Wikileaks: stooges of Putin, friends of Trump

March 8, 2017 at 11:03 pm (apologists and collaborators, fascism, Guardian, Human rights, Jim D, libertarianism, populism, Putin, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Republican Party, strange situations, Trump)

Is Donald Trump still a fan of Wikileaks? Would he still say, as he did in January, that he’d sooner believe Julian Assange than his own intelligence services?

Trump has repeatedly attacked US intelligence agencies – going as far as comparing them to the Nazi regime – while openly cheering for WikiLeaks. He has also alleged, without any evidence, that the Obama administration spied on him and his election campaign.

The latest WikiLeaks document dump about the CIA’s computer hacking tools comes in the midst of a very public feud between Trump and the US intelligence agencies over Putin’s intervention into the presidential election in Trump’s favour.

It seems likely that the new WikiLeaks revelations are intended to help Trump, and emanate from the Putin regime, which has long been using WikiLeaks to further its agenda in the west and to undermine bourgeois democracy from the extreme right.

The WikiLeaks press release highlights the CIA’s “Umbrage” group, said to collect a library of hacking tools used by intelligence agencies of foreign countries, “including the Russian Federation”, allowing them to conduct false flag operations.

“With Umbrage and related projects the CIA cannot only increase its total number of attack types but also misdirect attribution by leaving behind the ‘fingerprints’ of the groups that the attack techniques were stolen from,” WikiLeaks said.

James Lewis, senior vice-president at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies and an expert on cyber security, speculated that the motive behind the leak could be to underpin the false flag conspiracy theories and evasions of the Trump camp.

“This might be one explanation for the leaks – it’s data to build a case that the Russian interference and connections are a secret ‘deep state’ plot, as the false flag bits in WikiLeaks ‘shows’,” Lewis said, putting “Vault 7” in the context of the trial of strength between the president and intelligence agencies.

“Mr Trump, who last year angrily dismissed the conclusion of intelligence officials that the Russians interfered in the presidential election to boost his candidacy, has now asked both his staff and a congressional committee investigating Moscow’s influence on the election to turn up evidence that Mr Obama led an effort to spy on him,” he said.

Perceptions of WikiLeaks in the west – and on the liberal-left in particular – have changed since the organisation’s 2010 release of huge numbers of classified US documents from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, as well as US embassies around the world. WikiLeaks was then widely supported by opponents of those wars and by advocates of greater transparency on the part of western governments.

But since its de facto support of Trump, at the behest of Putin, in the presidential election, Wikileaks is now regarded with suspicion by rational liberals and leftists. Its leaks focused exclusively on Hillary Clinton’s camp, and were released at critical moments in the campaign: no wonder Trump declared “I love WikiLeaks!

Roger Stone, a former Trump adviser, wrote on Saturday night that he had a “perfectly legal back channel” to WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange. Stone then deleted the message.

In early January, the CIA, National Security Administration (NSA) and FBI assessed with “high confidence” that Russian military intelligence was behind the anonymous hackers Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks.com, which stole data from prominent Democrats and passed it on to WikiLeaks.

“Moscow most likely chose WikiLeaks because of its self-proclaimed reputation for authenticity. Disclosures through WikiLeaks did not contain any evident forgeries,” the agencies found.

Assange has insisted that the documents did not come from Russian sources, although the organisation also says that in most cases it does not know the sources of the data passed on to it.

In a press release announcing the latest document dump, WikiLeaks suggested that the original source was a former US government hacker or contractor.

Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for more than four years, since Sweden sought his extradition for questioning on an accusation of sexual assault. In that time, he has hosted his own show on the Russian state-run television channel RT (formerly Russia Today).

WikiLeaks has published little or no material that could be seen as damaging to Russia, although Assange has argued that is because the leaks the organisation receives are overwhelmingly in English, while Russian-language material finds its way to other outlets.

“There is a lot of circumstantial evidence of the links between Assange and Russia,” said Susan Hennessey, a former NSA lawyer now at the Brookings Institution. “It’s certainly not a coincidence that Russian military intelligence selected WikiLeaks as a distribution platform for its Democrats hack.”

“WikiLeaks’ involvement creates a reason for suspicion. It has committed itself to putting out material that is harmful to western interests, but has assiduously avoided releasing material that could be perceived as damaging to Russian interests.”

WikiLeaks has also published material helpful to pro-Putin far-right parties in France and Germany, suggesting that it will seek to influence the forthcoming French presidential election in favour of Marine Le Pen and the German election in favour of the neo-nazi Alternative for Germany (AfD).

Meanwhile, Trump may be regretting his outspoken support for Assange and WikiLeaks, as allegations of Russian influence dog his White House, and the threat of impeachment begins to look like a realistic possibility.

JD would like to acknowledge the work of Julian Borger in the Guardian, which has provided him with much of the information used in this post.

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Julian Assange as Mick Jagger …

January 26, 2017 at 8:48 pm (culture, Guest post, left, libertarianism, populism, Robin Carmody, strange situations, Trump)

Image result for picture Julian Assange rock star
Above: Assange as a different rock star …

Guest post by Robin Carmody

There’s a long history of Libertarian Rightists being mistaken for Leftists because of the huge culture gap between them and mainstream conservatives.  This was especially marked before Thatcherism had done its work, when there was a much greater frowning upon brashness and vulgarity, openly showing that you were capitalist, on the English Right (the ancien régime of Arsenal FC always seemed to embody this, with the at least implicit anti-Semitism built into it, especially in the context of their rivalry with the more raffish Tottenham) and before a deeper generational shift, and the effects of things like the Golden Jubilee and James Blunt, had seamlessly merged pop music and pop culture generally into the Tory Interpretation of History.

The best example of this – at least until now – was Mick Jagger, whose essential Toryism was not widely recognised at the time (other than, famously, by a prescient William Rees-Mogg) because he obviously stood outside the cultural shibboleths of Conservatism as it was then, and also because his Libertarian Right worldview and outlook was at its most – ha ha ha – exiled from mainstream in British history, at a time when the dominant strain of the Tory party accepted the role of the state in certain parts of the economy in a manner wholly unthinkable in earlier and later periods (in retrospect, we can clearly see that the state was easily the best way of strengthening in adversity those very cultural shibboleths, whose final abandonment by mainstream Conservatism in the 2000s helped it back to what may be an indefinite period of power).  Ignorant of what it might represent, through their very unfamiliarity with what had become an extremely marginal and fringe position in British life during and after the Second World War, certain idealistic Leftists of the late 1960s – arguably unaware of how good they actually had it – imposed their own views on Jagger, saw him as a symbol of what they themselves believed in, in a way which feels like the ultimate example of Getting the Future Wrong, the single greatest concentration of this misconception being Richard Gott’s rapturous Guardian eulogy to the Stones’ 1969 performance in Hyde Park (“taking place in a Socialist society in the distant future“, indeed!).

As we reflect on Wikileaks’ intervention in the US presidential election blatantly on Trump’s side (will the mistaken typing of “legitimate” for “illegitimate” by an aide to Hillary Clinton’s campaign prove to be the biggest butterfly effect of all time?)*, and on the joyous enthusiasm for its founder by several Trump groupies, can we possibly dispute that Julian Assange is, in every possible way and in every last detail, the same thing all over again, a Libertarian Rightist initially mistaken for a Leftist by those who did not understand the position?  Only in this case, of course, with the position being so much more relatively mainstream and having influenced so much more of the wider society than in the 1960s, they had much less excuse.

*Correction, I think: it should be “prove to be the biggest butterfly effect *of recent history*”, because even I don’t think it could be comparable to things like the absence of fog which might have enabled Hitler to be killed in 1939, etc.

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AWL statement on the Trump victory

November 11, 2016 at 6:56 pm (capitalism, conspiracy theories, Democratic Party, elections, fascism, immigration, libertarianism, misogyny, populism, posted by JD, Racism, Republican Party, Trump, United States, workers)

Image result for picture Workers Liberty logo

This piece also appears in Solidarity:

Donald Trump has won the US Presidential election.

He won by tapping into the reality of and the fear of poverty and failure among millions of working-class Americans.

He won by exploiting the deep racial divisions that have blighted the US for centuries. He attacked all Hispanic workers when calling Mexicans criminals and rapists. By scapegoating Muslims.

He won because millions of Americans wanted to revolt against the political establishment. But this man is not the “blue collar billionaire” that his supporters dubbed him. Just a billionaire and also part of, the nastiest part, of the establishment!

Donald Trump is an idiot blowhard but the political functionaries around him are not. This election was probably won by the Trump camp calculating the “demographics” of the USA. By exploiting the different insecurities that many people feel. By understanding and approving of social fragmentation in the USA and working it to Trump’s advantage.

But in short, Trump made his appeal to a white working class which has been excluded by the powerfully destructive forces of US capitalism over the last 30 years as it moved its business to anywhere in the world where labour is cheaper.

Even when Trump made his appeal to African-Americans, in order to soften his image, he could not resist treating those communities as people whose real political views and interests were worthless to him. “What have you got to lose”, he said, “Your life couldn’t get any worse”. Unsurprisingly, the polls said 90% of those African-Americans who were voting, would not vote for Trump.

As shocked as we are by this result the truth is that Trump always stood a good chance of winning after the exit of Bernie Sanders from the election. With his calls for free college tuition, the removal of student debt, a national health service, Sanders represented a radical break from the status quo, but one which, with sufficient organisation on the ground, the whole of working-class American could have united behind.

Clinton

By nominating a a presidential candidate who was always going to continue the Clinton-Bush-Obama programme of complacency, corruption and corporate-interest politics, the Democrats ensured discontent among millions of people would rise.

It was simply Hillary Clinton’s turn to pursue austerity and warmongering. Donald Trump was there to exploit and hypocritically ridicule this “establishment”.

What happens now? He may not be able to put through a programme of economic nationalism. He may not be able to expel thousands of Hispanic workers. But he will be able to load the Supreme Court front bench with conservatives. Already vulnerable abortion rights and the right of LGBT people to marry are under threat. Trade unions too will be under attack.

Trump’s election will give the green light to the neighbourhood vigilantes who fear young black men so much they are prepared to put a bullet in their back. The reactionaries who stand outside abortion clinics. The virulently anti-immigration Tea Party people. The organised fascists. And some of these people — the alternative right, the libertarians — are already part of Trump’s camp.

Not everyone who voted for Trump approve of his violent sexism. But many did. There were people who overlooked the serious charges of sexual assault; that is they do not think this behaviour is wrong. Not everyone who voted for Trump is racist. But many are. US racial divisions run deep.

One of the saddest things about this election is how long-time union members, who in different circumstances would regard themselves as anti-racist voted for Trump.

In places like West Virginia where there virtually no stable jobs Trump won big majorities. Maybe people just hear what they want to hear when Trump uses opportunistic lies like “I am going to make America great again”. But the coal mines will not reopen. The miners will not go back to work. This is a man who made his fame on the basis of ruthlessly telling people “You’re fired”. If big business is now in fracking, and not coal, that is where state support under Trump will go.

Capitalist rule as is in fact epitomised by the US two-party system, may have lost it’s legitimacy but without a socialist alternative to replace it, things can get much worse.

What can the socialist left do now? Passively regarding Trump voters as ignorant rednecks who could never be pulled away from his politics is wrong. Yes, many millions are poorly educated. But in this vastly wealthy society that is a shocking crime. As are these facts — that 21% of American children live in poverty, that 10% of workers are in low waged jobs, that 30% do not have health insurance and 40% do not have a pension.

Wherever the left is — in the US or in Europe — we all have to argue for class politics, the politics of justice and solidarity and at the same time making the strongest challenge we can against racism and xenophobia.

We do have a chance to do these things. Remember Bernie Sanders drew larger crowds than Trump for his attacks on Wall Street and the power and privilege of the “millionaires and billionaires.”

Here in Europe our struggle is against Boris Johnson, Marine Le Pen and Beppe Grillo. But it also against those in the labour movement who think anti-immigration sentiments and mild token opposition to the rule of capitalism is enough. And we also warn against a left which makes semi-populist stances against “the capitalist EU”, against globalisation, but never sets out a positive socialist programme: for equality, for working-class unity across borders, for the appropriation for the banks, for secure jobs and homes for all.

Events are showing us that campaigning for a social-democratic left “getting into power” is not enough. Getting working-class representation is about building a mass political labour movement organised around socialist politics. The necessity is not new but it has just got many times more urgent.

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Russell Brand: poseur, prat…or person of principle?

October 24, 2013 at 9:09 pm (anarchism, BBC, celebrity, Jim D, libertarianism, middle class, New Statesman, revolution, strange situations, television, wild man)

Having watched, pondered and re-watched Paxman’s interview with comedian Russell Brand on last night’s Newsnight, I’m still not sure what to make of it. My initial response was that Brand is a pretentious, incoherent idiot, spouting a lot of pseudo-revolutionary hot air and half-digested anarchistic platitudes. But several people I’ve spoken to today told me they were impressed by him. So I’ve watched it again and have to admit that, after a facetious start, he becomes more sympathetic as he gets angrier. But I still think he’s a prat – and a banal prat at that – and wonder what the hell the New Statesman is playing at, hiring him as a guest editor this week.

Judge for yourself…

…and feel free to let us know what you think.

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Learn to live with terrorism – the Simon Jenkins way!

September 24, 2013 at 4:25 pm (apologists and collaborators, Beyond parody, Champagne Charlie, Guardian, intellectuals, jerk, libertarianism, relativism, terror)

1/ Whatever you do, don’t “over-react”: that’s the cause of terrorism in the first place.

2/ Don’t gather together in crowds.

3/ Don’t hold marathons.

4/ Do not build shopping malls, hotels or churches.

5/ Don’t overdo surveillance.

6/ Keep a “sense of proportion”: defending yourself only invites retaliation.

You think this is a joke? It’s not.

Update Rosie:-

7/ Keep calm and carry on.

8/ Run about waving your arms and screaming.

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Interview with Alex Gibney, director of ‘We Steal Secrets’: Assange as “puppet master”

July 17, 2013 at 12:20 am (celebrity, cinema, Civil liberties, conspiracy theories, Free Speech, Human rights, internet, Jim D, libertarianism, mental health, misogyny, protest, snooping, terror)

From Flavorwire

Flavorwire Interview: ‘We Steal Secrets’ Director Alex Gibney on Julian Assange and the Wikileaks Backlash to His Film

By Jason Bailey on May 22, 2013

In his riveting new documentary We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks, director Alex Gibney (the prolific Oscar winner behind Taxi to the Dark Side, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, and Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Elliot Spitzer) tells two stories: the thriller-like ascendency of the organization and the troubling questions it asks about government transparency, and the crumbling of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, which plays like something out of Greek tragedy — the transformation of an admirable idealist to a paranoid propagandist, injecting his own legal woes into the lofty aims of his organization, and conflating them. Gibney was unable to procure an interview with Assange; “Julian wanted money,” Gibney explains in the film, though Assange was willing to exchange his interview for information on the other people Gibney was talking to. (UPDATE: The organization has disputed this claim. Mr. Gibney notes that they’re working from an “incomplete and inaccurate transcript based on non-final version.”) The filmmaker refused, and We Steal Secrets has been under fire from Wikileaks supporters since it was unveiled at Sundance last January. I asked Gibney about that backlash, the importance of the story, and related troubling matters of transparency in the Obama administration

Flavorwire: When and how did you first become aware of Assange and Wikileaks, and when did you decide you wanted to make this film?

Gibney: I first became aware of him through the collateral murder thing when it was posted on the website before the Afghan and Iraq war logs, and I took note of it as a kind of cool new publishing mechanism for this kind of material. I thought, “Wow, that’s interesting.” I read the piece by Raffi Khatchadourian in The New Yorker and then it really exploded, obviously, when the Afghan and Iraq war logs broke, and then the state department cables. It was after that that [producer] Marc Shmuger called me and said, “Would you be interested?” Frankly, I was busy doing some other things. I was just following it as a civilian because I was interested in it and I couldn’t resist. I said, “Yeah, sure. If you can raise the money, I will do it.” Then he went to Universal and we got the money, and off we went.

I really admire the fairness of the film — it champions what Wikileaks is about, while being deservedly critical of Assange himself, or at least the recent iteration of him. How closely does the evolution of the narrative within the film mirror how your own feelings evolved about the story?

I think it did evolve and it did change, and frankly, while we were following the story, the story changed. When we came onto it, Assange was still living in the Norfolk mansion, not yet in self-imposed exile in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, so a lot of things were yet to happen. Based on Raffi’s piece in The New Yorker and my first meeting with Assange, I liked him a lot, and I thought it was a pretty simple David and Goliath story. At the same time, it was kind of peculiar because when I came into the story, in media terms, he was becoming a kind of Goliath, he meaning Assange. He was surrounded with a number of lawyers and agents and press people that I had to wade through. It was like trying to talk to a movie star, and so that I think also was tough. I wish I’d met him when he was in Iceland.

Walk me through your communications with Assange during the production — and if you’ve had any since.

One of my executive producers, Jemima Khan, put up some of the bail money for Assange, and so that helped to plug me into his group. And so from the very start, I approached him and told him I wanted to talk to him. I think I may have put him off in the sense that most people [who] were coming to him wanted to make some kind of a deal, like, “Give me access and I’ll go raise the money to make a film about you,” and then Julian would put conditions on the access. I came to him and told him that I was making the film whether he participated or not. I didn’t put it in a crude way — I just said, “I’m doing the film now, I hope you’ll participate.”

I don’t think he liked that very much. He likes to have control. He likes to feel like he’s the puppet master, so nevertheless, I hung on and kept trying over the course of time. You know, he did agree — I have a number of emails saying, “Yeah, sure, we agree to the interview, let’s do it,” and then later on, he decided not to agree. I kept going, so I kept making the film even as I kept trying to get him to talk and [it] was very late in the game when we were close to finishing that I tried one last time and he said, “Well, let’s talk about it.” So I flew over from New York to England and went and visited him at this Norfolk estate that is owned by Vaughan Smith and we had this six-hour conversation where we explored whether or not he would do the interview.

I walked through it, but he wanted certain guarantees, like he wanted to know if he could see cuts. I said, “Look, I don’t do that. That’s not how it works. I don’t work for you.” And then he responded huffily, “Well, I don’t work for you either.” I said, “Yeah, I know, I get it!” I think he wanted a spin doctor. He wanted to be able to say or believe that he could control the message and the messenger. And while I told him that I really wanted his unvarnished views about these issues and really wanted him to dig into detail into the story… ultimately, editorial control rested with me. End of story.

Have you heard anything from him or anyone that’s still in the organization since? Read the rest of this entry »

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Victor Serge: ‘Memoirs of a Revolutionary’ and other gems

January 24, 2013 at 5:44 pm (history, libertarianism, literature, Marxism, publications, socialism)

From Richard Greeman
Subject: Victor Serge

Dear Friends,

Interesting news for fans of Victor Serge, the Franco-Russian novelist
and revolutionary (1890-1947).

• In Mexico, a trove of Serge’s Notebooks has recently come to light
and are now published in France, beautifully edited, by Agone in
Marseille, 65 years after Serge’s death.

• Meanwhile, in the US, the first complete English translation of
Serge’s Memoirs of a Revolutionary: 1905-1941 was published last year
by NY Review of Books Classics. Peter Sedgwick’s original translation,
cut by 1/8 in the 1963 Oxford edition from which all others were
copied, has now been restored by George Paisis. In addition to
Sedgwick’s Introduction and a Foreword by Adam Hochschild, the NYRB
Classics edition includes a Glossary, which I prepared to help readers
cope with all those Russian names. Unfortunately, my Postface, “Victor
Serge’s Political Testament” was omitted by mistake. I attach it
below.

• Finally, for those who live in the NY area, I will be hosting a
class on Serge at the Brecht Forum this Spring and Fall, starting with
public lectures on Feb. 2 and 9 co-sponsored by NYRB Classics and
Haymarket Books.

Victor Serge’s Political Testament

‘What would Victor Serge’s political position be if he were alive
today ?’ During the 60-odd years since Serge’s untimely death, this
question – a priori unanswerable — has been asked (and answered) many
times — on occasion, as we shall see, by self-interested politicos
and pundits. The consensus among these postmortem prophets is that
this hypothetical posthumous Serge would have moved Right, along with
ex-Communists like Arthur Koestler and the ‘N.Y. Intellectuals’ around
the Partisan Review. It is of course, impossible to prove otherwise,
but the fact remains that throughout the Cold War neither the
CIA-sponsored Congress for Cultural Freedom nor any other conservative
anti-Communist group ever attempted to exploit Serge’s writings, which
continued to speak far too revolutionary a language and remained
largely out of print. Nonetheless, the spectre of an undead Right-wing
Serge continues to haunt the critics, and there are reasons why.

To begin with, in January 1948, a month after Serge’s death, that
great confabulator André Malraux launched macabre press campaign
claiming Serge as a death-bed convert to Gaullism. The sad fact is
that six days before he died, Serge had sent a grossly flattering
personal letter to Malraux, begging the support of de Gaulle’s once
and future Minister of Culture (and Gallimard editor) to publish his
novel Les Derniers temps in France. Desperate to leave the political
isolation and (fatally) unhealthy altitude of Mexico for Paris, Serge
indulged in an uncharacteristic ruse de guerre, feigning sympathy for
Malraux’s ‘political position’ — according to Vlady, at his urging.
Serge’s ruse backfired. His letter and the news of his death reached
Paris simultaneously, and Malraux seized the moment by printing
selected excerpts and leaking them to C.L. Sulzberger, who published
them in the N.Y. Times — thus recruiting Serge’s fresh corpse into
the ranks of the Western anti-Communist crusade.

Aside from this letter, there is zero evidence in Serge’s writings,
published and unpublished, of sympathy for Gaullism or Western
anti-Communism — quite the contrary. In 1946, Serge sharply
criticized his comrade René Lefeuvre, editor of the far-left review
Masses, for publishing an attack on the USSR by an American
anti-Communist: «If the Soviet regime is to be criticised, » wrote
Serge, « let it be from a socialist and working class point of view.
If we must let American voices be heard, let them be those of sincere
democrats and friends of peace, and not chauvinistic demagogues; let
them be those of the workers who will succeed one day, we hope, in
organising themselves into an independent party. » A few months later,
Serge followed up : « I understand that the Stalinist danger alarms
you. But it must not make us lose sight of our overall view. We must
not play into the hands of an anti-Communist bloc […] We shall get
nowhere if we seem more preoccupied with criticising Stalinism than
with defending the working class. The reactionary danger is still
there, and in practice we shall often have to act alongside the
Communists. »

To complicate matters even further, in the course of a fraternal
discussion with Leon Trotsky over Kronstadt and the Cheka in 1938, the
‘Old Man’ unjustly (on the basis of an article he hadn’t read),
portrayed Serge as abandoning Marxism along with Stalinism and
drifting to the Right. Nonetheless Serge, despite political
differences of which the reader of these Memoirs is aware, continued
to defend Trotsky to his death, helped expose Trotsky’s murderer, and
collaborated with Trotsky’s widow, Natalia Sedova, on The Life and
Death of Leon Trotsky. Yet generations of Trotskyists have reflexively
handed down Trotsky’s caricature of Serge as a ‘bridge from revolution
to reaction’ — an accusation apparently confirmed by the ‘Gaullism’
charge.

More recently Serge’s posthumous rightward drift has been alleged on
the basis of his guilt-by-association with erstwhile U.S. leftists and
socialists who subsequently moved Right. (Of course Serge’s main
political associations were in Europe, a fact this argument ignores).
One recalls that in Mexico Serge lived by his pen (like Marx in exile
who wrote for Greeley’s N.Y. Herald Tribune) writing news articles in
English for the Social-Democratic press (the staunchly anti-Communist
Call and New Leader) as well as think-pieces for the Partisan Review
(whose editors had supported his struggles to survive in Vichy France
and Mexico). Many of these ‘N.Y. Intellectuals’ did indeed move
rightward, beginning with James Burnham in the 1940s. Thus Serge, it
is argued, ‘would have’ moved Right too. Yet, not long before he died,
Serge vigorously attacked Burnham, writing: “The paradox that he has
developed, doubtless out of love for a provocative theory, is as false
as it is dangerous. Under a thousand insipid forms it is to be found
in the Press and the literature of this age of preparation for the
Third World War. The reactionaries have an obvious interest in
confounding Stalinist totalitarianism – exterminator of the
Bolsheviks – with Bolshevism itself; their aim is to strake at the
working class, at Socialism, at Marxism, even at Liberalism…”

All this would be just a sad footnote were it not that the posthumous
image of a right-wing Serge, based on the old ‘Gaullism’ and ‘NY
Intellectualism’ arguments, was still being agitated as late as 2010.
To lay this ghost once and for all, let us quote Serge’s last
significant political statement, generally considered his ‘political
testament.’

‘Thirty Years After the Russian Revolution’ was dated August 1947 and
published in Paris by La Révolution proletarianne in November 1947,
the month of his death. There Serge writes: “A feeble logic —
pointing an accusing finger at the dark spectacle of the Stalinist
Soviet Union — deduces from this the bankruptcy of Bolshevism, hence
that of Marxism, hence that of Socialism […] Aren’t you forgetting the
other bankruptcies? Where was Christianity during the recent social
catastrophes? What happened to Liberalism? What did Conservatism —
enlightened or reactionary– produce? Did it not give us Mussolini,
Hitler, Salazar, and Franco? If it was a question of honestly weighing
the many failures of different ideologies, we would have our work cut
out for us for a long time. And it is far from over …”

As far as capitalism is concerned, Serge concluded: “There is no
longer any doubt that the era of stable, growing, relatively pacific
capitalism came to an end with the First World War. The Marxist
revolutionaries who announced the opening of a global revolutionary
era—and said that if socialism did not establish itself in at least
the great European powers, another period of barbarism and a “cycle of
wars of war and revolution” (as Lenin put it, quoting Engels) would
follow — were right. The conservatives, the evolutionists, and the
reformists who chose to believe in the future bourgeois Europe
carefully cut into pieces at Versailles, then replastered at Locarno,
and fed with phrases dug up at the League of Nations — are today
remembered as statesmen of blind policies….

The Marxist revolutionaries of the Bolshevik school awaited and worked
toward the social transformation of Europe and the world by an
awakening of the working masses and by the rational and equitable
reorganization of a new society. They expected to continue working
toward the time when men would take control over their own destinies.
There they made a mistake — they were beaten. Instead, the
transformation of the world is taking place amidst a terrible
confusion of institutions, movements and beliefs without the hoped-for
clarity of vision, without a sense of renewed humanism, and in a way
that now imperils all the values and hopes of men. Nevertheless the
general trends are still those defined by the socialists of 1917–20
toward the collectivization and the planification of economies, the
internationalization of the world, the emancipation of oppressed and
colonized peoples, and the formation of mass-based democracies of a
new kind. The alternative was also foreseen by the socialists:
barbarism and war, war and barbarism — a monster with two heads.

As Peter Sedgwick put it in 1963: ‘Whatever else they may be, these
are not the words of a man of the Right, or of any variety of
ex-revolutionary penitent.’

Richard Greeman

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Jill Lepore’s New Yorker article on guns in America

December 16, 2012 at 10:38 am (insanity, libertarianism, mental health, murder, United States)

BATTLEGROUND AMERICA

One nation, under the gun

Just after seven-thirty on the morning of February 27th, a  seventeen-year-old boy named T. J. Lane walked into the cafeteria at Chardon  High School, about thirty miles outside Cleveland. It was a Monday, and the  cafeteria was filled with kids, some eating breakfast, some waiting for buses to  drive them to programs at other schools, some packing up for gym class. Lane sat  down at an empty table, reached into a bag, and pulled out a .22-calibre pistol.  He stood up, raised the gun, and fired. He said not a word.

Russell King, a seventeen-year-old junior, was sitting at a table with  another junior, Nate Mueller. King, shot in the head, fell face first onto the  table, a pool of blood forming. A bullet grazed Mueller’s ear. “I could see the  flame at the end of the gun,” Mueller said later. Daniel Parmertor, a  sixteen-year-old snowboarder, was shot in the head. Someone screamed “Duck!” Demetrius Hewlin, sixteen, was also shot in the head, and slid under the table.  Joy Rickers, a senior, tried to run; Lane shot her as she fled. Nickolas  Walczak, shot in his neck, arm, back, and face, fell to the floor. He began  crawling toward the door.

Ever since the shootings at Columbine High School, in a Denver suburb, in  1999, American schools have been preparing for gunmen. Chardon started holding  drills in 2007, after the Virginia Tech massacre, when twenty-three-year-old  Seung-Hui Cho, a college senior, shot fifty-seven people in Blacksburg.

At Chardon High School, kids ran through the halls screaming “Lockdown!” Some  of them hid in the teachers’ lounge; they barricaded the door with a piano.  Someone got on the school’s public-address system and gave instructions, but  everyone knew what to do. Students ran into classrooms and dived under desks;  teachers locked the doors and shut off the lights. Joseph Ricci, a math teacher,  heard Walczak, who was still crawling, groaning in the hallway. Ricci opened the  door and pulled the boy inside. No one knew if the shooter had more guns, or  more rounds. Huddled under desks, students called 911 and texted their parents.  One tapped out, “Prayforus.”

From the cafeteria, Frank Hall, the assistant football coach, chased Lane out  of the building, and he ran off into the woods.

Moments later, four ambulances arrived. E.M.T.s raced Rickers and Walczak to  Chardon’s Hillcrest Hospital. Hewlin, Parmertor, and King were flown by  helicopter to a trauma center at MetroHealth Medical Center, in Cleveland. By  eight-thirty, the high school had been evacuated.

At a quarter to nine, police officers with dogs captured Lane, about a mile  from the school.

“I hate to say it, but we trained for exactly this type of thing, a school  emergency of this type,” Dan McClelland, the county sheriff, said.

Danny Parmertor died that afternoon. That evening, St. Mary’s Church opened  its doors, and the people of Chardon sank to their knees and keened. At the town  square, students gathered to hold a vigil. As night fell, they lit candles. Drew  Gittins, sixteen, played a Black Eyed Peas song on his guitar. “People killin’, people dyin’,” he sang. “People got me, got me questionin’, Where is the  love?”

Russell King had been too badly wounded. A little after midnight, doctors said that they couldn’t save him…

… Read it all here

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A right to bear arms?

December 15, 2012 at 9:59 am (children, crime, insanity, Johnny Lewis, libertarianism, mental health, murder, rights, United States)

“A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” -Second Amendment, the U.S. Constitution

todays paper

Whatever the merits of such notions about personal and national security (they are, to say the least, highly questionable in this day and age), it is important to note that the only kind of militia the Second Amendment expressly regards as consistent with security is a “well-regulated” militia. One may rationally and reasonably conclude that this applies both to an organized militia and an unorganized one. Otherwise, an armed citizenry consisting of men and women using guns for presumed high purpose according to their respective dictates of personal whim and political fancy is the stuff from which anarchy could result, and in turn the tyranny against which the private possession of guns is supposed to protect Americans.

The right to keep and bear arms (a term that connotes a military purpose) stems from the English common law right of self-defense. However, the possession of guns in the mother country of the common law was never an absolute right. Various conditions were imposed. Britain today has one of the strictest gun laws in the world.

There is nothing absolute about the freedoms in our own Bill of Rights. Freedom of speech is not freedom to shout “fire” in a crowded theater. Freedom of religion is not freedom to have multiple spouses, or sacrifice a lamb in the local park, as religiously sanctioned practices. Similarly, whatever right the Second Amendment protects regarding the private possession of guns, for whatever definition of “militia,” is not an absolute right. It must serve the overall public interest, including (from the preamble of the US Constitution) the need to “insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare.” Whatever right there is to possess firearms is no less important than the right of every American, gun owners included, to protection against the possession of guns by persons who by any reasonable standard lack the crucial credentials for responsible gun ownership.

– From a 1977 article by David J.Steinberg, Executive Director, National Council for a Responsible Firearms Policy:  “Does The Second Amendment Mean What It Says?” 

– Socialists debate gun control here: http://www.workersliberty.org/node/4681

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Terry Liddle: farewell, Comrade

November 22, 2012 at 6:56 am (atheism, good people, libertarianism, secularism, socialism)

“Comrades when I’m dead and gone, no more than dust on the breeze
I beg you grant me one last wish, comrades do this for me please
Raise a glass of the blood red wine or a mug of the barley brew
Bid farewell to your comrade, one of the foolish few
Who thought we could rearrange the world, dreamed we could make all things new.”

Bruce reports:

Terry Liddle (above) died on November 17th aged 64. Comrades may remember Terry as active in the Socialist Alliance and its successor groups.

Terry’s political career started in the YCL (Young Communist League)  in the early 60s followed, I think, by a brief stint in the Healyites. When I first met him  in about 1968, he was involved in one of many attempts to take over the rump ILP (Independent Labour Party). He was a libertarian socialist who subsequently joined a variety of Council Communist groups.

He spent most of his activity in recent years on secularist / atheist activities, setting up the Freethought History Research Group.

He had been ill for a long time.

Nice tribute from Coatesy, here

Jim D adds: Terry wrote poetry and, in one of his poems (‘Death Song’, quoted from above) calls on his comrades to raise a glass of wine or ale to his memory when he dies and is no more than “dust on the breeze.” I’m doing exactly as he instructed, right now.

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