So it is happening. The parliament of the autonomous region of Crimea, which has steadfastly refused to recognise the coup in Kiev, has voted to leave Ukraine and join Russia. To ensure that every thing is done properly, a referendum will also be held on 16 March. Strange how this news has made barely a ripple in some parts of the world. Of course, the question is whether the EU, the USA and their lapdogs will recognise the decision. I wonder what they will do?
7 March, 2014
6 March, 2014
At least two things strike me whenever I return to China: the blessed absence of bourgeois democracy and the laughable nature of much international media reporting on places like China (or indeed anywhere else of interest in the world). A good example is the ‘Beijing smog’. How many times has a news story appeared, published, say, in the New York Times and telling of the hellish smog in cities like Beijing? The story is then copied in media outlets in Australia, or Japan, or Europe or wherever. A stock picture is usually included. It may be of high-rises at sunset enshrouded in smog, or perhaps a ground-level shot of people wearing face-masks and gasping for breath. To be sure, there are days like this, as I have experienced from time to time. I too have worn a face mask on bad days and preferred to stay indoors, where the air-conditioning filters clean the air somewhat.
The problem with that kind of slanted media representation is that it convinces a large number of people, some of whom should know better, that Beijing’s residents are always gasping for air, that their eyes are always watering, that the sun is always hidden and that plants wither. So when I mention that I am in Beijing, people say without thinking, ‘Isn’t the air bad. How can you breathe?’ Every now and then I am tempted to say that I can’t indeed breathe in this apocalyptic hell-hole. The temptation to embellish a story is always there, so that your survival seems all the more miraculous.
The truth is that is not always like that. Take the last week, in which the air has been crisp, clear, and fresh. The sun shines by day and the stars gleam by night. Today I climbed Xiangshan (Fragrant Mountain) to the northwest of Beijing, relishing the air and sun while I sweated on the climb. And this is late winter, when the smog is supposed to be at its worst. Last July I was also here, and most days were clear and bright, with blue skies above. And I will be here for a while yet, so I am sure I will get plenty more clear days.
I guess the ‘free press’ of the world does not like these kinds of stories, since they undermine its agenda.
4 March, 2014
Did the Ukrainian far right deploy a Leninist party structure to seize power? Four models have been deployed in analysis.
1. It was simply a peaceful protest by concerned citizens who wanted peace, prosperity and freedom. To do so they had to overthrow an evil ‘dictator,’ planted there by ‘the Kremlin’ (note the use of that term and all its evocations). He robbed billions for himself and his cronies and lived in a ‘presidential palace.’
2. It was the deployment by Washington of the ‘hybrid Color Revolution-Arab Spring regime change template.’ In this case, Washington outsources ‘regime change’ by channelling funds through NGOs that then find their way into arms for militant groups. This has happened in the earlier ‘Orange Revolution’, in Serbia, in the Arab Spring uprisings, and is happening today in Venezuela. It also took place in the Ukraine.
4. Was it Gene Sharp’s model, which was also used by the Occupy movement to a limited extent.
a) Seize a central square and organise a mass peaceful sit-in.
b) Speak endlessly of the danger of violent dispersal.
c) If the government does nothing, provoke bloodshed by attacking government forces.
d) Scream blue murder to anyone who will listen and proclaim ‘martyrs’ from government repression.
e) The government is horrified and paralysed.
f) The government falls.
g) New powers take over.
Shamir adds that you need the ‘masters of discourse’ on your side, namely, the Western mainstream media which has been stunningly one-sided. This approach does not preclude outside assistance (model 2). The key here is that the movement involves a coalition of liberals and fascists, the former for the friendly face and the latter for fire power. It enables one to claim that the movement is ‘complex’ (ultimately everything is ‘complex,’ even Adam and Eve). Once again, this model is proposed for all those recent movements.
4. Or is it perhaps an example of the continued validity of the Leninist party structure? Here I mean the form rather than the content of an approach to revolutions that was first perfected by the communists in Russia – although this does not preclude elements from items 2 and 3 (see earlier). In this case, you develop both legal and illegal sections of the party. The legal section enables you to propagate your views, while the illegal section foments revolution. The social situation has to be nearly catastrophic, with rampant unemployment, economic collapse, a weak and wavering government, so that plenty of disaffected people may be attracted to your cause. You also develop a military wing, which the Bolsheviks first realised as they prepared for revolution. The illegal section of the party is able to obtain arms and enable training of the militants. It matters little how you obtain arms, whether through ‘expropriations’ (Stalin was a master at this) or through external funds (see #2 above). Then you seize the moment, when others are clamouring for change.
Obviously the content is different, for the Ukrainian coaltion of parties is dominated by neo-fascist groups, but I would suggest that they have borrowed the Leninist model. After all, this is in their political history. Significantly, it reveals the continued viability of the Leninist model precisely when many on the Left had decided it was no longer viable.
But now the comparison falls short; or rather, the Ukrainian fascists have failed the follow the model to its full extent. First, they never gained mass support and had to rely on other groups that they sought to bully in their direction. In Ukraine, of course, they were never going to get support in the eastern regions, where protests are ongoing against the seizure of power, and where places like Crimea have rejected the revolution completely. Second, they missed the crucial need to prepare an adequate armed force to deal with those who want to defeat you. Enter Putin.
4 March, 2014
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Today I sauntered into the toilets here, minding my own business. As I did so, I smelled the scent of a cigarette. But I could not find the culprit … until I realised that it came from one of the cubicles with a squat toilet. Someone was puffing away while he was crouched low on his haunches. Is that not the ultimate pleasure? Your pants are at your ankles, everything hangs down, you are enveloped in your own rich aroma, and you light up a cigarette to enjoy the moment.
4 March, 2014
Having completed what began as a revision and ended up being a largely new book (Marxist Criticism of the Hebrew Bible), my attention now turns to a project I have been wanting to undertake. It is called Intimate Life and focuses on issues such as love, sex, bodies, illness, death, the good life, and so on – of communists, of course.
As I began reading Mary Gabriel’s book, I came across this gem. After their much delayed wedding in June, 1843, Karl Marx and Jenny von Westphalen stayed at Kreuznach until October. With no obligation to anyone but themselves, they had an extraordinary time. They had rampant sex, Jenny fell pregnant, and they – for they read and discussed these matters together – produced some of the most significant texts that are now credited to the ‘young Marx’. These are the ‘Kreuznach notebooks’. They include one of the most famous statements concerning religion as the ‘opium of the people’; the stunning criticism of Hegel’s philosophy of law; and the discovery of the proletariat as the force of history.
Something to be said for sex and creativity.
2 March, 2014
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Here at Renmin – or the People’s – University of China (Beijing) they have the rather appealing practice of holding a small ceremony for signing the contract.
Here I am with some of my new colleagues from the Literature Program:
You can find more information here.
1 March, 2014
The Information Office of the China State Council has issued its annual human rights report on the USA for 2013. They do this every year, since the US’s own report curiously omits itself from any analysis. The Chinese report highlights:
1. PRISM, the surveillance project that targets anyone and everyone, whether in the USA or abroad.
2. Gun violence: apart from the tens of thousands killed very year by guns in the USA, 137 people died in 30 mass killings.
3. Drone strikes, especially in countries such as Pakistan and Yemen, that have caused heavy civilian casualties. In Pakistan alone, 926 civilians have been killed with 376 drone strikes.
4. Homelessness and unemployment in the USA. 21 per cent of the lowest income groups are unemployed, and homelessness is at 16 per cent.
5. Child labour in the agricultural sector in the USA.
6. The USA has not ratified or participated in the following UN conventions on human rights: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
1 March, 2014
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27 February, 2014
It is perhaps not recognised as often as it should be that Lenin, and Stalin following him, were fully in favour of Finnish secession and independence:
‘There is at present a movement in Finland for securing national freedom, and there is also the fight waged against it by the Provisional Government. The question arises, who are we to support? Either we are for the policy of the Provisional Government, the forcible retention of Finland and the reduction of her rights to a minimum—in which case we are annexationists, for we are bringing grist to the mill of the Provisional Government; or we are for independence for Finland. We must express ourselves definitely one way or the other; we cannot limit ourselves to a statement of rights …
‘We must support every movement directed against imperialism. Otherwise what will the Finnish workers say of us?’
‘The Seventh (April) Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. (Bolsheviks) April 24-29, 1917′. Collected Works, vol. 3, pp. 58-60.
27 February, 2014
"I have always been suspicious of so-called ‘politicians’, afraid that this was not a good kind of thing to be. Today, I’ve truly been given proof of it."
Mao’s Road to Power, vol. 1, p. 393.