December 2009 News
December 29, 2009
What would you say Bakunin has to offer today’s radicals?
First, he offers some hope, hope in the importance of struggle. This was an activist who fought on the losing side all of his life, yet did not lose his passionate hope, his understanding, that the struggle itself was meaningful, for without it, the world would certainly get worse. While some seem him as a quixotic figure, I see him as one who realistically assessed the opportunities for success and failure and decided to fight for an ideal even when he thought there was no immediate chance of victory.
Second, he offers a clear appraisal of what the radicals’ targets should be. After all, capitalism and the state have not changed much since his time; Bakunin would recognize much in the 21st century. He wrote powerful critiques of capital and the state that still serve as useful starting points for understanding the world, and he did so in accessible, evocative language.
Third, while there is a tendency to draw a dividing line between “classical anarchism” and contemporary anarchism and post-anarchism, a careful reading of Bakunin suggests that the “classical anarchists” wrestled with many of the same problems of goals, strategy, and tactics that anarchists face today. In fact, I believe that Bakunin offers a useful critique of today’s post-anarchism, for the ideas of postmodernism that inform post-anarchism are not as new as its advocates suggest. That is, Bakunin rejected the idealist thought of his day to become a materialist and a realist, and I believe materialism and realism offer a stronger foundation for criticism than idealism and some variants of post-modernism.
December 17, 2009
The power to decide to kidnap people, disappear them, hang them by their wrists, electroshock their genitals, and hide them away from the world indefinitely simply does not exist in the Constitution. It did exist until 1865, when the Thirteenth Amendment banned slavery. But it existed as a personal, nongovernmental power for any president of the land of the free who happened to own a bunch of human beings (the same power any Congress member or private citizen had). It never existed at all as part of the executive power of the president in his official capacity, as something on which he might openly or secretly spend public funds. To do so would have been, and still is, in violation of the Fourth through Eighth Amendments, which were ratified as the heart of the Bill of Rights (for non-slaves) in 1791.
December 15, 2009
From The Chicagoist, here’s an excerpt from “The Starving Dogs of Little Croatia,” a story from Barry Gifford’s forthcoming short story collection, Sad Stories of the Death of Kings:
“Every man lives like hunted animal,” said Drca Kovic.
“You make this just up?” asked Boro Catolica.
“What is difference?” Drca said, “if it is truth?”
December 11, 2009
Webb’s death on the night of Dec. 9, 2004, came as the U.S. press corps was at a nadir, having recently aided and abetted President George W. Bush in taking the country to war in Iraq under false pretenses. The press corps also had performed abysmally in Bush’s two presidential campaigns in 2000 and 2004, hesitant to take on the powerful Bush Family.
In retrospect, Webb’s suicide could be viewed as an exclamation point on that sorry era, which had begun a quarter century earlier with the rise of Ronald Reagan and the gradual retreat – under right-wing fire – of what had once been Washington’s Watergate/Pentagon Papers watchdog press corps.
Yet, five years after Webb’s death, the U.S. news media continues to scrape along the bottom, still easily intimidated by the bluster of right-wing media attack groups and fast-talking neoconservatives – and still gullible in the face of lies and myths used to justify the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
December 10, 2009
Formidable, useful in war and, though picturesque, impractical in peacetime, the stone towers that dot Chechnya’s mountains could be regarded as symbols of its people. Wojciech Jagielski’s book sets new standards for gritty reporting of Russia’s most miserable corner, and the dreadful damage done to it by both outsiders and the Chechens’ own leaders.
December 9, 2009
Here’s Stephanie McMillan — fantastic cartoonist and co-author of As The World Burns with Derrick Jensen — with an article for the blog Marxist Update on Jared Diamond’s December 5 New York Times op-ed: “Will Big Business Save The Earth?”
[Diamond] talks about the challenges that Coca-Cola faces in finding acceptable sources of water, and tries to convince us that “Hence Coca-Cola’s survival compels it to be deeply concerned with problems of water scarcity, energy, climate change and agriculture.” But the obvious point remains unsaid: Coke is not a necessity. It is in fact harmful to those who drink it. We don’t NEED to solve the problem of how Coca-Cola obtains water, or provide incentives for them to do it less destructively, because they could just fucking stop making it. Now there’s a simple solution.
December 8, 2009
Originally published in 1980, Port Tropique makes a welcome return, its political relevance even more acute and topical for its absence. Its themes of corruption (politically and morally) and identity are strong and powerful, and, in these uncertain times, Gifford’s sweaty noir reflects the angst we feel.
Written in a lean and Spartan style, Port Tropique is cut from the same cloth as Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness and The Secret Agent (quoted from at the beginning of the book), Graham Greene’s Our Man In Havana and John Le Carre’s The Tailor Of Panama … The thriller-styled plot is a patchwork of encounters and it’s easy to read this and feel disoriented by the lack of solid framework – that is pure Gifford. He bends chaos in an orderly fashion and produces a superb reading experience.
December 3, 2009
Remember that time in your life when you didn’t know if you would ever learn how to breathe? No, you knew you were breathing, but you wondered if it would ever feel like it was supposed to. Douglas Martin nails the claustrophobia of growing up, somehow succeeding at delivering an adult’s voice with a child’s awareness, a voice at once aloof and familiar. Martin steers clear of the typical nostalgia in order to convey a loneliness so intimate that even a catalog of deteriorating home life becomes something almost like hope. And, the best part is that he doesn’t fuck it up at the end with some kind of tidy closure – yay, thank you!
December 1, 2009
According to TIME Magazine, Wikileaks.org “… could become as important a journalistic tool
as the Freedom of Information Act.” Wikileaks is a repository of leaked documents — “classified, censored or otherwise restricted material of political, diplomatic or ethical significance,” according to their submissions policy — from confidential inside sources, shedding light on the hidden workings (and intentions) of governments, institutions, and the forces that shape the lives of people around the globe. Possibly the ultimate resource for citizen journalists and activists, investigative reporters who focus on repressive actions by governments worldwide, and anyone interested in finding out the truth behind the illusion of official public policy.
December 1, 2009
… Seba Al-Herz’s prose is as sweet and dense as a mouthful of dates. It overpowers at first, but once you find its underlying rhythm, it carries you on a wave of sensuality. I tried to pick out a representative passage but they all sounded incomplete out of context, needing what came before and after to reveal the beauty of their complexity… The Others is a sumptuous feast of a read, challenging but well worth the time and thought. — Jerry Wheeler at Out In Print