Paige -- Nathan Rao -- Another Left is Possible: The Protests in France and the New Anti-Capitalist Party
Another Left is Possible: The Protests in France and the New Anti-Capitalist Party by Nathan Rao The Bullet - No. 198, March 25, 2009 A Socialist Project e-bulletin http://www.socialistproject.ca/bullet/bullet198.html It would be wrong to see last Thursday's massively successful protest...
Rene -- THE COMMUNIST HYPOTHESIS
THE COMMUNIST HYPOTHESIS
There was a tangible sense of depression in the air in France in the aftermath of Sarkozy’s victory.  It is often said that unexpected blows are the worst, but expected ones sometimes prove debilitating in a different way. It can be oddly dispiriting when an election is won by the candidate who has led in the opinion polls from the start, just as when the favourite horse wins the race; anyone with the slightest feeling for a wager, a risk, an exception or a rupture would rather see an outsider upset the odds. Yet it could hardly have been the bare fact of Nicolas Sarkozy as President that seemed to come as such a disorientating blow to the French left in the aftermath of May 2007. Something else was at stake—some complex of factors for which ‘Sarkozy’ is merely a name. How should it be understood?
An initial factor was the way in which the outcome affirmed the manifest powerlessness of any genuinely emancipatory programme within the electoral system: preferences are duly recorded, in the passive manner of a seismograph, but the process is one that by its nature excludes any embodiments of dissenting political will. A second component of the left’s depressive disorientation after May 2007 was an overwhelming bout of historical nostalgia. The political order that emerged from World War Two in France—with its unambiguous referents of ‘left’ and ‘right’, and its consensus, shared by Gaullists and Communists alike, on the balance-sheet of the Occupation, Resistance and Liberation—has now collapsed. This is one reason for Sarkozy’s ostentatious dinners, yachting holidays and so on—a way of saying that the left no longer frightens anyone: Vivent les riches, and to hell with the poor. Understandably, this may fill the sincere souls of the left with nostalgia for the good old days—Mitterrand, De Gaulle, Marchais, even Chirac, Gaullism’s Brezhnev, who knew that to do nothing was the easiest way to let the system die.
Sarkozy has now finally finished off the cadaverous form of Gaullism over which Chirac presided. The Socialists’ collapse had already been anticipated in the rout of Jospin in the presidential elections of 2002 (and still more by the disastrous decision to embrace Chirac in the second round). The present decomposition of the Socialist Party, however, is not just a matter of its political poverty, apparent now for many years, nor of the actual size of the vote—47 per cent is not much worse than its other recent scores. Rather, the election of Sarkozy appears to have struck a blow to the entire symbolic structuring of French political life: the system of orientation itself has suffered a defeat. An important symptom of the resulting disorientation is the number of former Socialist placemen rushing to take up appointments under Sarkozy, the centre-left opinion-makers singing his praises; the rats have fled the sinking ship in impressive numbers. The underlying rationale is, of course, that of the single party: since all accept the logic of the existing capitalist order, market economy and so forth, why maintain the fiction of opposing parties?
A third component of the contemporary disorientation arose from the outcome of the electoral conflict itself. I have characterized the 2007 presidential elections—pitting Sarkozy against Royal—as the clash of two types of fear. The first is the fear felt by the privileged, alarmed that their position may be assailable. In France this manifests itself as fear of foreigners, workers, youth from the banlieue, Muslims, black Africans. Essentially conservative, it creates a longing for a protective master, even one who oppresses and impoverishes you further. The current embodiment of this figure is, of course, the over-stimulated police chief: Sarkozy. In electoral terms, this is contested not by a resounding affirmation of self-determining heterogeneity, but by the fear of this fear: a fear, too, of the cop figure, whom the petit-bourgeois socialist voter neither knows nor likes. This ‘fear of the fear’ is a secondary, derivative emotion, whose content—beyond the sentiment itself—is barely detectable; the Royal camp had no concept of any alliance with the excluded or oppressed; the most it could envisage was to reap the dubious benefits of fear. For both sides, a total consensus reigned on Palestine, Iran, Afghanistan (where French forces are fighting), Lebanon (ditto), Africa (swarming with French military ‘administrators’). Public discussion of alternatives on these issues was on neither party’s agenda.
The conflict between the primary fear and the ‘fear of the fear’ was settled in favour of the former. There was a visceral reflex in play here, very apparent in the faces of those partying over Sarkozy’s victory. For those in the grip of the ‘fear of the fear’ there was a corresponding negative reflex, flinching from the result: this was the third component of 2007’s depressive disorientation. We should not underestimate the role of what Althusser called the ‘ideological state apparatus’—increasingly through the media, with the press now playing a more sophisticated part than TV and radio—in formulating and mobilizing such collective sentiments. Within the electoral process there has, it seems, been a weakening of the real; a process even further advanced with regard to the secondary ‘fear of the fear’ than with the primitive, reactionary one. We react, after all, to a real situation, whereas the ‘fear of the fear’ merely takes fright at the scale of that reaction, and is thus at a still further remove from reality. The vacuity of this position manifested itself perfectly in the empty exaltations of Ségolène Royal.
Electoralism and the state
If we posit a definition of politics as ‘collective action, organized by certain principles, that aims to unfold the consequences of a new possibility which is currently repressed by the dominant order’, then we would have to conclude that the electoral mechanism is an essentially apolitical procedure. This can be seen in the gulf between the massive formal imperative to vote and the free-floating, if not non-existent nature of political or ideological convictions. It is good to vote, to give a form to my fears; but it is hard to believe that what I am voting for is a good thing in itself. This is not to say that the electoral-democratic system is repressive per se; rather, that the electoral process is incorporated into a state form, that of capitalo-parliamentarianism, appropriate for the maintenance of the established order, and consequently serves a conservative function. This creates a further feeling of powerlessness: if ordinary citizens have no handle on state decision-making save the vote, it is hard to see what way forward there could be for an emancipatory politics.
If the electoral mechanism is not a political but a state procedure, what does it achieve? Drawing on the lessons of 2007, one effect is to incorporate both the fear and the ‘fear of the fear’ into the state—to invest the state with these mass-subjective elements, the better to legitimate it as an object of fear in its own right, equipped for terror and coercion. For the world horizon of democracy is increasingly defined by war. The West is engaged on an expanding number of fronts: the maintenance of the existing order with its gigantic disparities has an irreducible military component; the duality of the worlds of rich and poor can only be sustained by force. This creates a particular dialectic of war and fear. Our governments explain that they are waging war abroad in order to protect us from it at home. If Western troops do not hunt down the terrorists in Afghanistan or Chechnya, they will come over here to organize the resentful rabble outcasts.
Rene -- The Tactics Of the Israel Lobby
Palestine / Israel
Some people believe that talk of a powerful Israeli lobby only feeds into the misconceptions, paranoia, and talk of 'Jewish Conspiracy.' Yet at the same time, dismissing the power of the Israeli lobby in the US seems in denial of mounting events and evidence. -rg
The Tactics Of the Israel Lobby
12/03/2009 The Tactics Of the Israel Lobby
Charles Freeman ` Wall Street Journal
March 11, 2009
Al-Manar.com.lb is not responsible for the content of this article or
for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's
Charles Freeman, a veteran diplomat slated to become the top U.S.
intelligence analyst, withdrew from consideration Tuesday. He released
a statement denouncing the "Israel Lobby" for "character
assassination." Here is the text of the statement.
To all who supported me or gave me words of encouragement during the
controversy of the past two weeks, you have my gratitude and respect.
You will by now have seen the statement by Director of National
Intelligence Dennis Blair reporting that I have withdrawn my previous
acceptance of his invitation to chair the National Intelligence Council.
I have concluded that the barrage of libelous distortions of my record
would not cease upon my entry into office. The effort to smear me and
to destroy my credibility would instead continue. I do not believe the
National Intelligence Council could function effectively while its
chair was under constant attack by unscrupulous people with a
passionate attachment to the views of a political faction in a foreign
country. I agreed to chair the NIC to strengthen it and protect it
against politicization, not to introduce it to efforts by a special
interest group to assert control over it through a protracted political
Open Democracy -- Why Hamas is No `Extremist'
Palestine / Israel
Why Hamas is No `Extremist'
12/03/2009 Why Hamas is No `Extremist'
Alastair Crooke - Opendemocracy
March 11, 2009
Revisiting the reasons for the Islamist Revolution, we need to
understand that Hamas are the `moderates', in a self-defeating western
drama which has bequeathed a much more dangerous Middle East.
In the mechanistic template imposed by western leaders on the Middle
East, of `moderates' who must be supported versus `extremists' who must
be isolated and undermined, Hamas has to be painted, by mechanical
necessity alone, as `extremists'. Hamas has become the `extremists' to
answer in neat symmetry to the `moderates' of Ramallah, who for other
reasons American and European leaders wish in any event to
support.Alastair Crooke is co-director of Conflicts Forum, a former EU
mediator with Hamas and other Islamist groups and author of
`Resistance: the Essence of the Islamist Revolution'.
But such models, once generally accepted, force a deterministic
interpretation that can blind its advocates to the perverse results of
such narrow and rigid conceptualising: a defeated and humbled Hamas,
western leaders suggested, was to be `welcomed' as a blow to Hesballah,
which in turn represented a strike at Syria, which weakened Iran - all
of which strengthened the `moderates'; and, the model implies, serves
to make Israel safer. It is a narrative that has reduced the
Palestinian crisis to no more than a pawn in the new `Great Game' of an
existential global struggle waged against `extremism'.
The appealing clarity of such a simple, and simplistic, model-making
has however obscured its overriding flaw. The pursuit of this narrow
formulation of moderates versus extremists has yielded the perverse
result - not of bringing nearer a Palestinian state - but of pushing it
beyond reach, possibly for good.
Rene -- Israel's War Crimes
Palestine / Israel
Israel's War Crimes
Published on Thursday, March 12, 2009 by Le Monde Diplomatique (France)
Israel blamed its earlier wars on the threat to its security, even that
against Lebanon in 1982. However, its assault on Gaza was not justified
and there are international calls for an investigation. But is there
the political will to make Israel account for its war crimes?
by Richard Falk
For the first time since the establishment of Israel in 1948 the
government is facing serious allegations of war crimes from respected
public figures throughout the world. Even the secretary general of the
United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, normally so cautious about offending
sovereign states - especially those aligned with its most influential
member, the United States - has joined the call for an investigation
and potential accountability. To grasp the significance of these
developments it is necessary to explain what made the 22 days of
attacks in Gaza stand shockingly apart from the many prior recourses to
force by Israel to uphold its security and strategic interests.
In my view, what made the Gaza attacks launched on 27 December
different from the main wars fought by Israel over the years was that
the weapons and tactics used devastated an essentially defenceless
civilian population. The one-sidedness of the encounter was so stark,
as signalled by the relative casualties on both sides (more than 100 to
1; 1300-plus Palestinians killed compared with 13 Israelis, and several
of these by friendly fire), that most commentators refrained from
attaching the label "war".
The Israelis and their friends talk of "retaliation" and "the right of
Israel to defend itself". Critics described the attacks as a "massacre"
or relied on the language of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In
the past Israeli uses of force were often widely condemned, especially
by Arab governments, including charges that the UN Charter was being
violated, but there was an implicit acknowledgement that Israel was
using force in a war mode. War crimes charges (to the extent they were
made) came only from radical governments and the extreme left.
The early Israeli wars were fought against Arab neighbours which were
quite literally challenging Israel's right to exist as a sovereign
state. The outbreaks of force were of an inter-governmental nature; and
even when Israel exhibited its military superiority in the June 1967
six day war, it was treated within the framework of normal world
politics, and though it may have been unlawful, it was not criminal.
But from the 1982 Lebanon war this started to change. The main target
then was the presence of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in
southern Lebanon. But the war is now mainly remembered for its ending,
with the slaughter of hundreds of unarmed Palestinian civilians in the
refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. Although this atrocity was the work
of a Lebanese Christian militia, Israeli acquiescence, control and
complicity were clearly part of the picture. Still, this was an
incident which, though alarming, was not the whole of the military
operation, which Israel justified as necessary due to the Lebanese
government's inability to prevent its territory from being used to
threaten Israeli security.
Rene -- Ethnic Cleansing and Israel
"The Ultimate Aim is the Transfer of Arab-Israelis"
Ethnic Cleansing and Israel
By CONN HALLINAN
March 3, 2009
One of the more disturbing developments in the Middle East is a growing
consensus among Israelis that it would acceptable to expel'in the words
of advocates `transfer''its Arab citizens to either a yet as unformed
Palestinian state or the neighboring countries of Jordan and Egypt.
Such sentiment is hardly new among Israeli extremists, and it has long
been advocated by racist Jewish organizations like Kach, the party of
the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, as well as groups like the National Union,
which doubled its Knesset representation in the last election.
But `transfer' is no longer the exclusive policy of extremists, as it
has increasingly become a part of mainstream political dialogue. `My
solution for maintaining a Jewish and democratic state of Israel is to
have two nation-states with certain concessions and with clear red
lines,' Kadima leader and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told a
group of Tel Aviv high school students last December, `and among other
things, I will be able to approach the Palestinian residents of Israel,
those whom we call Israeli Arabs, and tell them, ` your national
solution lies elsewhere.''
Such talk has consequences.
According to the Israeli Association for Civil Rights, anti-Arab
incidents have risen sharply. `Israeli society is reaching new heights
of racism that damages freedom of expression and privacy,' says Sami
Michael, the organization's president. Among the Association's findings:
Some 55 percent of Jewish Israelis say that the state should encourage
78 percent of Jewish Israelis oppose including Arab parties in the
56 percent agree with the statement that `Arabs cannot attain the
Jewish level of cultural development';
75 percent agree that Arabs are inclined to be violent. Among
Arab-Israelis, 54 percent feel the same way about Jews.
75 percent of Israeli Jews say they would not live in the same building
as Arabs. The tension between Israeli democracy and the country's Jewish
character was the centerpiece of Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu
Party's campaign in the recent election. His party increased its
Knesset membership from 11 to 15, and is now the third largest party in
Lieberman, who lives in a West Bank settlement near Bethlehem, calls
for a `loyalty oath' from Arab-Israelis, and for either expelling those
who refuse or denying them citizenship rights. During a Knesset debate
last March, Lieberman told Arab deputies, `You are only temporarily
here. One day we will take care of you.'
Such views are increasing, particularly among young Jewish Israelis,
among whom a politicized historical education and growing hopelessness
about the future has fueled a strong rightward shift.
In a recent article in Haaretz, Yotam Feldman writes about a journey
through Israel's high schools, where students freely admit to their
hatred of Arabs and lack of concern about the erosion of democracy.
`Sergei Liebliyanich, a senior, draws a connection between the
preparation for military service in school and student support for the
Right' Feldman writes, `` It gives us motivation against the Arabs. You
want to enlist in the army so you can stick it to them¦I like
Lieberman's thinking about the Arabs. Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu, leader
of the rightwing Likud Party] doesn't want to go as far.'
Rene -- A devastating document is met with silence in Turkey
A devastating document is met with silence in Turkey
By Sabrina Tavernise
Monday, March 9, 2009
ISTANBUL: For Turkey, the number should have been a bombshell.
According to a long-hidden document that belonged to the interior
minister of the Ottoman Empire, 972,000 Ottoman Armenians disappeared
from official population records from 1915 through 1916.
In Turkey, any discussion of what happened to the Ottoman Armenians
can bring a storm of public outrage. But since its publication in a
book in January, the number - and its Ottoman source - has gone
virtually unmentioned. Newspapers hardly wrote about it. Television
shows have not discussed it.
"Nothing," said Murat Bardakci, the Turkish author and columnist who
compiled the book.
The silence can mean only one thing, he said: "My numbers are too high
for ordinary people. Maybe people aren't ready to talk about it yet."
For generations, most Turks knew nothing of the details of the
Armenian genocide from 1915 to 1918, when more than a million
Armenians were killed as the Ottoman Turk government purged the
Turkey locked the ugliest parts of its past out of sight,
Soviet-style, keeping any mention of the events out of schoolbooks and
official narratives in an aggressive campaign of forgetting.
But in the past 10 years, as civil society has flourished here, some
parts of Turkish society are now openly questioning the state's
version of events. In December, a group of intellectuals circulated a
petition that apologized for the denial of the massacres. Some 29,000
people have signed it.
With his book, "The Remaining Documents of Talat Pasha," Bardakci
(pronounced bard-AK-chuh) has become, rather unwillingly, part of this
ferment. The book is a collection of documents and records that once
belonged to Mehmed Talat, known as Talat Pasha, the primary architect
of the Armenian deportations.
The documents, given to Bardakci by Talat's widow, Hayriye, before she
died in 1983, include lists of population figures. Before 1915,
1,256,000 Armenians lived in the Ottoman Empire, according to the
documents. The number plunged to 284,157 two years later, Bardakci
To the untrained ear, it is simply a sad statistic. But anyone
familiar with the issue knows the numbers are in fierce dispute.
Turkey has never acknowledged a specific number of deportees or
deaths. On Sunday, the Turkish foreign minister, Ali Babacan, warned
that President Barack Obama might set back relations if he recognized
the massacre of Armenians as genocide ahead of his visit to Turkey
Rene -- France: Protests continue against Sarkozy’s university reforms
France: Protests continue against Sarkozy’s university reforms
By Pierre Mabut
11 March 2009
Five weeks of strikes and protests by university teachers and students against government reforms that undermine the status of teachers and the quality of higher education have maintained their momentum. This is despite Higher Education Minister Valérie Pécresse's watering down of the proposals and the trade unions presenting minor concessions as a basis for agreement.
On March 5, 20,000 university teachers, administrative staff and students marched in Paris. Another 23,000 took to the streets across 20 cities, notably in Lyon, Toulouse, Nantes, Rennes, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, Nancy, Brest, Montpelier and Caen. Twice within two weeks the historic Paris Sorbonne University was occupied by 200 students before they were ousted by CRS riot police. Slogans and banners on the Paris protest included, "No to the break-up of universities and research! No to the destruction of teachers' status!" as well as "No to the destruction of teacher training—withdraw the Darcos/Pécresse reforms," referring to the higher education minister, as well as Education Minister Xavier Darcos.
One placard declared, "Guadeloupe everywhere, general strike," a reference to the French island's 44-day strike against the high cost of living.
The general secretary of the FSU (Federation Syndicate Unitaire, the majority education union), Gérard Aschieri, declared, "The movement in Guadeloupe, which succeeded in mobilising and obtaining results, can only help our mobilisation."
These comments are belied by the actions of the FSU, which has refused to mobilise workers and staff in the national education system over the last year to oppose the 13,500 high school teacher job losses imposed by Darcos, leaving students to fight alone.
Delegates of the universities' national co-ordinating committee, representing research teachers and staff from 67 universities, met last Friday after the protest. They vowed to fight on for the complete abrogation of the University Liberties and Responsibilities Law (LRU) on university autonomy. Delegates rejected the government concessions as "scandalously insufficient" and stated that "Nothing has been obtained on the master's degree [which replaces teacher training practice] and the reform of recruitment exams for secondary school teachers."
This position contrasts with the teaching unions (Sgen-CFDT, Sup'Recherche Unsa, Autonome Sup and Force Ouvriere) which Sgen-CFDT delegate Thierry Cadart said had reached a "consensus" with the government. The Snesup-FSU did not take part in negotiations but still declared it was "ready to meet the government."
LMD -- Decoding Sarkozy
Alain Badiou’s book on Sarkozy reveals the philosopher’s own advocacy of change based in reality, which is beginning to displace the old ‘new philosophy’ of Bernard-Henri Lévy et al
by Christopher Bickerton
During the French presidential election campaign of 2007, there was a murmuring of something beyond the Sarko-Ségo fanfare. Audible enough to shake up the blogosphere, and much to the delight of his students, Alain Badiou decided to dedicate his seminars at the prestigious École Normale Supérieure in Paris to the campaign and its result. These seminars were published by Nouvelles Editions Lignes under the title De Quoi Sarkozy Est-il le Nom? They have now been published in English by Verso as The Meaning of Sarkozy (1).
The popularity of the seminar series was reflected in the sales of the book: expected to sell at around 3,000 copies a year, Badiou’s publisher shifted 25,000 copies in the first three months. For a philosopher whose career has spanned 40 years but whose political activities had never made him a celebrity, this was all new. Invited onto a popular TV show on the France 3 channel to discuss his book, Badiou looked nervous and rather sheepish. Yet in print he virulently defended himself against his critics. Laurent Joffrin, in an editorial for the left-leaning Libération, took issue with Badiou’s critique of parliamentary democracy. He accused Badiou – and others of his intellectual ilk, such as Slavoj Zizek and Marcel Gauchet – of having “forgotten a lot and learnt little” of the totalitarian years of the 20th century. He said Badiou was merely nostalgic for “blood and iron utopias” (2).
Pierre Assouline, literary critic for Le Monde, was uncomfortable with Badiou’s description of Sarkozy as the “rat man” – on account of Sarkozy’s unfailing ambition to climb the political ladder, as well as a reference to Freud’s use of the same term as a nickname for his client Ernst Lanzer, who suffered from obsessional neurosis. Assouline tarred Badiou with the brush of antisemitism: the last time the term “rat” was used in France was in 1942, in a French propaganda film that warned against the “Jewish peril” (3). Sarkozy’s Jewish ancestry was – ipso facto – not far from Badiou’s mind.
In his response, “Is every anti-Sarkozyste a dog?”, Badiou defended his choice of words. The image of the rat was intended as a critique of Sarkozy’s conception of politics, much in the same way that Sartre had denounced all anti-communists as dogs (arguing that the only properly humanistic political goal was communism).
LMD -- The long march of folly that began in 1967
Palestine / Israel
The long march of folly that began in 1967
Gaza war changes Middle East equation at Israel’s expense
The European Union’s policy of funding Gaza’s development is just one casualty of Israel’s unprecedented attack, which has weakened the Palestinian Authority but left Hamas politically stronger than ever
by Alain Gresh
“They’re still living in the War of Independence (1948) and the Sinai campaign (1956). With them, it’s all about tanks, about controlling territories or controlled territories, holding this or that hill. But these things are worthless. (…) The Lebanon war (2006) will go down in history as the first war in which the military leadership understood that classical warfare has become obsolete” (1).
This view, expressed in September 2008, comes not from an Israeli pacifist but the country’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert. It would take a highly sophisticated analyst to fathom the subconscious of this politician, who is responsible both for the catastrophic war in Lebanon in 2006 and the recent offensive in Gaza, and who at the same time claims his country needs to abandon its narrow vision of security.
He and the majority of those who govern Israel probably share the view bluntly expressed in 2002 by Israel’s then chief of staff, general Moshe Yaalon: “The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people” (2). With each new war comes the same old refrain from Israel’s leaders: the Arabs only understand force; teach them a lesson and peace will at last be possible. “We’re going to keep our finger on the trigger” (3) was how foreign minister Tzipi Livni put it. Olmert and his government are in favour of peace in the same way that the US government in the 19th century was in favour of the peace
they decided to impose on the Native American tribes.
The shelling of Gaza came to a provisional halt on 18 January. The Israeli government wanted its troops out of Gaza before Barack Obama was sworn in and Hamas gave Israel a week to withdraw its soldiers and reopen crossing points with Gaza. Beyond the deliberate destruction of vital infrastructure – which includes ministry buildings and fire stations, the parliament and the university – the human cost shown on TV screens the world over has been overwhelming. Even the French media, which has previously been very timid, hasn’t been able to obscure the extent of the catastrophe. Leaving to one side a moral reckoning and the crimes which may mean that Israeli leaders one day face an international tribunal, how has the fighting changed the political landscape at local and regional level?