Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Kenneth Rexroth: The May Revolt in France

From Rexroth's San Francisco 1968-1969


120 years have gone by and we are back where we were in 1848, the year of revolutions. The European empire of espionage, terror, subversion and wholesale bribery of cabinet ministers that had been set up by the Austrians and English with the unwieldy aid of the Russians broke down. As barricades went up in the streets of the capitals of Europe the comfortable classes found the whole thing incomprehensible. They looked back on forty odd years of what they considered peace and prosperity — The Happy Society. The revolutionists were disorganized, naïve, and basically without real leaders. Almost all the leading intellectuals were passionate supporters of the revolutionary movement but largely for personal and melodramatic reasons, although the most astute were aware of the fundamental change in the moral foundations of society that the masses were demanding.

This was a period in which Marx brought to its final definition his theory of human self-alienation. The terms were those of the left wing followers of Hegel, but he was certainly not alone in diagnosing the fundamental cause of the world ill. Throughout the intervening generations all but a handful of romantic anarchists have assumed that the fundamental problem, the radical divorce of man from his work, men from one another, and man from himself, would be solved indirectly by political and economic change. Today we have, over most of the world, either welfare states or state capitalism — total government control of the means of production and distribution. Human self-alienation has not decreased but increased, everywhere.

So has the incomprehension of the comfortable classes. They say to blacks, “What is it you people want? Give us a program. The Supreme Court has guaranteed that you are just as equal as we are.” To the young, “We gave you everything your heart desired; we sent you to the most expensive schools; your sports car cost twice as much as our Buick. All you ever had to do was ask. Why are you living in this filthy room, sleeping with twenty people on the floor, taking dope and living on popsicles?” They say to the police, “I tried to be a real pal to him; only last week I bought him the most expensive outboard motor. I simply can't believe my eyes as I see him hanging there.” They are totally, absolutely, utterly and incurably incapable of realizing that they have made life intolerable.

A generation ago the great Jesuit scientist and philosopher Teilhard de Chardin said, “The revolutions of the past hundred years have been for political and economic objectives. The great revolution of the latter part of the twentieth century will be to change the quality and meaning of life.” Thank God he said it. I must have quoted it one hundred times trying to get some inkling of what's happening into the heads of the straight and square world.

Youth, blacks, the starving inhabitants of the neocolonial world, are alienated by definition. They are not alienated on the job — like a worker on the assembly line whose conditions of life and work turn him into a mindless appetitive automaton, lured on from day to day through a world empty of all human values by the bait of meaningless commodities dangled before him in the idiot box. American college students, the blacks in Hunters Point, the Indians of India or Arizona dying of malnutrition in mud huts, are outside the society and look at it as a whole. What they see is unadulterated moral horror, made doubly evil and terrifying by the fatuous boasts of idiot politicians — The Great Society, The Happy Society, You Never Had It So Good and by college administrators who are superprogressives and can quote Paul Goodman, A.S. Neill, Signora Montessori, at the flip of a punched card, and militant civil rights advocates who are passionate practitioners of high-toned miscegenation.

Probably the most significant thing about the explosion in France is the revelation of the moral bankruptcy of the establishment. Neither the General nor the leaders of the Communist Party had the faintest idea of what it was all about. De Gaulle had no explanation except the sublimely comic one that it was all due to the Communists. The Communists, with just enough insight to be really scared, indiscriminately denounced the revolt — both of the rank and file leaders of the striking workers and of all the youth — with savage, unbridled abuse. The terms of this slanging match were derived from the political argot of a bygone age. De Gaulle might have been Clemenceau attacking Jaurès. The Communist bureaucrats picked their vocabulary from the records of the Moscow trials.

Most significantly the labor bureaucrats united in striving to behead the movement with “pork chops” — as American labor slang has it, with wages and hours sops. But the French working class are as well off as any in Europe except the Swedes and the West Germans. They did not rise for wages and hours, although they may give up if sufficiently bribed. Every effort was made by the left politicians and trade union bureaucrats to create antagonism between youth, the workers and the peasants who were just beginning to join the revolt. What all these people (“piecard artists” is the old American labor slang) were united in defending was Their Way of Life and it was this the revolt was against.

Whatever the temporary settlement in France, this rejection of the immense, deadly system of false values which has ruled the age of commerce and industry will not stop. The sentiment is shared by the millions within the counterculture all over the world who are under attack from university presidents, ghetto police and CIA-subsidized politico-militarists. Their Way of Life is unbearable and they are passing over to the assault.

[June 1968]

NOTE: For the situationists' accounts and analysis of the May revolt, see The Beginning of an Era and May 1968 Documents. For a little taste of the spirit of the revolt, see May 1968 Graffiti.


Henry Miller - Bathroom monologue

Needless to say, this is adult-only material...





MI5 facing five more torture investigations

A senior lawyer in the office of Baroness Scotland, the attorney general, has been studying the cases of five British men alleged to have been unlawfully detained and tortured in Pakistan with the complicity of MI5.

Baroness Scotland is expected to decide this week whether there is sufficient evidence to refer the cases to Scotland Yard for a full investigation.
Ali Dayan Hasan, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, said he has been given evidence from Pakistani officials that MI5 and MI6 officers knew about the torture but continued to take part — directly or indirectly — in interrogations.

Allegations of complicity in the torture of Britons have become MI5's biggest crisis of recent years.

There has been a backlash in Whitehall amid the belief that human rights lawyers and Islamic activists are, perhaps unwittingly, helping the cause of Islamic extremism.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph earlier this month, Jonathan Evans, the director-general of MI5, issued a passionate defence of the Security Service against the "conspiracy theory" that it covered up its involvement in torture.

It came after Lord Neuberger said that there was a "culture of suppression" at MI5.

Baroness Scotland called in detectives over two cases last year, including that of Binyam Mohamed, the former Guantánamo Bay detainee who was tortured by the CIA.

An MI5 officer who questioned Mr Mohamed in Pakistan is the subject of the Metropolitan police inquiry into whether he broke international laws on torture.

Detectives are also examining the role of MI5 in the case of Shaker Aamer, an inmate of Guantanamo Bay whose family lives in London, and an MI6 officer is under investigation over a British resident illegally detained in Pakistan in 2002.

The five new cases being considered include that of a 24-year-old medical student, identified only as ZZ, who was allegedly abducted off the street and tortured for two months in a building opposite the British deputy high commission in Karachi. Towards the end of his detention, he says, he was questioned by two British intelligence officers.

~ more... ~

Mass. doctor pleads guilty to faking research

A doctor accused of faking research for a dozen years in published studies that suggested after-surgery benefits from painkillers including Vioxx and Celebrex pleaded guilty Monday to one count of federal health care fraud.

An attorney for Dr. Scott Reuben said the anesthesiologist will have to repay $361,932 in research grants and forfeit assets worth at least $50,000 as penalty for his conduct following a plea hearing in U.S. District Court.

Prosecutors alleged the former chief of acute pain at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield sought and received research grants from pharmaceutical companies but never performed the studies. They said he fabricated patient data and submitted information to anesthesiology journals that unwittingly published it.

Reuben, a 51-year-old Longmeadow resident, took leave after the hospital said last year that a routine review found that some of his research was not approved by an internal hospital review board. Further investigation found 21 papers published in anesthesiology journals between 1996 and 2008 in which Reuben made up some or all of the data, the hospital said.

The hospital asked the journals to retract the studies, some of which reported favorable results from painkillers including New York-based Pfizer Inc.'s Bextra, Celebrex and Lyrica and Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based Merck & Co. Inc.'s Vioxx. The studies also claimed Wyeth's antidepressant Effexor could be used as a painkiller. (Wyeth is now part of Pfizer.)

Vioxx and Bextra, among a class of painkillers known as Cox-2 inhibitors, were pulled from the market amid mounting evidence they raised the risk of heart attack, stroke and death. Celebrex is still on the market. Lyrica is a treatment for fibromyalgia, a syndrome characterized by chronic muscle pain and fatigue.

~ more... ~

Deadly hybrid flu possible

Research in mice suggests the avian flu virus and the ordinary seasonal flu virus could combine to create a new deadly kind of flu, researchers say.

A single bit of genetic material from the seasonal virus converted the avian flu -- officially known as H5N1 -- into a very dangerous form, the scientists report in a study published in the Feb. 22-26 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Some hybrids between H5N1 virus and seasonal influenza viruses were more pathogenic than the original H5N1 viruses. That is worrisome," study senior author Yoshihiro Kawaoka, a virologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said in a news release.

~ more... ~

The Warlord's Tune: Afghanistan's war on children

Sexual slavery involving boys as young as 10 is being condoned and in many cases protected by authorities in northern Afghanistan.

In a story to be broadcast on Four Corners tonight, the practice of bacha bazi or "boy play", as well as other allegations of child abuse, are explored.

Afghan journalist Najibullah Quraishi has filmed police attending a party where a young boy is the "entertainment". The police shown on the video include one officer from the youth crime squad.

Such parties are illegal under Afghanistan law and with good reason. The "dancing boys" are in effect sex slaves. They are lured off the streets by pimps. They are taught to dance and sing, to wear make-up and to dress like girls. Then they are made to perform before large groups of men. All of them are sexually abused.

Dancing boys are a lucrative business. Powerful former warlords and businessmen love to watch them and will pay a lot of money to have their own boy for bacha bazi. Some of the boys are traded like swap cards among the rich and powerful, and if they disobey their owners they are killed or brutalised.

The trade in boys is well known to the United Nations. According to Nazir Alimy, who compiled a report on the issue for the UN, there is no doubt who is funding this practice and why the police refuse to stop it.

~ more... ~

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