In his collection of articles on anarchism from 1906-7, in response to intense anarchist activity in Georgia, Stalin offers his fullest exposition of dialectics (at this point). He closes with this telling rebuttal:

Lastly, the Anarchists tell us reproachfully that “dialectics . . . provides no possibility of getting, or jumping, out of oneself, or of jumping over oneself” (see Nobati, No. 8. Sh. G.).

Now that is the downright truth, Messieurs Anarchists! Here you are absolutely right, my dear sirs: the dialectical method does not, indeed, provide such a possibility. But why not? Because “jumping out of oneself, or jumping over oneself” is an exercise for wild goats, while the dialectical method was created for human beings.

That is the secret! . . . (Works, volume 1, p. 312)

Stalin joke 01

Look what happens when you stay away from the incessant news cycle for a day or two: suddenly two universes are created. In those two universes, two very different Ukraines emerge, two Vladimir Putins, although only one plane has crashed. In one universe, ‘Vladimir Putin breaks his silence on MH17 crash’ – so proclaims the liberal Sydney Morning Herald (part of the Fairfax media chain). The hard-working journalists at this paper seem to have sourced their story from Agence-France Presse, which claims to have ’200 desks in 150 countries’. For some reason, these 200 desks have missed the fact that Putin first broke the news to Obama a few days ago, then spoke with Najib Razak, the Malaysian prime, Rutte in the Netherlands, Merkel in Germany … and then, well down the pecking order, that embarrassment of a ‘leader’, Tony Abbott, who is still huffing and puffing and trying to look important on the world stage. He may actually believe that he forced Putin to ‘break his silence’. Meanwhile, Putin has been saying for some days now that a proper and impartial international investigation should be undertaken (here and here) and that people shouldn’t rush to rash conclusions and use the crash for narrow political goals (also herehere and here – perhaps a little self-castigation on that one). Of course, no one actually believes what any politician says, but that doesn’t mean they don’t speak.

If I stay away for a few more days, perhaps another universe or two will be created.

BIBLE AND CRITICAL THEORY SEMINAR 2014

Deadline for proposals: 31 August 2014

The Seminar calls for papers at the intersection of critical theory and the Bible. We interpret “critical theory” broadly to include not only the seminal work of the Frankfurt School, but also approaches such as Marxism, post-Marxism, post-structuralism, feminism, queer studies, critical race theory, post-colonialism, human-animal studies, ideological criticism, Continental philosophy, psychoanalysis, ecocriticism, cultural materialism, new historicism, alternative economics, etc. Likewise, we interpret “the Bible” broadly, to include the various Jewish, Christian and Muslim scriptures and related ancient literature, including their history of reception, use, and effect.

Please send paper proposals of 150-200 words to:
Roland Boer: Roland.Boer(at)newcastle.edu.au and
Deane Galbraith: relegere.reviews(at)otago.ac.nz

Details:

Dates for Seminar: 10-11 December 2014

Venue: The Original Robert Burns Pub (“The Robbie”), 374 George Street, Dunedin, New Zealand
https://www.facebook.com/RobbieBurnsPub/photos

The Bible and Critical Theory Seminar returns to Dunedin in what is the tenth year of publication of the Bible and Critical Theory Journal and the seventeenth year in which the Seminar has been held. We will meet in the Poetry Corner at the Robbie Burns Pub, which we will have to ourselves until joined by regular patrons in the late afternoon. We will also make our way to Eric Repphun’s new venture, the Governor’s Cafe, for a delicious lunch.
Please also note that the BCT Seminar will follow the annual meeting of the Aotearoa-New Zealand Association of Biblical Studies (ANZABS), also to be held in Dunedin, at the University of Otago, on 8-9 December 2014.

Accommodation:

While there is no official accommodation and a range of options around the city, for those comrades who appreciate the conviviality of low-cost communal living, I (Deane) recommend Hogwartz Backpackers, a short ten-minute walk to the Seminar venue and, from 1872 until 1999, residence of the Roman Catholic bishop. Prices start from NZ$29 for a shared room with 4 to 6 beds, and it is approximately NZ$63 for a single room.

More great stuff from Losurdo’s book on Stalin. He devotes a section to what he calls the reductio ad Hitlerum: the concentrated and intense process by the anti-communist propaganda machine to make out that Stalin was no different from Hitler. Among many guilty of this process is Hannah Arendt’s profoundly influential and wayward work, The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951). For Arendt, key components of ‘totalitarian regimes’ are the idea of a master race, the belief that one is ‘elected’ for world domination (does she have the USA in mind?), and the abolition of civil society, in which all restraints on the state’s power are removed and the state attempts to control every aspect of life as a basis for world domination. She argues that Hitler and Stalin, Nazism and communism, are therefore two sides of the same totalitarian coin. At the time, this argument suited a European and American Left that was seeking common ground with liberalism, for it enabled them to oppose actually existing socialist states in Eastern Europe and Asia.

The result, suggests Losurdo, is an extraordinary caricature. Stalin’s ‘terror’ was nothing less than gratuitous violence and was exclusively motivated by a totalitarian ideology driven by the bloody paranoia of a singular person.

Another key component is the Soviet-Nazi (Molotov-Ribbentrop) non-aggression pact of 1939, which supposedly shows how close the two sides really were. Neglected are a few interesting little facts: Stalin was late on the scene, as everyone seemed to want to make treaties, pacts, and agreements with the Third Reich. These include the concordats with the Roman Catholic and Lutheran Churches in Germany (1933); the Haavara agreement (1933-39), when Zionist organisations arranged with the fascist government for the transfer of Jews to Palestine (20,000 German Jews thus made their way there); the naval accord with the UK (1935), which enabled Hitler to re-arm Germany and permitted him to colonise eastern Europe (with the UK seeking to direct Hitler to Russia); the Nazi-Polish non-aggression treaty (1934), and then the Munich Agreement (1938), at which Germany, France, the UK and Italy were present and which explicitly acknowledged the ‘disappearance’ of Austria and Czechoslovakia. Indeed, the US ambassador present at Munich opined that it was important to isolate ‘Asiatic despotism’ (guess who he had in mind) and protect ‘European civilisation’. So Stalin was hardly the only one to be interested in such an agreement, even if all it did was buy him a little time against such united opposition.

I have just received yet another collection of Stalin’s writings, this one called Stalin on China. But what drew my eye on opening it is the preface by Chen Pota, from 1949:

On the basis of concrete analysis of the concrete conditions in China, Stalin, this great scientist of dialectical materialism, the teacher of world revolution, formulates at the time of the first Great Revolution of China, a series of questions concerning the Chinese revolution, to which he offers extremely brilliant solutions. By this means he demolished the nonsense on the question of China advanced by the counter-revolutionary Trotskyites and assisted the Communist Party of China to embark on the path of Bolshevism.

Great scientist of dialectical material, teacher of world revolution, brilliant solutions … and above all, concrete. You don’t find reviews like that any more – except perhaps self-written pieces on academic profile pages.

2014 May 228a

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A student in China first stated it clearly: ‘I like Putin’, she said. As she explained, I realised that I don’t necessarily like him, but I admire him. Why? Basically, because he has the nous and nerve to stick it NATO, the EU and the USA in a way that reminds them how their power is weakening. And it infuriates them. Massive economic deals with China, new arrangements with BRICS, a reopened spying base in Cuba, the list goes on.

Don’t get me wrong. I do not admire his politics, manipulating the oligarchs in Russia. I do not admire his populist stance on gays and lesbians. But I admire his ability to stand firm when the corporate press and some governments have been all too quick to blame him for shooting down the Malaysian Airlines plane over Ukraine. He quietly reminds people that if the coup had not happened earlier this year, then there would not have been an independence movement in eastern Ukraine.

On that matter, one of the dismaying features I notice now that I am back in Australia is how some politicians are all too ready to make political mileage out of the deaths of hundreds of people. ‘Putin is guilty’, they scream, and the corporate media follows with one voice, whipping up warlike frenzy, before any investigation has taken place. I have to remind myself that this takes place only in parts of the world. For instance, the Chinese media seems positively sober by comparison – such as the China Daily and Xinhua News.