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Archive for September, 2013

Voices of Syrian women in civil resistance -NADA ALWADI

Posted by admin On September - 28 - 2013 Comments Off on Voices of Syrian women in civil resistance -NADA ALWADI

 

 

Although we now hear guns more than peaceful chants in Syria, and while the news of armed rebellion overshadows discussion of nonviolent resistance, a subtle everyday survival activism performed by civic groups, especially women, keeps the movement alive.
“The day I left prison, I got invited to attend a memorial service for one of those who were killed by the regime in Syria. Everyone started chanting my name the minute I entered the venue. They were thousands, and they treated me like a hero. It was a moment that I will never forget. I never felt more connected to my people”.

Rima, the 40 year old Syrian writer who now lives in exile, didn’t really ask for a leadership role in the early nonviolent struggle in Syria. Her passion was always fighting for women’s rights, as well as advocating against honor killing and corruption. But beginning in March 2011, she found herself among thousands of other Syrians fighting through social media or on the streets for a bigger cause – democracy in Syria.

Syrian women have played an important role in nonviolent protests when the Syrian uprising began. But as the conflict turned violent, men and their guns came to dominate the struggle. And with the advent of armed insurgent groups like the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Liberation Army, stories of civil resistance in Syria, like Rima’s story, have been submerged.

Today, many say that the role of women in the Syrian uprising has diminished as the struggle has become militarized. Others believe the role of women in struggle is taking a different shape – an auxiliary role in keeping the resistance strong. In any case, there is a need to better understand the challenges which women faced while engaged in nonviolent resistance before the struggle was steered toward violent insurrection. This reflection can help to identify ways for the nonviolent resistance to remain a positive influence in the country.

 

 

Commitment to nonviolent work but no strategy
 “We were around 100 women. We used to fast together during daytime. We sat together and prayed for the victory of our people”. This story is told by Mona, a wife and a mother, and also a woman activist from Altall.

It is a well-known belief among Muslims that prayers will be answered if they are uttered by a fasting Muslim. Mona’s voice shakes when she talks about these memories. It’s clear that these shared activities created an intimate connection between those women.  Mona and her group would go out for their daily protest 15 minutes before sunset. “We would chant around our area. Then, have a meal together. This was our routine for months, and it gave us courage”. Despite the repressive environment, this group created an outlet to network, recruit, as well as organize street gatherings and protests. Women developed their own chants and slogans and managed to form a unity among resisters in the area.   However, the lack of a longer-term strategy in their nonviolent efforts became evident. In many cases, these women were wives, mothers, daughters and sisters of the soldiers who volunteered for the Free Syrian army. Some of their activities were later oriented to supporting the armed resistance, which may have involuntarily contributed to the weakening of nonviolent discipline in the struggle against the Assad regime.

Other groups of Syrian women were aware of the importance of building a fighting strategy based on nonviolent principles, and they genuinely believed in it.  Kinda, a student from Duma said, “Our revolution started like a baby, and we needed more time to grow stronger. This will never happen until we have a solid and unified strategy for our peaceful resistance.” Kinda organized many protests and strikes at her university. She tried to come up with effective ways of maintaining nonviolent discipline and not allowing violent resistance to take over. But her efforts to succeed had to be replicated by hundreds and thousands, and particularly by the men who were deserting the Syrian army in great numbers. This did not happen.

Being a woman in the Syrian struggle
Women activists in Syria were jailed and tortured. Stories of rape that spread like wildfire were terrifying to most women activists. Despite this brutality, many women inside Syria continued their fight. But they were also keen to use precautionary measures to protect themselves, including covering their faces while in protests so that they could not be identified by security forces.  Nuha, an artist from Jaramana, organized many protests in her area from the beginning of 2011. Despite being beaten, she never stopped organizing. She reflects: “Women choose the safest and more effective ways to do things, and these qualities and skills are very useful in our civil resistance. Women are the best at organizing – the logistics of setting up and running field hospitals, arranging blood drives and donations.”

According to Nuha, women were in many cases the minds behind successful resistance actions that aimed as much at showing defiance as at limiting chances for getting injured or killed. She noted that “when women choose routes for protests, they take into account all elements and factors, and in many cases, the protests designed by a woman will end up with no or minimum arrests and no confrontation with the police”.

Maha, a Syrian human rights activists also observed the advantage of being a woman activist. She said: “in the beginning of the uprising, I used to drive through the police checkpoints with my western outfit and short skirt and they never suspected me. They were under the impression that the only supporters for this movement were the Islamists. The police would have never suspected a secular woman like me”. This helped Maha to move from one location to another documenting and reporting human rights violations.  Later, she was arrested at the human rights center where she worked along with many of her colleagues. She was released the same day and fled the country in late 2012, fearing for her safety. Her story is a testimony to the changing circumstances for women activists in Syria over the past two years.

 

 

Nonviolent resistance persists despite brutality
Mai, a woman scout leader from Damascus, was one of the peaceful resisters who still remains in Syria.  She started her actions by gathering together with several men and women and organizing peaceful protests, using tools like balloons, signboards and leaflets to attract more people. Mai and her colleagues believed strongly in the virtue of citizenship, and they wanted to promote it through legal actions. They applied to the authorities for a permit to organize demonstrations to challenge the restrictive law on public gatherings. They went through a lot of bureaucracy and paperwork and finally succeeded and secured the necessary permissions. However, when they held their peaceful protest in Damascus, they were immediately attacked by the police even though the demonstrators were holding the protest permit in their hands. 
Despite violence, we continue reading the stories of “Daryya’s Free Women Group”, nicknamed the “Spray women”. These women sprayed messages on the walls of their neighborhoods and towns, aiming to unify residents around nonviolent resistance.  Some of these messages read, “Remember that we went out first for the rule of law” and “the revolution passed through here”.

We also hear about a brave woman who in August 2011 began documenting the names of people who were killed by the regime in Syria. She searched systematically for their personal stories, inquired with people about their hopes and dreams, in a mission to document the sacrifices of ordinary people for future generations. These examples demonstrate that a repressive environment and violent reactions to peaceful acts, although creating a formidable challenge, cannot douse the spirit of women in resistance.

Protecting the movement
Many women activists in Syria are aware of the enduring damage that the armed conflict is inflicting on Syrian society. This is why many of them have shifted their energy towards building a strong civil society rather than just organizing protests.  Nuha was among many women who volunteered for organizations inside Syria. ”We try to empower civil society and to give it a voice” she says. “I am personally afraid of the power and money that the radical Islamist groups are acquiring in the course of this revolution. This radical ideology is very foreign to our society as a whole, and it’s threatening Syria’s future”.

Many Syrian female activists chose to be involved in activities that crisscross civil society and politics. Katherine, a lawyer and a human rights activist is involved in building community organizations from the bottom up in Syria, which she and several other women activists are trying to do. Their work focuses on instilling the culture of self-management of local communities through an informal network of people and institutions. 

Although we now hear guns more than peaceful chants in Syria, and while the news of armed rebellion overshadows discussion of nonviolent resistance, an everyday survival activism performed by civic groups, especially women, keeps the movement alive, and this is done in a much more subtle way than overt protests and demonstrations.

This article is based on field research conducted by Rajaa Altalli, senior advisor at the Center for Civil Society and Democracy in Syria, and Dr. Anne-Marie Codur. who holds a Ph.D. in Economics and Sustainable Development from Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris and was a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University

http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/nada-alwadi/voices-of-syrian-women-in-civil-resistance

Delusional reality of Pakistani peace-Sameera Rashid

Posted by admin On September - 28 - 2013 Comments Off on Delusional reality of Pakistani peace-Sameera Rashid

 

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Pakistani political parties of different ideological denominations, after attending the All Parties Conference (APC) in Karachi, issued a communique at the conclusion blaming the US war on terror and the negative fall out from drone attacks for the enormous loss of Pakistani lives in the battle against militancy.

Observers have termed this a one-sided understanding of a complicated reality that will only embolden the militants. Militancy in Pakistan has been spawned by multiple factors; in fact, the rise in militancy is akin to a sedimentation process, where inundation of one layer upon another, has created a compressed reality.

The Tehrik-i-Taliban (the TTP, also known as the Pakistani Taliban) and other militants didn’t simply sprout out from nowhere. The process of Islamization, introduced ham-fistedly in the Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq era, impacted on the country’s education system, legislation and the general moorings of society and gave

rise to notion of an exclusivist Sunni Muslim identity.

Additionally, the Pakistani state’s obsession with India, ever since its creation in 1947, not only promoted a concept of “other” but also spawned a strategic doctrine where jihadi paramilitary organizations were promoted as proxy agents.

So, when the US launched strikes against Afghanistan in 2001, and also made it clear to the government of Pakistan that there was no room for neutrality in the war against extremism, Pakistan supported the offensive against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. As a result, the militants crossed borders, and found sanctuary in the tribal areas.

Sectarian outfits and militant paramilitary organizations, supported by the security establishment to fight proxy wars, gradually joined hands with the Taliban to fulfill their strategic designs. At the same time, the TTP, a conglomeration of militant outfits that range from militants groups to outright criminal gangs, began challenging the writ of the state in the tribal areas and parts of Pakistan.

Now TTP militants are considered “bad” Taliban for launching attacks on Pakistani security forces and civilians; however, mainstream political parties do not deem some of their allies, such as sectarian organizations, enemies of the state as the parties are beholden to vote-bank politics.

The civilian leadership’s brushing aside of domestic causes of militancy and terrorism in Pakistan has blinded them to realities on the ground. Law enforcement agencies of Pakistan have attenuated in strength while militants have gradually increased their resources, support base and capabilities, which along with guerilla fighting techniques, give them strategic preponderance over the law enforcement agencies.

In this scenario, militants would not take part in talks, if and when these were held, from the position of weakness but would bargain for substantial concessions that might in the long run compromise the principles of democratic governance, political pluralism and religious tolerance that are enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan.

To understand the argument that Taliban militants are not an easier foe to talk to because of their strategic superiority over the law and order apparatus of Pakistan, let’s have a look at some of the comparative advantages of Taliban militants:

One, militants have a safe territorial base in the tribal agencies, where they have set up combat training camps that have not been dismantled by the armed forces of Pakistan because militants are engaged in guerilla warfare and have the mobility, know-how of the terrain and necessary infrastructure to regroup and reappear at different places in the tribal badlands.

Two, their sources of funding are both extensive: they receive funds from Gulf countries, raise collections from criminal activities such as kidnapping for ransom and poppy trade, and most importantly, get donations from tax evading, religiously- leaning sections of the Pakistani society, who might not be directly doling out money to TTP, but their philanthropic donations to Islamic charity organizations and madrassas tend to end up in the the Taliban kitty through an intricate web of fund collection and funneling channels.

Three, the Taliban have military-operations capable weaponry and not ordinary weaponry that is used by our enforcement agencies. In the Dera Ismail Khan jailbreak, they have used Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) that shredded to pieces Armored Personnel Carrier (APC), parked by jail authorities in front of the prison, and remote-controlled Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and miniature IEDs to blast prison locks.

Four, law enforcement personnel, including police force and prison security apparatus, are at best trained to handle traditional crime: murder, robbery, procession control, violation of local and special laws and protection of prisoners in jail. However, they are arrayed against a committed and militarily trained force that has been battle hardened in the Afghanistan and has also the support of collaborators from Chechnya, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

Five, they have a support base within Pakistani population, who share their worldview and aspirations. These Taliban sympathizers are a minuscule minority in a country of 180 million but they are sufficient in numbers to provide them safe hideouts, safe halting stations, reconnaissance and intelligence help. Some of the sympathizers are part of law enforcement agencies. Militants, who staged suicide bomb attack inside heavily guarded police lines in Quetta in August this year, possessed complete maps/sketches of the barricaded area, which shows that they received support from inside, possibly extended to them by civilian law enforcement apparatus.

Similarly, militants have plenty of sympathizers in the radicalized but educated middle class. According to media reports, a few al-Qaeda operatives have been arrested from the hostel of two public sector universities along with their technical collaborators in the past week.

Six, while the terrorists focus on a few targets of their choice, the law enforcement agencies have to defend every plausible target, and, as a result, their resources are dissipated. The Taliban understand that law enforcement agencies are over stretched, so they use different tricks to further dilute their strength at the time of major terrorist operations. Background interviews with local law enforcement officials have revealed that a few days before the assault on the Dera Ismail Khan prison, the Taliban and their local sympathizers enervated strength of prison staff by instigating riots in the prison: riots had broken out in the Dera jail two days before the jailbreak, which deflected the attention of the jail administration from impending attack on the prison.

Seven, the Taliban cannot be easily profiled. Unlike many separatist groups, such as Chechens and Tamils, the Taliban have no distinctive physical, linguistic and social features to set them apart from the general population. As a result, they can blend easily in a milieu of a targeted location and their movement cannot be screened by law enforcement agencies. Recently, some of the suspected terrorists have been arrested from their hideouts in the congested colonies in Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi and Multan, where they were hiding easily because of their ability to assimilate in the local environment easily.

In the current circumstances, rather than frittering away energy on pursuing talks with the Taliban, the government of Pakistan must focus on correcting the strategic imbalance between law enforcement personnel and terrorists by building professional capacity of law enforcement agencies to deal with anti-terrorist activities.

Civilian law enforcement personnel, both police forces and paramilitary organizations, require training in weapons handling and modern methods of investigation. The curricula of police training schools also needs to be modernized by including courses on human rights. Often, arbitrariness and high-handed of police officials and rangers, which results from their limited capacity as well as lack of respect for basic human rights, has invited the ire of civil society and liberal intelligentsia, who are otherwise most vocal opponents of militancy in our radicalized society. However, these measures can be taken by diverting scarce resources to law enforcement sector so as to provide them with weaponry, vehicles and forensic facilities.

Unfortunately, government has kowtowed to the militants by conferring upon them the status of a dialogue partner. Extending to militants the offer of peace talks would further demoralize civilian law enforcement agencies and would also have disastrous consequences for the polity of Pakistan.

The ambiguous policy of the government on militancy – especially when distinction is made between ‘good’ militant and ‘bad’ militants – will confound the ground level troops, manning the police check posts and prison gates. The communication received by the civilian ground troops, at the tactical level, to act against militants would be deemed ineffective because of lingering doubts about the support of the executive chain of command against both militants and incursions of other state institutions, such as military manned security agencies.

As far as repercussions of peace talks on the polity of Pakistan are concerned, these would cast an ominous shadow on the country’s already convoluted state ideology. The Taliban may get an opportunity to decide the future direction of Pakistan – whether it has to become a tolerant, pluralistic democracy or a nation where an exclusivist version of Islam, not ascribed to by majority of this country, would become the prevailing worldview.

Sameera Rashid is a public policy practitioner based in Lahore.

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing. Articles submitted for this section allow our readers to express their opinions and do not necessarily meet the same editorial standards of Asia Times Online’s regular contributors.

(Copyright 2013 Sameera Rashid)

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/SOU-01-250913.html

Will Afghanistan Follow Syria’s Scenario?-Andrei AKULOV

Posted by admin On September - 27 - 2013 Comments Off on Will Afghanistan Follow Syria’s Scenario?-Andrei AKULOV

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With ISAF to leave Afghanistan in 2014, the Taliban exercising control over large portions of the country against the backdrop of raging civil war is quite a probable scenario. The popularity of Taliban is growing because of huge unemployment, drugs, poverty and corruption. Mullah Omar controls military operations in southern Afghanistan, specifically in the Helmand, Zabul, and Kandahar provinces. These areas make up the significant majority of Taliban operations in Afghanistan. The executive leadership, known as the Quetta Shura Taliban (QST), is reportedly based out of Quetta, Pakistan. Taliban Commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar controls military operations in much of northern Afghanistan, mainly in the Kunduz, Baghlan, Kunar, Kipsa, and Laghman provinces. Though not officially part of the Taliban, the Haqqani Network operates Taliban operatives in the regions around Kabul… Military operations take place in Khost, Wardak, and Logar, among other provinces. Attacks and operations across the border, in the FATA regions of Pakistan, also have heavily influence and overlap with Afghan Taliban operations.

The Taliban is a long way from being defeated and has been growing in strength. The US troop surge of 2010 stopped the Taliban’s momentum in the south, but it brought about no big gains in the center and the north. The US has actually lost any chances to gain peace, so it is holding talks with Taliban on what is often called «surrender terms».

True, Afghanistan is not a «safe haven» for al-Qaeda at present. Its strength in the country has been reduced, but it is still very much there. The first half of 2013 showed a rise of 24% compared with 2012 in civil casualties. The ISAF territorial gains are by no means irreversible. Since 2001 insurgents have killed more than 3,000 coalition troops. On and off members of the Afghan security forces turn their arms on coalition troops. At least 60 NATO servicemen were killed in such attacks last year while many more Afghan security force members have been killed by their colleagues, in so-called «green-on-green» attacks. U.S. military action and Pakistani arrests have put pressure on Mullah Omar, but experts say the Taliban is biding its time, believing that though it might not be able to pursue a monopoly of power after NATO’s departure, it can consolidate footholds in the south and east.

The question of whether the trajectory will be relatively stable or whether Afghanistan is on a path to a renewed civil war has been a subject of vigorous and inconclusive debate. While skepticism coexists with great hope for the future of post-2014 Afghanistan, many uncertainties remain. Notably, there is a combination of factors poised by different degrees to shape whether Afghanistan will slide back to a crisis or whether it will sustain itself on a stable enough path. Those factors include: a level of overall international assistance and the sustainability of the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF), the outcome of the 2014 elections, the prospect of a political settlement, future of the insurgency and regional dynamics.

A March 2013 working paper by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) projects three likely outcomes: «a weak and divided state, a state that either devolves into regions controlled by power brokers or warlords, or one that comes under at least partial Taliban and extremist control». Anthony H. Cordesman of CSIS projects that the ultimate result may be an Afghanistan that fractures along ethnic, sectarian, and tribal lines. Toby Dodge of the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) forecasts that the Afghan president will likely have to embrace the rules of Afghan politics that existed prior to 1979 in which «the center returns to a mediating role between the regions». Brian Michael Jenkins of RAND Corporation forecasts: What eventually will happen, then, is not clear. Ideally, the Afghan government will survive the economic crisis; the country will elect a new government as it is scheduled to do in 2014 and will hold its own militarily, although probably not to the nation’s frontiers. The Taliban and the Haqqani Network will expand their area of influence, probably with assistance from Pakistan, while Afghan opponents of the Taliban and Pashtun domination will prepare their own defenses. The civil war will escalate, and in a worst-case scenario, Afghanistan will descend into chaos – a giant Somalia in the heart of Asia». According to British Commons cross-party defence committee’s chairman James Arbuthnot, experts who gave evidence to the committee concluded «there was a 50-50 chance of Afghanistan descending into civil war».

Russian expert Vyacheslav Belokrenitskiy, Deputy Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, believes there two possible scenarios for the development of events after law enforcement powers are transferred to Afghan authorities. One scenario involves maintaining the current state architecture with Presidential and Parliamentary elections, economic growth and a reduction in the cultivation and production of narcotics. This can be described as a constructive scenario. The second (catastrophe) scenario assumes that attempts to maintain balance and stability in the state will fail, if not immediately after the transfer of power to the local authorities, then later, when the number of foreign troops and foreign assistance dwindles. At that point (some time after 2016-2017) a devastating fight for power could break out, leading to a Taliban resurgence and the fragmentation (and even disintegration) of the country. This worst-case scenario would threaten security and stability across Central Asia. The expert believes there is a possibility the potential refugees will flee Afghanistan, creating a belt of instability in the border areas. A worsening situation in South Asia and its potentially destabilizing effect in Central Asia pose a serious danger for Russia. Russia will seek to mitigate this instability, countering the military and political threats that arise, terrorism and religious extremism, and using bilateral mechanisms of cooperation and interaction in international structures such as the SCO and CSTО.

The upcoming withdrawal of NATO-led forces from Afghanistan can lead to development of situation following the Syrian scenario, Chief of CIS Counter-Terrorism Center, Police Colonel-General (three stars) Andrey Novikov said at the session of heads of counter-terrorism agencies of the CIS countries as part of the exercises «Ala-Too-Anti-Terror 2013» in Bishkek on September 25, 2013. The withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF) will inevitably lead to intensification of internal political struggle for power in the country. There probability is high that the turf hostilities will turn into an armed confrontation between different actors. That is what happened in Libya, Syria, and a number of other Middle Eastern states. The General also said that if the situation in Afghanistan goes out of control due to internal armed conflict, a flow of refugees is to be expected in northern provinces increasing the risk of armed gangs penetration and illicit arms trafficking from the country. According to Mr. Novikov, CIS states nationals, including natives from the North Caucasus and other Central Asia, take part in Syrian conflict as mercenaries, no exact figures are known. The concern expressed is fully justified, these people have accumulated great combat and terrorist activities experience to be used on the territories of the countries they come from, or other politically unstable states.

 In May, Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, said it expects the influence of the radical Islamist Taliban to grow in Afghanistan after international coalition forces are pulled out. GRU head Colonel-General (three stars) Igor Sergun said the situation in Afghanistan poses a «serious challenge to international stability» and the ISAF withdrawal could also increase the threat of terrorism and religious extremism. «A diversified terrorist network, including suicide bomber training camps has already been established in the country and the Taliban has close links with foreign terrorist structures whose militants, having gained combat experience in Afghanistan, could be sent to other hot spots across the world», he told an international security conference in Moscow. The situation could get even worse if those militants resume cooperation with al-Qaida and use force to establish «a global caliphate» from Morocco to Malaysia, he said. Sergun also commented on the situation in war-torn Syria, saying that radical groups will continue to impose their conditions on the way the country is run, relying solely on the use of force. That could provoke the country’s breakup, an increasing flow of refugees to neighboring countries and further destabilization of the situation, the GRU chief said. He also pointed to the growing number of supporters of the armed jihad from Europe within the Syrian opposition. «After they acquire practical combat experience they can be expected to return to their countries where they will be able to apply it on the European continent», said the General.

This September the Collective Security Council of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) passed a resolution on Syria and the situation around the country. Among other things the document reads that the CSTO member states are seriously concerned about the situation in Syria and around it as well as the situation in Afghanistan. Like in the case of Afghanistan, the member-states believe any international interference with the Syria conflict outside the UN Security Council would be illegal. The practical steps to address the Afghan situation include enhancing the military component of the organization, including the formation of the CSTO collective forces, and the step-by-step implementation of the CSTO’s response plan against threats and challenges that originate from Afghanistan and the Middle East, especially having Syria in mind. The priorities include tighter cooperation to enhance security at the external borders, the advancement of tight interaction between the Organization and the Council of border guard commanders of the CIS states and intensive joint combat training and preparation peacekeeping operations. Interaction between the Organization and other international and regional organizations is to be promoted.

Addressing the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit on September 13, President Putin said: «We welcome the efforts of the Afghan government for the promotion of national reconciliation process and the preparation to the presidential elections in the country in 2014… The dialogue with the armed opposition can have a positive effect only if the militants unconditionally observe the main reconciliation principles». He named the laying-down of arms, the recognition of the Constitution of Afghanistan, a final breaking of the ties with al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations among them. «We believe that after 2014 any foreign military presence in Afghanistan should be based on a decision of the UN Security Council», the Russian leader noted against the background of US-led attempts to tackle the problem of Syria going around the UN. «The involvement of the SCO observer countries in the SCO Anti-Terrorism Structure, the counterterrorism military exercises Peace Mission-2014 and the fulfillment of the SCO Anti-Drug Strategy would play an important role in this work», Vladimir Putin believes.

* * *

The risk that Taliban-inspired militancy will spread into Central Asia is now a critical concern for regional powers. The SCO, the CSTO, Russia, India, Pakistan, Iran and other actors have an important role to play gradually involving Afghanistan into the cooperation process and keeping away the repetition of Syrian scenario there. Afghanistan now needs vast economic programs provided by world community and under United Nations control. The time is ripe for concerted international efforts to prevent the worst outcome.
 
 
http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2013/09/27/will-afghanistan-follow-syria-scenario.html

Peshawar And Nairobi Attacks Completely Anti-Islamic-Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Posted by admin On September - 27 - 2013 Comments Off on Peshawar And Nairobi Attacks Completely Anti-Islamic-Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

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In just the last couple of days, there have been two deadly attacks orchestrated by self-styled Muslims, killing huge numbers of people—the attack on the church in Peshawar and the shopping mall in Nairobi. Attacks on, and persecution of, non-Muslim minorities have escalated in recent years in many Muslim-majority countries.

These attacks are nothing but an expression of frustration. The fact is that in the first half of the twentieth century, some Muslims started a struggle against their so-called enemies. But they completely failed in this. They then tried to destabilize their supposed enemies. What happened on 9/11 was an act of this kind. However, they failed in achieving anything here as well. Now, they have chosen soft targets, like churches and malls. Such acts only show the extent of their frustration. The only cause for these attacks can be found in these Muslims’ deep frustration due to their total failure. The time has now come for Muslims to take a U-turn. Taking a U-turn means accepting one’s own mistakes, but many Muslim leaders have no courage to openly accept their mistakes.

According to Islam, these attacks are clearly haram or forbidden. Suicide-bombing has no justification in Islam. With regard to the bombing of the church in Peshawar, the attackers said that they were taking revenge for US drone strikes. But, taking revenge itself is an un-Islamic act. According to Islam, the argument that these attacks are a legitimate answer to the oppression of others is completely baseless. Islam does not allow taking of such revenge by attacking innocent people. The concept of revenge is in itself an un-Islamic one. But, for the sake of argument, suppose there is any teaching in Islam that does allow taking of revenge, then that revenge must be directed against those who are responsible for the killings for which revenge is sought. And, in this case, those who were present in the church in Peshawar and in the mall in Nairobi were innocent. They were not involved in any kind of attack and did not carry out any killing, and so they cannot be subjected to revenge.

Attacks of this kind do not in any way solve the problems they claim to be a response to. Rather, they only exacerbate them. The claims of people involved in such attacks of representing and championing Islam are completely false. Islam does not give permission for such attacks at all. But the real blame goes less to the attackers themselves than to their intellectual mentors. The real culprits are those leaders who have given a political interpretation to Islam. I think political Islam is the greatest evil in the present age. Such an interpretation has made the violence that Peshawar and Nairobi have just witnessed seem justified to those who carried it out.

Some Muslims quote, among others, the following Quranic verse to justify their hatred of non-Muslims: “O you who believe, do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people.” (5:51). On the basis of their erroneous interpretation of this verse, they seek to stir hatred against people of other faiths. Once that happens, then it becomes easy for them to seek legitimacy for violence against them. However, the fact of the matter is that their argument is completely wrong. The Quranic verse quoted above is neither about all the Jews or Christians, nor is it a permanent teaching. It is a temporary teaching and was applicable to those who were contemporaries of the Prophet and were at war with him.

It is a well-known fact that non-Muslims in every country have formed an opinion of Islam being a religion of violence. This kind of negative image regarding Islam is absolutely wrong. The real blame, however, goes to Muslim leaders and not to non-Muslims. Attacks such as the ones Peshawar and Nairobi have recently witnessed are bound to show Islam in an even more negative light. The image of Islam is already under fire, and such acts will only worsen its image in the eyes of the world.

Maulana Wahiduddin heads the New Delhi-based Centre for Peace and Spirituality. He can be contacted oninfo@cpsglobal.org A prolific writer, many of his writings can be accessed on http://www.cpsglobal.org/articles/mwk

http://www.countercurrents.org/wkhan260913.htm

Qatar Haunted by Its Decision to Back the Arab Spring’s Islamists- Aryn Baker

Posted by admin On September - 27 - 2013 Comments Off on Qatar Haunted by Its Decision to Back the Arab Spring’s Islamists- Aryn Baker

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As far as snubs go, Egypt’s precipitous return of $2 billion in aid from Qatar earlier this week couldn’t have been any clearer. Then Egypt’s Civil Aviation Ministry turned down a Qatar Airways request to increase the number of flights between the two countries. For weeks Egyptian authorities had been hounding Qatar’s flagship satellite news network al-Jazeera, storming its local offices, deporting its correspondents and forcing the station off the air. Qatar, Egypt’s new leadership seems to be saying, is no longer a friend. And Egypt isn’t the only one: Libya, Turkey and Saudi Arabia all have, in one way or another, ganged up on Qatar. The tiny Persian Gulf nation that once seemed poised to take a decisive role in the politics of the Middle East by dint of its copious natural gas wealth and aggressive foreign policy was frequently said to be punching above its weight. Now it seems, others are punching back.

Last October, Qatar’s then Emir Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani electrified the region with an unprecedented visit to Gaza to deliver $400 million in aid to the Hamas government, becoming the first head of state to break, in the most public way possible, an Israeli blockade that had been in place since 2007. Qatar was riding high on successes in Libya and Syria, where military aid and weapons seemed to be turning the tide against loathed despots. Al-Jazeera was celebrated worldwide for its fearless — some would say biased — coverage of the Arab revolutions, most notably in Egypt, where its reporting on the young revolutionaries of Tahrir Square bordered on adulation. Back then al-Jazeera was considered the voice of the Arab street, and Qatar, as the channel’s host, basked in its reflected glory.

Qatar, as a tiny nation overshadowed by regional behemoths Iran and Saudi Arabia, has long sought to prove its worth on the world stage through the judicious disbursement of cash and diplomacy — helping to broker peace accords from Lebanon to Sudan. After the fall of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak and other regional strongmen, Qatar stepped up its efforts by backing the Muslim Brotherhood, not just in Egypt, but also its counterparts in Libya, Tunisia and Syria. The Qatari monarchy has no great affiliation with the Brotherhood; in fact the group has a very limited presence in Qatar. But Qatar’s leadership saw the Brotherhood gaining in the region and  wanted to be on the winning side, says David Roberts, director of the Qatar branch of the U.K.-based Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies.

When the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi became President of Egypt, Qatar backed his government with investments and aid worth $8 billion. It helped the Brotherhood-dominated Hamas government in Gaza, and in Syria funded rebel groups that hewed close to an Islamist agenda. Betting on the Brotherhood was the culmination of Qatar’s long-standing goal to supplant the Middle East’s traditional powerbrokers Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey, by visibly allying itself with a rising power. Eighteen months ago, that was a reasonable gamble, says Roberts. “The Muslim Brotherhood had been a political force in the region for decades, and finally, in the wake of the Arab Spring, it was on the ascendency. It was quite plausible that the Brotherhood would have had a lasting foothold in the region, so Qatar leveraged its money and contacts to bet on the Brotherhood.”

The bet has not paid off. On July 3, Morsi was ousted in a popularly backed military coup. Saudi Arabia, which has long viewed the Brotherhood, with its grassroots organization and potent mix of politics and religion, as a threat to the monarchies of the Gulf, breathed a sigh of relief and offered the new military leadership $5 billion in aid. Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates soon followed with an additional $7 billion. Morsi is now in jail, as are an estimated 2,000 high-ranking members of the organization. On Sept. 23 an Egyptian court outlawed Brotherhood activities and ordered the seizure of the groups’ assets. An outright ban is expected to come soon. Qatar, as the most visible backer of the Brotherhood, has borne the brunt of Egypt’s about-face. “Egypt won’t be governed by Islamists anytime soon, so Qatar has lost a major channel of influence in the region,” says Shadi Hamid, director of research for the Brookings Doha Center, an international policy and research organization.

Elsewhere, resentment against the Brotherhood, and by extension Qatar, is cresting. Libya’s interim government has lambasted the emirate for its support of what it says are Islamist militias. “It’s not just a major blow to Qatar’s foreign policy, but the pro-Islamist bloc in the entire Middle East,” says Hamid. “Since the two are so linked, it is difficult to see how either will fully recover.” Even the Taliban, who in June opened an office in Doha to great fanfare and Western hopes for a peace agreement with the Afghan government, is now thinking of relocating. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, suspicious of Qatar’s aggressive push for negotiations, has threatened to call off talks if the Taliban keep their office in Doha.

Morsi’s fall came at a significant transition point for Qatar. A little more than a week before, the 61-year-old Emir, who had been in power for 18 years, abdicated in favor of his 33-year-old son, Sheik Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. A few days later, Qatar’s indefatigable Foreign Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, author of Qatar’s aggressive foreign policy, was replaced by 46-year-old Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah, ushering in a new generation of leaders just as Qatar’s old foreign policy investments started earning negative returns. In many ways, the end of Morsi and the Brotherhood’s rise in the Middle East offers Qatar’s new Emir and his Foreign Minister the opportunity to start over with an evolved policy, says Brookings’ Hamid. “I think we will see a lighter, less confrontational approach with the new leadership.” With the flamboyant HBJ, as the former Foreign Minister was known, out of the picture, Qatar is likely to move more slowly on regional issues, and less likely to grab headlines by making bold moves, he adds. “We might even see a return to Qatar’s pre-Arab Spring policy of maintaining links to all sides so that it can play more of a negotiation and mediation role.” Given the evolution of events in the Middle East today, more mediation and less taking sides is probably the best bet of all.

 
Aryn Baker @arynebaker
Aryn Baker is the Middle East Bureau Chief for TIME, covering politics, society, culture, religion, the arts and the military in the greater Middle East, including Pakistan and Afghanistan. She currently resides in Beirut, Lebanon.

http://world.time.com/2013/09/26/qatar-haunted-by-its-decision-to-back-the-arab-springs-islamists/

Hollow Vengeance-MALLIKA KAUR

Posted by admin On September - 14 - 2013 Comments Off on Hollow Vengeance-MALLIKA KAUR

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Why four hangings won’t change India’s horrific culture of rape and torture.
Death penalty for sexual assault is reportedly a celebrated position in India right now. On Friday, in a case that has captured both national and international attention, a judge sentenced four men to execution for the December 2012 rape and murder of a student in Delhi. The announcement was met with cheers by hundreds of people gathered outside the court.
Considering research showing that one in four Indian men has committed sexual violence at some point in their lives, is India serious about pursuing bloody barters in still more cases? The answer is unclear, but the eye-for-an-eye sentiment that has permeated public discussion around the recently concluded case has allowed a great wrong to be addressed inadequately and perhaps unjustly. Indeed, it is unquestionable that at least three crucial learning moments are slipping through India’s fingers.

First, the public, eager to focus gory details about this particular rape and the drama of the court proceedings that followed, are losing the opportunity to discuss the case as illustrative of the lived realities of women and girls across the country. Other recent cases, even ones equally as egregious, have not received the same sort of national attention. Not the 16-year-old who sought assistance from her teachers to report repeated rapes by her high-profile father in Delhi’s satellite town of Gurgaon, nor the woman whose charred remains suggested she was burned alive after a possible rape in Sirsa, in Delhi’s neighboring state of Haryana. Fueled by calls for violent retribution and an additional clamor surrounding whether India has become dangerous for female tourists — a real, but not primary, concern — the violent rape in Delhi has been rendered into a unique spectacle rather than being used as an impetus for discussions at dinner tables, in schools, in dining halls, and in community spaces about the need for zero tolerance of violence.

The loud responses have also diminished the voices of those at the helm of the gender justice movement in India — people who were paying attention to sexual violence and other human rights violations long before this case. There have been vociferous calls for the death penalty, chemical castration, and some gleeful discussions about other savage punishments for those who commit sexual crimes. None of these penalties would provide a just, sustainable, or replicable solution, and some of them reinforce rape myths. (Castration, for instance, suggests that rape is all about sex.) Gender justice advocates have worked to dispel such myths and emphasize the need for more humane criminal penalties, but they have yet to receive the careful ear that they deserve.

Second, and relatedly, India is missing the opportunity to take a stand against custodial torture and to further define the contours of the amorphous rule of law. Originally, there were five adults accused in the case (in addition to one juvenile). Their lawyers reported that the accused were beaten, tortured, and sexually assaulted while in jail. The coverage of these reports was scant, and the defense lawyers were deemed shameless for worrying about the treatment of the accused. In March 2013, one of the five was found dead in his jail cell, hanging — some reports said — by his own clothes, having used his disabled hand to noose himself, a couple of feet higher than his frame, while cellmates were present.

The alleged rape of the now-convicted rapists, and a potential murder, should also be deep public concerns. The reports of mistreatment merited more attention and pause during the recent trial and continue to do so now. For, quite simply, to be against rape and violence should mean precisely that.

While non-governmental estimates are often higher, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, out of the total number of prisoners that died in Indian jails during 2011, 1,244 were natural deaths and 88 were due to unnatural causes, 68 of those being suicides. Civil society groups consistently document the torture and other degrading treatment of Indian prisoners, and it is not unreasonable to conclude that this, too, leads to custodial deaths. Recently referring to the “public secret” that is torture, senior New Delhi lawyer Nitya Ramakrishnan, recounted to the Indian daily The Hindu what any Bollywood filmgoer accepts as unexceptional: “In Hindi movies, unless the cop hits the suspect, he doesn’t talk. [Torture] is projected as a successful interrogation technique.”

Among other possible effects, more robust investigation and dialogue about torture during the Delhi rape case could have helped advance the Prevention of Torture Bill, which has been stalled since 2010 and, if passed, would allow India to ratify the U.N. Convention Against Torture (CAT). Elusive and abstract as they might seem, international instruments do set clear social benchmarks. Ratifying CAT would assist in beginning to mainstream the idea that freedom from torture is a non-derogable human right — rather than dependent on the proclivities of individual officers. But far from moving the conversation toward increased accountability, reactions to the Delhi rape simply labeled “alleged” as a mere formality, innocent until proven guilty as an optional guideline.

The third missed opportunity pertains to the law and its symbiotic relationship with society. Recognizing that violence against women takes place in various contexts, and in the face of many adversities, the Justice Verma Committee — constituted days after the December assault and murder to propose revisions to India’s rape laws — made excellent, contextual recommendations to enhance safety and justice for women. This included reforms around responses to rape in police custody, rape in conflict zones, and rape in bedrooms. (India has yet to outlaw marital rape.) The committee also ruled against the death penalty as punishment for rape. However, the committee’s extensive report that could have ushered in systemic changes was largely ignored, short-circuited by a lackluster ordinance signed by President Pranab Mukherjee on February 3. Additionally, the government has not offered sufficient support for sexual violence prevention or bystander intervention resources.

On the heels of a tragedy, there was a chance, with media coverage, a high-profile trial, and the Justice Verma Committee report, to begin a national dialogue about sorely needed cultural change in addressing violence against both women and those accused of crimes. Instead, in a country where court proceedings and policy decisions notoriously move at a snail’s pace, both the Delhi rape case and related legal reforms were rushed to conclusion. The expedience hasn’t rendered complete justice to the victim or her family, to women or their advocates, and perhaps not even to the defendants. The cheers for the death sentences handed out on Friday were simply reminders of these failures.

Save big when you subscribe to FP. PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images

Mallika Kaur is a lawyer who focuses on gender and minority issues in the United States and South Asia. She received her JD from Berkeley School of Law and MPP from Harvard Kennedy School.

 http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/09/13/hollow_vengeance_india_delhi_rape?print=yes&hidecomments=yes&page=full

The Dilemma of Freedom of Conscience: Lenin on Religion, the National Question and the Bund-Roland Boer

Posted by admin On September - 14 - 2013 Comments Off on The Dilemma of Freedom of Conscience: Lenin on Religion, the National Question and the Bund-Roland Boer

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Lenin’s name is not one usually associated with freedom of conscience. Was he not the doctrinaire sectarian who brooked no difference of opinion? Did he not trample over his own convictions in the callous quest for power?[1] Careful consideration of his texts reveals a very different picture, one in which he struggles to articulate a radical freedom of conscience. The problem for many readers in our context is that freedom of conscience is automatically associated with a liberal agenda, predicated on the “rights” of the sacrosanct private individual. Lenin and those around him attempted to articulate freedom of conscience in a rather different fashion, asking whether it might be possible to delink freedom of conscience from the liberal project. How might it be rethought from very different, collective situation? I explore this question in three instances, concerning religion, the national question and relations between the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP) and the Bund, or the General Jewish Workers’ Union of Lithuania, Poland, and Russia. Here we find that Lenin struggles with the question of freedom of conscience, occasionally glimpsing a more radical, dialectical form only to fall short once again. Indeed, it seems that those around him pushed the internal logic of his arguments to their natural conclusion. In many respects, the project of a radically collective freedom of conscience remains an unfinished project.

      Before I proceed, a word on my approach to Lenin’s material: I do not succumb to the fetish of context, seeking to explain all by reference to the twists of events. Among the many problems with such a position, the ability of texts to transcend their contexts, both in the time of those contexts and after they have passed, indicates the limitations of the interpretive cage of context. Instead, I focus on the actual texts by Lenin, seek their internal workings, tensions, insights and false turns. In this way, we may explore at a deeper level the workings of his arguments, with both their problems and promise.

Religion

     “This is another instance of God (if he exists, of course) …”[2]

Freedom of conscience first comes to the fore in Lenin’s texts with respect to religion. Despite all his castigating of religion as both result of and contributor to suffering, as a feature of human existence that would be overcome through revolution and education, Lenin had to deal with a central platform of European Social Democracy.[3] As the Erfurt Program of 1891 stated, “Declaration that religion is a private matter [Erklärung der Religion zur Privatsache].”[4] This position was held even by those on the far Left that would form the Spartacus Group in Germany. For example, Rosa Luxemburg argues vehemently in Socialism and the Churches from 1905:

The Social-Democrats, those of the whole world and of our own country, regard conscience [Gewissen] and personal opinion [Überzeugung] as being sacred. Everyone is free to hold whatever faith and whatever opinions will ensure his happiness. No one has the right to persecute or to attack the particular religious opinion of others. Thus say the Social-Democrats.[5]

      For Luxemburg, the reasons for such a position were self-evident: opposition to the state’s efforts to control one’s political aspirations, let alone religious affiliations (the tsarist autocracy persecuted Roman Catholics, Jews, heretics, and freethinkers), and resistance to the church’s attempt to demand allegiance, especially by using a judicial system saturated with religious laws, means that one does not seek to impose the same type of control as a socialist.

      Often Lenin repeats this position,[6] yet he also offers some qualifications.[7] Distinguishing between state and party, he argues that religion must be a purely private affair in regard to the former. By this he means that religion must be separated in all respects from the state – an end to state support of the church, to the possession of lands, state-derived incomes, church schools, even government positions for clergy.[8] In sum, “Everybody must be perfectly free, not only to profess whatever religion he pleases, but also to spread or change his religion.”[9]

      Yet when he turns to the party, he argues that the party must not make religion a private affair. Given that religion is both the symptom of economic oppression and one of the contributing factors to its perpetuation, the socialists should fight, publicly, against such oppression. Advanced fighters for the emancipation of the working class “must not be indifferent to lack of class-consciousness, ignorance or obscurantism in the shape of religious beliefs.”[10] Now we come across a curious twist in this position, for one may well expect that atheism is an explicit requirement for party membership. Yet Lenin makes it perfectly clear that atheism is not a prerequisite for membership. Even more, no-one will be excluded from party membership if he or she holds to religious belief. As Lenin put it forcefully in response to the Bund, “Organizations belonging to the R.S.D.L.P. have never distinguished their members according to religion, never asked them about their religion and never will.”[11] More than one person among the various shapes of the right wing, let alone the workers and socialists themselves, were astounded at such a position, asking “Why do we not declare in our Program that we are atheists? Why do we not forbid Christians and other believers in God to join our Party?”[12]

      One may identify three reasons in Lenin’s texts. First, opposition to religion actually strengthens the reactionary elements within religious organizations. Lenin cites Engels, in response to the ultra-Leftist Blanquist Communards and their war on religion, to Dühring’s proposal that religion should be banished in a socialist society, and in relation to Bismarck’s Kulturkampf, waged against the German Roman Catholic Party (the Center Party) in the 1870s. In each case, the struggles directed everyone’s attention away from political issues and toward religion, thereby steeling the resolve of those attacked.[13]

      Further, attacking religion is a red herring, argues Lenin, for it diverts attention from the central question of opposition to economic subjugation. The reason: if the yoke of religion is the product of the economic yoke, if, in other words, religion is a secondary, idealist phenomenon, then an attack on religion misses the mark.[14] Should one achieve the hypothetical aim of abolishing religion, then nothing would change, for the bosses would still grind workers into the dust. Yet even with this argument, one might still be able to argue that the party should hold to an atheistic platform, while acknowledging the secondary role religion plays in the economic struggle. So now Lenin deploys his third argument, stating that any focus on religion splits the united front of the proletariat.[15] The Right knows this full well, attempting to break up the proletariat on religious lines, urging allegiance to the church and claiming that socialism has a program of godless atheism, dividing workers along religious and anti-religious lines, and fomenting anti-Semitic pogroms (especially at the hands of the “Black Hundreds”). So also does the bourgeoisie, which wavers between anti-clericalism in its struggle with the old order for political control and reconciling itself to religion.[16] For these reasons, the party does “not and should not set forth” atheism in its program.[17] Or, as Lenin puts it with one of his characteristic images: “Unity in this really revolutionary struggle of the oppressed class for the creation of a paradise on earth is more important to us than unity of proletarian opinion on paradise in heaven.”[18] In other words, a united front is needed, drawing the line not between believer and atheist, but between workers and the owners of capital, whether landowners or the bourgeoisie. People who still hold to a religious position are welcome in the party, as long as they take part in the struggle:

Jews and Christians, Armenians and Tatars, Poles and Russians, Finns and Swedes, Letts and Germans – all, all of them march together under the one common banner of socialism. All workers are brothers, and their solid union is the only guarantee of the well-being and happiness of all working and oppressed mankind.[19]

      All of which raises the question: was Lenin consistent in his dealings with religion? At first sight, he appears remarkably inconsistent: the party may systematically seek to educate everyone concerning the deleterious effects of religion, yet it refuses to make atheism a platform, accepting religious believers in a united front against the capitalists and landowners. Did Lenin, then, wage a revolutionary war against God and yet offer sops to religion, playing up to workers in a cowardly fashion so as not to alienate new members? Critics certainly thought so, particularly among the anarchists, who wanted a more consistent line.[20] As may be expected, Lenin argues that the position is entirely consistent, invoking both the dialectic and the pedigree of Marx and Engels. The key is that the economic and political struggle is primary, while the issue of religion is secondary. In this light, the complex party platform in relation to religion – both a firm position against religion and the refusal to require atheism as a pre-requisite to party membership – begins to make sense.

      Yet Lenin does fall short on what may be called the dialectic of collectives, for here he is not dialectical enough. Behind his treatment of the party’s explicit platform on religion and the acceptance of a believer within the party lies the distinction between collective and individual approaches to these matters. In effect, he asks: do we operate from the basis of the private individual, allowing full reign to individual freedom of conscience even within the party, or do we begin with the collective and see what the ramifications are? This question is implicit in the statement, “We allow freedom of opinion within the Party, but to certain limits, determined by freedom of grouping.”[21] If the collective has come to agreed-upon positions, through open debate (Lenin was a great proponent of arguing vehemently and openly, for this produced a healthy party) and congresses, then those who join need to abide by those positions. At various times, he attacked Mensheviks, liquidators, the Bund, and many others, not because of his supposedly dictatorial ambitions, but because they did not abide by collectively-agreed positions. The same applied to religion.

      In “The Attitude of the Workers’ Party to Religion,” Lenin provides three examples: one of a priest, the other of a worker, and the third of the God-builders.[22] The case of the priest is not an accident, for it both sharpens the issue and was a common question at the time, especially in Western Europe. In contrast to the unqualified affirmative usually given, Lenin states: if a priest affirms the party program, if he shares the aims of the party and works actively to achieve them, then of course he may join. And if there is a tension between his religious belief and communism, then that is a matter for him to sort out alone. But if the priest sets out to proselytize within the party, actively seeking to persuade others to his religious point of view and thereby not abiding by the collective position of the party, then he is not welcome and will be stripped of his membership.[23] The same principle applies to a believing worker, who should not merely be permitted to join, but who should be actively recruited. All the same, should he too attempt to persuade others of his views, he will be expelled. So also with the God-builders, albeit with a twist: here he uses the same principle, pointing out that if someone says “socialism is my religion” for the sake of addressing workers, for the purpose of getting the message across, then that is no reason to censure such a person. However, if someone propagates God-building by whatever means possible – by argument, in the press, through a school such as one on Capri in 1909 – then that is unacceptable. Note here, however, that he does not state that such a God-builder should be expelled from the party; he or she is to be censured. Why? The God-builders, especially Lunacharsky and Gorky, were close comrades and Lenin was keen to keep them in the party. Indeed, he was notorious for working closely with those whom he attacked in print.

      At first sight, this argument seems quite reasonable, since anyone who joins a political organization should subscribe to its platform. Otherwise, why join at all? But is this a fully collective position? If we stay with the minimal notion that a more or less democratically agreed platform is binding on even the minority who disagrees, then it may be regarded as collective. Yet this approach hardly distinguishes the communists from any other political party in (capitalist) parliamentary democracies. For this reason, I suggest that we may go a step further: within a collective movement the imposition of one will over another is anathema. A collective will is not the assertion of uniformity from above, not even the vote of a majority over minority, but a collective agreement that arises from the complex overlaps of beliefs, aspirations, even foibles that are given full and open expression. Only when these many-colored expressions are allowed full rein, pursuing all manner of possibilities until they collapse in dialectical exhaustion, does a collective will emerge. Or rather, the very act of enabling such free expression and freedom of conscience is the embodiment of such collectivity, the result of which turns out to be a collective will. In short, a completely collective approach is the best guarantee for full freedom of conscience. The problem is that Lenin did not make that explicit argument.

The National Question

     “Sometimes closer ties will be established after free secession!”[24]

Does he make that argument in the case of two closely related matters, concerning the national question and religious minorities? Time and again, Lenin returns to what was called the national question,[25] namely the issue as to how the many and varied ethnic groups would relate to one another in a proposed communist state. These debates came to a peak in the mid-teens of the twentieth century, when reshaping Russia became a real possibility after the 1905 revolution. Would the communists follow a tsarist policy of subordinating all of the linguistic and ethnic variety of the Russian empire to an enforced “Great-Russian nationalism”? How would they respond to pushes for local languages to be taught in schools, to political autonomy by places from Ukraine to the Far East, from Tatars to Samoyeds?

      Time and again, Lenin reiterates the same position: “Whoever does not recognize and champion the equality of nations and languages, and does not fight against all national oppression or inequality is not a Marxist.”[26] It may concern the question of history in schools, the language of instruction in those schools, or the official languages uses by governments, or indeed the nature of such government itself; it may arise in proposals by local bishops, in response to Right-wing attempts to foster patriotism and anti-minority sentiment; it may come up in the context of debates in the Duma and even in bills proposed by the Social-Democratic representatives. But the response is the same: self-determination, national autonomy, linguistic freedom, no imposition of one nation over the other, and no annexations in any peace treaty, all of which was to be embodied in incontrovertible legislation. Or, as one draft of the proposed national equality bill put it: “All nations in the state are absolutely equal, and all privileges enjoyed by any one nation or any one language are held to be inadmissible and anti-constitutional.”[27]

      The reasons Lenin gives for such a position are remarkably similar to those put forward in defense of his position concerning a believer who wishes to be a member of the party.[28] To begin with, the imposition of one language, one ethnic identity and one system of education comes from both the reactionary defenders of autocracy and the bourgeoisie, inevitably supported by the church. Second, the focus on national issues is, like the focus on religion, a distraction from the central issue of economic oppression. Matters of language, ethnicity, education, and even the identity of states are strictly secondary concerns that should be subordinated to the primary one of economic and class struggle. And that brings us to his third point: nationalism splits the working class in terms of these secondary concerns. Indeed, these divisions are actively fostered by the ruling classes to drive a wedge between workers. By contrast, the working class is inescapably international, for economic exploitation and class conflict cut across national lines, uniting workers (and peasants). Workers of all languages, cultures, and ethnicities need to come together in a united front, for class is always primary[29] – precisely the same argument used in regard to religion.

      But now Lenin encounters a question unique to the national question, although it will turn out to be a question that brings him close to my argument for a radical freedom of conscience (for which I criticized Lenin for not being dialectical enough). If one espouses complete self-determination of peoples within a communist system, does that provide the right to secede at any time? Lenin is guarded. On the one hand, self-determination should permit room to secede from any coalition of states; on the other hand, secessions are not desirable for the good of the communist cause. In Lenin’s words:

We are in favor of autonomy for all parts; we are in favor of the right to secession (and not in favor of everyone’s seceding!). Autonomy is our plan for organizing a democratic state. Secession is not what we plan at all. We do not advocate secession. In general, we are opposed to secession.[30]

      He begins by reiterating the standard position: autonomy for everyone. But then he extends this point to state that every part has the “right to secession.” Note the subtle shift: autonomy appears without a qualifier, but secession is a right. The parenthetical comment clarifies what that right means: everyone may have the right, but we are certainly not keen on everyone exercizing this right, for if they all seceded, the whole project would be immeasurably weakened. Realizing he has perhaps let the cat peek a little too much out of the bag, he attempts to push it back. Well, autonomy is part of our plan, but secession is not really part of that plan, even if it is consistent with autonomy, even if you have a right to secede. In fact, secession is not in the plan at all; or rather, it is in the plan, for we are opposed to it.

      Has Lenin come full circle and undermined the standard position on self-determination and autonomy? Perhaps realizing the implications of his argument, he now adds a crucial qualifier: “But we stand for the right to secede owing to reactionary, Great-Russian nationalism, which has so besmirched the idea of national coexistence that sometimes closer ties will be established after free secession!”[31] In our current context, he says, in which tsarist nationalism and chauvinism have so alienated different groups, in which the Russian empire has systematically oppressed minority languages, peoples, and religions, the right to secession is needed. Now appears the first glimmer of a dialectical moment: in fact, closer ties may sometimes develop if everyone is allowed to secede. He is not quite certain at this point, his “sometimes” leaving the observation serendipitous. A few years later, however, the uncertainty of the earlier formulation dissipates and the dialectical nature of his argument comes to the fore. In the heat of events in 1917, Lenin reasserts the crucial positions concerning the renunciation of annexations and the real right to secession. But now its dialectical outcome is stressed with equal determination. Given that communism will be strengthened by greater cooperation, if not as large a state as possible, it endeavors to draw peoples closer together, yet it does so not through violence but through the free union of working people throughout the world. Or in a sharp dialectical formulation: “The more democratic the Russian republic, and the more successfully it organizes itself into a Republic of Soviets of Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, the more powerful will be the force of voluntary attraction to such a republic on the part of the working people of all nations.”[32]

      One may compare a worker who is constantly harassed by her boss, micro-managed in order to ensure she acts as she should. The result is that she works badly, takes sick leave whenever possible, has low morale, and looks to escape at the first opportunity. However, should she be allowed to do things her way, to work in the way she sees best and without interference, preferably without a boss at all, it may actually turn out that she does a far better job, is happier, more efficient, and willing to become part of the larger whole. The closeness of this position to my earlier dialectical argument concerning radical freedom of religious conscience in a collective context should be clear. The more we encourage radical freedom, whether of national self-determination, of religious expression, or whatever, the more will it foster a deeper and longer-lasting collective experience.

Lenin and the Bund

     “For the sake of all the gods that be.”[33]

All of the above came to its sharpest expression in relation to religious groups,[34] especially the Jews. More specifically, the question of the Bund’s relations with the RSDLP pushes the dialectical position I have argued above to its next step: if full autonomy does take place, and if those who have pursued their own distinctive agendas do come back seeking a united front, then what do you do? Do they retain their autonomy in the new arrangement, or does one move past autonomy to a new level of unity? The first may be characterized as the Bund’s position; the second was Lenin’s preference.

      One of the most persistent themes in all of Lenin’s writings is the RSDLP’s opposition to anti-Semitism. Again and again he attacks the tsarist and right-wing “pogrom-mongers,” who attempted to whip up sectarian hatred, split the working class, and divert people’s attention from economic and political problems.[35] On a number of occasions, the social-democratic representatives in the Duma proposed clearly-worded bills stressing that position. Jews, along with other religious and ethnic groups, would not be discriminated against and would have full equality before the law. For instance, the bill proposed in March 1914 points out that of all the many peoples in Russia, the Jews are subjected to the harshest discrimination and persecution. In particular, states the preamble to the bill, Jewish workers suffer under the double burden of being both workers and Jewish. So the bill stipulates that no one in Russia, regardless of sex and religion, is to be restricted in any way on the basis of origin or nationality. More specifically, “All and any laws, provisional regulations, riders to laws, and so forth, which impose restrictions upon Jews in any sphere of social and political life, are herewith abolished.”[36]

      However, when it came to the Bund and its relations with the RSDLP, Lenin took a different line. The Bund repeatedly requested that it become part of the RSDLP, but that it should be accepted as an autonomous group within a federated party.[37] At the many party congresses, the Bund was nearly always present, repeatedly asserting its position, engaging in lengthy debates and negotiations. Yet, although the RSDLP accepted the Bund at the first and fourth congresses, Lenin persistently refused their unremitting push for autonomy. Is this not an outright contradiction with his position concerning national autonomy in a Soviet state? Not immediately, especially if we keep in mind the earlier distinction between freedom of conscience in regard to the state and in respect to the party. In regard to the former, Lenin clearly stresses the point that the Jewish question in Russia is a particular instance of the national question, sharpening the issue in light of the persecution of the Jews.[38] Thus, as with all groups, the Jews should have all the freedoms of any other religious and ethnic group in the new state. By contrast, the Bund’s membership of the party should follow the same guidelines for individual believers and even priests. They may join by subscribing to the party platform, but they are not permitted to advocate any position that is contrary to that platform – in this case an autonomous membership. The reasons given for this position are the same as those with respect to members with religious beliefs and the national question: the need to avoid a diversion that splits the working class along religious and ethnic lines, and thereby the need for a united front that cuts across those lines.[39]

      Now we come to the core of the differences between the Bund and the RSDLP. For the latter, class was the key and solidarity must be formed on class lines; all else is secondary, no matter whether it is religion or ethnic identity.[40] For the Bund, anti-Semitism was the core issue, for anti-Semitism is a universal phenomenon that leaps across class lines. The case for autonomy was made by references to workers who had participated in pogroms, indicating that anti-Semitism had taken root among the proletariat.[41] Not so, replies Lenin: anti-Semitism cannot be universalized, for it has specific class features, belonging at this day and age to the reactionary ruling class and the rising bourgeoisie. And if workers do join pogroms, it proves not that they are anti-Semitic, but that they have been deceived by the pogrom-mongers (as in so many cases in which workers are split by the ruling classes).

      At first sight, the case of the Bund is like that of the priest: join by all means, but do not attempt to advocate a position contrary to the core of the party platform. At this level, Lenin appears perfectly consistent with the position, outlined earlier, in regard to party membership. A closer perusal reveals that the situation is not the same, for the primary issue with the priest or indeed worker is religious belief, while the key issue for the Bund is membership with autonomy, on the basis of a universal notion of anti-Semitism. Now the situation of the Bund begins to leak into the national question, where Lenin articulates a clear position on self-determination and yet holds back at the last minute on the question of secession.[42] To recap, groups have full autonomy and the right to secession, but secession is not part of the plan at all. I would suggest that the Bund’s request pushes over into this territory, straddling both party membership and the structure of the state.[43]

      Earlier I criticized Lenin for falling short of a fully dialectical position, in which complete autonomy, pushed to its dialectical extreme, may well produce a far deeper unity, a stronger collectiveness – although he did glimpse such a dialectical approach in the declaration after the October Revolution. How does this apply to debates with the Bund? In many respects, the Bund pushed Lenin’s position to its logical conclusion, continually asserting the desire for membership with autonomy. In response to this persistent request, Lenin seems to have fallen short, at least in part, resisting this push in the name of avoiding diversions and building a united front. I wrote “in part,” since in one respect at least it seems to me he was correct, for persistent and unremitting autonomy leads inevitably in a case like this to Zionism: “you will turn the regrettable isolation of the Bund into a fetish, and will cry that the abolition of this isolation means the destruction of the Bund; you will begin to seek grounds justifying your isolation, and in this search will now grasp at the Zionist idea of a Jewish ‘nation,’ now resort to demagogy and scurrilities.”[44]

      Is this the outcome of the resolute isolation of the Bund? Now the situation becomes interesting, specifically through the Bund’s refusal to join on existing terms. Throughout the long and fractious relationship with the RSDLP, the Bund took many positions. At times they argued; at times they broke off negotiations and stormed out; at times they came to an agreement for a united front that broke down sooner rather than later.[45] However, it was less through their explicit arguments than their acts that the Bund realized the full extent of the dialectic of radical freedom of conscience that I have been pursuing. In order to see how this act-based realization unfolded, let me fill out this story with a few details.

      The General Jewish Workers’ Union of Lithuania, Poland, and Russia was established at a conference in Vilno in 1897, out of various Jewish Social-Democratic groups. At the first congress of the RSDLP, the Bund became members while maintaining autonomy in regard to questions pertaining to the Jewish proletariat. By the time of the second RSDLP congress, the Bund left the party after the rejection of its insistence on autonomy and recognition as the sole representative of Jewish worker issues. By 1906, at the fourth congress (usually designated as the “Unity” congress), the Bund re-joined, along with the Mensheviks. But the unity was short-lived and tensions continued through to the October Revolution and beyond. It is as though they took the RSDLP position on self-determination to heart and held to it.

      Yet in 1921, after the October Revolution, the Bund dissolved itself and many of its members joined the renamed Russian Communist Party as full members, finally relinquishing their stand on autonomy. I would suggest that this act provides an unexpected answer to a question Lenin already asked in 1903: “Is this isolation to be preserved, or a turn made towards fusion?”[46] Let me misinterpret Lenin slightly and push his question further, since we now begin to move beyond my earlier argument in relation to autonomy and the national question, where Lenin glimpsed the possibility of full collective autonomy: if you grant, in the name of a deeper collective, autonomy free reign and if it then achieves the dialectical result of thoroughly collective unity, what do you do then? Do you continue to allow autonomy for the sake of that unity, or is there a moment when the autonomy fades away, having achieved its task? Is the Bund’s joining with the party in 1921 the answer to that question? We may cite all manner of other reasons, such as the practical realization that they would be able to do far more as party members, that the new Soviet state required as united a front as possible. But I would suggest that the Bund in its own way, perhaps unwittingly, lived out the logic that lay at the heart of Lenin’s position.[47]

Conclusion: Radical Freedom of Conscience

On three occasions, Lenin faced the question of freedom of conscience in relation to collective issues. On religion he argued that one may join the party if one is a religious believer, but that one must abide by the party platform and not propagate alternative positions within the party. Resolving the tension between one’s own faith and the platform is entirely one’s own concern. On the national question he went further, advocating self-determination and the right to secession, but then arguing that although one may have the right to secession it is certainly not in the interest of the new state for everyone to do so. Yet after the October Revolution, he glimpsed the potential of a radical and potentially risky freedom of conscience in which its full expression would lead to a deeper and voluntary collective identity. On the relations with the Bund it was less Lenin’s own explicit observations or indeed those of the Bund that realized this dialectical possibility. Instead, I suggested that the Bund’s own acts, in terms of a long history of alternately joining the party, leaving, and then finally dissolving itself after the revolution, may well be read as a realization of the internal dialectical logic of Lenin’s own position – one that he was wary to entertain to its full extent.

http://newpol.org/content/dilemma-freedom-conscience-lenin-religion-national-question-and-bund

Rosa Luxemburg’s Philosophy of Praxis-Michael Löwy

Posted by admin On September - 14 - 2013 Comments Off on Rosa Luxemburg’s Philosophy of Praxis-Michael Löwy

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There seems to exist a secret complicity between the rediscovery of Rosa Luxemburg and rebellious times. The last period when her life and writings raised much interest was in the 1960s and 70s, during the “street-fighting years” (Tariq Ali’s expression). Could the recent publication of several of her works, in many parts of the world, be the sign of a new “critical” epoch? In the English speaking world, the good news is the project of publishing The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg in fourteen volumes, five of which only with her correspondence.

      One of the reasons for this interest may be the fact that she was able, as few other Marxists of the 20[th] century, to unite democracy and revolution. This is not without relation to what I would call Rosa Luxemburg’s philosophy of praxis, which she once summarized with Goethe’s famous dictum Anfang war die Tat — Action is at the beginning of all. This is the red thread that runs throughout her political writings. As we will try to show, it directly shapes her views on the relationship between consciousness and struggle, on the undecided historical future — “socialism or barbarism” — and on revolutionary democracy. Her main inspiration is Marx himself, and in particular his Theses on Feuerbach (1845).

      When Friedrich Engels posthumously published, in 1888, Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach he commented: this is “the first document where the brilliant kernel of a new world-view is written down.” Indeed, one can consider this short and dense piece as Marx’s first attempt at a dialectical Aufhebung — negation/conservation/supersession — of previous materialism and idealism, and the beginning of a new theory, which one could designate — to use Gramsci’s formula — as philosophy of praxis. While the French materialists of the XVIIIth century insisted on the need to first transform the material circumstances in order to change the individual human beings, the German idealists believed that, thanks to a change in consciousness among the individuals, society would be transformed. Against these two one-sided views, which led to a political dead end — and the search for a “Great Educator” or a Supreme Savior — Marx asserted, in Thesis III: “The coincidence of the change in the circumstances and of human activity can only be rationally conceived and understood as subversive practice (umwälzende Praxis)”[1]. In other words: in revolutionary practice, in the emancipating collective action, the historical subject — the subaltern classes — transform at the same time the material conditions and their own consciousness. This means that revolutionary self-emancipation is the only way for liberation: it is only by its own praxis, by its experience in action, that the oppressed can change their consciousness, at the same time as they subvert the power of the ruling classes. One can follow this idea, like a red thread, throughout Marx’s political writings, from the German Ideology (1846) and the Communist Manifesto (1848) to the Inaugural Address of the First International (1864): “the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves.”

      Few Marxists of the 20[th] century were nearer to the spirit of Marx’s philosophy of praxis than Rosa Luxemburg. Sure, she didn’t write philosophical texts, but she was able to interpret Marxist theory in an original and creative way. The revolutionary philosophy of praxis is a sort of electric current that runs through her work and life. However, her thinking was far from being static: it was a reflection in movement, which was enriched by historical experience. We will try to grasp her intellectual evolution through some examples.

      One could say that her writings are tensioned by two opposite poles: I) historical determinism, the inevitability of the final collapse of capitalism; II) voluntarism, the decisive role of emancipative action. This applies particularly to her first writings, before 1914, Reform or Revolution? (1899), the book through which she became known in the German and International labor movement, is a good example of this ambivalence. Against Bernstein’s revisionism, she insisted that the evolution of capitalism leads necessarily to the collapse (Zusammenbruch) of the system, and that this collapse is the historical road leading to the accomplishment of socialism. We have here, in last analysis, a socialist variant of the ideology of inevitable progress that dominated Western culture since the Enlightenment. What saves her argument from fatalistic economism is the revolutionary pedagogy of action: “it is only through long and stubborn struggles that the proletariat will conquer the degree of political maturity that will permit it to achieve the definitive victory of revolution.”[2]

 

      Such a dialectical view of education by the struggle is also one of the main weapons of her polemic with Lenin on the organizational issues of Russian Social-democracy (1904): “The proletarian army is recruited and becomes aware of its objectives in the course of the struggle itself. The activity of the party organization, the growth of the proletarian’s awareness of the aims of the struggle and the struggle itself, are not different things separated chronologically and mechanically. They are different aspects of the same process.”[3]

      Of course, acknowledges Rosa Luxemburg, the class may err, but, in the last analysis “the errors committed by a truly revolutionary workers’ movement are historically infinitely more fruitful and more precious than the infallibility of the best ‘Central Committee.’” The self-emancipation of the oppressed requires the self-transformation of the revolutionary class by its own practical experience; this experience produces not only consciousness — a classic topic of Marxism — but also will:

“The historical/universal (Weltgeschichtlich) proletarian for the first time since civilized society exists, the masses of the people can impose their will (Willen), consciously and against all ruling classes (…) Now, the masses cannot conquer and reinforce this will otherwise than in the daily struggle with the established order, i.e., in the limits of this order.”[4]

      One could compare Lenin’s vision with Luxemburg’s through the following image: for Vladimir Ilyitch, editor of the newspaper Iskra, the revolutionary spark is brought by the organized political vanguard, from outside the proletarian spontaneous struggles; for the Jewish/Polish revolutionary, the spark of revolutionary consciousness lights up in the struggle, in mass action. It is true that her conception of the party as the organic expression of the class corresponds more to the situation in Germany than to that in Russia or Poland, where there existed already several parties that claimed to represent the socialist program.

      The revolutionary events of 1905 in Russia will strongly reinforce Rosa Luxemburg’s conviction that the rise of class-consciousness among working masses results less from the pedagogical activity — Aufklärung is the term she uses — of the party than from the direct and autonomous experience of the toilers:

“The sudden general proletarian uprising in January, provoked by the events in St. Petersburg, was, in its outside action, a revolutionary political act, a declaration of war to absolutism. But this first general and direct class struggle had an even more powerful effect on the inside, by waking up, for the first time, as through an electric shock (einen elektrischen Schlag), the class feelings and consciousness among millions and millions of individuals (…). It is by the proletariat that absolutism in Russia will be overthrown. But the proletarian needs for this task a high degree of political education, class-consciousness and organization. He cannot learn all this in pamphlets and tracts, his education will be achieved in the living political school, in the struggle and by the struggle, in the course of the advancing revolution.”[5]

      The polemical reference to “pamphlets and tracts” seems to underestimate the importance of revolutionary theory in the process; on the other hand, Rosa Luxemburg’s political activity, which consisted, to a large extent, in writing articles and brochures — not to speak of her substantial theoretical works in the field of political economy — bears witness, without any doubt, to the decisive significance which she attributed to theoretical work and political polemics in the process of preparing the revolution.

      In this celebrated pamphlet from 1906 on the mass strike, she still uses some classical determinist arguments: revolution will take place “according to the necessity of a natural law.” But her concrete vision of the revolutionary process has a quite different emphasis: no revolution without revolutionary consciousness — something that can only become generalized in the course of a “practical” movement: the “massive” transformation of the oppressed into historical subjects can take place only through the revolutionary struggle itself. The category of praxis — which is, for her as for Marx, the dialectical unity between the objective and the subjective, the mediation through which the class in itself becomes class for itself — permits her to overcome the paralyzing and metaphysical dilemma of German Social-democracy, between Bernstein’s abstract Kantian moralism and Kautsky’s economistic mechanism: while the first asserted that the “subjective,” moral and spiritual, change of the individuals is the condition for the accomplishment of social justice, the second believed that the objective economic evolution would “inevitably” lead to socialism. In fact, Rosa Luxemburg was opposed not only to the neo-Kantian revisionists, but also, increasingly after 1905, to the strategy of passive “attentism” defended by the so-called “orthodox center” of the Party.

      Thanks to this dialectical conception of praxis she was also able to supersede the traditional dualism enshrined in the SPD’s Erfurt Program, between reforms, or the “minimum program,” and revolution, or “the final aim.” By the strategy of mass strike in Germany that she proposes in 1906 — against the trade-union bureaucracy — and in 1910 — against Karl Kautsky, Rosa Luxemburg points to a method able to transform economic struggles or the fight for universal suffrage into a general revolutionary movement.

      Unlike Lenin, who distinguishes “trade-unionist consciousness,” from “social-democratic (i.e. socialist) consciousness”, she suggests a distinction between the latent theoretical consciousness, characteristic of the labor movement during the periods of bourgeois parliamentarian hegemony, and the practical and active consciousness, which emerges in the course of the revolutionary process, when the masses themselves — and not only the Party’s parliamentarians and leaders — appear in the political scene ; it is thanks to this practical-active consciousness that the less organized and politically more backward layers of the class can become, in a period of revolutionary struggle, the most radical elements. From these premises follows her critique of the exaggerated estimations of the role of organization in class struggle — usually complemented by an underestimation of the un-organized proletariat — forgetting the pedagogic role of revolutionary struggle: “Six months of revolution make more for the education of these unusually un-organized masses than ten years of public meetings and tract distribution.”[6]

      Was therefore Rosa Luxemburg a partisan of spontaneousness? Not quite…in the pamphlet we are discussing — “General Strike, Party and Trade-unions” (1906) — she insists, referring herself to Germany, that the task of the “most enlightened vanguard” is not to wait “with fatalism,” that the spontaneous popular movement “falls from heaven.” On the contrary, the function of this vanguard is precisely to “forestall (Vorauseilen) the course of events to try to precipitate it.” She believes that the socialist party should take the political direction of the mass strike, which consists in “providing the German proletariat in the coming period of struggles with tactics and aims”; she goes as far as to proclaim that the socialist organization is “the vanguard of all the working masses” and that the “labor movement takes its strength, its unity its political consciousness from this same organization.”[7]

     This “vanguardist” approach is even more obvious if one considers her Polish organization, the SDKPiL: this clandestine and revolutionary party resembled much more the Bolshevik Party than the German SPD .… Another aspect, usually ignored, should also be taken into account: Rosa Luxemburg’s attitude towards the International — particularly after 1914 — that she conceived as a centralized and disciplined world party. For instance, in the “Outlines on the Tasks of the International Social-Democracy,” which she annexed to the Junius brochure (1916) she writes:

3. The center (Schwergewicht) of the class organization of the proletariat lies in the International. The International decides in times of peace on the tactic of the national sections on issues such as militarism, the colonial policy, the commercial policy, the First May celebrations, and on the whole tactic in a situation of war.

4. The duty to implement the decisions of the International has priority over all other organizational duties. National sections that act against those decisions put themselves outside of the International.[8]

      By an irony of history one will find, in a letter concerning this document, addressed by Karl Liebknecht to his friend and comrade, similar criticisms as those directed by her ten years earlier than Lenin: she had, in his viewpoint, an excessively “centralist-mechanical” conception of the International, with “too much ‘discipline,’ too little spontaneity,” and considering the masses “too much as instruments of action, not as bearers of will; as instruments of actions wished and decided by the International, not as wished and decided by themselves .”[9]

      Parallel to this activist voluntarism, the optimistic (economic) determinism of the Zusammenbruch theory, the inevitable crumbling down of capitalism, victim of its own contradictions, doesn’t disappear from her writings; quite the contrary: it is a central argument in her great economic work, The Accumulation of Capital (1911). It is only after the catastrophe of 1914 — the Great World War and the support of Socialist Parties, in Germany and in most other European countries, to “national defense” — that this traditional vision, shared by the whole socialist movement since the end of the 19[th] century, will be challenged. The key document of this change is her pamphlet “The crisis of Social-Democracy” written in prison in 1915 and published in Switzerland in January, 1916 with the pseudonym Junius. This document, known as the Junius brochure, is, thanks to the image “socialism or barbarism,” a turning point in the history of Marxist thought.

      Curiously, her argument begins with a reference to the “unchanging laws of history”; for sure, she acknowledges that proletarian action “contributes to determine history,” but she seems to believe that it is only an issue of accelerating or retarding the historical process. So far, nothing new! But in the following lines she compares the victory of the proletariat with “a jump that takes humanity from the animal realm to the kingdom of freedom,” adding that this jump will not be possible if “from the material premises accumulated by the evolution doesn’t jump the incendiary spark (zündende Funke) of the conscious will of the great popular mass.” One finds here the famous Iskra, the spark of revolutionary zeal that is able to explode the dry powder of the material conditions. But what is it that generates this zündende Funke? It is only through “a long series of confrontations” that “the international proletariat can achieve its education under the leadership of social-democracy and try to take in its hand its own history.”[10] In other words: it is the practical experience that lights up the spark of revolutionary consciousness among the oppressed and exploited.

      By introducing in the next page the expression socialism or barbarism, Junius refers to the authority of Engels, in a writing published “forty years ago” — doubtless a reference to the Anti-Dühring (1878): “Friedrich Engels said once: ‘bourgeois society is confronted with a dilemma: either passage to socialism or regression to barbarism.’”[11] In fact, what Engels writes is quite different: “The productive forces generated by the modern capitalist mode of production, as well as the system of goods distribution which it created, entered in open contradiction with the mode of production itself, and this to such a degree that a radical change of the mode of production and distribution becomes necessary, if one doesn’t wish to see the whole modern society perish.”[12]

 

Engels’ argument — essentially economic and not political, unlike Junius’ — is rather rhetorical, a sort of demonstration by the absurd of the necessity of socialism, if one wants to avoid the “perishing” of modern society — a vague formulation whose meaning is not very obvious. In fact, it is Rosa Luxemburg who invented, in the strong sense of the word, the expression “socialism or barbarism,” which will have such a large impact on leftist thought during the 20[th] century. If she quotes Engels, it is probably in order to try to give more legitimacy to her quite heterodox thesis. Obviously, it is the World War, and the capitulation of the international labor movement in August, 1914, that stimulated this new approach.

      In the following paragraphs Junius will develop her innovative standpoint: “We are confronted today with this choice: either the triumph of imperialism and the decadence of all civilization, and, as by consequence, as in ancient Rome, depopulation, desolation, degeneration, a great cemetery; or the victory of socialism, i.e. the conscious struggle of the international proletariat against imperialism and its method of action: war. This is a dilemma for the world history: an either-or still undecided, in a balance whose pans tremble and hesitate, waiting for the decision of the conscious proletariat.”[13]

      One can discuss on the meaning of the concept of “barbarism”: it seems to refer to a modern, “civilized” barbarism, as Junius suggests by writing: “This World War — that is a regression (Rückfall) to barbarism” (but in this case the comparison with ancient Rome is not very pertinent); in that sense the Junius brochure revealed itself to be prophetic: German fascism, the supreme manifestation of a modern barbarism, was able to triumph thanks to the defeat of socialism in 1918-23. However, the most important word in the formula “socialism or barbarism” is the term or: this means the recognition that history is an open process, that the future is not yet decided — by the “laws” of history or of economy — but depends, in last analysis, on “subjective” factors: consciousness, decision, will, initiative, action, revolutionary praxis. It is true that one can find in the Junius brochure — as well as in her later writings — references to the inevitable collapse of capitalism, thanks to the “dialectics of history,” as well as to the “historical necessity of socialism.”[14] But in last analysis, the thesis “socialism or barbarism” laid the ground for a different conception of the “dialectics of history,” distinct from economic determinism and the Enlightenment ideology of inevitable Progress.

      We find again Rosa Luxemburg’s philosophy of praxis at the heart of the 1918 essay on the Russian Revolution — another key text written behind the prison bars. The essential message of this document is well known: on one side, support for the Bolsheviks and their leaders, Lenin and Trotsky, who saved the honor of international socialism, by daring to initiate the October Revolution; on the other hand, a series of critiques, some of which — on the agrarian and the national question — are quite problematic, while others — the chapter on democracy — appear as prophetic. What worried the Jewish/Polish/German revolutionary was above all the suppression, by the Bolsheviks, of the democratic freedoms — freedom of press, of association, of assembly — which are precisely the guarantee for the political activity of the working masses; without those freedoms “the domination of the large popular layers is perfectly unthinkable.” The gigantic tasks of the transition to socialism, “to which the Bolsheviks embarked with courage and determination,” cannot be accomplished unless “the masses receive a very intensive political education and accumulate experiences,” which is not possible without democratic freedoms. The construction of a new society is a virgin land which raises a “thousand problems”; now, “only the experience permits to correct and to open new roads.” Socialism is a historical product “generated (geboren) by the school itself of experience”: all the popular masses (Volksmassen) must participate in this experience, otherwise “socialism is decreed, bestowed (oktroyiert) by a handful of intellectuals assembled around a green table.” There will inevitably be errors in the process of transition, but the only remedy to them is revolutionary practice:

“revolution itself and its renewal principle, the intellectual life, the activity and self-responsibility (Selbstverantwortung) of the masses that it stimulates, in one word, the revolution under the form of the largest political freedom is the only sun that saves and purifies.”[15]

      This argument is much more important than the one about the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, which became the main focus of the “Leninist” objections to her criticism. Luxemburg’s main point was that without democratic freedoms, the popular self-education by experience, the self-emancipation of the oppressed, and the exercise of power itself by the laboring classes are impossible. It should be said however that there is a certain tension in this essay on the Russian Revolution between her commitment to democracy and her categorical refusal — in the name of internationalism — of the right of nations to self-determination. After all, the possibility for a national community to choose its own destiny, to decide between unity, federation, or separation is also a basic democratic right.

 

György Lukacs, in his important essay “Rosa Luxemburg Marxist” (January, 1921) — integrated in his book History and Class Consciousness (1923) — shows, with great acumen, how, thanks to the dialectical unity between theory and praxis — first formulated by Marx in his Theses on Feuerbach — she was able to overcome the “dilemma of powerlessness (Ohnmacht)” of the social-democratic movements,

“the dilemma between the fatalism of pure laws and the ethics of pure intentions. What is the meaning of this dialectics? The same way as the proletariat as a class can only conquer and keep its class consciousness, and elevate itself to the level of its — objectively given — historical task, through combat and action, the party and the individual militants cannot really appropriate themselves of their theory if they are not able to integrate (hineinzutragen) this unity in their praxis.”[16]

      It is therefore surprising that, just one year later, he wrote another essay — which will also become part of the volume History and Class Consciousness — under the title “Critical comments on Rosa Luxemburg’s critique of the Russian revolution,” which rejects out of hand all her arguments about the Bolsheviks’ policies. According to Lukacs, she “represents herself the proletarian revolution under the structural form of the bourgeois revolutions” — a very unlikely accusation.[17] How to explain the difference, in tone and content, between the essay of January, 1921 and the one of January, 1922? A sudden conversion to orthodox Leninism? Perhaps, but another explanation could be to relate Lukacs’ attitude to the debates inside the German Communist Party, to which he was very near in those years. In March, 1921 there took place an adventurous Communist attempt at uprising, which Lukacs supported with enthusiasm (but not so Lenin…). Paul Levi, at that time one of the main leaders of the KPD, publicly opposed the “March, 1921 Action”; excluded by the Party he decided to publish, in 1922, Rosa Luxemburg’s notes on the Russian revolution, which her friend had confided to him in 1918. Lukacs’ polemics with this document is also, indirectly, a settling of accounts with Paul Levi.

      The truth of the matter is that the chapter on democracy in Rosa Luxemburg’s essay on the Russian Revolution is one of the most important documents of Marxism, Communism, Critical Theory and revolutionary thinking in the 20th century. It is difficult to imagine a refoundation of socialism in the 21st century without taking into account the arguments developed in those feverish pages. The most lucid representatives of Leninism and Trotskyism such as Ernest Mandel or Daniel Bensaïd recognized that her critique of Bolshevism in 1918, concerning the issue of the democratic freedoms, was perfectly legitimate and justified.

      The zündende Funke, Rosa Luxemburg’s burning spark, shone one last time in December, 1918, in her speech at the Founding Conference of the KPD (Spartakus Bund) — the new German Communist Party (Spartacus League). It is true that one still finds in this document references to the “law of the objective and necessary development of the socialist revolution,” but in reality she is speaking here of “the bitter experience” which the labor movement has to go through in order to find the revolutionary road. The last words of this memorable conference are directly inspired by the viewpoint of the oppressed self-emancipative praxis:

“It is by exercising power that the masses learn to exercise power. There is no other way to teach them. Happily enough, we have left behind the time where one was supposed to teach socialism to the proletariat. This time apparently is not yet gone by for the Marxists of Kautsky’s school. Educate the proletarian masses, that meant for them: to make speeches, distribute tracts and pamphlets. No, the socialist school of the proletarians has no need of all that. Their education takes place when they seize action (zur Tat greifen).”

      Here Rosa Luxemburg will quote Goethe’s famous phrase Am Anfang war die Tat! (At the beginning of everything was not the Verb but Action!) In her own words : “At the beginning was Action, this is our motto; and action, is when the workers’ and soldiers’ councils feel called to become the only public power in the country and learn to be it.”[18] A few days later, Rosa Luxemburg was murdered by the Freikorps — right-wing paramilitary bands — mobilized by the social-democratic government, under the direct initiative of Minister Gustav Noske, against the Berlin workers’ uprising.

 

Rosa Luxemburg was not an infallible leader; she made mistakes, as every human being and every political militant, and her ideas do not make up a closed theoretical system, a dogmatic doctrine that could be applied at all places and all times. But without doubt her thinking is a precious toolbox to try to dismantle the capitalist machinery and to search for radical alternatives. Her conception of socialism at the same time revolutionary and democratic — in irreconcilable opposition with capitalism and imperialist expansion — founded on the self-emancipative praxis of the workers, on the self-education by experience and by action of the great popular masses, is still extraordinarily relevant. Socialism in the 21st century cannot make it without the light of this blazing spark.

http://newpol.org/content/z%C3%BCndende-funke-spark-lights-action

US: the economy of 9/11s — I — Dr Saulat Nagi

Posted by admin On September - 14 - 2013 Comments Off on US: the economy of 9/11s — I — Dr Saulat Nagi

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In one day, the multinationals and their guru Milton Friedman, with the assistance of a handful of Arabian whelps, had pushed “America from barbarism to decadence without civilisation in between,” as Oscar Wilde said

“Thinking is indeed essentially the negation of that which is immediately before us” — Hegel.

For the people of the US, the day of September 9th will always be remembered as a moment of agony, of a throbbing bitter truth that transformed the fabric of their society. Dazed through pain, the nation found itself in a state of shock and awe. “The US would never be the same again,” the politicians prophesied. On this day, apparently, an invincible state made for exceptions rather than laws found itself vulnerable to all kinds of terror attacks. The soothsayers were correct. In one day, on 9/11, the multinationals and their guru Milton Friedman, with the assistance of a handful of Arabian whelps, had pushed “America from barbarism to decadence without civilisation in between,” as Oscar Wilde said. These attacks had a certain similarity to, if not the repercussions of, the ones carried out by the Reagan-Bush administration on the civilians of Latin America, especially of Panama and Nicaragua. In Yemen, Libya and Syria, history has the honour of becoming prehistory by no less than a ‘Nobel laureate president’ who intends to write a few ‘lesser nations’ off its page. ‘The evil that men do’ certainly outlasts them.

Armageddon was the banner headline chosen by La Presna, a Nicaraguan newspaper the very next day after 9/11. While referring to that, the magazine Envio observed, “The imaginable and singular tragedy of September 11 surely felt like the end of the world in the targeted country but Nicaragua experiences the end of the world nearly every day [after] the destruction the US government has wreaked on this country and its people. This country has lived its Armageddon in excruciating slow motion [under US assault] and is now submerged in its dismal aftermath. Having being reduced to the second poorest country in the hemisphere (after Haiti), vying with Guatemala for the distinction but at the same time enjoying being endowed with the honour of having the world record for concentration of wealth.” (“The Armageddon effect — The final test”, Envio, October 2001). The leftovers of this Armageddon continued to play havoc in the countries of the South cone till the end of the 20th century.

In the 1980s Nicaragua was declared “a cancer here in our land mass, a privileged sanctuary of terrorists and subversives just two days driving time away from Harlington Texas.” Reagan warned of “a dagger pointed at the heart of Texas.” “A truth is rarely pure and never simple.” There was no Soviet-type revolution in sight in a tiny country bereft of objective conditions to build socialism. A Marxist regime led by Daniel Ortega took power in an agrarian society plundered by the corrupt Samoza dynasty, a blue-eyed boy of the US. Despite all threats and sanctions — the tools loved by imperialism — the Sandinista regime transformed the destiny of common people through a dynamic change. In the early 1980s Nicaragua’s progress was lauded by the World Bank and other international agencies as “remarkable, laying a strong foundation for long term socio-economic development.” In the health sector Nicaragua led the way. In child mortality rate the swing towards survival was the most amazing in the developing world. From UNICEF it won the Nadezhda K Krupskaya award for literacy campaigns six times from 1980 to 2000. Apart from literacy, international recognition was also accorded to the regime for its gains in healthcare, education, childcare, unions, and land reforms. “No good deed goes unpunished.” If they are too many, they ask for the US’s wrath to be unleashed. Nicaragua was not too careful in choosing its enemies.

The government of Bush Sr ordered a military mission in Panama that killed thousands of Panamians just to flush out a single man, Manuel Noriega, who according to Noam Chomsky was “a thug who committed most of his crimes when he was on the payroll of the CIA.” The irony is that this operation was named as ‘Just Cause’, revealing that the cause is only just if and when approved and pursued by the leaders of the empire. Ricardo Stevens, a journalist, remarked, “How much alike (the victims of 9/11) are to the boys and girls — to the mothers and the grandfathers and the little old mothers, all of them also innocent — (when the) terror was called Just Cause and the terrorists called liberators.”

Vietnam had its 9/11 on March 16, 1968 when US forces carried out the My Lai massacre, which according to some was merely the tip of an iceberg. The depth of the real crime was unfathomable. Veiling the reality is the secret of imperial charm. Jean Bathke Elshtain knows it well. He states: “My Lai is convenient because the massacre can be blamed on half educated GIs trying to survive awful conditions in the field unlike, say, operation Wheeler Wallawa to which My Lai was a minor footnote, one of the many post-Tet mass murder operations planned by the respectable people just like us, so that we feel no ‘shame’ even ‘sadness’ over the huge crime” (Just War Against Terror).

The dioxin ‘Agent Orange’, a most pernicious carcinogenic substance used in South Vietnam during the war continues to play havoc with the newly born generation. Akin to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this region too continues to carry the legacy of having still and deformed births with infants born without limbs and poorly developed brains.

Cambodia had several 9/11s to its account. In 1969-70 President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger — the ‘viceroys’ of the world — ordered carpet bombing on “everything which flies to everything which moves.”. The years of US bombing, which according to new data exceeded the total bombing of Allied Forces throughout World War II, completely wiped out the traditional Cambodian economy. The Pol Pot regime took over. This internationally denounced regime was overthrown by Vietnam in 1979. The Khmer Rouge retreated to the western border adjacent to Thailand. The US, which now promotes it as unleashing of ‘communist terror’, was right behind this atrociously repressive regime. The fact was admitted by the US itself. In the spring of 1979 President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski stated: “I encouraged the Chinese to support Pol Pots. I encouraged the Thais to support the Khmer Rouge.” According to the Los Angeles Times, “In November 1980, Ray Cline visited a Khmer Rouge enclave inside Cambodia in his capacity as the foreign policy adviser to president-elect Ronald Reagan.” With a reference to one US official, The Washington Post stated on August 8, 1985: “Of course, if the coalition wins the Khmer Rouge will eat the other (non-communist group) alive.” Newsweek confirmed on October 10, 1983: “In every event the CIA and the Chinese were supplying arms directly to the Khmer Rouge.” ‘Arguments are to be avoided. They are always vulgar and often convincing.’

In Laos, from all over Asia, the CIA created its (in)famous Armee clandestine to fight the Pathet Lao, who were vying for a social change. During 1965-72 the US rained down two million tons of bombs on the people of Laos who were literally forced to live in caves. The 9/11 finally concluded when the country was turned into a morgue.

In Algeria, an estimated two million people were slaughtered by the state. A post-election 9/11 commenced when the Islamists claimed their victory. US Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East was fascinated by this massacre as he stated: “Washington has much to learn from Algeria on the way to fight terrorism.” ‘Actions are the first tragedy in life, words are the second. Words are perhaps the worst. Words are merciless,’ especially when delivered with guiltless guile.

Iraq and Afghanistan experience their 9/11s every day. Their unending apocalypse refuses to cease. In Iraq, in the prison of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay the atrocities committed by the US army are no secret. The battalion proudly advertised as the ‘Murderous Maniacs’ used Kubark interrogation and Picana, the infamous methods of torture familiar to most Latin American citizens, especially the unfortunate Salvadorians. Even prior to the second Gulf War, Danis- Halliday and Hans-Von-Sponeck, respected UN diplomats, resigned in protest at what Halliday described the “genocidal” character of the US-UK. “The US stopped water tankers from reaching Iraq on grounds so spurious that they were rejected by UN arms experts. This happened during a time when major cause of child death was lack of access to clean drinking water and when the country was in the midst of a drought,” Noam Chomsky wrote.

(To be continued)

The writer is based in Australia and has authored books on socialism and history. He can be reached at saulatnagi@hotmail.com
http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013\09\14\story_14-9-2013_pg3_5

The Future of Feminism-Sylvia Walby

Posted by admin On September - 13 - 2013 Comments Off on The Future of Feminism-Sylvia Walby

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The Future of Feminism
Polity Press, Cambridge, 2011. 224pp., £15.99 pb
Reviewed by Ben Kenofer

 

Ben Kenofer is a Philosophy Graduate Teaching Assistant at the University of North Florida
ReviewThe Future of Feminism concerns more than the challenges, possible contributions, and stakes for feminism in moving forward. Although Sylvia Walby identifies and discusses challenges for feminism’s future development, one of the book’s central purposes is to rebut claims arising from a variety of sources (including academia and popular media) that the feminist movement has ceased, dispersed or become ineffectual. This is how the book begins, and much time is dedicated to explaining recent feminist enterprises and successes, as well as some current configurations that the feminist movement takes. Because of this, a significant portion of the book will have more to offer for individuals who are either unfamiliar or only passingly familiar with feminism, who are searching for an explication of feminist goals and activity and/or some account of feminism’s current status, than it will for individuals who are already consciously engaged with feminism. The section of the book that an individual who already identifies as feminist (or else is strongly sympathetic toward feminist goals) is apt to find most interesting – discussion about feminism’s future – will be more rewarding or more disappointing depending on her/his perspective as to whether capitalism can be successfully regulated in the interests of the population.

Walby’s contention is that not all major feminist projects are given the label ‘feminist’ and that several now occur in an institutionalized context – as such, these ‘institutionalized forms are less recognizable as feminist by those who are accustomed to thinking of feminism as merely visible protest’ (2). She rejects self-definition as a necessary condition for individuals/groups and their projects to count as feminist, because this excludes those that have goals associated with feminism (e.g. equal pay for equal work and protections for women against domestic abuse) but do not adopt the term for (at least) one of various reasons (3). To cling to such a stringent definition of feminism is one of the mistaken grounds for concluding that feminism has largely disappeared. Walby considers having the goal of reducing gender inequality as an alternative condition for being feminist, but also rejects this for being too exclusive as a necessary condition, asserting that there are ‘significant numbers of women’s organizations which do not have the goal of “reducing gender inequality”, but rather of “advancing the interests of women”’ (4). Hence, she counts as feminist those agents and activities that are aimed at reducing gender inequality or toward advancing the interests of women (5). It should be noted though, that Walby aspires to avoid reductionism and essentialism concerning gender, contending that there ‘is no simple, monolithic, timeless category of “woman”, whose “interests” would be obvious’ (123). How then does one determine what the interests of women are, which are supposed to be advanced? Her answer appears to be that this gets determined through negotiation and consensus (27). Here she points to the UN Platform for Action as ‘the most influential listing of feminist issues’, claiming that it ‘has been accepted as a global standard by feminists around the world’ (30).

Much of The Future of Feminism is spent either explaining some aspect of feminism or has an empirical orientation (e.g. reviewing recent changes to how gender relations have been structured within different contexts and at different levels of analysis). The second chapter describes and rejects various positions regarding feminism’s demise – for instance, the view that feminism has been superseded by `raunch culture’ (19-21). The third chapter explicates various feminist groups and their activities within the institutional domains of economy, polity, violence and civil society (31). The fourth chapter explains different organizational forms that feminism currently takes, for example as NGOs or as components of ‘epistemic communities’ (55-7, 63). The purpose of these chapters is to illustrate the continued existence of the feminist movement in spite of the fact that it has become less visible to the popular imagination, and in virtue of the numerous examples she discusses, to this end Walby is successful.

When it comes to feminism’s future, where Walby examines particular challenges for feminism, the discussions have some insight to offer but nevertheless fall short in some respects. The first of the challenges that Walby considers involves gender mainstreaming, which she describes as ‘a new form of feminist strategy, which engages with existing configurations of power institutionalised in the state’ (80). The challenge here that arises for feminism pertains to performing gender mainstreaming in a manner that will successfully promote feminist goals (80). While Walby provides an informative discussion, she spends little time considering one of the most daunting worries about gender mainstreaming that she herself points out. This is the concern that interactions between feminist individuals/groups and established institutional powers will result in the abandonment of important feminist components, including radical ideas and demands, if these individuals/groups become drawn and assimilated into the status quo (9, 57, 80). She focuses her discussion on aspects of and potential difficulties for gender mainstreaming that, while having implications for its successful implementation, do not directly speak to the fear of individuals or agencies becoming more focused on the promotion of personal or partisan interests at the expense of women’s advancement, or that those enmeshed in these powerful institutions will come to adopt perspectives that are too uncritical of dominant practices and/or too parochial for feminist aims. While the other things that Walby attends to are worth addressing, it is disappointing that she does not give extended discussion to this worry, forgoing a discussion of examples and possible solutions and/or responses in moving forward.

The second of the challenges for feminism that Walby considers is neoliberalism, since neoliberal contexts are hostile toward the women inside them for various reasons (157). She describes, for example, how neoliberal countries have ‘a less developed regulation of men’s violence against women than social democracy has’ (115). An additional and major reason that Walby views neoliberalism as a threat to feminism, however, is because she attributes the cause of the financial crisis to neoliberalism (117, 157). She successfully demonstrates how the financial crisis and its aftermath has had gendered dimensions, discussing (for instance) how the cutting of public services as a response to financial deficit has disproportionately affected women due their being more dependent on these services (118). Combined with other examples, such as how reductions in budgets can lead to cuts in public programmes aimed at reducing violence directed at women, Walby indicates that such financial crises interfere with feminist goals (158).

That feminism should be opposed to the spread of neoliberalism is a point well taken. Where the discussion falls short though is Walby’s treatment of capitalism, and the taken for granted position (in this text at least) that it is not the nature of capitalism that lead to the financial crisis, but rather that the crisis is ‘a consequence of the excesses of neoliberalism’ (157). Within the scope of this book, there is no serious engagement with Marxist literature on the cause(s) of the financial crisis, and Walby accepts the possible success of social democratic regulation of capitalism, without addressing Marxian criticisms concerning its feasibility and longevity. This lack of critical engagement with Marxian economics will no doubt grate with Marxists. Not addressing concerns regarding the long-term feasibility of regulating capitalism will also be disappointing for anti-capitalist feminists who agree with Walby that gender inequalities are not reducible to class inequalities but form a complex interaction (110, 113). For instance, if capitalism is in fact an inherently unsustainable economic system (regardless of the form through which it is expressed in relation to the regulations imposed on it via state power), then in light of the problems financial crises pose for feminist prospects, opposing the spread of neoliberalism will not be sufficient. But discussion along these lines is absent from the book, thus presenting a vision of feminism’s future that uncritically limits it to co-existence with capitalism in a more social democratic climate or in a more neoliberal climate. A brief critical observation on Walby’s discussion of the third challenge for feminism echoes this criticism. This third topic concerns the intersection between feminist projects and certain other political projects, with the challenge being the formation successful coalitions (10, 125). Consideration of the possible intersection between feminist projects and Marxist projects, and the possible advantages and/or drawbacks of coalitions between feminist and Marxist advocates, is missing from the discussion.

Individuals who have a vague notion concerning feminism and/or its current standing in the world will find an informative discussion in The Future of Feminism with the potential to enhance their understanding. The later discussions regarding feminism’s future development have some merit as well, but readers who are more optimistic about the long-term feasibility of regulating capitalism in the interests of the population will find more to appreciate than those who do not share in that optimism, and it will be understandable for individuals in the latter group to take issue with their concerns being glossed over in this book.

http://marxandphilosophy.org.uk/reviewofbooks/reviews/2013/807

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