Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 24, 2014

Stieg Larsson on the Sweden Democrats

Filed under: Sweden,ultraright — louisproyect @ 5:12 pm


As I pointed out in my CounterPunch article on Stieg Larsson, I would have liked to see him live long enough to comment on the electoral breakthrough of the Swedish Democrats, a far-right party that got 13 percent of the vote and that prevented the Social Democrats from forming a majority-led government. I pointed out in the article that the NY Times covered the election in a most peculiar way, referring to how leftwing activists were harassing the Swedish equivalent of the French National Front.

A couple of days after I wrote the CounterPunch article I got a copy of “Stieg Larsson: the Expo Files”, a collection of the articles he wrote over the years for the anti-fascist magazine that the Millennium of his novels was based on. As it turned out, he wrote about the Swedish Democrats (more honestly named the anti-Democrats) in 2002. This is a good introduction to his journalism as well as a rebuttal to the NY Times article. Apparently these scumbags were complaining 12 years ago about being harassed, a ploy to get sympathy from confused liberals. Too bad the Times doesn’t have anybody on the payroll 1/100th as canny as Stieg Larsson. Co-author Mikael Ekman was one of his closest collaborators and a good friend.

Finally, used copies of “Stieg Larsson: the Expo Files” can be purchased for $1.51 on Amazon.com. Well, what are you waiting for?


Expo 1-2/2002 Co-authored with Mikael Ekman

The Sweden Democrats describe themselves as a democratic party that is ruthlessly harassed and persecuted by an anti-democratic system—politicians, the mass media and state authorities. That strategy—and accompanying rhetoric—is copied from the Front National in France and similar parties. And the response should be the same in Sweden as it is in France. Expo now offers some of those responses to the most common arguments put forward by the Sweden Democrats.

The Sweden Democrats are not allowed to participate in the election campaign on the same terms as other political parties!

This is a political lie. All parties operate under exactly the same conditions and compete for exactly the same voters. The Swedish constitutional right of free speech and freedom of organization applies to all Swedish citizens without exception. There are no constitutional obstacles preventing the Sweden Democrats from taking part in the election: they have access to the same opportunities to publish election manifestos, leaflets, magazines; the same opportunities to produce local radio broadcasts and publish material on the Internet as any other party. It is true that the Sweden Democrats do not feature in the mass media and on television to the same extents as, let us say, the Social Democrats, the Left Party or the Moderates [the Swedish Conservative Party]. The Sweden Democrats are a marginal party, and it is entirely appropriate that parties represented in parliament and with significantly greater support among voters should attract proportionately more attention.

The Sweden Democrats are gagged and suppressed by the political establishment!

This claim is nonsense. It is true, however, that none of the democratic parties is particularly interested in debating with a marginal, racist party that subscribes to conspiracy theories and conducts hate campaigns against democratic politicians.

The Sweden Democrats are not allowed to hire rooms in community centers such as the People’s House or the Workers’ Educational Association. This proves that Sweden is a sham democracy!

Democracy does not exist purely for the benefit of racist parties. The A.B.F. (Workers’ Educational Association) and other educational associations do have democratic rights. They are independent institutions with the right to decide which groups they will admit into their premises as guests.

Democracy gives rights to opponents of the Sweden Democrats—in this case the right to refuse to let rooms to racist organizations. If the Sweden Democrats want to hold public meetings there is nothing to stop them from doing so in their own premises.

They can’t afford it? Ah, well, that is sad—but hardly a problem for the A.B.F. and other educational organizations. Every newly formed party seeking the support of voters operates under precisely the same marginal conditions.

The Sweden Democrats are subjected to censorship in public debate, and their letters to the editor are not published by local newspapers!

This claim is a political lie. Articles and letters to the editor from the Sweden Democrats are published regularly in local newspapers. But in any case, the same argument applies as in the previous repudiation: democracy is not merely for the benefit of racist parties. Swedish newspapers are independent institutions whose editors are free to choose what material their publications will carry.

Most letters editors are not interested in publishing contributions from groups manifestly devoted to con-spiracy theories and who claim, among other things, that the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center was “partly financed by the Swedish government:’ This is not an issue about democracy but rather an example of common sense being displayed by editors.

The Sweden Democrats are a normal democratic party!

The Sweden Democrats are a racist, anti-democratic party dedicated to conspiracy theories. There is no such thing as “democratic racism”—the fact that the party conducts racist campaigns and stirs up contempt for and discriminatory attitudes towards sexual minorities also justifies the party being labelled as anti-democratic.

The Sweden Democrats are not against immigration, but only want to criticize Swedish immigration policies!

From the very start racism and xenophobia have been the cement that holds the party together. Over the years the party has conducted crude hate campaigns and tried to cultivate the myth that immigrants in general are “potential criminals:’ “spreaders of HIV” and “potential rapists:’ The constant intention has been to cultivate an attitude of contempt towards people whose skin is a different color.

The Sweden Democrats oppose immigration from non-European countries and their aim is the repatriation—in other words the expulsion—of immigrants.

The leader of the party, Mikael Jansson, has stated that they are not talking about voluntary repatriation: “We are in favor of the compulsory repatriation of all asylum seekers from foreign cultures who have entered Sweden since 1970.” The Sweden Democrats thereby advocate a doctrine that can only be called “ethnic cleansing in Sweden?’

The Sweden Democrats are not interested in the color of a person’s skin; we believe that “It doesn’t matter whether adopted children are white or black”!

The Sweden Democrats’ manifesto states specifically that the adoption of children from outside Europe should cease. Since children brought up in Sweden from an early age will be to all intents and purposes Swedish from a cultural point of view, this stipulation can refer only to skin color.

Discussion of the immigration problem in Sweden is suppressed, and criticism of immigration policies is not permitted!

This claim too is nonsense but is raised over and over again by the Sweden Democrats and other racist groups.

In fact the immigration question is one of the most widely debated issues in Swedish politics over the last thirty to forty years. Immigration has been discussed by all the democratic parties, by the government, the parliament and local government institutions, within trade unions and employers’ organizations, within state authorities, in schools, universities, workplaces and voluntary organizations. The upshot of these deliberations is that there is remarkable unity within Swedish public institutions to the effect that our country supports the U.N. Charter of Human Rights, directives from the U.N. Displaced Persons Commission and other international agreements: immigrants are welcome in Sweden.

On the other hand, the precise form that immigration takes—what numbers, at what rate, how immigrants should be received and treated and how the integration process should proceed—is under continual discussion, and there can be many differences of opinion. It is not racist to criticize the immigration process, nor to argue that immigration policies have serious shortcomings.

Racism is on the increase in our country. It is out of concern for the welfare of immigrants that the Sweden Democrats want them to “return home”! Immigrants usually politely decline assistance from the Sweden Democrats. Ever since the party was founded as a campaigning organization entitled “Keep Sweden Swedish” in 1979, it has cultivated racism and conducted xenophobic campaigns. After spending many years encouraging xeno-phobia, the Sweden Democrats now use “increasing rac-ism” as an excuse for repatriating immigrants.

The Sweden Democrats are the party for those who are in favor of law and order in our society!

The Sweden Democrats have far and away more criminals among their numbers than any other party. Expo’s investigation into 330 “leading Sweden Democrats” (people who had either been members of the national party council or submitted themselves as Sweden Democrat candidates in an election) between 1988 and 1998 showed that more than 23 percent of them had been found guilty of criminal activity.

That is almost twice the highest-known figure for immi-grant criminality, which shows that just over 12 percent of all immigrants have been convicted of crimes. This figure has been criticized as exaggerated. It is normally reckoned that about 6 percent of all Swedes will sooner or later be convicted of a crime, and that the corresponding figure for immigrants is only slightly higher at about 7 percent. Criminality within the Sweden Democrats covers all categories—insurance fraud, cruelty to animals, theft, assaults on women, grievous bodily harm, drink-driving, embezzlement, arson, and so on.

There are criminals in all political parties!

Very true. But the conduct of normal politicians is scrutinized by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Constitution, the National Audit Office, local auditors, opposing par-ties, public prosecutors, police authorities, and not least by the mass media. Politicians in normal parties who are convicted of crimes are disqualified more or less straight away.

The crime statistics for the Sweden Democrats are in no way comparable with the situation in normal democratic parties.

The Sweden Democrats have no contacts with anti-democratic or right-wing extremists abroad!

The Sweden Democrats are members of the cooperation organization Euro-Nat and hence one of the signatories of the “Young European Nationalists’ Manifesto:” Among other signatories are the racist party Vlaams Bloke in Belgium, the anti-Semitic Romania Mare’ from Romania and the neo-fascist Forza Nuova4 from Italy. The foreign organization closest to the party is the French Front National.5

The Sweden Democrats are Not Nazis!

No, but on the other hand nobody has suggested that the Sweden Democrats are a neo-Nazi party. There is, however, plenty of evidence that over the years the relationship with Nazism has been fluid, that Sweden Democrat members have moved to or from Nazi sects, or have been members of both.

The Sweden Democrats were founded originally as the racist campaigning organization Bevara Sverige Svenskt (Keep Sweden Swedish) in 1979. Several of the founders have a background of neo-Nazi group membership, and over the years a large proportion of the party executive have been linked with neo-Nazi movements.

The claim by Expo that the Sweden Democrats have had Nazis among their leaders is a lie!

There have been a few cases of short-lived youthful folly, and a few infiltrators when the party was first launched. At the beginning of the 1990s just over half the members of the S.D. party executive had links with openly Nazi groups. In 1995, 42 percent of the party executive still had Nazi links. Then a purge was begun. Yet some of the youth-ful folly has continued for rather a long time: as recently as 2001 several leading members were expelled in connection with the formation of the National Democrats. They were accused of being—Nazis.


  1. Euro-Nat was a network of nationalist parties in Europe which grew out of a collaboration between parties that had tried to form a right-wing group in the European Parliament during the ’90s.
  2. Vlaams Blok was founded in 1978 as an alliance between two nationalist right-wing parties. The party called for an independent Flanders and reduced immigration, and gained rapid success. It was banned in 2004, when the Belgian court decided that all three non-profit organizations connected to the Vlaams Blok had violated the 1981 anti-racism law.
  3. Romania Mare was founded in 1991 by Corneliu Vadim Tudor, who still leads the party. It has often been represented in both the national parliament and the European Parliament. The party has several times been accused of having distributed anti-Semitic propaganda.
  4. Forza Nuova is a radical right-wing party led by Roberti Fiore. It has not generally been successful in elections, but nevertheless plays an important role in building alliances between right-wing extremist groups across Europe.
  5. The Front National is one of the most famous right-wing parties in Europe. Founded in 1972, it got its big break in the 1984 elections to the European Parliament. Front National was for many years led by Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has now been replaced by his daughter, Marine Le Pen.


September 23, 2014

The cult of Leon Botstein

Filed under: bard college — louisproyect @ 3:41 pm

Yesterday I got word from Richard Greener, acclaimed author of the Locator novels and Bard College class of ’61, that a big profile on Leon Botstein had appeared in the New Yorker Magazine. He added this comment:

Most telling line in this: “…Botstein changed the school’s reputation beyond recognition.” I know, for some, this is a plus, but for me it’s exactly why I stopped giving money to Bard.

Bard is one of those examples where someone becomes owner of a famous brand name and then releases a new product having little to do with the original. One  that comes to mind was when a Japanese company began making cheap transistor stereo components with the Marantz trademark, a name previously associated with the very best tube audiophile equipment. While nobody would ever mistake the grubby Bard College of Richard Greener’s (and my) generation with the carriage trade, it did have its own integrity—one that earned the unintended accolade of gossip columnist and redbaiter Walter Winchell as “the little red whorehouse on the Hudson.”

Bard was once part of a clutch of “experimental” colleges that began to emerge in the 1920s as an alternative to the existing model. For one reason or another, most e went through a deep administrative and financial crisis in the mid to late 60s that either led to their extinction or their transformation. Victims of extinction included Franconia, a school that Leon Botstein took over as president in 1970 at the tender age of 23, the youngest in American history, and on account of his being the son-in-law of a trustee. Victims of transformation include Bard College, the next and last stop in the career of Leon Botstein.

My initial reaction to Botstein’s arrival at Bard was positive. Splashy news articles intended to give the impression that he can walk on water accompanied every step in his career. Like someone who was at the Sermon on the Mount, I became a follower. That is, until I learned that Martin Peretz had become a member of the board of trustees around 1989, just when I was deeply involved in Nicaragua Solidarity. Long before I ever began using email, I sent him an angry and sarcastic letter about the propriety of such a figure being on the board when he was advocating the contra funding that had led to so many schools in Nicaragua suffering mortar attacks. He took the trouble to write me back a characteristic defense of his actions filled with self-justification and egomania, personality traits  noted by many shrewd observers, even the Bard graduate who wrote the New Yorker profile.

That letter set off a 25 year feud that is still going strong. To be more accurate, a one-way feud since Botstein never bothers to reply. Why should he? I am the proverbial gadfly so easy to be ignored. But it rankled Leon that his kids read my blog and kept asking questions about what I was writing. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when his son asked him about the addition of Stewart Resnick to the board, an agribusiness magnate who has bought off the California Democratic Party in pursuit of his anti-environmental and anti-working class profit-making enterprises.

Let me turn now to the New Yorker article and provide my own running commentary.

The article makes clear that funding is not based on alumni contributions but on a group of billionaires who are members of the Botstein cult:

Though he has raised more than a billion dollars during his tenure, the college’s finances remain precarious. Bard has lacked both a large body of wealthy alumni and a developed infrastructure for soliciting their donations.

Botstein freely admitted to reporter Alice Gregory: “We’re in the business of looking for large investors. Basically, the people who created the college are Leon Levy, Dick Fisher, and George Soros.” (All three are Wall Street speculators.) That’s very reassuring given what has transpired at the University of Illinois, a sign that the privatization of the American university proceeds at a blinding speed.

The problem Bard faces is one that all cults face. What happens when the cult leader dies? Botstein has been president of Bard College for 40 years and turned it into his fiefdom. Would George Soros, or those who administer his foundation, be so generous when the next president comes along? That’s what happens when you operate on the basis of what the Stalinists called a “cult of personality”. Even with Botstein still in the saddle, investment-rating firms strike a note of pessimism:

In December, 2013, after a three-month review, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Bard’s bond rating three notches and revised its outlook to “negative.” The Moody’s report cited Bard’s “exceedingly thin liquidity with full draw on operating lines of credit,” “weak documentation and transparency,” “willingness to fund operations and projects prior to payment on pledges,” and “growing dependence on cash gifts.” (The report found that in 2012 and 2013 more than forty per cent of annual operating revenues came from gifts. Among other small private colleges, about seven per cent is typical.) Six months earlier, Bard had had monthly liquidity of $7.1 million—equal to just two weeks’ worth of operating costs. Bard is highly leveraged, carrying a hundred and sixty million dollars of debt, which is close to its operating budget of a hundred and eighty-five million. The undergraduate endowment (eighty million dollars) is a tenth that of Vassar, a school that is comparable to Bard in both size and age and is one Amtrak stop to the south.

Reporter Alice Gregory takes note of Botstein’s rage that US News and World Report ranks Bard College at 45th in the nation. She adds that he has become convinced that “he is operating within an insane and crooked system rigged by villains and run by fools,” words that come to mind whenever I consider the board of trustees that has made his ambitions possible, as well as the deep pockets of his long-time friend and ally George Soros whose hedge fund was fined $2.2 million for manipulating security prices in Hungary. After all, how else do you expect the next garish building to go up at Bard unless George Soros is allowed to game the stock market? What are you? Some kind of commie?

After one of her conversations with Botstein, Gregory reflects: “And though he can strike people as a world-class egomaniac, one never feels condescended to.” Or as she puts it a bit later: “To an eighteen-year-old, Botstein’s self-generated glamour is at once intimidating and all too tempting to mock.” Unfortunately, from what I can gather, there is not very much mocking going on at the new Bard. During the old Bard, it was apparently the thing to do as she reports on his early days ruling the college:

Students, put off by his ambition and his desire to whip the school into shape, wrote ad-hominem op-eds in the school paper. Fed up, Botstein called a meeting with the students, at which he sought their sympathy, telling them that he was “not a cardboard cutout.” The next day, the campus was teeming with students wearing cardboard cutouts of Botstein pinned to their clothes.

I suppose that being awestruck is the honest reaction of someone 50 years Botstein’s junior but I had a different reaction when he attempted to dress me down at the last reunion for having the temerity write things his kids would read. I had to remind him that I was older than him and that I didn’t appreciate being talked down to. (Btw, it was okay for Gregory and me to end a sentence with a preposition. This is not really any kind of grammatical rule to be followed.)

When you keep in mind that Botstein is okay with three billionaires having “created the college”, it is not reassuring to learn that he has a relationship with the faculty that would turn a Phyllis Wise green with envy:

A consistent criticism of Botstein is that he runs Bard like a duchy, that professors’ opinions are routinely disregarded and their expertise ignored. On a number of occasions, he has overridden hiring and tenure decisions made by otherwise supportive departments. Botstein refuses to speak with restraint, even when it’s in his best interest, and his temper was described to me as “Biblical” by an employee who went on to recall, albeit fondly, an outburst that was “a blitzkrieg of torrent, metaphors, congratulation, deceit, and stories that didn’t make any fucking sense at all.”

With all due respect to Alice Gregory’s assiduous reporting and ability to string sentences together in good New Yorker fashion, I think she failed to really hone in on what Botstein has been up to. The article is utterly devoid of politics, a flaw no doubt associated with the neoliberal predilections of her editor at a magazine that has been transformed along the same lines as Bard College. For a more telling account of what happens at Bard, I recommend this account from alumnus Amit Gupta who was very involved with Palestine solidarity:

The Dark Side of Bard’s Conception of “Academic Freedom”

But there is a dark side to President Botstein’s ideas of academic freedom – which are in turn replicated at other universities like Bard College. Although President Botstein is ardently defensive of the right of his students to voice virtually any viewpoint without outside interference of attacks, this same power game results in skewing Bard College’s funding, faculty, and communal consciousness on Palestine in the direction that President Botstein and the college’s financiers demand.

Stifling Faculty Dissent. In 2008, before I had the opportunity to study with him, politics professor Joel Kovel, an outspoken critic of Zionism and Israel, was fired in a murky episode that was likely influenced by Kovel’s opinions on Zionism. The following year, radical politics professor Pierre Ostiguy was also fired despite significant student opposition in what began to look like a purge of leftists from Bard College’s politics department. Although a number of faculty in the politics department continue to provide the opportunity to study fairly critical and radical ideas of politics, the department was significantly re-shaped. After firing Ostiguy, President Botstein welcomed Walter Russell Mead, who brags of a lengthy career teaching and supporting American and British imperial expansion and is a fairly strong supporter of Israel and a critic of the ASA boycott.

Furthermore, the process through which tenure was granted to Bard faculty was and remains strongly controlled by a few senior faculty and President Botstein himself. Without naming names, it is clear that this level of authoritarianism has already scared away some of the campus’ most intelligent faculty members. Others told me informally that they simply could not engage in dissent on campus because they would risk losing tenure. This is not a slight against President Botstein as an individual; this same problem exists at virtually every American university, because campuses and their tenure processes do not exist outside the political matrix that professors study and teach about.

My only quibble with Amit’s take is that there are exceptions to what happens at Bard and the U. of Illinois. Although I have had complaints about my former boss at Columbia University Lee Bollinger, the man was a fierce defender of academic freedom.

Five years ago I heard that Bard’s finances were shaky. I would love to see the balance sheet, a privilege I used to have when I maintained Columbia University’s financial systems. I can’t help but think that Bard’s expansion under Botstein is very much part of what has happened over the past 25 years in the United States, dating back to my initial confrontation with Botstein. A series of financial bubbles have been punctured over and over, leaving Wall Street and the poor slobs with IRA’s in bad shape until the next bubble starts inflating. What if there is no next bubble? Both leftwing economist James Galbraith and rightwing libertarian Tyler Cowan have written books arguing that the American economy has reached a “no growth” stasis that will cause significant suffering.

The prospects of Leon Botstein either dying or retiring coinciding with these harsh new realities might mark the end of Bard College finally, a school first transformed and then terminated. If it disappears, I will mourn the school I once attended, not what it has become.





September 22, 2014

Boots: By Puss Possessed

Filed under: Jeffrey Marlin — louisproyect @ 3:31 pm

Puss; By Boots Possessed


(This is the fourth in a series of guest posts from Jeffrey Marlin whose e-books, including this one, are available from Amazon.com. )

Every wonder how a cat got so smart? The answer is simple. His brain has been taken over by the ghost of a grieving miller with the help of sympathetic Seraph. Only after rescuing his vice-ridden son Freddle from the clutches of justice will the miller be permitted to join his wife in heaven. His own corpse having been roasted by lightning, the cat’s concussed corpus offers the next best vehicle. The resulting chimera’s task is not easy. Nor will it be completed until a profound social revolution liberates peasants and domestic species alike. At this point an inhabited Puss (the feline’s own mind has been confined to a lobe of the left cerebellum where it’s convinced it must be dreaming) has already passed Freddle off as a noble knight for whom the lovely Princess Dysphoria is falling hard. Now he must begin job number two: taking over a great castle currently occupied by a sadistic, tax-evading ogre whose conduct appalls the entire neighborhood. Here we see Puss addressing a field full of peasants wearily scything barley while a blizzard swirls around them — as required by their unforgiving owner.

 * * * *

 Tall in his boots, Puss harangued the assembled. Though very few saw him, his voice boomed like thunder. “I come with a message of hope for the peasants who slave all year ‘round for cankerous ogres.”

Pitchforks suspended, they drew to attention.

“I’ve heard as I’ve traveled the county and Kingdom that yours is a master of turbulent practice whose greatest delight is a hanging or beating. I will not mince words: I abhor such behavior. And so does my Master, the Marquis d’Freddleburg, sent here by fate to undo your oppression.

“He drinks very deep from the cup of compassion and will, by his magic, dismantle the management, slaughter the owner, and bring to his peasants a fair dispensation.” Up rang a cheer from the laboring classes ground down to despair by their ogerine master. Pussy provided specific instructions:

“Remain in the fields for an hour or two until down from the highway devolves the King’s carriage. You’ll easily know it. ‘Tis filigreed gold and though faux, quite artistic. The wagon is drawn by twelve overweight geldings. Before and behind it ride mounted battalions. Additional carriages, smaller in size, bear assorted advisors, physicians and lawyers. On spotting this Royal attraction come running, then kneel by the roadside in orderly fashion. Whence, rise to your feet with your sickles on high and give cheer to my Master, the Marquis d’Freddleburg.”

“This we shall do,” sang the hundreds as one, for they heard in his thunder the song of salvation.

“And when you have done so, repair to your hovels and sit by the fire and cuddle your young ones. And nevermore fear that a grumbling ogre will break in the door to berate you for idleness.”

Then and again came a gushing of cheers for both Master and cat and their overdue mission. “I go to announce that the Marquis d’Freddleburg comes with the King to take over the barley. Your ogre will flee or be slain in the hour.” They lifted their garments to show him their bruises and shouted suggestions for breaching the castle.

Puss found a cellar door open to entry. And there he was met by a matronly tortoise-shell, lavishly whiskered and sleek as an otter. She spoke to Sir Puss on a number of levels. While deep in the lobe of the left cerebellum, the mind-of-the-cat was both thrilled and divided.

On one hand, though love as a noble conception had never been part of his life-long adventure, he found himself pierced by the Cherubim’s arrow and swooned in the joy of romantic fulfillment. Though late in the game for so pure an emotion, aware that it’s only a function of dreaming, I’m nevertheless unreservedly grateful. And yet, he continued, his nostrils now glowing, I feel that frustration will surely destroy me, should I be denied very quick consummation!

The passions and thoughts of Old Pussy sequestered were kept, by design, from the mind of the Miller. And yet, as before, he could never extinguish the oncoming odor nor stifle the tingle.

“I am Sir Puss and a magical cat,” he announced to the creature regarding him warmly, a scent of approval suffusing the atmosphere. “I am disposed to the speech of the humans and serve a great noble, the Marquis d’Freddleburg.”

“Call me Libida,” the female suggested, a half-eaten rodent fast losing her interest.

“My mission today is to meet with your master, the ogre who lives all alone in the castle along with his servants and hundreds of peasants and cats like yourself and less dignified species. How well do you like him, if I may inquire?”

Libida returned him an eye full of fire. “I loathe and detest and distain revile him. I wish him the worst and pray nightly against him, inviting the Devil to come and arrest him. He’s eaten my kittens and drowned my poor husband and gods only know of my sisters and brothers. What business have you, Mr. Magical Cat, with this plague of all nature and student of cruelty?”

“Briefly, I’m here to commend him to memory.”

“Kill him?”


“Let us put end to that shape-shifting travesty. How shall I help thee achieve it most violently?”

“Tell me the whole of your knowledge about him. His tastes and compulsions and powers and weaknesses; factors historic and current particulars. Vet me his nature in word and behavior, his urges and longings and terrors and cravings.”

“I shall without preface, Sir Puss, for I love thee. And wish thee success in this hazardous venture.” And so for an hour Libida wove details. The Miller made note of each relevant datum; confected a plan to achieve his objective.

Yet never a moment passed by without struggle. For deep in the lobe of the left cerebellum the Self of the cat remained clutched by desire. And never a nerve or a tendon or muscle was free from the strum of erotic sensation.

That whiskered perfection and gem of creation, at last having shared every scrap of intelligence useful to putting an end to the monster, at last fixed her eyes on the prince of all mousers. They shone with a bright and exuberant yellow that rattled the cat to its bubbling marrow.

“The mission you plan is a hazardous business. There’s no way to know you will live to the finish. I’ve been without husband for several long seasons, and you seem well stocked with the old-fashioned moxie. I hope you will stay just another few moments to dive in the fire I’m patiently stoking. ”

The odors infilling and grilling his nostrils encumbered the Miller’s intransient spirit. He croaked in a suddenly wobbly diction, “Heaven forbid I give in to this horror, succumb to the beast while my rescue of Freddle is pledged to the wife who is queen of my bosom…”

Then nothing remained of his noble resistance.

Their howls rang out from the depths of the basement. Mice clung together in squeaking aphasia. Horses reared up in the hay of the stable. The peasants at home in their hovels felt queasy. And when it was over, the dreamer sequestered redoubled his vow never, ever to waken. The Miller, however, was deeply conflicted. For shame, like a shroud, cast its shadow around him. He could not deny the experience left him not nearly so sickened as might be expected. Despite he lacked body, a warming sensation pervaded the ghost with a deep satisfaction. Perhaps, he reflected, such wretched behavior is part of the price I must pay going forward. If I’m to succeed in my rescue of Freddle, I may need Libida’s continued assistance.

He waited ‘till all of the limbs became steady then dashed up the stairs to the castle’s great dining hall seeking that grand and felonious creature who gazed out a window as wide as all nature that reached from the floor to the chandeliered ceiling enframing a vista of limitless barley entombed by the fruit of the ongoing blizzard.

The Miller took breath upon glimpsing the creature. Then molded his mouth to say: “Begging your pardon!”

The monster wheeled ‘round to confront his intruder. The bell of his alto, refined as red wine, stood in contrast grotesque to its horrid proportions: “And you, sir?” the dread apparition demanded.

At seven feet high, he was human in structure but covered with thickets of wicked small bristles. ‘Round he was wrapped in robe of vermillion trimmed richly by pelts of unfortunate marmots whose fur was like snow lying soft on the barley. His head was a buffalo’s sprouting such antlers as favored by demons and goats of the mountains. The beak of a badger-hawk curved to its chin and a snaggled arrangement of human dentition grinned out from the muscular jaws of a lion. His paws were configured for murder and mayhem. Long talons extruded his digits like sabers. His feet bore a set of provocative toenails. His eyes were as red as the bloodiest sunset.

He snarled at the cat and informed him in whisper: “Present me some scrap of a justification for breaching this chamber without invitation. I’m only too happy to puncture and gut thee in hopes of a flicker of mild entertainment.”

He raised up a cane carved of needle-sharp ivory.


September 21, 2014

The Situation in Ukraine

Filed under: Ukraine — louisproyect @ 8:49 pm

Ukrainian soldiers examine a damaged tank

I have a sense of déjà vu with Ukraine. Not long ago, before Russia poured men and heavy weaponry into Donbas and scattered the Ukrainian military to the four winds, the “anti-imperialist” left was beside itself over war between Russia and NATO. From the rhetoric you’d think a new Operation Barbarossa was in the offing. As about as pure an example of this way of thinking, WSWS.org told its readers on August 11th that “Assault on Donetsk risks war with Russia”, alluding to Samantha Power’s warnings that the US would find a Russian intervention “unacceptable”.

In reality, the USA had about as much interest in a military confrontation with Russia as did in “regime change” in Syria just a year ago when the same kind of apocalyptic predictions were made. After the sarin attacks in East Ghouta and Obama’s “red line” bluster, there were the same kinds of doomsday scenarios. Typical was Alan Freeman’s comment on a FB thread: “David, I don’t really know how to begin. The US state is trying to start World War III by mobilising a Europe-US coalition to retake the ground lost to an opposition which, by the admission of its own most prominent defector, commands the support of at most 4 million out of 24 million of the people of Syria.”

I have subsequently learned that Freeman, a fairly prestigious economist, is a member of Socialist Action in Britain, a group that has begun networking with the Russian far right, under the auspices of the impresario of right-left convergence Boris Kagarlitsky. Freeman attended a conference in Yalta on July 2nd that did not pass the smell test as International Viewpoint, an organ of the NPA-affiliated Fourth International, reported:

Besides the Institute of Globalisation Studies and Social Movements, of which Kagarlitsky is the Director, the conference was organized by the far right New Rus’ Coordination and Support Centre, and the Osnovanye Fund. This fund was established recently to support the separatist movement by such Russian personalities as Alexandr Prokhanov and Vladislav Shurygin (editors of the far right journal, Zavtra) or Nikolai Starikov (leader of the far right Party of Great Fatherland). It was attended from Britain by Richard Brenner of Workers Power and Alan Freeman of Socialist Action, both supporters of the Ukraine Anti-Fascist Solidarity campaign.

Zavtra is quite a publication for those like Freeman to be connected with even on a three degree of separation basis. A Web-TV outlet launched by the publisher of Zavtra featured one Konstantin Dushenov, the creator of a video series titled “Russia With a Knife in its Back: Jewish Fascism and the Genocide of the Russian People,” and the publisher of a 2006 open letter asking for a ban on Jewish organizations. Nice.

Just as was the case with Syria, there was no war. Those instead who were supposed to be shock troops in Syria ended up being blown to smithereens by barrel bombs and/or starved into submission. If you read people like Freeman, you’d think that Obama was going to invite the FSA to the White House and present them with gift-wrapped Stinger missiles. Instead they got nothing but ready-to-eat meals and enough light arms to keep them going—just barely.

If you want to get a real idea of what is going on Ukraine now, I refer you to an article in the NY Review by Tim Judah titled “Ukraine: What Putin has Won”. He describes something that sounds a lot like what Saddam Hussein’s army looked like as it fled Kuwait in 1991: “Inside Ukraine, driving north from the Sea of Azov, an appendage of the Black Sea, along rutted country roads that snake parallel to the Russian border, we saw abandoned Ukrainian military encampments and the twisted remains of tanks, armored personnel carriers, and other vehicles.”

Judah interviewed Sergei Baryshnikov, a pro-rebel political scientist in Donetsk. Baryshnikov could be relied up upon to describe separatist goals without the leftist patina people like Kagarlitsky like to spread across their dispatches:

If the war starts again, we know what the rebels and their Russian backers want. Baryshnikov, who was wearing a lapel pin of Novorossiya’s flag, a variation on an old Russian imperial flag of yellow, white, and black, explained that Novorossiya would encompass all of the southeast of Ukraine, as far west as Transnistria, a breakaway part of Moldova that is funded by Russia and defended by Russian troops. If this ever happens, what is left of Ukraine would have lost its entire Black Sea coast; Crimea, which has already been annexed to Russia, would be connected to Russia by land, which it is not now; and the historic port of Odessa would be lost to Ukraine as well.

“Ukrainians,” said Baryshnikov, “are an artificially created nation, not like the French or Russians.” Creating Novorossiya, he conceded, was going to be hard, both militarily and politically, but he and his colleagues were doing their best to spread the word. Novorossiya, he explained, encompassed former Russian imperial territories that would first be “liberated” and “then become part of the Russian Federation.” The leading ideologist of this cause is Aleksandr Dugin, a proponent of a Russian Eurasian empire, run from Moscow, who used to be a marginal figure in Russian extreme nationalist politics but is no longer. “He is our friend,” said Baryshnikov. “I really appreciate him.”

The reference to “former Russian imperial territories” is key. People like Freeman, who come out of the Trotskyist movement (his group came out of the IMG, the same one Tariq Ali belonged to), tend to respond to trouble spots like Ukraine as if they were defending the USSR. Instead of seeing Vladimir Putin as an enemy of the working class, they posit him as a bourgeois nationalist with an eye toward “development” as Freeman’s article on the Post Globalization Initiative website indicates:

But we see a different side of the coin in many developing countries, most notably those using state stimulus and particularly investment stimuli. Is this a purely BRICS phenomenon? No, because countries like Vietnam are quite small but are stimulating their growth with such policies.

However there several good reasons the BRICS are playing a leading role. The first is an issue I first drew attention to in a book that Boris Kagarlitsky and I published together, back in 2004. Challenging the thesis of ‘globalization’ I argued for ‘continentalisation’ – both to show that it was the real process taking place, and to show the deleterious effect on countries that didn’t recognize its importance.

I guess if socialism is no longer on the agenda, except as something you pay lip-service to on May Day, you may as well settle for “development” even based on capitalism. As far as Vietnam’s “stimulus” is concerned, I doubt that most sixties radicals, including Freeman, had in mind when they marched against the war. Like Russia, Vietnam is a breeding ground for millionaires and now its first billionaire. I will not begrudge Freeman and Kagarlitsky for getting excited over such “progress” but I will remain the Unrepentant Marxist if you don’t mind.

On September 16th Charles King, Professor of International Affairs and Government at Georgetown University, wrote a perceptive article for the Washington Post titled “Ukraine’s breakaway region is becoming a de facto country”. Oddly enough, the pro-Putin left has not even recognized the facts on the ground that specialists like Judah and King have accepted. One supposes that this would rob them of a rallying cry against a White House bent on war, even if Obama has pretty much washed his hands of Ukraine.

Referring to countries that are being reconstituted as Novorossiya, King describes a strategy that was taking shape under Boris Yeltsin, supposedly a figure who was always supposed to be catering to American interests (even if you bracket out the unfortunate Chechens.)

Russian support for the secessionists was critical, and this support long predated the advent of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Indeed, in Ukraine, Putin has used many of the moves pioneered during the administration of former President Boris Yeltsin. The use of “volunteers” sent across the border, the leaking of material from Russian weapons stores, and the dispatch of Russian administrative personnel to staff local offices (especially in the security sector) were defining features of the brief wars in Transnistria, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia in the early 1990s. Some of these individuals have now decamped to Novorossiya, bringing nearly two decades of experience in running the military, security, and economic establishments of countries no one actually recognizes. All of this does not bode well for pulling Novorossiya back into the Ukrainian fold.

Like all the other former Soviet republics that ended up with a bloody nose and dashed hopes, Ukraine has learned that Russian power is not to be trifled with:

Fourth, no external power besides Russia has an incentive for deep involvement beyond helping to stop the fighting. Ukraine has actually fallen into precisely the trap that Moldova, Georgia, and Azerbaijan stumbled into in the early 1990s. The Kiev government chose to use force against a secessionist threat, but it had neither the resolve nor the capacity to overcome it on the battlefield. The result has been increasing pressure from the international community to agree to a cease-fire, which has now held (with serious violations) for more than a week.

As has been the case since the days of Katherine the Great, Russia is a weak and dependent nation both as an outright colony and as an “independent” state. One of the things that used to get a bitter laugh from me was the warning I used to hear about how NATO was encroaching on Russia’s sphere of influence. The analogy was apt but the meaning lost on those making it. Common Dreams, a liberal website, published an article by Jon Queally titled “Will Ukraine Bid To Join NATO Unleash 21st Century Cold War?” (http://www.commondreams.org/news/2014/08/29/will-ukraine-bid-join-nato-unleash-21st-century-cold-war) that should have raised eyebrows but probably didn’t: “To explain the reasoning behind Russia’s thinking, Steele explained, “Imagine what would happen if Canada or Mexico decided to join an anti-U.S. alliance? Obviously, the U.S. would be concerned. Russia has legitimate concerns about the expansion of NATO.” Well, I don’t know about Canada but the people of Mexico would resent the idea that the USA had any “legitimate concerns” about anything happening within its borders that have been violated time and again over the past 150 years.

Texas, like Donbas, was acquired through violence. The USA expanded just like the Russian Empire. What Katherine the Great accomplished in Ukraine, so did Polk in Texas and elsewhere. Even after the bullets stopped flying, the USA interfered with Mexico’s sovereignty either through the agency of the US Marines in its oil fields or through NAFTA.

The sad thing about people like Queally, Stephen F. Cohen, Boris Kagarlitsky, Alan Freeman and a host of others is that they cannot recognize Ukraine as a victim of imperialism. The only imperialism that matters to them is the one based in Washington. Despite the death of Joseph Stalin and despite the decline of Stalinism globally, its heritage continues apace in this most degraded aspect of a global left willing to serve the Kremlin in its ambitions to reconstruct the Czarist Empire. At least with Stalin, you could argue that the collectivist foundations of the USSR were worth preserving. What this reflex action on behalf of Gucci and BMW dealerships in Moscow has to do with past struggles is simply beyond me.



September 20, 2014

Sustain CounterPunch and sustain yourself

Filed under: anthropology,Counterpunch,indigenous — louisproyect @ 2:24 pm

Screen shot 2014-09-20 at 10.17.19 AM

This is as good a time as any to urge my readers to take out a subscription to CounterPunch magazine, especially since the latest issue contains an article I wrote about Indian gaming casinos that I am particularly proud of. It weaves together strands about the history of New York state’s indigenous population, popular culture and political economy in an effort to look at a controversial issue: do gaming casinos rob indigenous peoples of their identity?

There is some irony in me publishing this article in a magazine identified with the late Alexander Cockburn since I gave him hell about his support for casinos way back when (as I did over any number of questions, while remaining an ardent fan.)

When Jeff St. Clair suggested that I write such an article, I mentioned this to him but confessed that I could not even find the article that had sparked my pique (it doesn’t take very much.) In a fresh attempt this morning, I not only found it but realize now that it was much more nuanced than I appreciated at the time:

[from Alexander Cockburn, “Wild Justice,” New York Press, October 21-27, 1998]

The hunters crashed out of the resort at 5 am. and I read a few pages of Ward Churchill’s A Little Matter of Genocide. He certainly raises victim,hood to the level of political manifesto arguing that his purpose is to claim genocide for Indians on the grounds that genocide has given the Jews moral authority and he wants the same moral authority for his people. This seems to be a sad posture, claiming moral authority by dint of the percentage of your number wiped out, with 100 percent moral authority established presumably when you are 100 percent extinct.

Do the Mandan have greater moral stature than the Blackfeet because a white man’s disease, smallpox, wiped out a higher percentage of their number? Do some Indian tribes, surviving in higher numbers, like the Yurok, have diminished moral stature? Or is It just A matter of “Indians” without. regard to specific tribes or destinies? For Churchill it is. He takes a population estimate, pre-white conquest, of 15 million Indians, subtracts the 248,253 Indians counted in the 1890 census and sets down the balance in the ledger of genocide. Ergo, moral authority amid the ruins. Rhetorically, it’s hard to argue with him, because In Churchill’s moral arithmetic you somehow become a denier not only of the Indian but of the Jewish Holocaust as well.

Do Indians really need a holocaust to give them standing? Surely not. To be frank, they’ve done better with casinos. Is it not more uplifting to see Indians as gallant and savvy survivors than as victim-dead? They certainly ended up with more land than two other ethnic grows on the losing end, the Spanish and Africans in North America. It’s true that disease, evictions and cultural dislocation wrought a devastating toll. On the Plains there were massacres: Sand Creek, Washita, Marias River, Camp Grant, Wounded Knee. In these infamous events there were somewhere around 1260 Indians dead. Between 1789 and 1898 the U.S. Army records 1535 Indian fights, with estimates of Indian dead running anywhere from 3000 to 6000. On the other side, between 1789 and 1898 Indians killed maybe 7000, soldiers and civilians. Of course Churchill would disdain such calculations as obscene efforts to establish some sort of moral equivalence, which was certainly the intent of some of the white historians totting up the numbers and claiming that more Indians were killed in intertribal warfare on the Plains than by the white soldiers. There’s no need to haggle over moral equivalence. The whites were the latest of the arrivals on the scene and got every thing. But rather than tout genocide as the battle standard, It is surely better to see Indians as brilliant diplomat-warriors who stood off three major sets of white invaders for centuries. In the end, the true hero is Red Cloud, the warrior/diplomat, rather than Ian Frazier’s (and no doubt Churchill’s) hero, Crazy Horse. Surely this is a more bracing lesson for young Indians than the cover of Churchill’s book, being photographs of the dead at Wounded Knee, and a drunk Indian on Main St., Anywhere, USA. I say, Get over it.

We drove across the rest of Montana, up over the road to the Sun in Glacier National Park over the Lolo Paw, down through% Idaho and into the tolling wheatfields of eastern Washington, like the most kitsch of Soviet socialist realist posters; With a great red sun going down, a grain elevator and a tractor in the foreground (and, as it happened, a child murderer going down to lethal injection in Walla Walla prison, just the other side of the horizon), Down the Columbia, past Sam Hill’s strange museum, down through a couple of stops by Washington and Oregon cops who probably thought we were ferrying dope. Into Oregon City we came, in the ’64 New Yorker with 4000 miles on the odometer, which now stands at 150,324. Back, most surely, in late 90s civilization. Our hosts, Jeffrey St. Clair and Kimberly Willson-St. Clair, are moving house and had just boarded Sam the Newfoundland until new fences could be built. A chipper young woman at the Clackamass Pet Spa had quoted him $14 a day for Sam’s bed and board, with optional extras. Sam could get a “nature walk” through Oregon’s dwindling Douglas firs for $1.50 a day, a ‘snack and snuggle for another $4 a day, “Indoor play” for another $4, and “sunbath” with restoring oils for $2 and a birthday party for $8. If he had a cat, she told the bug-eyed Jeffrey; pussy could, at $4 a day, enjoy a “mock mouse hunt.” So much for frontier days. This is how the trail ends.

Before giving you a flavor of what I wrote, I want to emphasize why it is important to subscribe to the CounterPunch print edition. It, along with yearly fund drives, is a major source of funding for one of America’s leading left institutions. I should probably have said global since the webzine has readers from every corner of the globe as I discovered after a very well-informed Swede wrote me concerning the ultraright. At $55 per year (10 issues) for the print edition and $35 for digital, it is great reading and won’t bust your budget.

In addition to my own jewel of an article, there’s one by David Price that is of particular interest to me since it overlaps with my own long-standing opposition to racism in anthropology that so often victimizes American Indians as “dinosaurs” that needed to be superseded by “civilization”.

In an article titled “The Bio-Social Facts of American Capitalism: When the FBI Dreamed of an Epidemic for College Professors”, Price, a professor of anthropology at St. Martin’s College in Washington state, takes aim at E.A. Hooton, an anthropologist at Harvard University who espoused eugenics and the theory that there were distinct “races”, each with their own distinct genetic “intelligence” capabilities. Harvard University, can you imagine that?

Using a FOIA request, Price was able to get the FBI files on Hooton that included some articles the good professor wrote during WWII, including one that called for “a program of supervised breeding, sterilization of the unfit, and increased control over the development and education of its future parents.”

A drawing contained in Hooton’s tract “Up From the Ape” illustrates his crude racist beliefs. In the past Harvard had no problem with someone like this holding a post and the U. of Illinois was okay with Robert Weissberg spouting similar racist filth but if you are too sympathetic to Palestinians, you’d better watch out.

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As I indicated above, my article tried to tie together various perspectives to help understand the role of gaming casinos in American Indian society today, especially as they relate to Governor Cuomo’s signing off on them in Sullivan County where I grew up. Among the tribes who had considered making a bid was the Munsees who once occupied the very land beneath my feet when I lived at home. From my article:

Unlike the Pequots who built their casino on reservation land in Connecticut, the Munsees were based in Wisconsin. This would lead one to ask what their connection to New York was. Were they acting cynically like Chief Doug Smith? [A casino boss stereotyped in a “Sopranos” episode.] In 2011, the Department of the Interior rescinded a 2008 rule adopted by the Bush administration blocking the opening of a casino beyond commuting distance from a reservation. It was only natural that the Munsees would take advantage of their roots in New York State.

Like many other American cities, rivers and mountain ranges bequeathed with indigenous names, Muncie, Indiana owes its to the Munsees. Wikipedia states:

The area was first settled in the 1770s by the Lenape people, who had been transported from their tribal lands in the Mid-Atlantic region (all of New Jersey plus southeastern New York, eastern Pennsylvania, and northern Delaware) to Ohio and eastern Indiana.

You’ll notice the use of the passive voice “had been trans- ported”, a tendency often found in prose anxious to shirk responsibility. The Lenapes, including the Munsee, were not exactly “transported”—they were expelled, mostly in the 19th century. White settlers bought the land from beneath their feet and drove them westward, first from New York and then from Ohio. As they moved toward Wisconsin and finally to Oklahoma, they left their traces along a trail of tears, including Muncie.

In addition to having their roots in New York, the Munsees have the added distinction of giving Manhattan its name. Likely the Lenape tribe that the settlers encountered was the Munsees, who called the island “Mannahattanink,” the word for “place of general intoxication” according to Mike Wallace—the Marxist co-author of Gotham, not the television personality of the Indian-baiting 60 Minutes. In describing Manhattan as a “place of general intoxication”, the Munsees certainly demonstrated a grasp of the fine art of futurology.

Want to read the rest of the article and David Price’s as well? Go ahead. Take out a sub right now: http://store.counterpunch.org/subscriptions/. It will help sustain CounterPunch as well as sustain you politically and psychologically in the protracted struggle against capitalism.

September 19, 2014

A Gift to Birobidzhan

Filed under: art,Jewish question,Stalinism,ussr — louisproyect @ 7:05 pm

fiks receptionOpening night reception for A Gift to Birobidzhan

fiks photoYevgeniy Fiks

For people who have been following the Unrepentant Marxist for the past few years, you are probably aware that I am a big fan of Yevgeniy Fiks, a post-Soviet Conceptual Artist I interviewed in 2012 and whose last show on the USSR’s mixed encounter on Black people I wrote about earlier this year.

Although Fiks is decidedly left-of-center, his art is not in the socialist realist tradition to say the least. His strategy is much more subversive. By “flanking” his subject, he defies pat interpretations of sexuality, race, imperialism, the former Soviet Union, and other topics that could inspire boring and didactic treatments.

Although I love everything that he does, my favorite “work” by Fiks was his “Lenin for your library”, a sly assault on corporate stupidity and humorlessness that was described on the Winkelman Gallery, where he has exhibited in the past, as follows:

100 copies of “Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism” by V.I. Lenin were sent out to the addresses of World’s major corporations, including Gap, Coca-Cola, General Electric, and IBM among many others. In an enclosed letter, it was stated that the book was a donation to the corporate library. Out of 100 copies, 14 were accepted and “thank you” letters were received. 20 copies were returned together with letters stating various reasons for rejection, including a particular focus of the library or their policy not to accept any gifts or donations from private individuals. The fate of the remaining 66 copies remains unknown.

It was the same spirit of playfulness, which might be described as a David Letterman gag geared to those who have read Tristan Tzara, Fiks conceived of A Gift to Birobidzhan, described in the initial publicity as follows:

In 2009, artist Yevgeniy Fiks originated a project called A Gift to Birobidzhan. Established in the Soviet Union in 1934 as the Autonomous Jewish Region of the USSR, Birobidzhan was for a time considered a rival to Israel. Although located in a remote area near China, Birobidzhan caught the world’s imagination. In 1936, two hundred works of art was collected in the United States by activists as the foundation for the Birobidzhan Art Museum. The collection included works by Stuart Davis, Adolf Dehn, Hugo Gellert, Harry Gottlieb, and William Gropper among others. The collection was first exhibited in New York and Boston, and in late 1936, it was shipped to the Soviet Union. The collection never reached its final destination in Birobidzhan. By late 1937, Stalin had purged the leadership from Birobidzhan at which time the collection vanished into government or private hands.

Taking this microhistorical narrative as his starting point, Fiks invited 25 contemporary international artists to donate works of their choosing to the existing museum of Birobidzhan. After initially agreeing to exhibit and accept the works into its collection, the museum in Birobidzhan conditionally retracted the offer, in part to avoid confrontation with a conflicted past and the fact that Birobidzhan now consist of a small Jewish population. Granting Fiks the role of steward, the artists agreed to let Fiks store the collection until it could reach its intended destination.

A Gift to Birobidzhan of 2009 was an attempt to repeat and complete — seventy years later — the gesture of “a gift to Birobidzhan” in 1936. As of 2014, it remains still a rejected gift and a “state-less collection,” packed in boxes in Fiks’ apartment in the Lower East Side. A Gift to Birobidzhan evokes the utopian promise of Birobidzhan — a Socialist alternative to a Jewish state — as a point of departure for discussions on broad 20th century’s impossible territorial politics, identity, national self-determination, and a common “seeking of happiness.” At present, we find that many of the same questions from the early 20th century have resurfaced again.

For those outside of New York City, you will be able to take a “virtual tour” of the exhibit here. Here’s a work that I kept coming back to:

VyDaVy, “JEWISH LUCK” (еврейское счастье), two 25”x32” laminated prints. Ink on paper, gold leaf, 2009

Jewish luck is Jewish luck. It is black or white. It comes and goes. But there is always something inside that stays forever

(If you would like to take a “real tour” of the exhibit, contact me at lnp3@panix.com and I will put you in touch with Yevgeniy.)

Finally, I should state that the show had a particular resonance for me as a Jew and as someone who has become particularly inflamed over ancillary questions. As a firm believer that Ukraine was to Russia as Ireland was to England—as Lenin once put it—I found the Kremlin demagogy about the existential threat to Jews posed by EuroMaidan obscene. Almost as obscene as the increasingly rabid defense of Israel’s war on Gaza and the McCarthyite attacks on pro-Palestinian professors, all in the name of defending “the Jewish homeland”. As I told Yevgeniy at the show, the Jews would have been much better off in the sparsely populated Birobidzhan than in Palestine, where carried out a wholesale expulsion of the indigenous population.

Eleven years ago I reviewed a documentary titled “L’Chayim Comrade Stalin”, long before blogs had been invented. I reproduce my article below along with a trailer for the film that can unfortunately not be seen online in all the usual places like Netflix. My advice is to track down a DVD from a research library. They don’t even have one in the Columbia University library. Good luck!

L’Chayim Comrade Stalin

posted to http://www.marxmail.org on February 3, 2003

When he was a young boy, Yale Strom noticed two “sidukah” (charity) boxes in his father’s shop. One was the omnipresent blue Jewish National Fund box intended for Israel that my own father kept in his fruit store. The other was targeted for Birobidzhan, the Jewish Autonomous Region that Stalin decreed in 1932. His curiosity about the lesser-known Jewish homeland became the seed for his documentary “L’Chayim Comrade Stalin,” now showing at the Quad Cinema in NYC.

Based on interviews with current and past residents and archival material, including a altogether charming Soviet feature film of the period promoting settlement, the film not only sheds light on an under-documented aspect of Stalinist rule, it also inspires a variety of reactions to the “Jewish Question.” (Strom utilizes a graphic of these two words writ large in red repeatedly through the film as a kind of leitmotif.)

Most of the older veterans of Birobidzhan make clear that the project tapped into youthful idealism. Combining a belief in communism with a desire to create a cultural homeland for the Jews, they came to the Siberian hinterland with great hopes. Despite the fact that anti-Semitism prompted Stalin to create the settlement in a geographically remote area, the settlers did not necessarily view this as a kind of internal exile. Stephen Cohen points out eloquently in his biography of Bukharin that Stalin’s despotic “revolution from above” did not preclude a kind of egalitarian zeal from bubbling to the surface. Despite repression, many people felt that they were on a great adventure to build a new society, including the Jews who came to Birobidzhan.

It was not only Russian Jews who came to this remote, mosquito-infested region that was closer to Korea than to Moscow. IKOR, an international organization of Jewish Communists, actively recruited people in more or less the same manner as people were recruited to construction brigades in Nicaragua in the 1980s. A widow of an US electrician recounts the arduous journey that brought them to the desolate outpost with nothing but their clothes and a generator that her husband intended to bring on-line for the settlement. Like a 1930s version of martyred engineer Ben Linder who died from contra bullets, he understood that in the cold, rainy Siberian wilderness, electricity could dramatically improve the quality of life.

At its peak, Birobidzhan only included about 45,000 Jewish settlers. Most were poorer Jews from rural Byelorussia or the Ukraine, who were trained to cobble shoes (like my mother’s father) or make hats. The Soviet film shows a bearded Jew struggling and finally succeeding to yoke two oxen to a plow. This image evokes a long standing theme that falls under the general rubric of the “Jewish Question”. There is a tendency among early Zionist theorists and Marxists alike to explain Jewish weakness and isolation as a failure to develop the full range of skills and occupations found in society as a whole.

The absence of Jewish farming in particular spurred not only the agrarian colonizing efforts in Birobidzhan, it also led to similar efforts in my own Sullivan County in the 1800s. Farming experiments were an expression of the “Enlightenment” tendency in Judaism that also produced colonies in Argentina, New Jersey and Palestine. The very earliest farmers who settled in Palestine were not Zionists as much as they were agrarian socialists.

After the USSR allowed Jews to emigrate, most of Birobidzhan’s citizens flooded into Israel. Now there are only 17,000 left. Strom’s interviews with those who stayed behind are among the film’s most poignant moments. One elderly woman named Rivkele explains that she only speaks Russian nowadays and has almost forgotten her Yiddish, the official language of the Jewish Autonomous Region. She is also married to a Russian, as are her children. One gets the impression that such Jews are rapidly become assimilated in the same fashion as Jews elsewhere in the world, including the USA. Rather than having to worry about the secret police arresting a man for toasting a baby at a circumcision ritual for coming into the world as a Jew (an event that the documentary details), they have to worry more about the inexorable process of unfavorable demographics and the natural tendency of a secular society to erode particularistic customs and religious beliefs.

Although the economic changes in the post-Communist USSR have been largely negative (one interviewee spits out that “you can’t eat freedom”), they do include a cultural latitude that allows the remaining Jews in Birobidzhan to study their customs, re-familiarize themselves with Judaism and–most intriguingly–to learn Yiddish. Just as I studied Hebrew at the age of 11 and 12, these young Jews now study Yiddish, a dying language. During a Q&A session after the film, Strom hinted at the class/cultural divide between Hebrew and Yiddish. His own father had become an activist of the Hashomer Hatzoir, a left-leaning Zionist group that favored Hebrew, a language that presumably would sever all ties to the ghetto where Yiddish first arose. Meanwhile the Jewish Bund, a socialist organization that disavowed Zionism and linked Jewish emancipation with the emancipation of the working class in general, adopted Yiddish as its official language. They saw this language, with all its underdog associations, as the appropriate medium for a people seeking to abolish the underdog status once and for all.

I would only add that I regret not having learned Yiddish instead of Hebrew growing up. Not only is that language infinitely more expressive, it is rooted in the lived experience of the Jewish people rather than an artificial construct to recreate a Biblical state that some scholars, including many in Israel, believe never existed.

Yiddish, a mongrel language, perhaps expresses best the true cultural legacy of the Jewish people. As a people without their own distinct territory, they mix with and absorb local influences as well as influencing the gentile population that surrounds them. This has always seemed much more attractive to me than the idea of separating oneself from the unbeliever and erecting fences to maintain that purity.

Russian Jews have always embodied this kind of rich dialectical interpenetration. Recently I discovered that despite many flaws in Arthur Koestler’s “The Thirteenth Tribe,” there is still ongoing research that partially confirms his original thesis, namely that the Jews of Eastern Europe and Russia descended from the ancient Khazar kingdom in Turkey. Today, the evidence seems to point in the direction of a link not between all Jews in this area but a subgroup called the “Mountain Jews”, about whom I had knew nothing beforehand.

From www.khazaria.com, we learn about the cultural aspects of the Mountain Jews:

Occupations. According to historian Ken Blady, the Mountain Jews used to be agriculturalists and grew such crops as grapes, rice, tobacco, grains, and marena (madder). In later years most of the Mountain Jews were forced to get involved in business, so they became traders, tanners, jewelers, rug-weavers, leather-workers, and weapon-makers. A small number of Mountain Jews remained farmers as late as the 20th century.

Cuisine. The foods of the Mountain Jews are outstanding. I have personally eaten the Mountain Jewish versions of chicken shashlik (shish-kebab) and dolma (stuffed grape leaves), and I liked the way the food was prepared and the vegetables and sauces that were used with the meats. There are many very good Mountain Jewish and Persian restaurants in New York City and one of the Persian restaurants is called “Khazar” after the Persian name of the Caspian Sea.

Hospitality. The Mountain Jews were generous to guests, just like their Caucasian neighbors. Ken Blady says that this hospitality probably originated with the Jews themselves: “As one of the oldest inhabitants in the region and the people who brought monotheism to Caucasian soil, it may well have been the Jews who wove the biblical patriarch Abraham’s practice of hachnosat orchim (welcoming guests) into the fabric of Daghestani culture. Every guest was treated as if he were personally sent by God. In every Jewish home a special room or hut covered with the finest carpets was set aside for guests. Every host would… lavish on them the finest foods and spirits….” (p. 165-166)

Music and dance. Instruments used by Mountain Jews included the tar (plucked string instrument) and saz (long-necked fretted flute) (Blady, p. 166). Saz is a Turkic word. Blady also says that there were “many talented musicians and wonderful storytellers among the Mountain Jews” (p. 167). Furthermore: “The Mountain Jews were graceful in their movements, and were excellent dancers…” (p. 168).

Courage and independence. Like the Khazars, the Mountain Jews were “skilled horsemen and expert marksmen” (Blady, p. 166). They loved horses and nature. Mountain Jews knew the value of self-defense and carried and owned many weapons (especially daggers).

Dress. Mountain Jews wore clothing like that of their neighbors in the Caucasus.

Charity. Blady explains that all Mountain Jewish towns had a “house of kindness and charity” which helped poor and sick people.


This kind of cross-culturalism is truly inspiring. It is tragic that the holocaust not only destroyed the lives of millions of Jews, who lived in a similar kind of cultural gumbo, it also unleashed an experiment in ethnic purity that has brought nothing but misery to the people it displaced and an embrace of militarism and chauvinism that were alien to traditional Jewish society, either secular or fundamentalist.

These, at least, are my reactions to Yale Strom’s first-rate documentary. What others are stirred to think will largely be a function of the beliefs that they bring with them when they see the film. At the very least, his film will act as a catalyst on the mind and on the heart. Highly recommended.

Swarthmore website on the Jewish Autonomous Region: http://birobidzhan.swarthmore.edu/

Jackie Cain, of the Jazz Duo Jackie and Roy, Dies at 86

Filed under: music,obituary — louisproyect @ 3:49 pm

Jackie Cain and Roy Kral in 1962. They met in 1947 and were musical and marital partners until his death in 2002. Credit: Bernard Hollywood

Jackie Cain, who teamed with her husband, Roy Kral, to form probably the most famous vocal duo in jazz history, melding popular tunes and sophisticated harmonies for more than half a century, died on Monday at her home in Montclair, N.J. She was 86.

Her death was reported by the music writer James Gavin, a friend, who said she had been in declining health since suffering a stroke four years ago.

Performing and recording as Jackie and Roy, Ms. Cain and Mr. Kral, who was also a gifted pianist, created polished interpretations of Broadway standards, jazz tunes and even Beatles songs. They sang in a sophisticated bebop style, enunciating the lyrics crisply and playfully and often forgoing lyrics altogether for energetic scat singing.

Mr. Kral died in 2002.

“Such is their affinity that when they sing harmonies, her airy high tones cushioned by his supple, swinging lows, their notes could be holding hands,” Jon Sall wrote in The Chicago Sun-Times in 1997.

Their voices had similar ranges but were separated by an octave, which made for unusual harmonies. Their easy banter, and Ms. Cain’s striking good looks and sunny personality, added to the appeal of their music, which was routinely praised by jazz critics.

Ms. Cain’s admirers included fellow singers like Billie Holiday, who once said of her to Metronome magazine, “She’s my girl.”

Jacqueline Ruth Cain was born in Milwaukee on May 22, 1928. Her father sold office furniture and managed a community theater. Her parents divorced when she was a child, after which her mother took a job with a photo-imaging company and moved with her to a rooming house.

They could not afford a phonograph, but Jackie loved to listen to music on the radio. She also loved to sing: She was in the chorus in elementary school and an a cappella choir in high school, and she sang with a band organized by a local music store and on a children’s radio show.

“If people wanted someone remembered on their birthday, they’d send cards in or call the station with requests: ‘Please have Little Miss Cain sing this or that,’ ” she said in a 2009 interview with the writer Marc Myers on his blog JazzWax.

Ms. Cain’s first full-time job in music was with Jay Burkhart’s band, which she joined when she was 17. In 1947, a band member, Bob Anderson, took her to a jazz club in Chicago, where Mr. Kral was the pianist with the quartet that was performing.

Mr. Anderson approached Mr. Kral at the bar and suggested that he let Ms. Cain sit in. He said no. In the JazzWax interview, Ms. Cain recalled that Mr. Kral explained why: “Because they never know what they want to sing, and when they tell you their key, it’s usually in the key of Z.”

But she and Mr. Kral talked some more, and it turned out that she knew a song he also knew, “Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe.” He let her sing it, she said, and “the club went nuts.”

In an interview with The Sun-Times in 1997, Mr. Kral suggested that other factors besides music had influenced his decision. “She was a voluptuous blonde, right out of high school,” he said. “She was very convincing.”

Ms. Cain and Mr. Kral began to work as a duo in Chicago clubs. Their breakthrough came when the saxophonist Charlie Ventura hired them for his band. They worked for him for a year and a half and briefly again in 1953. In 1954, they hit the cabaret circuit on their own.

Their relationship was strictly professional, Ms. Cain told The San Francisco Chronicle in 1995, until one day “I leaned over and kissed him. A big, juicy wet one.”

They married in 1949. They had two daughters, Dana Kral, who survives her, and Niki Kral, who died in a car accident in 1973. Ms. Cain is also survived by two stepdaughters, Carol May and Tiffany Bolling-Casares.

The two went on to record nearly 40 albums for Columbia, Verve and other labels. They also sang jingles on television for Halo shampoo, Cheerios and Plymouth. Their repertoire contained more than 400 songs; among their staples were “Mountain Greenery,” “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most,” “You Inspire Me” and “It’s a Lovely Day Today.”

After Mr. Kral died, Ms. Cain occasionally performed as a solo singer. Her last performance was in 2007 at a concert celebrating the centennial of the birth of the composer Alec Wilder, a good friend.

In the mid-1950s, Jackie and Roy recorded a harrowingly poetic lament with music by Mr. Wilder and words by Ben Ross Berenberg, “The Winter of My Discontent.” Ms. Cain later remarked that the song (“Like a dream you came, and like a dream you went”) was beyond her life experience at that time.

After hearing her sing it in a nightclub, she recalled, Mr. Wilder asked her never to perform it in a club again. “That’s a song for your last day on earth,” he said.

How Stieg Larsson Exposed the Swedish Far Right

Filed under: Fascism,journalism,literature,popular culture,Sweden — louisproyect @ 1:04 pm
Kicking the Hornets’ Nest

How Stieg Larsson Exposed the Swedish Far Right


For the average person the early death of Stieg Larsson must have come as a disappointment since that meant that the fourth Dragon Tattoo novel would remain uncompleted, the last in a series that were perfect reading on the bus or subway going to work. I understood how they might feel since I once missed my stop while reading the account of the petite but potent Lisbeth Salander beating up a 300-pound biker and stealing his Harley-Davidson.

But after reading Jan-Erik Pettersson’s “Stieg Larsson: the real story of the man who played with fire”, I felt a keener loss, that of a man who I never met but now miss as a comrade in the fight against a decaying capitalist system. I was always aware that Karl Stig-Erland “Stieg” Larsson, who died at the age of 50 from a heart attack on November 9, 2005, was a member of the Trotskyist movement–as was I–but never knew much about what he did in between the time he left the movement and began writing the novels that made him famous. I was under the impression that he made his living as a journalist but that would be like saying that John Reed did so as well. Like so many journalists with integrity over the last 100 years, Stieg Larsson aimed his words like a Molotov cocktail at the forces of capitalist reaction. If anything, the exploits of Mikael Blomkvist, the journalist hero of his novels, pale in comparison to the life that the author led.

I picked up Pettersson’s book (used copies sell for a penny on Amazon.com!) primarily to get a handle on how Sweden moved away from the welfare state in the 80s and 90s and on how those changes impacted the Marxist detective novel writers I wrote about inCounterPunch recently. While the book provided valuable information that allowed me to put someone like Henning Mankell, the creator of the Wallender novels, into context, the story of Stieg Larsson began to captivate me, so much so that I decided to write this article as a way of paying homage to this extraordinary human being. The facts about Larsson’s life that follow come from Pettersson’s book; the analysis you can blame on me as always.

read full article

September 16, 2014

They beat Philip Glass and Steve Reich to the punch

Filed under: dance,Islam,music — louisproyect @ 11:19 pm

The growing intimacy between Bard College and the American military

Filed under: bard college,middle east — louisproyect @ 4:09 pm

Parents, don’t let your kids grow up to be Bardians.

I say that as a Bard graduate who went there when it was a bohemian outpost even if it wasn’t very radical. There’s one thing I know, however. Under President Reamer Kline, an Episcopalian minister who ruffled the feathers of the student body on more than one occasion, you would have never seen the kind of outrageous partnership with the US military that has been developing under President-for-life Leon Botstein, who once had the temerity to invoke Karl Marx in a commencement address in the early 1990s. Well, you know what they say about the devil quoting scripture.

As an alumnus, I get the occasional email from the school. Most often they are innocuous items about a weekend up at the school to hear Leon lecture on Dvorak or some such thing. But you can imagine my consternation when I received this last Friday:

Screen shot 2014-09-16 at 10.10.48 AM

Malia Du Mont, who is leading this macabre tour of Murder, Inc. strikes me as the same sort of character that Jessica Chastain  played in Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty”, a woman capable of administering torture in the morning and then going out later to dinner at a quaint restaurant with another well-educated chum where they could discuss Rilke’s poetry. Here’s some information on her from the Bard alumni website:

Malia Du Mont ’95 is special assistant to the chief of staff in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs. Malia majored in Chinese at Bard, and after graduation moved to China, where she spent a year teaching English and a year doing graduate studies. In 1997 she moved to Beijing to serve as a Defense Intelligence Agency intern and bilingual research assistant at the United States embassy. “At Bard, joining the military never entered my mind,” she says. “But I was interested in service to my country, and living in China, I gained an appreciation of American freedoms.” Sheen listed in the United States Army Reserve in 1999, and, the same year, entered the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, eventually earning a master’s degree in public policy. After several years working as an Asian security analyst at The CNA Corporation, she decided to volunteer for deployment with the Army Reserve, and in 2006 was sent to Afghanistan, where she was responsible for providing strategic political-military analysis to the commanding general and other senior United States officials. After a year in Kabul, Malia continued her military service as an Afghanistan analyst at NATO’s Allied Command Operations in Belgium. She returned to Washington D.C. in 2008, and volunteered for further military service in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where she participated in the Obama Administration’s Afghanistan Strategy Review.

There was about as much chance of a Bardian from my generation following such a path as there was me being invited to Botstein’s house for tea and crumpets. (What the fuck is a crumpet anyhow?)

That’s not the end of it. On the Bard College website, there’s an announcement for a joint Bard-West Point conference on the Middle East:

The Bard Globalization and International Affairs program, and the West Point–Bard College Exchange will present a panel “New World Disorder: U.S. Grand Strategy in a Chaotic Middle East,” featuring Walter Russell Mead and James Ketterer of Bard College and Ruth Beitler of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The panel will address the increasing and overlapping challenges facing the United States across the Middle East and North Africa. It will take place, on Monday, September 22nd at 6:30 p.m. in the Weis Cinema at the Bertelsmann Campus Center at Bard College. For more information, go to http://www.bard.edu/bgia/.

The Middle East and North Africa present a wide variety of foreign policy challenges for the United States. The panel will discuss U.S. policy toward the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the aftermath of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, ongoing tensions in Libya, strained relations with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and continuing negotiations regarding Iran’s nuclear program. There will be opportunities for questions and comments from the audience.

Walter Russell Mead is James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and the Humanities. He is the author of many articles and books, including Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World. James Ketterer is director of international academic initiatives at Bard’s Center for Civic Engagement and was previously Egypt country director for AMIDEAST. Ruth Beitler is associate professor of international relations and Comparative Politics in the Department of Social Sciences at the U. S. Military Academy, where she serves as course director for Middle East Politics and Cultural Anthropology. She is also director of the Conflict and Human Security Studies Program.

I’ve written about Walter Russell Mead in the past. He is Bard’s Thomas Friedman. People like Friedman understand the true nature of globalization. In a March 28, 1999 NY Times article, he put it this way:

The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist — McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the builder of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

That’s clearly understood by Mead and by Bard’s Globalization and International Affairs Program that should be renamed the Program for Globalization and American Hegemony if the people running it had a shred of honesty. Like Du Mont, the character running the program is a Bard graduate–his name Jonathan Cristol. In an article about Cristol I wrote in February 2011, I took note of his disgusting take on the Arab Spring in an article for Mead’s “The American Interest”, where he wrote:

Am I really arguing that these states should brutally suppress the protestors and that the United States should encourage them to do so? Not really. The optics of America supporting brutal suppression would not be good for Washington. However, if these governments wish to stay in power, the best means of doing so is to scare the people sufficiently enough to stop them from marching through the street.

Maybe liberty and justice are indeed for all, but these particular protests are not necessarily good for the United States. America’s love of democracy sometimes blinds us to the potential results of the democratic process (re: Gaza) and to the fact that liberty and democracy do not always go hand in hand.

Just the sort of person qualified to organize a conference on the Middle East, at least if you see things from the perspective of the Pentagon and the CIA.

James Ketterer is a new name to me. I have grown to expect new hires at Bard to follow the State Department script and he did not disappoint. He was “country director” for Egypt under the auspices of Amideast, an outfit dedicated to promoting American and Middle Eastern ties. Its past President was Robert S. Dillon, the Ambassador to Lebanon from 1981 to 1983. You have to assume that anybody serving in such a capacity was there to promote imperialist goals, no doubt provoking such anger among the natives that they had the nerve to bomb the American embassy.

Finally, there’s Ruth Beitler, the West Point professor that we can assume was chosen to reinforce the idea that Arab protest was not necessarily good for American interests. She’s the author of “The Fight for Legitimacy: Democracy vs. Terrorism”, a Praeger book that came out in 2006. With a title like that, you can be sure that she would feel right at home on the Sean Hannity program. On February 24, 1967, the NY Times reported that Praeger had published 15 or 16 books on the advice of the CIA. When asked whether the spooks had financed their publication, Frederick Praeger said that he had “no comment”. Back then, you could be sure that Bard students and professors would have been outraged by such interference with American intellectual life but now I am not so sure.

Like all works in this genre, you will never see a reference to how democracies can act in a terrorist fashion. Hamas is terrorist but when an IDF jet drops a bomb on a UN School harboring women and children, it is the act of a democracy defending itself. Too bad Orwell did not live long enough to see how doublethink functioned when it came to the Middle East. I am sure he would have some pungent words for the likes of Ruth Beitler.

It should be acknowledged that Leon Botstein is not an outlier in building ties to the American military. Like most college presidents, he understands that corporate and military power go hand in hand with the health of the American academy. The corporatization of the American university continues apace. If the U. of Illinois bends over backwards not to alienate its bourgeois Jewish funders, you can bet that Bard will be even more solicitous since its President is a Zionist ideologue. In a January 2nd Chronicle of Higher Education article, Botstein spoke about the role of alumni in his opposing the BDS movement: “As an active member of the Jewish community, I recognize that the American Jewish community is disproportionately generous to American higher education. For the president of an institution to express his or her solidarity with Israel is welcomed by a very important part of their support base.”

All of this is part and parcel of the deadly grip of American corporate and military on the American academy, with the full impact being felt in Middle East politics. Just as Steven Salaita was victimized by the U. of Illinois, so was Joel Kovel at Bard College. Leon Botstein much prefers a faculty that will not have the brass to complain about a conference like this rigged to favor the Netanyahu agenda. I guess for that kind of faculty, we would look to a place like Brandeis University that despite its official ties to Judaism at least hires professors willing to stick out its neck when it comes to Israel, as this Fox News report would indicate:

Emails within a tight circle of academics at an exclusive university just outside Boston founded by American Jews reveal a long-standing and vehement anti-Israel bias and anger at Fox News and a human rights advocate who renounced her Muslim faith.

Thousands of messages on a Brandeis University ListServ obtained by conservative students and reviewed by FoxNews.com were hyperbolic in their condemnation of Israel, regarding the recent fighting in Gaza and prior conflicts with the Palestinians. Accusations that Israel has committed war crimes and “holocaustic ethnic cleansing” against Palestinians appear in the messages from academics at the school.

In one message, Brandeis Professor of Sociology Gordon Fellman urged Israeli academics to sign an “open letter” to “end the illegal occupation in Palestine.” The letter states that “the government of Israel, having provoked the firing of rockets by its rampage through the West Bank, is now using that response as the pretext for an aerial assault on Gaza which has already cost scores of lives.”

It goes on to note that “an atmosphere of hysteria is being deliberately provoked in Israel, and whole communities are being subject to collective punishment, a war crime.” Fellman later encourages participants to read a work titled, “S. African Nobel Laureate Tutu likens Mideast crisis to apartheid.”

So, if you are trying to figure out where to send your kid to school, my suggestion is to give Brandeis a second look. It is there where professors are defending true Jewish values rather than at militaristic Bard College.




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