White House to Merge Domestic, International Security Staff
by Jason Ditz
President Obama announced today that he will be combining the White House staffs dealing with international and homeland security, claiming that the move would “make Americans safer.” The president will establish a “global engagement directorate” and a “National Security staff” that will deal with all policymaking related to “international, transnational, and homeland security matters.” National Security Adviser James Jones will head the staff.
Jones, a former Marine commandant, praised the move, saying that “terror around the world doesn’t recognize borders.” President Obama said the move “will end the artificial divide between White House staff who have been dealing with national security and homeland security issues.”
The statement was issued as a press release, though it largely took a back seat to the revelation of the president’s choice for the Supreme Court. It claimed to be a required move to “deal with new and emerging 21st Century challenges,” with cybersecurity at the top of the list - even ahead of WMD terrorism.
To that end, the president is expected to appoint an Internet Czar later this week, a position which will have broad oversight both government-run and private networks. The position will said to report to both Jones and top White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers.
Friday, May 29, 2009
White House to Merge Domestic, International Security Staff
By Margaret Wente
...A lot of us would say: Good riddance. Working-class culture was sexist, homophobic, casually racist and exclusively male. Not even auto plants are like that any more. At Ford's state-of-the-art plant in Brazil, half the workers are young women. The muscle work is done by robots. Everyone is flexible and works in teams, and the emphasis is on good communication. No one in my dad's shop would be remotely qualified to work there.
As low- and semi-skilled manual jobs disappear, working-class men are getting hammered - and so is their masculinity. “Manual labour has been a key source of identity, pride, self-esteem and power for working-class men,” says a recent British study, which set out to probe a fascinating question: What makes these men so unemployable?
The conventional answer is that their education levels are too low and their skills are too poor. But the more accurate answer is that they're psychologically mismatched to the seismic shifts in our economy. The new economy (over the long term) is creating tons of service jobs in retail, customer support, and personal care. The trouble is that these jobs require temperamental attributes that are stereotypically feminine - things like patience, a pleasant demeanour, deference to the customer and the ability to empathize and connect. Another way to put it is that these jobs require emotional labour, not manual labour. And women, even unskilled women, are much better at emotional labour than men are.
The author of the study, Darren Nixon, did his field work in Manchester, where he interviewed dozens of long-term unemployed men. Once the embodiment of proud working-class culture, Manchester has had its guts ripped out by deindustrialization, and is trying to reinvent itself through the arts and tourism. Some of the men he interviewed had tried their hand at retail or other service jobs, but none had lasted long. “I've got no patience with people, basically,” one subject told him. “I can't put a smiley face on.” Or: “Telephone sales, no. Too much talking.” Another man said, “If someone [a customer] gave me loads of hassle, I'd end up lamping them.” Several of them, in fact, had lost their jobs when they lamped the boss.
“Responding to the demands of customer sovereignty unquestionably is antithetical to young working-class men whose culture valorizes sticking up for yourself,” writes the author in awkward academese. But his point is clear. The defining value of working-class masculinity is the ability to stick up for yourself when someone tries to give you shit. The defining requirement of service work (in their view) is having to eat it. Service work is a fundamental challenge to their masculine identity...
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From Anarchist attacks on the rise in Greece
Anarchy made a spectacular return to Greece this month as explosions struck banks and private businesses and a riot rocked downtown Athens.
Widespread urban guerrilla violence, growing racism toward Greeces 1 million immigrant population and unprecedented disillusionment toward the political class characterize Greek society five months after it experienced its gravest rioting since World War II.
Greece faces a proliferation of new anarchist and anti-establishment terrorist groups, which pose a growing threat to stability, Greek and foreign analysts say.
"We have a new generation of terrorists showing its presence and teeth over the past couple of years, and now they have a new pool of possible recruits," said Thanos Dokos, director of Greek think tank ELIAMEP. "Growing numbers of people are saying that if the politicians cannot understand with other means, then targeted violence might shake them out of their stupor."
Greece's center-right government has been battered by bribery, real estate and sex scandals, making it a tempting target for anarchists. A government reshuffle in February was widely criticized, and a second round of changes is expected after European parliamentary elections in June, in which the government is expected to do poorly.
Scandals have forced four ministers to resign in the past two years. Widespread public disillusionment was compounded by anger in December when a policeman fatally shot a 15-year-old boy, triggering a week of cross-country rioting.
Police credibility plunged when riot squads stepped back and allowed widespread vandalism and looting in an attempt to avoid clashes that might cause further casualties.
When the smoke cleared, public and private businesses had suffered millions of dollars in damage. Public trust in the police was further damaged when it emerged in April that a policeman was a member of an organized gang of bank robbers that has carried out nearly 30 armed robberies since December.
"Prison riots, social exclusion, human rights violations, police brutality, lack of accountability and corruption are just a few manifestations that the system in Greece has reached its limits," said Panos Kostakos, a researcher at the Department of European Studies at Bath University in Britain. "Weak states have always provided strong ground for malevolent actors and dark networks."
Fresh attacks occurred a week ago Saturday as incendiary devices exploded outside a private security firm, a car dealership and a business selling military surplus gear.
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By Barbara H. Peterson
Monsanto and its cohorts in crime promised us that they would not be using Terminator technology called GURT, or genetic use restricted technology. In fact, the United Nations actually issued a moratorium on the project. So we're safe, right? Wrong.
As usual, the boys in the little white lab coats have not been idle. In spite of the moratorium, not only are they working heatedly on Terminator technology, but are getting ready to introduce Zombie technology. Terminator, and Traitor or Zombie technologies are just variations of GURT. Whereas Terminator technology produces plants with sterile seeds, Zombie technology carries this a step further by creating plants that could require a chemical application to trigger seed fertility every year. Pay for the chemical or get sterile seed. This is called reversible transgenic sterility. They have been working steadily on perfecting this technology, and are now poised to introduce it to the world as a solution to the current GMO contamination problem. Move over Terminator, here comes the Zombie.
If a field gets contaminated with seeds containing the Terminator gene, the resulting plants will have sterile seeds, so the reproductive cycle ends. If the contamination is from the Zombie gene, the resulting plants will most likely require a certain pesticide or will be sterile.
Plants are engineered with sterility as the default condition, but sterility can be reversed with the application of an external stimulus that restores the plant's viability. In order to bring the "zombie" seed back from the dead, the farmer or breeder must use an external stimulus (such as a proprietary chemical) to restore the seed's fertility. (Terminator the Sequel, 2007 PDF doc)
Either way, if you are a small farmer with a contaminated field, your seed-saving venture for the following year will be less than successful. Planting sterile seeds takes the same amount of work as well as monetary outlay that planting good seeds does, but without the return on investment. And, you cannot tell the difference between the good, the bad, and the ugly seeds until it's too late. That is, if the patent enforcement brigade doesn't raid your property first and force you to destroy your crops and all of your seeds due to patent infringement. Then you get nothing, and have to pay for the privilege.
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Our speculation that the “secret billionaire club” meeting at the beginning of the month was primarily focused around population control. a cause célèbre embraced by David Rockefeller, Ted Turner and Bill Gates, has been confirmed by a London Times report.
Details of the secret confab were thin on the ground in the initial reports concerning the meeting of rich “philanthropists” like Rockefeller, Turner, Gates, Warren Buffet and George Soros, which took place in New York on May 5 at the home of Sir Paul Nurse, a British Nobel prize biochemist and president of the private Rockefeller University.
An ABC News report about the confab offered little more than fawning idolatry towards the attendees, and was little more than a sophistic exercise in ass kissing and creeping adulation for people like Rockefeller and Turner, who were portrayed as philanthropic saviors of the planet.
We questioned this premise by pointing out that Turner has publicly advocated shocking population reduction programs that would cull the human population by a staggering 95%. He has also called for a Communist-style one child policy to be mandated by governments in the west. In China, the one child policy is enforced by means of taxes on each subsequent child, allied to an intimidation program which includes secret police and “family planning” authorities kidnapping pregnant women from their homes and performing forced abortions.
Of course, Turner completely fails to follow his own rules on how everyone else should live their lives, having five children and owning no less than 2 million acres of land.
In the third world, Turner has contributed literally billions to population reduction, namely through United Nations programs, leading the way for the likes of Bill & Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet(Gates’ father has long been a leading board member of Planned Parenthood and a top eugenicist).
Our initial suspicions that the secret meeting was primarily concerned with population control has been confirmed by a London Times report, which states, “SOME of America’s leading billionaires have met secretly to consider how their wealth could be used to slow the growth of the world’s population and speed up improvements in health and education. The philanthropists who attended a summit convened on the initiative of Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder, discussed joining forces to overcome political and religious obstacles to change.”
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The mass exodus from Swat is making headlines globally. Over a million have been displaced. This is the worst humanitarian crisis since the Rwanda tragedy in 1990s. The explanation offered is that this is necessary to flush the Taliban out of Swat's lush, green valley in Pakistan's north. This military operation, launched in order to stabilise the US occupation of Afghanistan and its so-called "war on terror", is hardly mentioned in the corporate media. On the contrary, major US newspapers have been invoking the fear that Pakistan's nuclear weapons might fall into the hands of the Taliban. Is this a story planted by the CIA?
This is the fourth time in less than three years that the Swat area has been subjected to a military operation. However the latest offensive is of a different character.
First, this military operation was hastily launched. The United States threatened to use drones in Swat if Pakistan did not stop the Taliban from advancing into the neighbouring districts of Dir and Boner.
Second, it is not a mock operation. This time the Pakistan army is targeting the Taliban.
Third, the mainstream media in Pakistan and the major political parties are openly supporting this military action. Previously the mainstream Islamist and right-wing parties, including former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), were sympathetic to the Taliban and opposed targetting them. This time around, the PML-N is siding with the ruling coalition, led by Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP).
The general public is turning against the Taliban. The swing in the public's perception was catalysed by a video showing the Taliban whipping a girl. This shocked Pakistanis. However Taliban spokesperson Muslim Khan defended the punishment and asserted that the girl should have been stoned.
While the media previously had been dominated by pro-Taliban anchorpersons and columnists, they are not siding with the Taliban this time. Ridiculed as the ``Media Mujahidin'', many pro-Taliban journalists have now begun criticising the Taliban. However it is the liberals in the media who are proving to be the worst warmongers. Back in 1999 they were the first to welcome the military takeover of Pakistan, hoping that General Pervez Musharraf would rid Pakistan of the fundamentalist "beards". Later, disillusioned by Musharraf, they pinned all their hope on Uncle Sam.
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In this clip, Robert Anton Wilson talks about the influence of Alfred Korzybski, Friedrich Nietzsche, Benjamin Tucker, Karl Popper, Timothy Leary, Harry Stack Sullivan, Eric Berne, Wilhelm Reich, and James DeMeo on his books and ideas.
"There is nothing rationally desirable that cannot be achieved sooner if rationality itself increases. Work to achieve Intelligence Intensification is work to achieve all our sane and worthwhile goals." -Robert Anton Wilson
From Silence on the square
Outside the Communist Party, memories of the 1989 massacre get hazy
AMONG journalists at a Chinese newspaper, there has been some surprising talk of publishing a story to mark the 20th anniversary on June 3rd and 4th of the massacre of hundreds of Beijing citizens by Chinese soldiers. One journalist even told his colleagues he would be ready to go to jail for doing so. But such bravado, especially if it proves more than rhetoric, is likely to be rare. For many in China the nationwide pro-democracy protests of 1989 and their bloody end have become a muddled and half-forgotten tale.
This does not stop the Communist Party worrying about the issue. It fears that the efforts of even a small number of people to keep memories alive could be destabilising. The most senior official to serve jail time for his role in the Tiananmen Square unrest, Bao Tong, has been escorted by security officials from his Beijing home to a scenic spot in central China (far from muttering journalists) where he will spend the anniversary period. Mr Bao agreed to go, says a family member. But in China an invitation from the police can be awkward to refuse. Several other dissidents report heightened police surveillance.
This year’s anniversary has spurred a hardy few to pronounce on the massacre. A Beijing academic, Cui Weiping, told a gathering of intellectuals called to commemorate it that the party’s campaign to deter public discussion of Tiananmen, and public acquiescence to it, had damaged China’s “spirit and morality”. She posted her remarks on her blog.
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From The ghosts of Tiananmen
Ten years after the Tiananmen massacre of 1989 I wrote a book, Bad Elements, about the fate of the protesters, dissidents and free-spirited Chinese who had wanted to change their country. Much had changed in those ten years, and even more has changed since. New buildings, ever taller, ever bigger, have made cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing virtually unrecognisable to anyone who has been away for longer than six months. Old neighbourhoods disappear overnight, to be replaced by high rises, shopping malls and theme parks, sometimes replicating in miniature, or in painted concrete, razed ancient landmarks. This isn’t just a matter of economic growth; it is a transformation.
So was I wrong to detect a whiff of decay in the authoritarian one-party state when I travelled in the People’s Republic of China ten years ago? Was I misguided in my belief that the dissident “bad elements” still mattered? It is not hard to find educated, prosperous citizens in the wealthier coastal regions who will say so. The foreign traveller in China today will often be told, sometimes in excellent English, that the country is not yet ready for the freedoms my dissidents demanded. China is too big, one hears, too large, too old, the Chinese masses are too uneducated, in fact, China is just too damned complicated for democracy to take root. The whip-hand of authoritarian rule is still essential to keep chaos at bay and enable prosperity. Democracy is a luxury to be enjoyed after wealth and education; first food and shelter, then, possibly, freedom.
An alternative argument comes down to pretty much the same thing, but has a more patriotic ring. It claims that China already has a kind of democracy; a Chinese democracy in line with native traditions, a quasi-Confucian system where wise and benevolent rulers act, as if by osmosis, according to the wishes of the people. And the people, instead of indulging in selfish demands for rights—which suit the westerner, but are alien to the Chinese—sacrifice their private interests for the good of a great nation with 6,000 years of history.
These arguments will be expressed, usually with great conviction, while one’s attention is drawn to those tall, glitzy buildings, and those malls stuffed with the luxuries of the modern world. Look at what China has achieved in 20 years! Don’t the figures speak for themselves? So why should it matter what such voices in the wilderness as Wei Jingsheng, who spent 14 years in prison before being exiled to the US, still say about the lack of democracy in China? Or former student leaders of the Tiananmen demonstrations, some of whom now have business careers in the west. After all, their voices are no longer much heard in China. Those born around 1989 have barely heard of the protests, let alone of people who played prominent roles back then. Parents won’t talk about it lest their children get into trouble. And the children have other things to worry about, like getting ahead in the exciting but often brutal world of authoritarian capitalism.
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I am as loath to predict what might happen now as I was in 1999, but one can imagine certain possibilities. One is an old Chinese pattern of local rulers replacing a crumbling central power. Provincial bosses, like the warlords of 100 years ago, may take control of their regions. They are unlikely to be friends of democracy. Or extreme nationalism might be stirred by a fearful government, keen to deflect the middle-class resentment onto foreign targets. But this, too, is a tactic full of risk, as radical nationalism could be turned against the government itself, as a punishment for its weakness. Then again, China’s army, anxious to restore order in the unruly empire, might step in and crush all dissent.
There is a more positive alternative to these routes of violence and oppression. It was expressed with great eloquence in a remarkable document, first signed by more than 300 Chinese citizens—law professors, businessmen, farmers and even some party officials. The 300 signatories of Charter 08, launched at the end of 2008 on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, were soon joined by thousands more. It was drawn up as a conscious echo of an earlier charter by Czechoslovakian dissidents in 1977, seeking human rights in a stagnant satellite of the Soviet empire. It is not radical. The signatories demand free elections, an independent judiciary, free speech and basic human rights. But of course, in a one-party dictatorship, these demands are radical. And so one of the “bad elements” I wrote about 20 years ago, a quiet-spoken intellectual named Liu Xiaobo, who organised the charter, was promptly arrested and jailed. Others, too, were harassed, and interrogated. One thing is clear: dissidents clearly do matter to the rulers of the People’s Republic of China.
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By Tom Hayden (OpEd News)
8 May, 2009
Don't go around tonight,
Well it's bound to take your life,
There's a bad moon on the rise.
""Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1969
The truth was obscure, too profound and too pure,
To love it you have to explode.
""Bob Dylan, 1978
Anyone meeting Mark Rudd today would think him a nice level-headed guy: retired community college teacher, carpenter, husband, father of two, rank-and-file peace activist. Turning 62, his hair is gone white, the paunch protrudes, but the blue eyes are observant. All in all, laid back but present.
This is the same Mark Rudd I met in the heat of the 1968 Columbia University student strike, the Mark Rudd who ended a letter to Grayson Kirk, Columbia's president, by declaring, "Up against the wall, motherfucker!"-, the Mark Rudd who proudly led Students for a Democratic Society to close its offices and end its organizing efforts in the midst of the greatest student rebellion of the 20th century, the same Mark Rudd who went underground and supported a plan to bomb Fort Dix, which went awry and killed three of his friends""all by the time he was 22 years old.
Underground: My Life with SDS and the Weathermen
By Mark Rudd
William Morrow, 336 pages
Rudd struggles to reconcile these two selves, representing two eras, in his memoir, "Underground: My Life with SDS and the Weathermen," an important contribution to a growing collection of narratives from former participants in the revolutionary 1960s' underground. Other recent works include Bill Ayers' "Fugitive Days," Cathy Wilkerson's "Flying Close to the Sun,"- Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Ayers, and Jeff Jones' "Sing a Battle Song,"- David Gilbert's "No Surrender," Leslie Brody's "Red Star Sister," Roxanne Dunbar's "Outlaw Woman," and the 2002 Oscar-nominated documentary "The Weather Underground." The saga is turned into fiction as well in Dana Spiotta's "Eat the Document." Other novels that mine the same or similar terrain include Heinrich Boll's classic "The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum," Susan Choi's "American Woman," and Neil Gordon's "The Company You Keep." No doubt there will be more.
That may be more books than those devoted to such organizations as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee or the Students for a Democratic Society, not to mention community organizing or the farmworkers' movement of those years, and the genre is likely to grow, revealing an abiding fascination with the question of why it was that some peaceful dissenters turned to violence so suddenly in the late '60s. The Weather Underground took credit for 24 bombings altogether and, according to federal sources, there were additionally several thousand acts of violence during the same years. In 1969-70 alone, there were more than 550 fraggings by soldiers, according to one authoritative historian of the Vietnam War.
The fascination with such violence is not new. Similar themes can be found in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's 19th-century novel about young Russian nihilists, "The Possessed," in Joseph Conrad's "Under Western Eyes," Henry James' "The Princess Casamassima," Andre Malraux's tale of the Shanghai uprising, "Man's Fate," and, of course, Ernest Hemingway's stories of the Spanish civil war.
What explains the enduring interest in such radicals? I believe it has something to do with exploring the extremes of personal commitment. To fail heroically, though miserably, is seen by many as attaining a greater glory than the rewards to be had from the mundane life of patient political work. As Karl Marx wrote of the Paris Commune, the French Communards at least had stormed the heavens. And as Rudd quotes Erich Fromm quoting Nietzsche, "There are times when anyone who does not lose his mind has no mind to lose."
Fiction may be a better vehicle than autobiography or history for ascertaining the truth in clandestine histories where the secret lives of others are at legal risk. In Rudd's self-description, he is far from heroic, but more like a confused young man from the Jersey suburbs staggering out of a novel by Philip Roth, either "American Pastoral" or "I Married a Communist."
There is an unconsciousness in Rudd's memory of himself, a kind of bumbling innocence that will disappoint a reader seeking more. When, for example, the milling students at Columbia sought tactical direction, Rudd writes: "I had only the vaguest idea of what we were doing."- When Rudd is told by a comrade that his demonstration is out of control, he replies, "I know. I have no idea what to do." When Rudd calls for taking a hostage, he says, "I meant a building," not an administrator. But then he supports taking Dean Henry Coleman hostage, yelling: "Now we've got the man where we want him! He can't leave unless he gives in to some of our demands." When the media selects him as the new revolutionary symbol, he remembers a "gnawing sense that I was in over my head."
Some of this is funny, as for example when Rudd calls his father in Maplewood, N.J., to say "We took a building" and the old man replies, "Well, give it back."
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Anniversary of the fall of the Paris Commune:
...The Paris Commune (French: La Commune de Paris) was a government that briefly ruled Paris, from March 28 (more formally, from March 26) to May 28, 1871. It existed before the split between anarchists and socialists had taken place, and it is hailed by both groups as the first assumption of power by the working class. Debates over the policies and outcome of the Commune contributed to the break between those two political groups.
In a formal sense, the Paris Commune was simply the local authority, the city council (in French, the "commune"), which exercised power in Paris for two months in the spring of 1871. However, the conditions in which it was formed, its controversial decrees, and its tortured end make its tenure one of the more important political episodes of the time.
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The toughest resistance came in the more working-class districts of the east, where fighting continued during the later stages of the week of vicious street fighting in what became known as La Semaine Sanglante ("The Bloody Week"). By May 27 only a few pockets of resistance remained, notably the poorer eastern districts of Belleville and Ménilmontant. Fighting ended during the late afternoon or early evening of May 28. According to legend, the last barricade was in the rue Ramponeau in Belleville.
Marshall MacMahon issued a proclamation: "To the inhabitants of Paris. The French army has come to save you. Paris is freed! At 4 o'clock our soldiers took the last insurgent position. Today the fight is over. Order, work and security will be reborn."
Reprisals now began in earnest. Having supported the Commune in any way was a political crime, of which thousands could be, and were, accused. Some of the Communards were shot against what is now known as the Communards' Wall in the Père Lachaise Cemetery while thousands of others were tried by summary courts martial of doubtful legality, and thousands shot. Notorious sites of slaughter were the Luxembourg Gardens and the Lobau Barracks, behind the Hôtel de Ville. Nearly 40,000 others were marched to Versailles for trials. For many days endless columns of men, women and children made a painful way under military escort to temporary prison quarters in Versailles. Later 12,500 were tried, and about 10,000 were found guilty: 23 men were executed; many were condemned to prison; 4,000 were deported for life to New Caledonia. The number killed during La Semaine Sanglante can never be established for certain, and estimates vary from about 10,000 to 50,000. According to Benedict Anderson, "7,500 were jailed or deported" and "roughly 20,000 executed". 
According to Alfred Cobban, 30,000 were killed, perhaps as many as 50,000 later executed or imprisoned and 7,000 were exiled to New Caledonia. Thousands more - including most of the Commune leaders - succeeded in escaping to Belgium, Britain (a safe haven for 3,000-4,000 refugees), Italy, Spain and the United States. The final exiles and transportees were amnestied in 1880. Some became prominent in later politics, as Paris councillors, deputies or senators.
In 1872, "stringent laws were passed that ruled out all possibilities of organizing on the left." For the imprisoned there was a general amnesty in 1880, except for those convicted of assassination or arson. Paris remained under martial law for five years.
Karl Marx found it aggravating that the Communards "lost precious moments" organising democratic elections rather than instantly finishing off Versailles once and for all. France's national bank, located in Paris and storing billions of francs, was left untouched and unguarded by the Communards. Timidly they asked to borrow money from the bank (which of course they got without any hesitation).
The Communards did take over the Paris mint and issued a 5 franc coin (identifiable by a trident mintmark) which is today quite scarce. However, they chose not to seize the national bank's assets because they were afraid that the world would condemn them if they did. Thus large amounts of money were moved from Paris to Versailles, money that financed the army that crushed the Commune.
Communists, left-wing socialists, anarchists and others have seen the Commune as a model for, or a prefiguration of, a liberated society, with a political system based on participatory democracy from the grass roots up. Marx and Engels, Bakunin, and later Lenin and Trotsky along with Mao tried to draw major theoretical lessons (in particular as regards the "dictatorship of the proletariat" and the "withering away of the state") from the limited experience of the Commune. A more pragmatic lesson was drawn by the diarist Edmond de Goncourt, who wrote, three days after La Semaine Sanglante, "…the bleeding has been done thoroughly, and a bleeding like that, by killing the rebellious part of a population, postpones the next revolution… The old society has twenty years of peace before it…"
Karl Marx, in his important pamphlet The Civil War in France (1871), written during the Commune, touted the Commune's achievements, and described it as the prototype for a revolutionary government of the future, "the form at last discovered" for the emancipation of the proletariat...
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The current scandal over MPs’ expenses builds on a long process of disaffection and disgust. Turnout in general elections has fallen from 78% in 1992 to 59% in 2001 and 61% in 2005. Labour won the last general election with the support of only 21% of the people entitled to vote (i.e. a 35% share of the 61% turnout).
The percentage of people saying in polls that they are “interested in politics” has remained about the same as far as records go back (60%, back to 1973), and young people are as likely as older people, or more so, to describe themselves as “interested in politics”. But confidence in our ability to affect politics by voting — or to affect it other than on very particular issues by any other means — has declined heavily.
The passive disaffection now widespread is dangerous. It makes it easier for governments to cut back democracy even further. The large pool of people who are “fed up with all politicians” form a rich fishing-ground for racist and fascist politicians.
Two hundred years ago in Britain, activists who batled for votes for all were certain that victory for that demand would mean a social overturn — making government serve the poor many rather than the rich few — and those who resisted them shared that certainty. Though MPs then were surely more corrupt than now, and voted in by narrow and arbitrarily-delimited electorates mostly of the well-off, Parliament really controlled the government. A debate in Parliament could really swing the policy of the state.
Bit by bit, from 1832 to 1928, the rich conceded the right to vote to the poor. Bit by bit, at the same time, they set up mechanisms which neutralised that right. Parliament was elected — but it was more and more dominated by the Government, which in turn operated in a frame more tightly set by an increasingly large unelected state machine, staffed at its higher levels by wealthy people tied by a thousand strings to the bosses and bankers.
The Blair and Brown governments have tilted the system even further against any real control for the voters. You vote for your MP. But it is hard for parties other than those with lots of money, and good connections to the media, to establish themselves as “known” options for you.
Those parties’ manifestos are written to emphasise attractive buzzwords (chosen by market research) and to minimise firm commitments. Even if the manifesto has a firm commitment, the MP is elected for five years.
Thus, and rationally, most people vote only on the general tone and “image” of the parties. Unless a lively and democratic party organisation controls them, MPs are tied by no “mandate” tighter than that.
Once elected, Parliament does not choose the government. The Queen does. Usually, of course, the Queen must choose the leader of the biggest party. But that leader, once chosen as Prime Minister, can then chose his own large “payroll vote”.
Today, 120 out of the 350 MPs of the majority party are ministers or deputies. They have to back the Prime Minister’s line, on pain of losing salary and career. Thus, for example, though 154 out of 230 non-payroll Labour MPs have signed an appeal against Royal Mail privatisation, the Government can press on with it. There is no provision for a vote among Labour MPs to decide Labour government policy.
The Government also sets the agenda for Parliament, largely deciding what can or cannot be debated. The current Parliament, elected in 2005, has the highest rate since 1945 of revolts by MPs of the majority party against the Government. Almost no revolts make any difference to Government policy. Revolts make little difference outside Parliament, too: research into the 2005 general election results shows that “rebel” and “loyalist” Labour MPs lost votes to almost exactly the same extent. Voters hadn’t monitored the revolts.
Until about 1994 the “serious” newspapers used to publish detailed, sometimes word-for-word, reports of Parliamentary debates every day. Now none of them bothers. A great number of laws are now “administrative law”, made by ministers without reference to Parliament on the authority of previous legislation. Even the ministers have little control. They are mostly in their jobs for short terms, and often with little prior knowledge of the area; and they work in a frame set by permanent unelected officials who control the flow of information.
Memoirs show that there was never even a proper debate in the Cabinet about Britain joining the USA in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, although at least two members of the Cabinet clearly opposed the invasion. The Prime Minister has power. But he or she exercises that power under pressures and influences among which pressure from MPs is a tiny factor as compared to the pressures and influences from top bosses, bankers, and officials — the ruling class.
How can we recover the radical meaning and logic which democracy had when campaigners first raised the call for “votes for all”? In 1871 Karl Marx analysed how the Paris Commune — the ordinary city council — had been able to become “a thoroughly expansive political form... essentially a working-class government” during a brief period when the bourgeois national government had abandoned Paris and the workers transformed the administration.
“The Commune was formed of the municipal councillors, chosen by universal suffrage in the various wards of the town, responsible and revocable at short terms. The majority of its members were naturally workers, or acknowledged representatives of the working class. The Commune was to be a working, not a parliamentary, body, executive and legislative at the same time... From the members of the Commune downwards, the public service had to be done at workers’ wages...”
In history, such democratic principles — right to recall representatives; the government, the executive, being elected (and subject to re-election) by the assembly, not appointed from above; all officials being accountable and on workers’ wages — have only ever been fully embodied in fresh political forms arising in times of revolution.
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MYTHOMANIA: the specific characteristic which differentiates humans from other species. Animals live in the real world. People devise myths and live by them, create societies and civilizations with myths as the main fabric. The larger the number of people sharing a notion, a conviction, the more likely it is to be an illusion or fiction.
Society: a group of people united by the BELIEF IN CERTAIN COMMON MYTHS― belief they seemingly need as much as food and oxygen.
The social state of things, the social relations, are concealed by a screen of myths and lies. Let us tear this screen apart. The only possible lifestance for a person who wants to preserve his/her self-esteem, is the conscious and assertive effort to dissolve myths, illusions and lies.
According to the prevalent perception, we are a democratic society of free citizens, with equal rights under the law. In the gloomy real world, WE ARE COMMODITIES. Our masters buy and sell us, accumulating wealth and power. We are poultry farm chicken, with a recognized right to elect our supervisors.
The predominant religion is not Christianity, of which only the shell remains. COMMODITY IS THE NEW RELIGION of the developed world; it has prevailed gradually over several decades. Capitalists, politicians and bureaucrats constitute its sacred hierarchy. Consumption is its holy communion. Theologists and priests of the creed are regime intellectuals, journalists, technocrats, advertisers and stars. Its credo is limitless growth, and its temple is, of course, the market.
All of us, THE FAITHFUL TO COMMODITY, we sell ourselves, our living activity, for a wage. Thus we receive holy grace, also known as purchasing power, in order to be worthy of participating in the ritual of Consumption. Being commodities in the Holy Market, the meaning we define for our lives is the increase of our purchasing power, to consume other commodities in limitless quantities.
The capitalist system, the commodity democracy, is NOT forcibly imposed on society by the ruling class. MOST PEOPLE ACTIVELY SUPPORT AND REPRODUCE this system, that is THE RELATIONS OF COMPETITION, DOMINATION AND EXPLOITATION. We accept being used by the powerful as commodities, lifeless things; thus we gain the possibility to consume other commodities. By conforming, each person gains another miserable ‘‘advantage”: the possibility to use poorer people as commodities, to become himself a small boss.
HYPOCRICY is the main element of interpersonal relationships under the commodity civilization. We use each other through coercion and manipulation. Relating to other people is not our top priority, we prefer relating to luxury items, status symbols, substitutes for self-esteem. Since we don’t hesitate cannibalizing each other, it’s not a surprise we treat nature accordingly.
POLITICS under inequality: elites of major stockholders of corporations and politicians, exclusively hold the authority of decisions concerning the whole of humanity, using us, the ordinary people, as tools to their own benefit. Deception, intimidation and bribery are institutions of their poultry farm politics. If necessary, they have more convincing means for its continuation: armored divisions, aircraft carriers and cruise missiles. Parliamentary democracy (or rather commodity democracy) is the most advanced mechanism for the concentration of wealth and political power in the hands of the oligarchs.
HIERARCHY, COMMODITY, MONEY, THE NATION-STATE, are not mere social institutions. THEY ARE DOCTRINES OF A SECULAR RELIGION. The believers are the overwhelming majority of people, regardless of class origin and income level, and they reproduce the creed through their daily activity.
The holders of political and economic power are silly caricatures without their subordinates. The power of the rulers lies in the servility of their subjects; and the sheer need for sustenance is not the primary motive for submission. Regardless of pretexts, their poverty or stupidity are rather secondary reasons. THE SUBORDINATES EMBRACE HIERARCHY AND IMPOSITION AS SACRED VALUES; SERVILITY AND THE WORSHIP OF POWER IS THE LIFESTANCE THEY CHOSE AND BELIEVE IN. Let’s face it: the working classes are probably more conservative than the ruling ones.
Assuming the following notions are valid: The person is a social institution. Each society subjects its members to a particular socialization process, since birth; our thought, mentality and behaviour is thus definitely conditioned. Through this process, the young individual internalizes the values, rules and standards of the certain society; internalizes the special way his/her society fabricates meaning and projects it on the meaningless universe.
If the above are true, concerning our ‘‘open democratic societies”, the culture of hierarchy is injected into the mind of the young person through institutions like the family, school and mass media. We are deliberately addicted to this sadomasochistic culture since infancy; as an outcome, we perceive domination, competition and exploitation almost as natural forces, like gravity or the light. At the same time, we like to believe we are free.
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Excerpt from the Translator/Editor's Foreword to Figures of the Thinkable (including "Passion and Knowledge")
With this second in a series of electro-Samizdat editions, which follows upon the publication a year ago of The Rising Tide of Insignificancy (The Big Sleep) [RTI(TBS)] book-length translations into English of Cornelius Castoriadis's Carrefours du labyrinthe (Crossroads in the labyrinth) series are now complete. Figures of the Thinkable (including Passion and Knowledge) [FT(P&K)] contains, with one exception, all texts selected for the single French posthumous volume of Castoriadis's Carrefours writings -- Figures du pensable (FP) -- plus one last major Carrefours text yet to be published in book form in English. One task accomplished, others may begin.
It was, however, with constant self-questioning, enormous hesitation, and considerable trepidation that the anonymous Translator/Editor (T/E) began electro-Samizdat publication of Cornelius Castoriadis/Paul Cardan writings in December 2003. These concerns have now been addressed and alleviated to a great extent by the vast out-pouring of interest and support the first such volume has garnered. Over 5,600 visits for this "public document file" were recorded in the first seven months, according to Bill Brown of the NOT BORED! website. While internet statistics are not wholly reliable, it is fair to state that probably more people have obtained copies of this edition than of any other Castoriadis volume previously published in English. A major article, in the leading American academic journal, on the controversy surrounding publication brought knowledge of Castoriadis's work to the nearly 100,000 subscribers of The Chronicle of Higher Education, most of the copies of which are reportedly seen by multiple readers. Courses now propose RTI(TBS) chapters as suggested reading for young students quite adept at and used to procuring information on the web. And various left journals, on line and in print, have announced to their readers the easy availability of RTI(TBS). By all available accounts, our first risky experiment in Castoriadis/Cardan internet publication for the third millennium has been an unmitigated success. Absent any positive or conciliatory movement on the part of the Castoriadis literary heirs (they have in fact rejected offers of third-party mediation), this initial success therefore seems to warrant a second trial.
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Three men have been arrested after an attack on the Waihopai spy base near Blenheim in a breach of security at one of New Zealand's most sensitive security installations.
An inflatable cover of a dome has been cut open, deflated and draped over one of the satellite dishes inside.
The protest group Waihopai Anzac Ploughshares has claimed responsibility for getting through security to tear the statellite dish cover.
It's Echelon spy network they are opposed to, claiming the network is part of the US government's global spy network used in the war on Iraq. Echelon collects and analyses signals.
A press release on behalf of Ploughshares details exactly what went into the protest. At 6am they cut through three security fences, deflated one of the dome's covers using sickles, then knelt down beside it to pray. It took security guards half an hour to even realise anything had happened.
The protesters have been arrested and taken to Blenheim police station.
Prime Minister Helen Clark says it was a senseless act of vandalism and it will be dealt with by the criminal justice system. Clark says she has spoken about the incident with the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) which provides foreign signals intelligence to the government.
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