January 2017


The course itself begins on 1 March, but enrolments have now opened. The introduction page provides the final version of the invitation video, course syllabus and some other details.

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What an amazing week.

Between Tuesday and Friday, 17 and 20 January, the world shifted. On Tuesday, Xi Jinping addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, while on Friday Donald Trump became president of the United States.

Their two speeches said it all: in one, putting people first, focusing on economic wellbeing for all, stressing the need for international cooperation, dealing with major problems collectively, and the need for a recalibration of global governance; in the other, putting the USA first, focusing on economic wellbeing only for the USA (and stuff the rest), stressing the need for twisting arms so that the USA comes out on top, dealing only with US problems, and the desperate and vain assertion of US global control.

To be sure, many commentators have interpreted Xi Jinping’s speech as a defence of ‘free trade’ and ‘globalisation’. But if you read closely, you will pick up the Marxist emphases on economic wellbeing (which is a core element in a Chinese Marxist approach to human rights), economic inequality as a source of unrest, unleashing the forces of production, the leadership of the Communist Party of China, and the need always to focus on what benefits the common people.

In some respects, the week just past was a significant moment in the shift of global power that began 10 years ago with the Atlantic financial crisis. Comrades in China point out that it should be seen as an outcome of almost four decades of the reform and opening up policy in China.

And all this takes place as Xi Jinping is preparing China for the shift to the second stage of socialism.

 

宁静致远:ningjing zhiyuan

A quiet life enables one to accomplish something lasting.

Or: tranquility yields transcendence

They all represent types of democracy.

Ancient Greek democracy (where it existed) worked as follows. A pubescent boy would stand naked in the middle of the assembly. If the other men could see evidence of puberty, then the boy was deemed to be a man and admitted to the assembly. Needless to say, such Greek democracy was limited to adult males who were not slaves or foreigners.

Donald Trump is an excellent example of liberal or bourgeois democracy. This type arose in Europe after the French revolution and it typically has a limited number of political parties that are much like one another. Occasional elections are held, while most of the actual governing is done by a parliament, which spends its time pandering to the rich and powerful. It is a system that can produce someone like Donald Trump, who embodies the truth of such a system.

Vladimir Putin represents illiberal democracy. It has many of the trappings of liberal democracy, with some political parties, elections and parliaments. But the system is geared to ensure one party stays in power.

Occasionally I come across the comment that the greatest offence of my Stalin project is that I assume that Stalin could actually think. It may be surprising to some, but many deny him the ability to think, let alone think dialectically. Was he not the one who was a novice at theory, mocked by his comrades for his faltering efforts? Was he not a cunning political operator at best, a woeful destroyer of Marxist theory at worst? Patient and careful attention to his works suggests otherwise. It is a shame so few people actually his written materials, dismissing them as hypocrisy or sophism.

And yes, the Stalin book is almost complete after too many delays. Final outline soon.

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