Bulletin N° 681
Subject: Migrating from Left-Wing Ideologies toward the Right as Artificial Scarcity Takes Hold of Society.
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
One virtue of the Marxist approach to social studies is its method of moving from the general to the specific, to work deductively from the concept of the whole to the meaning of a specific part. By placing a particular phenomenon in its larger context, the true significance of the object of interest is grasped in its entirety. In jurisprudence this is practiced routinely, when materials like confessions and eyewitness testimonies are carefully examined for their veracity by analyzing the conditions under which they were recorded and the motives that produced them. The truth is sought by means of non-contradiction, continuity, correspondence to reality, and sincerity, to name only a few criteria.
My interest in history stems from the practice of comparing patterns of behavior of populations living in the past with those in the present. Social class struggles are one such pattern, and an instructive one; but there are other social patterns, as well. Recently re-reading Eric Hobsbawm’s 1997 book, On History, I was struck by his account of the rise of “barbarism” in the 20th century. In a chapter entitled, “Barbarism: a User’s Guide,” he attempts to explain how all of us have more or less adapted to the first level of barbarism, i.e. “the disruption and breakdown of systems of rules and moral behavior by which all societies regulate the relations among their members….”(p.253), We are now witnessing the second level, i.e. the reversal of “the project of the Enlightenment, namely the establishment of a universal system of such rules and standards of moral behavior, embodied in the institutions of states dedicated to the rational progress of humanity: to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, to Equality, Liberty and Fraternity or whatever….”(p.254)
Hobsbawm goes on to develop insights into this “breakdown of systems of rules and moral behavior” by referring to former Canadian liberal lawmaker and academic, Michael Ignatieff, whose 1993 book, Blood and Belonging: Journeys into the New Nationalism, represents a liberal inquiry into the politics of late capitalism.
Let me clarify the fist form of barbarization: that is what happens with traditional controls disappear. . . . [We may note] the difference between the gunman of the Kurdish guerrillas of 1993 and those of the Bosnian checkpoints. With great perception [Ignatieff] sees that in the stateless society of Kurdistan every male child reaching adolescence gets a gun. Carrying a weapon simply means that a boy has ceased to be a child and must behave like a man. ‘The accent of meaning in the culture of the gun thus stresses responsibility, sobriety, tragic duty.’ Guns are fired when need to be. On the contrary, most Europeans since 1945, including in the Balkan s, have lived in societies where the state enjoyed a monopoly of legitimate violence. As the states broke down, so did that monopoly. ‘For some young European males, the chaos that resulted from [this collapse] . . . offered the chance of entering an erotic paradise of the all-is-permitted. Hence the semi-sexual, semi-pornographic gun culture of the checkpoints. For young men there was an irresistible erotic charge in holding lethal power in our hands’ and using it to terrorize the helpless.
I suspect that a good many of the atrocities now committed in the civil wars of three continents reflect this type of disruption, which is characteristic of the late-twentieth-century world.
As to the second form of barbarization . . . . I believe that one of the few things that stands between us and an accelerated descent into darkness is the set of values inherited from the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. This is not a fashionable view at this moment, when the Enlightenment can be dismissed as anything from superficial and intellectually naïve to a conspiracy of dead white men in periwigs to provide the intellectual foundations for Western imperialism. It may or may not be all that, but it is also the only foundation for all the aspirations to build societies fit for all human beings to live in anywhere on this Earth, and for the assertion and defense of their human rights as persons. In any case, the progress of civility which took place from the eighteenth century until the early twentieth was achieved overwhelmingly or entirely under the influence of the Enlightenment, by governments of what are still called, for the benefit of history students, ‘enlightened absolutists’, by revolutionaries and reformers, liberals, socialists and communists, all of whom belonged to the same intellectual family. It was not achieved by its critics. This era when progress was not merely supposed to be both material and moral but actually was, has come to an end. But the only criterion which allows us to judge rather than merely to record the consequent descent into barbarism is the old rationalism of the Enlightenment.(pp.254-255)
This progressive liberal argument that ideas serve as a motor force for social change, independent of the material conditions of production, is reminiscent of the revolutionary socialist Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) chiding the Social Democrats for not standing up for traditional liberal principles in the face of the conservative, authoritarian backlash following WW I.
She and Karl Liebknecht were murdered on the orders of the Social Democratic Party in January 1919, when Social Democratic leader Friedrich Ebert ordered the Freikorps to destroy the left-wing revolution. In her last speech she had declared on New Year ’s Day in Berlin, which was teaming with socialist ideas at the time, that :
Today we can seriously set about destroying capitalism once and for all. Nay, more; not merely are we today in a position to perform this task, nor merely is its performance a duty toward the proletariat, but our solution offers the only means of saving human society from destruction.
In the 21st century, we have experienced an unmistakable movement to the right, Socialists morphing into economic liberals and progressive liberals into conservatives, and both into Neo-Conservatives; then there is the Donald Trump phenomenon. Eric Hobsbawm, in the minds of many, represents this first transition; and the liberal Canadian lawmaker Michael Ignatieff, the second; while we can only wait to see what the growth of “Trumping opportunism” produces. It is in this context – a virtual stamped toward the right—that the progressive liberal filmmaker Oliver Stone has taken a stand. Below is his decidedly non-marxist critique of US history (the contrast with Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the US is instructive) which begins inductively with specific personalities (mostly leaders) and events (mostly military); then judges them according to the time-honored values of The Enlightenment. As Rosa Luzemburg said before she was murdered in 1919: If liberals will no longer defend their humanist values, then they must be defended by us, the true socialists!
Below is the 12-part series of the documentary film made by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick “The Untold History of the United States,” and it is prefaced by a 7-part interview by Paul Jay, founder of “The Real News Network”, discussing the making of Untold History of the United States.
· Episode A: 1900-1920 - World War I, The Russian Revolution & Woodrow Wilson.
· Episode B: 1920-1940 - Roosevelt, Hitler, Stalin: The Battle of Ideas (Episode B seems to be unavailable on the Internet without charge.)
· Chapter 1: World War II.
And finally, we direct your attention to items below (7 of them) and invite you to use your general historical knowledge while examining the specific current events which are presented here in order to derive their true meaning.
Professor of American Studies
University of Grenoble-3
Director of Research
University of Paris-Nanterre
Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements
The University of California-San Diego
Migrant mistaken for terrorist shot and beaten to death
While Zarhum was bleeding and clearly "helpless" on the ground, one of the charged men, David Moyal, slammed him forcefully with a nearby bench, "with the intention of causing him harm, disability or maiming him," the indictment said.
Two other men -- Yaakov Shamba, the soldier, and Eviatar Damari -- then approached Zarhum and forcefully kicked his head and upper body, the indictment states.
After this, Ronen Cohen, the prison guard, threw the bench at the victim to prevent him from moving.
A bystander moved the bench away, but Cohen and Shamba put it back, before Shamba pushed away an onlooker who asked him to stop and kicked Zarhum again, the indictment states.
Will the 2016 Primaries Be Electronically Rigged?
by Victoria Collier and Ben Ptashnik
Sanders camp suspicious of Microsoft’s influence in Iowa Caucus
China's Capitalist Crisis Threatens World Economy
by John Rainford
Radioactive Water from Fukushima Is Leaking into the Pacific
Sent: Friday, 29 January, 2016 7:03:12 PM
Subject: [haw-info] HAW Notes 1/30/16: Saudi Arabia conference; Peace History Society; website on history of US wars; links to recent articles of interest
To members and friends of Historians Against the War,
Here are some notes followed by our occasional listing of some recent articles.
1. Amid increasing scrutiny on Saudi Arabia's role in the Middle East and its relationship with the US, a number of antiwar groups are sponsoring a "Summit on Saudi Arabia" Saturday-Sunday March 5-6 in Washington DC. Code Pink has taken the lead, with co-sponsors including The Nation, the Institute for Policy Studies, Peace Action, and many other groups, including HAW.
2. The latest issue of the Peace History Society's newsletter, edited by
Robert Shaffer is available on-line. Its 50 pages include short articles and reports on a great variety of topics.
3. This is a reminder of the work-in-progress website on the history of US wars that Roger Peace is developing. He is looking for feedback and suggestions for resources as well as collaboration in developing sections of the site. (A sample module on the War of 1812 is on the site.) His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Links to Recent Articles of Interest:
By Joost Hiltermann, London Review of Books, February 4 issue
Review-essay, seeking to draw lessons on how wars are ended, on Pierre Razoux’s book The Iran-Iraq War. The author is Middle East and North Africa programme director at the International Crisis Group.
By Ayed Press, New York Times, posted January 26
Warns against a proposal now before Congress that would force a change in US policy toward the Occupied Settlements
By Andrew J. Bacevich, TomDispatch.com, posted January 26
By Sebastian J. Bae, War on the Rocks, posted January 22
By Paul Pillar, The National Interest, posted January 20
The author, a 28-year veteran of the CIA, is a visiting professor at Georgetown University in security studies.
By Thomas Wright, Politico Magazine, posted January 20
Subtitled: “His views aren’t as confused as they seem. In fact, they’re remarkably consistent – and they have a long history.”
By Lawrence S. Wittner, History News Network, posted January 17
The author is a professor of history emeritus at SUN Y Albany.
By Mark Murrmann and Bryan Schatz, Mother Jones, posted January 16
By David Bacon, LobeLog, posted January 11
A visit to Hanoi and reflections on the Christmas Bombing of 1972
By Rick Shenkman, TomDispatch.com, posted January 10
The author is founder and editor of the History News Network.