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Showing posts from October, 2009

Democracy, East Germany and the Berlin Wall, By Stephen Gowans, in: what’s left, on October 25, 2009

The GDR was more democratic, in the original and substantive sense of the word, than eastern Germany was before 1949 and than the former East Germany has become since the Berlin Wall was opened in 1989. It was also more democratic than its neighbor, West Germany. While it played a role in the GDR’s eventual demise, the Berlin Wall was at the time a necessary defensive measure to protect a substantively democratic society from being undermined by a hostile neighbor bent on annexing it.

While East Germany (the German Democratic Republic, or GDR) wasn’t a ‘workers’ paradise’, it was in many respects a highly attractive model that was responsive to the basic needs of the mass of people and therefore was democratic in the substantive and original sense of the word. It offered generous pensions, guaranteed employment, equality of the sexes and substantial wage equality, free healthcare and education, and a growing array of other free and virtually free goods and services. It was poorer than …

Hard times and the lure of fascism, first posted: March 28, 2009, Source: The Toronto Star, Thomas Walkom

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, two of the world's most "successful" economies were those of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.
In hindsight, this sounds perverse – even obscene. But at the time, political leaders from around the world watched the Italian and German economic experiments and, in many cases, lauded them.

During a 1937 visit to Germany, Canadian prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King noted in his diary how impressed he was by Adolf Hitler's labour policies.

In the U.S., as German cultural historian Wolfgang Schivelbusch recounts in his book Three New Deals, then president Franklin Roosevelt pronounced himself "deeply impressed by what (Italian dictator Benito Mussolini) has accomplished..."
King and Roosevelt made these comments not because they favoured Hitler's murderous anti-Semitism or Mussolini's brutal blackshirt tactics.

Rather they were intrigued by the combination of auth…

ZIZEK ON ANTI-SMOKING CAMPAIGN IN USA, Source: Doug Henwood Interviews Slavoj Zizek , (Excerpt), Oct 31, 2009

Anti-Smoking Zealots in America

"Let's take the campaign against smoking in the U.S. I think this is a much more suspicious phenomenon than it appears to be. First, deeply inscribed into it is an idea of absolute narcissism, that whenever you are in contact with another person, somehow he or she can infect you. Second, there is an envy of the intense enjoyment of smoking. There is a certain vision of subjectivity, a certain falseness in liberalism, that comes down to "I want to be left alone by others; I don't want to get too close to the others." Also, in this fight against the tobacco companies, you have a certain kind of politically correct yuppie who is doing very well financially, but who wants to retain a certain anti-capitalist aura. What better way to focus on the obvious bad guy, Big Tobacco? It functions as an ersatz enemy. You can still claim your stock market gains, but you can say, "I'm against tobacco companies." Now I should make it c…

The growth of the extreme right in Hungary, Source: Hungarian Spectrum, October 29, 2009

There is no question that the most burning issue in current Hungarian political life is the spectacular growth of the extreme right. Political Capital, one of those "independent" think-tanks József Debreczeni wrote about the other day, published a study in Hírszerző dealing with the "causes of the growth of the extreme right."

The authors mention five possible causes: (1) strengthening of a critical attitude toward the regime itself, (2) a shift toward the right in general, (3) growth of belief in a more authoritarian regime, (4) lack of trust in politicians, and (5) growth of societal antagonism.

As usual these categories are nebulous at best. What does "shift toward the right in general" actually mean? This to my mind is not a cause but the result of certain political and social changes. Or, what does "societal antagonism" mean? Perhaps it would …

NOT ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME, by Andy Newman, in:, 30 October, 2009

The invitation by his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for Anglicans to join the Church of Rome is not the sort of topic that the political left tends to find very interesting. So I was very pleased to see Splintered Sunrise tackling the issue. Although Splinty’s understandable irritation with the National Secular Society gives those numbskulls more significance than they really have.

The importance of the issue is recognising that any multicultural and pluralistic society will include within it individuals and faith communities who take their moral and ethical guidance from their religion.

Splintered Sunrise is particularly strong in recognising that debate among religious communities must be accepted in their own terms. Atheist liberals simply have no business in telling Christians what they should or should not believe; and Christians are as entitled as anyone else to participate in the wider democratic debate in our society, to seek to bring society closer to their own moral and ethical c…

Majority of Eastern Germans Believe that 'Life was better" in the German Democratic Republic,Der Spiegel, By Julia Bonstein, Saturday, October 31, 09

Andrew's blog note: This article is from Der Spiegel, an anti-marxist newspaper in western Germany. Nevertheless, despite its obviously anti-socialist tilt, this article shows the many advantages and social solidarity available to citizens of the former German Democratic Republic

Glorification of the German Democratic Republic is on the rise two decades after the Berlin Wall fell. Young people and the better off are among those rebuffing criticism of East Germany as an "illegitimate state." In a new poll, more than half of former eastern Germans defend the GDR.
The life of Birger, a native of the state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania in northeastern Germany, could read as an all-German success story. The Berlin Wall came down when he was 10. After graduating from high school, he studied economics and business administration in Hamburg, lived in India and South Africa, and eventually got a job with a company in the …

Afghanistan sacrifices may have been in vain, Toronto Star, October 31, 2009,Thomas Walkom

Where does the war in Afghanistan go? My sense is that it is finally beginning the long and drawn-out process toward an inglorious end.

For Canada, this would mark the finish of the longest – and the least considered – war that this country has ever fought.

The latest hint comes from the New York Times, which has been following the intricate debates over war strategy within U.S. President Barack Obama's administration.

This week, the Times reported that Obama now seems to favour a compromise between those in the military who want to send at least 40,000 more troops to a conflict that could last another decade and those, like Vice-president Joe Biden, who want to scale back the anti-Taliban ground war in order to concentrate on Al Qaeda terrorists.

The reported compromise would involve NATO forces – beefed-up by a few thousand new U.S. troops – withdrawing from much of the countryside to focus on a handful of Afghan cities and areas.

Although administration officials deny it, most of th…

I am from workers, fishers, swilers, a poem by Andrew Taylor

The assault of two ind. journalists in Tunisia and the arrest of a third in the wake of last week's elections must be punished, Amnesty, 30 Oct 09

Assaults on journalists in Tunisia must be punished
Slim Boukhdir was stopped in the street and forced into a car on the evening of 21 October, by five men in plain clothes

30 October 2009
The assault of two independent journalists in Tunisia and the arrest of a third in the wake of last week's elections must be punished, Amnesty International said on Friday.

"It appears that these three journalists were targeted because they have criticized the government and opposed the re-election, for a fifth term, of President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa Programme.

"This is an extremely worrying development, indicating that there is likely to be no let-up in the Tunisian government's repression of dissent."

Slim Boukhdhir, an independent journalist who has previously been jailed for writing articles critical of the government, was stopped in the street and forced into a car on the eve…


The more powerful enemy,” Lenin said, “can be conquered only by exerting the utmost effort, and by thoroughly, carefully, attentively, and skillfully taking advantage of every, even the smallest, “rift” among the enemies, … among the various groups of bourgeoisie …, by taking advantage of every, even the smallest, opportunity of gaining a mass ally, even though this ally may be temporary, vacillating, unstable, unreliable, and conditional. Those who do not understand this, do not understand even a particle of Marxism.”


"Social-chauvinism and opportunism are the same in their political essence; class collaboration, repudiation of the proletarian dictatorship, rejection of revolutionary action, obeisance to bourgeois legality, non-confidence in the proletariat, and confidence in the bourgeoisie. The political ideas are identical, and so is the political content of their tactics. Social-chauvinism is the direct continuation and consummation of Millerandism, Bernsteinism, and Brit…