Subject: ON THE BUTCHER, THE BAKER, AND THE CANDLESTICK MAKER.
12 June 2011
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
What better time than today, at the beginning of the Christian holiday of Whitsuntide, to discuss theater --its passions and its puppetmasters.
This morning my 13-year-old daughter and I sat down to talk about the holidays; the conversation quickly turned to current events and to Osama bin Laden: his origins, the role he played in the post-cold-war theater of "Terrorism/Anti-Terrorism", and his final scene at the hands of the US Navy Seals. Is this theater a tragedy or a farce? This was the subject of discussion.
My daughter is familiar with Mary Shelley's novel about Dr. Frankenstein and has read many times the Russian classic by Alexie Tolstoy, about the puppet named Burattino. Thus, she had the necessary background, I felt, to understand the story of bin Laden and his puppetmasters, who were determined to use him one last time. Our discussion began with a series of questions: Why was bin Laden murdered instead of arrested? How was he able to hide in plain sight for so many years in Pakistan? Who benefited from bin Laden's rhetoric and propaganda? Who transformed this rich young Geneva schoolboy from Saudia Arabia into a charismatic Muslim leader, how and why? When was he removed from the stage and who replaced him as the main object of interest in the "Terrorism/Anti-Terrorism" theater? Why was this retired puppet taken off the wall, out of retirement, and made to perform in one last scene --his assassination by US forces? To whom was he once again useful, for this last performance? Why was this Last Act produced in May 2011, and not one or two years before, if his presence was an open secret? What assurances are there that this fascinating destruction of bin Laden will not close down the profitable theater performances, which have been so lucrative to so many corporations, for so many years?
Our investigation along this line of questioning --armed only with our daily experiences, some information, and an open mind with great curiosity-- brought us again and again to the story of Dr. Frankenstein and his pathetically retarded creation, The Monster Frankenstein, which ended with the destruction of both of them; and to the story of Burattino, as well, who attempted despite great odds to gain his independence, to cut the strings, so to speak, of the puppetmaster, Mr. Carabas Barabas, and enter into an enterprise of self-management with his friends.
Corporate controls over our society continue to prevail, of course, but we now know a little more about where we really want to go, if not yet certain of how to get there . . . .
Stupefying the audience at a puppet show so they don't see the strings attached.
"Zombie makers" is what we used to call bartenders in South Texas who deliberately got people drunk, pouring large quantities of tasteless, odorless vodka into their orange drink or lemonade. It was also a way of date-raping girls after a party, or gaining other advantages by temporarily reducing mental capacities . . . . The alternative to creating "zombies" (i.e. mentally inactive victims of abuse) has been witnessed on the world scene with regards to political dissidents in Argentina and elsewhere: In the words of Joseph Stalin: "You eliminate the person; you eliminate the problem !"
The capitalist economic crisis has given rise --and it has been a long time now-- to elaborate control techniques based on "disincentives." By replacing rewards for creative initiatives with a system of punishments, calibrated to deal with specific stages in the crumbling structure of the economy, and designed to delay the total collapse for as long as possible. It appears sometimes as a race to the bottom; at other times it is disguised as respect for "law and order." But always this advance in political hegemony is a process of introducing, little by little, the "jurisprudence of terror," as "the expansion of the prerogative state at the expense of the normative state." According to Robert Sharlet, the "revolution from above" (which was launched by Stalin in 1929) witnessed the "extralegal authorities . . . commandeering and preempting legal institutions " and eventually directly "interfering with them in their own campaign against the peasantry." (Tucker: 1977, p.163)
Stalin, the bureaucrat, the consummate protector of post-capitalist civilization, represents an instructive phenomenon to come to terms with the "revolution form above" and its bloody contradictions, which we are witnessing today. Long ago, Gilles Deluze attempted to provide a practical description of the important components of human society, past and present : borrowing terms from political anthropology, he classified as "Civilized" those who willingly followed the rules laid down by the division of labor, the creation of large urban centers, and governance by the written word. This group, he pointed out, had to learn to live in contact with two other groups which are characterized as "Barbarians" and "Nomads". These three groups concurrently occupied more or less the same space and to a degree interacted with and interpenetrated one another. One of his concerns was their relationship with violence : the civilized were made to depend on the employment of institutionalized agents of state violence for some semblance of protection ; the barbarians, by contrast, engaged in the direct use of violence to plunder the property and often the bodies of the civilized; the nomads had a different relationship with violence, their strategy was to evade violence as often as possible, which led to frequent migrations. While these three archetypes move across the same historical landscapes, they experience different perceptions of the realities around them. The chief concern of the nomads is how to avoid extinction; the barbarians are driven by the threat of scarcity and an insatiable thirst for security without constraints; while the civilized employ what resources they have organized to secure social order and maintain their collective advantage over the elements, both hostile and domesticated.
I find the times we are now living propitious for rereading works on Stalinism, that perverse "revolution from above" intent on creating a nation that corresponds to the ideals of a political elite, rather than discovering ideas that correspond to the aspirations of a nation. The conservative, tradition-bound leaders of this anti-capitalist ideology could never question their goals which they used mercilessly to justify their methods. Their ideology of "scientific socialism" represented a Procrustean bed and, using the new mass media technology of the day, it was successfully imposed from above in the early 20th century and served to safeguard the political hegemony enjoyed by the elite practitioners of this "science." These strategists recruited eager tacticians all over the world to follow their authoritative injunctions and when necessary to improvise new tactics to reach the goals that had been set, at any price.
A Selected Bibliography.
Simon Sebag Montefiore's book, Young Stalin (2007), offers important social insights into the making of a conservative revolutionary leader, prepared to ruthlessly impose his revolutionary ideas on an unsuspecting population seeking improvements in their lives.
Robert Tucker's influential anthology, Stalinism: Essays in Historical Interpretation (1977) offers a diversity of cultural and political interpretations of the Soviet era before and after Joseph Stalin.
But nothing can replace reading the master himself: Problems of Leninism (1976 edition) by J.V. Stalin offers readers 961 pages of commentary on "scientific socialism" from the mouth (so to speak) of the leader. We may assume, as usual, that these words speak Stalin and not the contrary. He was a reflection of his milieu, those conservative elites who tried to rule the nation through state terror networks.
The 6 items below bring into focus the controlled environment, a virtual theater, that is populated with industrious tacticians that do not know what they really want, nor are they conscious of the goals they are really serving; but nevertheless they do very efficient work, despite the presence of a few democrats who demand to know strategy and thus serve as detractors to the many tacticians and are therefore considered an anathema.
Item A., is a brief tribute to the radical educator, Larry Portis (1943-2011), who left us prematurely in this terrible mess and who will be sorely missed. Larry played the role of the older brother for many of us, warning us of how the system usually malefactions and exposing for what they really were those who tried to intimidate us and make us stop thinking.
Item B. is a memorial letter from Alison Weir, President of the Council for the National Interest Foundation (CNI), remembering the 44th anniversary of the murderous Israeli attack on the unarmed USS Liberty in international waters off the coast of Egypt.
Item C. is an article by Ed Herman reflecting on the continuation of US counterrevolutionary tactics.
Item D., sent to us by Grace Kpohazounde, is an article on the strategy of US universities to invest in huge African land holdings for speculation on future food supplies.
Item E. is a short bibliography on current events sent to us by Dr. Jim O'Brien, member of the Historians Against War collective : "HAW Notes 6/9/11: Links to recent articles of interest."
Item F. is an interview by George Kenney on Electric Politics with Bob Drury, author of the new book, Last Men Out, discussing the experiences of Vietnam War veterans and the effect these experiences have had on their lives.
And finally we invite those CEIMSA readers who are interested in the material conditions of women, as scapegoats during the present worldwide economic crisis, to view this important interview, from the Democracy Now! June 7 broadcast, with playwright Eve Ensler and Christine Schuler Deschryver, director of V-Day Congo and one of the founders of the new City of Joy project.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Université Stendhal Grenoble 3
Director of Research
Université de Paris 10
from AFEA :
Date: 8 June 2011
Subject: The death of Larry Portis.
8 June 2011
It is with great sadness that I inform you of the unexpected death of Dr. Larry Portis last Saturday at his home in Cévennes, southern France.
He will be remembered as a courageous American radical and as a critical author and teacher of American society.
Larry will be much missed by his friends and family, his students, and his associates in France and the United States.
Professor of American Studies
The University of Grenoble
Institutions including Harvard and Vanderbilt reportedly use hedge funds to buy land in deals that may force farmers out.
Harvard and other major American universities are working through British hedge funds and European financial speculators to buy or lease vast areas of African farmland in deals, some of which may force many thousands of people off their land, according to a new study. Researchers say foreign investors are profiting from "land grabs" that often fail to deliver the promised benefits of jobs and economic development, and can lead to environmental and social problems in the poorest countries in the world.
The new report on land acquisitions in seven African countries suggests that Harvard, Vanderbilt and many other US colleges with large endowment funds have invested heavily in African land in the past few years. Much of the money is said to be channelled through London-based Emergent asset management, which runs one of Africa's largest land acquisition funds, run by former JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs currency dealers. Researchers at the California-based Oakland Institute think that Emergent's clients in the US may have invested up to $500m in some of the most fertile land in the expectation of making 25% returns.
Emergent said the deals were handled responsibly. "Yes, university endowment funds and pension funds are long-term investors," a spokesman said. "We are investing in African agriculture and setting up businesses and employing people. We are doing it in a responsible way … The amounts are large. They can be hundreeds of millions of dollars. This is not landgrabbing. We want to make the land more valuable. Being big makes an impact, economies of scale can be more productive."
Chinese and Middle Eastern firms have previously been identified as "grabbing" large tracts of land in developing countries to grow cheap food for home populations, but western funds are behind many of the biggest deals, says the Oakland institute, an advocacy research group.
The company that manages Harvard's investment funds declined to comment. "It is Harvard management company policy not to discuss investments or investment strategy and therefore I cannot confirm the report," said a spokesman. Vanderbilt also declined to comment.
Oakland said investors overstated the benefits of the deals for the communities involved. "Companies have been able to create complex layers of companies and subsidiaries to avert the gaze of weak regulatory authorities. Analysis of the contracts reveal that many of the deals will provide few jobs and will force many thousands of people off the land," said Anuradha Mittal, Oakland's director.
In Tanzania, the memorandum of understanding between the local government and US-based farm development corporation AgriSol Energy, which is working with Iowa University, stipulates that the two main locations – Katumba and Mishamo – for th their project are refugee settlements holding as many as 162,000 people that will have to be closed before the $700m project can start. The refugees have been farming this land for 40 years.
In Ethiopia, a process of "villagisation" by the government is moving tens of thousands of people from traditional lands into new centres while big land deals are being struck with international companies.
The largest land deal in South Sudan, where as much as 9% of the land is said by Norwegian analysts to have been bought in the last few years, was negotiated between a Texas-based firm, Nile Trading and Development and a local co-operative run by absent chiefs. The 49-year lease of 400,000 hectares of central Equatoria for around $25,000 (Â£15,000) allows the company to exploit all natural resources including oil and timber. The company, headed by former US Ambassador Howard Eugene Douglas, says it intends to apply for UN-backed carbon credits that could provide it with millions of pounds a year in revenues.
In Mozambique, where up to 7m hectares of land is potentially available for investors, western hedge funds are said in the report to be working with South Africans businesses to buy vast tracts of forest and farmland for investors in Europe and the US. The contracts show the government will waive taxes for up to 25 years, but few jobs will be created.
"No one should believe that these investors are there to feed starving Africans, create jobs or improve food security," said Obang Metho of Solidarity Movement for New Ethiopia. "These agreements – many of which could be in place for 99 years ââ€“ do not mean progress for local people and will not lead to food in their stomachs. These deals lead only to dollars in the pockets of corrupt leaders and foreign investors."
"The scale of the land deals being struck is shocking", said Mittal. "The conversion of African small farms and forests into a natural-asset-based, high-return investment strategy can drive up food prices and increase the risks of climate change.
Research by the World Bank and others suggests that nearly 60m hectares – an area the size of Francce – has been bought or leased by foreign companies in Africa in thee past three years.
"Most of these deals are characterised by a lack of transparency, despite the profound implications posed by the consolidation of control over global food markets and agricultural resources by financial firms," says the report.
"We have seen cases of speculators taking over agricultural land while small farmers, viewed as squatters, are forcibly removed with no compensation," said Frederic Mousseau, policy director at Oakland, said: "This is creating insecurity in the global food system that could be a much bigger threat to global security than terrorism. More than one billion people around the world are living with hunger. The majority of the world's poor still depend on small farms for their livelihoods, and speculators are taking these away while promising progress that never happens."
from Jim O'Brien :
Date: 9 June 2011
Subject: HAW Notes 6/9/11: Links to recent articles of interest.
Thanks to Rusti Eisenberg, Sam Lowe, and Maia Ramnath for suggesting articles that are included in the list below. Suggestions for these usually biweekly lists can be sent to email@example.com.
"War? Bloodlust? What's a Scholar to Do?"
By William Loren Katz, CommonDreams.org, posted June 8
"With Ollanta Humala's Win, Peru Joins Latin America's Left Turn"
By Greg Grandin, The Nation blog, posted June 7
The author teaches Latin American history at New York University
"Netanyahu's Speech and Congressional Democrats' Embrace of Extremism"
By Stephen Zunes, Truthout.com, posted June 3
"Our New Iraq-Afghanistan War National Holiday"
By David Swanson, War Is a Crime.org, posted May 29
"How America Screws Its Soldiers"
By Andrew J. Bacevich, The Daily Beast, posted May 28
The author teaches history and international relations at Boston University.
"Netanyahu's Border War"
By Shlomo Ben Ami, Truthout.org, posted May 28
The author is a history PhD and a former Israeli foreign minister.
"Parallel States: A New Vision for Peace"
By Mark LeVine and Mathias Mossberg, Aljazeera, posted May 28
Mark LeVine teaches history at the University of California, Irvine.
"Washington's Weapon of Choice"
By Sherry Wolff, SocialistWorker.org, posted May 24
"Deception and Diplomacy: The US, Japan, and Okinawa"
By Gavan McCormack, Asia-Pacific Journal, posted May 23
Makes extensive use of documents released by Wikileaks
from George Kenney :
Date: 10 June 2011
Subject: Podcast interview re the Vietnam War w/ Bob Drury.
After WWII a lot of soldiers waited decades to tell their stories -- if they ever did. It's the same with the Vietnam War. New stories, new ways of looking at events large and small, finally become known. Bob Drury and Tom Clavin have written up one of these in Last Men Out: The True Story of America's Heroic Final Hours in Vietnam (Free Press, 2011). It's about the Marine Security Guards at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon -- genuinely heroic men, not least because in all the confusion U.S. military and diplomatic authorities forgot about them and almost left them behind. According to Bob, this is the first time their story has been told.
As always, if you enjoy the podcast please don't hesitate to forward the link.