argued that wages for workers have stalled, in spite of the economy having 'rocketed along'.
In the meantime, we are seeing an unprecedented focus on addressing issues of environmental concern. Or course, the politicians who are discussing carbon-trading schemes and the like are unwilling to consider the possibility that environmental destruction is a symptom of capitalism, and is not going to be cured by this latter economic system. The focus on the climate change pseudo-debate as the centre of environmental concerns is misleading. We do not require complex modelling to note the appalling pollution of many of the world's cities, or the fact of the Mongolian desert, the Gobi, expanding inexorably toward Beijing, or the massive deforestation that continues in developing countries. That industrial capitalism could fail to be implicated in these problems speaks volumes about the dishonesty of our politicians and media.
These problems, economic and environmental, provide a challenge and an opportunity to the left. In Australia, as elsewhere, electoral politics has almost entirely failed to provide left-leaning individuals with genuine representation. Yet almost never before have leftist politics and the critique of capitalism been more relevant or more urgent.
Naturally, a moment of crisis can also be seized upon by the lunatic elements of the right, whose constituent feels the effects of economic calamity just as keenly as anybody else. In addition, perfectly legitimate concerns about globalisation are displaced onto minority ethnic and religious groups. Hence, we see the (re-)birth of 'protectionist parties'.
Our tasks are becoming clearer - to develop a genuine worker's movement, which may mean unshackling trade unions from fat bureaucrats and other careerists, as well as the ALP machinery. Environmental problems are well-explained by a critical, Marxist viewpoint - just like the expropriation of surplus value by capitalists, environmental destruction is absolutely not the raison d'etre of capital. It is, however, its logical and inevitable consequence. This link, between the economic and the environmental, must be made explicitly and repeatedly. Finally, Green movements and parties need to appeal to an economic, class-based constituent, and not merely those who profess 'progressive' views on the environment and other matters. A Greens party whose sole focus is on elections, which cannot muster sufficient votes in working class areas to achieve anything of note, and whose modus operandi is merely to serve as an ideological chorus on the margins of parliamentary politics is a party that is stillborn before it could ever really take off.
Thursday, 10 July 2008
Monday, 7 July 2008
I'll be missing in action for the latter months of 2008. When I return, I'd like to set up an online reading group. I envisage that this would be set up on another blog, and would possibly be a group blog. The idea would be for a group of us (and a small group is fine) to work through some meaty texts. Debate and discussion of the text would be encouraged (though not idiotic trolling unrelated to the text), individuals from different backgrounds would be welcome to contribute.
Does anybody have any interest in this sort of idea? If the answer is yes, do you have any proposals as to what it might look like?
Some areas of interest to me are philosophy, politics, history, psychoanalysis, and literature. It seems more worthwhile to me to attempt to work through difficult texts rather than straightforward ones. Having said that, novices are welcome. The aim of all this would be to create a shared online resource, and raise the level of discourse on the blogosphere up a notch or two.
Now whilst I have grand plans of returning late this year to launch into a reading group that looks at Marx's Grundrisse or Lacan's Seminar VII, for instance, I'd like to trial this idea with something much smaller, to see how it works. If it inspires a few dedicated readers in Melbourne, the discussion could also relocate off-line to somewhere suitably scholarly, like a bar. There's also a possibility that discussions could be filmed or audio-taped.
The format I have in mind is that each chapter/passage/few pages would be scheduled in advanced. One reader (probably me in the first instance) could then provide a brief bit of background and response to said chapter/few pages. Everyone else could then respond as they see fit.
Anyway, here are some suggestions for the trial run:
Politics - Maybe a short paper by Marx, or Lenin, or maybe Trotsky's paper on fascism. There are many online resources in this area, which is helpful, as it means people can access the texts for free. Hardt and Negri are also good for a laugh.
Philosophy - Badious and Zizek keep churning out interesting papers on a regular basis, though something a little less contemporary could be an option if people are interested. Some of this stuff is also available online.
Psychoanalysis - Since this area links up with the above two in many ways, as well as a plethora of other areas (sexual politics, anthropology, etc), I think it could be quite interesting if people arrive with an open mind. Some suggestions - Freud's Mourning and Melancholia, for instance, or Lacan's paper on the Mirror Stage.
Literature - I'm less inclined to delve into fiction as the blogosphere (and real world) have lots of reading groups that discuss the latest bestsellers. However, maybe as a trial, we could look at one of Nam Le's recently-published short stories, for instance.
Anyways, I'm very open to suggestions, and I encourage one and all to comment here or email me. A reading group of one is just going to be me taking notes (which I do already), and it's going to be a little sad to broadcast that over the blogosphere. So find something you like, and spare me blushes of embarrassment.
Until then, I'm off to Sydney in a couple of days to spread subversion for a short while. I might check out that bookshop belonging to that Gould chap. I hope to hear from you all in the near-future.
Here are a couple of examples of self-declared conservative Christians peddling sleaze and grossly dishonest propaganda.
Over at AWH, the Crusading Rodent has the scoop on 'Hussein Obama', citing Obama's 'own words', allegedly taken from his book, Audacity of Hope. The quotes include these:
"I found a solace in nursing a pervasive sense of grievance and animosity against my mother's race."
"It remained necessary to prove which side you were on, to show your loyalty to the black masses, to strike out and name names."
"I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction."
Incriminating quotes for rabid rightist who are fearful of blacks and Muslims, no? Except it turns out that these quotes are totally fabricated. This fact was pointed out to Mr Rodent, who not only did not retract any of the post, but kept up the pretence over at his own private blog, where his half-wit readers accept this chain email as gospel. A quick google search tells us that rightist fruitcakes the world over are peddling the above smears as factual. Pathetic.
The same goes for the serial liars over at TMS, who are trying to get us to take seriously the idea that a takeover by union thugs is imminent. Oh, those bad old days (1980s and '90s) of union activism:
That was an age when arrogant young union officials would storm into a job site, kick up a floor board and declare a job site closed.
Much better when arrogant old employers had carte blanche with respect to their employers, eh? We see more lies in this post, even ones that have been pointed out on TMS previously:
Kevin Rudd is a Chavez-loving socialist.
The link providing the 'reference' doesn't work, so I guess we'll never know if this ever-so plausible statement is true.
(He once named Chavez as his mentor).
Really? That'd be news to most people, Rudd included.
Unions are natural communists who hate business and the dynamic market.
No, unions require business and markets, otherwise their members would be out of a job. Actual communists (such as Lenin) frequently criticised trade unionism as a completely inadequate response to the crises of capitalism.
They almost destroyed us back in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
So the unions were to blame for the recession 'we had to have'? Forget macroeconomics or the global market, and blame the ACTU...
In practice, a Labor government under Mr. Rudd would re-regulate economic life. Over the past year he has promised to set up no fewer than 68 new bureaucracies and establish 96 reviews if elected.
None of which has anything directly to do with the 'regulation' of economic life.
He promises to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and commit Australia to a costly program of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to 60% of 2000 levels by 2050.
Er, Kyoto happened several months ago.
His proposed industry policy—constructed by Kim Carr, a declared socialist—would create an uberbureaucracy of 12 Industry Innovation Councils.
Socialists! Uberbureaucracies! I'm feeling faint!
Kevin Rudd is no ‘Mr Innocent’. Don’t be fooled. He is the whitewashed figurehead of an evil socialist regime with the big heavies sitting on his cabinet waiting to do all the dirty work for him and the party.
Take that, Kevin Josip Il Rudd! Thou art now vanquished, o apparatchiks, Politburo denizens, and purveyors of the dreaded gulag!
Liars. Though I had to chuckle when I read what one poor deluded commenter had to say in response:
many believe rudd is a socialist, despite his efforts to distance himself from the communist party.
Which communist party? Russia's? Nepal's? The Freemason and Illuminati Party?
Maybe this one:
Wednesday, 2 July 2008
Rick Shenkman asks just how stupid and ignorant are his fellow Americans. Whilst Shenkman unveils a few embarrassing stats demonstrating that US citizens are far more knowledgeable about pop culture than world affairs, I suspect his argument doesn't fly. The picture he paints is not clear evidence of ignorance, still less, stupidity, (though frustrated agitators may interpret it as such). Rather, Shenkman seems to depict an abysmal disconnect between representatives and the represented, and a profound disengagement with politics on the part of the populace. These problems are not limited to the US - things differ here in Australia only in terms of degree, and we delude ourselves if we believe otherwise.
Speaking of politics - a majority of people surveyed in the US (and most other countries) believed that their nation should 'not take either side' in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the US, 71% of respondents adopted this position, a result that is hardly indicative of a dullard population in thrall to Christian Zionist lobbyists and other right-wing cranks. Incidentally, most nations apparently believed that both Israelis and Palestinians did themselves no favours in terms of resolving the conflict.
Now this position is not a 'leftist' position per se - for most leftists, it is perfectly clear who is oppressor and who is oppressed in this 'conflict'. Yes, neutrality is inherently conservative, in so far as it supports and rationalises the status quo. Nonetheless, these results show a US population that maintains rather different political perspectives compared to its elite political class. So much for representative democracy (to say nothing of at least $3 billion per annum in aid siphoned off to a militaristic Israel).
Finally, next to the US is a little country much-derided by the world's policeman. Nonetheless, in news you probably won't be reading in the mainstream media, researchers within this country claim to have developed a vaccine for lung cancer. Clinical trials were yet to be complete, but the vaccine itself will be made available to both locals and foreigners.
Tuesday, 1 July 2008
We have seen before that capitalism, particularly in its neoliberal version, is a thoroughly discredited doctrine.
We have more evidence of this today:
[T]o imagine the IMF investigating the US financial system is unthinkable, or was. But, at the weekend, Der Spiegel reported that the IMF would conduct a full investigation into virtually every aspect of it...
The fact that the IMF is knocking on the very doors of its parents and waving legal papers about who lost the house, the car and the kids will, if the past is anything to go by, be buried in the US by pom-pom waving on CNBC telling all what a great time it is to buy.
But the news that the US Fed has now lost its last vestige of credibility did not end with the German report.
Part of the problem is the US media, which has for so long pretended that all is or soon will be well, a bottom is near, a recovery awaits in the second half of the financial year that will sweep away all problems, sown over decades, in a new expansion, a cycle that is ordained to come. The latest fantasy is that with the quarter's end, new profit figures will invigorate the bull, which will seed fertility.
The next President will be handed at least two wars gone horrible wrong and, by then, an economy in similar shape. The bull will have to be a particularly fertile beast. (source)
It is not for nothing that, in the US, the self-declared most powerful of nations, 36.5 million people were living in poverty as of 2006. The triumphalist flag-bearers of capitalism may some day come to realise that the 'end of history' has arrived at the door just yet.