Archive for the ‘Politics in general’ Category

by Daphna Whitmore

This deceptively slim book covers a lot of ground. The author, Ilan Pappe, is a well-known expatriate Israeli historian, critic and social activist. He is one of the ‘new historians’ arising in Israel who have challenged the official Zionist version of Israel’s history.  As the name suggests Ten Myths is divided into sections which saves it from becoming a heavy treatise on the making of Israel.

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Ilan Pappe

Pappe takes apart the myth of Palestine being an empty land and shows how the displacement of the indigenous people was a part of early Zionist ideology. Pappe challenges Israel’s claim to represent all Jews,  and presents Zionism as  settler colonialism and the Palestinian national movement as an anti-colonial movement. 

Zionism  sought to transform a religion into nationalism at a time when the formation of nations was on the rise, particularly in Europe. Then after World War 2, when colonialism was being rejected by the civilised world, Zionism was supported in becoming a colonialist project “because the creation of a Jewish state offered Europe, and West Germany in particular, an easy way out of the worst excesses of anti-Semitism ever seen. Israel was the first to declare its recognition of ‘a new Germany’—in return it received a lot of money, but also, far more importantly a carte blanche to turn the whole of Palestine into Israel. Zionism offered itself as the solution to anti-Semitism, but became the main reason for its continued presence.” (more…)

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As part of commemorating 1968, “The Year of Revolutions”, we are running the piece below.  It is the text of a talk given by Ernest Mandel, plus excerpts from the discussion, at the International Assembly of Revolutionary Student Movements, which was sponsored by the Columbia University Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the major radical youth movement in the USA in the 1960s.  Mandels’s talk took place on Saturday evening, September 21st at the Education Auditorium of New York University. More than 600 people packed the auditorium and the question and answer period extended for several hours.

The introduction to the pamphlet based on the talk notes, “Mandel’s speech was a powerful polemic against the tendencies of pure ‘activism’ and ‘spontaneism’ which have recently sprung up among some radicals in the West. He argued in defense of the Marxist conception of the indispensable integration of theory and practice. During the question period, Mandel gave extended replies to a number of controversial questions in radical circles today. Among them were the socio-economic nature of the Soviet Union, the Cultural Revolution in China, the necessity for a Leninist party, and moral vs. material incentives in the construction of socialism.

A Belgian, Ernest Mandel took part in the resistance movement there during the Nazi occupation in World War 2.  He became a leader of the Fourth International after the war and an important Marxist theorist and educator.  He wrote widely on political struggles of the 1960s and was popular with radicalising students in many countries.  Mandel was the author of Marxist Economic Theory,  and a number of other important texts, including An Introduction to Marxist Economic Theory.  His The Formation of the Economic Thought of Karl Marx traced the main discoveries of Marx from his first economic investigations in 1843 to the publication of Capital. Mandel’s work was translated into a range of languages from English to Arabic.

by Ernest Mandel

Rudi Dutschke, the leader of the Berlin students, and many of the other representative student figures in Europe, have advanced as the central idea of their activity the concept of the unity of theory and action, of revolutionary theory and revolutionary action. This is not an arbitrary choice. The unity of theory and action can be considered the most important lesson of historical experience drawn from past revolutions in Europe, America and other parts of the world.

The historical tradition which embodies that idea goes from Babeuf through Hegel to Marx. This ideological conquest means that the great liberation movement of mankind must be directed by a conscious effort to reconstruct society, to overcome a situation in which man is dominated by the blind forces of market economy and starts to take his destiny in his own hands. This conscious action of emancipation cannot be carried on effectively, and certainly not carried through, unless man is aware of the social environment in which he is living, of the social forces he has to confront and the general social and economic conditions of this liberation movement.

Just as the unity of theory and action is an essential guide for any emancipation movement today, so Marxism teaches that revolution, conscious revolution, can only be successful if man first understands the nature of society in which he is living, if he understands the motive forces behind social and economic development in that society. In other words, unless he understands the forces that command social evolution, he will not be able to change that evolution into revolution. That is the main conception that Marxist consciousness has been introducing into the revolutionary student movement in Europe.

We will try to show that these two concepts, unity of theory and action, and a Marxist understanding of the objective conditions of society, which existed for a long time before the student movement in Europe was born, were rediscovered and reintegrated in practical struggle by the European student movement as a result of its own experiences.

The student movement starts everywhere – and it is no different in the United States – as a revolt against the (more…)

Michael Wolff, Fire and fury: inside the Trump White House, Little, Brown 2018, pp336, retailing for $NZ34 at  The Warehouse and just over $2o from the Book Depository (free delivery); reviewed by Paul Demarty

The appearance of Michael Wolff’s extraordinary account of Donald Trump’s presidency has already become the pre-eminent succès de scandale of 21st century letters thus far.

The White House response has been trenchant and hysterical, with the president denouncing it as a complete fiction, and the latest in what the book reminds us is a long line of press secretaries reinforcing the condemnation. Legal action is threatened against Wolff, publisher Henry Holt and – not uninterestingly – Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon. It is surely more than mere gratitude that led Wolff to thank in his acknowledgements, pointedly, the libel lawyer he hired to give Fire and fury a once-over. The truth is that Trump has blundered directly into what is now called the ‘Streisand effect’, whereby attempts to suppress some item cause it to spread more rapidly among outraged enemies.1 Even British readers, whose much trumpeted national veneration of liberty reaches no further than the door of the libel courtroom, will benefit from the samizdat PDFs circulating online once Trump’s legal team cast an eye over the Atlantic in pursuit of a cheap victory.

Peculiar

What we find, in whatever format, is a very peculiar book, albeit compulsively readable, droll and frankly horrifying. The sourcing of various anecdotes in here is a particular problem, to which we shall return; certainly, there is a great deal of eyebrow-raising material, which will be confirmed or refuted in the coming months and years. If even a third of it is true, however, Americans are living through some of the most preposterous events in modern political history. Certainly, those looking for evidence that Trump is not what he often appears to be in the presentation of his hated enemies in the media – a narcissistic, vindictive man-child, a demonic cross between King Joffrey of Game of Thrones and (more…)

 by Daphna Whitmore

Manus. A Nation’s shame. Lives held in limbo. Lives lived in fear & despair. It’s fucking disgraceful. Russell Crowe in one tweet sums it up. 

Six hundred asylum seekers who have been imprisoned on Manus Island for years are refusing to go to East Lorengau transit centre on the island. They say it is not safe as locals have threatened and attacked them. Detention on Nauru is the other hell-hole option the men are refusing. Behrouz Boochani,  a journalist and Kurdish refugee from Iran, has been speaking out from Manus Island where he has been held since August 2014.  “We will never move to another prison. We will never settle for anything less than freedom. Only freedom.”

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Manus Island asylum seekers protesting

Locking up asylum seekers in remote and inhumane detention centres has been a long-standing bipartisan policy of Liberal and Labor governments in Australia. (more…)

by Don Franks

For reasons known only to themselves, Unions Wellington have chosen to pitch their election message at the level of a slow-witted preschooler.Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 8.16.50 PM

The UW Voters Guide advises: “This election its important to think about your rights at work when you cast your ballot.”\

“Here’s how the parties stack up on major issues: a living wage, industry agreements to control rogue employers, and a change of government!”

Following that text is a little coloured diagram depicting categories Living wage, Industry agreements, Change the government. Labour and the Greens get a tick for each box. The Maori Party get two ticks, NZ First one, Top and National none.

Or, as a friend of mine put it -“it’s simple really. Labour good, Greens good, NZFirst half good, workers stupid”.

Indeed. Can you really imagine advising a workmate: “Look, you know, this election its important to think about your rights at work when you  (more…)

by Daphna Whitmore

I’m a big fan of rail and will bore anyone who will listen to me about the joy of no longer owning a car in Auckland. I walk five  minutes from home to a train station and travel happily free from the nightmare that is Auckland gridlock.  Auckland as a city for humans needs more electric trains and light rail.

Labour’s plan for transport in Auckland has just been announced and has unashamedly been lifted from the pages of Greater Auckland (formerly TransportBlog). The people from Greater Auckland have done a huge amount of research and have been putting the case every day since 2015 for a world class public transport system in Auckland. It is good to see their ideas being adopted.

What is not great is that Labour will introduce a regional fuel tax to raise money for the programme. This flat tax will mean more indirect taxation, and is inherently anti-working class. Again Labour’s fake concern for the poor is on display.

Auckland’s gridlock is said to cost $1.9b a year in lost productivity. That is a loss for businesses. For the workers stuck in traffic it is a loss in precious time and a loss of enjoyment of life. Labour will lift the financial loss from businesses and have it borne by the people in cars.  (more…)

by Daphna Whitmore

Yesterday Jacinda made  a pretty speech in parliament about how she doesn’t like unfairness.  One time she lived for a little while in a small forestry town plagued by poverty.  Jacinda thinks poverty is unfair and she doesn’t like that.  Most of all Jacinda doesn’t think it is fair that anything should get in the way of her ambition to be Prime Minister. She “didn’t come in to parliament to be in opposition,” she said.

Today she made it clear that under no circumstances would she be sticking her ambitious neck out to defend Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei. For days on end Metiria has been under a barrage of right-wing attacks for getting a little extra allowance while trying to survive on a sole benefit in the 1990s.  Jacinda showed her solidarity by sending a message to Metiria to fall on her sword, and that she would not be getting a cabinet position in a Labour-led government.

The vicious welfare cuts of the early ’90s made benefits impossible to live on. Metiria was not simply a student in a flatting situation, she had a child she was raising while studying law.  Those benefit cuts were never reversed by Labour in government from 1999 to 2008. Jacinda hasn’t got anything to say about that unfairness.

Jacinda grew up a Mormon girl whose dad was the local policeman in the town. She worked for a while in a fish and chip shop and she went on to do a nice light degree at Waikato University. No getting bogged down in a hefty law degree. Then Jacinda went to a well-paid job in parliament. From there she went to a very well-paid job in London and then back to New Zealand in to a very, very well-paid job as an MP.

Jacinda is not going to let the issue of (more…)