Archive for the 'Socialism' Category

The return of the right-wing liberals

Charlie Smith of Straight.com has an absolutely fantastic piece on Michael Ignatieff.  This piece is definitely worth the read for any progressive who still foolishly thinks that the Liberals under Ignatieff have more in common with the NDP, Bloc and Greens than they do with the radical right wing Tories of Stephen Harper.

From Straight.com:

Triumph of business Liberals: Michael Ignatieff will lead the party

“I believe I have the judgement, the character, the values and the experience to lead at a very difficult time in the life of our country.”

This is what Bob Rae says on the front page of his Web site for his now-defunct Liberal leadership campaign.

I’m left wondering if Michael Ignatieff, the Liberals’ chosen successor to Stephane Dion, has the judgement, character, values, and experience to lead Canada at a particularly difficult time in its history.

Let’s look at the record.

When it comes to judgement, Ignatieff supported the Bush administration’s attack on Iraq even though there was no United Nations approval.

As far as his character goes, some Canadians were no doubt very troubled by a lengthy profile of Ignatieff written in 2006 by the Globe and Mail’s Michael Valpy. There were shocking revelations about how Ignatieff treated his younger brother while both attented the elite Upper Canada College as teenagers.

Ignatieff’s ruthlessness, which was on display in the Valpy profile, suggests that Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally has some competition in this department.

As for Ignatieff’s values, I’ve been bothered by his rather one-sided view of the war in the Balkans in 1999. It’s a viewpoint he seems to share with the CBC’s Carole Off but which has been challenged by retired Canadian Major-General Lewis MacKenzie, former B.C. NDP candidate Rollie Keith, University of Pennsylvania professor emeritus Edward Herman, and Osgoode Hall law professor Michael Mandel.

Honest commentators who can look back with the benefit of hindsight know that the Serbs slaughtered Bosnian Muslims at Srebernica in 1995.

But they also know that the creation of Kosovo was based on fraudulent claims of genocide perpetrated by the Kosovo Liberation Army four years later. Ignatieff helped build his reputation as a human-rights advocate in part on the basis of these now-discredited claims.

Unfortunately, the Canadian media are too ignorant about this issue to call him on this point.

As for experience, Ignatieff was out of the country for 29 years, which leaves me wondering if he’s ready to serve on the average city council in this country, let alone occupy 24 Sussex Drive as the prime minister.

This week’s coronation of Ignatieff is a triumph of business Liberals like John Manley who always wanted Canada to be on friendlier terms with the United States.

I’m guessing that those in Vancouver who will applaud Ignatieff’s rise to federal Liberal leader are likely some of same people who apologized to former U.S. ambassador Paul Celucci in writing for Canada’s refusal to join the coalition of the willing in Iraq.

Don’t be surprised if some on the left wing of the Liberal party decide that now is the time to rip up their membership cards and join the NDP.

Yet another wignut pundit claims Bush is a “socialist”

Yet another right-wing pundit last week claimed that Bush’ fascistic move to preserve the power and wealth of capitalists was actually “socialist.”

I can see that some people are having a difficult time understanding this, so let’s spell this out as clearly as I can:

Since we socialists can’t seem to agree on even the colour of shit, there are about as many different interpretations of socialism as there are socialists.  But the one thing that we have in common (along with some anarchists such as Noam Chomsky) is that we believe that the state can (and should) be used for a time to curtail the power of capitalists, to remove them from their position of ridiculous power and to redress the gross imbalance in wealth that they have accumulated for themselves while 18 million people (3 times 9/11) die globally every year due to poverty.

Fascists on the other hand believe in using the power of the state to preserve and enhance the power of capitalists (see, for instance, the collusion between Nazi Germany and the infamous Krupp family or Mussolini’s Corporatist régime) at the expense of workers.

I know, I know, it’s hard.  They both deal with the state AND capitalists!  It’s so confusing.  But here’s an easy mnemonic device to help remember the difference between the two for next time.

Saying that Bush’s fascist move this week is actually the same thing as “socialism” just because it involves the state and capitalists is a bit like saying that cancer-causing cigarettes are the same thing as chemotherapy because they both involve cancer and its spread.

~

See Also:

More proof that liberal economics is a radical right-wing ideology

Marx on religion: Dispelling more myths about socialism

Never has there ever been a worldview, never has there ever been an idea, and never has there ever been a word so misrepresented and so misunderstood as ‘socialism’… except possibly for ‘Marxism’. Because of this, it has been an ongoing feature here at Paulitics, to dispel some of the myths surrounding socialism (see here and here).

For some time now, I have been wanting to do a short featurette on Marx’s views on religion to dispel them once and for all, and today, having read the same blatantly mis-quoted phrase claiming to be written by Marx for the hundredth time, I finally decided that it was time to dispel this myth once and for all.

The first myth to dispel is that of the famous quote supposedly from Marx which is his opponents use to paint him as a dangerous elitist who scorned the masses. The quote which everybody seems to think Marx wrote is:

Religion is the opiate/opium of the masses”

The only problem with this is that nowhere in any of Marx’s writings, did he ever write these words.

Even the very few instances where this ‘quotation’ is given a citation, the citation is often not entirely correct thus making verification of this quotation even more difficult. The most common citation for this quotation is that it was written in 1843 and occurs in Marx’s essay “Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right”. In actuality, this quotation occurs in the Introduction to Marx’s Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right and was actually written right at the cusp between 1843 and 1844, many months after the main portion of the Critique was written. Indeed, because of this, many ‘collected works’ editions of Marx’s writings do not even feature the Critique as a part of the same text as the Introduction because Marx had written and published other material, most notably On the Jewish Question between his completion of the two parts.

Nevertheless, the full quotation of Marx’s ideas on religion expressed in this essay are actually, when read in context, rather anti-elitist. In fact, Marx’s ideas in his Critique are rather sympathetic to the religious masses whilst simultaneously being highly critical of the institution of religion itself.

The full quotation reads as follows:

“The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly a struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

Religious suffering is at the same time an expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sign of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of men, is a demand for their real happiness. The call to abandon their illusions about their conditions is a call to abandon a condition which requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, the embryonic criticism of this vale of tears of which religion is the halo.”

-Karl Marx.
Quoted in “Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: Introduction.”
Robert C. Tucker, ed. The Marx-Engels Reader. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1978. p. 54.

When reading the full quotation, the necessity of the ruling class never quoting the entire passage in its entirety becomes clear. Reading the incomplete non-quotation supposedly from Marx, one has the impression of a Christopher Hitchens or H.L. Mencken-like figure who looks down upon and scorns the masses for their religiosity.

Another important, oft-forgotten aspect related to this famous quotation is that Marx was not even the only person to say something along these lines. Four years after Marx wrote this quotation, Charles Kingsley, a Canon of the Church of England — a man who more likely than not had never read the then obscure and unknown Karl Marx — wrote that the Bible was used as an “opium dose for keeping beasts of burden patient while they were being overloaded.” (Howard Selsam & Harry Martel. Reader in Marxist Philosophy. New York: International Publishers, 1963. p. 224). Keep in mind this is a man of the church saying this independently of Marx.

So, it is really little wonder that the vast majority of the population takes Marxism and socialism to be synonymous with all that is evil.

The goal of this post and the series on dispelling the myths about socialism is not designed so much to convince people that Marxism and socialism are not evil (although I obviously think they’re the opposite of evil).  The goal of this series is to provide irrefutable proof that much of the popular conceptions about Marxism and socialism are either caricatures, half-truths or downright fictions.

The public can do with this knowledge what they like.  But it is clear to me that if a truly fair hearing of Marxism or socialism ever were to become possible, the ruling classes would not know what hit them.

Progress for same-sex rights in Cuba

Today marked a great victory and the promise for substantial future progress for our gay brothers and lesbian sisters living in Cuba.

https://paulitics.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/cuba-same-sex-marriage.pngAP reports that:

“Cuba‘s gay community celebrated unprecedented openness — and high-ranking political alliances — with a government-backed campaign against homophobia on Saturday.

[…]

“Cuban state television gave prime-time play Friday to the U.S. film “Brokeback Mountain,” which tells the story of two cowboys who conceal their homosexual affair.

“Prejudice against homosexuals remains deeply rooted in Cuban society, but the government has steadily moved away from the Puritanism of the 1960s and 1970s, when homosexuals hid their sexuality for fear of being ridiculed, fired from work or even imprisoned.

“Now Cuba’s parliament is studying proposals to legalize same-sex unions and give gay couples the benefits that people in traditional marriages enjoy.

“Parliament head Ricardo Alarcon said the government needs to do more to promote gay rights, but said many Cubans still need to be convinced.”

The significance of this move from a political perspective should not be overlooked. There is not a single Latin American country that recognizes same-sex marriages due to the high religiosity of the Latin American culture.

Thus, when we look at the recent good moves on this file in Cuba in concert with the multiple attempts by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to make Venezuela the first country on the face of the planet to explicitly recognize same-sex marriages in the text of the constitution, it is clear that socialism, when done right, is a way forward for everyone.

There’s still a lot of work to be done throughout Latin America for the GLBT community, and we should especially make sure not to let the governments — even allied socialist governments — guide the agenda. But, I think, there is very good reason for optimism given these developments.

Happy May Day?

Today is May Day, the original Labour Day throughout the world (including Canada and the U.S.).  And, despite the conscious policy decision to divorce Labour Day in Canada and the U.S. from May 1st, the day should still hold meaning for us to reflect on the democratic victories that our struggles have won but also on the work that needs to be done.

So, in the spirit of the importance of recognizing how much work we have yet to do, how’s this for a ‘happy May Day’?

From The Guardian:

“Italy’s new parliament met for the first time yesterday with applause for Rome’s mayor-elect, Gianni Alemanno, a day after followers celebrated his triumph with straight-arm salutes and fascist-era chants.

Alemanno, a former neo-fascist youth leader, took 54% of the vote in a run-off on Sunday and Monday, crushing his rival, Francesco Rutelli, a deputy prime minister in the last, centre-left government.

[…]

On Monday night, the area around Rome’s city hall rang to chants of “Duce! Duce!”, the term adopted by Italy’s dictator, Benito Mussolini, equivalent to the German “Führer”. Supporters of the new mayor gave the fascist Roman straight-arm salutes.”

But, despite this little tidbit of news that I came across today, May Day wasn’t all bad news this year.  Earlier today on the internets, in my travels amongst its many tubes, I found a fantastic list of Marxist webcasts by university professor named Ron Strickland.

So, if any of you comrades need to wash the unpleasant taste caused by seeing modern-day Italians give fascist salutes, I recommend one of two things:  Booze; or Marxist webcasts.

I for one have decided to partake in both.

You can access Strickland’s Marxist webcasts here.

Happy May Day comrades!

A *Really* Inconvenient Truth: ‘Green capitalism’ is an oxymoron

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oxymoron-eco-capitalism-2.pngI recently came across an interview with Joel Kovel, the man behind A Really Inconvenient Truth and Enemy of Nature.

Joel Kovel is an eco-socialist who critiques Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth not from an environmental skeptic position, but rather on the contrary, he critiques it from the left.

The interview is well worth the listen to if you get the chance. However, I do suggest that if you’re going to listen to it, do it soon because I’m not sure how long the radio program will be hosting the file.

You can access it here:

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or you can access it here.

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The U.S. embargo against Cuba was never about ‘democracy’

“Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date. In this way every prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct; nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record.”
                                                                                           -George Orwell, 1984

castro.pngThe progressive blogosphere (or at least what passes for ‘progressive’ these days) are awash lately in discussions about Cuba and the sudden decision of Fidel Castro not to seek the office of President of Cuba in the upcoming election.

Everywhere in quasi-progressive press and blogs, people are finding the courage to ask:  Why is there still an embargo on Cuba?  The problem is not the question — in fact, the question is the correct one.  The problem is that the corporate press — from which the blogosphere generally takes its cues — has managed to cripple the debate by intentionally leaving out an important detail about the long-standing, crushing U.S. embargo against thebush-with-turkey-in-crotch.png tiny island nation.  Namely, the U.S. embargo against Cuba was never about ‘democracy’ or human rights and the U.S. officials at the time that the embargo was enacted, were open and frank about this fact.

But you wouldn’t be able to tell that from the media reports about the recent events in Cuba.

What follows is a small sample of media reports.

The Associated Press [AP] reports that:

Asked by reporters at the State Department if Washington planned to change its Cuba policy now that Castro has stepped down, Negroponte replied: “I can’t imagine that happening anytime soon.”

[…]

We would hope that the departure from the scene of Cuba’s long-ruling dictator Fidel Castro would allow for a democratic transition. … We would hope that his departure would begin this transition,” Casey told reporters.

But he added that the United States is troubled by signs that Cuba’s leadership envisions this as a “transfer of authority and power from dictator to dictator light—from Fidel to Raul.”

Still, he said the Bush administration remains willing to help support the Cuban people in a true transition to democracy. [emphasis added]

The New York Times ran a report which, despite standing at 686 words, only mentions the embargo on Cuba once and even then, only in a dismissive context.  The Times reported:

Mr. Castro, whose photograph looks down from billboards across the island, is both revered and reviled by Cubans. In criticizing him in public, Cubans stroke an imaginary beard instead of uttering his name and possibly running afoul of the authorities. Those who praise him most often cite his investments in education and health care, and they agree with him that the country’s economic woes are caused not by neglect from Mr. Castro but by the trade embargo imposed by Washington.

Huffington Post contributor Sarah Stephens wins the Orwellian prize for her piece, on two grounds:

#1) Stephens writes that South Africa’s post-Apartheid democracy was “born with the help of U.S. sanctions”.  This is the height or Orwellianism.  It was precisely the U.S. that supported economically and politically the racist Apartheid South African regime up until the very end when it became politically impossible to continue to do so.  In fact, Ronald Reagan openly called Nelson Mandela a “terrorist” and here in Canada, even as late as 2001, we still had elected Parliamentarians such as Rob Anders calling Mandela a “terrorist”.

#2) If you read through her piece, it is interesting to examine why she believes the embargo should be lifted.  The reasons why Stephens believes the embargo should be lifted are not because of the massive loss of life it has caused in Cuba (more on that below).  Rather, the reasons she believes they should be lifted are:

a) “the Cuba embargo sullies our image around the world”

b) “[the Cuba embargo] undermines the national interest [of America].”

c) “The embargo sacrifices the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens to travel.”

d) “[the Cuba embargo] trade sanctions cost U.S. businesses about $1 billion annually”

e) “[the Cuba embargo] den[ies] U.S. citizens access to vaccines and other medical treatments.”

f) “Enforcing the embargo drains [American] resources from the war on terror.”

Based on the above reporting, one could be forgiven for assuming that the embargo has #1) been reluctantly pursued in the interests of the Cuban people and democracy; #2) that only crazy pro-Castro communists believe that the hardships of the Cuban people are actually caused by the embargo; and #3) that the reasons the Americans should now lift the embargo is because it’s hurting Americans.

There is no need for conspiracy theories to debunk these claims that the embargo was designed to foster democracy.  Had any of the media outlets reported on the actual openly stated reasons for issuing the trade embargo — reasons given by U.S. government officials at the time, the reality would be all to obvious.

A brief history of the events leading up to this is illuminating:

viva-fidel.png1953-1960: Castro, contrary to popular belief now, but openly acknowledged at the time, was anti-Soviet during his revolution against the brutal U.S.-backed Batista regime.  Indeed his reform proposals were initially were pro-democratic and anti-Soviet.  (see, for instance, the work of Jules Benjamin and Noam Chomsky for more on this).

January, 1960:  The United States begins its first attempts to overthrow the popular Castro regime through assassination and, later, by invasion and terrorism, and re-install a client regime.

1960-1962:  The U.S., having now pushed the previously anti-Soviet Castro into the Soviet sphere, now begins to characterize Cuba as a threat to the United States (itself a laughable concept) by arguing it is a ‘proxy’ or ‘base’ of the Soviets 90 miles off the tip of Key West, Florida.  This, of course, ignores the fact that the U.S. was engaged in actions against Cuba as early as 1960 long before any Soviet relations had been established.  Noam Chomsky, in his work Hegemony or Survival writes:

Washington was concerned that Cubans might try to defend themselves. CIA chief Allen Dulles therefore urged Britain not to provide arms to Cuba. His “main reason,” the British ambassador reported to London, “was that this might lead the Cubans to ask for Soviet or Soviet bloc arms,” a move that “would have a tremendous effect,” Dulles pointed out, allowing Washington to portray Cuba as a security threat to the hemisphere, following the script that had worked so well in Guatemala. Dulles was referring to Washington’s successful demolition of Guatemala’s first democratic experiment, a ten-year interlude of hope and progress, greatly feared in Washington because of the enormous popular support reported by US intelligence and the “demonstration effect” of social and economic measures to benefit the large majority. The Soviet threat was routinely invoked, abetted by Guatemala’s appeal to the Soviet bloc for arms after the US had threatened attack and cut off other sources of supply. The result was a half-century of horror, even worse than the US-backed tyranny that came before.

jfk-on-phone.png1962: United States President John F. Kennedy orders a case of Cuban cigars for his own personal use.  Upon hearing that the cigars had reached U.S. territory, Kennedy promptly begins the embargo under the explicit justification that Soviet presence there posed a ‘grave’ threat to the United States.

1962-1990: The U.S. engages in decades of terrorism, bacteriological warfare and biological warfare against Cuba.  This ranges from the poisoning of the domestic Cuban pork and chicken supply, the attempted destruction of the Cuban cash crop: sugar, and the October 1976 bombing of a Cuban civilian airliner by Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles who currently live in the United States despite their terrorist past.   Cuba, having been denied its traditional markets for sugar export, becomes a ‘favoured export partner’ with the Soviet Union.

1991: The Soviet Union collapses.  Following this collapse, the entire stated justification for the Cuban sanctions are now officially satisfied.  Given the reason stated by the U.S. government for issuing the sanctions — Soviet threat — sanctions should now be lifted as there is no longer any Soviet threat in Cuba.

1992: The George H.W. Bush administration increases the sanctions.  Bill Clinton, running to unseat Bush in the election, also promises harsher sanctions.

1993: Average caloric intake in Cuba plummets by 1/3 in 4 short years.  (see Victoria Brittain, “Children die in agony as U.S. trade ban stifles Cuba.” The Guardian (U.K.), March 7, 1997)

1994: Mortality rates for Cubans over the age of 65 increase 15% over 2 years.

clinton.png1996: U.S. sanctions increased yet again under the Helms-Burton Act which U.S. President Bill Clinton gleefully signs into law.  The new harsher sanctions,  are now justified under the new, post-1990 mantra of ‘democracy’ — the same mantra which, if you read the press reports, you would believe was always the justification for the sanctions.  In fact, as Orwell famously wrote, this history must constantly be ‘brought up to date’ because any detailed look at the original justifications quickly discredits this contention.

1999: Severity of U.S. sanctions increased yet again under U.S. President Bill Clinton’s watchful eye.

2008:  Bloggers uncritically believe media’s insinuation that the embargo has always been about democracy and human rights.  Few liberals bother to research the topic.  Instead, they accept the premise and support ending the sanctions regime because it’s hurting the United States.  Conservatives take the matter further and support continuation of sanctions as a means of collective punishment, then turn around and deny that sanctions have any effect on the Cuban economy, but rather that Castro is to blame for all problems.  Socialist bloggers, anarchists and freethinkers are left staring at each other in disbelief.

See also:

Propaganda in Action (Series)

Che Guevara: Cuban revolutionary or puppy-eating serial murderer?

Kettle calls the teapot black: Bush calls Cuba “criminal”

On intellectual honesty and the Cuba debate

Idiocy doesn’t cease being idiocy because it’s published

Communist Party of Canada leader to speak in Ottawa tomorrow

While I am not now, nor have I ever been a member of the Communist Party, I did nevertheless have an opportunity two years ago to hear Miguel Figueroa, leader of the Communist Party of Canada, speak at an event and I was thoroughly impressed. Thus, I was very pleased to learn that Figueroa (and possibly some others) will be talking and taking questions at Carleton University in Ottawa tomorrow, Monday January 28.

The event starts at 7pm in room 134 Unicentre at Carleton University. I’m going to be in attendance, so if any Ottawa comrades, bloggers or people who are quasi-left wing, even if not officially identifying as Marxist or Communist, wish to hear a very affable and likable speaker talk and/or would like to meet with me in person, please feel free to come on out.

My (limited) impression of Figueroa and Stu Ryan (perennial Communist Party candidate in Ottawa Centre who I imagine will also be attending) is that they are definitely not anything like those who used to run the CPC which everyone on the far left used to love to hate.

Hope to see some of you there!

Irony… sweet, sweet irony.

So, it turns out that Orwell, author of the futuristic dystopic novel “1984” about a government which spies on its citizens, was himself spied upon for long periods of time by his own government’s MI5 division.

Irony, thy name is politics.


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