marxism


The second ebooklet has been published by ‘Culture Matters‘, under the auspices of the Communist Party of Britain. This one is called ‘Religion and Capitalism’, with a focus on Marx. You can read it as a webpage or as an ebooklet.

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Much happened at the recently concluded Munich Security conference, but I am particularly interested in the speech by the outgoing foreign minister of Germany, Sigmar Gabriel. Some interpreted the speech as an attack on China and its Belt and Road Initiative, seeing the speech an accusation that China is trying to take over the world. However, if you actually look at the text of the speech, you will see that he has relatively little to say about China or Russia, or indeed the Korean peninsula – except to frame the speech in terms of a substantially changed world. Instead, he is most concerned about the way the United States is disappearing from the scene (as someone else pointed out, it is like watching the collapse of the Roman Empire). Gabriel worries about the fragmentation of the ‘liberal’ – that is, bourgeois – world order, imploring the USA to get involved again and suggesting that Europe as a whole needs to step up. All of this was far more accurately reported by Deutsche Welle.

But what did Gabriel say about China? He does say that China (implicitly Chinese Marxism) has a very different approach to the world, which is not a bourgeois liberal one focused on ‘freedom’, (bourgeois) ‘democracy’ and ‘the individual’. True enough, and I too am against this kind of world ‘order’. However, Gabriel also observes that China is the only global superpower that has a ‘truly global, geo-strategic’ idea, which it pursues consistently. Most importantly, he says that he is certainly not reproaching China for this project, for it is China’s perfect right (das gute Recht) to develop it.

The problem, however, is that Europe does not have a coherent answer. What type of answer? An alternative to China? No, what is needed is a new approach of shared values and global balance rather than a zero-sum game. Sounds remarkably like Xi Jinping’s ‘community of shared future for all’. (Another piece in DW indicates how China and the EU are already moving closer).

On this note, it is worth noting that Fu Ying (chair of the Foreign Relations Committee of the National People’s Congress) made it clear at the conference that China is not interested in a ‘competition of systems’. While she pointed out that the ‘Western’ system so beloved by Sigmar Gabriel (and others) has raised as many problems as it has solved, China is not interested in replacing it. To quote the article further:

But as China becomes stronger, questions and worries outside of China emerged.

What does it mean when China vows to “move closer to center stage”? Does it mean China is prepared to replace the United States and playing a “leading role”? When China offers “Chinese wisdom and a Chinese approach”, is that tantamount to China exporting its development model?

Fu answered to these worries by saying “We wish to play a role in world affairs and make an even greater contribution to mankind. But it must be done within our means and in a manner consistent with our values.”

She emphasized that China has only offered a new option to countries that seek rapid development while retaining their independence, “but this does not mean that China’s model and ideology are to be exported.”

 

Verso Books has initially refused to publish an English translation of Domenico Losurdo’s book on Stalin, even though they have published other works by him. Those who know the press will not be surprised by this. However, a petition is underway to get Verso to change its opinion. You can find the petition here.

Please sign the petition!

 

As CP pointed out to me today, international sport has taken the place of religion when it comes to dealing with international political issues. How so? In the middle of the nineteenth century in Prussia, the only language in which one could engage in political issues was religion, or more specifically theology. This was due to the heavy censorship over political debate in Prussia, so all of the issues were expressed in and through religion. The youthful Marx and Engels were no exception.

In an analogous fashion, international sport – for better or worse – seems to have taken on that role. For example, Russian athletes cannot be banned for overtly political reasons, so the excuse of ‘doping’ is used. And of course, the complex issues of Korean unification can be broached much more readily through the avenue of the Winter Olympics than other forms. Obviously, these images are as much social and political as they are focused on sport, but they take place in the context and language of sport.

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The combined Korea team, under the ‘Korea is One’ flag, which raised by far the loudest applause.

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So far, this sort of thing has happened before, albeit not at such an important juncture. But the arrival of Kim Yo Jong is another story. She is the younger sister of Kim Jong Un and a serious politician in her own right.

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The handshake between her and Moon Jae-in, president of the south, as the united Korea team came out during the opening ceremony was powerful in its symbolism.

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Alongside Kim Yo Jong is the president of the presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, Kim Yong Nam.

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He was received warmly indeed by Moon Jae-in before the games.

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And here is a toast with Moon Jae-in, Kim Yong Nam and the Olympic chair.

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This first part of this video is fascinating, since it speaks volumes about the common ritual of who should sit in the most important seat. Initially, Kim Yong Nam suggests Kim Yo Jong should sit there. But she pauses and insists he should sit there, especially in light of his seniority (he is 90). At last, after back and forth, he takes the seat, as he knows he should – but not before umpteen signals of humility.

 

Last but by no means least, the north has sent no less than 229 members of a cheer squad, replete with instruments.

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Their chant: the simple but powerful ‘We are one’.

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You cannot thinking that Kim Jong Un and the leadership team are becoming quite masterful at international leadership. Meanwhile, the USA’s representative at Pyeongchang, Mike Pence, was made to look like a frustrated and petulant little boy who could not get his way. He refused to attend the welcoming dinner and did not stand and cheer as the united Korea team came out. Unlike the leaders of the two Koreas:

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Update:

Things move fast in this environment. Kim Yo Jong has by now delivered a written invitation from her bother to Moon Jae-in: a personal meeting between the two of them at the ‘earliest date’ possible.

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Moon is said to have been positive but cautious: ‘Let us make it happen by creating the necessary conditions in the future’.

To add to the picture, the entries by Kim Yo Jong and Kim Yong Nam in the visitors book at the south’s presidential office express positive hopes:

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While Kim Yong Nam (left) wrote of the Korean people’s desire to be reunited, Kim Yo Jong (right) wrote: ‘I expect Pyongyang and Seoul to get closer in the hearts of our (Korean) people and the future of unification and prosperity will be advanced’.

Given that the north’s policy has always been consistent regarding reunification, but that the south’s approach has lurched back and forth depending on political circumstances, the ball is clearly in Moon’s court. Will he make the most of the opportunity on the 70th anniversary of the separation of the two Koreas so that serious progress is made to reunification – as this DPRK joint conference make clear? Or will he waste the chance? Perhaps a small signal may be found in the rebuttal of Japan’s urging to resume military preparations – the so-called ‘war games’ with the USA and South Korea – for invading the north. After the militant Abe suggested this, the southern Koreans told him to get lost, since he was interfering in Korean sovereignty.

Of course, if the two parts of Korea do reunite, the urgent question is what in the world are US soldiers doing occupying one half of the Korean peninsula.

This one is causing no small brouhaha among reactionary Roman Catholics and others. Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, who is chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, made the following observations in an interview:

“Right now, those who are best implementing the social doctrine of the Church are the Chinese,” a senior Vatican official has said.

Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, praised the Communist state as “extraordinary”, saying: “You do not have shantytowns, you do not have drugs, young people do not take drugs”. Instead, there is a “positive national conscience”.

The bishop told the Spanish-language edition of Vatican Insider that in China “the economy does not dominate politics, as happens in the United States, something Americans themselves would say.”

Bishop Sánchez Sorondo said that China was implementing Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si better than many other countries and praised it for defending Paris Climate Accord. “In that, it is assuming a moral leadership that others have abandoned”, he added.

As part of the diplomacy efforts, Bishop Sánchez Sorondo visited the country. “What I found was an extraordinary China,” he said. “What people don’t realise is that the central value in China is work, work, work. There’s no other way, fundamentally it is like St Paul said: he who doesn’t work, doesn’t eat.”

Bishop Sánchez Sorondo concluded by saying that China is “developing well” and now has “many points of agreement” with the Vatican.

I never thought I would be quoting the Catholic Herald, but there you go. All of this is part of a serious historical deal in the making between the Chinese government and the Vatican over the appointment of bishops. For the last few centuries, there have been two Roman Catholic Churches in China. One is officially recognised by the state – the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) – and the other is not. A root cause of their difference is an old problem: who appoints bishops, the state or the Vatican? The officially recognised church has bishops who are recognised by the state, while the unofficial church does not. This has been the status quo for the odd century or three.

Now a breakthrough is in the works. Pope Francis has actively encouraged a deal in which future bishops would be appointed by a process that includes input from the government and the Vatican. Things move slowly in the Roman Catholic Church, since this little conflict goes way back to the efforts by Matteo Ricci and then the ‘Rites Controversy’ of the 17th and 18th centuries. But now it may well be resolved and the two branches of the Roman Catholic Church in China may become one – following the model already in place in Vietnam.

Needless to say, Chinese commentary has seen this as a positive development (here, here and here).

One of the top items in our next visit to the DPRK is the architecture. Since the USA destroyed nearly all the standing buildings (along with 20 percent of the population) in the Korean War, the country had to be rebuilt. The initial phase was heavily inspired by Stalin baroque from the 1950s, with significant assistance from architects from the DDR (East Germany). As Calvin Chua – a Singapore architecture who has been engaged in the latest phase – puts it: ‘Then we have the modernist era in the 60s and 70s, which was followed by the revival of vernacular Korean architectural elements, like Korean hipped roofs, built with concrete in the 80s’. The latest phase is part of a boom in construction since 2014, especially since the DPRK’s economy has kicked along with its own version of the ‘reform and opening up’. Crucially, architecture concerns not merely individual buildings but the larger issues of spatial reconstruction. A reasonably informative article can be found here. It has collections of stunning images, of which I can give only a sample. They come from different periods, mostly from Pyongyang but also Hamhung in the north.

Finally, the new international airport in Pyongyang:

China regularly publishes its own white paper on human rights problems in the United States, in light of the Chinese Marxist approach to human rights rather than the European derived approach, which is so often universalised in a colonialist fashion.

However, the DPRK also publishes annual human rights reports on the USA. Of course, some would dismiss this as either hypocrisy or tit-for-tat, but it seems to me that what the report says is actually quite spot on. I have copied a summary from Rodong Sinmun

White Paper on Human Rights Violations in U.S. in 2017 Issued in DPRK

The DPRK Institute of International Studies on Jan. 30 released the “White Paper on Human Rights Violations in U.S. in 2017”.

According to the white paper, soon after being inaugurated as president, Trump filled the important posts of his administration with billionaires, who had “contributed” to his election campaign, and their mouthpieces.

Secretary of State Tillerson, Secretary of Commerce Ross and also the secretaries of Treasury and Defense are all billionaires from conglomerates. The total assets of public servants at the level of deputy secretary and above of the current administration are worth of 14 billion US$.

The anti-popular policies the Trump administration pursued openly in one year were, without exception, for the interests of a handful of the rich circles.

In the U.S., where genuine freedom of the press and expression does not exist, intervention in and crackdown on the press grew more intensified over the past one year.

In 2017 the cases of searching and confiscation against journalists accounted for 12 and the cases of violation against them for 11. Moreover, 19 persons in the domestic press circles and four foreign journalists were arrested or detained.

Racial discrimination and misanthropy are serious maladies inherent to the social system of the U.S., and they have been aggravated since Trump took office.

The racial violence that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12 is a typical example of the acme of the current administration’s policy of racism.

In the U.S. the absolute majority of the working masses, deprived of elementary rights to survival, are hovering in the abyss of nightmare.

As a result, during the first week of March, 241 000 persons joined the large contingent of the unemployed; in May 9 000 public servants were fired from governmental agencies; in September the number of the unemployed increased by 33 000 as compared to that of the previous month.

In particular, unemployment of young people has become a matter of serious social concern; currently the unemployment rate of young people under 25 is 7.9%, and 31% of graduates from high schools do not have proper jobs.

According to what the U.S. administration made public, in 2017 the homeless numbered 554 000, about 10% increase as compared to that two years ago, and number of the poor families, living in rented rooms devoid of elementary facilities for living, is on the steady rise.

The soaring school expenses are plunging the students into the hell of loans.

Those who are diagnosed with a disease but cannot afford to pay their medical fees total 50 million. Flu, lung diseases and asthma cause 36 000, 40 000 and 150 000 deaths, respectively, on an annual average.

On the other hand, health-hazardous disqualified products are on sale across the country, which often leads to an outbreak of infectious diseases.

The U.S. is one of the world’s two countries that have yet to embrace paid maternity leave.

Over the past decade the proportion of American women who live below the poverty line has risen from 12.1% to 14.5%, and they usually receive 25% less salary than their male colleagues of the same post.

A woman is sexually abused every 89 seconds.

According to basic statistics, about 61 100 gun-related crimes took place in the U.S. last year, leaving 15 488 dead and 31 058 wounded.

According to data, the number of marijuana users in the U.S. was more than 20 million, a 3% increase as compared with that a decade ago; and over 90 people lose their lives on a daily average from drug abuse.

In the U.S. where crimes and evil are rampant, the number of imprisoned criminals tops 2.3 million and 70 million are ex-offenders.

The U.S., “guardian of democracy” and “human rights champion”, is kicking up the human rights racket but it can never camouflage its true identity as the gross violator of human rights, the white paper said.

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