May 2012


A new piece after yet another trip to China, this time on the tensions of Confucius – over at Political Theology.

While we’re on that theme – liberal democracy – it’s worth remembering that even Stalin toyed with the possibility. In 1946, in the aftermath of the Second World War and with eastern Europe moving rapidly to socialist systems through popular elections, Stalin opined:

Your democracy is special. You have no class of big capitalists. You have nationalised industry in a 100 days, while the English have been struggling to do that for the last 100 years. Don’t copy western democracy. Let them copy you. The democracy that you have established in Poland, in Yugoslavia and partly in Czechoslovakia is a democracy that is drawing you closer to socialism without the necessity of establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat or the Soviet system. Lenin never said that there was no path to socialism other than the dictatorship of the proletariat, he admitted that it was possible to arrive at the path to socialism utilising the foundations of the bourgeois democratic system such as Parliament (Roberts, Stalin’s Wars, pp. 246-7).

Similar statements can be found from the same period. Soon enough, however, Stalin learned again the wisdom of Lenin’s reflections in The State and Revolution: bourgeois democracy has a structural default in favour of capitalism, systematically excluding any viable alternative. That is, one cannot use the system for something it simply cannot handle. For that it needs to be smashed.

Nothing like returning from an ‘authoritarian’ communist country like China to encounter a great moment in bourgeois democracy: back in Australia, Tony Abbott (leader of the opposition) runs from parliament so he doesn’t have to vote on his own motion. No argument here about which system is best.

I know many people feel like time flees by and life comes to an end before we are ready. But for some reason, I find that each day is an incredibly long time, let alone a week, month or year. Usually, that feeling is associated with boredom. Far from it, for a day is usually full of many, many things. Remember that by the time you reach 50, more than 400,000 hours have come and gone. Now that is a seriously long time.

It takes a little more than a national health scheme … (ht sk)

I have just returned from China, where an increasingly strong feeling is that a critical reappropriation of the Cultural Revolution is around the corner – as part of retelling the story of the past to open up possibilities for the future. More of that later, especially in relation to Confucius. But it is worth noting a few other signals, over against ‘romantic’ Western Marxism that I have taken to task in earlier posts and that always imagines the perfect revolution is yet to be achieved (the flabby Žižek, among others, take note).

From Russia comes a story of the steady increase of the Pioneer Communist Youth League:

Over 5,000 boys and girls clad in red ties and side caps flooded onto Red Square in Moscow to be accepted into the ranks of the Pioneer Communist Youth League.

Almost 90 years ago to the day, the Soviet scouting movement was created at the second All-Russian Komsomol Conference. Komsomol was the youth division of the Soviet communist party.

And while the original Pioneer youth organization of the Soviet Union has been defunct since 1991, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) has continued the tradition.

Communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov told the youths gathered on Red Square“pioneers have always been model examples of how to love one’s motherland, how to be a good and honorable student, and how to help one’s elders and juniors alike.”

The children who were sworn in on Sunday came both from Moscow and surrounding regions.

CPFR secretary Yury Afonin says there were delegations from 30 different regions across the country, including Siberia and beyond, RIA Novosti reports.

Afonin insists “it isn’t just a tradition; they are doing real work with the children.”

He also said that around 4,000 youngsters from around the country take the oath to“warmly love and protect their homeland” annually, though the number who want to join is actuality much higher.

But while logistic and security concerns have limited the number of the movement’s slowly building ranks, next year even more youths will be wrapping themselves in the red pioneer scarf.

Despite a lack of state support, Afonsin believes the enthusiasm of today’s generation of pioneers keeps the movement alive.

For the children,“it’s a holiday that lasts a lifetime,” he concluded.

The video on the link noted earlier is worth watching.

(ht sk)

Back home and one of my favourite spots in town beckons again, the obelisk on the top of ‘The Hill’. It is still used as a a navigation device, having replaced a windmill pulled down a few years before 1850.

These ‘Directions for Entering the Port of Newcastle’ come from the Government Gazette of 1850.

When the Obelisk is in with the tower by the light you are nearly off the rocks east-southerly of the Nobby’s; and when the Nobby’s is in with the same you are off the rocks north-west of the same.

The Obelisk open to the west of the Queen’s Wharf will head you clear off the rock on the port land going in.

The Obelisk open to the eastward of the Wesleyan Chapel will clear the Oyster Bank and the North Bank, and will lead in from twenty-four to fourteen feet of water as you approach the Oyster Bank on the starboard side going in, and from eighteen to twelve feet as you approach the North Bank, also on the starboard side.

Merion Moriaty, Port Master.

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