Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

March 19, 2014

Pat Buchanan: Is Putin one of us?

Filed under: conservatism,Russia — louisproyect @ 7:27 pm

Is Putin One of Us?

Tuesday – December 17, 2013 at 1:37 am

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Is Vladimir Putin a paleoconservative?

In the culture war for mankind’s future, is he one of us?

While such a question may be blasphemous in Western circles, consider the content of the Russian president’s state of the nation address.

With America clearly in mind, Putin declared, “In many countries today, moral and ethical norms are being reconsidered.”

“They’re now requiring not only the proper acknowledgment of freedom of conscience, political views and private life, but also the mandatory acknowledgment of the equality of good and evil.”

Translation: While privacy and freedom of thought, religion and speech are cherished rights, to equate traditional marriage and same-sex marriage is to equate good with evil.

No moral confusion here, this is moral clarity, agree or disagree.

President Reagan once called the old Soviet Empire “the focus of evil in the modern world.” President Putin is implying that Barack Obama’s America may deserve the title in the 21st century.

Nor is he without an argument when we reflect on America’s embrace of abortion on demand, homosexual marriage, pornography, promiscuity, and the whole panoply of Hollywood values.

Our grandparents would not recognize the America in which we live.

Moreover, Putin asserts, the new immorality has been imposed undemocratically.

The “destruction of traditional values” in these countries, he said, comes “from the top” and is “inherently undemocratic because it is based on abstract ideas and runs counter to the will of the majority of people.”

Does he not have a point?

full article: http://buchanan.org/blog/putin-one-us-6071

Fascism, “borderless as our lands, and red as our blood”

Filed under: Ukraine — louisproyect @ 6:31 pm
Crossposted from http://anton-shekhovtsov.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/fascism-borderless-as-our-lands-and-red.html

On the 15th of March, Moscow has witnessed – in addition to the anti-war and anti-imperialist march – a march in support of the Russian military occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. The latter was organised by the Essence of Time movement founded and headed by Russian National-Bolshevik Sergey Kurginyan. Here are some pictures from the pro-Kremlin march.

The symbolism of the whole event is best understood by noting a quote from one of the articles by Kurginyan‘s colleague and ideological ally, Russian fascist Aleksandr Dugin. In his article “Fascism – borderless and red”, he wrote (the original quote in Russian can be found below):

Russian socialism should be built by new people, a new type of people, a new class. A class of heroes and revolutionaries. The remains of the party nomenclature and their ramshackle order should fall victim to the socialist revolution. The Russian national revolution. The Russians are longing for freshness, for modernity, for unfeigned romanticism, for living participation in some great cause. Everything that they are offered today is either archaic (the national patriots) or boring and cynical (the liberals).

The dance and the attack, fashion and aggression, excessiveness and discipline, will and gesture, fanaticism and irony will seethe in the national revolutionaries – young, malicious, merry, fearless, passionate and not knowing limits. They will build and destroy, rule and fulfill orders, conduct purges of the enemies of the nation and tenderly take care of Russian elderly and children. Wrathfully and merrily will they approach the citadel of the ramshackle and rotten System sic. Yes, they deeply thirst for Power. They know how to use it. They will breathe Life in society, they will shove the people into the sweet process of creating History. New people. Finally, intelligent and brave. Such as are needed. Who take the outer world as a strike (in the words of Golovin).

Immediately before his death, the French fascist writer Robert Brasillach voiced a strange prophecy: “I see how in the East, in Russia, fascism is rising – a fascism borderless and red”.

Note: Not a faded, brownish-pinkish national capitalism, but the blinding dawn of a new Russian Revolution, fascism – borderless as our lands, and red as our blood.

Good journalism? A note to Professor Gary Leupp

Filed under: Ukraine — louisproyect @ 1:05 pm

UPDATE:

Leupp posted a comment below in which he said: “Louis, I am not interested in an exchanges with you, since you cancelled that possibility with egregious rudeness earlier.” Well, frankly, I am not interested in exchanges with him either. I notify him by email about once or twice a year after he writes something particularly idiotic, mostly to needle him. This time I took the trouble to post my letter to him here because his Counterpunch article was so typical of what has been written in defense of Putin. The letter was meant to alert my readers to the latest example of crypto-Stalinism in the spirit of a doctor showing a med student what an advanced tumor looks like in a laboratory cadaver. In terms of the business about Japanese sex, I’d have to say I never had a professor like him. But then again I never had much interest in aristocrats fucking. I only wish he would stick to this sort of thing since he is a big expert. It would be nice if he would stay away from the sort of thing Leon Trotsky wrote about. Can you imagine me writing about the sexual practices of a samurai? God forbid. This is from Rate My Professor on Gary Leupp. Yokibito are aristocrats apparently.

Screen shot 2014-03-22 at 6.31.09 PM

Professor Leupp,

In your Counterpunch article today, you make the following statement about the history of Ukraine that the Western journalists are ignoring:

Good journalism needs to convey to the reader some needed historical background, including the fact that Kiev was the center of the first Russian state, about 1000 years ago—before Russian and Ukrainian became distinctly different languages—and that Ukraine was a mainly Roman Catholic Russian principality from 1654 to the Bolshevik Revolution, after which it became a greatly enlarged Soviet Socialist Republic, with a new, largely Russian-speaking and Russian Orthodox eastern half beyond the Dnieper (producing today’s deep ethnic-geographical division); and the fact that the Crimean Peninsula was only transferred to Ukraine from Russia in 1954.

Now, as far as I can tell, your resume reveals little engagement with Marxism or Soviet history, so you may be excused for speaking out of ignorance but in the interests of “good Marxist journalism”, there are a couple of things that you need to take into consideration.

To start with, when you turn the clock back 1000 years ago in order to make sense out of the current conflict, it is tantamount to defending any conquest on the basis of ancient history. Did it occur to you that this is essentially the same sort of argument that the Zionists make for the creation of the state of Israel? That the historical kingdoms of Israel and Judea gave them the right to carve out a piece of land in the modern Middle East? Who knows? Using your logic, maybe the Jews have a right to take over the Ukraine as well since before it became controlled by Slavs a millennium ago, it was part of the Khazar kingdom, the source of the modern Ashkenazim ethnicity according to Arthur Koestler and Shlomo Sand.

But more important than these excursions into ancient history is the question of the Ukraine becoming part of a greatly enlarged Soviet Socialist Republic after the Bolshevik Revolution and the transfer of Crimea to Ukraine in 1954. First of all, you should have italicized the word “after” in referring to the Bolshevik Revolution since all of the decisions were being made by Stalin or his successors rather than by the people being affected by such territorial/political bureaucratic fiats.

You might want to look at Moshe Lewin’s “Lenin’s Last Struggle” if you get some free time away from your normal study of things like interracial intimacy in Japan. It is necessary reading for people like yourself who appear to be a relative virgin when it comes to Soviet history.

Lewin’s analysis is focused on the last testament of Lenin that warned against the return of Great Russian chauvinism in the USSR wrought by Stalin despite his Georgian ethnicity. Like Clarence Thomas, he adopted the views of the oppressive majority despite being a member of the oppressed minority.

Here’s Lenin on what was taking shape in the USSR, written on December 31, 1922, just before it became reasonable to think in terms of “after” the Bolshevik Revolution:

In my writings on the national question I have already said that an abstract presentation of the question of nationalism in general is of no use at all. A distinction must necessarily be made between the nationalism of an oppressor nation and that of an oppressed nation, the nationalism of a big nation and that of a small nation.

In respect of the second kind of nationalism we, nationals of a big nation, have nearly always been guilty, in historic practice, of an infinite number of cases of violence; furthermore, we commit violence and insult an infinite number of times without noticing it. It is sufficient to recall my Volga reminiscences of how non-Russians are treated; how the Poles are not called by any other name than Polyachiska, how the Tatar is nicknamed Prince, how the Ukrainians are always Khokhols and the Georgians and other Caucasian nationals always Kapkasians.

That is why internationalism on the part of oppressors or “great” nations, as they are called (though they are great only in their violence, only great as bullies), must consist not only in the observance of the formal equality of nations but even in an inequality of the oppressor nation, the great nation, that must make up for the inequality which obtains in actual practice. Anybody who does not understand this has not grasped the real proletarian attitude to the national question, he is still essentially petty bourgeois in his point of view and is, therefore, sure to descend to the bourgeois point of view.

full: http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1922/dec/testamnt/autonomy.htm

PS: With all the affection being lavished on Putin today by people like yourself and fellow Mandarin Stephen F. Cohen, I hope that you don’t lapse into the bad habit of referring to the Tatars (not mentioned once in your article) as Prince and the Ukrainians as Khokols since these are ethnic slurs after all.

March 17, 2014

Thoughts on a Counterpunch article paying tribute to Cormac McCarthy

Filed under: indigenous,literature — louisproyect @ 4:40 pm

cormac-mccarthy-no-country-for-old-men-literary-star

Cormac McCarthy

In today’s Counterpunch—my favorite online and print publication—there’s a tribute to Cormac McCarthy, my least favorite novelist, by a Texas attorney named Carl E. Kandutsch who holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Yale University. Often set in Texas and the old west, McCarthy’s novels leave me with the impression that they are a mosh-up of overwrought Faulknerian or Melvillian prose and the Warner brother’s Roadrunner cartoons.

I first became—how should I put it?—obsessed with McCarthy after seeing “No Country for Old Men” in 2007. When the most likable character, a blue-collar worker who has absconded with the drug money found at the site of a shootout that left the dealers killed, is killed off himself long before the end of the flick only to leave a sheriff played by Tommie Lee Jones to blather on about the state of the world, I turned to my wife and said, “What the hell? Is this the way this stupid movie ends?”

That led me to an examination of the Cormac McCarthy fan’s website (http://www.cormacmccarthy.com/), where I saw his 1985 “Blood Meridian” described as a dismantling of “the politically correct myth of aboriginal victimization, so that victims and their antagonists become indistinguishable.”

Since I guess I am one of those people who subscribes to the “the politically correct myth of aboriginal victimization”, I had problems with McCarthy’s novel even before I read it.

Kandutsch’s tribute references “Blood Meridian”, a novel most pro-McCarthy critics regard as his finest and liken to “Moby Dick”. With respect to the “politically correct” question, Kandutsch states:

There are no “noble savages” in these novels, and the Indians described in Blood Meridian are every bit as brutal, rapacious and blood-thirsty as the lawless gang of gringos who patrol the border badlands destroying villages in search of Indian scalps to sell for bounties offered by the Texas and Mexican governments.

Before I turn to the Comanche “noble savage” topic, I want to say something about McCarthy’s style. In the interests of transparency, I have to admit that I can’t stand overwriting so that probably disqualifies me as an objective critic of McCarthy to begin with. The late Nora Ephron, a wise and witty critic of male foibles and a pellucid prose stylist, had these words on McCarthy in the New Yorker magazine as related in a bedtime chat she was having with an unidentified man:

She opened the book and started reading from the end.

He does this weird thing with contractions, she said. He uses apostrophes for words like that’s and it’s but he doesnt use them for dont and wasnt and wont. He doesnt use quotation marks, either.

Who?

Cormac McCarthy.

As the best example of what I find troubling about both McCarthy’s writing and his politics, there’s no better example than this passage from “Blood Meridian” that describes a Comanche band returning from a raid on a Texas village as if it was a Walpurgisnacht procession:

A legion of horribles, hundreds in number, half naked or clad in costumes attic or biblical or wardrobed out of a fevered dream with the skins of animals and silk finery and pieces of uniform still tracked with the blood of prior owners, coats of slain dragoons, frogged and braided cavalry jackets, one in a stovepipe hat and one with an umbrella and one in white stockings and a bloodstained wedding veil and some in headgear or cranefeathers or rawhide helmets that bore the horns of bull or buffalo and one in a pigeontailed coat worn backwards and otherwise naked and one in the armor of a Spanish conquistador, the breastplate and pauldrons deeply dented with old blows of mace or sabre done in another country by men whose very bones were dust and many with their braids spliced up with the hair of other beasts until they trailed upon the ground and their horses’ ears and tails worked with bits of brightly colored cloth and one whose horse’s whole head was painted crimson red and all the horsemen’s faces gaudy and grotesque with daubings like a company of mounted clowns, death hilarious, all howling in a barbarous tongue and riding down upon them like a horde from a hell more horrible yet than the brimstone land of Christian reckoning, screeching and yammering and clothed in smoke like those vaporous beings in regions beyond right knowing where the eye wanders and the lip jerks and drools.

Wow, that’s all one sentence! Back in 1977 when I was working for Salomon Brothers, the programmers took a workshop on writing memos that was better than any writer’s workshop class I ever took at Bard or NYU. We learned to avoid the passive voice, number one (you’ll rarely see them in my articles.) The next thing was to understand the Gunning Fog Index that rated prose on the basis of readability, including the average number of words in a sentence, etc. Running the passage above against a Gunning Fog Index calculator (http://gunning-fog-index.com/fog.cgi) returned a rather feverish reading of 102.2. Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunning_fog_index) states that texts for a wide audience generally need a fog index less than 12 and those for universal audience require an index of less than 8.

Turning to the substance of the passage, a careful reader with a tolerance for high Gunning Factor Indices might wonder what Comanche Indians were doing wearing stovepipe hats, an umbrella, white stockings, a bloodstained wedding veil, etc. As McCarthy was reported to have read extensively on the historical background of the Comanche Indian wars celebrated in films like “The Searchers”, you would have to believe that he was not making this up. In fact there was such a procession of weirdly dressed Indians with a telltale sign of a recent massacre of whites (bloodstained wedding veil) in Texas history.

This was a reference to the August 6, 1840 Linville Raid when 600 Comanche killed and kidnapped many settlers, including Daniel Boone’s granddaughter. What struck McCarthy’s literary fancy was the raiding party’s looting of the town’s general store, resulting in the aforementioned sinister costume party.

However, what McCarthy leaves out is the incident that led to the raid. While McCarthy’s account of the raid is accurate if overwrought stylistically, it leaves out an important element. This was not an unprovoked attack but vengeance for the killing of 12 of the top Comanche leaders at a peace negotiations meeting in the San Antonio Council House on March 19th of that year. The Indians sought agreement on the boundaries of their territory—the Comancheria—and the Texans the return of some captives. When the Texans learned that only one captive was being returned at the meeting, they told the chiefs that they would be held hostage until the rest were returned. A pitched battle ensued leaving all the chiefs dead as well as a number of warriors, three of their wives, and two children.

McCarthy is not interested in this part of the story since it would interfere with the Hobbesian vision of his novel. Without mentioning the philosopher who is always pitted against the “novel savage” vision of Rousseau, Kandutsch seems to get that it is his philosophy that guides McCarthy’s narrative: “Others have attacked his allegedly reactionary moral and political stance, based on little more than his commitment to pessimism and his evident distaste for modern urban life.” Yup.

In “Blood Meridian”, the most repugnant character among a host of vile bodies is “The Judge”, the leader of a band of bounty hunters trading Comanche scalps for dollars who is based on the historical figure John Joel Glanton. The Judge muses:

These things are known to all the world. The world is construed out of blood and nothing else but blood. Death is the condition of existence and life is but an emanation thereof. What is constant in history is greed and foolishness and a love of blood. Before man was, war waited for him. The idea that man can be understood is an illusion.

Now McCarthy is a pretty smart guy even if he cant write worth a lick (that’s a McCarthy parody italicized there.) This notion of perpetual bloodlust is one I am very familiar with after having seen numerous accounts debunking the “noble savage” myth from one sociobiologist or another over the years, starting with Jared Diamond. McCarthy seems to be aware of their legacy from the appearance of the epigraph to “Blood Meridian”:

“Clark, who led last year’s expedition to the Afar region of northern Ethiopia, and UC Berkeley colleague Tim D. White, also said that a re-examination of a 300,000-year-old fossil skull found in the same region earlier shows evidence of having been scalped.”

The Yuma Daily Sun, June 13, 1982

You see, war must be in our genes based on the evidence of scalping 300,000 years ago.

It turns out that the primary resource for “Blood Meridian” was T. R. Fehrenbach’s “Comanches: the Destruction of a People”. Fehrenbach, who is considered the dean of Texas history writing, died on December 1, 2013. Despite the ostensibly pro-indigenous title, the study was likely the inspiration for the novel’s Walpurgisnacht scene. The chapter titled “The Blood Trail” begins with an epigraph by the famous anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber: “War was a state of mind among the Indians, and therefore never terminated.” This connects to Fehrenbach’s observation: “The first drive of the Amerindians was a biological imperative, the hunt for food in the struggle to survive. Their one great social imperative, however, was war.” He adds, “…it is reasonably certain that warfare and killing between men is as old as the symbolic story of Cain and Abel, and that the Amerindian war ethic, like the scalp pole, came with the race from the Old War”. These words must have resonated deeply with McCarthy who was determined to prove that there was no “noble savage” even if it was necessary leave out those aspects of Texas history that undermined his fictionalized sociobiology.

March 16, 2014

An analytical time-line for Ukraine: October 1 to December 31, 2013

Filed under: Ukraine — louisproyect @ 7:07 pm

And the Putinites have the nerve to lecture us about fascism

This is a time-line based analysis of events in the Ukraine between October and December 2013, before I began paying closer attention to Euromaidan. It was written mostly to help me understand what has been happening there—a sort of political notebook. I don’t approach these events agnostically. I am inclined to support the analysis of Ukrainian Marxists, including a Marxmail subscriber as well as some blogs I have been following. Just as is the case with Syria, the Ukrainian socialist movement is very weak but that does not have any effect on my views. There is wide sympathy for Putin out there, from Stephen F. Cohen at the Nation Magazine to Pat Buchanan of the ultraright who just defended Putin on the McLaughlin Report in terms indistinguishable from Cohen. I make up my own mind based on a survey of available information. For those who like to follow the crowd, don’t let me stand in the way.

1. October 1-31

Yanukovych was close to achieving a “key foreign policy goal”, signing an agreement with the EU, according to the NY Times. Despite Russia’s displeasure with this, manifested by blocking Ukrainian exports in July and August, Yanukovych was determined to move decisively toward European economic ties.

Much of the left views ties to the EU as a kind of suicidal action since Europe is a basket case right now, except for Germany. However, if you lived in the Ukraine or other countries in the former Soviet bloc, there are mitigating factors. Europe represents a far bigger market for exports than Russia. In fact, Putin relies heavily on gas exports to Europe for the economic health of his country. However, to keep countries like Ukraine, Armenia, Moldova, et al locked into a Russia trade formation requires coercion rather than economic logic. In September Armenia decided to join the Russian customs union after its president met with Putin. After spending years working toward European integration, it reversed course. Apparently the Russians made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.

2. November 1-8

On November 6th Ukraine signed a 10 billion dollar gas deal with Chevron, thus eliminating reliance on supplies from Russia’s Gazprom that had been charging exorbitant fees. This must have alarmed Russia especially since the EU had begun investigations into Gazprom functioning as a monopoly.

3. November 9-16

To the EU’s dismay, Yanukovych had still not released former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko  from prison, a condition for finalizing the trade deal. Tymoshenko was ousted in 2010 because her government had failed to overcome voter unhappiness with a depressed economy. The goodwill earned by her leadership in the Orange Revolution had long evaporated. Ironically, Tymoshenko was serving a 7 year prison sentence for signing a deal with Gazprom that was seen to have disadvantaged the Ukraine. So much for Ukrainian nationalism.

4. November 17-23

The shit hits the fan on November 22nd when Yanukovych decides to join the Russian trade bloc. His decision was based partially on Russian pressure and partially on punitive aspects of the EU deal, especially stringent IMF loan terms and measures that would fall heavily on eastern Ukraine, his main base of support. (The EU felt blindsided by the IMF demands.)

But overriding all of these concerns was his unwillingness to release Tymoshenko from prison since this woman who had cut a deal with Russia at Ukraine’s expense was his chief rival. If you’ve seen Yanukovych’s Graceland-like mansion, you know how important it is to stay in office. Politics of course had very little to do with the dispute since he was pushing for integration with the EU while she was serving time for being Putin’s lackey.

Within a day, a mass demonstration in Kiev headed toward Maidan Square, the place where the Orange Revolution was based.

5. November 24-30

But unlike the Orange Revolution, the demonstrations now occurring on a daily basis had not received their marching orders from the traditional anti-Russian parties as the Financial Times reported on November 30:

The demonstrations differ in important respects from the 2004 uprising, when as many as 1m people thronged central Kiev. The biggest crowd this time has been the more than 100,000 who gathered last Sunday.

Unlike the well-planned 2004 protests over a rigged ballot, which had initially handed victory to Mr Yanukovich, these rallies have been largely spontaneous, sparked by social media, and caught Ukraine’s political opposition unprepared.

“Many people came with high hopes, but it’s not clear what to do now,” said Halyna Oliynyk, a 50-year old Kiev museum employee. “There is a void in organisation and leadership. The politicians were sidelined by grassroots activists and students, but in my view they now need to lead the people forward.”

6. December 1-8

Late night on November 30th, the cops attacked peaceful protesters in Maidan Square in an abuse of state power that shocked millions of Ukrainians.  The protests had actually been winding down and only a few hundred, mostly students, were sitting in there.

The Guardian reported on December 1:

About 500 police officers descended on the square – the symbolic heart of the 2004 Orange Revolution against elections rigged in favour of Yanukovych, as well as Ukraine’s 1990 anti-Soviet protests – at 4am yesterday, attacking protesters with truncheons. Yanukovich said last night he was “deeply outraged” by the events which led to violent confrontation between protesters and police. He called for an immediate investigation, though did not specifically blame the police for the incidents.

“I just can’t believe it happened,” said student Igor Mitrov, with a bandaged head and a bloodstained Ukrainian flag in his hands. Mitrov, 22 was among protesters regrouping in the grounds of Kiev’s St Mikhailovsky monastery. “The police were beating the girls with rubber batons and we, the guys, were trying to defend them. But without success.”

Yaroslava Fedorash, 20, from Lviv in western Ukraine, described how police surrounded and pushed protesters into a metro station. “We were not resisting: we were just singing the Ukrainian anthem,” she said. “I saw a girl whose hand was broken and the ambulance took her from the site.”

A day later 300,000 Kievans demonstrated against Yakunovych and for the first time raised the demand that he resign, defying a court ban on protests. When you hear from people like Stephen F. Cohen that the protests were impudent demands to unseat a “popularly elected” president, you are dealing with what is commonly known as a weasel deal. It was a police riot that led to this demand and nothing else.

Setting the tone for the RT.com propaganda machine that would ensue, Putin stated on December 3rd that the protests reminded him of a “pogrom” rather than a revolution.

Despite the attempts to equate Yanukovych with “the oligarchs”, the truth is that probably most favored ties to the EU as the NY Times reported on December 7th:

On one side you have businessmen like Mr. [Petro] Poroshenko, whose fortune was estimated by Forbes at $1.6 billion. He is typical of the older money here, people interested more in marketing their assets, whether through initial public offerings or attracting international partners, than grabbing quick profits.

They were hoping that an affiliation with the European Union and its more stringent protections of property rights would protect their interests. They are also more open to a proposed loan from the International Monetary Fund that would require a reduction in government energy subsidies and structural overhauls, including revamping the judiciary.

As further indication that facile distinctions between imperialism and beleaguered Russia must be avoided, Yanukovych appointed Petro Porshenko to be economic development and trade minister of Ukraine in 2012.

7. December 9-16

This was around the time that Lenin statues began to be toppled in the Ukraine, an act that was widely regarded by the pro-Russian left that a “pogrom” was underway. While Lenin was totally opposed to cult-like worship of his image both during and after his life, the more important consideration is how this could be interpreted as a repudiation of socialism since Russia and the Ukraine had about as much to do with socialism as they did with Free Masonry.

While the pro-Putin left convinced itself that mob rule was overtaking the Ukraine, there was little regard for law-breaking cops who were operating as Yanukovych’s militia as the Times reported on December 10th:

On Monday evening, Ukrainian security forces raided the headquarters of an opposition party, Fatherland, and seized computer servers.

The party’s parliamentary leader, Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, is one of the main organizers of the protest movement, which ballooned in recent days to dominate the streets of Kiev and pressure Mr. Yanukovich after he refused to sign a political and trade pact with the European Union. Fatherland is best known, however, as the opposition coalition formed by the jailed former prime minister, Yulia V. Tymoshenko, whose release has long been demanded by Western leaders.

”They came without any notice, without any explanations, fully armed,” said Natalia Lysova, a spokeswoman for Fatherland. ”They broke the door, took all the servers and left.”

A day earlier, the security service, known as the S.B.U., issued a curt statement saying that it had opened an investigation into possible treason charges against unnamed politicians. At a news conference with other protest leaders on Monday, Mr. Yatsenyuk said that he had been summoned for questioning on Tuesday.

Well, one can certainly understand the need to break down doors and remove computers. The ends justifies the means, after all. If Putin was defending his geopolitical interests against the West like Fidel Castro at the Bay of Pigs, who would quibble about the need to break laws.

8. December 17-24

We first begin to hear about the ultraright on December 19th as it becomes clear that their tight military-like discipline and nationalist demagogy of Svoboda enabled it to muscle aside student protesters and the left. For an intriguing analysis of how Svoboda became a force to be reckoned with, there’s this from the NY Times’s Andrew E. Kramer:

Svoboda never won more than a fraction of a percent of the national vote, in spite of having strongholds in city councils and regional legislatures in its base in western Ukraine. Its fortunes changed with the election of Mr. Yanukovich. Serhiy Rudyk, a party official, said the new president’s pro-Russia policies angered Ukrainians, helping Svoboda in the ballot box.

Critics of the party’s role in Ukrainian politics have another explanation. The party, they say, drew strength from an orchestrated policy of Mr. Yanukovich to foster a right-wing competitor to his main political rival, Yulia V. Tymoshenko, who had previously enjoyed strong support in the country’s west.

In 2011, for example, Mr. Yanukovich’s supporters unfurled the flag of the Soviet Union during marches in Lviv on Victory Day, a holiday that commemorates the end of World War II, despite a municipal law banning the display of Communist flags in the city limits. It was a wedge issue that gave Svoboda a lift in the polls. Svoboda denies this assessment, and it is a stated ally of Ms. Tymoshenko.

The next year, however, the party won 8.5 percent of the seats in Parliament, provoking warnings from Israel about rising anti-Semitism and xenophobia in Ukraine, a country with a rich history of both. On their first day in Parliament, Svoboda lawmakers started a fistfight with members of Mr. Yanukovich’s party.

The party, critics say, became something of a Frankenstein’s monster for Mr. Yanukovich, and it has grown beyond all expectations with its activists now playing an integral role in the barricading of Independence Square.

Although I generally steer clear of conspiracy theories, I might make an exception for this one.

9. December 25-31

This was a quiet week in Kiev, sort of the calm before the storm when snipers killed dozens in Maidan Square on February 19, 2014.

Quiet except for the people who had the nerve to speak out against Yakunovych. They, like countless other journalists in Putin’s Russia, knows what means to challenge the status quo. Whenever I hear leftists prattle on about fascism in the Ukraine, I wonder how they would react if American cops treated them this way. From the December 26th NY Times:

A crusading antigovernment journalist and activist in Ukraine who became famous last year after documenting the opulence of the heavily guarded residential compound of President Viktor F. Yanukovich was savagely beaten early Wednesday.

The assault on the activist, Tetyana Chornovol, 34, just outside the capital, Kiev, was the latest attack on government opponents who have been participating in sustained protests that have shaken the country.

On Tuesday evening, Dmitri Pylypets, a protest organizer in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, was beaten and stabbed four times while walking on the street near his apartment, local news media reported.

Just hours before she was ambushed, Ms. Chornovol published a blog post about a ”country manor” being constructed for Ukraine’s embattled interior minister, Vitaly Zakharchenko, in the village of Pidhirtsi.

The assaults have occurred as protesters continue to occupy Independence Square in Kiev, where they first gathered last month in anger over Mr. Yanukovich’s decision to back away from sweeping political and free-trade agreements with the European Union.

Although tens of thousands of people rallied again in Independence Square on Sunday, protest leaders have acknowledged that the movement, in its current form at least, is winding down. Many are now focused on turning their anger at the government into political action ahead of presidential elections in February 2015.

There were also ominous signs that the Ukrainian government was turning inward. The Ukrainian Security Service confirmed this week that it had blocked an unspecified number of foreigners, including several Americans, from entering the country, on suspicion of colluding with protest leaders and trying to destabilize Ukraine.

Photographs taken in a hospital where Ms. Chornovol was said to be undergoing surgery showed her lying on a bed, her face battered and bloodied, with one eye blackened and shut, and her lips hugely swollen and cut. In a brief video posted on YouTube, she said she did not believe that her attackers had said anything as they beat her.

In the video, she said she had been driving home when a sport utility vehicle blocked her path. ”People came out of it and began beating me,” she said. ”I tried to bypass it, but it was impossible. The jeep hit me. It tried to kill me. They broke my window. I jumped out, tried to run. I was caught and they began beating me.”

March 15, 2014

On fascists holding ministerial posts in the Ukraine

Filed under: Ukraine — louisproyect @ 5:47 pm

One of the charges against the Euromaidan revolt is that it has led to ministerial posts being held by fascists. The Party of Socialism and Liberation’s Richard Becker probably spoke for most when he wrote:

The new Secretary of the powerful National Defense and Security Council is Andriy Parubiy, is also listed as being from the Fatherland party. But here the murky divide between the right-wing and fascist parties comes into view.

Parubiy was co-founder of the Social National Party in 1991, an openly fascist party whose symbol was the “Wolfsnagel,” which closely resembles a swastika. The SNP changed its name to Svoboda (“Freedom”) in 2004, and has tried to somewhat moderate its image while retaining its neo-Nazi core.

The PSL’s caption: Ihor Tenyukh, member of neo-Nazi Svoboda party, now Minister of Defense

Now anybody with an inquiring mind would have to ask whether this means that the government will now be rounding up Jews and Communists to throw them into concentration camps.

With respect to the Communists, a bill was submitted to the Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) on February 26th to ban the party but it was tabled, just like a bill to prevent Russian from becoming a second official language was tabled. My suggestion to those worried about the rights of the CP in the Ukraine is to check Google/News for the ongoing story. Meanwhile, Russia hasn’t wasted any time cracking down on those who oppose its policies:

Russia on Thursday banned several websites notable for their criticism of the government and a blog run by prominent opposition leader Alexei Navalny as the Kremlin intensified its crackdown on independent media amid tensions over Ukraine.

The government communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor, said Grani.ru, Kasparov.ru and Yezhednevny Zhurnal (Daily Journal) have carried incitements to unlawful behavior and participation in unauthorized mass gatherings. It said the ban was requested by the Prosecutor General’s Office and Internet providers are now under instructions to implement the block.

But I suppose this doesn’t worry Richard Becker. I am quite sure that in his mind this is like Lincoln banning pro-slavery newspapers.

Now there is one Jewish leader who became convinced that Ukraine was about to become a new Third Reich, and that is the chief Lubavitcher Rabbi, one Moshe Reuven Azman who was quoted on February 22nd to the effect that Jews had to get out of the Ukraine, the sooner the better. As might be expected, Michel Chossudovsky wrote an article quoting the good Rabbi.

Somehow the threat of new death camps eased up since February 22nd on the evidence of a new statement by Rabbi Azman on March 12th:

There are no signs of anti-Semitism in Ukraine. Regardless of their origin, Ukrainians are uniting to counter a common threat, Moshe Reuven Azman, Chief Rabbi of Kyiv and Ukraine said during a briefing at the Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

‘We should draw a distinction between nationalism and Nazism. Nationalism is loving one’s own people, and Nazism is hating others. There is no anti-Semitism in Ukraine’, was Azman’s comment to the Russian propagandists’ claims about the rampage of fascism, Nazism and anti-Semitism in Ukraine.

Now maybe Azman was tortured into making such a statement. Who knows?

I think the more useful way to approach this subject is to review the evidence. Fascists have been around in the Ukraine for decades now. Are there reports of anti-Semitic attacks? Using my retiree’s privilege from Columbia University, I accessed Nexis and discovered only four incidents between 2000 and 2013.

  1. The first incident occurred in 2002 when about 50 youths attacked a Hasidic synagogue, beating a rabbi and two others with stones, hurling bottles, and destroying property.
  2. Then in 2005 a group of thugs attacked two girls returning from a Yeshiva in Simferopol. One was treated for a concussion and the other had surgery to repair a broken nose.
  3. Next on August 9th 2009, someone set some kiosks on fire near a synagogue in Uman selling kosher hot dogs and religious literature. The fire was put out quickly and only one kiosk was damaged, officials said. One kiosk owner was quoted as saying that he had no idea who might be unhappy about his goods, according to investigators.
  4. In a 2012 Facebook rant, Rada member Igor Miroshnichenko called actress Mila Kunis a “zhydovka”, which means something like dirty Jewess apparently.

By contrast, there were 389 reported incidents of anti-Semitism in France in 2011, the last year for which there is data: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisemitism_in_21st-century_France

Now turning to the question of the presence of fascists in government, there was another country that had a much higher incidence than the Ukraine. We can thank the WSWS.org, one of those “the fascists are coming” websites, for some eye-opening information :

In December 2010, the parliamentary faction of the Left Party formally requested an official explanation of the federal government’s dealings with the Nazi past. After one year, the government has presented an 85-page response, which is available online in PDF (German only). http://dip21.bundestag.de/dip21/btd/17/081/1708134.pdf

The government report makes clear that the West German authorities were riddled with former Nazi Party, SS and SA members. The decision-making bodies of West German politics, administration and justice were for decades occupied by persons whose Nazi past had never been investigated in detail. Therefore, the extent of their participation in Nazi crimes was never clarified, or only in exceptional cases.

The careers of many former Nazis in West Germany have been gradually revealed through individual studies or research by journalists. The response of the federal government summarizes these findings and provides additional material relating to individual ministries and agencies of the federal and state governments.

For example, the report quotes a table from the post-doctoral thesis by Bernhard Löffler (1), stating that of 204 top officials in the Federal Economics Ministry who served under Ludwig Erhard between 1949 and 1962, more than half had a Nazi past. Four of them joined the Nazi Party before Adolf Hitler came to power 1933, 29 percent after March 1933, and 20 percent after 1937. In the Third Reich, they were Nazi section leaders (Rottenführer) or squad leaders (Scharführer), senior assault leaders (Obersturmführer) and assault leaders (Sturmbannführer) in the SA. Four belonged to the SS Cavalry Corps, and seven to the General SS, of whom one was an SS senior assault leader and six were block leaders.

Of the candidates applying for a post under the de-Nazification proceedings, 19 (11 percent) were classified as “fellow travellers,” while 70 were regarded as “tainted.” Among them were a minister and 25 state secretaries.

The basis for the recruitment of former Nazi party members into the ministries was a supplementary Act of 1951 to Article 131 of the Constitution, according to which previously released “lesser offenders” could be reintroduced into the civil service. Between 1951 and 1953, the total number of those re-employed in the federal and state administrations (excluding the post office and railways) under Article 131 was 39,000.

In 1952, approximately 38 percent of senior civil servants in the Foreign Ministry were former Nazi Party members. By March 31, 1955, some 77.4 percent of all civil servants at the Ministry of Defence had come in under Article 131. At the Ministry of Economics, the figure was 68.3 percent, and at the Press and Information Office, 58.1 percent. At the Ministry of Defence, there were 190,280 soldiers, Army officials and survivors who fell under Article 131.

So, in the face of such an ocean of evidence that Nazis permeated the German government as compared to the brooklet in the Ukraine, why did we not see anything like fascism in postwar Germany?

The answer is simple. The ruling class prefers bourgeois democracy. On one level, it is simply a matter of dollars and sense as Daniel Guerin points out:

The fact is undeniable that the industrialists who subsidized and put fascism in power are not entirely satisfied with their own creation. In the first place the regime is terribly expensive. The maintenance of the excessive bureaucracy of the state, the party and the numerous semi-governmental bodies costs unheard-of sums and adds to the financial difficulties of the government. In their memorandum of June, 1937, to Hitler, the industrialists wrote:

It used to be estimated that there was one functionary for every twelve persons in productive occupations. Today, if the official party organizations and the semi-official and corporative services with their functionaries and employes are included, it is estimated that there is one person on the state payroll for every eight persons in productive occupations.

Abandoning any attempt to “estimate the amount of personal and material expenses required by the administrative machine,” the authors of the memorandum complained of the “incalculable losses arising from a lack of contact between the old and the new authorities, and the overlapping of functions between the old and new state services and the party.” [2] They wished the day would come when “in accordance with a definite principle, a final organization of the internal political apparatus of the state will be possible …”

While the state must carry huge incidental expenses, the big capitalists themselves have to stand a certain number: “voluntary contributions” extorted by the party and its “welfare” undertakings; various subscriptions; “graft” and seats on the boards of directors of big companies for the “upper crust” of the fascist leaders, etc. But these incidental expenses, the importance of which must not be exaggerated, are less annoying to big business than the demagogic agitation indulged in by the fascist plebeians – agitation which, despite purges and repressions, periodically reappears, though within constantly narrower limits.

Again, while big business approves of an aggressive policy that brings it new armament orders, it is afraid lest the fascist leaders, in seeking a diversion from the wretchedness of the people, provoke a premature war which will result in the isolation of the country and its defeat.

Written in 1938, Guerin’s article is most prescient as evidenced by the last paragraph cited above. A premature war which will result in the isolation of the country and its defeat… In 1938 a ruling class could entertain the possibility of a new world war because it would simply create the possibility for a new round of capital accumulation after destroying excess capacity. Even if you are a loser, you could count on a Marshall Plan to turn things around and even—god willing—allow your swastika-wearing goons to return to public life.

But in the era of thermonuclear devices, world war has become an impossibility. The big bourgeoisie has less and less of a nationalist outlook; just look at all the Russian industrialists who own apartments in London costing 20 million dollars and up. They cooperate to a degree unheard of in the 20th century. They would as soon allow a new Hitler to have his hands on the launch button as they would someone like me. Capitalism today prefers bourgeois democracy. There are even fewer and fewer military dictatorships. In some ways this is the best thing for Marxists since it creates the optimum conditions for revolutionary organizing. Just read Lenin’s articles on the need to create a constituent assembly in Czarist Russia if you need further convincing.

March 14, 2014

Talking about film

Filed under: Film — louisproyect @ 8:16 pm
 Screen shot 2014-03-14 at 4.14.35 PM

Speaking in Tongues

Richard Estes

During the first half hour, Louis Proyect, The Unrepentant Marxist, returns to talk about film.

Afterwards, Susan Spronk provides background about ongoing protests in Venezuela, The Third Insurrectionary Moment of the Venezuela Right, within the context of the bureacratization of the Bolivarian Revolution.

Missed the Show?

http://library.kdvs.org/archive/view/show_id/2580 (March 14th show)

Three political films

Filed under: Film — louisproyect @ 2:38 pm

Like “Forget Baghdad”, “The Jews of Egypt” is a loving tribute to the Arab anti-Zionist Jew and also directed by an Arab. In an article for Counterpunch last May (http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/05/03/voices-of-the-mizrahim/), I described Samir’s “Forget Baghdad” as both a valuable portrait of Mizrahi life as well as Communist oral history in the style of “Seeing Red”.

In the director’s notes for “The Jews of Egypt”, Amir Ramses explains why he made the film:

Four years ago, after three feature films, I decided to pursuit an old dream of mine, making a film about another Egypt I have known only in books and films, an Egypt where Muslims, Christians, Jews, atheists lived next to one another in full tolerance. A cosmopolitan Egypt or as my professor with whom I worked many years as an assistant the outstanding director “Youssef Chahine” used to say to me: “in Alexandria in the 40s when we saw a pretty girl in the street, we never wondered about her religion before trying to hit on her”, funny as he was, that’s how he summarized the Glory and joy of pre 1952 Egypt.

As for me, I grew up in a society where when you say the word “Jewish” it always combined with “Zionist , Israeli” and of course as soon as you say these words, hatred appears, yet I was always fascinated by Singer Laila Mourad, Musician Mounir Mourad and others like Youssef Darwish who all were amongst the most important persons each in his field in Egypt and all 3 were Jewish–that contradiction between modern intolerant Egypt and cosmopolitan Egypt in the first half of the 20th century is what led me to make this film .

Not all the interviewees are Communists but each has a fascinating story to tell. What they all have in common, however, is a certain “rootless cosmopolitanism” that defined life in a city like Smyrna before the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. One older woman who was forced into exile after Nasser took power (his policies toward Jews were depressingly similar to Ataturk’s “Turkification”) says that she loved Alexandria because it was a gumbo where all races and religions interacted with each other and made each other better. After decades of living in “civilized” France, she never felt nearly as happy as she was in Egypt.

All of the interviewees were living in exile except one. Now in his 80s and a veteran Communist who converted to Islam in order to be able to be more effective politically, Albert Aryeh is the virtual star of the film as he reflects back on a lifetime of activism and his complex relationship to Egyptian identity. Never at a loss for words, Aryeh muses: “I’m not a fan of Om Kalthoum, to be honest, and yet I am still here. And many of the others who simply loved her aren’t.”

His attitude toward the exclusionary policies that set in after the Zionist state was created is a mixture of philosophical resignation and disappointment over the stupidity of Nasserite rule. After he married a Muslim woman (ostensibly for love rather than political expediency), the police interrogated her for what they deemed a suspicious act.

Also interviewed are members of the Curiel clan, scions of patriarch Daniel Curiel who was one of Egypt’s wealthiest businessmen. His son Henri was arguably one of the most important figures on the left until his untimely death at the age of 64 from an assassin’s bullet in 1978. Although his assailant was never identified, the film speculates that the Mossad was responsible.

In 1943 Curiel founded the Communist-led Egyptian Movement for National Liberation (HAMETU) that became the Democratic Movement for National Liberation (HADETU) four years later. Jailed repeatedly with other CP’ers, he was finally exiled in 1950 despite the HADETU’s role in launching the 1952 revolution led by the free officers and General Nasser.

His post-exile activities suggest a breach with the CP since Curiel focused almost exclusively on aiding third world insurrectionary movements, especially the FLN in Algeria. So committed to the Algerian cause, he donated his father’s mansion in Egypt to the Algeria government for use as a consulate.

His son Alain Gresh, who is interviewed throughout the film speaking in Arabic, is the editor of Le Monde Diplomatique.

“The Jews of Egypt” opens at the Quad in New York on March 28th. Highly recommended.

Opening today at the Cinema Village in New York, “Xingu” is a biopic about the Vilas-Bôas brothers who were Brazil’s most passionate defenders of indigenous rights. Unlike the typical Hollywood hagiographical treatment, the brothers are treated as a flawed human beings working in an environment that would exploit their weaknesses, particularly being dependent on the government and the military’s financing and logistical support at the very time when the Amazon was being “colonized”.

It turns out that two of the brothers, who come from a privileged family and are seeking an adventure, pretend that they are simple “peons” looking for work when they line up at a government recruiting station in 1943 that is staffing up for a colonization project in the Amazon rainforest. Before they get on line, they exchange their regular clothing for a peasant’s garments and when asked to sign a form, they use their thumbprint pretending illiteracy. I chuckled to myself when watching this scene since it reminded me of the act so many Trotskyist college graduates put on when trying to get a job in a factory or mine in the late 70s as part of our own “colonization” efforts. Needless to say, the Vilas-Bôas brothers were far more effective than we ever were.

Xingu refers to both the river and the region of northern Brazil, where the colonizing expeditions were being sent. In 1943 this would be the first time that Indians saw white men and vice versa. Perhaps as a function of their education but more likely a reflection of their humanity, the brothers decide to approach a band of fearsome natives on the Xingu river, perhaps taking their lives in their hands. Instinctively they present gifts to the menacing looking dozen or so Indians in a gesture that is essential to hunting and gathering societies—the so-called potlatch.

Within a few months, the settlers and the natives are on the best of terms. But a few months later the time-dishonored patterns of genocide set in. A flu that starts in the white men’s camp gets transmitted to the Indian village, killing half of the population including the chief who welcomed them as brothers. From that point on the Vilas-Bôas brothers make the creation of a protected area for Indians their life work. Despite the rotten compromises they are forced to make with the military and the government, they never lose sight of this.

A Guardian obituary for Orlando Vilas-Bôas, the last of the surviving brothers who died in 2002, put it well:

Non-aggression was not the norm in those days: most who ventured into the forest regarded the Indians as savages to be shot like animals. Villas Boas himself said: “On our expedition, the peao (labourer) with the least number of crimes had eight murders under his belt. I lived for 40 years among the Indians and never saw one of them slap another in the face. But we were the ones who were going to civilise [them].”

The Villas Boas brothers realised that the Indians had no protection against the society that would advance along the tracks opened up by the expedition, and from then on Orlando and Claudio, in particular, devoted themselves to creating an area where the indigenous nations of the Xingu area would be safe. They were joined by anthropologist Darcy Ribeiro and public health doctor Noel Nutels, and the result was the Xingu National Park, an area of 26,000 square kms where 15 different previously warring tribes learned to live together. They belonged to the four main language groups of indigenous peoples in Brazil: Aruwak, Karib, Gê and Tupi. The park was the first of its kind in the world.

“Big Men” is a documentary about the oil industry’s impact on Africa that opens today at the IFC Center in New York. It is focused on a deal cut with a small Texas firm called Kosmos run by Jim Musselman and the government of Ghana to conduct offshore drilling operations. Since the film is relentlessly devoid of obvious editorializing, it allows Musselman and the Ghanians to define their goals without ever asking them any tough questions. Directed by Rachel Boynton (and executive produced by Brad Pitt), the strategy seems to be to allow the viewer to make their own decisions about the possible value of oil to the country.

About as far as it ever comes to editorializing are the scenes of despoliation and criminality in next-door Nigeria, a nation where oil is a curse rather than a blessing as it is in Venezuela. We meet criminal bands that blow up pipelines without regard to the environmental impact when they are not siphoning off the oil to sell on the black market.

The film is structured as a kind of mystery with the Texas and Ghana principals trying to put themselves in the best light without the benefit of outside experts telling us that so-and-so is about to cheat the people of this developing nation out of their precious resources.

Reviewers are generally sympathetic to the neutral posture Boyton takes. For example, the Village Voice critic writes:

There’s hope that Ghana might be different. Boynton interviews many officials in the new government, then led by now-deceased president John Atta Mills, who speak passionately about preserving Ghana’s wealth for Ghana. “You can live in relative comfort,” Mills promises a crowd in the run-up to the election. That means, of course, getting “greedy,” as Musselman would have it — “They’re just as crooked as they can be,” he says of Mills’s administration — but not getting as greedy as almost everyone else in the world has. Will Ghana succeed? This film, a great one, demands a follow-up.

I would have preferred a more engaged perspective that would have provided an answer to the question of whether Ghana will succeed but that goes with the territory of being an unrepentant Marxist.

If I had made this film, I would have asked some tough questions about Kosmos’s connections with the Blackstone Group that poured $500 million into the firm in 2008. In fact the failure to examine these ties is my main criticism of Boyton’s work. Peter Peterson, an investment banker who since retiring has campaigned to destroy what’s left of the American social welfare safety net, founded Blackstone. This leaves me feeling somewhat less than sanguine about Ghana benefiting from Kosmos’s presence.

The Blackstone Group was co-founded by Stephen A. Schwarzman, who remains the private capital firm’s CEO. If he refused to grant an interview to me, I would have camped outside his office Michael Moore style and then trailed him down the street camera in hand yelling out questions to him like this one:

Mr. Schwarzman, you made $213 million in 2012. When the Obama administration tried to get private capital firm owners like yourself to pay more than a paltry 15% tax, you compared that to Hitler invading Poland. Do you plan to fight for your right to make unlimited wealth as if you were a Jew in the Warsaw Ghetto fighting for his life?

Also:

When you celebrated your 60th birthday, you rented the Park Avenue Armory for $3 million, including a gospel choir led by Patti LaBelle that serenaded you with “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” If New York catches fire, do you plan to serenade it with a fiddle like Nero?

I imagine if I presented Brad Pitt with such a scenario, I would have had to use Kickstarter for funding instead.

Poverty reduction in Venezuela

Filed under: economics,journalism,Venezuela — louisproyect @ 12:17 am

As many of you are aware, Salon.com has been a source of vicious anti-Chavista propaganda for quite some time now. An article by Simeon Tegel titled “5 myths about the Venezuela crisis” is a prime example. What caught my eye particularly was this:

If Maduro and Chavez have a single claim to justify their combined 15 years in power, it’s that they have significantly benefited Venezuela’s poor majority. No one seriously questions that the percentage of Venezuelans classed as poor has dropped from around 50 percent to 30 percent over that period. The problem is that many other countries in Latin America, including staunchly free-market economies Chile and Peru, have registered similar progress over the same period. Just take a look at this graph by Argentine economist Lucas Llach.

Another liberal publication that has it in for Venezuela is the Independent newspaper that gave journalist James Bloodworth the opportunity to make exactly the same point as Tegel, even citing the same graph (since Bloodworth’s article appeared first, it was obvious that Tegel was up to a little plagiarism.)

Between 2007 and 2011 there was a reduction in extreme poverty in Venezuela by some 38 per cent. Impressive no doubt. But the percentage of people who escaped extreme poverty in Brazil during the same period was 44 per cent, in Peru 41 per cent and in Uruguay 63 per cent.

The graph both journalists referred to was actually produced by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). One of the things I have learned about statistics is that they are insufficient for telling the whole story, especially when it comes to questions of wealth and poverty—and Venezuela in particular. The problem with the graph is that it cuts off before 2012. After 2012, poverty reduction slows down in all of the cited countries except for the two that are demonized so frequently in places like Salon.com: Venezuela and Ecuador. (I suppose that I don’t have to remind you that Ecuador is another country that gets bashed by liberals like Tegel and Bloodworth at every opportunity.)

The latest report from ECLAC makes exactly such a case:

Six of the 11 countries with information available in 2012 recorded falling poverty levels (see table 1). The largest drop was in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, where poverty fell by 5.6 percentage points (from 29.5% to 23.9%) and extreme poverty by 2.0 percentage points (from 11.7% to 9.7%). In Ecuador, poverty was down by 3.1 percentage points (from 35.3% to 32.2%) and indigence by 0.9 percentage points (from 13.8% to 12.9%).

Another statistic that does not enter Tegel and Bloodworth’s calculations is the GINI coefficient, a measure of income inequality. Bloodworth would probably have not mentioned Brazil if his editor had given him instructions to deal with GINI statistics. At  .546 it is close to Guatemala and Honduras in terms of inequality (a GINI of 1 would be perfectly unequal; zero would be perfectly equal.) At .447, Venezuela is the most economically equal country in Latin America. (http://www.quandl.com/demography/gini-index-all-countries)

I noticed Bloodworth’s favorable reference to Peru, proof supposedly that “Boring social democracy may be less romantic, but it has been far more successful at tackling poverty than the Chavez/Maduro model.” Did Bloodworth think that his readers would not bother to check who is the head of state in Peru? I know that my readers would.

It is none other than Ollanta Humala, a figure who has come in for as much redbaiting as Hugo Chavez over the years. The gold standard for redbaiting—Fox News—just about equated the two politicians in a 2011 article titled “Ollanta Humala of Peru –Hugo Chavez’s Secret Candidate”. After Humala’s election, The Australian rendered its verdict on the direction that Peru would take, a far cry from “boring social democracy”:

A FORMER lieutenant-colonel moulded in the image of the Marxist Venezuelan firebrand Hugo Chavez was elected President of Peru yesterday, adding to the trend of the leftward political drift across Latin America.

Ollanta Humala, 48, narrowly defeated the daughter of an imprisoned former leader in an election campaign that laid bare the rift between the millions of chronically poor and the middle class. The affluent fear punitive taxes, in the style of Mr Humala’s Venezuelan mentor, and a reverse of economic reforms that made Peru one of the most successful economies in Latin America.

March 12, 2014

How Ukrainians view the different armed groups from WWII

Filed under: Ukraine — louisproyect @ 1:26 pm

This was the results of a poll conducted by  the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) in February 2012. An article that analyzes the findings can be read at: https://www.academia.edu/3378079/The_Politics_of_World_War_II_in_Contemporary_Ukraine

In the table below, the UPA was the nationalist militia formed by Stephen Bandera. Roman Shukhevych was the commander of the UPA.

Screen shot 2014-03-12 at 9.14.36 AM

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